What a difference a day makes, a story about Dolores R. Bischof
by Cyndie Kasko
Life was good back in the 30s. Grandpa Mac (aka my Grandad) started an up-and-coming company based on a miracle tonic that was said to cure goiters, a thyroid disease that caused early graying. The miracle tonic was named YODINE and could stop hair from turning gray.
While Grandpa Mac was busy launching YODINE, my mother's grandmother passed away in Germany at age 65. My Grossmama (aka my grandmother) worried about what would happen to her father because there weren't any living relatives on his side in Germany, so Grandpa Mac & my Grossmama decided to bring him to the states to live with them. While Grandpa Mac stayed in Los Angeles to work and earn money, Grossmama & Dodo (my Mama) departed. It was 1939, and it was supposed to be a six-week holiday overseas to Germany. Grandpa Mac saw them off at the Long Beach Harbor. Back then, everyone dressed in their finest clothes. Men wore hats and were distinguished gentlemen, while women wore dresses with gloves and were glamorous 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 cozy. Grandpa Mac watched as the Bremen ship pushed off to sea, waiving until he couldn't see them anymore. Little did Grandad know, it would be the last day he would set 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, better known to my Mama as OPA. Grossmama made all the final arrangements with her parent's home, filed paperwork, and finalized all other necessary affairs to move OPA to the states.
During those six weeks in Germany, there was news all over the streets that Germany was at war with Britain. So naturally, Grossmama became very concerned about this horrible news, especially since she gave up her German citizenship when she married Grandad and took his British citizenship instead.
When it was time to come home to the states again, government officials denied my Grossmama from leaving Germany and stated she was a British Subject and had to stay in her homeland, Germany, and wasn't allowed to leave.
Since my Mama was an American Citizen, they offered my Grossmama the option for my Mama to board a ship back to the states all by herself at the tender age of five. As any mother could imagine, this was unthinkable. My Grossmama decided it was best that her sweet Dodo stay in Germany and avoid being separated from one another for as long as possible. So my Mama lived in a war-stricken county for the next nine years.
Can you imagine? My Grossmama and Mama went to Germany for a simple vacation. This wasn't supposed to happen.
Back in Los Angeles, California, Grandad was sick to his stomach reading the newspaper and hearing the news on the streets that WORLD WAR II had begun. The love of his life, my Grossmama and Dodo, the apple of his eye, were out of sight, out of reach, and there wasn't anything he could do, but wait. For years Grandad felt helpless, not knowing if they were alive or placed in a concentration camp. Grandad stayed in the states and continued working and making money in hopes he could pay someone to rescue his family.
In Germany, my Grossmama, her Daddy, and my Mama were able to move back into the home where my Grossmama was raised. Living in Germany now was very hard for my Mama since she spoke little to no German then. She was, after all, a young girl from Hollywood who resembled child star, Shirley Temple. They would spend countless nights in the basement listening to planes fly over their home, bombs detonating, and guns fired as their house rattled and shook. My Mama was a frightened little girl who wanted to return home to her Daddy's loving arms but was stuck in a terror zone.
My Mama now found herself eating onions and potatoes to survive. Fortunately, my Grossmama was an exceptional cook and made creative, tasty dishes with limited ingredients for her picky baby girl. Luckily, my Grossmama had connections through her first husband, who had passed, and his family owned and operated a coal company. So my Grossmama was able to trade coal in exchange for eggs, veggies, and meat. Sometimes my Grossmama had to travel in the middle of the night through the dark forest to exchange coal for food. Coal was expensive, and now that Grossmama had an endless supply of coal, they were the only family in the neighborhood who could maintain a warm house. Their home soon became a refuge for many people during the winter months.
There was an incident where American troops entered the city, breaking into homes and massacring people. My Grossmama had an American Flag, and my Mama spoke English without a German accent. So the day the American troops barged into the family home, my Grossmama immediately pointed to the Flag to show they were American and one of them. Luckily, it worked, and the soldiers left them alone and other people in their building too.
The bombs and destruction around their home eventually became too violent and dangerous for a child to live. So my Grossmama had to make the hard decision and take my Mama to an orphanage far from home for her safety and well-being. My Mama lived in the orphanage in Kinderheim for the next six months.
Imagine putting yourself in my Mama's shoes, a seven-year-old American girl living with a group of German-born children. Germany was at war with America, so can you imagine how hateful and cruel these kids were to my Mama. However, amongst these German children were two kind and compassionate girls who befriended my Mama and later became lifelong friends. Ludia and Marianna were their names; they helped protect Mama from harm and had her back.
Of course, being the FINE LADY my Mama was, she always kept her chin up and bravely stood her ground. After the six months in the orphanage had passed, my Mama gained even more friends. Although Mama was technically an enemy in the eyes of these German children, they saw beyond that and accepted my Mama for who she was, a good and decent person.
In 1946, seven years later, at the age of 12, my Mama was able to send Grandad a letter to let him know that she and Grossmama were alive and well. We can only imagine how relieved Grandad must have been to receive the good news. Of course, Grandad immediately sent them supplies, cigarettes, clothes, food, and anything else he could send to show his love. Sadly, most of the items were intercepted and stolen by the Nazis, but some of the goodies made it.
