Thursday, June 30, 2011

Remembering the 1962 Babe Ruth League Season in Fayetteville, Arkansas

A few months ago, I decided to write a short history/recollection of the 1962 Fayetteville Babe Ruth League (BRL) season.  I had a few newspaper clippings about the games of the United Commercial Traveler (UCT) team on which I played. However, I didn't recall too much about the season or other teams -- just a scattering of faces, events, and short action clips that would pop into the brain.
1962 Champions of the Fayetteville Babe Ruth League

My research consisted mainly of using my account to access the Northwest Arkansas Times newspaper archives. From those archives, I had access to the newspaper stories published by the NWAT in 1962, and I spent too many hours downloading all of the stories written about the BRL games played during the season. The coverage of most games included box scores.

These stories provided a mosaic of the season and were, in many ways, surprising.  The main surprise was how much I did not remember. One of the things I had forgotten was how good an athlete Brad Jenkins was.  I ran into Brad at a high school reunion, probably about ten years ago. He was not in good health, and died a year or so later. In our conversation, he said some nice things about our days playing baseball and how good a pitcher I was. Unfortunately, I recalled Brad mainly as a fast and powerful runner and had forgotten what an outstanding year he had in the 1962 BRL season. The newspaper clippings documented his prowess as a baseball player.

In junior high and high school, I greatly admired Robert Wilks' athletic ability. I saw him in action -- usually as a teammate -- for several years. Yet, I did not recall much about his baseball skills. Thus, I was surprised that I did not remember his remarkable streak in 1962 when, over a four game period,  he was ten for ten, plus had several walks. Quite an accomplishment.

Reading the clippings, I was surprised at what good seasons Bill Cooksey and Sonny Brewer (both on OK & Milady Cleaners) had as pitchers. They helped the OK team, which certainly didn't have the best talent in the league, have an outstanding second half of the season. This team showed great character and tenacity in winning come-from-behind and one-run games. I attribute that, in part, to Kenny Ramey, who was a determined and ferocious competitor.  

Also, when I read the clippings I was saddened when I saw the names of friends and 1962 teammates who died much too young:  Sonny Brewer, Tom Ernest, Martin Butt, Carl Gabbard, and Jerry Burnett.   

The focal point of my history/recollection of the 1962 BRL season is the pitching rivalry between me and Bubba McCord. The games we pitched against each other are what I remember best about the season, and they did have a major impact on determining the league championship.

Bubba and I played both with and against each other for several years. Two summers, after the Fayetteville baseball season was over, we went together to the Big State Baseball Camp in Dallas, Texas. One of those years, we were selected for the Camp all star team and went with the team to play several games in Monterrey, Mexico.

We both were on the University of Arkansas freshman baseball team in 1966, not a pleasant experience. In the summer of 1967, we were the two main umpires for the Fayetteville Babe Ruth League, probably the worst job I ever had.

Bubba was a fine catcher and as good as any baseball player in Fayetteville from 1960 to 1965. He took the game seriously and worked hard to perfect his skills. I enjoyed competing against him, and enjoyed even more having him as a teammate. Since I knew Bubba so well, it was fun to recall the year when I made his baseball life miserable. No doubt he has some stories of the times he contributed to my baseball woes.

The history/recollection of the 1962 BLR season can be found at this address:
It contains nothing more profound that the results of some games played almost fifty years ago. Nevertheless, for those whose names appeared in the box scores, it should help revive some memories of teammates, coaches, triumphs, failures, and balmy summer nights swatting mosquitoes with a leather glove.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Albania for the Adventurous

Back in 1971 and 1972, sitting in my room in Vienna late at night, I would try to tune in Voice of America on my radio to get some news in English.  Often, I would, instead, stumble upon a strange news program in English, broadcast by the Albanian international service, and listen with fascination to its upside-down view of the world. 

You can get Star Box Coffe in Tirana, Albania
At the time, Albania was one of the most isolated countries in the northern hemisphere.  It was a closed, xenophobic communist nation that had broken with Moscow, whom it viewed as too moderate in its communistic ideology, and it had aligned with Mao and radical Chinese communism.  Its news program was mostly outlandish propaganda, describing a prosperous country beset by enemies whose bad intentions were thwarted by Enver Hoxha, Albania's genius leader.  This Stalinist paradise was successfully battling both the pernicious capitalists and the revisionist communists.

As I listened to these newscasts, I wondered what it would be like to live such a place. Albania was not too far from Vienna, but seemed to be inhabited by aliens.

When I had an opportunity to travel to Albania in 2007 and 2008, I did so with excitement, recalling my impressions of the country from the early 1970s. I wanted to see what this strange country looked like more than fifteen years after it had finally freed itself from the oppressive rule of the Communist party and a megalomaniac leader. 

Barat, with Byzantine Citadel at the top 
The purpose of my trip was to work with the Association of Albanian Municipalities (AAM) to help it develop a strategic plan for its survival in coming years.  The AAM had received support from different countries, including the United States, for several years, and it had helped cities improve their ability to provide services, but the country was still quite poor. The AAM needed to develop revenue sources in order to survive when the external funding ended.

