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We interrupt this WWI Diary to bring you news of two special wedding anniversaries!

 

Our Wedding

August 6, 1983

August 6th is a pretty good day for a wedding if stability is what you have in mind. Today as my husband and I celebrate our 34th anniversary – we wish my uncle and his bride congratulations on their 57th anniversary!

 

It’s funny how wedding dates are selected – no doubt it depends on the availability of the church and reception venue and I know many brides today spend many months, if not years planning their weddings.  For Rick and me – it was a much more practical consideration – there were only a few weeks between the end of my summer job and the beginning of my second year of law school. Why else would anyone choose early August in Washington DC?

We spent the early part of our time in Washington DC finding a church that we wanted to join. I remember many Sundays visiting different churches. I also remember visiting Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church and thinking I wouldn’t like it (it was in a wealthy DC suburb and I thought this very middle class girl would feel out of place with Washington’s upper crust). Of course, that was before I knew all of my Preston and Bryant family history, through which I learned that I am a descendant of Washington DC’s “upper crust!”

I still remember the sermon on our first visit to Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church int he spring of 1983 by the head minister – Tom Jones. It was entitled, “Sins of Omission.” It was a sermon about the civil rights movement and the terrible things that were going on during freedom marches in the south in the 1950s and 60s. He certainly got my attention when he said – “if you were not actively protesting the abuses by whites in the South,  you were just as guilty as the people holding those fire hoses on the marchers.” Hmmm… maybe this wouldn’t be such a bad church to join after all. And of course, it was beautiful both inside and out.

We joined in short order and remained active participants in the life of that church for the next two years until we moved away from DC in 1985. But I digress – this post is supposed to be about wedding anniversaries!

Rick and I were married at Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church on August 6, 1983. It was hot – the Washington DC kind of hot, dripping with humidity. I remember Rick asking if he could pay extra to have the church leave the A/C on the night before. We were assured that someone would turn it on early enough for things to cool down in time for our 10 am ceremony. I don’t remember being too hot so it must have worked out.

As for Deane and Nancy who celebrate their 57th anniversary today – I have this picture that I found on Newspapers.com from page 6 of the Columbus, Indiana Republic on August 8, 1960.Nancy.wedding picture.1960

Sorry to cut off the article but what an elaborate affair it seems to have been. I don’t see Deane and Nancy as often as I’d like, but it has always made me happy to share a wedding anniversary date with them.

Here’s an excerpt from my grandfather’s family letter dated November 25, 1958 in which he describes meeting Nancy’s parents for the first time.

“There are prospects of a wedding in our family. Deane is sure he has found the right girl, and they thought of getting married at the end of this school year, but the latest decision is to wait until Deane finds out whether the Army is going to take him, and for Nancy to finish her last year at the university. [Deane was a senior and Nancy a junior at Indiana University when this was written.] They met while they were both working on the Daily Student, and this fall it began to get serious. Nancy Myers lives in Columbus, Indiana, 40 miles east of Bloomington; she is majoring in journalism and literature. She is pretty, intelligent, and wise for her years, and we like her very much. We invited her father and mother for dinner about a month ago, with her sister and her boyfriend. It was her father’s birthday and we all had a good time. The four young people went to a dance and the four parents stayed home and had a good talk.

Mr. Myers studied for the ministry and preached for a while in a Christian church, then went into one of the plants in Columbus that makes radios and a number of other things as a personnel and labor relations officer. Her mother was born in Australia, and they are both lively, witty, and good people. They like Deane, and had no objections to the kids getting married, though it would please them if Nancy finished her last year in the university. This is an example of Mr. Myers’ kind of wisdom: he suggested that they think over carefully the pros and cons of getting married next June, then he would arrange a debate and he would argue in favor of it. Well, when Deane and Nancy thought of all the reasons against it, they called up her father and told him there would be no debate. They may still change their minds, but they are both thoughtful youngsters and, we will be satisfied with whatever they finally decide.

I just realized as I was typing this that the “we” in this letter means that Kitty also met Nancy’s parents. I rarely think of Kitty (my grandmother) as being involved in family events because she died in December 1959.

 

 

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August 2, 1914 – Reality of “The Great War” comes crashing in!

