posttrib
HISTORIC 
Weather Updates

Manes: German couple build life together, brick by brick

Rudolf Marianne Scherer | Jeff Manes~for Sun-Times Media

Rudolf and Marianne Scherer | Jeff Manes~for Sun-Times Media

storyidforme: 58445280
tmspicid: 21298316
fileheaderid: 10007151

Updated: January 30, 2014 3:29AM



“Leichter gesagt als getan.” (Easier said than done)

— German proverb

Both Rudolf and Marianne Scherer possess delightful German accents. They live in Munster and have raised two children.

Rudy, 86, is a retired bricklayer who built his own house. It’s brick, of course. He also is an excellent woodworker whose creations can be purchased at the Steeple Gallery in St. John.

***

“I was born and raised in the Ruhr Valley,” Scherer began. “It’s in northern Germany close to the Dutch border. The Ruhr Valley was a mixed population. Around 1900 industry starts. In Ruhr Valley there was nothing but coal. From all over Europe they came to work.”

Sounds like Northwest Indiana and its steel mills.

“You got it. A regular melting pot. Coal was why my grandparents came to the Ruhr Valley.”

Are you any relation to the Scherer family that Schererville is named after?

“Could be. I never looked into it.”

In Germany, Scherer is probably as common as Jones or Jackson is in this country.

“There are more Scherers in this country than there are in Germany.”

Interesting. What year did you emigrate to the United States?

“In 1954. I was 27.”

When you came here, did you speak any English?

“Nein.”

Several years ago, I interviewed a man by the name of Werner Rieken who was German-born. During World War II, Werner was a POW in Maryland.

“I used to work with Werner. We were bricklayers.”

When you two were on the job, would you speak German to each other?

“Sometimes.”

Did you learn your trade in the old country?

“Yah. I started laying brick in 1942 when I was 14.”

I recently interviewed a man who is fourth-generation German. His family has operated a hardware store near Hohman Avenue in Hammond since the 1880s. The building is primarily an art gallery today.

“You speak of Dave Mueller. I knew his father.”

Small world. Several years ago, I interviewed an Irish-born bricklayer by the name of John J. Branley.

“He lived in Cedar Lake.”

Amazing.

“I know a lot of bricklayers. I just went to a wake yesterday.”

Don’t tell me, Augie Lamprecht.

“Yah. How did you know that?”

I interviewed Augie, too. I saw on Facebook that he had passed. Augie was a good man.

“Yah. Augie was a good man. I worked with him and with his son. I remember when the son started his apprenticeship. Now he is retired.”

Time flies. I’m surprised you didn’t break my hand when we shook. Most of you bricklayers have hands like hams.

“That goes away when you retire, too.”

Memorable jobs?

“Oh my God. I worked on all the schools in Munster, the Administration Building... .”

Did you work inside the steel mills?

“Yah, I worked there, too. In the ‘80s, I helped build the coke battery at Bethlehem Steel. There was no outside work at the time.”

Back to Germany. Were you in the war?

“Yah, but I was only in one year — 1943. No action. I was in the German Navy. I went to boot camp and then to school as radio operator.”

The Ruhr Valley must’ve been an urban environment.

“It was like Hammond, East Chicago and Whiting. One big city close together. At that time there was 20 million people there. The city of Essen was headquarters for Krupp Steel Co. It is still there — worldwide. Dusseldorf was another city in Ruhr Valley. The Ruhr Valley goes into the Rhine (River).”

Dusseldorf mustard is what they use on White Castle hamburgers. Marianne, do you cook traditional German cuisine on occasion?

Marianne: “Yah. I make sauerbraten and wiener schnitzel. Oh, yah.”

Rudy, who was the better cook, your mother or your wife? Be careful how you answer that.

“Marianne’s mom was an excellent cook.”

Germans love sweets.

Marianne: “I make sachertortes with dark chocolate, eggs, apricots and rum.”

Rudy: “That’s actually an Austrian recipe. In Vienna there is a hotel called Sacher.”

I had a foreman in the mill who made no bones about the fact that he was not a German. He was an Austrian.

Marianne: “Oh, yah. They didn’t like that. They didn’t want no German, nein.”

Rudy: “In Austria, there is a mountain in the Alps called Tyrol. Half of the mountain is in Austria and half is in Italy. Those people, whether they were Austrian or Italian, didn’t consider themselves Austrian or Italian. If you asked them where they were from they would say Tyrol.

“I met a bricklayer over here. I asked him where he was from — Tyrol. He was born here! But he was still a Tyrolean. That is how proud they are of where they come from.”

Are you and Marianne from the same town or city?

“Yah, we are from Buer, Germany. We’ve been back many times.”

Has Munster changed much since the 1950s?

“Oh, yah. Oh, yah. We rented a place close to Munster Lumber. Then we moved to Greenwood before moving here. When I’d look out the window to the southwest, it was nothing but fields. Where the landfill is now was once a brickyard. That’s where they dug the clay to make the brick.”

Forgive me, but I once saw the comedian Billy Crystal on Jay Leno and he mentioned that he’d recently returned from Germany. He commented about how guttural the German language is. His example was our pleasant sounding word butterfly. In French, he said, it’s the equally delightful sounding papillon. Then Crystal said in German it’s: HAUCH!

“Ha, ha. That’s funny. Actually, the German word for butterfly is schmetterling.”

***

Good people, Rudolf and Marianne Scherer.

Yah.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.