Sunday, August 21, 2011

County Fairs Past and Present: Death-Defying Rides and Nifty Quilts

From about the fifth to the ninth grades, the Washington County Fair was one of the highlights of the year. What's not to like: first a parade, then Friday afternoon out of school with special prices on the midway rides.
Fair Time!

At that age, I didn't feel any necessity to go through the various building containing horses, pigs, cows, chickens, preserved vegetables, "art work", Four-H exhibits, politicians, civic groups, etc. The focus was on spending my $5 allowance to maximize assaults on the stomach by rides, food, and drink.

I would waste a few dimes on desultory efforts to knock down some bottles to win a big stuffed animal, but I was pretty fatalistic about the results, knowing with a high degree of probability that I would not win.  Also, I was willing to shell out a few dimes to see the alligator woman, snake man, and other oddities that did not appear every day on the square in Fayetteville.

The day was a success if I had a go on the most scary rides and escaped without throwing up. When my $5 was done, the day was over with nothing but good memories to tide me over until the next year.
Sterling the Magician

My how time changes things.  This Saturday, I and my friend Natalia went to the last day of the Northwest Washington Fair, and the highlights of the visit were not the rides or food, but the nifty quilts entered into the fair competition, plus an impressive act by a 20-year old magician, Sterling, a native of Lynden who spends most of the year performing at Los Cabos, Mexico,a resort city. Sterling is an entertaining and engaging professional magician who returned to his home town for this engagement. More on him at:
This Quilt has an old button in the center of the each of the squares;
it has has the names of ancestors stitched on its edges

The Northwest Washington Fair is a major happening in this extreme Northwest corner of the U.S. with a packed schedule of shows, plus huge exhibit areas. It has a medium size midway, with a few rides that look stomach challenging. The food booths are all around with all of the usual fried stuff for which fairs are now famous. Because Lynden either has, or pretends to have, a strong connection to a Dutch heritage, one booth offered what is purported to be a Dutch sweet treat that seemed, a first glance, like fried donut holes, but are, in fact, a bit more sophisticated dumpling-type food. They are called Poffertjes, and they are not deep fried, but are cooked on a special stove top contraption. They are quite popular: every time we passed the stand, a several people were waiting in line for their plate full of them.
Nice pattern made out of small squares

I enjoyed the exhibitions, and was most impressed with the quilts. They were put together with the help of sewing machines, but still were impressive for all the work that went into them.  My favorites were a small multi-colored quilt made out of many small squares, each of which had an old button in the middle (see above).  The quilt also had names stitched on its edges, along with birth and death dates.

Another favorite (to the left) had great colors and a strong pattern. It also was made out of small squares sewed together, creating multi-color lines crossing from corner to corner.

We also took some time to look at the photography and art work. It was not too impressive, but had some pieces that were enjoyable.  Natalia and I both liked a bold painting in the 9-years-old-and under category.  Also, we were impressed by a portrait painted by a teenager (see both below).

"We Miss You." Second Place, age 9 and under

Winner in teenage category: intriguing portrait
Natalia and I marched quickly past the impressive looking chickens and rabbits, and took a look at the cows. Lynden is famous for it dairies, and the prize cows obviously had an ability to produce lots of milk. The first cow I saw looked as if it were about to burst, but later I noticed the others were in the same condition and decided I was in no imminent danger. (I really need to rethink this milk-drinking thing.)
Isn't this cow's udder about to explode?
We skipped the horses, pigs, and ponies, but looked at the flower, vegetable, and food exhibits.  Most were looking pitiful on this fifth day of the fair. But not the pies, which I observed at length with a watering mouth.

After dutifully looking at the exhibits and walking briefly around the midway, we decided it was time for the Poffertjes.  So, we took our place in line.  As we waited, we watched them being cooked.  The cooks prepared a pancake-type batter and poured it into dozens of egg-shaped indentations on a stove top. After a few minutes, the cooks used a straight piece of wire to flip the Poffertjes, like turning over pancakes, to cook the top side.  In about four to five minutes, the nuggets were done, dusted with some sugar and served on a paper plate with a dollop of butter. They were worth the wait.  Long live the Dutch!

