Sunday, December 22, 2013

My Dad - Helga, 79

My father, Gottfried, in his younger years tried to operate his mother's old paddle sewing machine and broke many a needle making rucksacks and other items from sturdy canvas material.  He would put sandwiches in there, maybe some hard-boiled eggs, cold fried pork chops, cold German potato salad, and a thermos with coffee, the standard fare for hikes and picnics.

He took his younger brother, Heinz, on skiing trips and boat rides on the Werra River. During very cold winters sometimes the river would freeze into a solid wall of ice, and the Froelich boys would ice-skate from their hometown of Aue to the town of Wanfried, four kilometers away.  They played knights and robbers, receiving inspiration for these make-believe plays from their surroundings.  A real castle was just up the road, in ruins now, but it had been inhabited by real robbing knights, that were a menace to the trade routs of the Werra River Valley.  The robbers would take their booty behind their castle walls, and it was hard to pursue them.  The castle had a drawbridge and a water-filled moat.  People in town said that sometimes at night they would hear a baby cry.  Stories were told that during the construction of this castle, a live young child was left to die between certain walls to protect the knights from ghosts and spooks.

I remember a water color picture of Das alte Schloss, the old castle, hanging in the hall of our apartments, and I have seen the real thing on vacation with my father, who loved to show me the places of his boyhood haunts.

On other occasions, my dad and his brother, Ernst, would steal a whole sheet cake from the communal bake oven in town.  They also would milk the family goats and have an impromptu picnic at their hideaway.

Sister Marie had her own agenda to make people in town angry at the Froelich kids.  She would put on a long, white dress of her mothers, wear long white gloves and white shoes, and cover her hair and face with a veil.  At dusk, when the farm women usually walk through town toward their water supply, she would place herself next to the well and utter not a word when spoken to.  The women would drop their pails and buckets and ran screaming through the streets. 

"The White Lady is back!" they would cry.  "The White Lady is haunting us again!"

My grandfather has written about this particular ghost in one of his books and has done some research on how this story had come to be so vividly remembered.  Naturally, a murder of a lady of local gentry had been involved, and maids and cooks had often seen her haunting the castle-like mansion called Das Neue Schloss, or "The New Castle."

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