I was using my grandfather's saw to cut down a Christmas tree last week when an old nickname popped into my head. Grandpa used to call me Schnicklefritz. I inquired of fellow genealogy researchers about it's meaning. Most agreed that it was an endearment that meant "little chatterbox" or "rascal". It was not limited to boys or to people named Frederick.
I remember how much I loved to sit on my grandfather's lap. He had a gruff but affectionate manner. He would hold me for long periods of time seeming to ignore me while engaging in lively conversation with other family members in the room. Finally when I had given up pestering him for attention, he would suddenly snort loudly in my ear. Fright quickly turned to laughter and I would beg him to do it again. He, of course, would refuse until I too was thoroughly absorbed in the conversation. Then he would repeat the process to general laughter in the room. I can still feel the occasional hugs spiced with white stubble against my cheek.
I also remember pestering him to speak in German. He would comply patiently for a while. His final reply to my relentless "say something in German grandpa" would be "ach 'n 'schpitten" again to general laughter in the room.
I guess I earned the nickname Schnicklefritz.
Grandpa spoke flawless English. My Uncle Jack recalls that when he was a boy, he loved to sit on his father's lap on Sunday mornings and listen to him read the funny papers. Everyone would gather around to hear him read "kats 'n jammer kids" with a thick German accent.
My grandfather died almost 40 years ago. I still miss him very much.
Charles Betz (1886-1962) of Portland, Oregon, was a florist (specializing in Easter lilies), a landscaper, a classical tenor soloist, and a treasured German-Russian grandfather.
Story written by Frederick Betz