In the summer of 1914 my grandfather was a college student spending what he thought would be three weeks touring Europe. Unfortunately he arrived on the eve of WWI and spent most of his time stranded  in Germany because the trains stopped running. Here is his account of his adventures that summer. He wrote these in a letter to his parents after he safely returned to the United States. I am so lucky to have the original of his letter.

I’m trying to post each of his letters on the day he wrote them but I’m still a little behind. The night before this was written he had planned to take a train to Switzerland. Instead it looks like our trio is headed for Nuremberg, Germany.

 

We had another dainty breakfast and came down stairs with our bags to pay our bill when we got our first jolt. The proprietor refused to take an American Express cheque in payment for the bill and after arguing until almost train time we paid him in cash (and we didn’t waste much in tips that time, either). We had just enough left to buy tickets to Nuremberg and a little to buy sausage sandwiches on the way, but we felt thankful enough to get seats in a little half-baggage, half-passenger car right behind the engine and to be on our way. It was a pretty ride, though dirty and tiresome, from 8 am to 5 pm. I bought an extra paper on the way and figured out with the aid of the dictionary that the trains would be taken over by the army at 6 o’clock that evening and no more passenger trains would run for a week, until the mobilization was over. So when we got to Nuremberg, Bassett and I left Jim with the baggage in the station and went out to look for a cheap hotel.

We stopped in the North German Lloyd office, (they had taken a ship from this line to reach Europe) which was open though it was Sunday. The agent spread a little more gloom over the situation by telling us that all North German Lloyd sailings had been cancelled indefinitely , and he had no idea how we were going to get out of Germany. But he very kindly directed us to a little hotel in a side street nearby, that we never would have found ourselves, and we got two rooms with breakfast for 3 marks a day each.

This is the nature of my grandfather – I challenge anyone today to respond to such a dire situation with this attitude. You’ve just been told that your trip home to America has been cancelled “indefinitely” because of the war but you appreciate the advice from the person who gave you this bad news because they tipped you off to a “cheap hotel.” I love my grandfather – always have – but even more now that I know his kind, gentle nature was his innate being – even as a 24 year old in dire straights.  And in the midst of a war scare – he takes time to go on for several lines about the beds in Germany.

Afterward Herr Bindl came down to 2.50 a day, when we thought we would have to look for a still cheaper place. The rooms were good and clean and the food was always good and plenty of it. Our experience with beds was funny. The Berlin beds were the best, — the feather cover was light and soft; in Dresden it was a little thicker and heavier; in Nuremberg it was about a foot thick and not very soft or light. I don’t know what they would have been still further south. We laid them all on top of the wardrobe and they reached the ceiling, then we removed the bolster from under the head of our mattress, put one of the fat pillows under the bed, and could almost assume a horizontal position when we went to bed. After we had done that one or two nights, they took away the feather beds and the bolster and we got along very well. Another funny thing they do is fold back the quilt at the bottom so your feet have to stick out. The Germans must think that if they keep their stomachs warm, that is all that is necessary.

We walked around a little bit that evening, but Bassett and I came back to the room and were sitting there about 8:30 when a lot of people came scuffling up our alley followed by three officers. We had seen officers the past few days until we were tired of them, so we didn’t think anything of them, but presently someone knocked at our door, and one of the officers came in, out of breath and told us, in German, that we had been trying to send a telegram. We said we had not. Then he demanded who we were, where from, what doing, where going, and why. I wasn’t scared, and I was racking my brain for enough German words to tell him. They went out for an interpreter, but I think all he knew of English was “Do you speak English?” We were overjoyed at having someone to explain it to, told him our whole story, but he didn’t understand a word of it, and when he tried to talk English, it didn’t sound like any language that I ever heard before. We could understand the ones who spoke German a good deal better. Finally, after marching up and down outside our door they left us and then Jim came in with his hair almost on end, and said that he had started to copy a telegram posted in the window of the North German Lloyd office so we could read it, when an officer came up and grabbed him and led him to the police station, with the whole Sunday night street crowd right after. An American fellow who spoke German saw him and followed, and through him, Jim convinced them he was alright. They searched him all over, read all his letters, counted his money, and sent men to guard us, whom, I suppose they thought were also spies. We heard the next day they had caught a number of Russian spies just outside of town. It made Jim prejudiced against the Germans (he said he never had like them) but I don’t blame them at all for keeping such a close watch. Our names were in the hands of the police within an hour after we arrived. The crowd below (this is a wine and beer restaurant) talked and sang and drank beer all night, but we slept well.


