The Germania Club

The Germania Club

Germania Club, Pembroke — the German Heart of the Upper Ottawa Valley

The Germania Club, Pembroke, was founded in response to a very real need. Canada as a whole and the Ottawa Valley, in particular, were welcoming immigrants in large numbers during the 1950s.

Among these were many Germany-speaking people, both from Germany proper as well as from other eastern European countries where large German-speaking populations had been uprooted as a result of the Second World War. There was a desire for a place where they could converse and socialize in their native tongue as a respite from their daily struggle to learn the English language and integrate into the unfamiliar Canadian culture.

In January 1955, a meeting organized by recent German immigrants took place at the Union Hall Pembroke (Miller Street) and resulted in the decision to form a social club, which would serve the needs of German-speaking ethnic groups. This meeting was chaired by Martin Bauernschmitt, and a board of directors with Mr. Bauernschmitt as president was elected with the mandate to officially establish an organization.

The Germania Club Pembroke had been born!

The formation of the club was also welcomed by local people of German descent, who saw it as a means to maintain and further the already established German cultural heritage in the area.

In its early years, the club held its functions in rented facilities: first in the Sunset Hall (now the Red Bargain Barn), and later in the Pembroke Legion Hall, The Armoury, and Thee Place. Ever popular with club members and the population at large were the many dances sponsored by the club, i.e. New Year’s, Mardi Gras, and Oktoberfest. Club members enjoyed picnics at Lake Dore, card and chess games, target shooting, and table tennis. A library stocked with many German books was added.

Maintaining and furthering the German cultural heritage was then, and continues to be, a major goal of the club. In the past, deserving students of the German language were sponsored by the club, and language classes were held at a local public school for children of club members. For a time in the early 2000s, language classes were held at the club, giving descendants of German immigrants a possibility to rediscover their heritage through knowledge of the language. The club continues to explore possibilities for such classes.

In 1978, members expressed a desire to obtain their own club premises. With the help of hard-working, dedicated volunteers, the job of remodelling and renovating of a purchased building was soon brought to a successful conclusion. In the spring of 1979, the official opening of the Germania Club — Multicultural Centre on Pembroke Street West took place, with the generous assistance by the Ontario Ministry of Culture and Recreation’s Wintario Grant. As in previous years, the club offered many social events, i.e., Fasching (Mardi Gras) dances, Oktoberfests, and other get-togethers.

In 1993, a combination of factors, including the requirement for major improvements to the premises and the overtures of a willing buyer, resulted in the sale of the building. The club then purchased an industrial site and building at 15 Bennett Street, which has been renovated to become the present hall. The building not only houses the main hall with a large dance floor and cathedral ceiling, but also an upstairs club room, office, boardroom and library, and storage area.

In August 1997, the official opening of the new premises took place. Since then, the hall has gained a reputation as an excellent venue for weddings, banquets, and other special occasions.

The club itself continues to provide events which take recent and not-so-recent immigrants back to their roots, as well as provide native Canadians with German roots with the opportunity to experience their heritage, and to give the entire community a glimpse into the rich German contribution to Canada’s multicultural society.

Events which highlight German culture and traditions include the annual Oktoberfest, the Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market billed as “A Taste of Christmas in Germany”), and a Christmas party for members and their families which includes readings and carol singing in both the German and English language as well as traditional German goodies as refreshments.

Now, in 2009, the club has revived Karneval celebrations (commonly known as Mardi Gras in many parts of the world) with the goal of again bringing yet another aspect of German culture to the Ottawa Valley.

The club also supports other German initiatives in the community, such as the annual ecumenical German Christmas worship service at a local church, and also contributes to local charities.

While members going back to the early decades of the club’s existence are still prominent in its membership of approximately 150, some of its staunchest supporters today come from the descendants of the approximately 12,000 immigrants from German-speaking parts of Europe who were among the pioneers who opened up the Ottawa Valley for the logging industry in the 1800s and established the German presence here. Hereby virtue of choices made by their ancestors’ generations ago, they value the opportunity afforded by the club to nurture their heritage as they work alongside those who themselves made the choice to make Canada their home.

