Holman & Buddy Buy Bikes

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By Sgt. John M. Holman, U. S. Army of Occupation

Gablingen, Germany

The Hampton Union, Thursday, September 4, 1952

[Sgt John Holman of Hampton, is presently (1952) serving with the U. S. Army in the vicinity of Augsburg, Germany. On occasions, he has written to The Hampton Union telling of his experiences there. The letter that follows is his most recent.]

Let's begin my story back in December 1951; the 31st day to be exact. It was pay day for the soldiers. Ah, pay day -- the last day of each month that every soldier anxiously awaits. As I remember it now, my pal, Stuart Halverson from Three Rivers, Michigan and I got an unusually large pay due to our overseas duty, which all soldiers serving overseas receive. We were paid at noon time, received our passes and walked out the gate. Ah, freedom at last, if only for one day! We waited patiently at the gate for an Army bus for one solid hour, but alas; no bus came. Finally in desperation, we decided to take a taxi to the nearest city of Augsburg, 8 kilometers (5 miles) away. Augsburg, by the way, has a population of approximately 220,000 people.

Now this taxi situation didn't exactly set right with Stuart and me. It cost us 10 Deutsche Marks or about $2.50 in our money for the five mile, hair-raising ride. The automobile in Germany may be very small, but what speed! Yipes! for a minute we thought it was the Indianapolis 500 mile race. Then Stu and I got to thinking seriously about this transportation problem. How could we lick it? We had to wait too long for a bus; taxis were too expensive; automobiles cost too much; so -- how about a bicycle? Sure, why not? That was our answer. Practically everyone in Germany has a bicycle, so why not two American soldiers?

After we reached Augsburg, the next thing to do was to find a bicycle shop. Hah! that was easy enough to do. There were shops galore, but to find the right shop where we could get a good one and fairly reasonable was the next question. You must realize that bicycles in Germany are quite low in price as compared to those in America because automobiles are not as plentiful. Also the bikes have small tires something compared to the English racing models we have in America; they are very easy to pedal; and have great speed.

As I said before, after reaching Augsburg, we, as good infantry soldiers (?), started out on foot, I looking at bicycles in every shop we passed. We weren't quite sure what we were looking for, but at any rate we hadn't found it yet. Stu and I had been in about five shops and the time was getting close to 1630 hours (4:30 p.m. to you civilians) and we still hadn't found the bicycle we wanted.

Arthur Leinwetter at his shop
Arthur Leinwetter at his
bicycle shop, 1952

We were now walking along Donauwortherstrasse in Oberhausen, the north side of Augsburg and we finally came to another bicycle shop. "let's go in and look around," I said to Stu. So we did. We were greeted by a friendly, warm smile from the proprietor of the shop named Arthur Leinwetter. (We didn't realize it then, but we would he seeing more of him as the months went by. and he and his family would become one of our best friends in Germany.) His wife was also in the shop with him, and she having studied English in school many years ago, understood us enough to know we wanted to purchase two bicycles. Looking around the fine display of brightly painted bikes, our eyes set settled on a beautiful model bicycle, bright green in color with chrome fenders. We were told that it was one of the finest German makes on the market today. We inquired the price and found it to be 255 marks or about $63.75. The bike was equipped with a rear tool case, front hand brakes, as well as coaster brakes on rear, bell, and a rear carrier.

(Later on, we added a generator, light, stand, lock, 3-speed shift, and other various accessories.) "We'll take two," we announced, "the same color if possible." But alas, there was only one in the shop of that particular model and color. Arthur's wife informed us that they would get another immediately. A telephone call was placed to their wholesaler and in less than 10 minutes, another bicycle of same model, color and everything, was in the shop ready for us to ride away on. We paid for the bikes in marks (we previously exchanged some of our military money for marks at the local American Express Agency. Military Payment Certificates called "Script" is money used by all military personnel in Germany).

That afternoon we rode away on our newly purchased bicycles back to camp, proud as peacocks. Our comrades in camp were full of "Ohs," "Ahs" and "Where ja get 'em?" I do believe we were the first soldiers to buy bicycles in Gablingen Kaserne, our home station. Talk about being proud of a new car in America, well, those bikes served the same purpose in Germany.

Julika, Arthur Jr., Ralph & Arthur Sr. Leinwetter
Christmas 1954, Augsburg, Germany

The next weekend, we decided to go back again to see Arthur and his wife and tell them how much we enjoyed them. Again we were greeted with the same friendliness and hospitality that we had experienced before. You know, it was surprising how much they liked us. This time they invited us to their modest flat for coffee and that wonderful Bavarian cake. It was indeed very tasty. What fun we had talking, using our few words and phrases of German which we knew, together with what Arthur's wife knew of English. They made us feel very much at home. Arthur was very anxious to learn our English, so he, too, could talk with us. (Note: Today, six months later, Arthur and his wife can carry on a very good conversation with us in English. That shows what ambition and the will to learn can do for a person.)

Let me go back a little now and tell you something about our new found friends in Germany. Arthur is 43 years old and has been in the bicycle business, selling and repairing for 23 years. He knows everything there is to know about bicycles, just as an expert auto mechanic in America would know about automobiles. Come to think of it, Arthur once told me that he also worked in an automobile repair shop in 1941, doing repairs on cars.

John & Stu on bikes
John & Stu on bikes --- The Leinwetter family

His wife, whose name is Julika (pronounced "Yulika"), is 32 years old and helps her husband in his shop when not working in their apartment and caring for their two small boys. She is the type that you would like when first meeting her, so friendly and thoughtful and always a smile. They have two wonderful children, the cutest you would want to see. Both boys, as I mentioned before, Ralph, seven years old and Arthur, Jr., five and a half, smart as a whip and typical as any American boys would be. This happy family lives on 7 Kaltenhoferstrasse in Augsburg, only a short distance from Arthur's bicycle shop on 44 Donauwortherstrasse.

Their apartment consists of combination kitchen-dining room, living room, bedroom, and bath. So "homey", There is always plenty of good German cooking such as cakes, pies, cookies etc., in the pantry, whenever one get a yearning for sweet things. Some of Julika's famous dishes are weiner schnitzel (breaded veal cutlets to you native New Englanders); Bavarian omelette (similar to a pan cake); green salat (salad); apfelkuchen (apple cake); egg noodles, and many more delectable, tasty foods. (Ask me, I have eaten many of them).

Arthur Jr. & Ralph Leinwetter '51
Many Sunday afternoons, we get a pass to go to Arthur's house for dinner. After dinner, the family, Stu and I go for a walk through Augsburg, Arthur pointing out various famous houses, churches, and the like to us, which is most interesting. One of the most fascinating landmarks of the city is the old city wall of Augsburg, running around the city. It is over 2,000 years old and was used for protection back in the days of the Holy Roman Empire! A great deal of the wall and its huge gates are still standing while parts of it have decayed and fallen into ruin throughout the centuries.

After continuing our walk through the quaint, narrow streets of the city, we glance at our watches and find it is time to start back to their home. Upon returning, we are cordially invited to partake of tea and cake, which we gladly accept. Finishing our mid-afternoon snack, we realize it is time to leave for our Kaserne (Camp). "Thank-you's" are extended to our wonderful friends for a superb afternoon, and only at our promise to return again soon, will they let us mount our bicycles for the return trip to camp.

And thus ends another Sunday afternoon, spent very enjoyably with our new-found friends from across the ocean.

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