The Point of Return

The Point of Return

By Roger Heid

 

This here story started out in early spring of 1949. During those days, my Mom would frequently take me on walks through the woods and parks in the southern fringes of Stuttgart. One of the places we visited often was some palace like building called ‘Solitude’.

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The Grand Duke of Wuerttemberg had it built in 1770 for purely recreational purposes. Now it was, still is, a museum. We could get close to it by using a street car or trolley. This was the last trolley stop before it reached the branch terminal from where it would return and head back downtown. This trolley stop was ‘Bergheimer Hof’, a famous restaurant close by.

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On one day, after having learned that the toy store close to where we lived had a new toy to ogle at, I went there to check it out and to see if it was worth bugging my Mom about it. I think it was back in those days when my Mom’s gaskets started to come a little loose, on occasions. I saw it in the showcase window, and I immediately determined that this was for little kids, not for me. However, a different toy caught my eye.

There was this contraption consisting of a length of track, a building on each end. There was this little train closely resembling the trolleys I was riding on so often. It would go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth etc. After a while I got bored and headed home. On my way home, I got to think. I had to keep an eye on this. There was something awkward about this toy. I was intrigued.

The next time we went to this ‘Solitude’ palace, I insisted on waiting right here at the stop for the trolley to come back. My Mom had gotten used to some my actions and antics, most of which did not make any sense to her, at least not at first. She sat down on the waiting bench and started to knit away on something I hoped wasn’t meant for me to wear once finished.

I had theorized that if the trolley actually shuttled as I had seen the toy do, the trolley should return with what was the end of it going to the terminal now being in front. I seriously doubted that because the trolley usually consisted of the car with the motor and the pantographs and a trailer that no driver station in it.

The only way this thing could go into the shuttle mode was if the driver used the side mounted rear view mirrors, hoping for good luck. This mode of operation I had never seen. Therefore something was not kosher.

Sure enough, when the trolley returned, the front was in front as it should be. Now it was mandatory for me to travel to Gerlingen, the terminal. I needed to observe just how they managed to turn the trolley around.

I carefully introduced my Mom to my next step of action, assuring her I was conducting some important research. To make the long story short, she had enough wool left to keep knitting for almost another half hour. Her knitting needles clanged much louder than normal, a sure sign she was about ready to blow at least one of the loose gaskets.

The turnaround procedure turned out to be a lot simpler than what I had fathomed. The trolley went through a loop of track and rejoined the main track. Duh! I should have thought of that. The man in the toy store would have a thing or two coming, I swore. I was truly impressed by my newly found scientific evidence that his toy was a piece of crap.

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Mom wanted to buy me a soda and a Frankfurter in some joint in Gerlingen, but I strongly suggested we stay on the trolley and get off at the ‘Bergheimer Hof’ stop. We did so.

Once there, I disclosed that I wished to go to this restaurant since we had never gone there before. As we approached I noticed my Mom’s increasing reluctance to go any further. By now, I could see why. There were a bunch of ‘enemy vehicles’ parked in front. There was also an old sign that somebody had put up during the previous winter. Nobody seemed to know who put it up and what for. To me it made total sense.

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I told my mom that I’d go in by myself if she did not want to. I knew she would follow me. She did. I was hoping to meet some of my ‘enemy friends’. As I entered the lobby, my Mom trailing in the background, I noticed a row of M-1 rifles leaning against the wall. No big deal! In the meantime, I had gotten used to the fact that where there were ‘enemy friends’ there were M-1s. My MP friends Abraham and Aaron had explained to me what they were. I had to learn it by heart.

As I was counting the M-1s, some ‘enemy’ walked by me, but he stopped and said:

“Boy, have you ever seen these before? I bet you haven’t seen them that close.”

“Yes Sir! I have seen an M-1 before. The M-1 is a shoulder fired, semi-automatic, 8 round clip fed, 30 caliber rifle. Maximum effective range…………”

The loud laughter of a small group of ‘enemies’ that had gathered next to me interrupted my well rehearsed presentation. The next thing I knew, Mom and I were seated, lavish Schnitzel Dinners in front of us.

On the way home, my Mom was rather taciturn. All she said was:

“Roger, you have to be more careful with this. There are few things you do not understand yet.”

What was there to understand? Maybe she didn’t understand, I wondered.