Fortunately, I knew the leadership of AAM and the mayors of several Albanian cities. I had hosted them at the University of Georgia during a training trip to the U.S. a couple of years earlier. The trip had been useful for them and enjoyable for me, so I happy that I would be able to continue to work with them on this project. 

The travel to the capital of Albania, Tirana, is easy enough.  Several airlines go there from major European cities.  I took Austrian Airlines from Vienna, and arrived at a gleaming new airport in Tirana. The exit through passport control and customs was easy.  I stayed at a comfortable, reasonably priced (less than $50 per day) hotel in one of the nicest districts of Tirana, a short walk from the AAM offices and downtown.
Fadil Nasufi, Mayor of Barat 
While much of Albania is mountainous, Tirana lies in a valley bordering on steep mountains, a nice setting. It lacks distinctive architecture and has only a few historic buildings. The city is characterized mainly by wide streets and shabby residential high rises that were favored by the communist regimes. Some higher quality new construction has been added to the city in recent years.  A good aspect of the city is that the streets in most areas are tree lined and walker friendly.

Tirana is Albania's largest city; and it is the trade and political center of the nation.  It contains about 600,000 of Albania's 3 million or so residents. It is the obvious place to start a visit to the country, with its museums, government buildings, and cultural life.  It offers an good introduction to the exotic blending of cultures that make up Albania. During its history, Albania was a part of the Roman, Byzantine, Bulgarian, and Ottoman Empires, and remnants of these empires are spread throughout the nation. 

13th Century Church in Barat Citadel
Because of the long rule of the Ottoman Empire, a majority of Albania's population is Muslim, but  significant percentages of Albanians are members of the Albanian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.  Perhaps a legacy of the communist era, a substantial majority of Albanians do not regularly participate in religious services. However, ancient mosques and churches are to be found in most of the prominent Albanian cities. 

A good portion of Albania is mountainous, and many of the more isolated areas retain traditional mountain culture and life.  I traveled to Barat, the capital of one of the mountain "counties," whose mayor I knew from his trip to the U.S. (Albania is divided into 12 counties, each with districts, municipalities, cities, and villages.)  It is a spectacular city with old houses built into the sloping mountains along the Osum River. Overlooking the city on the top of a high hill is a Byzantine citadel dating back to the 5th century, with a church first built in the 13th century.  

Beach at Durres on Adriatic Sea
The history of Barat is a story that starts before the Romans occupied it in 200 B.C.  It includes centuries of Byzantine Rule, interrupted by Bulgarian rule, then followed by rule by the Ottoman empire.  A visit to this city provides a great history lesson and a humbling view of the sweep of time and how things change.  This city is one of the most interesting that I have ever visited, and, alone, is worth a trip to Albania.

For those who enjoy the ocean, Albania's long coastline offers places to stay, ranging from isolated villages to developed cities such as Durres, which is located a short (but scary) drive from Tirana. The road is a modern one, recently built and heavily traveled by slightly deranged drivers.  The city of Durres has a huge, unattractive port that seems to contribute vast amounts of pollutants to the Adriatic, but it also contains many large modern sea resorts with sand beaches.  I am not sure that I would want to go into the water there for long, but the views and the beaches are first rate and a fraction of the cost for comparable facilities in Italy.

Unused "Pill Box" Defense Structures on Albanian Coast
On the drive from Durres to Barat, I noticed one strange feature in the countryside.  Along the road, scattered not too far from each other, were hundreds of  "pill box" structures.  These were heavily reinforced metal structures built into the ground, with openings through which observers and shooters could repel attacks. I was told that there were built by the Hoxha regime in the 60s and 70s to fight off enemies  they expected to come by way of the Adriatic sea.  Now, they look like giant, isolated, decaying mushrooms.

I visited the capital of one other mountainous region in the extreme northwest of Albania. The city's name is Shkoder or Shkodra, with a recorded history as the first capital of an Illyrian tribe in the 3rd century B.C. It was captured by the Romans in 168 B.C. Then was part of different empires for the past 2200 years.

The city is located on a large lake (Scutari) and high mountains lie to the northeast and east. It is a short drive from the border with Montenegro.

View from  Fortress near Shkoder toward Lake Scutari and Montenegro
To the southeast of the city, on a high hill overlooking the city, is an ancient fortress.  This hill was an Illyrian strong hold, captured by the Romans and held by successive empires occupying this land. It has spectacular views of the city as well as of the confluence of the Buna and Drini Rivers, Lake Scutari, and high mountains.

