Trains, fads, and picture taking

I previously mentioned trains.  I love trains of any description.  Even if Virginia couldn’t go with me I would hop a bus to head for the Bahnhof (train yard) and just watch trains.  There was a great little sidewalk café that was across the street from the yard where trains were made up.  It was there that I developed a taste for ‘kaffe und schnapps’.  Kaffe is, of course, coffee; but schnapps is an eighty-proof fruit brandy and, if you don’t SIP it you’ll start to yodel during the first glass.

Stadt didn’t have a lot of train traffic, but it did host a growing beer industry.  Wagon after wagon loaded with beer would be hooked together and trundled off to be served to a happy crowd in a Bierstube somewhere.  Stadt Pils was the trade name of this medium light beer.  They also made a ‘dunkel bier’ (dark beer) that ran around eight percent (sixteen proof) but it had a very heady flavor that I didn’t like very much.

Once, when a crew just off duty walked over to the café I started a conversation with the fireman and the engineer of the yard engine.  The engine type was called a “saddle-tank”.  This meant that the water that was used to make steam was carried in a tank that surrounded the boiler.  Coal was shoveled in from a small cubby behind the driver’s footplate.

I pestered the poor guys for half an hour with questions about how much pressure it ran, was it double or triple expansion and other weird items.  Since my German didn’t have a lot of technical jargon yet, we resorted to drawing diagrams and sign language.  We must have looked a sight to the other patrons.  Several beers later we were fast friends.  A couple of weeks later, the Engineer spotted us at our table and tooted the whistle until I noticed he was motioning to us.  I started walking but he indicated that he wanted both Virginia and I to come over.  The both of us crossed the road and approached his engine.

On closer inspection I could see it seemed quite a bit more powerful than you would expect from its looks.  The fireman, whose name, I think, was Gerd, dropped to the ground and pulled a small bouquet of flowers from behind his back, bowed and presented them to Virginia.  She curtsied and kissed him on his cheek.  Gerd, who had whipped his hat off, nearly tore it to shreds as he blushed.  Hans, the driver, pulled the whistle cord a couple of times and dropped down from the cab also.  He handed me some paperwork. Mystified, I scanned it in short order.  It turned out that Hans had applied for permission for me to accompany him for one afternoon of shunting cars in the yard.  I didn’t know what to say as I pumped his hand except give him my deepest thanks.

He also explained that while he was parked Virginia could visit the cab too.  She was handed up to Gerd who swung her aboard and gave her the grand tour of every valve and gauge on the backhead (the end of the boiler facing the driver).  I knew she didn’t understand most of it, but she smiled and nodded at the correct times.  Gerd was beaming.

She dropped back down to the ground and I climbed aboard to sit on a small jump seat just in front of the coal bin.  Two toots on the whistle and off we went.

This was my very first experience actually inside a steam engine cab.  In a later life, I again rode in a steam engine cab pulling a dinner train over a twenty-mile stretch of track, but this was breathtaking for me.

Back and forth we moved in the yard.  Gerd showed me how to throw switches and lock them down, but I wasn’t allowed to actually do it by myself.  We butted goods wagons to tank cars, flats loaded with ties to a Kühlwagen (refrigerator car) and hauled them to the ready track.  Hans was making up a mixed goods train destined for Koblenz.

All too soon, my license to ride expired and we headed back to the short team track near the café.  I got off, saluted Hans and Gerd, and rejoined Virginia.  Steam engines are heady stuff.

Fads were popping up all the time.  At various times, you simply weren’t cool if you didn’t:

Wear a pink shirt with black ticking on all the seams (guys)

Wear shoes that weighed about three pounds each called ‘bombers’ (guys)

Wear your hair flat on top and the back in a ‘duck’s ass’ or DA (guys and some girls)

Carry your cigarettes wrapped up in the sleeve of your tee shirt (guys, except in school)

Keep anywhere from one to eight or nine ‘poodle’ skirts (with matching starched half-slips) in your closet (girls)

Make out in the back row of the theatre at least once (both – together, hopefully)

Watch Annette grow up as a Mouseketeer (guys)

Experiment with ‘French’ kissing (both)

Wear a huge man’s dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbow over blue jeans (girls)

Tried to emulate the speech patterns of “Kookie” (Edward Burns), a most famous car parker in the TV show “77 Sunset Strip” (guys mostly)

I could name a hundred or more fads that swept through our ranks at one time or another. You attempted to try each one that struck.  Limited funds would put a kink in fully realizing your goal though.  Sometimes the fad hit so fast and departed in the same manner that by the time you saved up enough money for, say, a pink shirt, you got teased if you finally showed up in it.  Life was tough among your peers.

I was an inveterate picture taker.  I saved my money and bought a really fine Agfa camera.  I could only afford black and white film though plus that was the only kind I could develop by myself at home.  I took pictures of absolutely everything I could.  I joined the photo club, and talked Virginia into it also, just so we could go on photo trips into the surrounding countryside.

