Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wolfgang Hampel, Betty MacDonald and me


Betty MacDonald in the living room at Vashon on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post.

Dear Betty MacDonald fan club,

i am a huge fan of Betty's; I read "The Egg and I" when I was a teenager and have always loved her books. I am glad you have taken the time and made the effort to promote her memory through your society, such a personality as Betty was should not be forgotten. 

I'm sure there are very many of her fans worldwide who like me, have many questions and are very curious about what happened to her family in the years after Betty's death.
I did receive Wolfgang Hampel's books 'The Kettles' Million Dollar Egg', 'The Egg and Betty' and 'The Tragic End of Robert Heskett' and found them very funny and so interesting. 

I think Betty was caught between a rock and a hard place at the trial. Writers are allowed a certain "creative license" and she may have embellished her characters a bit to make a good story, but of course she didn't want to lose the case, either. So she claimed some of her story was fictional. But I still believe she drew those characters from her life; good writers write about what they know and experience and it is obvious to me that her richly drawn characterizations of the Kettles and other families while she lived on the chicken farm were true for the most part. Even if parts of the story were fictionalized, I will always be grateful to her for writing some of the funniest and most unforgettable books I have ever read. She will always be my favorite humorist and I only wish she could have lived longer so she could have given the world more opportunities to enjoy her unique talent. Thank you for the second installments of the story.

I'm so happy to gain more knowledge about Betty's life and her experiences during the trial. Now I understand why the Port Townsend Chamber of Commerce said there were still some hard feelings toward Betty by some of the people in the area. You would think that after all this time, though, it really wouldn't matter anymore. I guess some people can hold a grudge forever! I don't think Betty ever intended to malign anyone. She wrote from her experiences, and if she embellished a bit, that is her right as a creative artist. Her characterizations were indeed devastating, weren't they? And so very funny. 
A hundred years from now her books will still be uniquely humorous. What a personality she was. 

When my husband and I took the trip to Port Townsend last summer in search of "The Egg and I Road" I wondered why there was no marker. The letter from the nice gentleman who lives on the old homestead in Chimacum partly answered that question. I wondered why the descriptions of the mountains in "The Egg and I" didn't match what I saw on Egg and I Road, and that question too was answered by Betty's testimony in the trial. 

I believe that Port Ludlow, Chimacum and Port Townsend were exactly as she described them. She may have had to stretch the truth a bit in the trial, but what else could she have done. It's indeed ironic that the Kettles were forced to live on EGG AND I Road. 

Another funny anecdote to her story. I especially enjoyed Kimi's defense of Betty in her letter.  In this age of "political correctness" which I find very tiresome, Kimi's letter was well thought out and well written. Betty was certainly not a racist. In "The Plague and I" Betty stands up for black people, and Kimi, who was Japanese, was her best friend. It was very different 60+ years ago but some people forget that.

It is so nice that so many people remember and care about Betty and try to keep her memory alive. Thank you for all your good works in her behalf. I agree that there should be more to commemorate Betty's life and her accomplishments, at least some kind of marker or memorial. At least they did name the "Egg and I Road" after her book.

I hope you can visit Washington state someday and take the ferry over to Vashon Island. It really is a beautiful, lushly green island with marvelous views in every direction.

I don't think Betty gets the recognition she deserves in this country partly because of the unfortunate atmosphere of "political correctness" (p.c.) that pervades the U.S.A. right now. Betty was critical of native Americans (Indians) in her book and that is a "no no" in the minds of many of the powers that be. They don't stop to consider that she was writing from the perspective of over 50 years ago or give her credit for her uniquely talented style and the marvelous, timeless humor of her writing. 

She really is one of America's best humorists and fortunately many people all over the world do recognize this. I think her books will be read and re-read through the ages. There are so many young people that are becoming aware of her books now, and that really encourages me...they will keep her memory going.

I agree with you that "The Egg & I" is one of the funniest books ever written. I remember laughing so hard I was gasping for breath and almost fell off the couch the first time I read it! I was about fourteen years old then. I have re-read it many times and never tire of it, I believe it is timeless.

Perhaps you have heard of the town of Leavenworth? It is at the foothills of the Cascades, and is a world famous Bavarian style village, very picturesque. They have Autumn Fest, Maifest, and Christmas lighting celebrations and people come from all over the world to visit. They have many German craftsman living in the area, contributing their talents to the many shops in town. They have dancers, complete with lederhosen and full old-world Bavarian dress, performing in the open square during the summertime celebrations. Wonderful food of every description; I love their bratwurst and sauerkraut, bought from the street vendors. If you are interested in learning more about the village, you can reach the site at It is well worth an online visit!

Betty MacDonald February 1951
"I have had letters from people all over the world - from England and from Bavaria - telling me that the Kettles lived next door to them.

I am looking forward to reading more of your society's publications about Betty and her life. She was such an unique personality, I will always love her and her books, they have given me so much pleasure and laughter over the years.

It is so good to know she has fans worldwide! 

Keep up the good work and stay in touch.