Shkoder has long been a center of learning and culture in Albania, and it has maintained many of its historic buildings, including churches and mosques.  It was also home to a great photographic tradition called Marubi.  The name comes from Pjeter Marubi, who began taking pictures in 1858, documenting people and life in the area, and he was followed by others who worked in the studio and took the name "Marubi." The tradition continued until 1950, when the last "Marubi" died.  The "Marubi" photographic library, maintained by the Albania government, has hundreds of thousands of negatives dating from 1858 to 1950. The photos provide an amazing views of life and culture in the Shkoder region for also a century.
View from the Fortress to Shkoder and the Mountains to the Northeast
Based on my experience, I can recommend travel to Albania for people interested in a bit of adventure and who enjoy learning new things about human history and under-explored parts of the world.  When I return on my own, I will make sure to have three things planned in advance. First, I will find a moderately priced hotel -- these can be found and booked on line. Second, I will have transportation from the airport to the hotel arranged by the hotel or some other service in advance. Third, I will contact a local company to arrange for transportation by car within Albania, and plan to use that service to make day trips to Barat, Shkoder, or other areas that seem of interest. 
Famous Photographic School - Shkoder

I might also consider scheduling a few days at a sea resort area, but would do some research to find a place where the Adriatic is relatively unpolluted.  

With such arrangements made in advance, and with flexibility and a sense of adventure, I am sure that any trip Albania will be a memorable one.  

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sand Castle Competition at Birch Bay

A day at the beach running in slow motion through in the pristine white sand. Bikinis for the gals; Euro-speedos for the guys. Hunk-and-babe life savers sitting in their chairs with sun glasses and white noses. Kids splashing in the bright blue water.  Young women floating on water mattresses, looking out for sharks. Everyone soaking up rays in the bright sun shine.  Even better, a chance to win some prizes with a creative, well-executed sand castle.

Yes, that is what yesterday would have been if I lived in Southern California.  But since I live in Northwest Washington, the reality was a little different.  Yes, the annual sea castle competition was held in Birch Bay. But the pristine white sand, bikinis, Euro-speedos, life guards, bright blue water, water mattresses, and sun were missing.  Instead, we celebrated our own brand of competition on the beach:  sea castles made of sandy muck, dressing to keep warm and dry, frigid water, no sun.  It was great fun and the kids of the area had a blast.

    People of all ages entered the sand castle competition. Here are a couple of kids digging around in the sand muck to build their entry in competition. They seems to have dug a nice hole and spread some moss. I think the guy on the right is, like me, trying to figure out what the heck it is supposed to be.

The sand castle entries were judged by some prominent local folks. Here the judges look at a sculpture of some product (maybe a wine cooler) made in the area. The judges included Pete Kremen, Whatcom County  Executive (with the coffee cup in the middle) and the Bill Elfo, Whatcom County sheriff (the man to the left of Kremen, beside the woman in a blue coat).

When the judges came to look at this sculpture, the kids who made it explained the concept of their creation. It involves a monster (at the feet of the pointing girl and boy with orange and black tee shirt) attacking a fort.

This guy took his artistic creation very seriously and devoted lots of time to improving it.  It seems to have an Inca theme.

Here is another artist hard are work on something that seems to be a sand castle with a moat.  I hope the construction helmet protected her from accidents.

Even the youngest got caught up in the spirit of building sand (muck) castles.

Here is a good teen-age effort.  Shark! Shark!

Pirate ship with Birch Bay pirate.

Gruesome:  spider going to eat hapless bug caught in a web.

This hefty lady was oblivious to the cold and mist, and was obviously intent on improving her tan.

OK, maybe the conditions weren't perfect, like you would find in San Diego or La Jolla.  But, never mind, what kid is going to complain about a chance to stomp around in mud and water? Everyone seemed happy except for the guy from Vancouver wearing a Canucks shirt, who, after getting second place in the competition, tried to burn down all the sand castles on the beach.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Ernst's Bad Luck: Pioneer Tales of Arkansas' German Immigrants

December 29, 1893

(This is another story provided by a German immigrant to the Arkansas Echo and published in late 1893. This is about poor Ernest, who enjoys hunting, but is not very good at it. He attributes his hunting failures to "bad luck." Perhaps, more is involved: bad judgement.)

Bad Luck, or How Our Friend Ernst Once Shot a Fat Buck

Deer, Foxes, Salmon (?), Lynx
We shoot with our rifles.
Because it is free,
Hunting is always praised

Such is sung in an old familiar German folk song. Yes, in the old times, when such a song could still truthfully be sung, Arkansas must have been a paradise, at least for such a passionate hunter as our friend Ernst once was.
Wine Label by N. Kupferle,
German Immigrant in Little Rock

Through reading certain novels, such as for example, The Trappers of Arkansas, or The Loyal Heart [by Gustave Aimard, published in 1864] , in which the hunting adventures and experiences of a half wild figure were described in glowing color (and which I also remember having read in my youth),  Ernst got the idea once that he wanted to learn these techniques of hunting and sometime play the lead role in such a novel.
So Ernst then arrived in America -- but only after many criss-cross moves, something he was usually permitted --reaching the land of his hopes and dreams.   And at last he was driven to a small nest that already had the proud name of a city conferred upon it.

Since he was a smart head and had quickly picked up the speech and habits of the Americans, it could not fail him that he won a small office here. This small post brought him, to be sure, only enough that he did not need to starve, but what was most important, he was in the middle of the desired hunting ground and had the time and leisure enough to devote to his favorite pastime. And he honestly took advantage of it, and it did not happen often that he had to take off homeward without some hunting booty.

