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Von Rodger M. Wood
Im Juni, fuhren meine Frau Joanne und ich nach Helen, Georgia, wer alle ist so Deutsch. Wir wanderten in die Berge, aBen Deutsch Essen und trinken deutsche Bier, sprachen Deutsch mit vielen Leute, und swamen in die Chatahoochee FluBe. Sein im Helen war, wie im Schwarzwald sein. Nestled by the Chattahoochee River in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains of Northwest Georgia, with its old world towers, the Alpine village of Helen resembled, ein Dorf im FuBe von Schwarzwald.” I believe you can close your eyes there and easily believe you are in Oensbach, the birth village of our third great grandfather Fidel Herr. I ate sauberbraten, and drank liters of good German wheat beer the four days I was there. I ordered my food and talked to the proprietors in German at the Hofbrau Haus, and Bavarian Inn. Joanne and I hiked the nearby Smith Creek Trail in Unicoi State Park, viewed Anna Ruby Falls and stuck our toes in the refreshing waters of the Chattahoochee River as we watched the many tubers cascade down the rain swollen river. On the way to Helen, we stopped at Zebulon, NC to take some photographs at a AA- Southern League Mississippi Braves/Carolina Mud Cats ball game. Prior to the game, Carolina RHP Matt Klinker talked and posed with the young Fayettesville Police Boys Club players. We took a day trip to photograph the festivities at the SALLY League All Star game in Greenville, S.C.. With its 30-foot high Green Monster in left field, Pesky Pole in right field, same dimensions all around the outfield, and manual scoreboard, Greenville Fluor Field is a close replica of Boston Fenway Park. On the way there, we stopped at the Clemson University campus, which housed the manorial home of mid -19th century southern statesman, John Calhoun, and an awesome football stadium, which opponents compare to “death valley ” when playing there. As usual, I bought a Clemson baseball cap and football jersey at the school book store to show off to my sons at family gatherings. From Helen, we drove 90 miles southwest to Stone Mountain, GA , where we rode a railroad around the park, cruised on an amphibious “duck” around a lake, toured the Dudley Plantation House and viewed a spectacular laser show shown on the granite memorial to Confederate heroes, Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson majestically hovering high above us. On the way home, we stopped in Myrtle Beach, S.C. to see our old friend “Wild Bill” Mathews, who lost his dear wife Dee in November, 2009. While there, we ate a great sea food dinner at a Calabash, N.C. and the next night, a chicken dinner, while entertained by a lively Dixie Stampede at Dolly Parton’s show place. Just past Richmond, VA, we stopped at Guinea Station to tour the Fairfield Plantation house where General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson died May 10, 1863, concluding a nice sojourn into our German American heritage while earning some money with my sports photography.
By Rodger M. Wood
While on assignment at the Eastern League All Star Game in Harrisburg, PA last week, I was surprised to read on the video screen the high school hitter at the plate in the HR Derby was “Kolbe Herr.”
Knowing he was representing Lower Dauphin HS in Hummelstown, PA, which is nearby Lancaster,
home site of the Mennonite elder, Hans Herr, who migrated to the new world about 1719,
I sought him out to congratulate for winning the HR derby as well as find out more about his Herr ancestry.
Kolbe knew his extended Herr family was large at family gatherings, but typical of an 18 – year ball player, not too much about his roots, or Hans Herr’s homestead was still standing in Lancaster or if he was related to Lancaster, PA , St Louis Cardinals 2B of the 1980s, Tommy Herr. Understandably, he was at an age when those things were not too important.
Not wanting to spoil the joy of his triumph that day, I dropped the genealogy to tell him I was also a photographer for Baseball America who would be forwarding his photos on to that magazine for publication consideration.
Kolbe will be entering junior college in September, and is a fine clean cut young man, who will well represent the Pennsylvania Herr Family now and down the road.
In the German Polygot Performance of Bruder Grimm’s “Rotsklappchen” (Little Red Riding Hood) April 5, 2010 at George Mason Harris Theatre, Rodger playing the Jager (Hunter) arrived just in time to save Little Red Riding Hood from the jaws of the Big
Click here to see clips from all the performances.