Two days later, I headed for the toy store to inform the man of the dire shortfall of this particular piece of merchandise of his and how misleading it was. The wrath of the gods was about to be upon him. I tried to make my voice sound resolute and steely. I tried to copy this from adults when they argued about the things the adults seemed to have plenty of.

“Sir, this contraption you call a ‘Shuttle Train’ is a piece of junk. It is all wrong. This thing is not a train. Just look at it. It is a trolley. Can’t you see that? It is sooo obvious. Even a blind man can see that. It completely lacks the return track loops. As it is, it cannot function, and the buildings don’t belong there either. Now look at these cars. Why are the windows slanted? Have you ever seen a street car with slanted windows? Huh! Have you? You either take it out of the show case window or put return loops on both ends, and straighten out the windows and throw the buildings away.”

I had not thought about what the man’s reaction would be to my fiery tirade. His reaction was simple. Stone faced, he removed the toy from the showcase window and took it to a backroom.

“Now, get outa here!”

I left in a great hurry, almost like withdrawing. I didn’t feel like exposing myself to his potential wrath, if it could be helped.

A few days later, my Mom had some business somewhere in Stuttgart and she dragged me along. This may give me a chance to mooch some candy and chewing gum from some ‘enemies’.

This time my Mom took me on a trolley ride I had not experienced before. This trolley had to climb up a steep hill. There was a third rail of sorts between the outer rails. My Mom called it a ‘Cog Wheel Trolley’. On some of the cars the windows were at a slight slant. It shuttled; there were no return loops on the two terminal points, but there were buildings. A myriad of light bulbs came on in my head, simultaneously. Aha! I knew I was on to something. No doubt!

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Left:  Around  1950                                          Right: Modern

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From the Driver’s Seat

During the following day, I gravely pondered if I could dare to go back to the toy store. I decided to go. The man was wrong, but so was I. Now I knew the fix. Failure of me going and setting things straight would not make things right.

I figured the worst thing the man could do is to send me out of the store. I was willing to take that risk, as much as I hated the thought. Maybe I should learn to be more diplomatic and not burn bridges behind me, as the adults would call it. After I had first heard that term, I was wondering what sense it would make to set fire to a bridge that you just crossed over. Now it made sense.

There was a different man behind the counter. I had never seen him before. He was older and very friendly. He asked me if he could help me to find something. I told him I was looking for that shuttle train that was in the window until a few days ago.

“Oh yes! My clerk put it away. He said there was something wrong with it. He also said that some small boy—-Say, you wouldn’t be that boy. Are you?’

“Yes, Sir, I am that little boy, but I’m not so little, anymore.”

“Ok, so you are not so little. You could have fooled me. What do you want to see it for? You made it clear that it was junk.”

“Sir, I had an idea. I need to see the box it originally came in.”

In that box, I found a ‘hill’, made of some stiff paper machee like material. It had some greenery or brush painted on it. On top of that hill was a slot that you would not encounter in the real world. Just a couple of minutes later, I had a “Shuttle Cog Wheel Trolley”. Very appealing, it was.

The shopkeeper got all excited. I helped him to put it back into the showcase window. The store had gotten busy with customers, so he told me to come back the next day or so. On the way out, I noticed a small cluster of people watching my shuttle cog wheel trolley going up and down, up and down.

Three days later I returned. The older man, the owner, was there and some younger man I had never seen before. The owner told me that the other clerk was fired as he was caught with other, more serious shortfalls and wrong doings.

Upon entering the store, I had noticed that the trolley was no longer in the window. The owner told me that it was sold, along with three more in stock and that he had to order ten more, for a starter. He asked me if I wanted one, as a reward. I declined, as it was not anything I would get a big bang out of. Instead, he let me pick my choice of any toy, within reason. I picked a certain wind up car that had been on my wish list. It was the champion toy in the neighborhood for weeks to come.

It took some doing to explain to my Mom how I got a hold of this toy car. I actually had to drag her to the store to have the owner confirm my story, or ‘lie’, if you will.

This car of mine was stolen, and my mom replaced it. I never took any precious toys outside anymore, except what I considered the expendable ones. When I took one of the ‘expendable’ ones to the streets, my Mom blew her first gasket; an unforgettable moment it was.

 

              

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