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Day 4 – August 1, 1914

My grandfather and his friends are beginning a summer trip to Europe that is about to be drastically changed by World War One. They’ve enjoyed about four days as summer tourists – including this one, but things are about to change. Here is his entry from his second full day in Dresden, Germany.

He and his two travel companions arrived in Brehmenhaven on July 28th and immediately took the train to Berlin. After spending July 29th and 30th in Berlin they arrived in Dresden on the evening of July 31st.

August 1st

Woke at 8 o’clock with the sun shining in our window (for the first time since we landed) and the birds singing in our garden. The waiter brought a delicious breakfast: coffee and little round rolls, butter and grape jelly, and spread it out on a table in our room, so we were ready to start sightseeing soon after nine. After going to the bank and cashing three checks between us, we spend the rest of the forenoon in the Zwinger, which many think is the finest art gallery in Europe. Bassett and I had one of the best times of the trip, but I don’t know whether Jim enjoyed it so much or not. There are many great paintings there, but the greatest of all, in a high room by itself, with a soft light coming in the window, is Rafael’s original Sistine Madonna. It is the face of the mother that is the most wonderful thing, — I tried to look at other parts of the picture but my eyes always came back to the face. It is sad, but full of love and sweetness, and a look as though something wonderful had happened to her. The baby’s face is like the mother’s and unlike other pictures of the time and other of Rafael’s pictures, it looks like a baby, and not like a diminutive man.

(You can see the painting and learn a bit more about it here.)

By luck we happened into a dandy little restaurant just at dinner time, — one of the characteristic German places that we had been looking for all the time, with a lively Bohemian orchestra playing Austrian tunes, and a jolly little waitress anxious to please us. So Bassett decided to make this his “seasick dinner.” We had made an agreement on the boat that the first one seasick must buy the first dinner when we got to land, but we hadn’t had time for a real dinner alone up to this time. It was a fine dinner, with roast chicken, Russian salad, and caviar, something only millionaires eat at home. It cost us a quarter, I think. You know what it is – the eggs of a certain kind of fish that comes only from Russia. I didn’t get such a longing for it that I have to have it now though. We enjoyed that dinner much more than eating in the gilded palaces of Berlin.

After dinner we tried to get into the Castle to see, among other things, the famous “Green Vault” in which is the most valuable collection of jewels in the world. But a big tall Saxon soldier at the gate thought we were trying to take pictures of the castle, and he almost “charged bayonets” on us. Check this link for a recent story on the Green Vault. We couldn’t explain to him that we didn’t want to take photographs but only see the inside of the castle. They were beginning to watch things pretty closely then. We saw a sightseeing auto standing still, with three Americans (from Dayton Ohio) sitting in it, so we got in and the six of us had a long ride around town to ourselves. Got a fine idea of the beauty of the city. It has the prettiest municipal and royal buildings and the finest residences (except those on the Harvel near Berlin) I have ever seen. On the outskirts of the city are little cottages in garden plots, 50 or 60 feet square, on which a family supports itself. The city owns them and rents them to the poor people for 8 or 10 marks a year – an admirable way to take care of the poor, I think.

