Wait a Minute!

Posted: October 26, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

We were there, but didn’t realize we were THERE!

At the last minute, Ed got answers to two of our remaining questions this morning, just after we checked out of our hotel in Heerlen. He had a hunch to go back and ask the desk clerk the same question he had asked another clerk yesterday. The difference was, he thought to himself, that this nice woman was in her fifties.Old enough to know there was this big war in the 1940s.

At first she gave the usual response: No, I didn’t even know the U.S. Army was in Heerlen during the war. But she said she had an 87-year-old aunt who might know. A few minutes later, we had the answer as to exactly where the 111th spent that cold winter here in 1944–right in the center of Heerlen! Any buildings they used are probably gone today, the aunt said.

With one exception, however. A large multi-story glass structure called the Glaspaleis (signed “Schunck”) dominates the town’s main square. We thought it was really new. But it is the building and the main square the clerk’s aunt mentioned. It was built in 1935 as a department store and is quite famous in architecture circles. Imagine how Dad and his buddies must have marveled at it! (It was suffered bombing dmage three times earlier in the war, and each time glass panels were replaced.) I have since learned that the building was used as a headquarters in late 1944 by Generals Patton and Simpson. Heerlen was in the thick of things during the winter months the 111th was here, as the Allies pushed into Germany.

Two ironies: First, the public library where we first sought information, unsuccessfully, is located in this building. We had walked all over that square the first day we were here, looking for an information office. Second irony: We thought the building was so recent that we didn’t bother to take a picture. But we were intrigued by a nearby sculpture, unlabeled, of a man in a plaid jacket taking a picture of the building! Now we think we understand the sculpture.

Glaspaleis-1    20131026-154057.jpg

Main square, Heerlen, today

Main square, Heerlen, today (the rear of the Glaspaleis building is on the left)

Then we showed our helpful hotel clerk Dad’s photos of the unit’s time in Heerlen, and she became very interested. When she saw the photo labeled “Windmill near Sittard,” she said, “That’s still there!” The previous day we had driven all over the Sittard area looking for a windmill, any windmill, but never saw a one. She gave us directions to Oirsheek, and we found it easily, sitting above the road between Heerlen and Sittard. A sign noted that the windmill was built in 1879 and has since been restored, but due to its location on a hill next to the road, we think it could have been the very one Dad saw.

img182 Near Sittard, Holland  20131026-154543.jpg

So thanks to Ed’s persistence and an old woman’s memories, we left Holland satisfied with our quest.

  1. StephieD says:

    Ha! Leave it to Ed…he does get results though, gotta give him that! Good for you, Ed! You’re a good husband! That was a great ending to the trip.

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