Bavaria

CHANGE IS THE ONLY CONSTANT

My life has never been dull, but I planned it that way. I believe I chose it from the spirit world before I was born. It’s been very challenging with lowdown times, along with plenty of excitement, and I’ve been grateful for all of it—especially for all the folks who chose to be a friend or an acquaintance. Some stayed a long time; others came and went. I am a kind person and attracted kind people, for the most part. I believe that’s the way life works—you get back what you put out. But that doesn’t mean any of us have a smooth ride—think back to the histories of family and friends…

I got my worldly view starting at age four and living in Bavaria, Germany right after the disastrous WWII. I had been blessed with a Southern Virginia loving family upbringing, I was totally accepting experiencing a strange, harsh-sounding language and bombed out buildings and learned to speak German fluently. My stepfather was a stern Army officer and I towed the line, for the most part. Another highlight were my teen years in the 1950’s living in exotic Tripoli, Libya, a country of desert sand, camels and a lovely seashore once trod by Romans centuries ago. I can’t say I understand the full implication of the history or philosophy in those ancient lands, but I can understand and relate to their humanity, which makes me more accepting of the upheavals that area has been suffering—with no end in sight.

My sister Tupper and I in Murnau, Bavaria, Germany

My sister Tupper and I in Murnau, Bavaria, Germany

These reminisces are probably typical as we age and are faced with health, financial and social issues. Since I’m a writer and knew that was my destiny from the age of ten, I tend to mull over my life’s ups and downs. Perhaps a reader will glean some self-wisdom from my words.

Viki Williams in 1956--the family Ford in from of our villa on Via de Gaspari, Garden City, Tripoli.

Viki Williams in 1956–the family Ford in front of our villa on Via de Gaspari, Garden City, Tripoli.

I’ve had some typical experiences—a marriage, the birth of a girl and a boy (both fabulous, loving humans), and a divorce. I chose to pursue a career in journalism, writing for both weekly and daily Los Angeles newspapers, before I wrote several books (Melaynie’s Masquerade – a 16th century historical fiction and several other books based on some true experiences – all available on Amazon:) As an author and a longtime newspaper editor, I felt the next best step was editing books. During the past 15 years, I have guided many wonderful authors, some of them first timers, through a wide variety of books.

Although I’ve generally been very healthy, I was challenged in the past few years with mobility issues that were getting worse, but I thought 2016 was going to be a turnaround year since I was getting a new hip on my right side. Instead, I’ve been dealing with various complications that sometimes come with surgeries, like losing my appetite for several months. The latest involved flashing lights and dizziness. Between various tests and doctors’ opinions (it wasn’t a stroke, as I first thought), I’m slowly moving forward, hopes high. Thank the Lord that we can’t see the future, for the most part. And we’re responsible for our attitudes. I’ve always been an optimist, thankfully, and that attitude has always suited me.

Besides an inner knowing that it will all work out, eventually, it seems I won’t be needing to go on a diet or take drugs for high blood pressure in the near future. Since my operation in January, I have dropped 45 pounds. It’s been awhile since I’ve been this slender. And my blood pressure went down about 30 points. The future looks bright.

POSTWAR GERMANY – 1947-49

World War II and its aftermath offers a never-ending supply of stories and is especially interesting to those of us old enough to have been affected in some way. Since I was born during that war and spent a few years of my early life in Germany, I’ll always be fascinated with the subject.  The “Monuments Men” movie starring George Clooney, about an Allied effort to save historic buildings and works of art during the war and after, will be released in February and I will be sure to see it.

 My first vivid memories date back to postwar Germany. Memory is an odd thing; as you age, you start to wonder if the memory is truly yours or what you were told by a parent or family member. Does it make any difference?

Mom, new dad and me - Munich train station

Mom, new dad and me – Munich train station

The 1940s was a tumultuous and tragic time.  Before I got to know my US Infantry officer father, he shipped off to Italy to fight. At the end of the war, my family dynamics quickly changed: my father had met an Italian woman he wanted to marry in Trieste, and my mother had met and married a Corps of Engineers officer.

The shift in couples was accomplished shortly after the war, and my mother and I joined her new husband in Murnau, Germany. I don’t remember our voyage, but I do recall the long train trip from Bremerhaven to Munich because a sliver of coal flew into my eye while I sat at the window. I was only four years old but I do remember the bombed-out city of Munich. Several still-standing single walls from apartment buildings continued to hold  feather comforters the occupants had hung out the window to air out before the building was destroyed. Some enterprising Germans were living in makeshift homes put together from destroyed buildings.

The victorious American Army  took over the best German housing. My dad was stationed in Murnau, south of Munich, which had been and still is a vacation town bordering the Bavarian Alps. Physically undamaged by the war, it was a picturesque town; most homes had window boxes filled with red geraniums in the summer, and there were plenty of places to ski in the winter. We were only 18 miles from Garmisch and the Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany, once the site for a winter Olympics in the 1930s.