At that time, besides the above mentioned wildlife, there were also still Buffalo, stags, and even bear here.  He didn't bother with bear much, since once a bear had lovingly embraced him and he, through some type of miracle, escaped its dangerous hug. Since then, he got out of the way of bruin and kept to ducks, turkeys, and also, if it had to be, deer. Thereby at least one's life was safe.

If he did not bag a deer or a fat buck every time, then he could in general complain about too much bad luck in his hunting.  It is, of course, well known that there is no occupation (except perhaps a rogue) that has so much bad luck as hunting. It had even happened to him once that he had with a shot, instead of a raccoon or possum, taken down a consumptive cat. He didn't take this bad luck very much to heart because it could have happened to others also. What got to him more, at least in his pocketbook, was another story, that I want to now relate.

One day a friend told him that he had run across a famous, fat buck at a certain place. That was something of interest for our friend Ernst since deer were becoming rarer with time and he could not let such an opportunity go by.  Therefore he quickly decided to test his luck early the next day, and in his mind he already saw himself weighted down heavily with the slain buck, heading home.

Unfortunately, he was at the time having problems with a sore on his foot that made the march for him much more difficult.  Wait!  A good thought ran through his head. A neighbor of his had an old gray donkey in his stall. If he would loan him the donkey for tomorrow, then he would not have to drag the buck home himself.

The man was willing to agree to loan the gray to him. The next morning even before sunrise, Ernst was up on his feet, meaning really, he was on the feet of the gray, and trotted briskly, full of desire for triumph, well packed with the necessary fodder, whereby he had not neglected to bring a hearty drink for the nearby forest.

After a hard ride, he came upon the designated place, and now Ernst thought: It would be best to dismount from the gray. Here in this thicket an accident could easily occur by which I could hang myself by catching my hair (which appeared to be a little too long) in a branch, like was supposed to have happened to Absalom. Dear God protect me from such a death!

He dismounted and tied the donkey firm and secure behind thick bushes. After he had rested himself, he took off.  But where in heaven was the fellow to be found?  That was now the next question, but it was hard to answer. That meant taking off straight into the forest.

So, he had wandered around already a few hours, but still saw no buck, not even a small sign of it. In the meanwhile it had become wretchedly hot and Ernst sensed in the stomach region a certain feeling that always meant appetite for him.  He decided therefore to rest himself under the shade of a tree to rest and afterwards to resume the hunt. Perhaps the buck was just now having his lunch and will be around afterwards.
After he had eaten and drank, he laid down to sleep for a quarter of an hour. As he awoke and looked at his watch, he had slept for two full hours.  Shoot! he shouted, startled. That is what I call sleep. During this time, the buck could have said "good night" to me and made off far away. Go now! I absolutely must find this creature today. But, alas, not a sign of him, and the sun had plainly in the meanwhile sank lower, and gradually, he had to begin making his way back, if he did not want the pleasant pleasure of spending the night in the forest. If only he had at least seen the dang buck at least once, but not even that.

As one can easily imagine, Friend Ernst was not then in the best of humor.  Wait! What did he hear over there? What did he see there? Listening and sharp on the lookout around him, he stood still, and in front of him, not 100 yards distant, he heard a rustling of leaves and turned to look. "Father of my life," really and truly the sought after buck stood in front of him.

Of course, he did not see the head with the majestic antlers, the animal is too careful for that, but he saw an entire side very clearly through the thick bushes. Quickly, he snatched the gun from his back, but cannot get a sure shot because of his happy excitement. All the same, let it explode! And bang, pop, and splat, the buck falls to the ground.

Hurray, Ernst shouts and tosses his hat.  He's down. And with quick steps, he leaps behind the bushes.  Oh, no! Speechless and as if all limbs were paralyzed, he stopped.  Oh horror, instead of the buck, he had hit his own gray which he had tied there. Old gray had been hit solidly. He was riddled on his entire backside with shot. That I call bad luck! shouted Ernst, as he regained his senses. What now? It appeared to be an angry wound from the first instant. And time was short. The sun would soon be setting.

He now tried to get the poor fellow on his feet, something that he succeeded in doing at last after unending effort. Now, of course, he was finished with the riding, packing back the buck, and other beautiful dreams. Ernst had to carry the saddle himself and so he limped along pulling the poor gray with great effort behind him toward home. Truly a beautiful picture. Worthy of being preserved by a capable paint brush.

He arrived at home in the middle of the night, and put the gray carefully in the stall. The neighbor owner of Gray opened his eyes wide in surprise the next morning when Ernst told him of his bad luck.

The doctor. who was quickly called, made a thoughtful face and said: he isn't going todie immediately, but he is crippled and ruined for the rest of his life.  And that's the way it was.

Ernst had, of course, to make up for the loss, which cost him $60 and stuck him deeply in the hole for a long time. And basically he was cured for the first time of his love for hunting and groaned:  Terribly bad luck and the dang buck is the cause of the whole thing.  And what angered him most was that in addition to everything else, he was ridiculed.

