This is my parents' engagement photo. Here's a little background. They met at a dance in Pennsylvania right before my Dad got drafted into the Army. Europe was ten years removed from the cultural and physical devastation of the Second World War and my Dad was slated to become part of the US Forces that occupied Germany as it rebuilt itself. Fast forward a couple of months and in 1955 my parents married and settled in Wertheim am Main in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. My parents were young and didn't have a whole lot more than each other. They lived off-base in a second floor apartment and it was in that apartment that they embarked on their new lives.
|This is the day my mother arrived in Germany.|
They were happy times overall from what I can surmise. The German family who owned the building more or less adopted them so when my oldest brother came along he had grandparents in the US but downstairs he had an Oma and an Opa.
I love hearing their stories of making their own way as strangers in a strange land and it's those stories about that apartment in Wertheim am Main that pushed me out into the world to explore it on my own.
Out of all the stories my parents tell of their early years, the one that never fails to amaze me is that their apartment had a wood stove that was both a kitchen appliance and a source of heat. "Whipping something up" in the kitchen was never really an option and cooking required a bit of planning and quite a bit of skill. Despite the fact that both of my parents like to downplay the pain and suffering of their early years, it had to have been a challenge. By the time my brother Ray entered the picture a year later, keeping a baby fed and in clean diapers with only a wood stove to work with speaks volumes about my parents' ability to make it in a tough situation. But again, to hear them tell it, it wasn't such a tough time. They were young, they were crazy about each other and they had a baby to take care of.
I grew up hearing about that apartment in Wertheim and my parents' adventures with that wood stove. I have a running fantasy of owning a mountain retreat somewhere and living off the grid while I'm there. My running fantasy has me mastering the art of cooking on a wood stove in much the way my mother learned how to do it 55 years ago.
Wood-burning cookstoves are still being made and the best ones available are made by the Elmira Stoveworks in Elmira Ontario.
These wood-burning cookstoves Victorian exteriors belie the advances built into them. They're highly efficient and clean-burning. They're also far less temperamental than the wood stove my parents had to tame in that second floor apartment in Wertheim.
My folks have a lot of photos from their early days in Baden-Württemberg but so far as I can tell, there aren't any photos of their stove. I doubt it was as nice as these Fireview models from Elmira, but having one in my someday mountain retreat will bring the whole wood stove thing full circle so far as I'm concerned. Wood stoves past and wood stoves future, it's kind of comforting to know they're still out there.