After downing the treats, we walked to the exit, passing a small outdoor theater where a hypnotist was beginning her show. She was asking for people to volunteer to be hypnotized, and Natalia wanted to volunteer. I am sure that she had only a professional interest in doing that:  She is a psychologist, and maybe she could get some tips on how to use this technique. I convinced Natalia that I was about to pass out from the heat (it was up to the middle 70's!) and marching around, so she followed me out the exit.  Quite a nice day, even if I didn't get to see the hypnotist make Natalia cluck like an Uzhgorod chicken!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Austria's Fatherland Front, 1933-1938

Soon after Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss found a way to dismantle Austria's parliament in March 1933 and institute a fascist government in Austria, he created the Vaterländische Front (Fatherland Front, also known as the Patriotic Front) to replace political parties that were "faithful to the government." Within a few months, all other political parties were banned and many of their leaders were in concentration camps.
History of the Fatherland Front
Published in 1971

In retrospect, Austria's Fatherland Front seems to be a bit comical, though at the time it was a deadly serious organization.  The group, created by Dollfuss in May 1933, was a pale imitation of the fascist organizations of Germany and Italy, which encompassed the such things as a totalitarian government united behind a larger-than-life leader (Il Duce, Der Führer); nationalism founded on myths that justified an idealized view of the country, its people, and its destiny; and a militarization of society designed to make warriors of citizens and use violence against its opponents.

In contrast to the National Socialist Party in Germany and the National Fascist Party in Italy, Austria lacked a ruthless, ideology-driven leader plotting destruction of its opponents and conquests of its neighbors. Dollfuss, was, by most accounts, a likable and decent man -- hardly terms that would have been used to describe Hitler or Mussolini. Also, he was a small man, 4 feet 11 inches. While no one doubted Dollfuss' courage, which he displayed as an officer in WWI, his small stature could not have helped the efforts to make him an awe-inspiring leader.
Dollfuss's Successor: Kurt Schuschnig 

After Dollfuss' assassination in July 1934, the new Führer was Kurt Schuschnig, a mild-mannered lawyer with distinctive owlish glasses that made him look like a professor. Again, no one could doubt his courage, as shown in his last-minute effort to save Austria from Hitler.  However, he did not have the look or harsh rhetoric of a ruthless dictator.

The Austro-Fascists and the Fatherland Front did its best to live up to the standards of Germany and Italy. And many of its leaders were as vicious and ruthless as any in those countries. They crushed the socialists in a short civil war (firing artillery shells into buildings that housed workers), hung some of their opponents (mostly socialists), imprisoned others (socialists, communists, and Nazis) in concentration camps, abolished political parties and freedom of the press, and adopted a corporatist, clerical constitution.

The Austro-Fascists also built up the Austrian army, held huge rallies with long rows of marching soldiers and huge flags, deployed propaganda, indoctrinated youth, and created auxiliary groups that reinforced the new ideology. However, they did not make anti-Semitism central to their ideology, nor did their threaten or try to undermine neighboring countries.
Announcement of the new symbol of the
Fatherland Front

Dollfuss, as head of the Fatherland Front, adopted a symbol (the Kruckenkreuz) to complete against the Hakenkreuz or swastika. The "crutch cross" resembled the cross of Jerusalem, and was used to evoke crusader mythology. This was fitting because Dollfuss' actions were strongly supported by Vienna Archbishop Cardinal Innitzer, and the Austro-fascist government quickly signed a new Condordat with the Catholic Church, giving it an extraordinary role in society, especially in public education. The Kruckenkreuz was incorporated into the nation's flag in 1935.  See