Young and in love, my parents started married life in an idyllic situation. Although my dad was only a captain, we lived in an 18-room house on a large piece of property where my dad planted tomatoes in the spring. We even had a maid and a houseboy, an older couple who were kind and hard working. The American major next door had two children and their “borrowed” home had a swimming pool, which we all used in warm weather! Army people keep in touch and my parents reconnected with them years later when both couples had retired in Texas.

Before my sister was born in the Munich Army hospital, my folks had a terrific time: besides photos as evidence, my dad’s German secretary illustrated a picture book diary for them before they left Germany in 1949. They traveled to postwar Paris and saved a booklet from the somewhat scandalous Folies Bergere. Americans weren’t used to seeing total nudity on stage! Skiing at a local hillside and on the nearby Zugspitze was a regular family activity. There were also plenty of parties–we’d won the war, after all!  I remember the Chinese theme party illustrated in the secretary’s book, which I now have. Perhaps it was Chinese New Year.

I don’t think there was an Army school for me since I recall that my mother taught me first grade from the mail order Calvert School in Baltimore, Maryland. It was so advanced that I skipped second grade when we got back to the States. Another advantage for me was learning German, an easy accomplishment when young and surrounded by Germans. I had made friends with two German youngsters, Seeki and Uti, whose names I remember but not the proper spelling. When my folks needed a translator, I was their first choice!

I have photos of myself in ski boots and a ski outfit holding my wooden skis. My mother told me later I was a fairly decent skier but I didn’t know how to stop myself after coming down a hill.  In the photo below, I can see my mother liked to use bows for my hair and I even had a purse! I wonder how typically American my outfit was. I have no idea what this concrete structure is–maybe it’s some kind of bicycle stand. Apparently, I’m standing on a rug but it might be an addition especially for the photo, which was taken by my dad.

Posing in Murnau

Posing in Murnau

 

 

RECOLLECTIONS OF GERMANY IN THE 1940s by Victoria Giraud

Most military  brats of my generation probably put in some time living in Germany at some point in their father’s career.

My first vivid memories date back to that time. Memory is an odd thing, as you age, you start to wonder if the memory is truly yours or what you were told by a parent or family member. Does it make any difference?

The 1940s was a tumultuous and tragic time during and after World War II.  After my Infantry officer father had married Mom and shipped off to Italy to fight, we lived with her parents in southern Virginia. At the end of the war, my family dynamics changed: my father had met an Italian woman he wanted to marry in Trieste, and my mother had met another dashing officer, who had lost his first wife to diabetic shock during the war.

The shift in couples was accomplished shortly after the war, and my new dad, who was already in Germany, had us literally shipped and then railroaded to southern Germany.   I don’t remember the voyage, but I do recall the long train trip from Bremerhaven to Munich because a sliver of coal flew into my eye while I sat at the window. I was only four years old but I do remember the bombed-out city of Munich. A still-standing single wall from an apartment building might continue to hold a feather bedspread the occupant had hung out the window to air out before the building was destroyed.

Since the American Army had been victorious, we took over the best housing in Murnau, which had been and still is a vacation town bordering the Bavarian Alps. Physically undamaged by the war, it was a picturesque town; most homes had window boxes filled with red geraniums in the summer, and there were plenty of places to ski in the winter. We were only 18 miles from Garmisch and the Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany, once the site for a winter Olympics in the 1930s.

Young and in love, my parents started married life in an idyllic situation. Although my dad was only a captain, we lived in an 18-room house on a large piece of property where my dad planted tomatoes in the spring. We even had a maid and a houseboy, an older couple who were kind and hard working. The American major next door had two children and their “borrowed” home had a swimming pool, which we all used in warm weather! Army people keep in touch and my parents reconnected with them years later when both couples had retired in Texas.

Before my sister was born in the Munich Army hospital, my folks had a terrific time: besides photos as evidence, my dad’s German secretary illustrated a picture book diary for them before they left Germany in 1949. They traveled to postwar Paris and saved a booklet from the somewhat scandalous Folies Bergere. Americans weren’t used to seeing total nudity on stage! Skiing at a local hillside and on the nearby Zugspitze was a regular family activity. There were also plenty of parties–we’d won the war, after all!  I remember the Chinese theme party illustrated in the secretary’s book, which I now have. Perhaps it was Chinese New Year.

Perhaps there wasn’t an Army school for me since my mother taught me first grade from the mail order Calvert School in Baltimore, MD. It was so advanced that I skipped second grade when we got back to the States. Another advantage for me was learning German, an easy accomplishment when young and surrounded by Germans. I had made friends with two German youngsters, Seeki and Uti, whose names I remember but not the proper spelling. When my folks needed a translator, it was me they turned to!

I have photos of myself in ski boots and a ski outfit holding my wooden skis. My mother told me later I was a fairly decent skier but I didn’t know how to stop myself after coming down a hill. The prize-wining photo of me, probably at age 5 or 6, was taken by my dad for a photo contest. I was in my mother’s dress, hat and shoes and even stockings. Where was Hollywood?

 

 

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