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Hirschjäger History

   August 1969 is the grand opening of the Safeway International Grocery store on Cary Street, right by the train tracks and Powhite Parkway.  Safeway had arranged for SuGTV Washingtonia to come down from DC on a bus to dance and entertain on the sloped asphalt parking lot in the 90+ degree heat, and they were NOT serving Bier!? Ed Lohmann, president of Gesang Verein Virginia and one of the co-founders of the Richmond Oktoberfest (Adolf Naujokat, president of the Deutscher Sportklub Richmond, was the other instigator!!!) heard that Washingtonia was coming down.  Richmond Oktoberfest had already lined up Lyle Sexton’s German Band, also from DC, for the FIRST Richmond Oktoberfest at the Abbey dance hall upstairs in the restaurant/hotel next to the Richmond Arena and Parker Field in October 1969, but there was no Schuhplattler group scheduled. Ed Lohmann told all Oktoberfest committee members to be at the Safeway to see Washingtonia.  After the performance that Saturday, around 4:00 pm, Ed invited the whole busload to come by his and his wife Virginia's house for some Bier and Bratwurst!  Washingtonia agreed, Ed called his friends (also Gesangverein members) at the Richbraeu Brewery to bring the Bier and a relationship started between Richmond and Washington.  The bus backed up into Lohmann’s driveway, the doors opened and out marched Dave Rosenberg on drums, Curt Unger on trumpet, Betty  Heyman on accordion, Molly Poelsterl on Glockenspiel and everyone else.  Probably around midnight all the Washingtonia Schuhplattlers loaded on the bus and road back to DC.


   The entire Washingtonia Verein loaded back on the bus two months later on a Friday to come perform at the first Richmond Oktoberfest on a Friday and Saturday in October 1969.  The committee put them all up in a hotel in Richmond Friday and Saturday nights.


   June 1970, the annual Gesangverein Picnic at the Up and Away Dude Ranch out Staples Mill Road, Ed Lohmann arranged for the world premier of a new musical group in Richmond – five 7th and 8th graders playing two clarinets, trumpet, trombone and tuba using some music books that Ed had ordered and named the “Sauerkraut Symphonie!?”  On clarinet were Jon Schaeffer and Rob McClintock, Don Mueller on trumpet, Charles Beecham on trombone and Mark Meuschke, nephew of Ed, on tuba.  Our success at the picnic catapulted us into “warm-up” band position for the 1970 Oktoberfest at the Richmond Arena.  Both Lyle Sexton’s German Band and Washingtonia were back for their second year at the Richmond Oktoberfest.


   In either 1970 or 1971, Sandra Hurdelbrink began teaching German at John Randolph Tucker High School and her engaging, exciting and energy-packed approach to teaching German as a foreign language included encouraging, begging, almost insisting that EVERY German student join the newly invigorated German Klub to foster speaking the language, learning the culture and building a float for the Homecoming Parade!  Since Frau Hurdelbrink had lived as an Army brat a number of years in Germany, and specifically Muechen, she also felt we should learn to dance German/Bavarian folk dances. The Tucker High School German Klub soon became the social center of the high school, and students of German, and many others too, wanted to join.  We connected in the early seventies with Washingtonia members, Dave and Nancy Rosenberg, Rudy and Mollie Poelsterl and daughter Karen and Betty Heyman, to either drive to Washington for dances and picnics at the German Orphan Home in Upper Marlboro, MD (now closed), Max Blob’s Bavarian Bier Garden in Jessup, MD, and the Washington Navy Yard for cultural day, AND those members drove to Richmond to have dance sessions with the Tucker Deutscher Tanzverein.  Dave Rosenberg himself was the first Plattler instructor to us in Richmond.


   Around 1972, Washingtonia member LTC Curt Unger with the U.S. Army Reserve Readiness Command at Ft. Meade, MD, was training/inspecting military personnel at Ft. Lee, VA, and said he would like to meet with the high school dance group to further our instruction of Bavarian Laendler and Schuhplattler dances.  During our training sessions with Curt Unger at a church on Patterson Avenue, he asked if we had thought about a name for ourselves, other than Deutscher Tanzverein.  Curt said a number of Vereine of the recently formed Gauverband Nordamerika had names such as Edelweiss, Alpenrose, Enzian and other alpine flowers.  He felt that with the preservation and maintenance of Alpengebirgstrachten and Taenze/Schuhplattler, where according to Dave Rosenberg, “men dance like males and women dance like females, because the dances are an extension of the meeting, courtship and relationship of men and women,” a Schuhplattler Verein should have a more rustic and rural name, like the Hirschjaeger!  Hence, the name was suggested, discussed, agreed upon and remains to this day!

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