When I decided to write a novel set during the 1950s, the first problem I had to tackle was the exact year. The building of air bases and army posts provided plenty of material, to be sure. But the decisive factor for setting my book in 1958 was the arrival of Elvis Presley in Germany on October 1, 1958, when he joined the 3rd Armored Division in Friedberg.
That explains the word “Oktober” with its German spelling. Oktober not only conjures up images of beer and harvest festivals, but also Cold War novels and movies. Heat, on the other hand, is not only a slang word for police, but also a term for excitement, thrill, enthusiasm, stress, passion – all of which occur in the book.
Once I settled on a month and year I was ready to research in earnest. During my next visits to Germany I scoured newspaper and photo archives to get an idea of current events, weather, fashion, lifestyle, and the availability of consumer goods. I found old photos particularly helpful in bringing my characters to life. Research was so much fun that I am now considering a sequel to my novel. It will take years to finish it, I am sure, because I will publish a picture book about birds next spring. Stay tuned for updates!
Doris Dumrauf is the author of “Oktober Heat” and “Create Your Own Backyard Wildlife Habitat
Elvis Presley war ein Superstar, als er im Dezember 1957 seinen Einberufungsbefehl in die Armee erhielt. Weil er bereits vereinbart hatte, den Film King Creole zu drehen, wurde er für 60 Tage zurückgestellt. Am 24. März 1958 wurde er in Fort Chaffee, Arkansas in die U.S. Army eingeführt.
Die Presse hatte vollen Zugang und während er seinen Haarschnitt erhielt, witzelte er, „Hair today, gone tomorrow!“ (Heute habe ich Haare, morgen nicht mehr) Daraufhin wurde er der 2nd Armored Division [„Hell on Wheels“] in Fort Hood, Texas zugeteilt. Grundausbildung und fortgeschrittene Panzerinstruktion folgten im Laufe des Sommer, bevor seine Einheit im Frühherbst nach Deutschland aufbrach.
Am 1. Oktober 1958 legte das Truppenschiff USS General Randall mit Elvis Presley an Bord in Bremerhaven an. Mindestens 500 deutsche Teenager begrüßten ihn bei der Ankunft. Von Bremerhaven ging die Fahrt per Zug zur Kaserne in Friedberg. Es war Presley´s einzige Europareise.
Image: Associated Press [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons
I recently blogged about 1950s cars, but cars were not the only change the GIs brought to post-war Germany. They brought the latest records from America with them. No wonder they were so popular with young people.
Far away from big cities and their range of entertainment, the clubs and the entertainers who toured the bases brought the big wide world into the Hinterland. After all, the soldiers had to be entertained. Well-known American and German musicians and singers like The Golden Gate Quartett, The Platters, Count Basie, Caterina Valente, Conny Froboess, Max Greger, and Bata Illic worked at the clubs during the 1950s and 1960s, which was often the beginning of a long career.
And who could forget that the most famous singer of the time, Elvis Presley, was stationed in Germany? He did not give any concerts during his tour, but remained a huge draw wherever he went.
Elvis Presley was a superstar when he received his draft notice in December 1957. Because he had agreed to film the movie King Creole, he was granted a deferment of 60 days. Finally, on March 24, 1958, Elvis Presley was inducted into the United States Army at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.
The press had full access there and while he was getting his haircut, he joked, “Hair today, gone tomorrow!” He was then assigned to the 2nd Armored Division [“Hell on Wheels”] at Fort Hood in Texas. Basic training and advanced tank instruction followed over the summer before his unit left for Germany in early fall. It was to be his only trip abroad.
Photo: Associated Press [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons