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Gap Year Sets You Loose Upon The World

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I was pleased as punch when I realised the other day that I had taken a Gap Year many years ago. And I was surprised to find that ‘Gap Year’ is a term which started in the 1960s. I rather thought it was from Academia in England from centuries ago.

I was correct to associate Gap Year with travel to new places, or a time to do good deeds. But also – happily – it was also a year between high school and university for students to take a turn in the real world through gainful employment.

The latter was me – admittedly edged forward by the fact that my Algebra marks were deplorable. I got an almost immediate job as an Apprentice Plate Maker in a printing shop. I doubt such a job exists anymore.

My job was two-fold. I placed negatives of photos and text on a metal plate, that had a mixture of chemicals hardened to its surface. Then I placed the metal plate, with negatives, in front of two burning pieces of a substance I no longer remember. They looked like two large and thick pencils. I believe an electrical current set the pencils alight, and the resulting, concentrated fire, burned all the chemical surface off the metal plate, except for the part covered by the negatives. The end result was a metal plate with nothing but the required image upon it.

The metal plate was then coated in ink, which only adhered to the raised image. The image was then transferred to paper and cardboard, making logos (we did many spice labels) plus photos and text. There would be a separate metal plate created for each different colour.

Thus went my Gap Year, which lasted fourteen months. No travels of the world, and no altruistic attempts to make the world a better place.

But I did help sell spice.

(image)https://capricornreview.co.za/wp-content/uploads/sites/71/2015/12/shutterstock_1104332271.jpg

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In The Heat On The Way To Dachau

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This heat (which seems to be a stubborn fixture) takes me back to my university days, when I worked on a farm in Germany in lieu of getting into a Goethe Institute. It was a particularly hot summer, and much was made of it. I am very glad I am not working there this summer. It was not particularly taxing farm work. I could describe how I painted apple trees with a chemical compound to keep foraging sheep at bay. Or how I escaped from the midst of a herd of bulls after breaking my whip on one of their backs – but I won’t.  However, if ever I  get to my memoirs . . .

After the farm I travelled through Germany and parts of Europe,  mostly by train.  One of my stops was Munich where, as often as not, I stayed in a Youth Hostel. And there I met the Jewish gal on her way to Dachau. She was from the US and not on a work experience as was I. Dachau was a specific destination. She either borrowed postage stamps from me, or I from her – I don’t remember though I know we exchanged them.  We had the part of two days together (no – no night) and then she was on her way. I don’t remember if she asked me to accompany her to Dachau, but I think not. Although I was on my way to Britain to visit relatives, I believe I could have taken that extra day.

As it was, we exchanged addresses and upon our return home we wrote letters. And, as it was, we arranged a visit to my New Brunswick home from her New England home.  That was quite a leap for less than twenty-four hours together. And, she must have been a bit concerned when, as I drove her through thick New Brunswick woods after sunset  after picking her up at the airport, I stopped in the middle of nowhere for two hitch hikers. I remember the deep smell of pine from their clothes, as they had been working in the woods.

She stayed with my parents and I four days (no nights there, either – though there were a couple of parked car intervals). She told me that when her mother was talking to her grandmother on the phone about the trip, she heard her grandmother bellow across the room “IS HE JEWISH?”

Thus does memory flow from a post card.

I don’t, alas, remember her last name (this being some years ago). At the time she was studying to be an air traffic controller. Whether she  became one and whither she went I do not know. When I last communicated with her she was attending Brown University. She did not discuss Dachau with me.

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