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Reminiscences of June, a Traveling Grandmother

1974 - June in London - Gottingen, Germany

June with Joan Bruce September 1974

In September of 1974, June once again traveled to London and once again stayed at the Strand Palace Hotel on the Strand.

The week in London was spent in a combination of shopping, sight seeing (Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Parliament, Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London), going to the theater and visiting the Bruce family. Stan as usual made a visit to the Crime Laboratory of the London Metropolitan Police (Scotland Yard). 

It was during this stay in London that June saw London's longest running stage play, Agatha Christie's mystery thriller, "The Mousetrap". (It had been performed continuously for 22 years on the London Stage at the time of June's visit. It is still being performed on the London stage as of 2010.) It first opened in London at the New Ambassador Theater on 25 November 1952

(Photo above right shows June and her friend Joan Bruce acting "silly" at the Bruce Home in Bexley, Kent, both with cans of beer in each hand...)

1952 was also the year that June and I were married. This is just another of the many coincidences found to be a part of June and my life together. On 25 March 1974, the performances of "The Mousetrap" were moved to the St. Martin Theater which is next door to the New Ambassador Theater. It was at the St. Martin Theater that June first saw "The Mousetrap." The performances of the "Mouserap" have continued at the St. Martin Theater to the present date. As of 10 April 2008, the number of performances of "The Mousetrap" had reached the number 23,074. The play has a surprise ending. The audience is cautioned and requested not to reveal the ending so as to give more enjoyment and pleasure to future viewers.

Note: The Lyric Arts Theater in Anoka, MN produced their version of this famous and popular stage play in January 2010. The Lyric Arts Theater was a favorite of June's in the years before Alzheimer's took over her life. June would have loved to have seen "The Mousetrap" at the Lyric Arts Theater. Although June passed away in October 2008, June was listed as a Star Supporter of this much loved theater through donations made in her behalf. My attendance at the Lyric's performance of "The Mousetrap" on 17 January 2010 was an emotional event for me! Their program noted that "The Mousetrap" was originally written as a radio play entitled "Three Blind Mice" for the 80th birthday of Queen Mary who was a fan of Agatha Christie. The radio success resulted in the later production of the stage play. It is the longest continuously running play of all time.

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Lunch Momento London Metro Police

It was on Friday 20 September 1974 that Stan linked up with the London Metropolitan Police at their crime Laboratory...the police "Murder Squad" hosted a lunch for Stan at the nearby "Cardinal" restaurant. It was there that Stan was wined and dined in addition to having good conversation.

At the end of the lunch, one of the members of the "Murder Squad" took the cork from the champagne bottle and turned it into a souvenir of Stan's visit with the squad.  He cut a slit into the top of the cork and inserted a 1 Shilling coin and then he inscribed around the top of the cork the words: "CARDINAL LONDON 20-9-74 FRIENDS"...This cork, coin and inscription has remained a valued memento of Stan's 1974 visit..

I now understand that the Shilling in the cork of a champagne bottle is a variation or by-product of an English tradition of well wishing and good memories to newly married couples.."Placing a coin in a champagne cork and giving it to the bride and groom is meant as a lasting remembrance of their wedding day. This wedding tradition is associated with the United Kingdom. The giving of coins to a newly married couple also signifies wishing them prosperity. ."

While Stan was visiting with the London Metropolitan Police, June spent this time shopping...

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The Bruce family recalls that they drove us "around Kent Lanes and went past Conan Doyle's residence at Crowborough." They also recalled that "we parked on a hill overlooking Kent countryside and had a picnic in the car." Joan also remembered that this was the time that "we looked at the Bluebells growing in a wood."  

Joan and Gord Bruce visited June at the Strand Palace one evening and were our guests for dinner at the Hotel. Afterwards we walked over the historic Tower Bridge. One could feel the bridge shake as the traffic drove across - leaving one just a little apprehensive! 