The Fatherland Front also had its own greeting, "Front Heil" and national anthem.  In 1935, the government adopted the "Dollfusslied" [the Dollfuss Song], also known as "Lied der Jungen" [Song of Youth] as the national anthem of Austria. This song, invoking the martyrdom of Dollfuss, has similarities with the Horst-Wessel-Song of the Nazi Party. For more information, go to and

The song's lyrics are as follows:

Ihr Jungen, schließt die Reihen gut,
Ein Toter führt uns an.
Er gab für Österreich sein Blut,
Ein wahrer deutscher Mann.
Die Mörderkugel, die ihn traf,
Die riß das Volk aus Zank und Schlaf.
Wir Jungen stehn bereit
Mit Dollfuß in die neue Zeit!

Youth, close up your rows,
A dead person moves among us.
He gave his blood for Austria,
A true German Man.
The bullet that hit him
Tore the People out of discord and sleep.
We Youth stand ready!
With Dollfuss in the New Age!
We Do Our Duty

Für Österreich zu kämpfen lohnt,
daß es gesichert sei,
vor jedem Feind, wo er auch thront,
und vor der Verräterei.
Gewalt und Lüge schreckt uns nicht,
Wir kennen nur die frohe Pflicht.
Wir Jungen stehn bereit!
Mit Dollfuß in die neue Zeit!

It is worth fighting for Austria
So that it is secured
From all enemies, wherever they are,
And from treachery.
Violence and lies don't scare us.
We know only joyous duty.
We Youth are ready!
With Dollfuss in the New Age!

 Zerschlagt was uns noch hemmen mag
und nach dem Gestern weist.
Die neue Zeit steigt in den Tag
und will den neuen Geist.
Christlich, deutsch, gerecht und frei
von Klassenhaß und Tyrannei.
Wir Jungen stehn bereit!
Mit Dollfuß in die neue Zeit!

Defeat may still inhibit us and
Point to the past.
The New Age is rising
and requires a new spirit.
Christian, German, upright and free
From class hatred and tyranny.
We Youth stand ready!
With Dollfuss in a New Age.

Austria's fascist leaders hoped the Fatherland Front would help protect the country from a German takeover. One of the main purposes of the Front was to instill Austrian patriotism and identity that had been missing since the end of the Hapsburg Empire. Nationalist and patriotic feelings had been diminished by the loss of the empire, the difficult economic times, and doubts about whether such a small country was economically viable.  The new leaders wanted its citizens, especially its youth, to see themselves as Austrians with a proud past and a bright future.
First Announcement of the Fatherland Front, May 1933
The announcement of the creation of the Fatherland Front in late May, 1933, (see above) spoke of a new spirit blowing through Austria, a new spring, based on love of the fatherland, consciousness of the fatherland, and pride in home.  It declared, "Österreich über alles, wenn es nur will" (Austria over everything, if it only wants); these words were adapted from the Deutschlandlied, which begins, "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, über alles in der Welt."
1933 Fatherland Front Rally at Heldenplatz with the Theme
"Österreich über alles, wenn es nur will"

The announcement said that Dollfuss, who is often referred to abroad as the "Austrian wonder," has awakened the new spirit and embodies it. "He is the leader and general of the Fatherland Front. He carries for you the Red-White-Red flag forward to battle, forward to victory." It urged everyone who stands behind Dr. Dollfuss and who will fight for Austria to join the Fatherland Front.

To rally support, the Fatherland Front held large public rallies complete with flags, music, military marching, and solemn ceremonies, emulating (but not nearly equaling) those of Italy (which had pushed Dollfuss to demolish the democratic government and establish a fascist state) and Germany. It also organized auxiliary groups of boy, girls, women, workers, and others. 
Patriotic Youth Rally Held at a Stadium in Vienna, 1934
From 1934 Youth Rally. On the left is Dollfuss walking with two youngsters

In November 1935, the Fatherland Front membership was over 2 million, and it rose more in the following years, until it was abolished after the Anschluss.  In all, over half of the population older than 18 years of age belonged to the Front.

