What's the Least British Thing Ever

20th anniversary of the withdrawal : In September 1994 the Western Allies left Berlin

My judgment about America was very ambivalent from an early age. When Fränky, the only one on our street who had ever been to the USA and therefore mutated from Frank to Fränky, brought a skateboard from there, we remained skeptical. That was 1969, none of us had ever seen a thing like this, and because our spokesman lay down on it quite brutally, it was clear that this American thing is nothing: a scooter without a handlebar will never prevail in Berlin. However, the fact that we tried the thing at all shows that we viewed everything that came from America with great interest. And that was due to our neighbors.

I grew up in the sixties right next to an American barracks, McNair in Lichterfelde, then West Berlin. The wall was a reality, I was too young to know it any other way, the term protective power, which some older people used, meant nothing to me. I viewed Americans with more ethnological interest, they were so completely different, you could say they made my youth multicultural. In the morning they ran around our block in casual “Fruit of the Loom” T-shirts, one of them had a flag in his hand and was singing something like “Ho-Hey-Ho-Ho-Hoo”, the others answered in unison and ran after. When I drove to school, they sometimes showed up at the bus stop heavily armed with bushes on their helmets. We knew it was maneuver time, and they'd move into the Grunewald and shoot around there. That was really cool. As twelve-year-olds, we would have loved to have shot around in the Grunewald. After school we turned on AFN, which was even cooler because we didn't have DJs like Wolfman Jack. We only had Lord Knud and the hits of the week. My friend Meiki, whose real name was Michael, had a mother who cleaned for the Americans. That was even cooler because it happened that Meiki was picked up in a road cruiser at a time when American cars still had fins. Meiki's mother also had access to the PX, the American supermarket, and from there she brought the first T-bone steak I ever saw. Okay, we had schnitzel too, but a T-bone! It was gigantic.

Of course we later found the Vietnam War pretty stupid, and that the Americans were allowed to do anything, even build houses in the Düppeler landscape protection area, without having to worry about Berlin dishes, was actually also hateful. Nevertheless, I went to the German-American Fair as long as real Americans were still walking around. And when I turn off at the corner of Clayallee and Argentinische Allee today, I don't see any new buildings there. Then I can still see the American gas station and the supermarket, which have long since disappeared. Looked kind of cooler. Andreas Austilat

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