Bill: Summer in Germany

Figure 1.--In this picture I'm trying to force a smile as instructed but remember starting to feel embarrassed by the whole carry on. You can see the T-bar style of my sandals here and the crepe soles. Also how neatly I kept my socks.

I took a summer trip to Germany in 1968. I was 10 years old at the time. Between the ages of 10 and 14 I was in a swimming club and we did an exchange trip with a German club. Most of the German boys were older than we were but we still competed against them and they put us up with their families. We also had a race swimming across a lake up in the Alps - which I remember was freezing even though it was the height of Summer. I lived with a German family that had a boy my age. We became good friends. While there I mostly wore my school clothes. His father was an avid photographer and took lots of photograph to send back to my mum so she could see how I was doing. As a result, a lot of my surviving boyhood photographs are from this trip. Here are some of those photographs.


The other sport we had in our primary school was swimming. I liked it and was good at it. It was also how I got involved with a swim club. was always in midweek. When I joined my swimming club when I was 10 we all had the same trunks. They were bright red and made by “Speedo”. They were also very expensive and my mum made a big deal out of buying them for me. I was so proud of those trunks – they had a proper tie at the waist and no one else in my primary school had them. I had raced against (and beaten) boys older than myself in Germany in them so I saw them as “lucky”.The German club also had uniform trunks – theirs were blue and with their own club logo on them – ours just had the “Speedo” logo. The German boys also had blue tracksuits. They normally just wore the tops when they came out if the water – they were two shades of blue too. We just pulled on a jumper if we were cold. But back at primary school I was king. Some boys had swimming badges – 100 yards etc. sewn on to their trunks – but I'd never have a badge sewn on to mine (I'd swum across a lake in the Bavarian Alps!) and besides I associated sewing badges onto things with cubs (and therefore my brother!) and thought that it was “showing off”.

German Family

As I explained, we were a family with limited means. Mum was a single and there was not a lot of money without a dad in the family. The family I stayed with in Germany were quite well off as the father worked in a big engineering firm. I'm sure there were German families who were not nearly so fortunate. Maybe some will write in to HBC. [HBC note: Here language is a poblem. HBC is an-English language site and thus ourreadership is mostly restricted to Germans ho speak English. We do have, however, a section on individual Grman experiences.]

Birds Eye View

Ths is a birds eye view. I think the boy's father was trying to be artistic. The image is on the main page. I suppose it doesn't show a lot more except that you can clearly see the style of the German boy's sandals with only one strap which I thought must be very uncomfortable to wear. I always liked to do up the buckle on my sandals as firmly as possible so that they wouldn't slip off when I was running around. That's also why I liked wearing my school socks with sandals as they were fairly thick (we wore the same ones Summer and Winter) whereas if you wore thin short summer socks the sandals strap would pinch your skin if you did them up tight and ran around especially at the T - junction. The thick socks acted as a cushion. I've also noticed that we boys have similar hairstyles so that must say something about a European style. You can also notice that the terylene shorts held a crease and were long lasting. These had been my brother's before me - but were not as neat as the modern ones I got at the end of that Summer to go back to school in. You can also see that I am getting bored. We never had a camera at home so I wasn't used to all that posing. I remember too that those garden chairs of strung wire were very uncomfortable which is why we had cushions from inside but if you sat forward in them for long they would leave an imprint in the backs of your thighs. Adults didn't have that problem as you never saw men wearing shorts even in the hottest weather. Germany seemed the same as England in this then. I recall a similar thing when we used to get back into my Grandfather's car on a hot day and one by one us boys would jump up as the hot car seat burnt the backs of our thighs as we sat down. The adults would laugh thinking we were joking but it really hurt and we never learnt ..That was the one drawback of the new modern style of shorts!

German Father

The father was a real serious photographer. He was insistent on posing the photos properly which is why I got bored. They took ages to set up. Most of the photos I have were taken in their back garden - I could hear my German mates playing football which is why in all of them I am ready to take off and why his mum had to grab me for the photo with her and her son as at that point I was ready to take off. For the one on this page he insisted we put our arms round each other's shoulders - you can see how unnatural this is as I've got one foot almost off the ground and am clenching my fist in frustration.