We were riding through the New City, where the barracks are, and we noticed that all the soldiers seemed to be feeling good about something. One of them came out and got in the car (he was a cousin of the driver) and told us that it had just been reported that Russia had withdrawn its troops from the Austrian border, and that the trouble was therefore over. We all cheered and the soldiers and officers stuck their heads out of the windows and cheered and sang and showed undoubtedly that they were glad, — as was everyone else. When we got home we started up the street just to watch the shop windows, which are the most attractive I ever saw anywhere, far better than Berlin. The boys bought some little Dresden china souvenirs but I didn’t see anything I could carry without breaking. I bought a German house apron (which I will send to mother as soon as I have time to unpack my bag). Mrs. Roemmele on the K.W der Grosse had told me to be sure to get one for my mother. I don’t believe I got what she meant, I didn’t see anything remarkable about it except the price, which was about 35 cents. The greatest bargain I ever picked up though was a pair of field glasses, as good as I ever looked through, for M. 12.50 just $3. An old man on the boat coming over had told me I could get fine glasses for anything above $5, but these were just as good as some that cost M- 17. They are small enough to use as theater glasses, but out on the ocean I could see a ship before anyone, and read the name several miles away. I wanted to buy some of the famous German cameras which are so good and cheap, but I already had my Brownie which was satisfactory. Cutlery, gold and silver things, stones (especially garnets which come from Bohemia right nearby), linen goods, umbrellas and walking sticks were the hardest things to walk by, they were all so good looking and ridiculously cheap. I was just on my way to get a garnet tie pin for Forrest and Frank and Dean when the King (of Saxony) went by in his auto and we all rushed out with the crowd to get a look at him. Did I mention seeing the Kaiser just before we left Berlin, coming in from Potsdam in his car? The crowd went wild each time, and it seemed a little more enthusiasm than the occasion demanded, but a few minutes later the clerk that I bought the apron of, who spoke a little English went by, and he showed us the latest “extra” which said that the Czar had not stopped mobilizing and the Kaiser would therefore order the mobilization of the German army, and war would probably be declared Monday.

We couldn’t understand the full significance of it at first, of course; I don’t yet. But the young clerk kindly explained that everything would be badly upset, – we might not be able to get money, the price of food might go up, the railroads would probably stop running, and Germany would be no place for sightseeing anymore. So we stopped buying things and went right to our rooms and packed our suitcases. Went to bed early that night and Sunday morning were ready to start for Switzerland.


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Day 3 From Berlin to Dresden – July 31, 1914

Imagine being a college student spending a few weeks of your summer vacation on a trip through Europe. You’ve worked hard to safe enough money for the trip and when you arrive in Germany, it is on the eve of Germany’s declaration of War against Russia. You soon learn that all trains in Germany will stop running to support the movement of troops. You’re not quite sure what to do or exactly when or how you’re going to get home.

Here is my grandfather’s account of that situation as written to his parents after his safe return to the United States. My grandfather, Joseph B. Kingsbury was travelling with two friends from George Washington University – Bassett and Jim.  I am not sure of their full names but the three of them had planned a trip of about three weeks that would have included Prague and Paris. The plans changed almost daily as they learned more about the War developments.

I’m planning to post an entry each day that will eventually correspond to the current dates of this year, 103 years later. I’m almost caught up. If you’re just beginning to read this blog, earlier posts will fill you in on the names – but for a quick reference –

Bruce – is an acquaintance from my grandfather’s home town of Osage Iowa who had been studying violin in Berlin for the past year when my grandfather and his friends arrived.

Quarton is someone who worked in the American Consul’s office in Berlin and my grandfather had a letter of introduction to him and met with him on arrival to get an idea of what to expect over the coming days. I suppose it was hard for anyone to know exactly what was going to happen.

July 31, 1914

This morning Bassett and I went up and saw some of the museums while Jim went shopping. We saw some good pictures in the National Museum and the Kaiser Friederich Museum, and went in the cathedral. I had forgotten we’d learned anything about the war scare until we got to Dresden, but I find it in my diary, “An extra at 2 p.m. says that Russia is mobilizing her forces and
Germany may have to go at war at any time. If Russia goes in, Germany must side with Austria, France with Russia, and England where her own interests say. Things look serious. I asked Quarton and he said go ahead on your trip.” So we went to the station and Bruce saw us off at 4:30 p.m., for Dresden. Bruce leaves tomorrow for the Baltic Sea for a month’s fishing and camping. He is all worn out from a year’s violin study under professor Moser, – 5 or 6 hours of practice a day – one lesson a week for 30 M. His expenses are 300 M ($75) a month.

In this passage in the letter to his parents, I think my grandfather is quoting from his travel diary:

“After four days I am more than satisfied with Germany and Berlin. I like Germany and the Germans. We could learn many things from them. What has impressed me most is (1) Everything is done with an eye for beauty and permanence, the builders are artists. I have not seen an ugly looking building yet, nor one that looked poorly built. Berlin is immaculately clean. Every morning all streets are washed (and dried with a bath towel?) In the suburbs they have a way of beautifying the car tracks – they make the grass grow right up to and between the rails. (2) The people look happier and certainly are better natured and more polite than Americans. Shop keepers treat you so courteously you are almost embarrassed. Everyone lifts his hat on leaving a store and says “Good Day” or “Adieu.” To hear some German women talk is almost like a mother talking to a baby, not foolish or insincere, – most sympathetic and expressive voices I’ve ever heard. I think I said that Berlin is a beautiful city. The residential part of the city is almost solid 4 or 5 story white or cream colored stone houses, with artistic entrances and staircases. One family usually has a whole floor of the house, and the rooms are as large as three in an American apartment or flat. They all have such fine furniture.

