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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Not-Quite-Final Wrap-Up

I want to give you one last image of how things often are at the Porsche Museum. Down below the lobby, in a corner of the garage, museum staff have parked a 997 GT3 (in white) next to their red 959, alongside their silver 996 GT2. Each day we pulled into or drove out of the garage, we never knew what we would find shuffled off to one side.
We fly back to the U.S. tomorrow. I’m going to wait to do a real wrap-up of my experience during this coming week after I get home. I have a lot of pictures for you—from last weekend, and from this one, as we were tourists in Southern Germany. So some will come today, the others in the next couple days.
We arrived 26 days ago and on one hand it feels like nearly four weeks. But on the other hand, it feels just like only four days. When I think about the information we have gathered, I am stunned. So many times—especially during the past two days—we all have looked at each other and said, “I never have heard that. I never knew that.” Porsche’s photo archivist, Jens Torner, always is looking for photo collections and he came across two mechanics hired in Porsche’s earliest days. For two weeks, Jens and I kept talking about these men and we got to interview one of them on Thursday, the other on Friday.
Friday’s conversation was with Egon Alber, who started with Porsche in 1943. Some of you may know that when World War II ended and the Allies divided up Germany’s care among themselves, Stuttgart fell in the American Zone. There are famous stories about the U.S. Army taking over Porsche Works as a motor pool overhaul facility. But previously published reports always led everyone to believe the Army stationed a company or at least a platoon here to work on American trucks. Not so.
According to Alber, there were just four or five Americans, led by a Captain Thompson who hired—yes, he paid them—as many Porsche mechanics as he could to keep American vehicles running. Because most of the trolley service in the area was destroyed, Thompson sent trucks each morning to pick up the workers and at night his men drove the workers home. They got breakfast and lunch at the motor pool and often they took home leftover food. Alber said Thompson was a real hero to many of the mechanics.
Before the war, Porsche employed 180 people, most of whom moved to several locations in Austria to work in a safer environment when it really got bad in Stuttgart. Alber said the only thing that hurt the men was that the Americans had to search them each night as they left. It was policy. Alber said not one of the mechanics would have stolen from the Porsche factory or the Americans. As Porsche’s Austrian workers began to filter back into town, Thompson hired them as well. When the American’s pulled out, the workers threw a party for them.
As I begin to transcribe these interviews, I’ll begin to post some other pearls and some of Jerry’s photos of these men as well.
Meanwhile, here are a few more images from my "home" with Dieter and Sonja for these 27 days. 
Across the street from their home is a wonderful park. At night owls call from a tree near their home. 

Looking southeast from the terrace, nearly all of Stuttgart is in the front yard. Several evenings have been nice enough to eat dinner out here. With dark falling at just before 10pm, it makes for a relaxing evening. 

This afternoon, we got a spectacular storm with hail for more than 30 minutes. You can see some of it accumulating in the garden. Visibility fell to about 100 yards. An hour later, the skies cleared and now, as I write this nearly at midnight, I can see stars.

Oh, and speaking of stars, for those wondering whether Leica came through with miraculous overnight repair, "Rock Star" Reilly’s M9 arrived from Solms repair and it works great.

Stay tuned.

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