Living Near the Netherlands Border

There were several entrances to the company’s premises. Next to the entrance Glanzstoff -Straße the houses for the Glanzstoff executive people were situated. Our appartment was in one of the red brick houses in the Birkenweg, surrounded  by a small garden. The Birkenweg was a dead end, so it  was a quiet place to live and ideally situated to the working place. There were only 200 m to the entrance of the factory area and another 300m to the laboratory. One of the advantages was that duringx noon break it was possible to go home for a quick lunch. Typically a sulphuric smell was hanging in the air caused by the manufacturing of the semi synthetic Rayon fiber. With time you got used to it, but today in our health conscious era nobody would accept this. 

The neighbours were of course  the persons with whom you worked together during the day and when you played tennis at the nearby situated company owned tennis club you met your colleagues once again. So Glanzstoff  was a big family and like in any family everybody knew almost everything about each other, which is a very particular situation. Only a small part of the management people was of Niederrhein origin. Most came from different German regions. So for my wife and myself it was easy to make first private contacts and to find friends.

After a certain start-up time in the company I had more leisure time and joined the soccer club FC Heinsberg which played in the district league B. A particularity which was new to me were the cinder soccer fields which were not only used for training but also for competition matches. These fields  were very resistant to bad weather conditions, but a sliding tackling on such a ground caused painful skin abrasions. So it was better to restrict sliding only to the rather rare moments to score a goal. I was less tense than in the past and played some good games with a number of beautiful goals. I had no talent for tennis, which I practiced later, but I was certainly gifted for soccer, which I played from my very young years. Physically not very strong, I had a good ball control and was a tricky dribbler. This was not just an advantage because soccer primarily  is a team play and it took me several years to adopt this.

But my soccer career came close to its end and so I started to play tennis at the company tennis club. Physically it was less challenging than soccer and not so risky concerning injuries. Moreover this was an opportunity to have a sports activity together with my wife. In the Glanzstoff  tennis club I used to play in the second competition team, but I never succeeded to become a good player. Later in France I participated at smaller tournaments, but usually I was out after the second round and I could relax. With my wife it was different, she was a natural tennis talent. It was not so much the technical perfection of her strokes which can be difficult for a late beginner, but the good mental stability in a competition which made her a strong player. She stayed “cool” - as you would say today - in difficult phases of a match and could so beat players which were more experienced than her. During the following years she won some smaller tournaments and was ranked number one in the clubs, where our itinerant life took us.

My wife took on the job of a secretary at the local editorial office of the daily newspaper Aachener Nachrichten. This was not exactly appropriate for her education as trilingual secretary but offered  the opportunity of being in daily contact with the local people and events. The people were open-minded  and spoke a typical dialect, the Niederrheinisch Plattdeutsch. The Rheinland is the home of the German Carnival, which is called by its passionate supporters the “fifth season”. Every year some of the lab technicians took several days off from the first top event, the Altweiberfastnacht, when women assume control over the cities and their town halls, not coming back before Ash Wednesday.

The Niederrhein region with the major cities Mönchengladbach, Duisburg  and Düsseldorf  was neighbouring the Ruhr district. Essen is one of the major cities of the Ruhrgebiet and was the place of residence of my father’s family.

At the end of the 18th century, at the time of the French revolution, Carl Friedrich Gotthilf Köppen had a shop for bookselling and book-printing at Dortmund in the Ruhr district. Edmund Köppen, born 1873, was his grandson and in 1904, at that time he was managing the coffee roasting  business of the brand Tengelmann in Heidelberg, he married  Eugenie Stellwag. They had 3 children: Grete , my father Rudolf and his younger brother Werner.  During World War II Werner died of an insidious infectious disease at the age of only 28. My grandfather and grandmother passed away in 1948 respectively 1968 and my father died in 1961. So when we lived at Oberbruch aunt Grete was the member of my paternal ancestors still alive. She had owned a grocery shop in Essen but at that time had already retired. While living in Bavaria we had only few occasions to meet her. But now we had the opportunity to see each other more regularly and my wife and I learned to appreciate Grete as a warmhearted generous person. She never married and after her mother’s death she lived alone. Grete died on January 4th 1973, 100 years after her father’s birth.