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Why I Chose A Swiss Grandfather

August 9, 2013 1 comment
I have in my possession, the following original typed article which was written by Edith M. Fisher, (circa about 1945).  Any reprint or use of any of this work must properly cite Edith M. Fisher/Faulstich’s name as the original author. The article includes a photograph of a very young Edith (“Dee”) Fisher with a caption: “Internationally know philatelic writer and an ardent collector of stamps and covers of Switzerland”
A hand-scribbled note on the top of a photocopy of the news article: “Thought maybe you’d like this re “ancestors” to pen (into the) baby book. ~ Mom
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Why I Picked A Swiss Grandfather

Being on good behavior has its compensation in heaven the same on earth. I remember a time way back, about the middle of the last century, up in the never, never land.

I’d been on pretty good behavior for quite awhile when one fine day, my Guardian Angel said to me, “I want you to study the countries of the Earth.

Because you have been good, I’ll let you pick out the one where you think you’d like to live. In about three score years from now I’m going to send you down to Earth for one lifetime.

“Countries change so, how will I know what they will be like in the next century? I queried. “That’s a good question,” said my Guardian Angel, “no country is any better than the people in it,  or their ideals, and ideas. Rather, pick a man who will one day be your grandfather. Pick him for the country that is his background now and be satisfied to let the future bring what it may.”

Picking out a Grandfather from a country whose ideals were impressionable was a tall order. I thought I would never finish studying the countries of the Earth until one day I came upon Switzerland.

To me, it was the most beautiful of all countries that I had viewed. But we had been taught that is beauty is sometimes only skin deep. Perhaps, I thought the beautiful sky-pointed Alps, the profusion of wildflowers below the snow-capped mountains, the lakes, the quaint Swiss houses, the cleanliness and preciseness of the towns was only a thing of beauty. Perhaps, the people were not as fine as the beautiful countryside; but I determined to find out.

First, I studied the background of Switzerland and found to my delight that it was the oldest democracy in the world, in ancient days it was called “Helvetica.” Like most European countries, Helvetica went through its primitive period, with its domination by Imperial Rome. But, one day chosen delegates from the three countries of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, formed a political and military alliance to maintain independence against the Duke of Austria. This was on August 1, 1291. Through the centuries that followed, August 1st remained a Swiss National Holiday, because the document formed then contains ever the principle of its later constitution, even the one that governs Switzerland today. The document is called the Deed of the Confederation and is what dates Switzerland as the world’s oldest Democracy. Before another century had rolled around, five more Cantons were added by various treaties and Switzerland was hailed as a European power.

I studied this background reverently, and thought, “those people must have what it takes.” In a small territory, hemmed in by antagonistic larger countries, that had the determination and the fortitude to establish their independence.

Studying Switzerland’s background further, I found that she had suffered several centuries of hardships. The Reformation took its toll and subsequent internal political dissension weakened the little democracy, and I found myself worrying for her—forgetting that I was studying history that had already been written. Then I came upon the last part of the 18th century when the roar of the French Revolution rolled across the Alps and for the first and only time overturned the Confederation. The period of 1798-1804 was known as the Helvetica Period, I learned.

But, I saw that the Swiss were not to accept the new arrangement—although it took them until 1815 to restore the confederation. By that time, the twenty-two Cantons of which still make up the country had formed the Confederation and the system of the Cantonal sovereignty set up then and still exists today in a circle of Federal Union.

So much for background history, Switzerland inspired me, next I wondered about her achievements artistically. It didn’t take much study to find that their famous Abbey of St. Gall, laid down 1,200 years ago, was a hearthstone of the Arts in the middle of a barbarous Europe; that Calvin had founded the Geneva Academy of Arts in 1558 and that sculptors, painters, and musicians abounded in the little Democracy.

