11 Bachstelzenweg, Dahlem,
Berlin, Germany. 26 May 1946
In my new billet as you can see from the address at the top of the page. A Bachstelzen is a bird, something the shape and size of the brown thrasher and with a lovely song – I have one of them up in my room in porcelain, which you shall see someday. Our place is about three quarters of an acre in extent, about square and is on the corner of Bitterstrasse, just half a block from the Admiral Doughnuts home, from which came my September Morn. The house stands in the corner of the property and the rest is devoted to lawn, flower and vegetable gardens (mainly the latter, this being Berlin), and a wealth of fruit trees and gooseberry and currant bushes, all full of ripening fruit. Part of the garden is a lush strawberry bed. A good wire fence completely encircles the yard so Ajax and Schnappsie, the little daschshund, will be forced to stay home (I hope!). The house is the customary stucco and red tile roof job, internally in excellent condition and externally a bit seedy. As you come into the small but gaily papered front hall you find to your right a little breakfast room, the furniture of which is of general Rathskeller type, brightly painted in Bavarian style with flower patterns. The kitchen is down stairs.
At your left is a large double room, about 18’ x 36’, and from this you enter the very architecturally decorated dining room, 16’ x 25’, one side of which opens into a sun parlor about 15’ x 20’ in size. The living room opens onto an uncovered terrace overlooking the garden. The whole place is bright and attractive, sumptuously furnished and carpeted in genuine Orientals, – really quite a place. Upstairs are three good bedrooms. Mine opens onto a sun deck over the sun parlor below and I’m blessed with a lavatory of my own. Truly a setting for delightful living – and I hope I’ll be allowed to occupy it for the rest of my stay in Berlin. We are about half way between the office and Im Dol, so it is just a pleasant 8 or 10 minute walk from the office or Harnack Haus. Needless to say we have our own mess.
My billet mates are John Watson, lawyer, about 50 I should say, and Charlie Baldwin, who was Cornell 1912 but looks as though he should have graduated ten years earlier – due, I understand, to bad health and a former injury. He is an economist. They are fine chaps and already we have a good first name acquaintance. I’m typing in the breakfast room and as I look out of the window I see the shade trees along Bachstelzenweg, – honey locusts in full bloom.
But the pay-off here is our housekeeper, Erika, a very young 34 with her 70 year old husband, Hans. He is a retired business man of some standing who has worked and travelled over much of the world, and speaks English perfectly and with hardly any accent. Erika knows very little English. I am told that she used to be the leading fashionable modiste in Berlin. She is vivacious to the extreme, not pretty but very interesting and with a lovely figure which she just displayed to me as she stopped to chat, clad in a zazzy, bare midriff sun suit, on her way out to take a sun bath on the lawn. She is very much of a natural clown and perfectly charming, and I must shortly adjust myself to the quaint custom of kissing her good morning which is indulged in by my billet mates. Incidentally, it is completely a first name household, Americans and Germans alike. Our Sunday morning breakfast was quite a repast. [Written on the side of the page: “We all five eat together.”] Then we have a young girl who cooks for us and a houseman and gardener. There is the setting in which your Dad spends his spare time and home life. I believe I shall frequent Harnack Haus less than in the past. The old crowd there is rather broken up and the zest of the first months in that atmosphere has rather worn off. A swell dance last night, however.
I moved last Friday, and Thursday evening Frau Pieper and I were quietly spending our last night at the billet which has for her so many memories and for me fewer but just as delightful, when, at 12:30 Gen Sullivan called up from In der Halde 7 to announce that she, Harold, Paul Powers and a crazy Frenchman were on their way over so please have dinner ready as they hadn’t eaten since noon. ——- The party broke up at 4:30 A.M., a fitting last night at Im Dol 63-B. Frau Pieper has gone over with George Vadney, and, for the week, has Ajax with her.
For to-morrow I have to be out of here at 5:45 A.M. to catch the early morning plane for Munich, to investigate an unpleasant emergency personnel matter, as a result of which two of our civilians will have to be shipped back to the States. I may fly back on Memorial Day, or, if I can work it, I may spend that day in a visit to Garmish Partenkirche in southern Bavaria, on the edge of the Tyrolian Alps. But more of that later.
Spring in Berlin continues to be delightful, more beautiful than I have known it anywhere in the States. The days are warm and sunny, with soft breeze, the nights are cool, often necessitating two Army blankets to keep one warm. Most of the flowering trees and shrubs, of which there are legion, are past their prime, but the luxuriant foliage does much to mask the ruins of the destroyed homes of Dahlem, resulting in a much more pleasant living environment, for the signs of devastation can’t but have a psychological effect on one. Most of us have shed our heavy blouses and are in summer uniform of wool shirts and heavy trousers. However, I’ve written to Edith Vadney asking her to include my steamer trunk, filled with my civilian clothes, among her baggage, so I hope to have something lighter to wear before the summer is too far advanced. The thing that bothers me most these days is having to wear my garrison cap, which creates a very moist circle on my balding head.
Just one letter from you from 49 Curie Avenue – mebbe there will be another waiting for me when I return from Munich. But I rest content for I feel that no news is good news and I know how busy you all are. But I hope you can get some one in to care for the youngsters on June 6, so you two can take $10 of what funds you have of mine and go out for a bit of an anniversary fling. And I hope, too, that it is the happiest anniversary yet. Much much love,