When a person joined the Fatherland Front, he or she received a membership card (see pictures). The back of the card stated the principles of the Front and the duties of its members:   

The VF is called to be the champion of the idea of the Austrian state. Your goal is the political consolidation of all citizens who stand on the land of the self-sufficient, Christian, German, professionally structured country of Austria and support the leader of the VF or his designated successor. Everyone who joins the VF commits himself to its political goals, declaring his support of them at all times, and pledging himself, on his honor:
1. To champion freedom, honor, and the image of Austria
2. To serve the community of people and remain loyal
3. To personally maintain loyalty and love of country, and to promote these values among others
4. To put aside disunity and disloyalty
5. To belong to no organization that wants class or cultural conflict or whose goals otherwise oppose the goals of the VG.
6. To give the leader unconditional trust and obedience.
7. In appearance and actions to uphold the dignity of the VG movement
8. Wear and protect the insignia of the VG.

Though large numbers of Austrians joined the Fatherland Front, either out of conviction or necessity, it quickly disappeared -- along with Austria -- in March 1938 when the Germans arrived. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Washing Dishes at the Hotel Nordsee-Halle in Büsum, Germany, 1966

In Summer, 1966, I was a guest worker in the North Sea resort town of Büsum, Germany. My co-workers, Adriano and Rosa, traveled from Italy that summer to work at the same place. Together, we were responsible for keeping the dishes, glasses, cutlery, pots, and pans clean at the Hotel Nordsee-Halle.

This hotel bordered a branch of the city's harbor that was usually filled with battered old fishing boats.  Just beyond the harbor from Hotel Nordsee-Halle was a a high, sloping beach that served as a dyke to protect the low-lying city. At the top of the grass-covered beach, near the entrance closest to Hotel Nordsee-Halle, were mineral bath buildings and a lighthouse.

Postcard showing Hotel Nordsee-Halle and the Büsum Harbor, middle 1960s

The city of Büsum had a normal population of a couple of thousand residents, but its population grew in the summer as German and English tourists arrived. The city offered tourists healing waters, a beach, long sea-view promenades, a frigid sea, boats trips, nice restaurants, and some inexpensive hotels. 

The attractions of Büsum, 1966

Adriano, Italian
Because the trip to Büsum was my first time in Europe, it was both instructional and enthralling, even if I did have to wash dishes. Among the highlights of the trip was working with Adriano and Rosa. They were the first real Italians I had known, and it was fun working with them.  Here is a picture of Adrino, who was in his late 20s when we worked together.

Just for fun, I have written an account of the summer washing dishes in Büsum that is posted on Scrib'd.  It can be found at this location:

The title is "Adriano & Rosa & Dennis Dornik Wash Dishes in Boom-Time Germany."

Monday, August 8, 2011

SnipFest at Birch Bay: A Music Festival

On Saturday, August 6th, Birch Bay, WA had an all-day music festival to raise money for the WeSNIP program that operates a pet spay and neuter program in Whatcom County. The Birch Bay Music Festival was organized by the owners of the Bay Cafe and C Shop, and it was held at the southwest corner of Morrison and Birch Bay Drive, across the street from both businesses. It featured nine musical groups or individual signers; also the festival had over 20 vendors and a silent auction. In all, the last I heard, the festival raised about $4,000 to support WeSNIP programs.

The music groups participating in the music festival ranged from folksingers (e.g., Kit Nelson) to a contemporary singer backed by a small group (Rebekah Ann Curtis) to full rock bands (e.g., Olio), to heavy rock (e.g., Kong).  The lineup was as follows:

Kit Nelson
Brittany Myers
Rebekah Ann Curtis
Patsy Thompson
James Higgins and the Muddy Boots
Bear Cove
KONG (Bellingham)

Here are some pictures from the event:

The Event Grounds with a Singer in the Background

Vendors on Morrison Street, Next to the C Shop

Rebekah Ann Curtis, Singer, with Guitar and Conga Drum Backing

Folksinger Kit Nelson

Plenty of Dogs Supported the WeSNIP Festival

C Shop's Pat Introduced Pete Kremen, Whatcom Co. Exec.

