Age 6 – Junking In Germany
Being an Army Brat means having to put up with much change. We were on the move again in September 1972. This time we were leaving the States to live in Germany and would remain there for 2 years. I remember the plane ride over because I threw up all over the fur coat of the woman sitting next to me. I recall the stewardess cleaning up my mess with coffee grinds. Those smells take me back every time.
I should be embarrassed to share this next story, but it is too good a memory to leave behind. While living abroad, we soon came to learn about “Junking.” Junking is a pleasant term for garbage picking, although in actuality it wasn’t garbage at all. In those days, German’s did not give their items away. They did not hand down to family or friends who may have needed them, and they did not believe in consignment or thrift shops. For some reason, they thought it was embarrassing, so they threw these no longer wanted items to the curb instead. It didn’t matter what the condition. My mom had a pregnant friend who acquired an entire baby’s room this way, practically brand new! What was one person’s junk, was another’s treasure, literally. My family, along with our friends, would choose the ritzy parts of town and go “shopping.”
Our Junking friends were another family that we had known for a long time. This Army family moved around with us. I recently asked my dad why that was and he said that he and “Uncle Rick” were in a specialized field with so few others, that they were able to pretty much determine where they did and did not want to be transferred.
This family owned a two-toned blue & white VW bus and once a month we would all crowd into it to see what commodities we could obtain. My parents practically furnished their apartment in this fashion. Some of the gems we picked up were a dresser, child’s desk, kitchen table and an entire set of China, among many other things. The locals thought we were nuts. It was the best time ever; I can still remember the feeling of giddiness and that pure unadulterated thrill I got before every trip. We didn’t have much money, so it was entertainment in the purest sense of the word.
There were also these rummage sales that the Army would conduct periodically. My mother was a classically trained pianist, but didn’t own a piano because we couldn’t afford one. An Army NCO club had closed down and they were selling all of the contents. My father had attended and purchased an upright piano for my mother. The problem was that someone was stabbed to death on that piano and it was covered from top to bottom, inside and out, with dried up blood and alcohol. The keys were stuck together and everything; you can just imagine what horrific shape it was in. My dad took it apart and painstakingly cleaned every piece of that upright. It was a time-consuming project, but he got it to work. It was worth it, because up until that time, I had never heard my mother play. She played beautifully; I couldn’t believe I didn’t know this about her. Unfortunately, after we moved again, I didn’t have the pleasure of hearing my mom play for another 7 years. By the way, Dad bought that piano for $25. Before we moved back to the States, he sold it for $500. Talk about a good investment!