We reached Dresden about 7 o’clock and went to the Hotel du Nord, which Kramer had told us about and got the nicest room that we ever had. It was about 35 feet long and 15 feet wide, with three circassian walnut beds, end to end. Windows to the south and east looked out on a yard full of trees and grass. Best of all they had American (or English) plumbing, at least the closet said “Tornado” on it and it was the first and only one we struck that would flush. That’s one thing on which Germany is far behind – plumbing, another thing is electric lights.

We immediately went out on the street and took an auto bus, the best looking and most comfortable one I ever saw, and the most polite big conductor, to the river where we walked around a little, and about dark we went up on the Bruhl’sche terrace called the Balcony of Europe to hear a concert. I must stop right here to say that Dresden is the most attractive, nicest city in Germany (so far as I know) It is so popular with Americans that they have an “American Quarter” of the city. American stores (Regal Shoes, Arrow cellars, etc) and we were constantly meeting Americans on the street. Lots of them were just coming in from the Austrian ‘bads,’ – Carlsbad, and other watering places, on account of the war scare. We were always too much in a hurry to stop and talk with them, but most of them looked agreeable enough to talk to. This “Bruhlsche Terrace” is one of the prettiest places imaginable, the park overlooking the river, with thick green trees, grass, walks and benches, but the chief thing in it is the Hotel Belvedere, a very nice restaurant, where we heard the best orchestra in Germany and ate sandwiches and drank chocolate. I remember how good I felt that evening – as though everything had been beyond my highest expectations and everything was turning out in the finest way possible to make our trip a success.

 

 

 

 


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Day Two in Berlin – Summer of 1914

July 30, 1914

Woke at 9:30, feeling fine. Breakfast in our hotel – rolls, chocolate, butter and two kinds of preserves. You can guess by this time that we like chocolate. It is much better than we get at home, or else they know how to make it. Butter is a part of the menu just as much as bread, and breakfast is the only meal where you get it without paying extra. They don’t salt their butter and it is delicious. That is the regular breakfast, sometimes honey instead of jam, and after I got used to it, I liked it much. That morning we walked around town and looked at the stores which are one of the most attractive things about Germany. I can imagine a woman would not want to do anything but shop when she went abroad. Everything I can think of is now cheaper in Germany than it is here except fruit, post cards and chewing gum. At noon we saw them change the guard in front of the Emperor’s palace, a little exhibition of German soldiery which always attracts a crowd. Afterward there was a band concert by a military band, and I never heard a band play in such perfect time or tune. We took a few pictures around the palace, visited the Royal Stables, (which looks like a palace) where the Kaiser keeps his 300 horses and as many carriages and sleighs, and then went down to Bruce’s boarding house for dinner. There were two American girls, Misses Tillett from Texas, studying piano, Mr. Kramer from Cedar Falls, studying violin along with Bruce, Mr. Ferguson, a Yale PhD who was studying a few weeks in the University of Berlin, a young Englishman, two young Germans, and Frau Klein and her daughter, and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. Frau Klein had a fine dinner and she kept the whole table in good humor with her pleasant way of talking. She speaks the most perfect German I have ever listened to, and it would be a great place to learn German, I should think, but Bruce says whenever there are two or three Americans together they can’t learn German rapidly, because they will talk English to each other.