Translated by Dan Durning, all rights reserved.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Right-Wing, Left-Wing Politics in Vienna

Communist Student Group Campaign Poster

Vienna's ethnic and racial composition has been changing year by year.  When I was living in Vienna in 1967-1968 and 1971-1972, the city had a homogeneous population, and the landscape was dominated -- at least it appeared to me -- by older women walking their dogs. The city had few "ethnic" restaurants; you could hardly find Chinese food, for example. Rules were obeyed (no crossing when the light was red). Behavior was kept proper (an old lady ordered me to take my hands out of my pockets as I stood inside Am Hof Kirche looking round.) Patrons dressed nicely for concerts and the opera, or else weren't admitted. Strict regulation of business hours meant that the city closed shop early (literally), and there was little excitement after dark. My university-aged friends complained that Vienna was a "dead city."

That has all changed (except Viennese still like their dogs and allow them everywhere, even on public transportation). The ethnic diversity of Vienna cannot be missed.  The diversification started when Vienna hired large numbers of workers from Turkey and other countries to build its excellent subway. When I left in June 1972, that massive project was still in its early stages with a huge hole dug in front of Karlskirche.  When I returned in 1989, the subway was complete, and Vienna had some districts that were identifiable as largely Turkish.  

Now in Vienna it is common to see women in head scarves, Asians, and blacks. The city has become, like other major cities in Europe and the U.S., cosmopolitan.  It also has a much more youthful look and energetic feel. Immigrants have opened restaurants, offering food from throughout the world. The regulation of business operations has been relaxed. The city does not close at night.   
Another Communist Student Election Poster

Of course this change has stirred resentment among some of the older Vienna natives, who liked things the old way, and others with nationalist leanings.  It also stirs the hatreds of the remnants of the far right, the people who still want Austria to be part of a greater Germany, who remember the "good" things about Hitler (who was, after all, an Austria by birth), who do not lament the 200,000 Viennese Jews who were murdered or fled the county after the Anschluss, or who remain Nazi sympathizers (I remember one old man who told me  in a Viennese restaurant with a smile, "Ich war ein Verbrecher.")  


For all of its great cultural and historical treasures, Vienna does have its dark elements, and included among those are the far right elements who reject modernity, internationalization, liberality, and democracy.  Most of these far rightist are part of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPOe). It was led for years by Joerg Haider, a charismatic politician who used anti-immigrant, anti-foreigner, populist, subtly anti-Semitic (some say), and resentment politics to achieve unprecedented electoral success. In 2000, to the dismay of its European neighbors, the Freedom Party became part of the Austrian government in a coalition with the Austria People's Party OeVP).  Haider died in an automobile accident in 2008.

The present head of the Freedom Party is HC Strache, a Viennese.  With him leading the campaign, the Freedom Party had surprising success in the 2010 election of the Vienna city council, which has long had a Social Party (SPOe) majority. The FPOe received 25.8% of the vote, second to the SPOe's 44.3%. The OeVP got only 14.0% of the vote.  (The SPOe and OeVP have ruled the country since 2007 through a "Grand Coalition.")

According to Wikipedia, the FPOe campaign slogans in 2010 included these:

·         Zu viel Fremdes tut niemandem gut. (Too many foreigners [or more literally: Too much foreign] does no one good)

·         Wir bewahren unsere Heimatstadt. Die SPÖ macht sie uns fremd. (We maintain our homeland. The SPÖ makes it a stranger.

·         Wir glauben an unsere Jugend. Die SPÖ an Zuwanderung. (We believe in our youth. The SPÖ in immigration.)

·         Wir schützen freie Frauen. Die SPÖ den Kopftuchzwang (We protect women's rights. The SPÖ protects the compulsory headscarf.

·         Mehr Mut für unsere Wiener Blut (More strength for our Viennese blood.)

·         Uns, geht's um die Wiener (To us, it's about the Viennese)

The flavor of this right-wing leader was evident in a recent article (June 6, 2011) in the Austrian Independent ( ).  
[Strache] called off his attendance of a disputed gathering of far-right student fraternities in Vienna last May at which hundreds come together year after year to deplore the death of German WWII soldiers. The meeting has been under scrutiny as many student fraternity members claim that the German Reich did not start the war. Numerous people have held street marches each year to protest against their get-together as some of the right-wingers dream of a reunion of Austria and Germany amid fears of an ‘Islamisation’ of the continent.

Strache was due to hold a speech at the meeting. However, he cancelled his appearance hours before he was expected to take to the stage. Reports have it that local police were asked to ensure his personal protection before being told at short notice that such measures were not needed. The FPÖ boss claimed a top secret meeting with high-profile politicians abroad made it impossible for him to speak at the commemoration – which always takes place at the same time concentration camp survivors meet to remember their torments.

Strache – who is a member of a far-right student fraternity called Vandalia – has been attending night clubs in cities and music festivals in the countryside for years. Research has shown that one in five Austrians younger than 30 want him as the country’s next chancellor.
The most distributing thing about the rise of the right wing is that surveys show that its support is the greatest among young (under 30) voters.  This support makes salient the fact that university students in Austria were among the most fervent Nazi supporters in Austria during the 1930s, and German nationalism has had strong support among some groups of students since the end of World War I. 


