Friedland was a small town. The Boys Home was at the edge of town on the corner to the country road to Opole (Germ. Oppeln). “40 Km to Oppeln”, a road site sign at the end of town told us. I never got to go to Oppeln and those forty kilo-meters always seemed to be a yardstick for a long distance. Later on in life I ran Marathons and the distance past the forty kilo-meter mark was especially hard.
The school was in the centre of the town, about ten minutes to walk. We boys from the home all walked together. But once we reached the school we all dispersed to our respective class rooms. I had to go to third grade but none of the other boys went into the same class that I did.
The school building was a rather more modern one from the one that I was used to in Berlin. The Berlin schools were beautiful brick buildings built before the turn of the century. The building in Friedland was probably built during the twenties or early thirties. To my surprise we had girls in the class. But we were not sitting together. Two rows of desks were divided by a centre-aisle. The boys were sitting on the right side and the girls on the left side. For reasons little understood by me at the time the girls became of an enormous interest to me. They all seemed pretty and nicely spoken. But the real, big surprise, was the lady teacher. In Berlin I only knew elderly lady teachers. Mostly war widows, dressed in black mourning dresses. They did not seem to like boys and we all received corporal punishment for little wrong doings.
But this young lady, always dressed, in the blue work dress of the Reichsarbeitsdienst (Reich Labour Service), was the most beautiful woman I had seen in my short life. She took a liking to me too. This became apparent when she marked my work, giving me encouragement. My copy books looked as messy as in Berlin, but contained only good marks.
One day, a paper bag containing sandwiches was found in the class room. The teacher was looking for the owner of it. When nobody owned up to it the teacher decided I should have the sandwiches as I was from the boys home and would probably not get enough to eat.
Her decision was so popular that from that day on three or four girls brought me, without fail, every Monday each a parcel with cake from the previous Sunday. It mostly contained Streuselkuchen, a speciality in Silesia. I loved it but could not eat it all myself. I took some to the home to share with other boys.
I have to report, that corporal punishment was not absent in that school. And even I raised the ire of my young teacher. But she did not carry out the punishment herself. A couple of times I was sent to another teacher in the building and had to report for punishment. He then gave me about three hits with a stick across the upturned hand. This was very painful and the fingers started to swell after it. This silly teacher was in the habit of having one foot on a seat while our hands were above his thigh. One day, more from instinct than by design, I pulled my hand suddenly away and the teacher hit his own thigh very hard. I got an extra smack for that.
Instead of listening to the teacher I often looked out of the window where I could see some hills. I imagined them to be part of the Riesengebirge (Mountain of the Giants). For a city boy this was something new and unexpected. To be able to see so far into this distance was inspiring. Thoughts could fly over the landscape to wherever I wanted them to go.
At the end of the school year – in Summer – I got a good report and was allowed to join the forth grade after the Summer school vacation. All in all the experience of that school was not a bad one and with a steady supply of cake on Mondays I really had it made.