After dinner Bruce and Kramer and we three took the suburban train for Potsdam, about 15 miles away, where the Emperors have had their residences since Frederick the Great. Frederick built Sans Souci – the original palace with the grounds around it, and it is still what he intended it to be, – a place where you can forget every care. I still think it is the most beautiful place of the kind I have seen. I don’t know how many miles the grounds extend but they are all kept in the most perfect condition; forests of these big trees and thick, velvety grass underneath, wonderful flower gardens, fountains, grape vines, fruit trees, etc. We took a dozen pictures but never have found the roll since. We three who had never been there, went through the old palace with its reminders of Frederick the Great and Voltaire, whom he admired so much that he invited him to come and live there, but they soon got enough of each other and couldn’t live together. Just as we were leaving we heard aeroplanes overhead, and five of them passed over on their daily trials. They seem to be farther advanced in flying that we are in the US, airships are much more common. The next day we saw a big Zeppelin flying over Berlin. We saw all of Potsdam, which takes most tourist a day, between four and seven. The way Bruce led us around from one place to another reminded me of Forrest. We had a lunch on the bank of the river Harvel while we were waiting for the boat to take us back to Berlin. Just about sunset it came along and I don’t think I ever enjoyed a ride as much as that one. The Harvel is the prettiest little river imaginable. That exaggeratedly green grass grew right down to the water’s edge, so you could hardly tell where it left off and the water began. All along the shores are pretty little forests, with a spire or tower rising out of them. Everything along the river was ideally beautiful, although there is quite a bit of commerce. Nearer to Berlin are the handsomest houses by far that I have ever seen; white stone or marble, half hidden by trees, with green velvety lawns sloping down to the river, and artistic little boat houses along the bank.

We reached Berlin about 10 p.m. rather cold and hungry, so we told Bruce and Kramer to take us to the best eating place they knew of. They led us to the largest and finest restaurant in Germany, if not the world. “Das Rheingold” which seats 4,000 people, has 450 servants and 150 waiters. It is not expensive but the cooking is the best in the city so Kramer said. The interior is divided into a number of large rooms, all mahogany walls, plush chairs etc. You felt as though you didn’t belong there unless you were dressed for the occasion, but we saw poorly dressed and working people come in as though they were perfectly at home. That is one of the beauties of Germany, – you don’t have to dress up to go anywhere. The well-dressed man is conspicuous in Berlin. We had a fine dinner, with as good beefsteak as I’ve ever tasted in America, for 75 cents apiece.


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Summer 1914 – First Stop – Berlin

July 29th 1914

Woke at 9:30. Raining (it rains every day in Berlin) Had breakfast in a rather fashionable café next to our hotel, and walked down Unter den Linden to the White Star office, where Bassett engaged a berth on the Olympic from Cherbourg August 19th. The agent, to whom he had a letter of introduction, told us that we would have to cut out Prague from our itinerary, because all trains stopped on the Austrian border. In front of the office we met Harrington & Motley, two more of our University Club, and they went with us to the American Consulate, where I had a good visit with Harold Quarton, the deputy consul who used to be in GWU with me. The Berlin consulate is a big place and does lots of business, but it has a reputation with the American residents of Berlin of being very stupid and unobliging. From there we took a subway out to Charlottenburg (West Berlin) and walked through the Tiergarten, a big park of 600 acres, to Bayreuther Strasse 2, where we inquired for Herr Lybarger. I waited half an hour till Bruce came in – the other boys went back to get something to eat. Bruce has a moustache and some German mannerisms, but is the same old fellow, I am glad to say. He inquired right away about everyone at home, especially about Grace and her wedding. We talked only a few minutes and arranged to meet at our hotel in the evening and go out to see the sights at night.

Bruce Lybarger was a friend of my grandfather from his home town of Osage, Iowa. After studying violin in Berlin he returned to Osage and taught violin at Cedar Valley Seminary. It seems he knew just where to go to show his hometown boys the sights of Berlin.

That afternoon we took a trip in a sightseeing car, all through the main part of the city and Charlottenburg, where the emperors have a palace, and the famous Mausoleum is. The Berlin parks and palace grounds are the most beautiful I have ever seen. The trees all seem to grow about 100 high, and they are so close together that it is almost dark under them, but some how they make the grass grow thick and smooth everywhere.

