My sister, brother and I were raised by my grandparents because my father died when he was a young man. My mother had to go to work in the kitchen of the middle school in Wissembourg. I had to help my grandfather in the fields to find food for the cows and the horses. Every year during spring, I collected the green food, the hay in summer, straw in winter for all animals at home. We had cows, pigs, chickens and rabbits. This was the beginning. When my grandparents retired, then, I helped the other farmers to earn money during the summer holidays in July and August. First, I harvested black currants, then raspberries, tobacco and then the hops. Then I harvested the fruit for the “Schnapps” and to conserve for the winter. We harvested mirabelles, plums, apples and pears. When autumn arrived, we knew that winter was at the door, we started to cut wood for the cold days. We also harvested the potatoes.
What I really remember was my friends telling me that they have a bicycle, a motorbike and even a television. I was 18 when we bought our first black and white television. But I had a very happy childhood. We helped the farmers, we had contact with others. We played football, we had fun. When I compare it with today, it is different. My childhood was totally different. The technological progress is too strong. I prefer my childhood, we were outside, we had many friends.
When I was a teenager, it was good. There was dancing every Saturday night, we went to Chez Koebel for dancing. It was the highlight of the week. We drank Tomats (Ricard, Grenadine and Water).
My grandfather bought my first car for Fr 5000 (€900). I drove a Simca 1100. After 3 years I lost the engine on the street. I was the first in my family to have a driving license.
When I was between 7 – 9 years old, we played “theatre in the forest”. During July & August, children from Paris and Strasbourg came for holidays to visit their families in my village. Sometimes we played in the streets because there were not many cars. We played theatre in the forest. We created a nice place in the forest, created a round stage and put armchairs in the ground around the stage. We created costumes and a crown of leaves. We only performed for ourselves, not for our parents or other family members. We performed fairy tales and used our imagination. It was a creative time for the village children.
Playing with the children from the big cities was not too different. But they had different games to us, we learned from each other. We created small ships with the bark from the trees and we had sailing competitions in the fountains. It was very simple, but it was fun.
Later, because it was a tradition in our village, we washed some clothes in the fountains. There were two basins, one for washing and one for rinsing. To wash, we used a wooden washing board, soap (savon de Marseilles) and a brush. Every family waited for their turn. People watched each other cleaning their clothes and we had to ensure that the fountain was clean for the next family. It was like a “show” during the week, people met each other, exchanged village gossip.
We didn’t forget the housework, cutting wood, harvesting the vegetables from the garden and the fruit from the trees. In Autumn, after school, we harvested the potatoes. In September, when I went home after school, I smelt the fermentation of the apples. A neighbour had an apple press and I smelled the fresh cider and apple juice. We drank the juice, fresh from the press. For me, it was a nice time, we didn’t have many toys, played simple games.
When we were teenagers, it was the time of “La Boume”. We organised village discos, we went dancing but at midnight, there was a curfew and we stopped. There was discipline, but we still had fun.