Good Sam Club Open Roads Forum: Around the Campfire: A Christmas in Himmelkron
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 > A Christmas in Himmelkron

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Grey Mountain

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Posted: 12/24/20 05:39am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

A Christmas in Himmelkron

December 24, 1962 – Christmas Eve - dawned bitterly cold and bleak in this part of the world that we affectionately called, “Bavarian Siberia.” Nestled in the Fictelgebirge in northern Bavaria, Himmelkron was home to about 3500. Its more famous neighbor was the ski resort of Bad Bernech, one of Hitler's retreats.

My wife and two-year-old daughter had arrived from the states three weeks earlier and I had rented an apartment in Himmelkron, about 30 miles south of Hof, Germany, home of the 6915th Security Squadron. This apartment consisted of three rooms on the third floor. In typical old-European fashion, the bottom floor consisted of stables for the various animals. Our landlord, his wife, young son and “Oma” lived on the second floor.

The front room of our apartment was the kitchen and living area. The next room was a bedroom, and the third room, ostensibly another bedroom, actually served as our refrigerator/freezer. If we wanted food to freeze, we put it against the outer wall; if we only wanted to keep it cold, we put it on the inner wall.

I was a shift worker at our site in Hof and on that frigid Christmas Eve almost a half century ago, our flight was on a “Day” shift. Fortunately, our flight commander allowed those of us who were married to leave at noon so we could spend some time with our families.

As an Air Force three-striper who had just paid to have his wife and daughter fly over to join him, I was as broke as could be. We couldn't afford a Christmas tree, so I “purloined” one from a local forested area. A friend had given us a string of lights, but that was the kind of lights where, if one bulb went out, the entire string went out. As the bulbs inevitably blew, I would cut off that portion of the string, wire the remainder back together and have lights, just one less than before. As Christmas approached, the string became shorter and shorter.

I left work about noon and drove to downtown Hof, hoping to buy at least one small gift for our daughter with the very limited funds we had. Unfortunately, all the shops were already closed. I then drove the thirty or so miles to our apartment in Himmelkron, where my wife and I decided to give it one more shot at finding an open store. Knowing there would be nothing in Himmelkron, we drove the short distance to Bad Bernech. However, again all the stores were closed and it was beginning to look a lot like a not so merry Christmas.

And then my car wouldn't start. Here we were, about ten miles from home, temperature was near zero, it was already getting dark... wife and I walked to a local apartment, carrying my daughter. A friend and fellow flight worker lived there with his wife, and he took the time to get us back on the road and home.

We finally got back to our third-floor living area/refrigerator/freezer, tired, cold, with our tiny little tree and the few remaining lights trying desperately to spread a bit of Christmas cheer.

I was sitting in a chair, still in my utility uniform, despondent and far from cheerful when there was a knock on the door. I went to the door and there was our landlord. He beckoned for me to come with him, and my first thoughts were,”Oh no, what now? What else can go wrong!!?”

As I started to leave with him, he indicated that my wife and daughter were to come as well. Still having no idea what was about to happen, we went with him.

He led us downstairs to his apartment, ushered us into the living area, put our daughter with his own young son and all his toys, and invited us to partake of his family's Christmas. This from a family I had known less than a month! My German was limited, my wife spoke no German at all, the landlord and his family spoke no English, my daughter and their son had a language all their own – but somehow we communicated.

After an evening of food, drink, love and Christmas spirit, my wife, daughter and I went back upstairs to our apartment, which, for some strange reason, no longer looked so bleak, lonely and cold. Our little tree now glistened with a new brightness, and Himmelkron lived up to its name - “Heaven's Crown.”

Many Christmas Eves have passed since then, and my little girl is now mother to two and grandmother to four. I've spent the holidays since then in various parts of the world, sometimes surrounded by friends and family, sometimes getting ready for a Christmas Day flight. But of all those Christmas Eves since then, that Christmas Eve in 1962 in Himmelkron, Germany, where someone reached out and touched us will always burn the brightest in my memory.
Merry Christmas and Frohe Weinachten


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