60 Years Ago Today

Friday, 15 August 1952:

I woke to the ringing of the church bells. The day looked dreary, but maybe it was too early to tell. I dressed and hurried downstairs for a breakfast of ham and eggs with Mrs. Hansen. The cheaper rates for breakfast were good till 8:30 a.m.

There had been a big dance last night and Mrs. Hansen had stayed in Weisbaden till midnight. Many LDS servicemen were disappointed cause we couldn’t go. And so were we.

Everyone lugged their bags down at 9:30 a.m. to wait for the river boat down the Rhine. In the still dreary morning I bought a pastry and looked for some fruit. I sat in a street side hotel café writing till boat time. I noticed a bicycle brigade with boys and girls touring by bicycle. I talked to one of them down by the pier, who was from Baltimore. They were from all over the states and most of them were quite young looking. They were traveling with the SITA, a group that arranges international travel experiences for students.

As I got on the big river boat I discovered there were two decks. Lots of people were piling on the boat when we got on and lots more after us. It was smooth sailing with interesting people and sights. There were three languages being spoken at our table: German, English and French.

The waiter brought in delicious looking fruit sundaes. I asked one waiter where we could wash the fruit we had brought with us. He brought us a bowl of water and a napkin. There was a full menu for dinner downstairs. Meanwhile we ate our fruit, pastries, and a candy bar from Mrs. Hansen. I spied a Wiesbaden PX box on the boat.

The boat stopped at little towns along the way to let passengers off and take on more. It seemed there were castles at regular intervals and we heard about the Rhine River legends. We got a souvenir map that showed the details of what we saw.

It was almost 3:30 p.m. and my stomach couldn’t stand it any longer. So some of us went down to the foredeck dining room to eat. Since it was between meals, we were afraid we had lost our chance to eat. However, the waiter, who was friendly and sympathetic, found us some wieners, bread, and potatoes. We also had apple soft which was an alcohol free apple drink. LO and Alice succumbed and bought the tall dishes of fruit sundaes we saw earlier.

After eating I tried again to watch the scenery and write at the same time. The kids on the SITA tour were taking the opportunity to sleep on the deck.

In Cologne, the missionaries, Andre, Helen and Margaret met us. The latter came with Andre so they could visit the P.E. school. We dashed straight to church to give a program. We were changing clothes on the bus and in the church. It was quite an experience with both guys and girls changing at the same time.

Our program was quite similar to the Frankfurt program. Yet we had a smaller and more appreciative crowd. We used their organ but our chorus was rather stale. Poor Bev was still saying “Ick” during the program.

After the meeting, we talked to several of the members. One of the members we talked to was a little blonde girl of 16. She looked much older and gave us her address since she was coming to America in about a year. The branch president told us that they had tried to get a big hall for our program, but no soap. Boxing clubs can rent the hall, but not the Mormons, even after all they have done to help the people after World War II. As usual we had a rough time getting away.

Just like in Nuremberg the first sight of our hotel was quite a shock, but it wasn’t so bad inside. We ate while waiting for the confusion to subside over who went where. Seven of us were in a dormitory upstairs and down the hall. I just took a quick look in the room before I hurried downstairs to write. I ended up talking to the missionaries until 2 a.m. At 2:30 a.m. the manager at Hotel Deutzen Hof sent me off to bed.

Dear Folks,                                                                   15 August 1952:

Today we are sailing down the Rhine. It’s cloudy today, but beautiful nonetheless. This Rhine steamer is crowded with people of all nationalities, a group of American students touring on bicycles, and a group of little boys from England. We saw the room in the Frankfurt mission home where President McKay slept.

We gave a program to a big crowd of missionaries, members and investigators in Frankfurt. It was fun doing it and I hope they enjoyed it. It is pretty hard to prepare programs en route. That one was advertised as a concert, but I’m afraid it couldn’t be classed as such. We gave one the night before in Heidelberg, and then afterwards the missionaries and servicemen took us to the snack bar and treated us to hamburgers and ice cream. I gave my speech again in Nuremberg instead of Vienna and did a better job than the first time.