In contrast to the support of far right politics, the far left -- communists, Maoists, etc. -- has gained little support in Vienna, or Austria as a whole.  The Soviet Union's leaders were shocked to find out how few votes the Communist Party (KPOe) received in occupied Austria in the first parliamentary elections after WWII (5.4%).  Since 1959, the Communist Party has not received enough votes to be represented in the Austria parliament, and in the 2008 national elections, it got less than 1 percent of the votes. In the 2010 Vienna elections, it received 1.2 percent of the votes.


Given the KPOe's lack of success in Austria electoral politics, it was interesting to see its "Vota Communista" political posters in front of the University of Vienna in April.  The posters were for elections to the Oesterreichische Hochschueler_Innenschaft (OeH, Austrian University Student Association) that was held May 24-26.  This association is created by Austria law to represent students as part of the nation's policy making system. Austria's corporatist system requires that all large groups from workers to dentists to carnival workers have their own associations to represent them in the making of laws and regulations and other agreements. Representatives are elected at each university, and then a national 96-member OeH body is elected by the university student associations.
Third Communist Student Election Poster

In all, 18,663 of 76,052 University of Vienna students voted in the OeH election. The Green and Alternative Students group received  the largest percentage of votes (30.9%); the center-right party (AktionsGemeinschaft an der Universität Wien) was second with 26.6%; and the socialist student group (affiliated with the SPOe) got 23.5%. The communist group (Kommunistischer Student_innenverband Linke Liste) received 5.9 percent of the votes, and another communist group got 2.5 percent.  The group affiliated with the FPOe, the Ring Freiheitlicher Studenten, received only 2.6 percent of the vote. In the national association of students, the communist students have 2 of 96 seats and the FPOe students have 1 of 96.

The student elections seem to show that most Austrian students are within the bounds of the existing distribution of political power, though leaning toward the traditional left (SPOe) and the environmental left (Greens). The extremist parties enjoy comparatively little support among university students. Which seems to be very good news for Austria and the world.
Socialist (SPOe) Student Election Poster

Green and Alternative Student Election Poster

Monday, June 13, 2011

Found History/Found Life: The Sad Fate of Ernst H. Klavon in Königsberg, East Prussia, 1945

Ernest H. Klavon starved to death in December 1945.  His starvation started in April, 1945, when troops from Soviet Union occupied Königsberg. It was the result of a deliberate policy designed to create misery among Germans living in East Prussia so that they would gladly leave when later ordered to do so. 
Book Title:  But We Had to Live Through It:
Memories of East Prussia Until the
Expulsion 1947

Klavon was a long-time employee of the German postal service. He had been postmaster in Bischhofsburg from 1925 to 1935 and in Gerdauer from 1935 to 1940. After that, he was a middle manager for the postal service in Königsberg, the capital of East Prussia, until March 1945, when he was sent to head post office #5. A month later the Soviet soldiers arrived and the starvation began.  

Klavon's wife did not hear of his fate for more than three years. His story was told after Germans were expelled from East Prussia in 1947 and 1948.  Among those arriving in Germany were some of Klavon's colleagues who had witnessed what happened to him. Klavon's story is told in two documents. One is a letter to Mrs. Klavon in October 1948 telling her that her husband had starved to death. The second is a longer letter from Elisabeth Krause, a colleague and friend of Mr. Klavon, who knew first-hand what happened between April and December 1945. An excerpt from this letter was published in a newspaper, which I cannot identify.

These two documents were taped inside a book that I recently bought (along with about 25 others) that had belonged to Ernest's son, Hans E. Klavon. Hans, who was a soldier in the German army during World War II, apparently immigrated to Canada after the war and lived a quiet life there. He collected books and materials on East Prussia and its history during and just after the end of WWII.  I have close to twenty such books, all in German, that were in his library.
Depiction of Germans Refugees From East Prussia

The title of the book in which the documents were found is "Die Lage der Deutschen in Königsberger Gebiet 1945-1948" (The Situation of Germans in the Königsberg Area, 1945-1948) by Gerhild Luschnat, Peter Lang publisher, 1995.  This and the other books were purchased at "Read All About It," a used book store in Blaine, Washington.

This material is an example of fascinating "found history" that sometimes appears when purchasing books, papers, post cards and other materials at garage sales, used book stores, and auctions, and on e-bay.  It provides a brief look at the world from the life of a person you never met, who likely is no longer living, and who experienced things far beyond the realm of your reality. In this case, these letters made vivid the fact that suffering did not stop when WWII ended, but the lives of millions were made miserable by the policies and boundary changes that followed, especially those resulting in the mass expulsion of ethnic groups from places where they had lived for centuries.

I have translated those two documents, and provide the documents, the translations, and a short introduction in a .pdf file that can be downloaded using the following link:

Friday, June 10, 2011

Frank Kills a Deer: Pioneer Tales of Arkansas' German Immigrants

Arkansas Echo, December 22, 1893

How Frank, Without Powder and Lead, Once Slew a Magnificent Deer

(Here is another of the Pioneer Tales provided to the Arkansas Echo by German immigrants in 1893. This one is bloody, but it clear that old Frank of Johnson County, Arkansas was proud of his hand-to-hand combat with a deer.)