From its start as a modest social club, the Germania Club Pembroke has evolved to a well-known gathering place of the people of the Upper Ottawa Valley and looks forward to serving the community for many years to come.

1960 – Impressions of a New Immigrant

1960 – Impressions of a New Immigrant

1960 – Impressions of a New Immigrant

by Alfred Beck

Inspired by my childhood friend, Willie Walker, I decided to emigrate to Canada in 1960, only six weeks after marrying my wife, Inge, who arrived here one year later.

During my first year in Pembroke, I roomed and boarded with Willie and his wife, Gisela (although they never charged me a cent) and they also took me along to Germania Club dances, where they both volunteered.

One month after my arrival, I found work in my trade as a machinist. Wages were low — $1.50 an hour — but somehow I made do. Perhaps it’s worth mentioning that after my wife’s arrival, our weekly grocery bill was $18, which included a carton of cigarettes.

Being raised in a city with a population of approximately 300,000, where some bars closed when the sun began rising over the rooftops, Pembroke presented many challenges to a 25-year-old man.

I was fortunate in having good English skills (I could read English newspapers), however, as an immigrant one is shy and prefers to communicate in one’s mother tongue, in my case, German.

What then appeared strange to me was, that numerous local people whose grandparents had come to Canada in the 1800s and who spoke flawless German, were reluctant to do so in public.

This was part of my culture shock. Yet there were many other strange impressions.

There was the jungle of hydro and telephone lines strung between poles with both hydro and telephone wires attached plus three transformers, and further down a “No Parking” sign and an advertisement poster. Sometimes there was even a mailbox attached to the same pole. Where I came from, all such wires were buried underground.

The distances between settlements and towns impressed me immensely. By comparison with distances in Germany, on a stretch from Pembroke to Mattawa there would likely be eight or ten small towns, instead of just three.

Most impressive were the Ontario liquor laws of the day. Until the early 1970s it was unthinkable to see wine and spirit bottles in an LCBO store, let alone even thinking of sitting in a street cafe nursing a glass of wine or beer in open public view.

To buy wine and spirits required the purchase of an annual liquor licence at $2. At the LCBO store, there were long stand-up desks with charts on which the brands of wine and spirits were listed with a number attached. On one of the numerous pre-printed writing pads, one recorded the number of one’s desired beverage plus the unit price, not forgetting one’s name, address, and phone number.

Herta Ebrecht and Ralf
Hahn got into the spirit of the season at a Karneval dance.

Now, armoured with that small order form torn off the pad, money in hand, one approached the cashier, who took one’s money and handed that order sheet to another clerk, who in turn disappeared into the stockroom from which he brought one’s order inside a tightly-wrapped brown paper bag. No one was allowed to see any wine or spirit bottle displayed beforehand, as if the viewing of a bottle, full or empty, was dangerous to one’s health.

Purchasing beer at the Beer Store, one followed the same procedures, except that one received the beer case with the brand name visible.

Stranger yet were gender segregations at hotels, bars, and taverns. These locales bore illuminated signs over their entrances: either “Men’s” or “Ladies and Escorts.” No male without a female companion was allowed to be seated in the “Ladies and Escorts” section.

At social functions, like the then bi-weekly Germania Club dances at the Legion Hall, the organizers had to secure a paid policeman in full regalia who positioned himself near the entrance all night as a chaperone.

Any advertising of alcoholic beverages was totally banned in Ontario. The only advertisements visible to Ontario residents were at Niagara Falls, where the neon signs of all major breweries illuminated the sky day and night from their rooftop mounts atop highrises in Buffalo across the river.

Following the regulations under The Lord’s Day Act, on Sundays no recreational activities were allowed, eg. soccer, baseball, hockey, or football etc. All cinemas and theatres remained closed; hotels, bars, and taverns had to keep their doors shut, and only “unlicensed” restaurants were allowed to open Sundays. This made for a lot of coffee drinking on Sundays for most singles.

