Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Stalag Prisoners Reunited

September 1966

  “Stalag 17” — the stage drama that was turned into pure comedy for a TV series, wasn’t too funny for those imprisoned in any of the Nazi prisoner of war camps. The play will be the season opener for the Avon Players this month. One of the production workers, Bill Thompson of Utica, was a prisoner at a German prison camp.
   But one of the side-dramas coming from the camp involved three “roommates” named Gwyn Williams, Vladamir Popovich and Elliott Schlashberg. After they said what they thought were their final goodbyes in June 1945 when the prisoners were freed, Williams returned to his home in England, Popovich to his native Yugoslavia and Schlashberg to somewhere in America.
   A year later, Williams emigrated from England to America and settled down in Royal Oak. He moved to Rochester in 1958 and lived on Northumberland until moving to California a few months ago.
   THE FOLLOWING Christmas after moving here, Williams received a homemade Christmas card from Popovich saying that he was now a displaced person. Because the Communists had taken over his country and he had fought against them, he was obviously not in the position he had been prior to the war.
   Williams then set to work to bring “Pop” to America, along with his wife who was in Egypt. They arrived here a year later and now live in Troy. But whatever happened to Elliott Schlashberg?
   A few years later after the Williams-Popovich reunion, Williams was watching TV and saw the rollicking Channel 4 weatherman who looked strangely like their old Stalag cellmate. And it was.
   We know him better as Sonny Elliott.

* * *
  AMERICANS AREN’T bad people after all. That is the opinion at least of a European who has just finished a three-month visit in Rochester. He is Christian VandenBerghe of Aalter, Belgium, who was visiting relatives here— his great uncle, Carl VandenBerghe of West University Drive, and a cousin, Carl VandenBerghe.
   Christian, who is only 21, and is ready to go to work as a bookkeeper after just finishing college, stopped in the office before leaving Friday. “I have a different idea of Americans than seeing them in Europe,” Christian declared. When he saw Americans visiting Belgium, they were often loose with money and didn’t hesitate to tell how much better things are back home.
   “Now that I’ve been here, I have found that America is not all millionaires, big buildings and cowboys.” He found the weather here much more pleasant this summer than his cool and rainy homeland and was impressed by the rapidity of highway building. In Sault Ste. Marie he saw his only Indians, “but they were dressed just like me,” Christian was surprised to find. But the biggest surprise was finding that most Americans “are just average people.”

* * *
  NOT ONLY IS The Golden Ram one of the most plush stores in these parts, but it is also one of the most interesting. Items that a lot of people have never seen before are found there. For instance there are electric shoe warmers from Norway that you shove into your shoes at night and they are nice and warm in the morning. Then there’s a little silver dish affair that lights your cigarette by rays of the sun.
   As a fun gift, there’s a series of books like “What I Know About Women” and “What I Know About Bridge” with your own name imprinted in gold on the cover. When the receiver opens it up— all the pages are blank.
  This would be an very appropriate gift for me to give.  You see, I know absolutely nothing about bridge... and even less about women.