I saw the industries of the busy people of Switzerland, the herdsmen, the watch makers, the cheese and chocolate makers, and heard the happy peasants yodeling on the mountain sides, saw the St. Bernard dogs, beautiful, gentle, efficient. I read about the William Tell and his apple and was impressed. I got a fleeting glimpse into the future and say that this little country would be the seat of the Universal Postal Union, which would govern the mail service of the World.

By this time, it was quite apparent to me that Switzerland was as great a country as it was beautiful. I was convinced of its beauty, of its history, even of its aesthetic side. But, no truly great country can be great unless its people have compassion. Were there any great men or women in this beautiful spot that sacrificed their lives and their finances to help their fellow man? I didn’t have to go very far to find such names as Johann Pestalozzi, whose love of children and personal sacrifice for them, became a symbol of guidance to other countries throughout the world and of Jean Henri Dunsant, young man of a wealthy Zurich family, who devoted his life to helping the afflicted, who reduced himself to a state of poverty to help those in need, who founded the International Red Cross Society, which today has spanned to the four corners of the Globe, with its humanitarian program.

I felt numb with happiness. I felt sure that I had found the country that I wanted my Grandfather to come from. I sat down on my crossed legs and hummed softly, I looked down again into Switzerland, and as I did I suddenly saw a young boy walking the street of Schaffhausen. I heard my Guardian Angel say softly, “Have you made up your mind?’ Yes, I said, “I want a Swiss Grandfather.” She pointed to the young man in Schaffhausen and said, “Some day along about sixty years from now he will be your grandfather.”

I looked again, and heard the young boy, Conrad Bollinger was his name, saying Good-bye to his friends for he was leaving for America. I jumped up quickly. “But, he’s going to America,” I said to the Angel.

“That’s right” she answered, “there’s a new county over there—it needs the best that the rest of the world can give so that it can grow. Your Grandfather will have the ideas and ideals of the oldest democracy in the world as he establishes his home and family in a new democracy, which is trying to get over it’s growing pains.”

I must have fallen off to sleep then and it was some thirty years later when I awakened. I looked down again and this time I saw America. It took no time to find the young Conrad, but was much older now. He had fought in the American Civil War and was working for the Government of the United States.

My Guardian Angel appeared again, “Now,” she said, you can even see your mother.”

I looked carefully until I saw four children in their teens, three girls and a boy. They are your Grandfather’s children,” said my Guardian Angel, “the second from the youngest—Margaret is her name—will someday be your Mother.”

I rocked and hummed again, I felt good. I wondered if I would look a little like Margaret when I became an earthly child.  I thought, who could have picked out a better country than America in all this world, with a better background than one stemming from Switzerland. In fact, I felt pretty lucky. I had already seen both my Grandfather and my mother.

Again, I must have fallen asleep and the next thing I knew I woke up in Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York in the United States of America and someone said, “It’s a girl”

Note #1: August 9, 2013.

I am Alice Margaret Fisher. I was named after my grandmother and great grandmother Margaretha Bollinger. I am the granddaughter of Edith Margaret Fisher/Faulstich. I am the great-great-granddaughter of Conrad Bollinger, from Beringen, Switzerland. I retyped this article, written by Edith Fisher more than 60 years earlier, and furthered the family lineage into our Swiss ancestry as a result of her early work.

Our Swiss grandfather’s family now dates back to Hans George Bollinger, Born about 1588.

I am proud of this rich history and our deep roots.  As a result, when I completed a study abroad to Europe in 1994, and thereafter  I took my two young daughters with me and we traveled to Beringen, and Schaffhausen Switzerland.

We landed in Beringen on July 31, 1994,  it was my youngest daughter’s 12th birthday. We being the first to return as a direct line descendant of Conrad Bollinger. The village was exactly as my grandmother wrote, and they opened up the little museum and bought my girls an ice cream on Sunday pouring their history and lives out to us in earnest while we spoke a triangle of me with my broken French to the women in the village who then in turn spoke Swiss-German, to the Museum curator.

