German American Club Pins

In Attire
Peekskill GASC Pins, 1936
Peekskill GASC Pins, 1936

Every year come September my family went to the Oktoberfest at our town's German American Club. My father would drink from plastic beer cups printed with the same floral pattern on my grandmother's jade Corelle plates. Men tossed rings for the sake of the glass chime. Crafters decorated children with garlands, and old gentlemen from the Lutheran Church hauled out their lederhosen.    For me, the event's attraction came from balancing on tent stakes, dipping my fingers in beer foam, and doing "The Chicken Dance" on stage to music from an oop-pah-pah band.   It was the only time we remembered that we were German. I grew up thinking ethnicity was something to be dug up for social studies projects and holidays, when traditions and ornaments from Europe were hauled down from the attic.   But for my great-grandparents, being German was something more. I will never know what that more was—a chance to socialize? Remember? Commiserate? Celebrate?—only that it was important to them. 

Every September my mother took me on a pilgrimage to the club office, away from the yellow glow of the festival’s tents, and hoisted me up to see a plaque on the wall that listed my maternal grandparents’ fathers as club presidents. Their names were high on a list above recent leaders. Each year I returned to the plaque to recognize the people I’d never met, until I was at eye level with the names of those who stored memories and obligations in the membership pins they passed down to us, so that we can remember.

Place(s): Germany
Year: 1923

– Jadyn Marshall

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more