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171002 October 2, 2017


The Three Rs: Rainer, Rolf, and Reinhard
Rainer Klauss
LHS '64

No reading, ‘riting, or ‘rithmetic for us yet, though.  Those would come several years later in Huntsville.  The three little German boys are developing their fine motor skills this day in 1948 at our kindergarten in Ft. Bliss, Texas. Rolf and Reinhard, who were about six months older than me, are on task, applying polish and brushing their sandals. I, on the other hand, seem to be caught in reverie, looking down at the sandal I’m swaddling in my lap. Was I wondering, in my three-year old way, “Was geht denn hier los?” (“What’s going on here?”)

I have few memories of this schooling. It’s fortunate that someone—perhaps the teacher who minded us, or a parent who wanted to document our activities—captured this particular moment. Without it, I wouldn’t have a record for the beginning of my education and of the early days of these two friendships.  

    The picture is a study in contrasts. The room’s walls are blemished and battered; our feet rest on a plain wooden floor, probably close in color to the brown walls around us.  A scuffed-up soft drink case serves cleverly as a make-shift support for a checkered square and the tray for our polish, brushes, and cloths. In the room behind us stands the teacher’s chair, a low table on a mat and, against the wall, a push-broom. There must be a window back there: the slight shading on the basin (for washing up?) suggests a light source to the left.

    In such an austere setting, we form a crescent of vividness. The pristine aprons protect our clothes from an accidental swipe of polish by hands that are just beginning to become dexterous. We’re a crescendo of stripes: subtle, bold, and boldest. (Were striped shirts part of the uniform for boys then? They must have been cheap and fitting wear for a nation of rough-and-ready baby boomers. I have about a dozen pictures from 1948 to 1955 featuring me dressed in such shirts.) The chairs we’re sitting on, decorated with Mexican floral motifs, added fanciful elements of color and decorative flair, enlivening the plain surroundings.   Picking up the white of our aprons and shirts, the iconic soft drink case completes the composition aesthetically (something that never crossed the mind of the photographer, I sure).

    For this moment, there are three serious little German boys. 

    But we had numerous classmates, boys and girls who were born near the war’s end.  Besides polishing sandals and shoes, which promoted eye-hand coordination, neatness, and personal responsibility, we must have engaged in imaginative and playful activities designed to nurture and further our individual and social growth in this Texas “garden of children.” All of that happened as we were still mastering our mother tongue. I know that I can’t claim, as Robert Fulghum humorously did in his short book several years ago, that All I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  It was a bit more complicated for us. So much more followed.

    The kindergarten classrooms were in the complex of buildings that comprised our compound, a large group of the former outbuildings of the William Beaumont General Hospital. According to Wikipedia: “During WWII, WBGH expanded to include 174 buildings and a crowded 4,O64 beds…as the hospital began providing specialized medical care to wounded soldiers returning from all theaters of the war. During early 1945, approximately 6,000 inpatients were treated.” A year after the war ended, some of the outbuildings were converted to apartments, offices, laboratories, and community activity buildings for the new German residents. 

    The 7 Up case: Was that left behind by the men who “renovated” the kindergarten rooms, or scrounged by one of the school’s organizers?  It doesn’t matter, of course.  It was put to good use.  But as inconsequential as that object was, for me now it stands as a symbol (a light-hearted one) of the American culture we would soon be joining.

    The friendship of the 3 Rs began in kindergarten and continued for many years and in many ways.  Reinhard and I walked to kindergarten together. Shortly before the mass move of the Germans and American personnel to Huntsville in 1950, in an exchange devised by our mothers—who had witnessed our growing friendship—Reinhard and I gave each other small gifts. I think a small toy car and candy were involved. Maybe our mothers were thinking: Who knows what’s going to happen in Huntsville? Perhaps these boys will never see each other again. As it was, we ended up living only a few blocks apart at first, but for a variety of reasons, contact over the next few years was infrequent. 

    Rolf and I were playmates at Longwood Court, the apartment complex that was our first residence in Huntsville, and later at our homes in Darwin Downs or on Monte Sano. His parents were subscribers to National Geographic magazine, and in the 1950s that was the best magazine in the world. We and other German families often gathered at their house for the Sunday social ritual of Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake), and I would snatch time to riffle through the magazines when we were stuffing ourselves with cake and Coke.  I can still remember the cicadas singing in the summer nights when we drove home from the mountain down Bankhead Parkway with the windows open after a fun-filled visit on Panorama Drive.

