Journey into the past

January 06, 2014

If I only had a time machine, I would travel into the 60s and 70s, with a camera around my neck, and photograph the places where I lived and the things I did. I would sneak under the staircase near the school library to capture my first kiss, take a shot when I almost fell off the cliffs in Bodenstein, make a reportage about the remodeling of my little Honda's ignition system that almost doubled its top speed (I'd never dare to do that today), and I would be ready with a 300 mm lens to document the moment when I hit my teacher's head with a snowball from 25 meters away. He was angry, I can tell you!

I don't have a time machine, unfortunately. However, last week, in Germay I made a little trip to past places and took a few pictures. Let me tell you what I experienced.

I grew up in small village called Lutter am Barenberge. It is located in Lower Saxony, near the border of the Harz, Germany's most northern mountain range. Lutter was (and still is) characterized by its two-tower silhouette:

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The left tower obviously belongs to the church, the other to the Burg Lutter, a nearly 1000 years old castle structure, that has served many purposes during its life. Since the 80s it has been inhabited by the Lutter-Gruppe, a group of people who liked to live with very little rules and without any hierarchies. These friendly folks hosted our biker home at that time, and their alternative way of living was a permanent attraction for us kids. For example, there was a large multi-purpose hall in one of the barns which was used for eating, drinking, smoking and political discussions of all kinds. In one corner was a large mattress area where residents and guests used to sleep. There was only a single cold water tap in the middle of the inner courtyard, and in the morning, the inhabitants appeared naked doing their morning showers. Very exciting ;-)

On my way to Lutter, I came across a cast-iron cross at the road near the village of Bodenstein:

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I believe it belongs to my school mate Birgit S., who died in a car accident shortly after getting her drivers licence. In the 70s, almost 20.000 people were killed in traffic accidents yearly, and quite a number of my friends died on the roads. If we tell that our kids today, they actually don't believe it. The number of people killed in car accidents in Germany is less than 4000 per year now, so it's eighty percent less likely to loose a friend in a car accident. During my days in school, if was all too common, and my fingers at both hands are barely sufficient to count those I have lost.

I went to elementary school at the "Grund- und Hauptschule Lutter am Barenberge", which is now called Kurt-Klay-Schule:

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Apart from its name, not very much seems to have changed. There is a fence around the building, so I couldn't get much closer to take photographs. I was put to school in 1969 and stayed in elementary school for four years. From fifth grade on, the kids in Germany were transferred to either Basic, Middle or High School and stayed there until graduation.

During the winter time, it was usually pretty cold in Lutter. Temperatures below zero were common between December and February, and we spent a lot of time ice skating and playing hockey on the "Mühlenteich", a pond in the middle of the village:

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I found all the stay bridges rotten and there was no water in the pond:

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Just a tiny creek meandering the mud, and a handful of sways paddling around in the remainings of what used to be one of the most fun places during winter times. Temperatures were far above the freezing level last week, so apparently no ice skating this year, even if there had been water inside the pond.

I went to the cemetery to look after some of my relative's graves:

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My grandfather passed away in 1989, my grandmother in 2004, and their graves are well maintained. The graves of one of my aunts and of my cousin Anja (who died in a car accident in Ostfriesland when she was 18) are nearby. My grandpa, an old school book binder and printer, was a friendly and gentle man, I remember him very well. In his late 70s, he broke one of his thig bones while hiking, and never really recovered from that accident. He passed away after suffering for many years.

Until I was 16, I lived in a house at "Frankfurter Straße 24", the main street in Lutter:

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Apart from the fact that there was a bank building on the left side, which is now gone, almost everything looked like it did during my childhood. I spoke to two little boys in the front yard and told them that I used to live here decades ago. They were embarassed and walked away. Everything is sold and none of my relatives lives here anymore. 

The house was big enough for my own family, my grand parents and two grand aunts. After my grand parents my mother owned the little store on the right side of the house, where she sold newspapers and magazines, stationery, candies, toys and lottery tickets. The biggest revenue of the year was after the summer break when the school kids needed books, pencils, writing pads and all kinds of stuff for the new school year. Otherwise, it was barely enough to make a living.

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Almost from first grade on, I was allowed to read all the magazines in the store with the exception of those in the upper row (the likes of "Playboy", "St. Pauli Nachrichten", and so on ;-). I remember that it took me more than an hour to read my first Mickey Mouse cartoon when I was in first grade, but having access to a huge number of magazines of all genres improved my reading skills quickly and - even more important - sharpened my curiosity and my love for the media. I very well remember how I desperately waited for each new edition of the Funkschau, an electronics magazine, which I didn't fully understood at that time, but which very much fascinated me. Since the magazines were sold to customers as well I had to be quick to read each new issue and I had to handle them *very* carefully, not leaving any marks or dog ears. Kind of a fair deal, in my opinion.

Behind the house there were stables where my father had one or two pigs every year, as well as chicken, geese and rabbits. My parents made sure that we had enough to eat all year, which was considered important by the World War II generation at that time. My father was a refugee actually, who escaped from Pomerania (one of those parts of Germany that now belong to Poland), in one of the cold WWII winters in the 1940's.

We had a huge backyard behind the house, but almost all of it has been taken away to make room for a large "NP" discount supermarket:

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The photo was made from approximately where the old garden house stood. Covered by lawns, apple and cherry trees the back yard was not only the place where my grand parents grew fruits and veggies, but which served us kids as a a perfect playground as well. Where now is the roof of the market was a lawn where our neighbor raised two sheep. I remember one time when we were trying to ride on the sheep, and the owner came to my mother's store and complained. Unfortunately, the sheep was pregnant, and the neighbor was not amused at all. Neither was my father when he came home later that evening...

My high school, the Jacobson-Gymnasium, was in Seesen, about 15 Kilometers away from Lutter. When it was erected in 1973, it was one of those fancy, innovative school buildings that was supposed to shake off the dust of the centuries old German school system and to open the door to a liberal (pretty left-winged for today's standards ;-), open-minded education:

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We had fancy green carpets almost everywhere inside the building, which created a lot of static electricity. Whenever we were about to open a door or touch somebody after walking around for a while we had to ground ourselves before to prevent emitting electrical shocks! In dark corners we could even see the electrical sparks! Kind of funny and annoying at the same time, but especially well-suited to chase the girls in fifth and sixth grade around the building :-) Later on, the school was plagued by leaking water and buckets had to be placed in strategic locations on a rainy day. 

OK, that should be enough for now. I usually don't release very much information about myself, but hey, isn't that what weblog are all about? So enjoy the article, a similar one is not very likely to come again soon ;-) If you want to learn more about Lutter, Seesen or the schools follow one of the links above. You may also want to check my uncle Wolfgang's home page which has a huge amount of information as well as historic pictures about Lutter and the whole region.

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