6:55 German show (8 minutes; supervised by Dr. Francien Markx): Grimm’s fairy tales read and acted out in German. See the video. Windows Media Player required.
Click in this link to view the 2009 Polyglot presentation.
By Rodger M. Wood
Snow blanketed the Sterling VA area, where I live, and the Washington Metropolitan Area, in bursts of 24 and 13 inches on Friday, February 5rh, and Tuesday February 9th.
We just dug ourselves out from the first burst, only to be snowed in the house for another four fays by the second burst.
The snow plow came through today, and I’ll shovel the driveway near the road end, but I’ll have to see a few cars driving by the house before I venture out again, and I am a seasoned Detroit winter driver who should be used to all this snow.
During my 29 years of residency, I can’t recall Detroit ever being this bad. Fortunately for us, our power did not go out, and we had plenty of food in the ice box.
Things could have been worst and the sun is shining today. Maybe it’ll be floods from the snow melting next!.
Whatever is meant to be, will be. Oder welches Gòtt machte, konnte Männer nicht ändern.
An article featuring Rodger at George Mason University. Read all about it here or
See Rodger present at Freedom without Walls, Fall of the Berlin Wall 1989-2009
See more of the presentation at this link.
Von Rodger M. Wood
Detroit war eine Stadt von Tag und Nacht, als ich als Junge da gewohnt habe.
Die rauchigen Laute von den Autofabriken begannen bei der Morgendämmerung jeden
Morgen zu brüllen, während die bunten Vögel ihre Lieder sangen. Das Brüllen von
Polizeiautos und Krankenwagen schienen zu derselben Stunde zu anhalten.
Als Junge konnte ich mit meinem Fahrrad zum grünen Rougepark fahren, und so tat
ich wie wenn ich Henry Thoreau beim Waldenpark vorzugeben. Ich träumte gern da
unter den höher Eichen im Schatten. Ich mochte auch gern dort ,,Mumbley Peg” mit
meinen Freunde spielen, und mein Picknick essen, während die würdevollen
Riesen unseren Spaß überblickten.
Dann verbesserte die Autosherstellung sich. Die Leute fuhren überall hin, statt zu
ihrem Reiseziel zu spazieren. Pferdgekeuchte Wagen fuhren manchmal auf unserer
Straße am Wochenende, wie sie aus ihrem Schlaf aufzuwachen. Viele lachende Kinder
spazierten zur Schule, während des kalten Winters und heißen Sommers, aber
überfürsorgliche Eltern fuhren gelegentlich sie hin.
Als ich an der Universität teilnahm, verlockte die Coca Cola Fabrik mich im
Sommer für sie mit ihrem grünen Geld zu arbeiten. Passanten konnten durch die große
Fabrikfenster die tausenden leeren vorbeigehenden Flaschen in der Aufräumemaschine
sehen und in noch einer Maschine, die sie mit dunkler Flüssigkeit füllte und an ihnen
metallische Flaschenverschlüsse stellte.
Ich habe bei ihren Lastwagen mit hölzernen Kasten von ,,Coca Cola” Flaschen
geladen. Ich räumte auch jeden Tag die Toiletten auf. Es war eine widerliche
Arbeit, aber ich arbeitete drei Sommer da, diesen Job zu machen. Als die Detroits
Universität mir im September ein Zeichen gab, war ich sehr fertig,, auf Wiedersehen”
bei Herrn Technologie zu sagen, und ,,Guten Tag” bei Frau Universität. Ich glaubte, wenn
ich mit den Händen bei der Fabrik arbeiten mußte, dass ich viele ernsthoften Ärger
während meines Lebens haben würde. Ich brauchte statt dessen mit meinem Gehirn zu
arbeiten. Ich schätzte besser meinen Unterricht.
Nach der Universität, begann ich im Personalbüro einer großen Kriegswaffenfabrik zu
arbeiten. Ich stellte Arbeiter an die große schwarze Behälter herstellten. Ich mag nicht
gern die Idee von meiner Teilnahme in der Herstellung der Kriegsmaschine. Als Folge
ging ich wieder an die Universität zurück, um für einen MPA zu studieren.
