GERMAN AMERICAN SOCIETIES of San Diego!
The German American Friendship Club in El Cajon
Many people in San Diego County know about the German American Societies, located in El Cajon, mostly, because of the annual Oktoberfest held here on the first two weekends of October. I, however, know the “Society” because I was one of the students of the German School of San Diego repeatedly taking part in Christmas presentations (“Weihnachtsfeier”) and graduation parties there. The atmosphere of the Club house and the entire performances were simply wonderful. This is why I became interested in the “Society” and to find out more about the Club I interviewed the Business Manager, Mrs. Heidi Williams, from whom I learned a lot about its history. For years she is reaching out and is opening the club’s doors to the youth in the community and the German classes in High Schools and Colleges.
More than 50 years ago, thousands of German native speakers decided to found a club where they could meet, speak their native language, and remember their old countries. However, they also wanted to include interested Americans and other nationalities to share their heritage, customs, traditions, and culture with them.
For over a hundred years there had been a German presence in San Diego County, such as through the German Club of the San Diego Turners, who published a German-language weekly as early as the late 1800’s. But it was on May 8th, 1965 that a handful of determined Germans started the German American Societies in the Turner Hall. They immediately created a number of activity groups, many of which still exist today: the Germania Choir, Damenkreis (Women’s Circle), the German Language Classes, Karneval Season, Skat (card game gatherings), the annual Oktoberfest, Open House, Balls, Dances, Concerts and Fests throughout the year.
In the early days the “Society” soon became so popular that 1500 members joined the Club. In 1971 the “Society” was finally able to buy and rebuild its own Club house on 1017 South Mollison Avenue in El Cajon. Many Club members bought thousands of dollars worth of building blocks so that the Club house could become the great place it is today.
For 46 years the German American Societies’ mission has been to unite Germans and other nationalities interested in German culture through various social, cultural, and educational activities and to foster and enjoy good fellowship and mutual respect between peoples from all cultures.
The German American Club house in El Cajon remains memorable to me because it is always so festively decorated and it feels like going to Germany when I step inside.
GERMANS IN SAN DIEGO
In the mid 1800 many Germans arrived and contributed to the growth and beautification of the city. Claus Spreckels’ two sons built the Organ Pavilion. Claus was born in Hannover, Germany and became the “Sugar King” of San Francisco.
Gerhard Schütte established a mineral water company in Carlsbad. A group of Germans founded the colony “Oliven Hain” in Encinitas.
All brought with them their cultural heritage, their craftsmanship and the desire to preserve these and pass them on to following generations.
Besides the American National Anthem, we sing the German one which Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben wrote in 1841 when he was homesick for his fatherland ”Germany, Germany above all”. Nowadays, the anthem consists of the third verse, which starts with: “Unity, Justice and Freedom”
THE OLD COUNTRY
As you all know, Germany is situated in the center of Europe – from the high Southern Alps to the Baltic Sea in the North. The German landscape is extraordinarily varied and attractive – from low and high mountain ranges, to upland plains, lake areas and wide, open lowlands.
The best known mountains are the Zugspitze with a height of 2,962m and the Watzmann with 2, 713m. Yes, and who doesn’t know the beautiful Black Forest from which the Kuckuck clocks originate.
Germany’s rivers are eternalized in music. Johann Strauss named a glorious waltz after the Danube and various folk songs praise the Rhine and the Lorely.
Lake Constance connects Germany with Austria and Switzerland and boats take you easily from one country to the other. Not only the seaports in Bremen, Bremerhaven and Hamburg connect Germany to other parts of the world, but Frankfurt’s centrally located airport and a modern railroad system attract people from all over the world, also taking them to international fairs and film festivals. All other cities numerous attractions can easily be reached by plane or train.
Germany’s industry, with the emphasis on export, is famous for its steel, chemicals and cars—just to mention a few things.
Recently an increase in technological development has taken place and the state of Baden-Württemberg is one of Europe’s leaders in creating and marketing of innovative products and services.
German wines , of course, are famous worldwide and whenever and wherever Germans come together to celebrate, they also love to sing.
The best known festival is the Oktoberfest in Bavaria and Germans are not the only people who like to drink good German beer on such occasions.