It was also during this stay in London that June dined in a revolving restaurant at the top of what was then the tallest building in Britain. The tallest structure in Britain was the G.P.O. Tower located on Maple Street in London. June was presented with a "Certificate of Orbit" that reads: "The bearer June and Stan Berg have dined at the Top of the Tower, Butlin's Revolving Restaurant, located 525 feet at the top of G.P.O. Tower, Maple Street, London, W.1." The date was Thursday 19 September 1974. While the restaurant was located at 525 feet, the total tower height was 620 feet.

53rd Annual Meeting of the German Society for Legal Medicine

(Photo below right is June in the Lobby of the Hotel zur Sonne, Gottingen Germany Sept. 1974 with one of the hotel Staff) June Berg in Gottingen Germany Hotel Sonne 

From London Heathrow airport, June flew to Hanover, Germany on Saturday September 21st via British Airways. From Hanover June went by German Rail (Deutsche Bundesbahn) to the picturesque old German University town of Gottingen. (Located near the East - West German border.) June was very impressed with the smooth ride and the punctuality of the schedule.  While in Gottingen, June stayed at the Hotel zur Sonne on Paulinerstrasse 10-12. (Hotel zur Sonne is German for Hotel in the sun.)

June was in Gottingen, Germany because of the 53rd Annual Meeting of the German Society for Legal Medicine at the University of Gottingen. (53. Jahrestagung Der Deutschen Gesellschaft Fur Rechtsmedizin.) The conference was held beginning on Tuesday September 24th and ending on Saturday September 28th 1974.

June was surprised to find out that the local host for the conference had the same last name as she did. June found out that the name Berg is a common German last name. The conference President and host was Professor Dr.  Steffen Berg who was also the director of the Institute of Forensic Medicine at Gottingen University. The Professor sent a kind letter in advance of the meeting in which he advised that he remembered  June and I from the International Congress at Rome the previous year and was pleased to meet us again in Gottingen. Before we left the conference he talked of meeting up with us again the following year (1975) in Zurich. He also indicated that an associate of his who was more accomplished  with his English would be available to assist June and Stan. Dr. Harald Kijewski also of the Institute of Forensic Medicine at Gottingen University, spoke good English and had several professional conferences with Stan during the meeting of the Society. Stan used the occasion to present Dr. Steffen Berg with copies of a book about Minneapolis by Barbara Flanagan of the Minneapolis Star. The inside cover of the book was inscribed "From the Minneapolis S. Berg to the Gottingen S. Berg."

Germany at the time of June and Stan's visit in 1974 was a physically and politically divided country. The divided Germany came about as a result of the political agreements  at the end of WWII  between the Soviets and the British and American invasion and occupation forces. Germany was split into two Germany's. East Germany under the soviet communist bloc influence and occupation and West Germany (Called the Federal Republic of Germany) under the influence and occupation of British and American forces. The Soviets were said to have at least 350,000 troops in East Germany and had the ultimate sovereignty there. While physically West Germany was twice the size of East Germany, the historic capital city of Berlin was located in East Germany. To further complicate the political realities of the day was the fact that the city of Berlin was also split into East Berlin and West Berlin with governments based in East Germany and West Germany. The West German capital city was located in Bonn, Germany until the eventual reunification later returned the capital of Germany to Berlin. The Soviets erected the famous "Berlin Wall in 1961. It was at this wall at the Brandenburg Gate that President Reagan on June 12, 1987 delivered his famous "Mr. Gorbachev Tear Down This Wall" speech.**  29 months later Gorbachev allowed the wall to be pulled down by Berliners and the Soviet Union collapsed shortly thereafter. While the two Germany's did not exchange ambassadors they did exchange "Personal Representatives." It was in 1989-1990 that reunification of Germany was accomplished..

** Deputy National Security Adviser Colin Powell advised President Reagan not to make the speech as it was too "extreme"...not a very good  bit of advise by Powell.

Gottingen is a very old historic town. It is located 63 miles south of Hanover. It lies on the east bank of the Leine River in a picturesque hilly region. It was first mentioned by Emperor Otto I in a deed dated 953. It was recorded to have received "Town Status" around the year 1200. In the early days of the town's history It was said to have been a  blossoming centre of trade that after later years of war and political battles it became a sleepy provincial town.

