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Memories of Sedan Day Festivities in the 1870s (Retrospective Account, 1930)

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inventories of the master bookbinders Schöbel and Fischer were soon depleted. – Full of excitement, schoolchildren ran through the streets all morning long, singing patriotic songs such as “Die Wacht am Rhein,” “Habt ihr in hohen Lüften,” and “Heil Dir im Siegerkranz” well ahead of the festivities, and it was only reluctantly that one returned home for lunch. The meal was gobbled in haste, and then the agony began: “Mom, it's already 12:30, I have to get dressed!” – The big production number – getting into the white Sunday dress – proceeded with much impatience. We (that is to say, in later years my younger sisters as well) had embroidered gauze dresses with colored silk sashes. That the dresses, embroidered by Aunt Hannchen, were actually intended as petticoats (but were deemed too good by mother and turned into dresses by adding a gauze bodice) did not detract from their festive character at all. – Long before the appointed time we were ready and rushed out of the house. Only then could the mothers – for all the children surely behaved as I did – breathe a deep sigh of relief and think of themselves.

Between 2 and 2:30 p.m. the time came when the parade could finally start moving. Heading the procession was the police chief as the force of order; behind him was the band, and then the schools. The first one was the Werner Private Secondary School for Girls, all its pupils in white with blue sashes, blue-and-white shoulder sashes, and with blue-and-white balloons. That the town gave preference to this school over its own was probably only due to the fact that the officers' daughters were of the Werner type. As “town pupils,” we were all the more envious because they had a blue-and-white school flag that was carried in front of the crowd of girls by the master saddler Maue, in whose house on Glogau Straße [Street] the classrooms of Fräulein Werner were located. By the way, next in the procession was the town's secondary school for girls, then came the boys, and the elementary schools followed after a new military band. The associations – veterans', singing, and rifle associations, etc. – fell in with them. And so the parade moved through Steinstraße, across the market square, along Schloßstraße (now Schaedtstaße), farther on through Roßstraße and Dammstraße, over the Oder Bridge and onto the Chausee all the way to Bergmann's Corner. Here, the groups split up – the meadows at “Tivoli” and along the Kähmenschen Weg had been specified as the festival grounds for the boys' sections, while the girls had to continue walking to Hundsbelle. There was enough space on the meadows along the Oder behind the village, and lively activities soon unfolded there. Incidentally, only once did the boys' sections celebrate apart from the others. The parents involved were simply presented with too many inconveniences, especially those who had children of both sexes participating in the festivities and had to “split up.” In subsequent years, we stayed closer together on the Hundsbelle meadows, whose rowen had already been cut for this purpose. The boys mostly celebrated near “Joachim's Berg” (Jägerheim), the girls behind properties no. 1 and 2. The owners of open-air restaurants supplied food and drink, but this was not particularly satisfactory given the enormous throngs of people. Wise parents took along their own basic provisions. Incidentally, the elementary schoolchildren received a free drink – coffee – and a fresh buttered roll. Their teachers had to see to it that all of them got their fair share. Back then we did not comprehend, nor did the parents, what incredible effort such a “children's festival” demanded from the teachers. Even my father shrugged off the complaints of the teacher Kohlstock: “Come on, this is nothing, just playing a bit! What kind of work is that for you!?” – For years, his own daughters have experienced first-hand what such a children's festival means for the teachers – certainly a source of joy, but infinitely more so one of effort and burden – and that's not even taking into consideration the anger and ingratitude they reaped.

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