I made a pest of myself at dances by shooting everyone I came across.  Somewhere in my house today is a box filled with those pictures, or, maybe just the negatives.  I haven’t found them yet, but maybe someday I will.  I was pretty good and I had lots of enthusiasm.  Some of my pictures even made it into the school yearbook.

Virginia wouldn’t let me take many pictures of her though.  She thought she didn’t look very good on camera.  I thought she was a wonderful subject but she prevailed.  I did manage to talk her into letting me take just one ‘art’ photo with her lying on the bed draped in a small towel.  And, before you ask, I was invited out of the room while she set up the shoot using a tripod.  I returned and marveled at how beautiful she was simply lying there.  I wanted to take more than one picture but she said no – and meant it.  She made me give her the roll of film until I was ready to develop it.  Then, she watched me while I did it and snipped her picture out of the negative roll.  I got to print one positive for me and one for her.  Then she cut the negative up into shreds.  She sure was pretty and that towel sure was small.

I got to know the town of Stadt pretty well as I wandered around the streets taking pictures.  Some were undoubtedly horrible shots but I didn’t really care; quantity was my game.  On any given walk I might shoot as many as three or four rolls of film.  I shot castles, ruins, rivers, churches, kids, dogs, cats, horses, and just about anything else that I came across.  I would spend hours in the darkroom developing the films, cutting out bad shots and printing the good ones.

Another one of our favorite places was the rocky outcropping high above the river on Wolf and Hilde’s farm.  We had another favorite place and that was the hayloft of their barn.  The barn itself was huge.  It had four levels which were arranged down a slight slope.  The hay wagons would dump their loads on the higher level and we would all pitch in and fork it down the chutes to the next lower level where it would be dropped to other levels for use by the horses, pigs and cows.  The second level itself, however, was the place to be.  One (or two) could burrow down into the hay and snuggle up nicely.

One evening after a particularly good dinner, Virginia and I wandered into the hayloft.  Both sliding doors were open and, just rising over the distant trees was an almost full moon.  We both agreed that it was a beautiful night and we shouldn’t waste it. I lay back against the hay and she snuggled against me, laying her head on my shoulder.  We talked idly for a bit until she put her lips on my earlobe and stuck her tongue in my ear.  She knew from experience that this was like pulling back the hammer on a pistol and curling a finger around the trigger.  I reacted by turning my head towards her and giving her a long kiss.  Once we broke it, both of us were breathing rather hard.  I rolled to face her, reached out with my arm, laid it around her shoulder and pulled her to face me.  I said something about not wanting to get carried away but she laid a finger on my lips to quiet me.  “Hush” was all she said as she slid closer to me.  Soon we were touching almost our full length.  I held her cheek with my hand and kissed her again; she responded by tapping her tongue against my teeth for entry.  I allowed it.

Before any conscious thought made it to my brain, I lowered my hand and rested it on her breast.  She made a purring sound in her throat as I got bolder and moved it around.  Since she was wearing a simple pullover shirt I was able to put my hand under the hem and move my arm around her back and unfasten her bra.  Once that was accomplished she rose up on an elbow and lifted her shirt all the way to her neck.  This action also caused her bra to slip off and reveal her breasts.  In the bright moonlight they looked wonderful to me.

She lay back and pulled my head down to them.  With her hand on the back of my head she urged me to kiss first one and then the other.  When I put my ear on her chest I could hear the rapid beating of her heart.  I felt rather than heard her say ‘I love you’.

Suddenly, we heard footsteps on the gravel of the yard and a hail from below.  Peter was asking us if they could come up.  Nobody in their family had missed the fact that Virginia and I were closer than ‘just friends’ and surely didn’t want to intrude without asking first even if it was their farm.  I told him to come on up after checking that Virginia had reassembled her wardrobe and I had tried in vain to find a comfortable position for my erection.

Peter came into the loft tugging along a very shy girl who was doing her best to hide behind him.  She had brown hair, was a head smaller than he, but had a full body and a very tiny waist.  She was beautiful and I told her so after Peter had introduced us.  Her name was Heidi (I kid you not) and was a member of the family on the next farm over.  Peter said that they were planning on getting married in two years.

After we assured Heidi we wouldn’t bite she became more relaxed and the four of us just sat and talked.  She was a student and a local equivalent of a high school senior.  She would graduate very soon.  We also found out that it was her farm that produced those wonderful apples Virginia and I liked so much.  She promised to bring some over the next time we visited.

It was getting late and we still had a twenty minute bike ride to get home so we reluctantly said our goodbyes.  It was full dark now so we had to use our bike lamps to travel the path home.  About halfway there Virginia stopped me and parked her bike against a tree.  She came towards me, threw her arm around my neck, pulled me close and said in my ear “I’m sorry; maybe next time”.  I bumped my hips into hers and “that’s okay Honey, we have all the time we need”.



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