 (Photo below right is June on the lobby staircase at the Hotel zur Sonne, Gottingen Germany September 1974.)  June Berg in Hotel Zur Sonne, Gottingen 1974

Gottingen experienced a revival in 1734 when the University of Georgia Augusta was founded by King George II of England (from which it derived its name, Georgia Augustus). The university grew to be one of the largest academic institutions in Europe. It is said that since the founding, many renowned individuals have worked, taught or studied in Gottingen. This includes more than 40 Nobel prize winners. Currently the university has approximately 24,000 students. It is a full University with several faculties including theology, law, philosophy, agriculture, medicine, mathematics and natural science. The university was attended by the Grimm brothers, Heinrich Heine and Prince Bismarck. Famous Americans who attended the university would include Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Edward Everett, George Bancroft and John Pierpont Morgan. Benjamin Franklin was said to have visited the university in search of information for use in developing higher education in Pennsylvania.

Gottingen survived WWII without any damage to any of the historic buildings in town. (Railroad station was bombed) This was said to be as a result of an informal agreement between the German and the Allied forces that the Germans would not bomb Cambridge and Oxford if the Allies would not bomb Gottingen. Apparently this informal agreement was successful, probably in large part because the cities involved were not significant military targets.

After WWII Gottingen entered into partnerships with twin towns of Cheltenham in the UK (1951), Torun in Poland (1978) and Pau in France (1982). A close relationship is also said to exist between Gottingen  and the Lutherstadt Wittenberg in Saxony-Anhalt as well as LaPaz Centro in Nicaragua resulting in a solidarity agreement in 1989. The current population of Gottingen exceeds 122,000.

(Photo below right is June having breakfast in the Hotel zur Sonne dining room with one of staff waitresses - September 1974.) June Berg in Hotel dining room Gottingen 1974

June used the early part of the week prior to conference activities for general sight seeing and of course, shopping for the family. One of her purchases was a large stuffed toy Spider monkey that she thought one of the grandchildren would love. When I expressed concern over getting the monkey home with our already overstuffed luggage, June simply replied, "Don't worry about it, I'll take care of it". And she did. June shopped at a "New Mall" that was not quite completed with the construction work but was close to the University of Gottingen.

During the day on Wednesday September 25th June was involved in a organized walking excursion around Gottingen. When June was not attending a reception or banquet she would have dinner at a small restaurant near the Hotel. Before coming to Germany, June had no idea of the wide variety of German Schnitzel dishes available in the restaurants. (A thin cutlet fried lightly in butter.) The following "Schnitzel" menu items were noted. Jaegerschnitzel, Plate Pork Schnitzel, Wiener Schnitzel, Zigeuner Schnitzel, Schwabian Schnitzel and Chicken Schnitzel. The Hotel zur Sonne provided a continental breakfast every morning as a part of the room accommodations. The breakfast consisted of hard rolls, meat, cheese, and jam/jelly spreads, coffee or tea. June noted that each morning beautiful fresh flowers were on the dinning room tables.

On Wednesday evening September 25th,  (6:30 PM) June attended a reception given by the Mayor of Gottingen in the Old City Hall. This was proceeded by a formal printed engraved invitation.  (Empfang durch den Oberburgermeister der Stadt Gottingen im alten Rathaus.)

Early in the day on Thursday September 26th, June took part in an excursion into the beautiful Werra Valley.

Later in the day, June and San were taken by a local guide (Mr. Butler) to view the East- West German Border. June was able to observe the East German guard towers along the border. She was told that she was being observed through binoculars by the East German guards. There was a wide neutral zone or open strip of land between the East German side and the West German side. The guard towers and military presence was only on the East German side. This appeared to be an effort to keep the East German residents from leaving East Germany and going to West Germany. There appeared to be no effort and apparently no need to contain the West German residents. 

