In 1957 I started at school. We still started school in April and all the children, who was born from the 1st April the year before until 31st March that year were called to start school. We have been checked by a doctor and a psychologist if we were ready for school. Some of the children had to visit a pre-school, because they were not, but not me. There were no usual pre-schools at that time, even no kindergartens in Germany. Kindergartens opened some years later, but there were only a few, mostly caring about children without father, because he missed his life by war. Soon it became more usual for women to go to work. All hands were needed to built the new Germany, though more Kindergartens opened.
I remember that I have got two girl friends when I started at school, still living at Hasenhecke and prefered to be with them and not anymore with my brothers. At that time there were living a lot of refugees from the Eastern parts of Germany and Poland, maybe also the West of Russia in our area. The kids were starting with us at school – in the same classes. A lot of them had problems with the German language. The teacher in Writing and Reading were taking a lot of time to help them. I started well with the alphabet, but when we started reading I did not very well from the beginning. Also we read of course only the letters we have learned and that did we slowly because the pupils from the East. In maths it was the other way around. We had to draw 0 + 0 = 00, but I wrote 1 + 1 = 2. I was not allowed to do that and it took a while for me to accept it. There were one more unusual thing with me. When we were outside for rest or had a kind of gymnastic lesson a teacher saw that I was still running and took the ladder like a four-year old – one foot behind the other and not the next foot further than the first one. From that moment I have got extra exercise to do it the right way.
I enjoyed this summer holiday with my new girl friends and was very happy. Sometimes during that summer my parents were going with us by tram to another suburb of Kassel, to look how our new residence, a townhouse, was getting ready to move in. We could not really wait for it, but had to do it, of course. In September we were moving in. The special thing with these houses was, that they only could be bought by men who have been soldiers during WWII and got hurt. A lot of them were without one or two legs, they usually had artificial legs, but one was using a wheelchair. The houses were not very big – around 100 square meters for living. For a family of six we had to share bedrooms. It was usual at that time. Anyway it was like heaven compared to the situation before. We had own gardens in front of and behind the house, although they were very small. There were also more families with four children. In 1957 there were only two rows of these houses, a year later there were two more rows. Me and my little brother had to share a room and in the first beginning my two oldest brothers shared the other little bedroom. Soon my grandmother Auguste was moving in and used one of the small bedrooms. Therefore my father build a room under the roof for two of my brothers. This grandmother was always living with one of her children. She had borne twelve or more, but some died very young (two, when they only were a few weeks old and another one or two when they were around one year old – both pairs were twins). One of my aunts died 1943 together with my grandfather, when they tried to help people out from a cellar of a bombed house on fire. An uncle did emigrate to Brazil during WWII and I have never seen him, but we have got coffee parcels every Christmas as long as he was doing well, that means until Christmas 1952 because in March 1953 there were the worst aridity ever seen so far in Brazil. Also my other grandfather died during WWII, but I do not know how, because my mother did not speak about him. Her mother was not living with him anymore when WWII started.
Because our family was moving 1st September 1957, we children started at new schools in autumn that year. My eldest brother started already in class five and had got a place in a new opened school with mixed classes – that was totally unusual at that time from class five. Only the first four classes you have had your lessons together, both girls and boys. The school my eldest brother were visiting was also of another special kind, because the pupils went there for the whole day. In the morning they had the usual lessons, but always two lessons of the same subject in a row – called a “block”, than a rest and the next. They had three such blocks everyday. Afterwards there were a long rest during which the children could eat a warm meal even the parents had to pay for it. In the afternoon the pupils had a “block” for homework. The teachers were in the classes and the pupils had the possibility to ask for help if they had some problems with the homework. By the way there were opportunities, too, for learning during the long rest – after the meal, e. g. to learn to play the flute and other courses. Pupils could get shuttlecock rackets and balls and play outside etc. The school were in a very nice new building, easy to find the rooms and there were only two times six classrooms (class five to ten). That was the only school of this kind in our city for all the years I lived there.
My two-year older brother and I were starting at the nearest primary school. It was a hard time for us. My brother never fit in there. He did not feel well there and therefore he was flinging himself on the floor and screaming. Though my father was looking for another school for him and he found one after a while. My brother became very happy at the new place. It was very unusual at that time to visit a school not in your area. It has been a hard work for my father to get the allowance to let my brother go on this other school.
For me it was a hell at the start, too. I really love to learn – I did at that time and I do now. So I kan say I loved to go to school, but some schools I loved more than others – and some teachers, of course, too. Our teacher was already 62, when I started. That was old at that time. She was friendly and the pupils loved her, but I had a hell in the beginning, because in that class all pupils already could write the whole alphabet. They wrote sentences and they did not use block letters anymore, like I was used to. We still were using slate pen tablets in my first school. Here I was allowed to do so in the first beginning, but soon I had to do like the others and use books and pencils. I was very unhappy every time when we had to write dictates, that means our teacher dictated (were reading) a text and we had to write it down. All mistakes we made were shown and counted. In my case my teacher draw a line across my tablet because I could not write other than in block letters, what she did not accept. As I told you before, I could not write all the letters either. I have got the worst mark there was for weeks and I was crying in the classroom. I do not really remember, when that stopped, but I think my father were going to school and told the teacher about the other school. I remember that my father were helping me a lot with my homework, especially when we had to memorize religious texts. Anyway there were some subjects I loved like music, needle work and learning about the suburb, sometimes by excursions. The last-named were the best times at primary school.
