The German trousers my dad bought back could stand by themselves
Family Fortunes: The leather became so hard the trousers stood waiting for you overnight
A HB beer stein from Munich sits on my desk now as one of the last reminders of that trip
In September 1951, a few short months after I was born, my father and his brother undertook a whirlwind European trip. What prompted it, I don’t know, other than perhaps a desire to see the recent theatre of war at first hand.
They flew from Nutts Corner in Belfast to RAF Northolt, from whence another flight brought them to Ostende. Travelling in style in a Citroën Traction Avant, they took in Liege, Brussels and Aachen before transferring to a river steamer and thence to Heidelberg, Munich, Lucerne and Zurich. From Zurich, a train journey returned them to Ostende for the homeward journey.
Three postcards were sent to my mother in rural north Derry during the 11-day trip, and in the family album there are photographs of beer halls, river boats, border guards, smiling frauleins and many ruined buildings. Souvenirs were duly brought home, the most memorable of which were the “German trousers” as they were famously titled in my mother’s diary of the time – a pair of boy’s lederhosen, mercifully without the traditional bib and braces and in which my older brother was duly dispatched to school.
The trousers were indestructible and must have been a godsend with their ability to survive the rough and tumble of the rural schoolyard. However, personally surviving that space was difficult at the best of times and turning up in exotic clothing didn’t help.
Paddy Conway, our local cobbler, who already serviced our shoes and schoolbags, had no difficulty with running repairs – so much so that they were handed down to me when my turn came for primary school some five years later. By this stage the leather had become rock hard, the trousers sculpted and shiny. When removed at night, they had the ability to stand in the upright position ready to be stepped into on the following morning.
How much longer they remained in service, I have forgotten. A HB beer stein from Munich sits on my desk now as one of the last reminders of that trip, along with the photographs and postcards.
However, I have a mental image of those Teutonic trousers still standing to attention and refusing to decompose deep below the now verdant slopes of what used to be our town “dump” to which they were probably consigned some 55 years ago after almost 10 years of outstanding service.