Bruce came up about 9. He said there was no use starting out before 10 because there was very little doing before midnight, but we went out to a little open air park to see the illuminated water-fall – a series of cascades with colored lights shining through them. Bruce has been around to most of the cafes with people who have wanted to see them – he had taken Dr. Savre around just a week or so before, and he knows how to do it alright. We would have had a hard time without him. He came to Berlin about a year ago not knowing a word of German, he said, and at first had an awful time getting around, but without studying he has picked up enough words and expressions to pass as a German when he wants to. About ten o’clock we went into the Picadilly Café, the largest and most popular. It is an enormous building, with a wide gallery running all around, and the floor covered with little tables, all of which were occupied. At one end, between the ground floor and gallery there was a fine 30 piece orchestra, which was worth a big price to hear. We finally found a table and ordered drinks for the privilege of sitting there. It was an interesting sight, I could have willingly sat there all night simply watching the people; laborers, soldiers, business men, young sports, young couples drinking out of the same glass (that’s a sign they are engaged) , women dressed to kill, sitting alone unless they could get someone to sit with them and buy their beer. People sit for hours in these cafes on 1 glass of beer and talk and listen to the music. The waiters get no salary, but a 10% tip from everyone, and in some places they pay for the privilege of working. A custom that Bruce told us about might very well be adopted in the U.S. I think – every person pays for himself. It amounts to almost an insult to treat a man you are with, or even a woman. I suppose that is the origin of “Dutch treat.” Bruce says that the American music students, girls, in his pension (boarding house) sometimes ask the men to take them to the opera, each paying for him (or her) self. They can’t go alone, and everyone feels perfectly free to ask the other, and refuse if it isn’t convenient. He says it resembles a family more than any similar place he has been.

We left the Picadilly after an hour or so and went to the National, which Bruce says is the worst. I didn’t see anything very bad or tempting about it. There were about a dozen fat, old, hard looking women sitting alone at tables with their arms and breasts bare, smoking cigarettes, and looking coldly around for victims. They didn’t even look at us which was a compliment I thought, and we sat off in an alcove and watched, as most of the other patrons seemed to be doing. One old gray haired man seemed to have “fallen” for one, she was sitting on his lap trying her charms on him. It was nothing but disgusting. We drank chocolate and ate “kuchen,” our favorite dish in Germany. They have the most wonderful kuchen, or cakes, that any small boy ever dreamed of. It is like paradise to walk down the street and see the windows full of all sizes, colors and kinds of cakes, or it would be if you could taste them all. I wanted to send some home and if I ever go again I shall.

The next café we went to was a brand new, large one, and the most beautiful of all I thought, – big round brass pillars, marble walls, the balcony inlaid with onyx, windows of stained glass, big cut glass chandeliers, etc., etc. They also had as good an orchestra as any in town, with a famous Russian violinist leader. We had apple cakes and whipped cream here, and it entitled us to a seat all night if we cared to stay, but about 12:30 we went to the Ice Casino, a big building where they skate to music between eats or drinks. The ice wasn’t working at that time, though, and it was turned into a dance hall. We got a table near the edge of the floor and watched them dance. Bassett asked one of the German girls to dance with him and she did. Everyone watched them out of the corner of their eyes to see how Americans danced and we could have owned the house if we had wanted to. About two o’clock, we decided we had seen enough for one night, and as the cars had stopped running Bruce called a taxi cab and we rode to our hotel for about 25 cents apiece – two or three miles. The whole evening cost us a little over a dollar apiece. A real Berliner would do it for one-fourth that much and get a good deal more pleasure out of it. That is a mild example of the notorious “night life” that is supposed to equal that of Paris, – if it isn’t the Kaiser will pass a law making it so. It doesn’t seem to me it suits the German’s temperament – he sits through it all with a stolid face. The places where they do seem to be enjoying themselves are in the small beer halls where they can get a quart of beer for six cents and a big slab of cheese and rye bread for two cents, and sit and talk and sing “Die Wacht am Rhein” all night long.


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The Outbreak of World War One

Over the next few weeks, if you’d like to experience the outbreak of WWI from the perspective of an American student (my grandfather who was 24 at the time) who was planning a tour of Europe but got stranded in Nuremburg, Germany when the war began, check in to this blog.

I have transcribed the letter he wrote to his parents when he returned to the United States after his three week odyssey and will post each day as he experienced it. I am amazed by his resilience and his remarkable ability to put a positive spin on what must have been a disappointing trip.

We begin with his letter to his folks and his arrival in Germany on July 28th after crossing the Atlantic on the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse:

Washington, D. C. September 5, 1914

Dear Folks:

It is 1:30 p.m., and I will see how much I can write all alone here in the office before supper time. I am going to make three copies so I can send one to Forrest and Frank at the same time. (That reminds me, I had better make an extra one for Dean at the same time.) Then you can keep them as long as you want to. I hardly know how to tell everything, unless I just follow my diary, although that isn’t a very systematic way to describe things. You have all read the letter I wrote on ship board, so I will begin with July 28th the day we landed in Bremen.

