Now I would like to tell something of our worldly life. Compared to today, those times were very monotonous and boring. That was not, however, how we experienced the times. There was no radio, no cinema, no magazines, and, unfortunately, very few books. We all loved reading, but for both my girlfriends as well as all the cousins. buying books would have been an unheard-of luxury (later this had changed somewhat), but for some unfathomable reason we repeatedly found reading material, which was then diligently exchanged among friends and kin. We read everything: calendars and newspaper novels (which were collected), old and new issues of Sunday papers, church pamphlets, and “Zehnpfennigromane” (cheap novels).
Books that cost 1 mark (later, of course, we would get these at the local library), when found, were ravenously devoured. Mother thought all this reading was just not right. She was especially
suspicious of world literature, and sometimes a book would end up in the fire, for example “Der Zupfgeigenhansel” (a book of folk songs). Again and again she told us to study the books more, by which she meant the Bible, books of hymns, and devotional books. Unfortunately we were not so inclined. I believe our good mother, with the best intentions, fed us a bit too much of this spiritual food. Books were the only conversations we sought and found, and so on Sundays we would sit together with our girlfriends, everyone with their book before them, and no one would make a sound.
Before there were bicycles, and if the weather was good, one would go for a walk on Sundays. From 1911 – 1914 the Mittellandkanal was being built by foreigners from Poland and Italy. They lived in the “Kantine”. One would walk there and watch the games of the people, usually meeting other friends there as well.
Unfortunately we were strictly forbidden from going to the weekly dances with the other village children. Dance lessons did not exist yet back then, instead there were the friendly and relaxed “Holskenbälle”. These were gatherings of young people, in homes where parents were away on a visit. Someone would bring an accordion or harmonica, sometimes it was enough just to use a comb that you wrapped paper around – the musically talented could play it. And then, in the “Deele”, everyone would dance, with those who had left school early learning the dance without any difficulty. How we wished we could have gone. However, in Mother’s eyes, dancing was a grave sin and so we, albeit with grumbling, obeyed her wishes. I have never shared her view and consider reasonable dancing on festive occasions to be something very beautiful, and still regret today that we had to miss these harmless pleasures in our youth, especially since the opportunities to do so were so few. The Oldendorfer autumn market was the festival of the year, later the “Krieger” (veteran) and “Radfahrer” (cycling) festivals were added, at first only in Oldendorf, but later in the villages as well. In Schröttinghausen the celebration was usually at Stegmann’s in tents behind our garden. We were just bystanders, able to watch others enjoying themselves.
Another way we relaxed was with handcrafts. We started embroidering and crocheting for our dowry as soon as we were out of school. Do not think not that this was encouraged by our parents – no, we had to steal the time for it: during the lunch break, after work, during breaks bringing in the hay, while guarding the cows, etc. Every free minute was utilized.
Then mother would say: ”Will you ever finish this useless work? Will you forever be coming up with something new?” Father would grouse: ”First spinning and weaving, then cutting holes (hole work) , and then sewing again – what’s the point?” On Sunday we were absolutely not allowed to take needle in hand, how gladly we would have done so, but that would have been a desecration of Sunday.
The farmer’s crafts were spinning and weaving, and working with flax. The flax work, actually, was done throughout the year. There were years in which I wove 100 – 200 meters. Once again, this was work were the men would grouse that it did not bring in anything, but mothers insisted on full linen closets, and if possible on top of that a suitcase full of roles of cloth, which was then proudly shown on the daughters wedding day – this was a real competition.