The ladies got into the competition in the tug’o’war, right. At the extreme left is Annie Eggert. We don’t know the two in the middle, and at the right is Anni Trautrim Peter.

The ladies got into the competition in the tug’o’war, right. At the extreme left is Annie Eggert. We don’t know the two in the middle, and at the right is Anni Trautrim Peter.

For the city slicker that I was before coming to Pembroke, there were many challenges and adjustments. Yet nothing has since drawn me back to big city lifestyles. However, during occasional visits to my son in Toronto, the urge to go fine dining or venturing into a jazz club has not totally disappeared.

But, back in the Ottawa Valley, instead of the many big city attractions, I have embraced the beauty of Ontario’s great outdoors with which the Pembroke area is so blessed. My acquired passions include hunting and fishing, and I enjoy volunteering my time for the Germania Club Pembroke, the Pembroke Outdoor Sportsman’s Club, and the Ontario Federation of Anglers & Hunters.

I also find time for looking after my several tanks of tropical fish, my cactus collection, and my flower beds, as well as writing a bi-weekly column on outdoor issues for the Pembroke Observer. Obviously, I managed to make the transition from city slicker to small-town resident. I have been very content living in my small house just outside Pembroke, which I shared with my wife, Inge, who died much too soon a few years ago. Together we raised our wonderful son, Harald, who I am expecting to be celebrating with us tonight along with my good friends, the Walkers.

