Northwest NEWS

August 10, 1998


The tale of a former enemy

   by Oscar Roloff
   Many years ago I dropped by a small hide tanning shop in Woodinville to do an article on the two owners/operators.
   I noted they were skilled in their new business. I was aware that they were from another country. Their accent gave that away.
   But in those early years when I was the only free-lance writer on the Eastside, I hurried through their story and then hurried on to the next story and the next.
   The couple had two sons I noted as I dropped by once in a while over time. They were quiet, nice people. My kind.
   Years passed
   One day the lady of the firm called to say that her husband was seriously ill and would like me to come see him. That night I rushed to his Bothell home.
   As I entered the door I noted a photo of a young man attired in a German submarine uniform hanging on the wall.
   Good grief, I wasn't aware of that! I should have known by his accent.
   Quietly she came up to me and said, "He's very ill and near death." I said "I'm sorry" and left. I never saw him again.
   Today the two kids have grown up. One is very prominent in real estate. I don't know what the other one does. I don't know either if the tanner's wife is still alive.
   It's too bad that I don't always take time to keep in touch with those I meet and write about. They are all good folks.
   As for the tanner man, I might have asked if he had been in the German submarine service. Goodness. Had he been OK we could have talked for hours. And I could have written a book about his service in World War II against us. They were formidable.
   But then again he might not have wanted to say anything about that terrible war because some hatred still exists here and there.
   I spent years in warfare while serving on U.S. ships trying to sink those elusive submarines.
   It was scary, and at times their torpedoes barely missed us. Had they hit us we would have been sunk and quickly enroute to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
   Being in charge of our ship's torpedoes and depth charges, as near as I can recall, I sank two German submarines and possibly a third.
   What a series of stories I could have conjured up had I taken the time to go deeper into the man's past.
   I presume the one son of his who is now a realtor would have a wealth of material on his dad's Germanic warfare past.
   I could contact him and ask. He might say yes and he might say no. Yes, I can speak German.
   My forebears fled Germany and ended up in the U.S. I'm totally American yet I can speak their language too.