By Albert Simonson
In the late 1800’s, there were lots of Germans along the old San Diego Julian Toll Road through Cuyamaca. Just consider these Teutonic names: Bossung, Worms, Eschrich, Trimmer, Ober and Scholder. And that’s not including the gold rush Krauts in Julian itself.
These volks got their news from a German-language newspaper which is still around.
A few years ago I was involved in restoring a historic house in Alpine, which had lots of yellowed 1898 issues in German glued to the wall with milk as a kind of el cheapo ersatz wallpaper. Alpine had Germans, too; its first hauswas built by Overmier, the “section roadmaster.”
In San Francisco the paper is still in business, and modern issues can be had at the restaurant at Cuyamaca Lake. Up there, you kan read ze paper weil you eaten ze sauerkraut und bratwurst mit bier trinken, too.
The old papers had, understandably, ads for real estate at great prices. Bonnet designs were flamboyant and fashion ads were definitely Gay Nineties. Perhaps surprisingly, the news was more cosmopolitan that what is found today in San Diego newspapers. You could read all about goings-on in Paris and Berlin. And then there were the jokes.
These jokes are not exactly belly-shakers. It may just be that people who read German were by nature humor-impaired. It may also be that reading jokes under a flashlight and magnifying glass from century old brownish paper, in Frankish type, is not the way to have a hilarious time.
One old joke did tickle my fancy though. Here it is – our gut-splitter German gallows guffaw from 1898:
A condemned criminal is standing with a noose around his neck, and the hangman is adjusting the knot.
Hangman: “Before I hang you, do you have remorse for your crime?”
Criminal: “Verdammt (dang) – Getting hanged is bad enough! Do I have to have remorse, too?”
Auf wiedersehen! There are more jokes almost as good on the walls of Alpine’s pioneer museum on Tavern Road.