Ich wandte viele Abende am Ufer des gewundenen blauen Detroits Fluss auf, an
mein Schicksal zu denken. Ich glaubte, dass alle Leute auf einer Linie auf einer
Wäscheleine waren, die vom Haus bei der Garage floss. Wir konnten wenig nach links
und nach rechts und Vorwärts und Rückwärts laufen, wie die Wäscheleine erlaubte,
aber nicht weg aus unserer vorherbestimmten natürlichen Kategorie. Wie die Sonne
jeden Morgen im Osten aufgehen wird, und jeden Abend im Westen untergehen wird, s
werden unsere Leben verlaufen. Wir können nur unser Schicksal wählen. Alle uns
Gedanken, Wörter und Taten waren ein Teil einer magischen Reihenfolge, die nicht
geändert werden kann.
Viele Jahre später danke ich meinem Gott, dass er mich aus dieser alten Coca Cola
Fabrik an der Warrenstraße wegnahm. Mein Schicksal war mir wohl gesinnt.
September 17 – October 14, 2009
By Rodger M. Wood
My recent trips back home for my 1959 Catholic Central High School class reunion and cousin Karin Copenhaver wedding took me to places and people I hadn’t seen in over forty years.
I wrote about the reunion trip in another article so here, I’ll write about my visit with my dad’s family at Karin’s wedding, a trip to the old Gilchrist neighborhood, old St. Mary Church in downtown Detroit, Belle Isle, and the great visit I had with my Uncle Harold Herr three sons, David, Charles, and Jimmie Herr and their families.
The photo folder starts with a good panorama view of Detroit, where I proudly lived from November, 1940 to November 15, 1969.
My first twenty -three years I lived in the house at 15800 Gilchrist. Many a day I sat on the side porch steps of that house and the front curb, with my young buddies, Ted and Gary Walton, David Ross, Mike Moriarty, yes the actor, worrying about the Russians, and fantasizing about playing baseball for the Detroit Tigers, We passed many a youthful moment discussing heavy duty topics during a time when the world turned out to be very calm and peaceful.
My friends and I spent many a hot summer days playing baseball on the four corners of Gilchrist and Pilgrim, 500 Flies and Grounders and football in the street, and on the lawn, our favorite game, Mumbly Peg, which required we performed various tasks successfully with pocket knife to win the game.. .
With Dad’s help about May, 1950, my brothers and I planted the saplings, which grew into the three big Elm trees that now tower on the Pilgrim side of my old house.
Looking at the house from Gilchrist, the upper window on the right was my brothers and my bedroom window, and on the left, my parents. Many a hot Indian summer night (in those days houses were not air conditioned), I can remember falling a sleep to the sounds of the trains, and police and fire sirens.
The train sounds resounding through the open window in the quiet of night were comforting but the police and fire sirens always disturbed me, particularly when my parents were out for the evening.
Once, I can remember huddling down in our bedroom with my mother, who told me to keep quiet so our 80+ Aunt Louise ringing the doorbell downstairs on the side porch underneath the window, would not know we were home. Aunt Louise was a supposed older friend of my Grandmother Zazi, who I suspect now was actually my great aunt in spite of my mother’s insistence that she was not related.
In the winters, as a small boy, probably about 4 or 5, I often sat in the bays of the two first floor front windows watching the snow come down, wondering if it would ever stop, and if we were going to be snowed in the house for awhile.
I used to crawl through the milk shoot at the right side front side into the kitchen of my old house after school when my mother accidentally locked me out or I forget my house key.
Across Pilgrim Avenue, Teddy and Gary Walton’s house at 15790 Gilchrist, Mike Moriarty’s house at 15784 Gilchrist, David Ross’s house at 15785 Gilchrist, next to Linda and Kenny Large big corner house
were my haunts. I used to stand at their side door and call them out to play or walk to Isaac Crary School.
Up to age six and I started school, Teddy, Gary, Mike, David, and Linda were my only world. I played, and went places with them most every day.
As a five year old visitor to the Christian Scientist Church on Grand River and Outer Drive, I was told to go upstairs to the balcony away from my little friends, Teddy and Gary Walton by a bible class teacher, who objected to my presence there when I told him proudly, “I was a Roman Catholic.” That act of discrimination stuck in my mind my entire life. Dr. Walton was so upset my treatment that day, he never returned to that church again.
