Saturday, August 30, 2014

“Miss Ima Would Roll Over in Her Grave.”

         Leaving Ima in Germany for the moment, as she was 107 years ago, to survey one of her favorites in the more recent past:

         One of Ima Hogg’s favorite restoration projects is aging and frail: the Winedale [Texas] Historical Complex is woefully short of funding. The nineteenth-century houses and barns she lovingly restored, hand-hewn nail by hand-hewn nail, in the 1960s, are falling into disrepair.
         Miss Ima gave the Winedale buildings to the University of Texas as a center for the study of Texas culture and the arts. But decades later, time and money are scarce, and the funding to maintain Winedale as it was in her day has dwindled. What was once a festive and historic Hill Country place is now a shadow of its former self.
         Those who care about this project, according to a Houston Chronicle article on July 7, 2014, say that “Miss Ima would roll over in her grave.”

         What a pity.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Ima's Mysterious Young Man

        Ima’s brother Mike’s war wound was not serious, but in the summer of 1918 she may have lost someone very dear to her in World War I. The evidence thus far is merely circumstantial, but it is tantalizing, and if it is true, tragic. An old photo, undated, shows Ima and a young man on an outing in Germany’s scenic Harz Mountains. (We know that because “Harz Mts” is scrawled in Ima’s hand across the back of the snapshot.) The couple are smiling. The sun is shining. They are both wearing broad-brimmed hats (hers topped with flowers) and both carry walking-sticks, as if they are out on a ramble.
         Who was this young man to Ima? Was he the same young man whose likeness she sketched in her notebook on another occasion? A pencil drawing in Ima’s skilled hand shows a handsome face in profile. He could well be the one in the photograph. In this sketch he wears a cap, not a hat. Another half-finished sketch shows Ima’s attempt to capture him in full face. She apparently gave up and handed the pencil to another, less talented hand--no doubt, her companion’s. We can almost hear her saying, “Now you draw me.” The result is a rough picture of Ima, seated, holding a walking-stick. Beside her is a picnic basket. The drawings are on the pages of a small bound journal that Ima kept in Germany in 1907-1908.

         Why, oh why, didn’t she write down this young man’s name?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Deadly weapons of [mass] destruction

         As Europe went to war in August 1914, Ima Hogg and many other American tourists were stranded abroad. The earliest passage home that she could book was on the American Line’s St. Paul--on October 3.
         Before Ima sailed for home, a huge German army had plunged through Belgium into northern France. From September 5 through September 12 the armies fought near the Marne River in what would be called the first battle of the Marne, involving over 2,000,000 men and 500,000 total dead and wounded. That was just the beginning. Oddly enough, Ima wrote only two letters home that fall.  What did she do, all that dreadful autumn?

         World War I was the first modern war: the first war to use tanks, airplanes, and heavy artillery that could fire a shell sixty miles. Such destructive power produced devastating losses of life and limb. No one planned it that way. At the turn of the century, international conferences had banned new and deadly weapons of destruction: bombs dropped from the air, chemical warfare, and certain kinds of bullets.
         From 1914 to 1918 World War I killed 8,528,831 (including 53,513 Americans) and wounded 21,159,154 (204,002 of them Americans). 
         One of the wounded would be Mike Hogg.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

“The tragedy is like nothing I can imagine.”

More from Ima’s August 4 cable about leaving Germany:

We bade goodbye, ourselves, to many stalwart, handsome fellows. The tragedy is like nothing I can imagine. In Bremen, everything seemed suspended -- people gathered in small groups -- in hushed voices, talking eagerly. Here [in London], it is the same.

         On August 5 Germany invaded Belgium. 

         On August 25 Ima wrote: Poor Germany--my heart just aches for her. Anybody who knows Germany and the Germans is bound to sympathize.
         Ima Hogg knew Germany well, and so did many other Americans. As children Ima and her brothers had learned German prayers at the knee of their mother’s Bavarian maid. As an aspiring concert pianist, Ima had recently spent nearly two years studying piano in Berlin. She may have met the love of her life there. Since 1908 she had returned twice to Germany, once with her brother Mike--who would soon return to Germany under quite different circumstances.

         The United States was still neutral in this war, but that would not last.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

World War I : A house of cards tumbles down.

         Neither Ima nor her friends nor anyone else could believe that the great powers of Europe, bound by networks of civility and diplomacy, would suddenly declare war on each other. Besides, that, George V of England, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, and Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany were first cousins: they were the grandsons of Queen Victoria.
         No one imagined that a single assassination would topple the elaborate house of diplomatic cards that had kept Europe stable since the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. But Austria’s declaration of war against Serbia offended Russia, a defender of Serbia. On July 30 Russia prepared for war against Austria-Hungary and Germany. On August 1 Germany declared war on Russia.
         That was the day that the Chemnitz docked in Bremerhaven. Ima and other passengers who had looked forward to a late-summer holiday in Germany were quickly re-routed. On August 3 Germany declared war on France, and on that day Ima Hogg and many others sailed on the St. Petersburgh, bound for England. As soon as she arrived in London, Ima sent another cablegram home:          
         The situation on the Continent is already is frightful, even if nothing more happens, and I am sure more is to come of it. However, none of us are sorry we came. We were among the last of two ships to be allowed in the North Sea and to land in Germany. The voyage from Germany to England was a terrible trip, yet still without discourtesies. . . . A great many things happened--lack of food, crushes of people, no place to sleep. . . .
          Ima arrived in London on August 4, 1914.

          That day England declared war on Germany.