Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Bookman mystery photo

     I was in Bookman yesterday, the marvelous used bookstore in Orange—right next door to Pepperland Music, and three doors down from Brandi and Jarrod's crummy thrift store ("as seen on TV"). Been goin' to Bookman for many, many years. 

     Among the store's charms is the array of cool old photos, newspaper clips, and posters stapled randomly on the bookcases—if so elevated a word as "bookcase" may be used for Bookman's rustic shelving. Well, yesterday, as I walked past some of the postings at the end of one bookcase, an old German postcard caught my eye. It's the one at the top of this post. 

Brandi and Jarrod say "Hi"
     I asked one of the wacky Goth Girls who work there if I could buy it. "I don't see why not!", she said. She destapled it for me. I think I paid 50 cents for it.
     The photo caught my eye because, as you know, I'm the Bauer family archivist, and I've come across (and scanned) many photos that look just like this one, especially among the often mysterious pics from my dad's side of the family. The Bauers hail from a little town in the Black Forest near Stuttgart, Germany. (Böblingen.)
     On the back of the card is written, "Erinnerung an das Plätzchen im Dreisbachtal 1925." It means, "In memory of this spot in Dreisbachtal, 1925." 
     Today, I showed the card to my folks, who thereupon pondered, as is their custom. "I found this yesterday," I said.
     "This is one of Opa's pictures," said mom.
     "Opa" refers to my grandfather—my father's father, Otto Bauer—who lived from 1907 until 1998. At the time of the photograph, he would have been about 18 years old.
     One of the reasons I was interested in the photograph is that one or two of the young men in it seemed to resemble my grandfather, Otto. 
     Here's a photo of Otto taken in perhaps the late 20s:

Otto, hangin' with his Commie friends
     Ottoand the woman who became his wife, Louise, my paternal grandmotherwere die-hard members of a nature organization called Naturfreunde ("friends of nature"). (See also here.) The Bookman mystery photo is very much like a picture of a Naturfreunde gatheringwhat with the flags, the natural setting, etc.
     "No," I said. "This is not one of Opa's pictures. I found it yesterday on a wall at Bookman in Orange."
     My folks stared at me, seemingly stunned. They often look that way.
     "I bought the photo because it really reminded me of some of Opa's old photos. Plus one or two of the men in the photo look a bit look Opa."
     Yesterday, when I first saw the photo, I thought that the Mandolin Man at left resembled Opa. Opa owned and played a mandolin that looked very much like the mandolin shown here. (We've still got the dang thing.)
     But when I got home and took a better look, I could see that the Mandolin Man didn't look like Opa at all. On the other hand, the guy crouching a few feet to his left (see below) did look like him.

     On the other hand, maybe not. Here's another shot of Opa/Otto:

     This last photo was likely taken a bit later than 1925. Same guy? Dunno.
     Here's another shot of Opa/Otto, sitting on a plane built by his boss and friend, the celebrated Hans Klemm:

     It's hard to say when this photo (it's actually an extreme closeup of a much larger photo) was taken. Probably in the 20s.
     Dreisbachtal (in German, "tal" is often a suffix meaning something like "dale" or "vale") may well refer to the town of Dreisbach, which is in Germany's Western Forest, about 150 miles to the north of Böblingen. Opa did a lot of "wandering," as per the custom at the time, especially when he was about 18, and so he might easily have been to Dreisbach. Who knows.
     I've encountered other "Erinnerung" ("Remembering") postcards among Opa's old things. For instance, here's a postcard, depicting people known by either Otto or Louise or both (I've found some of these people on other photos depicting Otto or Louise), from 1919 (when Opa would have been twelve years old):

     Kälberbronn is in a forest to the southwest of Böblingen.
     It's not likely, I guess, that my Otto is the guy in the Mystery Photo. 
     I still have a couple of leads. We'll see.
Opa's mandolin
Making the "scene," at Bookman

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