Childhood memories – How grandpa secretly drove a car as a boy

Childhood memories

Grandpa was one who loved to share his childhood memories with all of us. He could tell such lively and embellished stories that you thought you had been there in the flesh during his experiences. And he experienced a lot in his childhood. A childhood that was marked by the events of the Second World War and the post-war period. But interestingly, grandpa’s stories rarely had anything to do with the events of the war. Well, a few incidents, which had to do with soldiers and air-raid alarms and so on, occurred now and then.ย 

But I think that because Grandpa was only three years old when the war began, he did not perceive the horrors at all and only later realized what this war meant for mankind. In addition, as a child he grew up in a relatively small village, which was apparently not of great strategic importance for the Allies.

Growing up in a strict home

Grandpa’s parents must have been pretty strict. But when Grandpa talked about what he and his buddies got up to, you can understand why his mother or father often reacted so sternly back then. Grandpa had an older brother and a younger sister whom he loved dearly. This was probably because he was 11 years older and he had already developed something like a protective instinct. His older brother must have been quite a tattletale who liked to ingratiate himself with his parents. In any case, the brother didn’t do so well in Grandpa’s childhood memories.

Sundays again and again

It was a lovely tradition that our grandparents, my mother’s parents, always came for dinner on Sundays. With a few exceptions over the years, really every Sunday. One had the feeling that this was not only especially nice for us children, no grandpa and grandma really liked to come to us and grandpa was always in a great mood. It was always very important to him that nothing came up on Sundays that would have prevented a visit with us. One reason for this could have been our richly laid table, because grandpa always liked to eat and sometimes had interesting combinations on his plate. Raisin stout with liver sausage, very unusual.

And then he always shared his childhood memories. How he had hitched his bicycle to a truck and let himself be pulled all the way to Plettenberg. At that time, trucks didn’t go that fast, but if his parents had known that, there would have been some serious words. Anyway, Plettenberg was where grandpa’s relatives lived, and when he wanted to explain the family relationships in detail, we usually switched off. Because really no one could see through that.

Grandpa was a car nut

old sport car

Grandpa loved cars – even into old age. He was enthusiastic about everything that had four wheels, but also about everything that had two wheels. The main thing was a throaty engine noise and lots of horsepower. Cars came up again and again in his childhood memories. He often told how he and his friend Gerd used to lie in wait on a winding road in the afternoons, because at 4:10 p.m. on the dot the school inspector was driving home on his motorcycle. Grandpa couldn’t get enough of the sight.

ย And the post-war period, the years of the economic miracle, that was a phase in which the subject of cars really got rolling. As a young boy, he experienced this intensively and probably also discovered his weakness for cars and two-wheelers.

Once grandpa went too far after all

One Sunday in January 1950, Grandpa went too far with his love of cars. No one knows what got into him – and the story is absolutely not meant for imitation, dear children. His parents had visitors, quite a lot of visitors in fact. The people were apparently important, because some of them already had a car, which was quite special for that time.

The guests had been received by their father and mother and, after putting away their wardrobe, they were led into the living room. The children had retired to their rooms. Only, sleep grandpa could not. The fact that there were a couple of cars parked in front of the door made him quite nervous. Had he remembered correctly that one of the guests put the car key in his coat pocket before putting it away?

A reach into the coat pocket

Grandpa opened his bedroom door a crack wide. Everything was quiet in the hallway, and the door to the living room was closed. His parents and their guests were so engrossed in their conversation that they wouldn’t notice if he… He still hesitated. Why on earth had he been so obsessed with the idea of driving one of those cars out there at that time?ย 

Then it all happened very quickly. A reach into his coat pocket, crap, empty. New try. On the third coat, he got lucky, if you can call it that. Quietly he pulled the front door into the lock behind him. The house was a bit behind, so that no one inside noticed when a car was started outside.

Out of control

As I said, it was January, and winters back then were still real winters. Roads were only poorly cleared of snow and ice. But who cares when you’re finally behind the wheel of a car, when you notice how the vehicle reacts to your step on the gas pedal, accelerates, expertly brakes again, and you take a little spin through the nighttime town like an old hand.ย 

Grandpa must have overdone it a bit, because on a lonely road outside the village what had to happen happened. He lost control of the car, which skidded and eventually came to rest on its side in the ditch. Thank God, Grandpa was able to leave the car unharmed and in full health, but he didn’t want to imagine what was in store for him now. That was more in the category of childhood memories that one would have liked to do without.

Of course everything came out


He stood there in front of a deformed heap of sheet metal. And he was freezing. After all, he was only wearing his pajamas. There was no cell phone or smartphone back then, and anyway, it probably wouldn’t have been such a good idea to call someone now. Had anyone even seen him? He could actually run back to the house, put the key back in his coat pocket, and slip into bed. That sounded like a good plan, and it actually worked.ย 

When he finally lay in bed shivering, heard the commotion outside as the guests left, heard something about a stolen car, he thought he was already off the hook. Who should get the idea that he of all people was the culprit? Whereby, somehow the idea to put the key back into the coat was quite stupid, with it he directed the suspicion actually directly on himself, after all his brother was a quite good boy who would never do something like that.

Somehow the father got him out of there

Through witness statements of attentive neighbors and the investigative successes of the police, Grandpa was found out relatively quickly. Oh man, what was going on there. In the family, in the whole village. Mother was completely distraught and was very worried. About her son, the reputation of the family and what not.ย 

But father was totally calm. That was his strength, that’s how Grandpa remembered him. Quite strict, but outwardly the family was totally important to him. And what he did back then, Grandpa had no memory of that. But somehow he got him out and out of the line of fire. Grandpa gave him credit for that, it was one of the most significant experiences of his childhood memories.

The story grandpa had suppressed for many years

As I said, Grandpa always talked a lot about his life, about the years with his mother and father and the whole family. But he didn’t mention the story about the car until quite late. He had probably somehow pushed it out of his memory. Maybe he was just embarrassed. Or he was worried that one of his grandchildren might get the idea of driving without permission. That was one of those childhood memories that you might even want to keep to yourself.

Unfortunately, at some point grandpa’s health no longer played along. The Sundays when they came to visit us became rarer, at some point the visits stopped altogether and with them the stories about his childhood memories. Today we often talk about them and recall the individual incidents. When he sat at the table and filled his sandwiches and ate them with joy. And if at some point a cue came up and grandpa took it as an opportunity to get rid of a few childhood memories.

Grandpa's childhood memories are enough for a whole book

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