Coo coo clocks cure childhood wounds
By Carolyn Barbre
She is a petite 4 feet 8 inches tall with a robust smile and a thick German accent. A candidate for Mrs. Claus, Barbara Newman, surrounded by her beloved coo coo clocks, has brought a bit of Bavaria to her Lindsay home.
But the 80-year-old widow and mother of two sons still recalls a painful childhood and the trying years of World War II before she discovered “how precious are American people. Newman describes herself as a refugee from East Germany. She said times were difficult in Germany after World War I or The Great War, 1914-1918, the world she was born into in 1923. At ahe 7, her mother died. Her brother drowned in a lake. She described her grandfather as “a cowboy, working the field.” She said her grandmother “milked 70-80 cows a day, by hand.” But things were better than they would become after her grandparents passed away.
“My father remarried and brought a mean woman into the house.” Newman said her stepmother kept her our of school to help care for the four children that were born to her father and stepmother. “My attendace at school was poor, but my teacher was very interested in me and wanted me to go to college. My step-mother said no, she needed me.” Newman said the memories still cause pain. “My blood runs cold top to bottom of my body,” she said, just thinking about the injustice of it. then her father rented out the house while the family and several other relatives took up residance in a single room.
“So when i was 21 i left home.” it was 1943 and World War II was well underway. Newman had wanted to be a kindergarten teacher. Her second choice was to attend prenursing school, but she was ruled to short although at that time she was all of 4 feet 11 inches tall. “I only weighted 96 punds, but i was so strong I could do everything,” she said. She found work in the kitchen of a orphanage on the border of Germany, Czechoslovakia and Poland where she stayed untill 1945.
“Then the Russian Army came in. It was horrible, horrible. We were the first ones- the children had to be evacuated. We had to go on foot to the train station.” She said they were caring for children from ages 2 to 14 adn were supposed to have a truck for transport, but the head of state who ordered the truck, kept it for himself and his family. “Help was in short supply. All the men and women who were physically fit were taken for the war effort.”. The train took them across Silesia, Germany, to the border. “We got to the boreder town at midnight, packed into the train like sardines, children walking on top of adults. In fact, on child a 7-year-old, fell out of the train, but they were able to get him.
In Austria the children were put into anoother orphanage while their caretakers were divided, going inot different homes. “I was a cook for the infants of the East Block nations. The German State took care of babies while their moms worked.” Newman said then the Americans came the mothers took their babies. The Austrians no longer wanted the German people around. “So we were kicked out agian, loaded in a truck to Germany, over the border and just turned loose.”
“Finally I got to Munich. Where I was told I had to go in camp. I refused, got on a train on Saturday afternoon and toward evening went to the city of Budweis in Bavaria.”But there was no room in the refugee home in Budweis. She found lodging with a family for a week and then found work as a cook adn nanny where she stayed until she got married in 1951. She was 28. Her jusband worked as a housekeeper in a hospital. He was also a gardener.
“Of course they didn’t want married couples on the premises,” Newman said. The couple found work at the estate of a healthy man and stayed there untill 1954, during which time their two sons were born. But life in Germany was difficult, especially for anyone who had left during the war and returned.
The ones who stayed resented us. they said they survived hell.” However, her and husband’s brother adn gone to America and written to see if they wanted to join him in Lindsay Calif.
The young family managed to get papers and got on a military tansport for a 20-hour night from Munich to New York. They didn’t speak any English, but go thorugh customs and stayed overnight in New York “in a beautiful hotel.”They boarded a train on Firday aftenoon with only $10 to their name. They were not scheduled to arrive in Tulare until Monday afternoon.
“We changed trains i Sacramento and a gentleman got us some sandwiches. I said, how precious are American people. Then a lady took the baby who was fussing so I could sleep. It was aslo precious. I had never experienced any help like that.”
Reinhard, the 2-year-old, “picked up some American dialogue and the best thig he said was Coca Cola so everybody gave him Coca Cola.”
Barbara said they lived in Strathmore for awhile where her husband found work at Stark Packing House for the first month. She said he worked for awhile at the former Springville Hospital and eventually got a job as a groundsman for the Porterville School District where he stayed until retirement. He passed away in 1980.
She went to work as a housekeeper for the Holden family until five years ago. “We still keep in touch,” she said.
Barbara Newman is very proud that both of her sons served in the Untied States armed forces. Reinhard spent three years in the Navy and then worked 16 years at Lindsay Ripe Olive.
“It broke his heart when they closed,” she said. Walter served eight years in the Army, about three and a half of them in Germany on the East German border, and another 18 years in the Army Reserve. Today Reinhard takes care of his mom and Walter was Yosemite where he works as a prep cook during the season. “He loves it,” Barbara said.
One of the coo coo clocks came to life, not only with the little bird coming out, but also several figures moving about, including a wooden figure of a young man in lederhosen trying to climb up to the blonde maiden in the chalet window. Barbara said she bought that one for Reinhard at a Bavarian festibal to cheer him up after the olive plant shut down. She had been back to Germany several times, but only to her home town.
“As a child I didn’t have anything, not a dollar, notheing.” The coo coo clocks help her laugh despite those dark times.