He was a dear old man and lived across the lane from us. We only really got to know him after his wife died and he would take regular walks up the farm track. He would have snacks for Swingle in his pocket and she would hurtle off if she caught scent of him and sit barking until she was fed. I was always worried that she would knock him over as he was a bit wobbly. At the foot of this post are some of the blog posts I wrote about him.
But as time went by, he got a bit better on his feet and over the years, I would stop and chat with him. When the fence fell down, he giggled and said, ‘Schlaganfall’ or stoke. He met up with some of the older ladies who lived nearby who also took and afternoon stroll and I said they were the Pensioners running club.
He stopped feeding Swingle when he ran out of his biscuits, and he was a bit more wobbly. I would give him a bottle of wine and a mince pie or Christmas cake, and he would invite me in for a tea. He had built the house himself, and although its by the road, it has a spectacular view down the Mur.
Then he had a fall and because of his blood pressure went into an old people’s home while he got better, where his family said he was happy, with the photo of his wife he used to chat to.
Then a few weeks ago, we got the deathogram. He had passed away at 92 from Corona.
To all of you who wont shield, have a vaccination and believe the lies on the internet, feeding a spurious paranoia about the bug. This man didn’t have to die, he had a few precious years left with his family. If not for the bug, he would be pottering up the lane even now. You are convicted of a selfishness that is beyond belief.
Last Christmas, I took little gifts of cake and my homemade wine around to the neighbours. One result was Mr B, who we had been on hello terms with before, suddenly thawed and now stops and chats to us all the time. Widowed a couple of years ago (his wife was on the garage roof picking cherries a few months before she went), he’s on his own but takes a daily constitutional along the lane. When it was icy I had constant fear that I’d find him fallen, as he’s a bit wobbly, but I think he goes so slowly he’s OK! Sometimes I see him dozing in the sun. He now carries a pocketful of treats for Swingle and if she sees him or I say his name, she’s off like a bullet – the tart! And I treasure this little friendship. Paggy used to slag him off all the time, but I find him a simple, honest man. I noticed the other day as the lane was thawing someone had built little canals for the water to flow away- Mr B gleefully told me he’d been playing with his walking stick!
Swingle has now trained Mr B to carry biccies for her. If we’re along the lane, she can scent he is there and rushes off barking as loud as she can. She stops and sits by him, and he drops the titbits in her mouth. Presently I catch up and we chat, and sometimes he gives me a sweet!!!!!! I took this photo secretly so I can make it into a Christmas card for him!!!
On the way back from walkies the other day, Swingle and I met Mr B by the Isopan factory, and after she had finished mugging him for biscuits, he turned to the tower and said – did you know I built that? He had apprentices under him , so he must have been a boss! What is now a brick factory, before the war was a paper factory that made special ‘Hirsch’ (deer logo) wrapping paper that was sold all over Europe, but by the nature of it, very few examples survive. The factory was ahead of its time, creating accommodation for its workers in the 1930s, and folk from all Europe worked here. Our house was the women’s house with a Kindergarten and by the Jagglerhof, another identical block housed the men (so not far ahead), and the railway station is still so named.
Mr B went on to say there is a tunnel that runs under the road from one side to the other side of the road- I wonder if that is still there? Mr B was born in the Mur house,which was close to the factory which has since been demolished, I thought because the road was widened, but he said that no one wanted to live in it as the work decreased in the factory. He remembers it flooding and his Dad having to go out in swimming trunks!
You can see the chimneys in the photo, which My B said were dynamited, as either they weren’t safe or the factory was closing. One went down right across the road, the other towards the Mur. On the edge of the factory was the Madlingwirt that is now gone. he said when he worked at the factory lunchtimes were great with a beer (unsaid) they would have chess, chat, harmonica playing. I mentioned the old Fire station that was on the corner of the Thomatal road (see picture at top, brown building) and he said he’s been in the voluntary fire brigade that was stationed there. All of the things he told me took place in the 1940s, so I guess he was too young for service in the war, but you don’t like to ask an old man his age….
He said that there was wood stored all over the place, but the first fire he remembered was when the Herrenhaus burnt – he said they all had to dash over and they only had stirrup pumps and had to rush to and from the Mur, but they must have got it out, although the building was later demolished.
I asked about when the factory burnt down. He said it happened in the winter, and they were woken in the night in the Mur house by someone banging the door and yelling Alarm! On the river side of the factory, there was a lot of larch planks stored and these had caught alight. He said there were French people working there at the time. So the fire brigade rushed over and by now they has electric pumps for the water. But it was -35c! As they pumped the water, it was freezing, and they had to fight all night, with brigades from all over the Lungau coming to help. The did manage to put the fire out by the morning and save the machinery. But Mr B said that it was so cold, their uniforms froze! He said the highlight was being brought coffee by the French to keep them going. But I think the damage done meant the factory closed. We have heard rumours that it was an accidentally on purpose fire, meaning it and the various houses could be sold off….
He bought his house and we have always wondered why it had such a big cellar floor although at the side of the road, it turns out it was the village Smithy! He rebuilt it from the cellar up in the 1960s.
I do find local oral history so fascinating and its all stuff that could disappear, Swingle and I will chat with him some more!