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50-50 Party


Birthday cake
Winding down


I celebrated my 50th birthday on Saturday the 26th of September 2009 in the Fellowship Hall of the old
American Community Chapel on Hüttenweg. My actual birthday was on the day before on the 25th, but I wanted to have a big celebration in style for all my friends and relatives who made these fifty years worthwhile.

I opened my welcome to my approximately 80 guests with the rhetorical question of "What does 50-50 stand for?", which was prominently displayed on my invitation as well as on the entrance door.

The answer is Yes.

So, I mused what I would do in the next 50 years: Maybe write a book or two, or maybe get more involved in politics and rule a country or two, or both …

Speaking of 50 more years: I took the opportunity to invite everyone to my 100th birthday.

I welcomed friends from various groups I belong to, such as Scottish dancing, the American Church in Berlin, Democrats Abroad, JFKS alumni, work, neighbors, and simply long-time family friends. In particular, I welcomed family who flew in from Frankfurt, Stuttgart, and England. As people arrived, I had given them nametags to fill out to show their name, where they knew me from, and with a prompt to say something interesting about me. Ruthy's was one of my favorites: She knows me through DNA.


After the introduction, the buffet was opened. True to the 50-50 theme, I had American food and drinks off to the left and German food and drinks off to the right under the respective flag decoration. The main American food was chili con carne along with coleslaw (sauce imported by my parents) and taco chips, whereas the German food was Thüringer Rostbratwurst with sauerkraut and potatoes. The bratwurst though had to be picked up from the grill just out the door in the courtyard. There was for instance also American Miller beer, which Ben provided from the Stuttgart commissary, along with Kool-Aid also brought from the US. On the German side, there were two kegs of Berliner Kindel beer and Jägermeister for example. Respective wines were available as well. The centerpiece however was a large rectangular frosted cake I had ordered, decorated with the 50-50 logo and with a trim in the respective national colors. To augment this cake, I also asked people who wished to provide something to the buffet to bring apple pie (thanks Edie) and Apfelkuchen (thanks to Carmen, Alexander, and Heidi) respectively.


Once everyone was well fed (had to make sure I found time to eat myself), it was time for my 50-50 speech. First though, I had everyone stand up as I stood on a chair myself for the overview. In order for everyone to know and appreciate how long they knew me, I had people sit down in stages. First, those were to sit down who knew me for ten years, i.e. since 2000. Then those were to sit down who knew me after 1990, 1980, and so on. Finally of course, only my parents, Art and Erika, remained standing. I said Aunt Gaby from Frankfurt should remain standing too, since she knew about me in 1959. My Dad took the opportunity then to hold up a pair of baby overalls of mine with a prominent hole worn through the one knee.

I then held my "50 things I learned when I turned 50" speech. A sigh of relief went up when the first point on the list was to keep lists short, so there were only 15 points.

I also pointed out other "celebrities" that were also celebrating their 50th birthdays this year. I had set up a special presentation table for them:
debut international toy fair in March 1959
stories appear in Spirou in 1959
appears in Pilote in October 1959
hatte seinen ersten Fernsehauftritt in November 1959
was presented in April 1959
United States Flag
with 50 stars adopted in 1959

The display was flanked by my vacation journals and photo albums from last year's trip to the USA and this year's trip through Germany.

Birthday cake

By now, my guests were eager to have some birthday cake. Therefore, I had everyone simultaneously light up the sparklers distributed on the tables by the lit table candles. Someone started singing "Happy Birthday to you" then.


First of all, I had a special game for the children. I asked Anita and Ruth to do "Topfschlagen" with the younger guests. This they set up in the entrance hall. Of course, the prize the blindfolded searcher finds when he or she strikes on the upended old pot with his or her spoon was also 50-50: a Kinderüberraschungsei along with a big, imported American candy bar. Couldn't say no when Anita and Ruthy caught me so that I would have a go. I think they made it extra hard for me by moving the pot around.

Dagmar then did her two sitting dances, getting everyone to do the motions to the music together. Aunt Gaby had me sit so that she could recite a poem to me about the adventure of finding the perfect gift for me. After all the suspense, it turns out to be a bag of Haribo
Gummibärchen! Finally, Kumar organized the singing of a round in my honor.


I had some Scottish dancing planned too. While some of the tables in the front were removed, the demonstration team and I practiced once more quickly in a back room.

The first dance – my 'birthday dance', which I had first drafted a year ago – was called "Whreel of Life". It is a complicated square-set reel with the women as the primary dancers in the first half and the men the primary dancers in the second half. However, before we could dance it, the Scottish dancers insisted I open the special gift they had gotten collectively for me. It was a formal black Price Charlie vest and jacket. What a surprise! (They had taken my measurements a couple of weeks ago though.) So, I put it on for the dance. (By the way, they said it seemed to be a bit small on me, so it was returned later for a larger size.)

The dance went quite well. We then preformed a 'German' Scottish dance "Trip to Bavaria", followed by an 'American' Scottish dance "Virginia Reel", which was an easier line dance for others to join in. The fourth dance was another dance I wrote for the party. It was suppose to be as easy as possible; "Benjamin Bunny's First Hop". We had many beginners for that one.

After the Scottish dancers did one more dance for their own fun, I wanted to conclude with "Benjamin Bunny" in the ballroom version for those who didn't get a chance to dance the line-set version and to get a couple of children involved as well.

Winding down

Tom had sent us a "Pix and Baby-Flix" DVD of me. Ruthy set up Fabian's laptop so that the video could be viewed a couple of times by those interested. Otherwise, we still mingled and enjoyed each other's company.


Thanks above all to my immediate family: To my wife Edie, my daughters Anita and Ruthy with their respective boyfriends Krister and Fabian, brother Ben, and to my parents Art and Erika. Without all their help and contributions, it wouldn't have been possible and the party would not have been worthwhile either.

Thanks also to Chris McLarren for the music system and to Susi and the Grants for salads.

Thanks to the van I rented from the American church I was able to transport all the supplies and also shuttle folks to the airport.

Thanks to the Bachhuber Fleischerei for the delicious Neuland Thüringer Bratwurst and potatoes (had leftovers for two weeks) along with the grill master who grilled for us and to Integra for the china and glassware.

And last but not least, thanks to the fencing and the armed police guards outside who protected us day and night from an al-Qaeda bombing. (Actually, heightened security, because of the German federal elections the next day as well as the hall being otherwise used as a synagogue.) Served them some coffee and candy bars.

Here are some more pictures made of the weekend by my Dad in his Snapfish album.


Some things forgotten or omitted: And, as a final note from Unstrange Phenomena: