by Cyndie Kasko
Life was good, back in the 30's Grandpa Mac started a very promising company based on a miracle tonic that was said to cure goiters, it made your hair not turn gray in your later years, it was called YODINE.
While Grandpa Mac was busy launching YODINE, my mothers grandmother passed away in Germany at the age of 65. My Grossmama worried what would happen to her father being that there weren't’t any living relatives on his side, so Grand-dad & Grossmama decided to bring him to the states to live with them. While Grand-dad would stay here in Los Angeles and make money, off they went, Grossmama & Dodo in 1939 for, what they thought would be a 6-week holiday overseas to Germany. Grand-dad saw them off at the Long Beach Harbor. Back then everyone, was dressed in their finest clothes. Men wore hats and were gentleman, woman wore gloves & dresses & were ladies.
My Grossmama bought lavish outfits for their voyage, my mama wore a white mink hat, a beautiful red coat and hand-warmers to keep her tiny hands warm. Grand-dad watched as the ship led out to sea waving to them until they couldn’t see one another anymore. Little did Grand-dad know that, that would be the last day he would set his eyes upon his loving wife and dearest 'Dodo'
Once they made it overseas to Grossmama's homeland in Arnsberg, Germany they were reunited with Grossmama's Papa or better known to my mother as OPA. Grossmama made all the final arrangements with her parents home, paperwork and whatever needed to be done in order to get OPA to be able to come to the states.
During those 6-weeks in Germany there was news all over the streets that Germany was at war with Britain. Grossmama became very worried about this horrible news, especially since she gave up her German citizenship when she married Grand-dad, she took his British citizenship instead.
When it was time to come home to the states again, government officials told Grossmama that she was a British Subject and she is to stay in her homeland and wasn’t allowed to go back to Germany her home.
Since “Dodo” was an American Citizen they offered Grossmama to put my Mama on a ship back to the states all by herself at the tender age of 5. As any mother would do she didn’t put Dodo on that ship alone back to the states but instead was stuck in a war stricken country for 9 years.
My mother lived in a nightmare that didn’t end for 9 years. Can you imagine this? She went to Germany for a simple vacation, this wasn’t supposed to happen.
Back in the states here in Los Angeles, California, Grand-dad was sick to his stomach reading the newspaper and hearing the news on the streets that WORLD WAR II had begun. His lover and apple of his eye were out of sight & out of reach. For years he didn’t even know if they were alive or if they were placed in a concentration camp. He stayed here and continued to make money to find someone to help retrieve his family.
In Germany, Grossmama moved back with her little girl and father to her home where she grew up. It was very hard for “Dodo” since she spoke little to no German at that time. She was a little Hollywood starlet amongst a gray background of terror. They would spend countless nights in the basement listening to bombs flying over their home and gun shots that rattled the house. My mother was a frightened little girl that just wanted to go back home to the arms of her daddy.
She lived on onions and potatoes. Luckily my Grossmama was an exceptional cook and could make the tastiest dishes for her picky baby girl. My Grossmama had connections from her first husband that owned and operated a coal company. So she would trade coal for eggs, veggies and meat, occasionally. In order to get it she would travel in the middle of the night through the dark forests of her once beloved homeland where now life was terrible. There was even an incident where American troops came through her city breaking into homes and massacring people.
Luckily Grossmama had an American Flag and my mother spoke English without a German accent, so when they came into their home my grandmother immediately showed the Americans that she & my mother are one of them. Luckily the American soldiers didn’t touch her or several other people in their building.
The bombs became so bad that my Grossmama had to bring my mother to an orphanage far away from home and leave her there for 6-months or so.
Imagine putting yourself in my Mama’s shoes for just a minute, a 7 year old American girl living with a bunch of German born children. Germany was at war with America so you can imagine how mean and cruel the kids were to her. However among these mean children were 2 very nice and compassionate girls that would become lifetime friends. Ludia & Marianna. These girls would watch my Mama’s back and were her genuine friends.
Of course being the FINE LADY that my mother is, she always kept her chin up and never gave in to her identity, after the 6-months were up she had gained even more friends and even though she was the alleged enemy, the children saw her unique charm. That charm she carried with her till the day she died. And I am convinced that if you were lucky enough to know my mother, you knew exactly what I spoke of.
In 1946, at the age of 12 my mother was able to send her loving Daddy a letter to let him know that she and Grossmama were alive and well. I can only imagine how relieved and happy Grand-dad must have been to hear the good news. He immediately sent them supplies, cigarettes, clothes, food, etc… most of the items were stolen by the Nazi’s but there were times when they did receive the goodies.
They would write each other letters back and forth and as soon as the coast was clear and WORLD WAR II ended my Grand-dad wrote to Grossmama that she should send Dodo by herself first, so meantime Grossmama could get clearance and also months later could return home. The letters which my Mama kept all these years were hidden away in an old piece of luggage.
Towards the end of my Mama’s life she told me where they were. I couldn’t read the letters to her without crying, so I took them home and read them to myself. I fell in love with the sincerity and compassion in my Grand-dads letters to his wife and daughter Dodo. At Mama's deathbed, I read all the letters to her with my family present. I know she heard every word and maybe even heard her Daddy's voice that she so longed for all her life.