Most of the cities we have visited in Germany are still very much ruined, although they have been built up a great deal since the war, but when you consider the fact that they were practically leveled, it’s really sad. They have managed to save some of the art treasures by taking them out in the country. The relics from Goethe’s house in Frankfurt were taken to twelve different places and kept till after the war. The house has been restored and the relics brought back to celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth.

In Bayreuth we were really lucky to see Parsifal. In fact, we were so lucky and it was so wonderful I could hardly believe it. In fact, I’ve been pretty lucky all along. I think I’ve seen more operas and concerts than anyone else. Rigoletto in Paris, La Traviata in Rome, Elektra in Munich, Marriage of Figaro in Salzburg, The Gypsy Baron in Innsbruck, Parsifal in Bayreuth, just to mention the operas.

Vienna was quite an experience. You’ve never seen our bus so quiet as when we entered the Russian zone. We weren’t sure what to expect and we didn’t want anything to happen to keep us from getting in the area. The Russian who checked our passports and cards was very young and kind of a smart aleck. The streets seemed deserted in the little towns we passed through. It may have just been the time of day, but the people we saw seemed very quiet and they didn’t smile or wave.

The American zone of Vienna is built up quite a bit, but practically nothing has been done in the Russian part. They really scared us about taking pictures, but we managed to get a few. There weren’t any operas or anything going on there, but we went to an American movie and had popcorn. Silly thing to do in Europe, but different. We had seen movies in all other languages.

Our meeting with the saints in Vienna was wonderful The people really appreciated having us come, and we really enjoyed meeting them. Many of them are trying to come to America, especially from the Russian part. Some, in fact, may leave all they have just to get out. Our plans are all final for the Scandinavian tour. We are supposed to give a program in Malmo, Sweden, while we are there. We will not get to Stockholm, because we will only have two days actually in Sweden.

60 Years Ago Today

Monday, 11 August 1952:

In the morning I had a little bit of a bath in cold and not so clean water. We were in the tenement section of the city. There was a dirty grocery store nearby with a man outside speaking in French that wanted me to eat a dirty plum. When I got to the bus I helped Andre unload bags. There were rolls at the bakery and a big slice of fried dough with nut butter. Next door there was a little girl scrubbing a wood floor with plaid tablecloths on the tables.

At 9:15 a.m. we met an English fellow that Bev and Ione had picked up at the Festival last night. He showed us inside the iron curtain at the Festival House. The stage was as big as the audience. I observed the props and set for the Holy Grail scene which included a round table, big pillars, and dragon from the opera Siegfried which breathed fire. Yet most of the scenery for Parsifal was done with lighting effects that the depth of the stage made possible. Bev’s friend, who was studying staging, told us about the techniques which were used during the opera.

The dressing rooms were nearby. While sitting in the orchestra pit we talked about plays in London and compared operas and singers. We tried to get permission to sit in on one of the rehearsals of Das Rheingold.

We hurried over to the American Express where everybody cashed some money. It seems that the opera had taken all of our money. Next we were back on the bus heading for Wurzburg. Along the way we took a detour that looked like a cow trail. Finally we were back on the regular road. It seemed to me that this part of Germany was drier than I expected.

We stopped to tour a Romanesque Cathedral which was one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in Europe. And it had two big altars with one on each side with such beautiful carvings. In Bamberg, I caught sight of a bus load of young people in native costumes. We snapped quick pictures of them.

Then we stopped to eat at a quaint, little restaurant off the square. That same group of young people were in front of us and they showed us on the map where they were from. They were originally from Prague, Czechoslovakia but now they live in Kassel, Germany. They had been to the Nuremberg Festival and were now on their way home. They danced at the Deutsche Museum while we were there, but we were so busy trotting around we didn’t see them.

The two lady chaperones with the group redid the head scarves and rewound the apron ties on the girls. It was very interesting to see how the big red scarves were fastened to stay on well. Their blouses were white laced with big red striped aprons and orange knee socks. The fellows wore all black and white shirts with high black boots and waist coats.

