Sunday, December 07, 2014

Oscar And His Wonderful Santas

In 1991 we received our first Santa from my husband's father, Oscar.  He had always been a hard worker and as  retirement approached he began spending time on his hobby of carving.  We were exceptionally delighted with our first Santa, which soon became an annual tradition and we would look forward to what each new Santa would look like.
Santa 1991

Each Santa had a unique personality reflected in the carving.  After we moved to our new neighborhood one of our new close friend neighbors let us know that she really wanted to purchase a Santa and our father-in-law obliged her with a present as well and she was overjoyed.
Santa 1994
Other than selling a few (always originals) through a local gift shop for a couple of years, the Santas remain family gifts to my husband and his siblings.  We love each and every one of our Santas as they are all hand made and unique. 
Oscar and his siblings
My father in law was born in Switzerland many decades ago and had his first experience in America when he was two years old.  Here he is the baby of the family. His family moved to New Jersey for a few years for his father's work.  He returned to Switzerland and while talking about his life, described himself as quite the hellion as a youth.  His stories of temper tantrums in stores, putting laundry soap on uphill train tracks (culprits never discovered) and setting high grass on fire  (which spread quickly into trees, forcing his and his friend's fathers into fighting a large fire -- identity discovered and he well whipped) supports the idea that in his youth he did make life traumatic for others. 

In Switzerland at that time and maybe now, a student spent nine years in school -- five in primary and four in secondary school and from there would either go to college or to a trade school. He did not know what he wanted to do.  At that time he reports that his father was not very happy with him.  "My brothers and sisters were all very bright and successful.  Me, I would not study. I would do just the work I needed to be promoted to the next level. I wouldn't put out any more effort than I had to."
The street in Baden where the family hardware store was located
His parents owned a hardware store in Baden, but he just couldn't see himself continuing in that business.  He tried out being an apprentice Confectioner with his uncle who was a chef in a hotel, but after a few months he knew that was not his area either.  He went to work for his dad for awhile and then World War II came and he got called up for basic training and then spent two years in the army.
He matured some during his military time and found a mentor, also a friend of his brother, who was very intelligent. This friend encouraged Oscar to "open his eyes" and make something of himself. 
Anti-aircraft guns to protect Switzerland
When the War was over, Oscar decided and told his father that he wanted to take an apprenticeship for being on a farm.  His father was happy that he wanted to do anything and agreed.  He did the one year apprentice ship and from there went to agricultural college. School was very competitive and demanding.  During the two years the students took major exams every three or four months.  "If you failed an exam you got one more chance. If you failed twice you were gone."  He was motivated, worked hard and passed every exam.  Out of about 700 students he graduated in the top 10.  His dad was especially pleased and Oscar could see how proud he was of him. 

Oscar decided that he wanted to move to Canada and work a farm because there were many Swiss farmers in Canada especially in Quebec and Ontario.  He did this for several years working awhile for a farmer and then he would move on further west. He had a lot of wonderful experiences and learned a lot.  He had a motor cycle and made his way across Canada.  Then he moved to the US and ended up in California.  He stayed at a Kolping House in Los Angeles.  A Kolping house was a religious organization for men that provided boarding houses away from home.  It was international and had places in a lot of countries.  There still is a Kolping House in LA although it appears to be a different location than Oscar lived at. 
Oscar had a friend who encouraged him to go back to school for mechanical engineering. He got a trucking job and repaired and built trucks and trailers.  At the same time he went to LA City College and took drafting and other courses.  He learned how to weld, read blueprints and to draft and do design work.  
While in Los Angeles, he met his wife and after they were married,  not wanting to raise children in LA,  moved to the mid-West where her family had roots.  Oscar did several jobs and ended up working most of his years designing refrigeration units for industry (designing them for an ice rink and a desalinization plant are ones he is especially proud of).  He retired a few years ago.  Then he finally had time to pursue his hobby that  we have all benefited from over the years.  
Santa 1995

Santa 1996
 Santa 1997
 Santa 1998
 Santa 2002
Santa 2004
 In 1993 we received his carving of Saint Nikolaus von Flue (with an umlaut). He was a Swiss saint who lived from 1417 to 1487.  According to Oscar and Wikipedia, "Saint Nicholas of Flüe was a Swiss hermit and ascetic who is the patron saint of Switzerland" (see link above). According to Wikipedia "He is sometimes invoked as 'Brother Klaus.' A farmer, military leader, member of the assembly, councillor, judge and mystic, he was respected as a man of complete moral integrity, Brother Klaus's counsel to the Diet of Stans (1481) helped to prevent war between the Swiss cantons."
We love our Santas and our Swiss saint, but most of all we love Oscar, the man whose creativity and skill brought them to life in our lives. 

Friday, December 05, 2014

Air Force Appreciation and Humor -- Back In The Day

In January of 1966 our family left Moses Lake, Washington (Larsen Air Force Base) where we had lived for four years and moved to Biloxi, Mississippi (Keesler Air Force Base) where Dad attended Communications-Electronics course in advance of our move to Germany.  He had made a job change and the learning curve was pretty steep.  He moved into our vacation trailer for most of the day and evening where he did little but study. He had to work really hard to succeed but he finally made it to the end of the 36 week course.  When I came across this, I initially thought it was his certificate of completion.  I love the fact that Mom got her own!  It is apparent that this was a pretty steep learning curve for all of the men who were sent there -- at least if the tenor of this recognition that was probably given to all spouses is any indication.  It's nice to know that the command recognized that whole families were being uprooted for the 3/5ths of a year long course and that the enormous hours of study were wearing on all family members.  

It probably isn't easy to read in this blog format, so I'll copy the wording below.  She received this note of appreciation on the 23rd of September 1966, Dad graduated  on the 28th and on the 29th we headed off for a month long journey to Oregon.  We drove east and then up the East Coast.  We visited USS Alabama in Mobile, Stone Mountain in Georgia, Smokey Mountain National Park in Tennessee, Washington DC (apparently we visited the White House but I don't remember that),  We then spent the next couple of weeks visiting friends and relatives and crossed the entire US finally getting to Portland, Oregon to Grandma Tangen's house.  Mom and us kids stayed there (enrolled again in school finally) and Dad headed off to find a place for us to live in Germany.  We moved to Wiesbaden Germany in January of 1967.
Mom's recognition ~
"Let it be known that Bernadine Weber has assisted her husband through academic anguish, fulfilled the duties of homemaking, quieted the fledglings outbursts, graciously attended to her social obligations, suffered through the New Developments Trip, AGOS Tour, Beer and Shrimp, and untold other demanding tactical and strategic situations, and through her material and moral support, has contributed to the well being of her family and husband during his attendance of the Communications Electronics Staff Officer Course." 

It is so very true that not only does a soldier, airman or sailor serve, but their families serve as well.  Usually without much recognition.  Mom was a pretty amazing woman -- putting  up with all those moves and making lemonade out of all those life lemons that came along.   As John Milton stated, "They also serve who stand and wait."  Or in mom's case, wait, move, and wait some more.