I made friends easily at primary school and even in our area. We did not have a playground around, though I used the one further away, were also class mates were living. Our area was very diverse. Only around 100 m away there were some houses, still partly destroyed by the war. People were living on the first floor, the other floor was not for use, because of the roof. It still was not maintained. 100 m away from these houses one could find very nice bungalows. Our garden was very small like the others in the area. That was too small for me. I was mostly in the streets around skipping or similar. I walked a lot. Most times, the summers were really warm. Many children wore sandals. My parents could not buy sandals for us and I was not allowed to walk with bare feet, though my mother made sandals of cardboard. I could not use them for longer than a day, because the cardboard broke. In addition to that, I was ashamed about them.
When we had needlework at school, we had to go to another school house. On the way to that school house I saw a playground. I was going there after school from time to time. Once I did see Shetland ponies on a grassland close to this playground. The upcoming day I told my little brother, one of my girlfriends and the boyfriend of my brother. I think my brother and his friend did not attend school at that time. I have taken the other kids with me and we forgot date and time, when we were there. By the way almost my little brother was on his little tricycle. Our parents were looking for us, but could not find us in the surroundings. When we came back my parents were very angry at me. I think it was at this occasion my father beat me with a wooden stick. It still hurts today, when I am thinking about it. That day I swore to myself, if I ever should have children, I will never beat them.
Those years there was also snow during wintertime. At the point, where our subbarb endet to the North, there was a park for sledging. We only had the wooden ones and we were sometimes going two or three in a row. Unfortunately I never could be there for a longer while. The cold hurt my hands and feet much faster than them of my brothers or friends. By the way, the tram was going to that place, but we had to walk. We did not have money for the tram. Depending on weather conditions one way took up to one hour.
You maybe have seen an old American movie from the 50s or 60s and someone had skates. Some children were happy to have such, other had just the wheels to fasten under shoes. My brothers and I had neither nor, but one of my girlfriends. I asked her for trying them on. She was afraid her parents would not allow it, though she only let me try out one of them. That was not a good idea. I fell as soon as I lift my foot without skates. I tried to hold me somewhere, but did crash her glasses. Luckily it was only one of them and it was not broken. We had to tell her parents, they apologised. Guess, a whole quarry did fell from my shoulders!
Back to school. Because of my surgery as a baby girl, I was not allowed to jump. Therefore I only could participate partly in sports. I did hate that and was very happy, when we got a female teacher, who knew better. By the way I loved bollsports: Badminton, volleyball etc. I also was interested in playing soccer, but there was no opportunity, but for a few weeks. My two year older brother had no friends and was offered to go to a special group after school, where they once a week even were playing football. He was not interested in football, but other activities. Finally I was allowed to follow him to that group. I could not continue there from grade 5, but more about it later.
I became good at school. My difficulties at start did disappear and I was really good in spelling after a while, but I was even better in maths. We did get testimonies twice a year, but in first grade, we only did get one – at the end of first grade. Also these testimonies was only in written, how we were at school, not how good we were in the subjects. My teacher wrote, that I did not really open me. I think, that should not have surprised her, the way I was treated, when I started there.
There is a last think I should name from primary school. I had a neigbour boy, living next door and we usual were making the short way to school together. Unfortunately, he was often late and during weeks I was waiting for him. At school I was punished like him, which made me stopping waiting for him, of course. The punishment was, that we had to be in a corner of the room for a part of the lesson and had to look at the wall. I did not helped, that I explained for the teacher, that I only had been waiting for the my neigbour boy.
The teacher should have retired after our grade 3, but she was allowed to teach us also in grade 4, though we did not have to get used to a new teacher during the last year. We had to choose, which school we will continue with in grade 4. There were three options of secondary schools, depending on how good a child is in learning. It was up to the parents and the child, which school they will choose. Sometimes the teacher has to write a recommendation, depending on how many pupils are looking for a class. For some schools the pupils had to make an examination before starting there. It happens, that pupils were not allowed to start at schools for the result of their examination.
During the last year at the primary school I was a member of the “Mickey Mouse” club. We were some girls, who started that and it was just to have a name for our group. It was “Mickey Mouse”, because it was popular. We also made our own emblem.
While I at home had to help a lot, most with cleaning the house, but also to go shopping groceries, my mother did not help me with my exercises from school. I remember, that we soon should learn to knit at school. When I visited a classmate, her mother just tried to learn her a little, because she told me, it is so hard to do and it is good to know it, when we will start at school. She did fetch more knitting needles and tought me as well. Afterwards (or maybe it was another time) this classmate and me learned, who to dance Rock’n Roll. I liked it from the first moment. Later at the birthday party of that girl, we were dancing it again. By the way we were only girls at that party.
By the way we had to knit hats at school and they became all different, even they had to be made by the same numbers of meshs. We had different thick garn, though the size became very different. Some could use it as a hat, but I had a very thin garn (it had been cheap) and it became very small.