OLIO Plays on a Nice Summer Day in Birch Bay
KONG Plays as Twilight Comes

KONG Ends the Night With Loud Hard Rock

The Birch Bay Music Festival had a great line-up of music, a perfect day, and great setting.  The attendance was larger than anticipated, and it appeared most folks were enjoying themselves. Best of all, the event raised some much needed money for a good cause. In all, a very pleasant way to spend the day in beautiful Birch Bay.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Fire at Birch Bay

We interrupt the usual long intellectually stimulating blogs to bring this message:

We had a fire in Birch Bay, WA this afternoon. At about 4:30 p.m., there was an explosion and fire that destroyed a motor home and gutted much of a double wide manufactured house on east side of Sunset Drive. Four fire trucks came to fire, and it was quickly extinguished.  From all reports, no one was injured in the fire.

Here are a couple of pictures:

This place is located a couple of blocks and up the hill from where I live on Birch Bay Drive and Morrison Rd. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Assassination of Engelbert Dollfuss, July 25, 1934

On July 25, 1934, 150 Austrian Nazis dressed as Austrian soldiers and police officers overwhelmed the unarmed guards at the Chancellery building in Vienna (Ballhausplatz) and seized it as part of a German-backed plot to install a Nazi government in Austria. Their goal was to capture all of the ministers, including the prime minister, and force them to appoint their designated person as the head of a new German-friendly government.  In other actions, they briefly took over the Austrian national radio network and tried to kidnap the president of Austria.

Interesting Book on the Assassination
In the action at the chancellery, Engelbert Dollfuss (the Chancellor -- or prime minister) was shot twice as the building was being occupied; one of the bullets paralyzed him below the waist. The other bullet -- both were fired at very close range -- caused bleeding around the throat. The plotters refused to allow a doctor to treat him, or a priest to visit him, and he died a very slow death in his office.

The details of the assassination are found in a book, Assassination in Vienna: The Story of the Nazis' First Attempt to Take Over Another County," written by Walter Maass.  The story is a frustrating one because it is clear that several Austrian officials had advance notice of the plot. Due to their inaction or slow response, opportunities to stop the attack on the Chancellery were missed. Also, Dollfuss -- who knew the attack was coming -- inexplicably remained in the building -- protected by unarmed soldiers -- when he could easily have departed long before the Nazi contingent arrived.

Views of Dollfuss from a historical perspective are, at best, mixed. He came from modest circumstances (an  illegitimate child raised on a farm) and was a brave officer in World War I. His distinguishing physical feature was his height: he was only 4' 11''.  Dollfuss was, from most reports, an amiable, likable, well-intentioned man. When he was selected to be Chancellor in May, 1932 -- a very difficult time in Austria when the economy was in near free-fall -- he was the youngest head of government on the continent. At the time, his party had a one-vote majority in Parliament.
Portrait of Dollfuss on a Postcard

Unfortunately, this amiable, well-intentioned man was responsible for ending democratic government in Austria and evoking a civil war in which the Austrian army fired artillery shells into the apartments of workers in Vienna, including the Karl Marx Hof and the Goethe Hof.  His government executed several socialist party leaders and removed the democratically elected government of Vienna from office, installing unelected officials from his party and its coalition.

Dollfuss was a member of the Christian Social Party (CSP), a Catholic conservative organization whose supporters were largely outside of Vienna. Its main opposition was the Social Democratic Party (SPD), which was a socialist but not a doctrinaire Marxist group. This party consistently received large majorities of votes in Vienna elections and was renown for the social support provided to workers in the city. After 1932, the Nazi Party gained strength, drawing votes from both the Volkspartei and the Socialist Party. However, Nazi party was never nearly as large as either of the two main parties.