That a person without both powder and lead, armed solely with an old rusty pocket knife, can slay a deer was proven by our old jovial friend Frank. We definitely want to let Frank himself tell this story that has the advantage over similar stories in that it is literally true.
Unused Wine Bottle Label
Nick Kupferle was a German immigrant
I am, tells Frank, one of the first, perhaps even the very first German who came to this state. It was already in the beginning of the '70s when I had my wigwam up there in the mountains of Johnson County. At that time, there was still game in great abundance, even bears and  panthers and deer that often would be so forward that they came close to the house.

Often these animals caused a goodly amount of destruction in the cornfield, and one time I succeeded in shooting one of these audacious fellows from the window of my house.
Another time, I brought one home that I, as mentioned above, had slain without powder or lead, with only the help of an old pocket knife.
One day I went, accompanied by my true Prince, to locate and drive home my cattle, which hadn't returned in quite a few days. As I am a ways from the house, there suddenly stands before us, right in the path, a magnificent deer with an even more magnificent set of antlers.

Hallo! I think to myself, old kid, you could make out your last will if only I had my rifle with me. I sic my dog onto the fellow. But instead of taking to its heels, the buck lowers its head and begins a pitched battle.

Finally, Prince bites securely into its shoulder, the deer turns, and the two move forward. I follow behind, but certainly not far. The deer shakes the dog loose and the scrap continues on.

Then the two suddenly roll around on the ground and I, not being lazy, jump after them. In a flash, I have the buck by its horns and turn him by the head, as securely as I can, onto the ground. If I now only had a rock or piece of wood, I could beat it to death. Unfortunately, there was nothing to be found in the vicinity, and, anyway, I could not let the thing loose.

Then, a saving thought. I had in my pocket an old, broken pocket knife, perhaps I can kill it with that. I dip my hand quickly into the pocket after the knife, open it with my teeth, and explore to see if I can bleed the buck with it.

It was difficult with such an instrument and sweat broke out of all pores.

Necessity breaks iron, and I at last succeeded.
It appears to produce a pleasurable feeling in the buck; he lays as still as a sheep, and I cut more and more until I reach the jugular vein.

Now the buck become very uncomfortable, and he struggles with all his might, but not more than Frank. And so it finally bled to death and was kaput.
I was absolutely bathed in sweat and still could not believe that I had pulled of  this feat with an old knife.  Then I heaved the booty onto my back and took off for home, the search for cattle postponed to another day.

(Translated by Dan Durning, all rights reserved)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Five Newly Built Houses in Birch Bay, WA

In the past few months, five new water-view houses have been built in Birch Bay, Washington. These houses continue the trend of building big on small lots. Three of the houses have conventional designs. The other two have a more boxy modern style.  One is distinctive in its design with widespread use of glass and multi-level decks.
New House on Birch Bay Drive, Ocean Front
The ocean front house is a one-story structure built next to the Jackson Road Public Access.  It is designed and painted to be compatible with an adjacent two-story house that was built and occupied within the last year or so. These two houses replace a mobile home that was on the lot. This new house appears to be occupied, but is still receiving some finishing touches.

Across Birch Bay Drive from this ocean-front property is the most distinctive and impressive of the recent new houses.  This new modern structure has three floors with huge windows and multiple, large decks.  The view from the street shows an attractive interior with an open design and high ceilings. The exterior is painted a light color, similar to the newer houses across the street and the neighboring houses.  Terrell Creek runs behind the house.  This house replaced an old mobile home.
Another new house on Birch Bay Drive, Terrell Creek behind
It appears this house has been completed, but is not occupied.  It does not have a garage, so parking will be in front.

The three other new houses are across Terrell Creek to the north of Jackson Road. One, occupied very recently, is on Woolridge Avenue, just up from Jackson Road.  Another house, a huge one, is being completed further up Woolridge.  It has a steep driveway off Woolridge, but the house fronts on Sunset Drive. The third house was built on a vacant lot on Morrison Avenue. It lies between the road and Terrell Creek.

The Woolridge Street house nearest Jackson Road is a two-story unit with a garage occupying part of the lower floor. It is painted a dark color, and it is landscaped with rocks and boulders.  Its second floor has a large deck with an ocean view.    It was built on a vacant lot.

Woolridge Avenue (near Jackson Rd)
The structure being constructed on the hill between Woolridge Avenue and Sunset Drive is three stories with two huge decks.  The bottom floor appears to be a garage. The driveway access is a steep drive from Woolridge.  Several trees were removed to build the house and extensive excavation was done on the hillside. Some of the remaining trees on the hill appear to be in jeopardy because of root destruction caused by the construction. A moldy old bus was removed from the site prior to the construction.
View from Woolridge Avenue
  The house is painted a light green and has few windows, except at the at the back where the decks are located.