15703 Biltmore was the home of my buddy Jack Cross, with whom, Doug Merrick, and I palled around a lot in the upper left front side den of the house. We played poker, drank our first coffee, and smoked our first cigarettes in a trailer back behind the house by the garage. Jack’s mother Esther used to treat us to an a delicious spaghetti dinner on Saturday night once in awhile. I used to talk to Jack’s dad, Norman a lot about school as he was an English teacher at Cooley High School.
Jack, Doug and I loved walking over to the White Castle hamburger joint at Southfield and Fenkell ,
where we ate a lot of delicious 12 cent hamburgers.
Mike Moriarty and I used to go to the movies at the Norwest Theater at Grand River and Oakfield Avenues.
Mike was determined to be an actor and used to study the actors‘ techniques, especially Jimmy Dean, who he modeled himself afterwards in high school drama at U of D High School, Dartmouth, and the big time theater and Hollywood movies that he would become later famous for in life.
A Neisner Dime Store, and Cunninghams Drug Store, were also at the corner of Grand River and Southfield. I sold the Detroit News on the street corner and in the newsstands so that the regular newsboy, a crippled boy, Tommy Johnson, could spend the Christmas Holidays with his grandparents in West Virginia.
I used to walk to cathecism and mass at St. Mary of Redford Catholic Church at St. Mary and Grand River Avenues. I was frightened to death in a confessional there when kindly Father McHugh heard my first confession. I was also baptized, received First Communion, and Confirmation at that church. I can remember being inspired by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen preaching about life is worth living from the pulpit and the seemingly immense size of the church when my mother and brothers attended. It was filled at every Mass and I remember how the wooden kneelers torn my knees up during the long prayer for peace at the end of Mass..
Another special trip for me and my young buddies was to make the long walk to the Kreges Store at Greenfield and Grand River. We loved walking through back street alleys looking for treasures in the trash cans, walking through the store, just looking, unless we had a dime or quarter to spend on stamps for our collection, Bowman or Topps baseball cards, Archie comics, or a 5 cent lemon or chocolate coke at the soda fountain.
When we were about 11 years old, Grand River was also our avenue to a bigger world. We could catch a bus at Gilchrist and Grand River and ride past Greenfield, Schaeffer, Livernois, West Grand Boulevard,
to downtown Detroit for 10 cents one way. It wasn’t long before we saw the towering buildings beckoning us to a day of adventure at JL Hudson Department Store, ice cream at Saunders, and carefree times at other stores. Sometimes, we got off at Trumbull Avenue, and walked down to Brigg Stadium, where we saw our beloved Tigers play a ball game. On the way back, we knew we were out of the downtown area when we saw the foreboding Detroit Police Station pass by on the right of the bus.
About 1835, our third great grandfather, Fidel Herr walked the 15 miles, down Michigan Avenue, which is parallel to Grand River, from his homestead at Warren and Ann Arbor Trail to St. Mary Church in downtown Detroit, behind the Old City Building and across from one of the Casinos in Greek Town. He wanted to have his confession heard at the old German Catholic Church, but was turned off and never returned to Catholicism after a priest asked him to pay the “French Tax” before hearing his confession.
One of our third great aunts, Mary Barbara Herr married Anthony German at the altar of St. Mary in 1850.
Anthony and Mary Barbara ran a candy store on Michigan Avenue in downtown Detroit until about 1905.
Their only child, a daughter, was a school teacher in the Detroit school system for many years.
My dad’s mother, Grandma Zazi lived near Michigan and 2nd Avenue, and my father was born in a house near 16th Street and Michigan Avenue.
On Sundays I was going to a Detroit Lions game, I met my friend Doug Merrick after his church service
at the downtown First Methodist Church at Woodward Avenue and Grand Circus Park and we’d walk over to Briggs Stadium from there.
I went to the David Whitney Building across Grand Circus Park for my orthodonist appointments with Dr. Bruce Foster every two weeks for eight years until I went to the Merchant Marine Academy in August, 1959.
I loved going down Jefferson Avenue to Belle Isle, where Joanne and I often fished in the Detroit River or canoed on the inlets with our friends. As an adult, I played baseball in the Federal League on the diamonds fronting the Windsor side of river. I can remember swimming in the Detroit River there once when I was about 15.