Scars from Artillery Shells at Goethe Hof, Viennia, 1934

In these turbulent times, with Hitler taking power in Germany, Dollfuss found a way in 1933 to dissolve the Austrian Parliament and to rule by decree. He allied with the fascist Heimwehr party (which had its own militia) and received the backing of Italy's Mussolini. He dissolved all political parties by decree and created the Vaterlaendische Front (Fatherland Front) as the main political organization in the country.
Fatherland Front Membership Card

After dissolving Parliament, Dollfuss and his supporters wrote a new constitution proclaiming a Catholic, corporatist one-party state. Despite high sounding phrases in the new constitution, his government was a fascist regime that differed from German fascism mainly in its Austrian-patriotic focus and its rejection of anti-Semitic ideology.
The brief but bloody civil war took place in February 1934 when the Socialist Party reacted to Dollfuss' policies to create a one-party state. The Austrian army and the Heimwehr crushed the lightly armed Socialists. Soon after scattering the socialists, Dollfuss' government outlawed the Nazi Party and imprisoned many of its leaders, who were using both terrorism and subversion to try to dislodge Dollfuss and install their own chancellor.

As Austria's Fuehrer and head of the Fatherland Front, Dollfuss attempted to unite Austrians in opposition to Germany's clear intent to absorb the country. After the failed coup attempt that resulted in the assassination of Dollfuss, his successor, Dr. Kurt Schuschnigg, continued the Austro-fascist government's efforts to fend off the Germans.

What did Dollfuss think about his actions during his years as Chancellor?  Consider what he told his Nazi captors as he lay paralyzed, bleeding, and dying on July 25, 1934.  The Maass book quotes him as saying,   "I have always tried to do the best I could. I always wanted peace." (p. 91).  His funeral card quoted him as saying, "I only wanted peace; the others may God forgive."  

Funeral Card of Engelbert Dollfuss

Also, consider this paragraph in a book by Dorothy Thompson (Let the Record Speak, 1938, p. 135):

In 1933, to please another despot, Mussolini, Dollfuss himself dissolved the Social Democratic Party and shot workmen in their home. Not to please Austria. To please Mussolini. And the little daughter of Dollfuss said to the child of a friend of mine: "Does your father cry all the time. Mine does."
Dollfuss, wife, and two children

Following his death, Dollfuss was honored in many ways by Dr. Schuschnigg, his successor, and the Fatherland Front. He became a symbol of sacrifice, and Austrians were urged to follow his path in honoring the country and his church.  Many monuments were dedicated to him, and public squares named after him. Among the many memorials to Dollfuss was a small, but striking church built in 1935 on the Hohe Wand, a mountain ridge in Lower Austria (see picture)  
Postcard  Picture of the Dollfuss Church, 1935
According to the back of the post card of the church, the following was inscribed on the free-standing alter in the church:

Seine sendung war kampf.
Sein wille war friede.
Sein leben war opfer.
Sein sterben war sieg.

His mission was to fight.
His wish was peace.
His life was sacrifice
His death was victory.

After the Anschluss, the public Dollfuss memorials disappeared, though many private memorials -- including several churches -- have since returned.  According to a July 21, 2011 article in Zeit On-Line with the title, "Totenkult fuer einen Diktator (Death Cult for a Dictator), Dollfuss' death is still honored at several locations, including the Dollfuss Church on Hohe Wand. Dollfuss also has a small museum devoted to him and life, located in the house in which he was born in Lower Austrian district of Texingtal.  

Although some traditional Catholic conservatives still revere Dollfuss and his name, he is not a historical figure honored by the Austrian government. Perhaps Dollfuss was a good man forced to do bad things during an impossible time. Nevertheless, he destroyed Austrian democracy, shelled workers in Vienna who tried to preserve democracy, and made Austria a fascist state. When he was Chancellor, he was not the only person crying all the time.