When Getting There was Half the Fun

When Getting There was Half the Fun

When Getting There was Half the Fun

by Marie Zettler

The Germania Club of Pembroke played an important part in my formative years, and continues to do so. I’m a fourth-generation Canadian of German descent. We were proud Canadians and loyal British subjects, singing “God Save the Queen” (or King, whichever was the case at the time) and “The Maple Leaf Forever” with the best of them. However, my parents, especially my father, were adamant that we should honour and preserve our German heritage to the best of our ability. This was sometimes a challenge in the post-war Canadian climate, although made easier because we lived on the west side of Highway 41 at Rankin, in an area populated at that time almost entirely by people who shared our heritage. Furthermore, our British-heritage neighbours were too level-headed and fair-minded to let something that was happening half a world away destroy relationships that had spanned generations. My ancestors were part of a wave of immigration from Germany which started in the late 1850s, when Renfrew County asked the Canadian government for more immigrants. As a result, about 12,000 German immigrants came to the Upper Ottawa Valley within the next 30 years. Today about 20 per cent of Renfrew County’s people are descendants of these settlers, with smaller concentrations in other communities on both sides of the Ottawa River. Until the ’40s, German was spoken in most of the homes of these people, and worship services in German communities were conducted mainly in the German language. However, by about 1950 this was starting to wane. Post-war sentiments in the country rubbed off, especially on the younger folks, who sensed that it was no longer “cool” to be German. My parents were never into “cool,” and told us repeatedly that a language was a very light burden to carry and you never know when you would need it. Admittedly, while our German vocabulary was still pretty good, our grammar had taken a serious beating over four generations. However, we were still very well able to interact and communicate with the next big wave of German immigration: that which began about 1951. Our parents’ interest in the culture prompted them to seek out new arrivals and lend whatever support they could: in terms of rides to church for people who didn’t yet own cars, invitations to Sunday and Christmas dinners and even whole weekends for folks who didn’t have extended families; job search assistance, and in general lots of little things that today would fall under the heading, “networking.” It was natural that, when the word got around that a German club had been formed in Pembroke, our family would join. My parents, William and Olga Reiche, were not charter members; nor were they ever in the executive, as were some of the other Canadians of German descent. Robert Eggert, with his wife, Anna, and Werner Schutt, with his wife, Dora, come to mind. Other “old” Canadians involved in the club in the early days were the Bob Verch, John Gould, and Emil Scheuneman families, to name just a few. We missed few club events, including the dances that were held every second Saturday. For my father, the club provided an affirmation for so much of what he was about, something that he to his sorrow was  missing among so many of his Canadian friends and neighbours. I was 12 when the club was formed, and the connections we formed through it broadened my horizons immensely. Fast forward to 1958. One of our new friends told us a friend of his would like to come to Canada, but he needed a job and a place to stay until he got established. We really didn’t need a hired hand on our farm, but characteristically my father said “yes,” and in May of that year a young fellow named Bernhard Zettler showed up at our place. Shortly afterward, Papa enthusiastically connected him with the Pembroke Germania Club. However, in his willingness to help, Papa hadn’t factored in Cupid. Fifteen-year-old girls weren’t supposed to be thinking along those lines, at least not HIS daughters. My folks were quite relieved when Bernhard moved to Pembroke and got a job on construction. However, Cupid did not go away, and Bernhard would come to visit every Saturday evening. On dance nights, we would all go there. In the first place, my parents wanted to go, and in the second place, you couldn’t let a now 16-year-old girl out unchaperoned, could you? Like the good fellow he was, Bernhard offered to supply the transportation. His first vehicle was a Volkswagen pickup truck. What it economized in length with its flat nose it expended in width. The cab must have been designed for a very large driver. When Bernhard, who at 5 foot 8 weighed about 140 pounds wringing wet, sat behind the wheel, there was still about a foot of the long bench seat vacant on his left. So, while my parents sat on his right, where passengers were supposed to sit, I sat between him and the driver door. The fact that I had to operate the headlight dimmer switch in the floor, which was too far away for Bernhard to reach when I was sitting there, and even the clutch when he had to shift gears, was a small price to pay. We very much wanted to be together alone, but since this wasn’t possible, together with my parents on the other end of the bench seat was a good second-best. Had seatbelts been law then, we would have been sunk. For that matter, if there hadn’t been a Germania dance, Bernhard and I would have played a lot of chess at the kitchen table on Saturday nights. We were married in 1963, and the rest is history. We have kept up our club membership over the years, although we were less involved here during the years we were raising our own children. But in 1997, when the beautiful new hall was begging for creative ways to use it, I was part of a group of members kicking around the idea of a Christkindlmarkt, or German Christmas market. I volunteered for the committee for the first one, held in 1998, and have been on the committee for each one that has been held the last weekend of November since then. It has become a true celebration — not only of Christmas, but of team spirit and of the German heritage. I am also in my second year on the club’s executive. As I carry out various volunteer duties, I not only feel a tremendous sense of fulfillment on my own behalf, but think of how happy my father would be to see how the club has evolved with our Oktoberfests and Christkindlmarkts, our German classes, and our occasional singing group. And so, Papa, one of the toasts I drink as we celebrate the club’s 50th anniversary will be for you, and for all the others who began this work which I am now privileged to carry on. Ein Prosit!