You see, my Grossmama decided to take her husbands advice and send her only daughter across the ocean with a couple she entrusted to bring Dodo safe into the arms of her father. My mother set sail back home to the United States in February, 1948. When my grandmother went back to home to start the process of figuring out how she would get back to the states again she received a telegram that would once again bring the darkest news to her. Her 2nd love, Sidney Harris MacGee, Dodo’s father had died on January 18th 1948, which was Grossmama's birthday.
Grossmama’s teenage daughter was in the middle of an ocean and there was no way to let her know what tragedy would await her.
I can only imagine how anxious, excited and nervous my mother must have been to see her wonderful daddy, to finally have him hold her in his arms. When she knocked at her daddy’s door she was greeted, not by her father, but a stranger, that told her that her father passed away. Tragically devastated yet again, she kept her chin up.
Back at home, Mama has 0 family here in the states and has to travel with the honeymoon couple that Grossmama entrusted her daughter with. They traveled to the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls and a couple other places until months later when Grossmama could make it back to Los Angeles.
With a wounded heart and a beautiful girl Dolores manages again to keep on shining. She won a flower girl pageant in the early 50’s and grossmama would make her beautiful one of a kind dresses! She was truly Grossmama's gem. She attended Hollywood High and made more lifetime friends Renate, Rita & Vera. They all had something in common, they all were in Germany during the war years and loved to dance. They especially loved to Polka. While most young girls in the USA were crazy for Elvis my Mama loved the sounds of German music.
Grossmama met and married her 3rd husband Gustov Schwartzer, otherwise known as Gus. Dodo inherited a step sister Emily Bowers and brother Jo, nieces and nephews.
Dodo never followed the trends, she was eccentric in her own way. She would call up her girl squad at midnight when everyone would be fast asleep and would convince them to go dancing, they would put on chic hats and stroll Hollywood blvd. to see all the beautiful clothing displays. (back then Hollywood was a top notch kind of place). She discovered the German center that would have dances. At these dances she would meet her sole mate. When Josef Bischof would ask my Mama to dance she would refuse knowing that his nickname was “Casanova” Mother was a proper girl and didn’t want to be just another girl. However he didn’t give up so easy, he would be persistent in asking her for just a dance. She finally gave in and danced a dance with him. Tall, dark and handsome, she remembers asking him what his entire name was. “Josef Bischof”, he answered. My mother told me that while dancing that very dance with him she thought to herself “hmmm Dolores Bischof, I could do that last name”……
Hence, on May 15th 1955 Josef Bischof married the most wonderful, well respected woman ever imaginable. She had all her bridesmaids wearing all white (not acceptable back then, only the bride is supposed to wear white, but remember I told you, she doesn’t follow trends.) My father was a German trained couture tailor that made the finest suits and ladies apparel imaginable. He made his very own sharp looking suit for his wedding, which my brother even wore at his own wedding 42 years later. Josef whom I call PAPA, created his very own woman’s line of fine suits. My slim beautiful Mama would be his model and together they started a line called ADRIA.
These were post war years, so being German in a land that just fought each other wasn’t the easiest of places to be. They held their first fashion show at the Hilton in downtown LA and invited buyers from all the exclusive high end department stores. While there were many requests for the suites my parents didn’t have the funds to mass produce the suits.
One of the things my mother loved about her man was that he always had money in his pockets. He was athletic and He is a provider. He saw early on that the fashion industry was nearly impossible to be launched unless you were wealthy. So early on in their relationship Papa & Mama started their road to success by buying property. My father has many talents and building is one of them, he would buy, fix up and sell like crazy. He and my mom made a trip out to Solvang and my dad fell in love with the concept of European village. Missing his homeland and being the only child out of 13 children that was here in the states, he decided to bring a piece of his homeland to Torrance, California and called it ALPINE VILLAGE.
Life was going great! February of 1959 my mother discovered that she was pregnant. My father was excited, ecstatic and nervous all at once. Her bundle of joy arrived on the 21st of October, they named him Bern Josef Bischof now known as Bernie. My brother was the cutest little boy and everyone loved him. He was not only a Mama’s boy but a big time, Grossmama's boy. The first boy in my grandmothers side of the family. Every Sunday Bern would spend it with Grossmama. She handmade his clothes and spoiled him.
My moms life was very busy, being a great mother, a devoted wife, taking care of her mother & running a business and teaching and running a children’s polka dance class. My parents would move quite frequently, 7 to be exact. She rarely had any time for herself. She would always know how to brighten up a room when she enters.
Done with the whole LA lifestyle people in the early 70’s were flocking to Orange County. So Papa searched and searched until he found the 9 acres of land that the Old World Village stands on. Busy again at the drawing table Josef Bischof built yet another village, even better than the first village. Old World is very dear to my family, especially to mama, this was where she really felt at home. She lived here the longest than any other residence. She died in this very village where her mother also passed away.