For lunch we had big pieces of wiener schnitzel and a whole big plate of salad for each one of us. We finished eating about the same time as the other group. So we had to wait while they paid their bill before we paid ours. We only had about five minutes to dash up and take a look at the cathedral. Then we all had gelati’s and pastries from a really good shop around the corner from the plaza. I just can’t resist them.

Once again we’re off to Wurzburg past an army convoy. The Schonbrun Hotel which was right in the middle of this bombed out city looked brand new. There was no lobby to speak of but a clean looking dining room. There were darling rooms with hot water, new looking furniture, soft beds, and feather ticks for a cover.

A couple of us ventured out shopping across the street from the hotel and bought a darling motorcycle toy. A cute little girl about ten years old waited on us. There was a friendly monkey in a cage and it tried to knock off my glasses.

Next was a department store which had a new kind of escalator. It was a little box affair with one part going up and one part coming down. It was constantly moving as someone stepped on the box when it came by and got off as they came to the floor.

We discovered a store which sold jam by the gram and I bought 40 pfenny’s worth for breakfast. I ran around from one store to the next searching for pocket knives. I found success in a hardware store. It was a hard decision for me. Finally, I bought a pearl handled pocket knife with 6 dealies for 12.50 marks, a large meat knife, and a gift for 21 marks. The clerks were helpful and the prices seemed reasonable. I spotted my serving prongs from Regensburg for 8 marks less. Rats! I heard later that Margaret saw her now broken Dresden figurine for 40 marks less.

Back at the hotel we practiced for our Heidelberg program. It was kinda rough as of yet but we will hope for the best. We grabbed some soup and apple cider in the hotel restaurant to go. Thereafter, we had sextet practice and it was sketchy as well.

As I wound down from the day there was nice warm water, so I washed my hair, clothes and self as best I could in a wash basin. By then it was just too late to work on my diary or write letters. So we crawled into our new soft, clean beds and relaxed for the night.

60 Years Ago Today

Sunday, 10 August 1052:

At 6 a.m. I was up in the morning and dashed down the street before church to see the making of a big parade, which was coming off during church. A VIP was there to help open St. Lawerence or St. Lorenz Cathedral for the first time since World War II. The pictures of these events were stuck in my head all day. I hurried back just in time to catch the crew going to church.

Despite being built from a bombed out building the church was clean and pleasant. We gave our program and the congregation was receptive to us. We visited with them after church and they presented us with lots of gladiolas after the program. We caravaned to a program for the army which was on our way to Byreuth. We needed to be there by 2 p.m. for another program.

Then we were off to see King Ludwig II Festival or Fespiele House which was built for Wagnerian operas and that was designed by Wagner himself. King Ludwig II greatly admired his work. Wagner’s first performance that he conducted himself was held in 1829. Directors checked with American Express and tried to get tickets for us to Parsifal. We had written in advance but were informed it was a closed performance for the workers. However, luck was with us. We were able to get about 25 tickets at $5.00 each which were made available at the last minute.

We hurriedly tried to read about the opera before we went in. The performance started at 3 p.m. and our seats were scattered throughout the huge auditorium. My seat along with some others was quite close and a little to the side. The performance was excellent probably even more so than I realized with my meager background in Wagnerian opera. The stage was huge and seemed very deep. In some scenes it was almost as if the knights were marching in from miles away. The lighting was most effective. It lasted until 9:20 p.m. with two breaks of 30 minutes each. It was over five hours long.

During these breaks we went into the huge restaurant in the back of the Festival House for refreshment. At one sitting we had an egg caviar dish which was most delicious. Many of the people were dressed formally. It was good that we probably looked better than usual considering we had just come from church that morning. Afterwards, we were somewhat spread around again in different houses or apartment building of different local people. Our place was quite nice.

Provoan ‘Covers’ Bayreuth Music Festival for Herald

(Editor’s note: This is another in a series of letters from Mrs. Afton A. Hansen, traveling through Europe with a group of Utah college students.)