The final new house, which is now occupied, was built on an empty lot on Morrison Avenue.  It is a two-story structure located between the street and Terrell Creek.  A part of the bottom floor is a garage.  The house has few windows, except to the west.  It is painted a dark color.
View from across Terrell Creek of a
new house on Morrison Avenue
These single family housing structures are all substantial investments made in Birch Bay during a difficult economic time. These houses, plus many renovations that were done in the past year, continue to increase and upgrade the housing stock.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

August Splits Rails: Pioneer Tales of Arkansas' German Immigrants

Arkansas Echo, December 8, 1893
Another Piece About "August" 
       --or -- 
Long Fence Rails

As I have already mentioned, August was a practical man. He always had his own ideas, and he tried to make every job as easy and comfortable as absolutely possible
Unused Wine Bottle Label; Kupferle was a German Immigrant

So, once he had observed rail splitting and had immediately seized upon an idea:  Why, he thought to himself, do the dummies chop through the thick trees two or three times instead of first splitting it all in half lengthwise and then chopping through the thin pieces.  That would be faster and would also be more comfortable. If I make rails sometime, I will try this method.

Sometime after that, August took off into the woods armed with a terribly thick axe and the other tools needed in order to, as he told his wife, make 100 fence rails by night fall. 

He selects a slim, thin tree since, he thought: a person begins with a thin tree and stops with a thick one. He begins to cut diligently, but not according to the old way, on two sides; instead August went all the way around the tree, and as a drop of water finally hollows a hole in a rock, so at last August brought it to an end, and the tree fell over.

It seems to him to have taken forever, and, in addition, the dumb tree had the idea to fall not where August had determined, but instead directly across a fence, whereby it destroyed a dozen fence rails.

A nice beginning, thought August, and wiped off the drops of sweat. Now the method of splitting can begin. He places the wedge on the tree, but on the butt end, and swings mightily. But the wedge is difficult and awkward, and it simply will not go in. 

"Well, if you won't go in voluntarily, I will use force," he thinks and pounds twice as hard, such that after a little time, bathed in sweat and gasping for breath like a fish, he had to sit.  However, a tree does not split itself and he had to start on it again. And to his pleasure, the split gets wider and wider, until he reaches a limb. Here it means, "Doubled strength."  Then all at once the sledgehammer shatters, and a piece of it flies closely by his nose.

"Thunder!" he screams, startled, over and above everything else. "This is dangerous to my life!"

To the devil with the person who invented rail splitting. Real cruelty!  What now? He then hears the voice of his foot warmer who calls him to lunch. "What," he shouts, astounded. "Already noon and so far nothing accomplished."

"Well, well, things are certainly beginning well."  And annoyed, he strolls homeward.

He did not have a big appetite, and in response to the questions from his wife about how the rail splitting was going, he says quietly, "Not yet the greatest, but I am not yet in full swing."

He then takes another sledgehammer (since with foresight he had put four of them in stock) and goes forth again with fresh courage to his work. And after awhile he had the pleasure of seeing before him the tree split in two halves.

Now, celebrated August, it's going better, I am getting into gear. And, in fact, it went somewhat better for him. Of course, it took him almost the entire afternoon to split through two halves. Now he had to knock off for the night, and he saw to his consternation that of the 100 posts that he had wanted to make that day, there were 96 lacking, and in addition the four that were lying there were not entirely finished.

"A nice start," he muttered. "The devil take this rail splitting."

Naturally he may not tell his foot warmer the true story, but he says that he is four short of the intended 100 rails. And he resumes pounding with the hammer during the night, such that his wife had to forcibly restrain him since, unfortunately, he hit her a few times in place of the wedge.

The next morning things begin again in the woods and to his surprise, he see his neighbor "M" sitting on the tree stump. He seems to be sunk into deep thought, since he hardly heard August coming.

"Good morning," calls August, "up and out so early, and what are you staring at so closely? The fence rails?"

"Fence rails," he says.  "I have been trying to figure out for a long time what you intend to do with those long pieces of wood. I thought you wanted to make some kind of hen roost out of them." 

And August told him the whole story of the preceding day and expanded upon his ideas. "What?" growls the old man. "Stay with the old way. Believe me, young man, I have tried all different ways and the old way is always the best."

"I don't have any special plans for today and therefore want to show you this morning how rails are made in this region. Afterwards, you can do as you like."  And it did not take very long until August understood that the man was right.

He was cured of his ideas and in the evening, he could truthfully tell his foot warmer that he had that day made 100 rails, or even a few more than that.

He was frequently teased about the hen roost, but August became a tolerably good rail splitter, not according to this new method, but in the old trusted way.

(Translated by Dan Durning, all rights reserved)

[Note: since few of us have experience splitting rails, I looked up the instructions on the internet. They are simple:  (1) cut down the tree by chopping on two sides so the people cutting the tree can make it fall where they want it to, (2) cut the trunk into sections about 12 feet long, removing all limbs as close to the trunk as possible, (3) in each section, chop a wedge-shaped opening about an inch deep on the top side, near the smaller end; place the point of an iron wedge in this opening and pound the wedge with a sledgehammer until the wood splits, (4) repeat step three with all of the half logs, and (5) keep repeating with quarter and eighth logs until you have rails the desired thickness.  In this story, August did the first step wrong by chopping all around the tree and he did not do the second step, instead trying to split the tree its entire length. He also put the wrong end of the wedge into the tree. Sounds like stuff I would do.]