Forced Smile

In this picture I'm trying to force a smile as instructed but remember starting to feel embarrassed by the whole carry on (figure 1). You can see the T-bar style of my sandals here and the crepe soles. Also how neatly I kept my socks. I don't know why I crossed my leg like that. I think I was getting uncomfortable in the chair. The boy was taking the photo with his father's camera and his Dad kept getting up to show him how to operate it. I remember that shot took forever but the boy's parents were taking it very seriously as they wanted to send some good pictures to my mum.

German Mother

The final picture finally has me looking happy but I well recall that this was because the boy's Mum suddenly squeezed my ribs at the point the father clicked the shutter and it tickled like anything. I don't think she did it deliberately, she was just tensing up as the camera went off but my expression is a real contrast to that in the other shots where I was bored and wanted to go and play, not just sit there for some old photos. I note that there were only two buttons on that shirt so it was worse than I thought. I also wrote above that we had similar hairstyles, which is true but his is neatly combed whereas without my mum there to chase me up I haven't bothered with a comb. I also remember that that shirt was of very tightly woven material and at some point I snagged it on a wire fence and a big ladder appeared in it which eventually became a hole so it wasn't very practical for a ten-year-old boy. Yet my school shirts lasted for ages a nd were probably a lot cheaper than these new “fashionable” garments that were coming out then.

German Boy

The German boy in the family I stayed with was older than me by about 4 years. I got on a lot more with his cousin who lived on the same housing estate and his mates, even though we couldn't speak each other's languages. Besides football - which was common to all of us. We also got up to all the sorts of things that I was used to at home in England--and which the older boy I was staying with disaproved of - so - in short we didn't get along that well ! I think it is interesting to compare German and English boys Summer clothing - although the boy here is older than me--he was 14 which seemed almost a man to me at the time. The boy played with more, who was closer to my age, often wore lederhosen as did many of his friends. (I stayed in Southern Germany.) The German boy's sandals had hard soles (wooden I think) as I rember the racket they made on the paving stones and had just one strap so he could slip them on and off when he went in and out of the house. The German boys always wore short socks as far as I recall in various colours like shown here and a variety of shorts and shirts - some of the boys in our group wore jeans in the cooler evenings when we met up but I don't recall any of the younger German boys wearing them. The boy's shorts here are similar in colour to the new ones my mum had packed for me - although mine were a lot shorter and more lightweight.

My Clothes

While in Germany I still wanted to wear my school shorts and socks, even though I was on holiday (figure 1). I also wore them fully pulled up and with garters - probably out of habit. My mum had bought me a few new items to go away with. Some new shirts and shorts as well as short socks and underwear. Except for the briefs, I hardly ever wore the new items she'd bought. I just felt more comfortable in my familiar clothes. One of the new items was the blue shirt shown here. That shirt was a compromise between me and my mum as she wanted to buy me a couple of short-sleeved stripey t-shirts which I hated when I tried one on. My mom brought me some new shorts similar in colour to the cream-coloured ones the German boy wore. Mine were a lot shorter and more lightweight. I didn't wear them much. I didn't dislike them, but wanted to wear my school shorts. I also wore my good old crepe-soled school sandals. Crepe soles were sort of spongey and bouncy which is why I always liked wearing sandals - they were very comfortable. I did wear some other clothes in German other than those shown here, including very briefly lederhosen, borrrowed from this boy's cousin who I got on with more.


I recall the German boy I stayed with wearing a nightshirt. At the time, it struck me as odd. As I say I never saw them in England at the time except on Christmas cards showing Victorian scenes! I don't know if this was only a Summer thing over there or whether it was a general fashion as I didn't see any of the other German boys in their nightwear. As I said I didn't think that much about it at the time as so much was different over there to me from what I was used to at home so I suppose that was just another thing amongst many. I know that they thought it was odd that I insisted on wearing my school shorts and socks rather than the new lightweight shorts and short socks that my Mum had bought me. As I said my pyjamas were fairly thick flannel-type material and I think Mum did toy with the idea if buying me some new ones (thinner nylon ones) to go to Germany with along with all of the other new clothes she'd bought. (I think she wanted me to represent Britain in clothing as well as at swimming!). I am glad that she allowed me to pack those pyjamas as well as allowing me to travel in my school shorts and socks as they were a link to home. If I'd have had all new clothes over there I think that I would have been really homesick. I shared the boy's bedroom (they must have put a bed for me in there) but I know that I normally went to bed earlier than him as I used to be falling asleep when we were having the evening meal.



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Created: January 17, 2004
Last updated: 11:05 PM 12/26/2004