July 28, 1914

Our porter waked us early (that was the only thing he did on the whole trip to earn his tip) and we went on deck to watch for the first sight of Germany. It was cloudy and rather dark, but we could see a low stretch of land on our right (starboard, I should say) about 6 or 7 miles away. It was very shallow, for there were light houses and light ships and buoys right beside us to mark the channel. Northern Germany has no decent ports at all, it is so flat and sandy. About 9:30 we stopped and a lighter took us all off, – 800 third class passengers and baggage. The Germans were overjoyed at the sight of their native land, though it started to rain hard as soon as we got on the lighter, and we landed at Bremerhaven two hours later in the rain. Bremen is not the port, it is 35 miles above where the big steamers land, and passengers are taken up there by train from Bremerhaven. Being low tide, we couldn’t even land at Bremerhaven, but had to stay about ten miles out.

I was the second one off the boat, and the first one to go through Customs inspection, which consisted of opening my suit case and bag and shutting them, – no questions asked. We had hot chocolate and coffee cake in the waiting room and about 11 o’clock the train took us up to Bremen. The sun came out, and our first glimpse of Germany was more than satisfactory. The country is low and somewhat marshy, but pretty. There were big herds of Holstein cows in almost every pasture, and I suppose dairying is the principal industry around Bremen, though there were quite large rye fields, which looked good. It didn’t look at all like America – – as soon as you began to think it did, along would come a pretty stone house with a red tile roof, windows full of flowers, lace curtains, and immaculately clean doorsteps and front yards; or a shed (always of brick or stone) with a thatched roof, green with moss. My first impression of the country was that it is pretty and prosperous. I didn’t see a single hut or shack or poor looking building. The only thing that didn’t look right was to see the women loading the wagons, plowing the potatoes, and doing the hardest work while the men did the easier work.

At Bremen we went up to the hotel with Rogers and Edwards who were going to buy bicycles and ride up the Rhine leisurely, reaching Geneva, Switzerland in about a month. (I would like to know where they are now.) We thought we would stay till evening, and all the “University Club” of the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse would have dinner together in the Rathaus, but we found that a train left for Berlin right away, so we told them all good-bye and got on. That was a dandy ride, through the prettiest country in Germany, except the Rhine; maybe it looked so because it was the first we had seen for so long. The land certainly looked and felt good, though it rocked under my feet for a day. Our train made about 50 miles an hour for about 5 ½ hours (pretty good for a toy train) and it cost us about 1 cent a mile. We came out just as clean as we went in. I like the German trains. In every compartment there is a good map showing just where you are going. We had a delicious dinner on the train: soup, veal, potatoes, gravy, vegetable compote, chocolate and rolls for less than 70 cents. A woman and little girl sat in our compartment. The little girl wanted awfully to talk to us but she couldn’t say a word of English and she laughed at the way we tried to talk German.

We arrived in Berlin about dark and took a droschke to the Hotel Stadt Weimar, which had been recommended to us by Mrs. Roemmele on the boat. It was a very good place, the best possible location in Berlin, right near the intersection of the two principal streets. The crowds were beginning to gather on Unter den Linden. They were singing The Watch on the Rhine, the Austrian National Hymn and something to the tune of “My Country tis of Thee,” and we supposed it was all about the war between Austria and Servia. The crowds and noise kept increasing and the police on horseback had to keep chasing them up and down the street so they wouldn’t block the traffic. We took a little walk and when we tried to come back the police wouldn’t let us cross Unter den Linden. We walked back and tried another street, and they put us back. One of them told us it was too late to get back to our hotel, and we began to think we were out for all night, but we finally did get back and were satisfied to watch the crowd from our balcony after that. Our rooms looked like they might have been made for entertaining the royalty – a great large room with two fine beds, large dressers, wardrobe, etc. and a smaller room with the same furnishings – little electric lamps on a stand beside your bed so you could lie there and read. It was so nice we hated to go to sleep, but when we got inside and pulled the soft, light eider down quilt over us, we couldn’t stay awake a minute.