There’s a German tradition known as Kaffeetrinken. Literally, that means drinking coffee. In a proper German household, people would gather at 4PM and drink coffee. Many German immigrants to Canada continued this custom, including my grandparents. Every Sunday, we would drive over to the farm and visit my Opa and Oma, and the visit would conclude with the obligatory Kaffeetrinken. We would sit around the kitchen table, often with other German friends, and eat cakes, cookies, and pastries while drinking coffee or juice and engaging in conversation.
In 1953, my grandfather, Hans Wilhelm Joachim Boldt bought a farm just outside of Odessa, about 20 minutes west of Kingston. He worked hard on that farm, raising dairy cows. Up until the late 1960’s, they also had chickens and grew their own vegetables. I still remember digging up potatoes in that garden.
When I was old enough, I’d help out bringing in the hay. We would ride in a hay wagon out to the fields, and load it up with bales already sitting on the ground. It was hard work. Each bale typically weighed up to about 30kg, and we’d stack them five or six layers high on the wagon. They had to be stacked properly since the ride back to the barn was rough, and the load would sway back and forth as we drove over the bumps. Inside the barn, we’d stack the bales up high. They’d have to feed the cows for a whole year.
Usually, my Oma would walk out to the field bringing a pitcher of grapefruit juice, much appreciated on a hot Summer day.
Opa was a proud man, respected by all. At one point, though, he had to get a loan from the bank to upgrade his machinery. He expected approval to be a sure thing. My Dad wasn’t so sure, and before Opa went to the bank, Dad went there first. He wanted to make sure his Dad got the loan, and so agreed to co-sign the loan.
Once when visiting a neighbor down the road, Opa admired an antique curio cabinet. The neighbor offered to sell it, and Opa took him up on the offer. That cabinet now stands in my living room.
The first 50 years of his life was difficult, influenced by tumultuous events in Europe. For the next 30 years, he lived a quiet, relatively uneventful life in Canada. Apart from the farm work, he loved to read and listen to music. They had a large kitchen in their farmhouse. Beside the wood stove, there were two rocking chairs. Opa sat in the one closest to the stove.
I remember the last time I saw Opa alive. In April 1981, I was getting ready to move to Toronto. Before leaving, I visited the farm and chatted with my Opa. I had a sense that it would be the last time. The day I started my new job at IBM in Toronto, I got the call, and had to return home for the funeral. Opa was remembered fondly by everyone there.