Yours in Betty's memory,


Vita Magica

Betty MacDonald fan club

Betty MacDonald forum  

Wolfgang Hampel - Wikipedia ( English )

Wolfgang Hampel - Wikipedia ( German )

Wolfgang Hampel - Monica Sone - Wikipedia ( English )

Wolfgang Hampel - Ma and Pa Kettle - Wikipedia ( English )

Wolfgang Hampel - Ma and Pa Kettle - Wikipedia ( French )

Wolfgang Hampel in Florida State University 

Betty MacDonald fan club founder Wolfgang Hampel 

Betty MacDonald fan club interviews on CD/DVD

Betty MacDonald fan club items 

Betty MacDonald fan club items  - comments

Betty MacDonald fan club - The Stove and I 

Betty MacDonald fan club organizer Linde Lund 

Dutch refugee policy is one of the toughest in Europe Europe Society February 4, 2016 Accommodation for refugees at Ter Apel in Drenthe.The Netherlands has one of the toughest refugee policies within Europe, the Volkskrant says on Thursday, based on a report by the justice ministry’s research department WODC. Refugees are less likely to be given a residency permit in the Netherlands than in Germany, Belgium or Sweden, the paper says. It is the first time that differences in EU admittance procedures have been investigated. ‘The fear that the Netherlands is more relaxed than other countries is unfounded,’ researcher Arjen Leerkes told the paper. Syria The report shows that the Netherlands approved 70% of the refugee applications made in the first nine months of last year, compared with a EU average of 47%. In 2014, the figures were 67% to 45%. But more refugees in the Netherlands come from countries where they are likely to be granted asylum, the WODC said. Last year, 32% of the refugees who came to Holland were from Syria, compared with 19% in the EU as a whole. And 91% of them go on to become official refugees. Corrected for country of origin, just 35% of refugee requests in the Netherlands are honoured. Bulgaria is the most generous, with a 51% acceptance rate and Greece the toughest. Athens recognises just 24% of asylum seekers as refugees. Junior justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff said in a reaction to the report he would like to see harmonisation of EU refugee procedures.

Read more at Dutch refugee policy is one of the toughest in Europe

Syria: Angela Merkel 'horrified' by suffering under Russian airstrikes

German chancellor deplores casualties as Russia-backed regime advances on Aleppo in what Turkey PM calls ‘inhumane attack’

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has said she is “horrified” by the suffering caused by Russian bombing in Syria as pro-government forces backed by airstrikes came closer to encircling Aleppo.
Opposition activists and state media on Monday said Syrian army troops had taken the village of Kfeen, north of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, while rebel forces have also withdrawn under bombing from three Kurdish villages.
Tens of thousands of civilians fleeing the Russian-backed advance on Aleppo remain stranded near the Turkish border, with no sign that the authorities in Ankara will respond to mounting international pressure to allow in more refugees.

“We have been, in the past few days, not just appalled but horrified by what has been caused in the way of human suffering for tens of thousands of people by bombing – bombing primarily from the Russian side,” Merkel said after a meeting with Turkey’s prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu. She said the two countries would push at the United Nations for all sides to stick to a resolution passed in December calling for a halt to attacks on the civilian population.Merkel made clear that she considered Moscow’s current course of action a violation of the UN resolution since it directly targeted civilians.
The German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, also criticised the attacks on Aleppo: “The dramatic pictures reaching us from the Syrian-Turkish border show one thing: those who think they can force a military solution to the conflict in Syrian are wrong”, he told Spiegel Online.

“It may be possible to momentarily shift the balance of power. But everyone should know that in the long run this doesn’t bring us any closer to an end of the conflict. On the the contrary.” Prolonging the military conflict only played into Isis’ hands, Steinmeier said. “This can be in no one’s interest, including Russia’s”.Davutoğlu said nobody should expect Turkey to shoulder the refugee crisis alone, and harshly criticised the ongoing attack on Aleppo. “There are almost 30,000 Syrians waiting at our border. […] The inhumane attack on Aleppo needs to stop as soon as possible.
“Aleppo is in effect under siege,” he said. “There is great pressure on Germany with regard to the refugees in Europe. Humanity is being tested in Syria, we have to face this test together.”
State-run news agency Sana said army troops on Monday took control of Kfeen “after wiping out the last group of terrorists there”. Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV also reported Kfeen’s capture and aired live footage from the village.
Syrian rebels have also withdrawn from three villages threatened by Russian airstrikes in the northern province of Aleppo that borders Turkey, allowing Kurdish fighters to overrun them, a monitor said on Monday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebels abandoned the villages of Aqlamiyah, Deir Jamal and Mareanar on Sunday at the insistence of residents who feared their homes would be bombe

That enabled the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) to move in to seize the three villages in another setback for the rebels only days after they lost three nearby towns to the Kurds.Aqlamiyah and Mareanar lie near the strategic Menagh military airbase, held by rebel groups since August 2013.
Opposition factions north of Aleppo have been increasingly stuck “between the pincers” of YPG forces on one side and pro-government fighters on the other, a military source said.
After some clashes between rebels and the YPG, residents pressured rebels in some villages to hand over control to the Kurds so that Russian warplanes would not target their homes, said Rami Abdel Rahman, of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Airstrikes targeted villages between Aleppo and the border crossing of Bab al-Salameh while convoys of aid supplies and ambulances entered from Turkey – reinforcing the impression that the Turks plan to create a border buffer zone that could in time become a safe haven for civilians.
Bashar al-Assad’s government made clear, however, that it was in no mood to contemplate a ceasefire – the focus of faltering US diplomatic efforts with Russia.
“Turkey has reached the end of its capacity to absorb [refugees],” Numan Kurtulmuş, Turkey’s deputy prime minister, told CNN-Turk on Sunday. “But in the end, these people have nowhere else to go. Either they will die beneath the bombings and Turkey will … watch the massacre like the rest of the world, or we will open our borders.
“At the moment, we are admitting some, and are trying to keep others there [in Syria] by providing them with every kind of humanitarian support,” Kurtulmuş added. “We are not in a position to tell them not to come. If we do, we would be abandoning them to their deaths.”
The Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation, which is providing food for 20,000 refugees, said on Monday it had set up a new camp with a capacity of 10,000, in addition to eight it already operates near the Bab al-Salameh crossing.