Dear Friends,
You didn’t know, did you that the Daily Herald in Provo has a special reporter, covering the Wagner Music Festival in Bayreuth, Germany? Neither did I , until I discovered that many large cities of the United States have a reporter here, so why not the Herald.

Let me first tell you about Nuremberg, the city where the war criminals were tried and hung. Time has veiled the severity of the scenes, held in the room on the third floor of the Palace of Justice, and in the small yard behind the building. But the mountains of rubble throughout this city and others is a constant reminder of those terrible years. Nature’s vines and weeds will gently cover, wind and rain will partially dissolve, but those monument to man’s stupidity will last for ages.

Memories of Carnage
As we stood on the hill near the old stone wall of the city we saw the statue of Hans Sacks standing untouched in a field of rubble. An old man near us said, “I once stood here and saw those streets below us covered with the dead and the dying.” At one time 85 per cent of the city was either killed or scattered to other parts. A younger man added his story. “I came to Nuremberg from Czechoslovakia in 1946. I came with nothing—only shirts and short pants—no shoes, no stockings. I too am an escapee.” To and fro along the same paths, men are driven by physical and mental fear, danger and cruelty. How long will they take it?

Rising above the dust and rubble of common clay is man’s supreme effort toward the good and best in his nature. The music festivals weave and bind the spirituality and emotion of the past into the artistry of today. Again we see the directors of life and civilization to and fro across the stony paths—from the low to the higher in man’s alms and desires.

Wagner Festival
This Wagner Music Festival, into which the descendants of Richard Wagner put a great deal of effort, is an auspicious occasion. Good luck came our way, through the American Express Company when they announced to us upon our arrival Sunday at Bayreuth, that perhaps we could obtain tickets at ‘workers’ rates, if we so desired, for the early performance of Parsifal given for the workers union. So we paid $5 for $8 seats, the ?pest, and went toward the Festispielhaus to join in the promenade of the fine and fair, in street clothes and opera gowns. Only Americans wore makeup.

To prepare ourselves, we read the English translation of Parsifal, a sacred festival drama written by Wagner. Material for the drama was taken from the wealth of legendary lore, which circles around the mythical chalice of the Holy Grail. In lore, it is said that when Love and pity were about to die on earth, the angels brought to his world, the crystal chalice used by the Savior at the Last Supper, and also the Sacred Spear with which his side was pierced. To house and guard these precious relics, a castle was built from which the Knights journeyed forth daily to champion the weak and suffering. The story drama brings out the healing quality, both physical and spiritual of these precious objects.

“Love-Feast” Prelude
The orchestra prelude opens with the Love Feast motive, which is the commemorative feast of the Knight after the unveiling of the Grail each year when faith has been renewed.

Throughout the drama, the orchestration seemed almost more important than the words and voices. Of course, it was sung in German, which was a barrier to some of us. The graduation of one and of light and shade was so even and so effectively placed that the actors seemed to fade on and off the stage instead of walk.

All action was slow, solemn and profound. At times the only movement on the stage, with 40 to 50 actors, was the effective nod of a head or the movement of one hand, or the sustained note of a violin. During such movements, the sound of my note taking, pencil on paper, seemed too loud.
As the Knights, forty in number, knelt at the round table, each drank from a goblet, and on each face was shown the warm glow from the illuminated Holy Grail, which was on the central round table. The symbolism of spirituality received by the Knights was most effective.

The scene of humble and repentant Kundry washing the feet of Parsifal and drying them with her hair, was beautiful in grouping, action, lighting and atmospheric music.

For six hours we were held spell-bound in the enchantment of this medieval garden, with two hour- periods between acts to promenade and eat. After the first act we ate a piece of delicious peach pie—then the clear notes of a trumpet called us back to the theater. After the second act we ate Russian eggs with caviar. Sounds fancy, doesn’t it, but it was only halved hard boiled eggs decorated with fish eggs, lettuce and mayonnaise. It all added up to a memorable occasion.

During the month of August, the world is also invited to hear Tristan and Isolde, Walker, Siegfried, Meistersingers and other operas. Having seen the first performance, the Herald reporter must move on.

Afton A. Hansen