At the entrance to the old convent
One of the many highlights of this current journey with Bob and Betty Whittemore was our visit to the small town of Hoechst im Odenwald on Sunday, October 4. Bob spent four weeks in Hoechst in August, 1950 as a young volunteer with the World Council of Churches. Back then, he was 22 years old and on the trip of a lifetime starting with an ocean crossing on a “Liberty Ship” leftover from WWII. He landed in Le Havre and made his way to Paris, where he paid $100 for a new bicycle to help him on his journey. Trains took him to Switzerland and then on to Austria. Somewhere along the way, he lost the bike. (Probably “appropriated” by a custom’s official at the stop between Switzerland and Austria) Stranded in southern Germany, a friend working at a hotel in Garmisch loaned him $100 so that he could finish his journey to Hoechst. Once there, he worked with other youth from around the world on the rebuilding of an ancient convent. There was to be a school here.
Photo circa 1950 of work to rebuilt the ancient convent
Bob’s memories are of bringing heavy wheelbarrows full of stone from a nearby quarry for the building of a retaining wall at the back of the convent. We visited the convent, now the site of a busy center for meetings of members of the Evangelical Churches of Hessen and Nassau. A helpful man at the reception showed us all around the property and Bob found the retaining wall he’d helped to build nearly six decades ago.
Bob Whittemore helped build this wall in 1950
We were treated to coffee and cake, “payment for your work back then,” the receptionist told us. We looked through photo albums retrieved from the archive and we puzzled over a photo of a young man washing tools. The youngster had Bob’s hair (back then) but we couldn’t tell for sure if it was indeed the Bob of 1950.
The entire day was a trip down memory lane, and one which won’t soon be forgotten.
Looking at photos brought out of the archive
The church was finished in 1568