Note #2,  May 14, 2009
I’ve begun contributing to a Beringen, Switzerland History Project
on Wikipedia.com

With much pride and love to my Nana, you and your work will not be forgotten!
Alice Margaret Fisher

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Edith Faulstich, As a Youth

Edith M. Vanderpoel was born on May 22, 1907. As a child, she came “from a very upper-middle class family.” The generations before her had owned some large homes and property, as well as several saw mills on the Hudson River (Map of Kinderhoock, 1686). She had it all as a child and the family lost it all. She regained her family’s prominence and her wealth through her journalism and public communication (author’s interview, no. 1, 1995).

 As a child she developed the nick name “Dee.” The development and transformation of the name came from her Swiss-German grandfather, Conrad Bollinger. When ever he tried to pronounce Edith and it always came out “E dit.” It sounded like he was always saying eat it. To avoid embarrassment he began calling her Dee. Throughout her life she was known as Dee.

One occurrence appears to have become a pivotal point in her life. Faulstich knew she was intelligent and despite what others thought, she was not a quitter. At Park Ridge High School in 1925, Edith had enrolled in Mr. Smerber’s tenth-grade geometry class. It was not that she needed the class to graduate, but all her friends were in the class. She was a very social person, but be it known, Edith was not a flighty person by nature and always gave her best at any given task. Part way through the geometry course, Faulstich realized she and math did not mix. Never having done so before and after considerable deliberation, she asked to withdraw from the class.

Mr. Smerber brought her up from her wooden desk to the front of the class and stood her up on top of the platform where his desk reigned. Before the entire class of 25 students, Mr. Smerber proclaimed that she was a quitter, a looser and that she would never amount to anything” (author’s interview, no. 1, 1995). Despite the embarrassing incident in front of her classmates she graduated from high school in 1927.

Later in her life, this incident would become the opening remarks of a speech she would make to a large philatelic audience in southern New Jersey.

Due to the death of her father, she was unable to go to college but took a secretarial course. “She married at the age of 20 and had two sons” (Deutch, 2). Her married name became Edith M. Fisher. By the early 1940s, she was a divorced woman alone with two sons to support” (author’s interview, no. 1, 1995), and little to no income.

She faced many personal and financial trials as a single parent. Divorce in those days caused a quite a social stigma. Also, it was a man’s world and the only professions open to women during those early years were teaching or nursing. Women were not often afforded the opportunity to attend college. Instead, they generally held what were considered menial tasks as receptionists, secretaries and stenographers.

Dee started out as a stenographer and it did not make her happy. But the job brought in money to feed her children. Women were not very involved with factory work (author’s interview, no. 1, 1995).

Faulstich lived behind one of the family houses in a garden bungalow, daily she traveled to the city, by rail, to work as a stenographer. She earned forty dollars a week, twenty-eight dollars per month went for traveling costs into the city. She worked from seven in the morning until six at night.

She had a difficult time working long hours for little pay, overcoming financial difficulties and raising two children by herself (author’s interview, no. 1, 1995).

She had a great deal of emotional resilience. Faulstich “had what they called in those days, ‘moxie'”(author’s interview, no. 1,1995). Moxie is a slang term that defines the capacity to confront obstacles and difficulties with spirit; courage and guts (American Heritage Desk Dictionary,1981, p. 631).

She had a proactive inclination to respond purposefully to existing problems or events. Purposefully, Faulstich started stamp collecting as a hobby with her sons. In the beginning, it was a way for Faulstich and her children to do something together. It was a good way to spend some precious quality time together.

Faulstich “had a ‘yen,’ a longing, to write” and she was not a shy person (authors interview no. 1, 1995). In the beginning with her philatelic work, Faulstich wanted to know how people communicated before pre-printed governmental stamps, before 1840. She then wanted to promote and increase awareness about the value and need for postal history.

Additionally, there were several intangible elements about Faulstich that were also an integral part of her work. The intangibles were her emotional passion and the personal time she invested in philately which lent to her success. She was genuinely interested in people and how postal history affected people.

The human component was very important to her.

 

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