June Berg in Gottingen Germany shopping mall

(Photo below right is June in a new but unfinished shopping mall in Gottingen, Germany)

On Thursday evening September 26th, (8 PM) June listened to a concert of chamber music (Kammermusikabend) by the Koeckert Quartet in the historical "Great Hall" (Aula) of the Georg-August University of Gottingen. The featured music programs were Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Allegro vivace assai - Menuetto - Andante cantabile - Molto Allegro) and Ludwig van Beethoven (Allego - Molto Adagio - Allegretto - Finale Presto.) The quartet was composed of Rudolf Koeckert (1st violinist), Rudolf Joachim Koeckert (2nd violinist), Oskar Riedl (Viola) and Josef Merz (Violoncello). June's invitation to the chamber music was also a formal printed invitation. Because of the accent on the violin, this concert of chamber music was especially pleasurable to June. The sounds of the violin brought back pleasant memories of June's father who had played the violin. June's favorite uncle Jake was also an accomplished violinist.

During the day on Friday September 27th, June took part in a trip to Goslar.  This is a nearby historic medieval town located at the foot of the Harz mountains. The Town of Goslar  was founded in 922 and about 100 years later it became an Imperial City and one of the most important seats of power in the Holy Roman Empire. In the Middle Ages it was a center of faith with 47 Churches, Monasteries and Chapels. 

Goslar  had an enchanting Town Hall on Market Square.  The front of the Town Hall had a clock at the top. Directly under the clock was a semi-round platform with three doors opening onto the platform. Every quarter hour, half hour and on the hour the doors would open and large almost life sized figurines would come out of the door on the right side and travel around the semi circle to reenter on the door on the left. One of the figurines was a workman pushing a wheel barrow. On the hour the center door would open to also reveal animated figurines.  June photographed the clock  figurines in action. This was all accompanied by music of the bells. On the back of the photographs June had written a short note: "Goslar - Harz Town Hall. characters come out - quarter and Half hours...Delightful!!" the official description of the clock is: "The City Town Hall in the Main Square houses the Carillon Bells and at 12 O'clock figurines emerged to show the legend and history of silver mining in the town."

(Photo below right - Goslar Town Hall and clock with the animated figurines - September 1974) Goslar Town Hall Clock and figurines Sept. 1974

On Friday evening September 27th, the forensic conference ended with a banquet and a dance in the City Hall. (Festabend mit kalterm Buffet und Tanz in der Stadthalle.) This was another social affair that June attended that required a formal printed invitation. June kept a note indicating that a Lonny Frobess a noted German Singer from Munich was a part of the entertainment.

In traveling home, (Saturday September 28th) June again took the German railway (Deutsche Bundesbahn) to Hanover where she flew to Frankfurt via the German Airline Lufthansa. Another connecting Lufthansa flight took June to Chicago - O'Hare for a final connecting Northwest flight to Minneapolis. The large stuffed monkey occupied much of the luggage compartment over the seats. Thus ended a very interesting, educational and enjoyable visit to Germany.

(Gottingen guide Mr. Butler pointing to the "Halt" sign (West Germany side) at the East-West German border east of Gottingen. An open strip of land runs between the two border fences as a neutral or "buffer" zone. Only the East side contained watch towers, guards and a military presence)

                    East West German Border Sept. 1974

 

Reader's Notes: Readers are encouraged to read/review other chapter's (31 chapters) in this story of June K. Berg's life. (Reminiscences of June a Traveling Grandmother) Each chapter is intended to be a capsule view of a small segment of June's life and travels'. It is also intended to be a small segment of history from a time period of World War II and the periods both pre and post World War II. You will find the history is accurate and continues to be updated as new records and photographs become available.

June, a very humble person would never consider her life worthy of a story. To me June has been a lady for "All Seasons". A very unique, bright and highly principled Christian lady. While June like everyone, has likes and dislikes, I have never found her to be uninterested or bored with any thing that life has presented her. June was well traveled. She traveled to Europe eleven (11) times and made at least 100 trips in and around the United States. June would be included in Tom Brokaw's "The Greatest Generation."

It has taken the horror of Alzheimer's to awaken me to fully plumb the depths, the breadth and scope of June's Character, Spirit and Being. After battling Alzheimer's for almost 11 years, an exhausted June was finally called home by God on October 23rd, 2008. Her funeral notice as published in the Minneapolis Star in October 2008 can be seen on this website under the "In Memoriam" label -   Click on:    

"June K. (Rolstad) Berg - In Memoriam".