Monday 3 December 2018

A Story Inspired By A Song by Catherine Kullmann

Guess the song

“I met him, you know.
“You did what, Oma?” Anna asked incredulously.
Her grandmother smiled and paused the film. “It’s true. In 1959 at the Johanneskirmes, one of the biggest summer fairs in Hesse. People came from miles around, including lots of G.Is from the American barracks, all eager to talk to the Fräuleins.
“My friend Christa and I were both seventeen and had just finished our first year at Commercial College. Next year we would qualify as secretaries. We both had new dresses—hers was pink and mine blue—with white polka dots and white belts, collars and cuffs. We had stiffened our slips with sugar water to support the full skirts—oh, we thought we were the bee’s knees!
“The Amis were very different to the German boys we knew from school and dancing class. They were older, very smart in their dress uniforms and smelled of American cigarettes, spearmint chewing gum and the colognes and pomades they used on their close-shaven cheeks and short hair. They didn’t ask if they might accompany us, but walked beside us, with smiles and “Hi, Fräuleins”, and sort of drifted in among us girls so that before we knew it, we had split up into couples. By the time we reached the fairground we were a group of twelve—six German girls and six Amis.

“My G.I. was Hank; he was blond with broad shoulders, blue eyes and a crooked smile and spoke with a sexy drawl. You could imagine him as a cowboy in a movie. He knew some German—his grandparents were from Germany—and I had worked hard at my English so we could talk together better than most of the other couples.
“As we neared the fairgrounds we could hear the oompah-pah-pah of the brass band and girls shrieking as their boys tugged hard on the ropes so that the swing-boats went right up to the bar. And then there was that fairground smell—Bratwurst, candyfloss, sizzling potato cakes, burnt almonds and sweet fried dough, all mixed with the oily smell of hot engines and the heavy scent of the linden trees that shaded one end of the grounds. Even today, when I smell it I am seventeen again.
“We strolled through the lanes between the booths, talking and laughing. We stopped to watch a puppet show—the Amis laughed as much as the children at the antics of Kasperle and his crew. Of course, they had to have a go at the shooting-stand. They didn’t do too badly, but then Ilse came up and beat them all. They couldn’t believe it. She won a teddy-bear which she insisted on presenting to her G.I., just the way a boy would give his prize to a girl. So he had to carry it the whole time.
“We tried the chair-o’-planes and the swing-boats, and then we all got into the bumper cars and whizzed around the floor, crashing into each other until we were dizzy and our throats dry from screaming. As soon as we stopped, we headed to the tables and benches near the bandstand for an apple spritzer or a beer. I felt so grown-up. It was the first time I had been allowed to stay so late. Other years I had to go home once the afternoon band stopped playing.
“I was mortified when Willi got up on the stage. He wasn’t a bad singer, but so old-fashioned. The Amis seemed to like our folk songs though, and clapped and hummed along with everyone else. Willi’s last song was a very old folk song about love. Muss i denn, muss i denn, zum städele hinaus, städele hinaus..."
“What language was that?” Hank asked afterwards. I couldn’t understand a word.
I told him it was a Swabian dialect, and the song was about an apprentice who had passed his journeyman exams and now must leave town to work elsewhere for a year. He is saying goodbye to his sweetheart, promising to remain true to her. They’ll marry if she still loves him when he returns.
“Like us,” one of the G.Is said. “Do you know it? Sing it again.
“So we girls sang and they hummed along. The second time, they made a stab at the chorus. It was a real tongue twister for them and the people around us laughed, but not unkindly.
“Let’s try that caterpillar ride,” one of the boys said suddenly. So off we went. I was a little nervous because, well, when the hood closed over the little carriages—”
“Hank might kiss you,” her granddaughter offered. “Was it your first kiss, Oma?”

Ja. He was nice—didn’t try to maul me or anything like that. Afterwards, he bought me a gingerbread heart on a ribbon to hang around my neck. Then the dance music started. They weren’t all used to our sort of dancing—there was no swing or rock and roll, but they soon got the hang of it. Hank was a good dancer, he held you properly, not too tight but firm enough that it was easy to follow him. It grew dark, and strings of lanterns were lit. I didn’t want the evening to end, but I had to be home by midnight and the boys had to be back at the base by then too. So, about a quarter-past-eleven, Christa and her G.I. and Hank and I took a cab to our home—it wasn’t very far but too far for them to walk us home before heading for the base. Christa’s boy started to hum the song again and we all joined in.
“They saw us to the door. There was just time for another quick kiss before my father opened it. They said auf Wiedersehen and the night was over.”
“And that,” Anna’s grandmother said as she picked up the remote again, “is how Christa Hartmann and I taught your grandfather and Elvis Presley the melody and chorus of Wooden Heart.”