    Reinhard and I were in the same Boy Scout troop. The three of us were reunited for two years of catechism classes and then confirmation at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in 1959. Reinhard and I played dozens and dozens of tennis games at Huntsville High School and the courts on California Street. Rolf and Reinhard became engineers; I graduated in English.  I attended their weddings.  I lost touch with Rolf many years ago. Reinhard and I are still friends.

Coda: Fulghum’s lessons.  
1. Share everything. 
2. Play fair. 
3. Don’t hit people. 
4. Put things back where you found them. 
5. Clean up your own mess. 
6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. 
5. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
7. Wash your hands before you eat. 
8. Flush.

 (Editor's Note: I think each issue of Lee's Traveller should be a source of education, no matter how trivial the education is. So this week, after reading Rainer's story and seeing the picture, I began to wonder where 7 Up got it's name. Here is the information I found on wikipedia.)

    7 Up was created by Charles Leiper Grigg, who launched his St. Louis–based company The Howdy Corporation in 1920. Grigg came up with the formula for a lemon-lime soft drink in 1929. The product, originally named "Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda", was launched two weeks before the Wall Street Crash of 1929. It contained lithium citrate, a mood-stabilizing drug, until 1948. It was one of a number of patent medicine products popular in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Its name was later shortened to "7 Up Lithiated Lemon Soda" before being further shortened to just "7 Up" by 1936. One theory for the name is that lithium has an atomic weight of approximately seven.

        Memphis, TN - I had another interesting week last week. I punched my acting ticket again by spending a day as "background talent" in a new movie "Brian Banks" which is being shot in Memphis. Its about a football player who was falsely accused of a crime and went to prison and was later released. He went on to be a walk on for the Atlanta Falcons. My $8.00 an hour salary was earned by driving my car repeatedly through a downtown intersection and for sitting on a park bench for two hours while enjoying a conversation with another background talent. Oh, and I did get $20 extra for using my own car.

    Those of you in the Nashville area who might be interested in doing the same should check out the Facebook Group of Online Casting. You fill out a simple background of information such as what you can do (hula hoop, roller skate, jump rope, etc.) and when they need some people to fill up the screen they post notices on Facebook with the type of people which they require. 

    Sue and I both worked last year on the CMT series "Sun Records" and made enough money to take an five day cruise out of New Orleans.

Thursday, October 26, 2017
11:00 a.m.


GALEN’S RESTAURANT (Formerly Mullin’s)
607 Jackson Way
Huntsville, AL 35801

    As we approach the eighth year for Lee Lunch Bunch (’64,’65,’66), it seems to be a good time for us to try a new location. We have all enjoyed these last seven years meeting at Logan’s Restaurant, and they have been very nice and accommodating. Perhaps we may go back there at some point, but for now, we are going to meet and hopefully enjoy a favorite old hangout for many of us.  I hope that you will save the date for Thursday, October 26, 2017, and let’s all meet at Galen’s.

    Galen’s has owned and operated a successful restaurant in the New Hope area for several years.  In June they opened a second location in Huntsville in the former Mullin’s location.  They are open for breakfast and lunch (until 2:00 PM) for now, but they do have plans to stay open for dinner in the near future.  Galen’s features a traditional meat and vegetable plate lunch with many side items to choose from.  They also have other 

    items on their extensive menu such as burgers, sandwiches, salads, etc.  Also, deserts!  There will certainly be something on the menu that will appeal to everyone.  Google Galen’s Restaurant and take a peek at their pictures and their menu.

    We must let Galen’s know by the day before how many plan to be there so they can arrange tables and have enough chairs ready.  Please contact either Judy Fedrowich Kincaid or me by that date if you plan to join us.   Hoping to see many of you there.

Thanks a Bunch!

Patsy Hughes Oldroyd, Class of ‘65
home (256)232-7583
cell (256)431-3396 or on FACEBOOK for 
either of us
Judy Fedrowich Kincaid, Class of ‘66
cell (256)656-3667


From Our Mailbox 


Subject:    After Shave

Chip Smoak

LHS '66

    I am a little surprised that no one has mentioned Old Spice.

(Editor's Note: Chip I think Old Spice has been mentioned several times, but no one admits to wearing it. As teenage boys we were out to woo the girls with great scents, not remind them of our parents.)




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