At 42 years old, On the 10th of February, 1976 she gave birth to me, Cyndie Dolores Bischof. My parents gave me a wonderful childhood. Old World back in the early 80’s was like Disneyland. I had a great upbringing and was surrounded by good people. My godmothers were Renate Zumbanzen who was like an adopted grandmother to me, and my aunt Emily Bowers. I even lived next door to Grossmama who lived to be 103 years young.
I married in secrecy in 1995 when I was only 19 years old. I didn’t have to tell my mom that I eloped, but somehow knew in my heart that when I lied to her about going to a friends wedding, she knew it would be my wedding and she knew that if my dad knew I was such young bride, I’d me in big trouble. I told my family 7 years into my marriage that I was married My mother with open arms accepted my Jason Kasko and took him under her wing. Her love is unconditional.
My dear brother married his beautiful Austrian bride in May of 1997. Barbara Doerfler has also been a big part of my Mama’s life. Mamma was so happy that he found his true love across an ocean and left her lovely family to be a part of ours.
Mama’s first grandson was born to Bern and Barbara on the 25th of July 1998. Markus Josef Bischof the eldest of 4 grandchildren had such a special place in whom we will now call OMA’s heart. Her Markus boy meant so much to her. She would push him around the village everyday in his stroller and when he got older she would always take him to his favorite places, pet smart, Jurassic pets and more. The 2 of them would share a special LEO bond. Great friends these 2 were.
Shortly thereafter the birth of Markus a dark time in her life was about to begin, my Mama was diagnosed with Uterus Cancer. She fought hard because she knew we needed her to still touch the lives of 3 more grandchildren, and overcame her sickness.
The second grandson also born to the Bischof's came on the 16th of November, 2001. They named him Matthaues Gottfried Bischof. AKA little Bernie. Matthaeus reminded my Mama for sure of her Bernie boy. His kindness, and loving nature shines right through him. Matthaeus is the grandson that would remind his Oma that when his Oma would be old he would still walk her to the restaurant here in old world.
2 weeks after Matthaeus was born, Jason and I had our first son, Ronin James Kasko. Born on the 30th of November, 2001. Oma had a special place in her heart for Ronin. Ronin was her little warrior, she told me that she can’t really remember much about her daddy, but she was certain that Ronin’s smile was her Daddy’s undoubtedly. Her dad was a macho kind of guy, much like Ronin is.
In 2004 Mama was faced again with another battle life threw at her. She was diagnosed then with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. She now had 3 grandchildren and I was expecting a baby during these dark times, so she again won the battle, over came her disease and months later, Jason and I had our baby girl on the 26th of October, 2005. We couldn’t decide on a name. My mama wanted the name Victoria, Jason wanted the name Jade and I had a dream that her name was to be Ava, so we named her Victoria Ava Jade Kasko. Ava is now the starlet of this family. I so often see my Momma in my own little girl. Ava has a natural matriarch personality, she comforts me during our loss of our Oma.
Old World Village had its ups and downs. But because my mother is a TRUE LADY and because she always taught me to see the good in EVERYTHING & EVERYONE, I’d say we had more ups in this place we call home then the downs.
Even with the chaos and heartbreak it brought, some of the greatest years of her life were spent here. As a child I remember she and my papa dancing away. My mother danced with such grace and had a smile from ear to ear. She would get up on the microphone and welcome all our customers to Oktoberfest and other festivals. She would find the time to always be a driver on all my field trips at school. When I would get in fights with friends and think the end of world was approaching. She always got me to lift my head. She would teach me to love my enemies, embrace them and pray for them. Now that she is gone I will have to rely on the wings she gave me.
Even though in this village, maybe in this very room there were people that would try to slam my family to the curb or judge us for how did things . We did it as a family, the best we knew how and we all stood by each others side. No matter how tough life would become or sad, my mama would always remind me that the grass is never greener on the other side. And if you know you are in the right you never have to prove yourself to anyone.
What started with a backache in the beginning of June 2010, turned for the worst. Dolores was diagnosed a third time with Cancer, this time she had Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Before this final battle was to begin, in my heart I knew that she didn’t want to put up a fight again. She has always conformed to her circumstances to please everyone. She had had enough, she was tired and just wanted some peace and quiet. The evening before we brought Mama back home from the hospital , I helped prepare the room and I found a book she attempted begin writing just for me. I’d like to share a page with all of you to understand the irony in her lifetime. One of the pages asked a question “what one word best described your life, and why. In her very own words her answer was the word 'HECTIC' being stuck in Germany for 9 war years, entering the USA as a young teenager trying to fit in to the US way of life, moving around 7 times before finally settling down, starting construction projects, building villagers, just a simple part of our intricate lives. With that being said she made the best of life the way she knew how.
She passed away Saturday, September 18th 2010 at 5:50pm. It was to be a busy night at Oktoberfest and after the mortuary picked up her lifeless body and carried her away, my whole family sat in the living room in disbelief. She was gone and in this lifetime, we would never see her again. So out of no where I blurted out to the family, “Well guys, as Oma would have said, “The show must go on”.
Her legacy will live on and in all the lives she touched. She is the 1st lady of the Old World Village a true & loyal heart. Mama thank you for everything.
With love, your daughter Cyndie