Part 53: The Birth Of A Musical Passion

In the fifth year after the war, living conditions had improved somewhat. In the cities, too, no one had to starve anymore, but food rations on stamps were still very modest.

Butter and oil were, especially in demand. On one of his days off, Father brought home from the factory a homemade oil press. The little machine was no bigger than a meat grinder and worked like one. The rapeseed or poppy seeds trickled out of a funnel onto a screw conveyor. When the crank was turned diligently, the screw pressed against the head of the machine.

Snake-shaped, bone-dry canola or poppy seed stalks crawled out of two penny-sized openings. The squeezed oil dribbled from needle-thin holes below the head. All this worked only if the crank was moved briskly and without pause.

Two people always had to be on hand to relieve the crank. It was dull, sweaty work. Father had thought this form of frying fat only for the family and a few friends, but in a village, nothing remains secret for long. Soon people were bringing in their three kilos of rapeseed or poppy seeds to have a liter of cooking oil made from them. Very soon my mother was running an illegal business.

The hand crank was replaced by an electric motor. Father brought a second press because the first one was already worn out from so much use. I was just replacing the new machine when a boy sent by Sophie warned of an inspection commission.

The traces of trade could not be removed so quickly. Besides, the whole house smelled of warm oil. Quick-witted, I hid the new press with the motor in the barn and bolted the defective machine to the kitchen table. I put the crank next to it.

Shortly thereafter, the control appeared. They immediately confiscated the corpus delicti that lay so openly before their eyes, and consequently waived a house search. Two weeks later, Mother received a written penalty notice and had to pay a fine of 75 marks, with the indication that she would have to reckon with a prison sentence in the event of a repetition.

Father was spared; besides, he was not there anyway. After a break, Mother continued the illegal trade despite the threat of punishment until the second oil press was also worn out.

Rosi sang in the school choir. One day she asked me to come to the choir rehearsal in the auditorium in the afternoon after school. The choir was practicing Schiller’s ‘Ode to Joy.’ The many-voiced choir and the unfamiliar classical music overwhelmed me.

Until then, I had only known folk songs, a few hits from the dance hall and all the operetta melodies from the ‘Weiße Rößl.’ In the evening I told Hans about my musical experience. My friend directed our interest to a completely different kind of music.

On the radio he had heard boogie, blues, and swing on an unknown station with good reception. The rhythmically gifted Hans was enthusiastic about this music. He was sure that this music, which had been frowned upon and banned as ‘Black music’ during the Nazi era, would very soon become popular with us as well. He was to be proved right. 𝓣𝓸 𝓑𝓮 𝓒𝓸𝓷𝓽𝓲𝓷𝓾𝓮𝓭

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