© Catherine Kullmann

 Song 'Wooden Heart' by Elvis Presley 
       from an original German folk song circa 1827

 About the author:
Catherine Kullmann was born and educated in Dublin. Following a three-year courtship conducted mostly by letter, she moved to Germany where she lived for twenty-six years before returning to Ireland. She and her husband of over forty years have three adult sons and two grandchildren. Catherine has worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector.
After taking early retirement Catherine was finally able to fulfil her life-long ambition to write fiction. Her debut novel, The Murmur of Masks, published in 2016, is a warm and engaging story of a young woman’s struggle to survive and find love in an era of violence and uncertainty. It takes us from the ballrooms of the Regency to the battlefield of Waterloo.
In Perception & Illusion, published in March 2017, Lallie Grey, cast out by her father for refusing the suitor of his choice, accepts Hugo Tamrisk’s proposal, confident that he loves her as she loves him. But Hugo’s past throws long shadows as does his recent liaison with Sabina Albright. All too soon, Lallie must question Hugo’s reasons for marriage and wonder what he really wants of his bride. 
In her new book, A Suggestion of Scandal, governess Rosa Fancourt finds her life and future suddenly at risk when she surprises two lovers in flagrante delicto,. Even if she escapes captivity, the mere suggestion of scandal is enough to ruin a lady in her situation. In Sir Julian Loring she finds an unexpected champion but will he stand by her to the end?

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You can find out more about Catherine at her website 
where, in her Scrap Album, she blogs about historical facts and trivia relating to the Regency or on Facebook 

Catherine’s books are available worldwide from Amazon as e-books and paperback. 

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Note: There is copyright legislation for song lyrics but no copyright in names, titles or ideas
images via Pixabay accreditation not required

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The Full List of Authors

1st        Philip K. Allan     
 2nd      J J Toner         
 3rd       Catherine Kullman    
 4th       Helen Hollick              
 5th       Richard Tearle    
 6th       Barbara Gaskell Denvil
 7th       Nicky Galliers
 8th       Angela Macrae Shanks          
 9th       Katherine Pym  
10th      J G Harlond    
11th       Anna Belfrage
12th      Richard Dee
13th      Inge H. Borg
14th      Annie Whitehead
15th      Louise Adam
16th      Charlene Newcomb
17th      Alison Morton                         
18th      Kathryn Gauci
19th      Helen Hollick 
20th     M.J. Logue
21st       Helen Hollick 
22nd     Cryssa Bazos               
23rd      Jennifer Wilson                       
24th      Elizabeth St John  writing as Julia Darke                         
26th      Helen Hollick
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  1. I worked out the song the moment Willi got on stage :) Very nice little story.

  2. Tolle Geschichte! The wooden heart at the top was a big hint, but as soon as you said a Swabian folksong, I got it. And what a pleasure to listen to Elvis again - a real spine tingler of a voice.

    1. Vielen Dank! It's the first Elvis song I consciously remember hearing, perhaps because of the bit in the middle I couldn't understand. His voice still gives me shivers.

  3. Yeas an easy one today (can't have them all too hard! LOL) (I think I've also fixed the matter of Facebook giving the answers away.)

    1. Certainly easy for those of a certain age :) but we were so fortunate to have such wonderful music in our youth.

  4. I don't care how easy it was, this was a delight to read. All the atmosphere captured perfectly and easily plausible enough to be true .....thank you for taking me back to my youth, Catherine

  5. Thank you, Richard. It was inspired by the memory of a German woman on the antique roadshow who had some previously unpublished photos of Elvis taken during such a casual encounter. I really enjoyed writing it.

  6. I have to admit to not knowing the song! I will go and listen to it now, though, but what an introduction to it. Thank you, Catherine!

  7. Such a lovely upbeat story **humming** !

  8. Now you made me nostalgic and blurt, "Muss i denn, muss i denn zum Staedtele hinaus, Staedtele hinaus, und Du, mein Schatz, bleibst hier."
    (Whereupon the cats quickly went into hiding.)
    What a fun encounter!

  9. I am also humming the song now - and smelling bratwurst!!! Well done Catherine.

  10. Great story. Loved it. Thanks so much for sharing.

  11. An entire epoch conjured between a song and a story. Lovely, thank you.

  12. Great story. I'm a complete dummkopf, I'm afraid, I couldn't guess the song. I live in Wicklow. We should meet.


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