Germania Club 1955-2005

Germania Club 1955-2005

Recollections of the Germania Club 1955-2005

by Martha Kodrzynski

Recollections of the Germania Club 1955-2005

by Martha Kodrzynski

My husband, Rudi, and I met at Zion Lutheran Church after a German church service in August 1951, two weeks after he arrived in Canada as a landed immigrant from Germany. Following its founding, the Germania Club held dances at Sunset Hall on Highway 17 west of Pembroke. They always had live music, and that is where Rudi and I learned to dance together. The general public sort of disrespected this hall and called it the “Monkey Ranch.” It was, however, large enough to accommodate the German immigrants and their Canadian friends of German descent. As attendance grew, it became necessary to rent the Pembroke Legion Hall and Thee Place. When we married in 1956, the club presented us with a beautiful table lamp. The base was several shades of violet, and the shade had silver stars all over. After many years, we founded the Germania Singers. Founding members were Manfred and Eva Kirschling, Rose Schaefer, Inge Beck, Gerda Gangl, Christa Reitlingshoefer, Margaret Kiendl, and Rudi and I. Members came and went, but we stayed together for about 25 years, expressing our joy in song at the club’s annual Christmas party. In later years we sang on TV for the Kiwanis Easter Seal telethon, and at the waterfront in summertime, where we were accompanied by Marie Zettler on the accordion. We also sang at senior citizens’ homes under the direction of, and accompanied by Horst Thuemen and later by Joe Calverly. Because of lack of members, for the last two years we sing only at the German “Weihnachtsfeier” (Christmas celebration.) In recent years the high points for us are the Oktoberfest and Christkindlmarkt. We enjoy working and celebrating with all the folks who are members and with their friends. With them we have spent many hours of hard work made lighter by many hands, and hours of Gemuetlichkeit. Rudi has never been bored since his retirement 10 years ago, because there is always lots of volunteer work to do at the hall. Our first event in the new hall was our “Weihnachtsfeier” in 1996. The walls had only drywall on them, but the large pillars were ready enough, so Gerda Gangl, Rudi, and I decorated a Christmas tree and wrapped tinsel around the pillars. It was a very humble setting, sort of like the first Christmas. Immediately after the Feier was over, we had to remove all the decorations, so that on Monday morning Albert Dermann could get on with the construction. This was an opportunity for the impatient club members to see how the work was evolving. Chris Thuemen was the architect, and Albert Dermann was the chief carpenter, to whom we are all indebted. He had some paid and some volunteer help, and we were all disappointed that Hans Hagenah, who died unexpectedly while construction was underway, was not there to see the new hall when it was completed. Fritz Hoffman hand-crafted and installed the railing on the balcony. The new Germania Hall is fantastic! The Germania Club, over these 50 years, has greatly enriched and expanded the German culture in our community to the point where many folks who are not of German descent wish they were! From time to time, classes to teach the German language have been held, with good attendance. The most flamboyant president we ever had was Freddie Krause, now deceased. He was also the Santa Claus at the Weihnachtsfeier, and the joyful? moans and groans which he exuded when he entered always reminded me of pregnant women in labour (I was an obstetrical nurse), but he never delivered anything but bags of candy. In our wildest dreams, we never thought that we would be given an opportunity to celebrate an occasion of our own in the Germania Hall. In 2001, our beloved children and their spouses gave the most wonderful surprise 45th wedding anniversary party in our honour, which made us very happy! God willing, we hope to celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2006 in this hall as well. The hall is in great demand for weddings, charitable organizational fundraising, blood donor clinics, etc. Congratulations on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Germania Club! May it remain a part of our future for many years to come!

Federal Republic of Germany National Anthem

Federal Republic of Germany National Anthem

The text of the song was written in 1841 by the German poet August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben (1798-1844). At that time Germany was still split up in more than 30 small states which were loosly united since 1815 in the “Deutscher Bund” (German Federation). Hoffmann von Fallersleben who was a poet, linguist and historian of literature wrote also a number of other well-known songs.

In 1922 the first President of the German Republic, the Social Democrat Friedrich Ebert, officially introduced the Deutschland-Lied as the National Anthem. In May 1952 the third stanza of the Deutschland-Lied was proclaimed the official anthem of the Federal Republic of Germany by Federal President Theodor Heuss. The melody of the Deutschland-Lied was composed by Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), the famous composer of many symphonies, operas and oratories. The melody is that of the old Austrian Kaiserhymn (Imperial Anthem) which was played for the first time on February 12, 1797.

The German text and the English translation follow below:

Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
Fuer das deutsche Vaterland –
Danach lasst uns alle streben,
Bruederlich mit Herz und Hand.
Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
Sind des Glueckes Unterpfand –
Blueh’ im Glanze dieses Glueckes,
Bluehe, deutsches Vaterland.

Unity and right and freedom
For the German Fatherland,
For this let us all fraternally
Strive each with heart and hand.
Unity and right and freedom
Are the pledge of happiness.
Bloom in the splendor of this happiness,
Germany, our Fatherland.

O Canada
O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.