Back in the Day…

I wonder sometimes if anyone else has the same interest in old family stories that I do. And by that I mean, people my age. Because my friends always seem shocked to learn that I enjoy hearing the “old fogeys” talk about way back when.

I know lots of stories from my great-grandparents’ times, and their parents as well. For me it’s all fascinating. I mean, how often can one say they know strange little stories from that far back. Now to be fair, in my family, great-grandparents were all born in around 1920’s, my grandparents all around mid 1940’s. Which I know makes my family extremely young. My great-great-grandparents were all born round about early 1900’s, to the last one around 1910 or so I think. Which always engenders shock from my friends, because a lot of my friends’ grandparents were born during/just before the Great Depression, a few just after. So I had some of my great-grandparents until I was about 13/14. Actually, 1 great-grandma is still with us. Which I’m the only one of my friends who can say that. But it does mean that with great-great-aunts and great-grandma’s, I heard lots of fun stories.

A cousin of mine got married back when I was 12, so it was kind of a “family reunion” of sorts as well. Whole extended family got together, well over 100+ people. So I got to hear stories from my great-grandma’s, great-great-aunt and my grandma too. My family has a fascinatingly crazy history too, from the stories. I know what Scottish clan we hail from, way way back thanks to this. I also know what my grandma’s grandmother’s maiden-name was: Koehler as Americanized, her family was from Germany. Sadly, no one knows where in Germany they came from, no one can remember, because the woman was adopted as a like 2-year-old, and no one ever bothered to tell her where her family came from (Which is a pet peeve of mine, because everyone here in Germany is excited to learn I’m German, but I have no clue where my family comes from). But while we were at the wedding, I got to hear loads of old family stories.

  • Part of our family might be illegitimate. Not a huge deal for today, but for great-grandmas, great-great-aunt and so it is. See, couple had 2 or 3 kids before they got married, then 2 or 3 afterwards. Our branch of the family is either the last illegitimate kid, or the 1st legitimate one, and no one can remember. So, old-timey scandal for my family. 🙂
  • Then we had a whole other couple somewhere along the line that their families hated each other. Some kind of business feud going. So son from family A and daughter from family B went and eloped. Huge scandal with that I guess, and both families disowned them for a while. Family story is, once they had a kid everyone kind of just dropped it and tried to get along from that point on.
  • Supposedly my great-great-great-grandparents on one side ran a hotel, where my great-great-grandma worked as a kid. One story goes that the first story was a restaurant, laundry in the back, lounge/bar all that kind of stuff. Second story was the hotel. Rumor is that third story was a brothel. And I’ve seen photos of the great-great-great-grandparents. They look like they belong in the Chicago Mob, just….oh about 50-60ish years too soon.

So my family has really interesting stuff happen. It’s just so much fun to hear all these old stories. And, since I hear them, I know lots of little things about my great-grandparents and even some things about their parents that none of my friends have a clue about. I even know stuff about my grandparents that my friends don’t know about theirs. Obviously not everything, but I do learn a lot from listening.

One of the first things I’m doing when I get back home is going to my grandma’s old company’s “Old Fogey’s Barbecue”. Not really a barbecue, but a huge get together. They all used to work together way back, when my mom was a kid. They do this every September, just get together, chat, have a great time and relax and enjoy the (hopefully) good weather on a Saturday. My sister finds it boring, as do my cousins and my aunt. My mom loves to go though, and I find it fascinating. I get to hear all sorts of old stories, hang out, get free food (always a bonus), and just enjoy the day. Plus, it’s always fun to hear about how other people went through life.

This time though, I’ll actually get to speak German. One of the old guys hails from southern Germany, right on the Austrian border. So his family speaks Sueddeutsch mixed with Oesterreichisch Deutsch (southern German with Austrian German). It’s fascinating to hear. Strange too. Especially since in school they only teach us Hochdeutsch, which is academic German that they use at the colleges. But…he speaks German, so I have someone to chat to in German for at least part of the afternoon. This makes me very happy, because I’m going to miss speaking German. Plus, I can hear all sorts of fun stories about growing up in Germany way back, and family stories from the region too.

So all in all, my “strange” fascination with old stories is good. I know lots more than quite a few friends. But, it’s also just neat to know where your family comes from. Which I definitely learn a lot of.


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I'm a bibliophile who loves collecting books. Definite cat person. Amateur historian and major geek, who loves all things Tolkien and Star Trek. I'm also fluent in German.

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