|Mist rising from the hollows as seen from the St. Marys Catholic Cemetery,|
Photograph by William Hoehn
The photo on the right is very old but I knew the man in it many years ago. His name was Bert Schauer and he was an old logger who lived in a cement block building in the woods. The floor was made entirely of bottle caps stomped down into the dirt and he kept guinea fowl that roosted in the trees and were likely to drop an egg on your head if you weren't careful. I used Bert as the inspiration for Skidder Hoffman in The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall. Of course he is long gone now but I'm glad I got such a good, useful character out of him.
The woman in the picture at the left is something of a legend among the kids I grew up with. She is the famous Mary Opelt who lived in the woods across the street from our neighborhood. It was a wonderful woods. She, of course, was long gone by the time we were kids but the foundation of her house was still there as were the remains of her garden. Daffodils and jonquils bloomed every spring and her berry bushes and apple trees still gave fruit. My dad told us that he remembers he walking down the alley from her woods and up to the convent every day where the Sisters would give her lunch. I've never written about her but those woods have been in all my Marienstadt stories including The Reluctant Belsnickel of Opelt's Wood. There is a terrible story whispered among us kids when we were little, that when she died her many cats ate her. I do not know if this is true but it might turn up in a story someday.
The man in the picture above is said to be Mary Opelt's brother. I don't know his first name but he had a fine team of oxen that he brought into town every day to do work for people. Again, I have never used him in a story, but it may happen some day.
The store above is one of the fondest memories of my childhood. Al Marsh's Stationery Store was a world of wonder for me--for a lot of reasons not the least of which was that he carried Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books. I was in love with those books and I can remember hoarding coins until I had a dollar to buy one--they were all a dollar then. I remember one particular occasion when I had scavenged enough coins for a new book, walked down town to buy it, and walked home reading it--tripping over my own feet--and was almost finished with it by the time I got home.
I could probably go on and on with this--heaven knows I have enough images on my computer. But I'll end with the one above. In my Marienstadt stories, the Catholic church in town is called St. Walburga's. The shrine in the image above was on the grounds of our convent back home. It was brought from the convent of St. Walburga and is of the saint herself. The legend is that the body of the saint is preserved in the convent in Germany and that it emits a sacred oil that can cure all kinds of ills--or at least it used to. The story I heard was that when the First World War began, the saint stopped secreting her magical oil and has never resumed since.
So that is just a taste of where some of my stories come from and, as I have a lot more photographs, I am hoping there are more stories to come.
Thanks for reading.