My dad and mom met each other at a dance at Ramona Park, which was located on the mainland next to the Belle Isle Bridge.
My mother and I used to go to the Detroit Yacht Club on Belle Isle to meet her friends, who would take us yachting on Lake St. Claire, and other festivities and banquets related to mom’s clubs, the Rosedale Garden Progressive Club and the National Farms and Garden. I won a bird identification contest there once when quite young.
I took the wedding photos at my cousin Karin Marie Copenhaver and Gary Tomsik’s wedding on September 19, 2009 at the Wixom Community Center. My dad’s sisters, Aunt Dot and Aunt Virginia, Karin’s mother, my cousin Lynn Ellen Copenhaver, her sister, Janice, cousins Patti, Suzie Q, Jackie and Gordie Selinsky, Norma Jean, and their families were there. I enjoyed visiting with all of them and wished I had not waited so long to get in touch, but making amends, we all promised to see each sooner next time.
The grand finale to the reunion trip was seeing my favorite Uncle Harold Herr’s three sons, David, Charles, and Jimmie and their families at Jimmie’s house in Novi. On that Sunday. my Uncle Harold and Aunt Margaret would have been proud to see how their children turned out. They are a big happy family, who care about each other, have values, and fun together.
David Herr, the oldest son, is the spitten image of his father Harold, and further back, photos I have seen of his second great grandfather, Fidel Herr Jr.
The Herr boys and I talked endlessly about our memories and common genealogical roots. Jimmie’s wife, Brenda is a great cook and fed us to the brim with a sit down dinner. Jimmie’s sons, James (with wife Elizabeth), Jarrin, and grandson Gavin Herr were there. We had a great time and I invited all the Herr to visit us in Virginia sometime soon.
Again I got nostalgic from this trip – I sometimes wonder why I didn’t visit family more when I was younger, but then, I think I was more sold on myself than I should have been. My parents tried to keep me in touch but you know how it is with a 20 – year old. I just didn’t have the time. Now I hope I can make up for lost time.
My 50th Detroit Catholic Central 2009 Class Reunion was like slipping back to my youth at Detroit Catholic Central and paling around with my old buddies again after an absence of over forty years.
Zeke Seacourt, who stood up at my wedding, Charlie Incaudo, who was my ring side trainer,, Bill Butterfield, who I car pooled to school with, and as many as fifty – seven other classmates showed up for the reunion activities, some traveling from as far away as Michael Murphy from Ventura, CA and Mike McInerney from Dallas, TX.
Festivities started off fast and furious at the Boys’ Bowl Game Pep Rally in the school gymnasium
and were close to the way we used to get ready for that game fifty years ago.
Friday afternoon, Class of 1959 Alumnae Coordinator, Rudy Seichter, showed Joanne and me around the 5-year old, state of the art, Catholic Central building and campus, which are far removed from the intimate, little bandbox we seemed to have back at Outer Drive and Hubbell in our days.
I watched the football team practice and made arrangements for a photo shoot with our star running back Niko Palazeti for Sporting News that afternoon. I noted that the football players of old were minute compared to the likes of our 2009 football team.
At the stag party Friday night, forty-seven classmates talked a blue streak with each other until the five hours limit ended the conversation too soon.
Fortunately, particularly after our long stag party the night before, Saturday morning was a quiet time until our fantastic banquet in the evening.
Fifty -four couples attended, ate a great meal, and talked the whole night as a fine band played music of old.
A big Catholic Central win over St. Marys Orchard Lake, 27 -0, to make them 6-0 on the season and ranked third in the State of Michigan, topped off Sunday and a great reunion.
I want to thank our class coordinator Rudy Seichter for a great job contacting our classmates and organizing
super reunion festivities. When we were going to school together I saw Rudy always smiling, and even today so many years afterwards, he has not lost that smile.
Seeing the guys again made me nostalgic, questioning my reasons for leaving the Detroit area so many years ago but when I got home to Sterling VA, my six grandkids quickly reminded me why I was still there.
Written for a graduate German course, Rodger presents his thoughts on the fall of the Berlin Wall. See it here on George Mason University’s website.