Now that World War II had ended, they continued to write back and forth. Finally, Grandad wrote a note in one of the letters to Grossmama, asking to send Mama back to the states first. Then Grossmama could work on getting her clearance and documentation to return to the states.
All these letters had been kept by my Mama, hidden safely in an old suitcase. Finally, towards the end of Mama's life, she told me where they were. Initially, I couldn't read the letters to her without sobbing, so I took them home and read the letters to myself. I fell in love with the sincerity and compassion in my Grandad's written words to his wife and daughter. When Mama was near the end of her life, my family surrounded her deathbed as I read the letters aloud. I know in my heart she heard every word because hearing is the last to go before we take our final breath.
Ultimately, Grossmama decided to take her husband's advice and send Mama across the ocean with a couple she had entrusted to deliver Mama to Grandad. Mama set sail back home to the United States in February of 1948. Shortly after Mama's departure, Grossmama received a telegram that shattered her world. Sidney Harris MacGee was dead. My Grandad and Grosmama's beloved husband passed away on January 18th, 1948. This date was also Grossmama's birthday.
My Mama was somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean, and there was no way to get word onboard the ship and warn her of the tragic news awaiting her in Hollywood.
I can only imagine how anxious, excited, and nervous my Mama was to reunite with my loving Grandad. To not be separated by a war any longer, wrap her arms around her Daddy, and say, "I love you." But sadly, that wasn't what had happened. When my Mama knocked on the door of their family home, she was greeted by a stranger who explained her Daddy had passed away. Grief-stricken and devastated, my Mama did what she did best in troubled times. She kept her chin up and bravely pushed forward.
Later it was found out that my Grandad's company, YODINE was in negotiations with the Japanese government to buy massive quantities of the miracle tonic. Legal documents were drafted to finalize the deal, but World War II had begun, and the deal abruptly halted. Nevertheless, the Japanese were very interested in the YODINE product because many Japanese men suffered from an enlarged Adam's Apple during this era, and YODINE was believed to be the cure.
Now in Hollywood, at the age of 13, Mama had no other family in the states and was still being cared for by the people who had kindly escorted her from Germany to America. This nice couple were actually on their honeymoon, so my Mama joined the honeymooners on their travels to the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, and other tourist spots for the next few months until my Grossmama arrived in Hollywood.
My Mama, nicknamed Dodo, had been through a lot for a young girl and had now transformed into a beautiful, kind-hearted young lady known as Dolores. Dolores went on the win a flower girl pageant in the early 50's, and Grossmama handmade all of Dolores's elegant dresses.
Dolores attended Hollywood High School and made more lifelong friends along the way, Renate, Rita, and Vera. All four schoolgirls had a unique bond; they were in Germany during the war years and loved to dance. They especially loved the Polka. While most young girls in the USA were crazy for Elvis Presley, Dolores loved the sounds and rhythm of German music.
Grossmama had now met and married her 3rd husband, Gustov Schwartzer, otherwise known as Gus. Dolores had also inherited a step-sister and a step-brother, Emily, and Jo, as well as nieces and nephews.
Dolores never followed popular trends; she was unique, eccentric, and one of a kind. She was known to call up her girl squad at midnight when everyone was fast asleep and convinced them to go dancing. The young ladies would wear chic hats and stroll Hollywood blvd.
Dolores discovered the German center, a place that held dance parties. It was there that Dolores met her soul mate, my father Josef. When Josef asked Dolores to dance one evening, she declined because Josef's nickname was "Casanova." Dolores refused to be just another one of Josef's "girls." After all Dolores was a proper girl raised with morals. However, he didn't give up so easily, and Josef was persistent. Finally, Dolores agreed to a dance. Tall, dark, and handsome best described Josef, and when Dolores asked his full name, he replied, "Josef Bischof." My Mama once told me she immediately thought to herself during that first dance, "hmmm, Dolores Bischof, I could do that last name."
On May 15, 1955, Josef Bischof married the most beautiful, well-respected woman imaginable. Dolores had all her bridesmaids wearing all white (this was not acceptable back then, only the bride was supposed to wear white, but remember, Dolores, didn't follow typical trends.) My father was a German-trained couture tailor that made the finest suits for men and apparel for women. Josef made his own wedding suit, which my brother Bernie wore to his wedding 42 years later. Josef, whom I called Papa, created his very own woman's apparel line. His slim and beautiful Dolores was his model, and together they started a line called ADRIA.
This was the post-war era, so being German in America shortly after both countries fought wasn't ideal. My parents soon held their first fashion show at the Hilton in downtown Los Angeles and invited buyers from all the exclusive high-end department stores. While there were many pre-orders for the suites, my parents didn't have the funds to mass-produce the clothes.
One of the things my Mama loved about her husband was that Papa always had money in his pockets. Josef was responsible and a good provider. He recognized early on that the fashion industry was nearly impossible to break into unless you were wealthy and had strong financial backing. So Papa and Mama started their road to success by buying property. Josef had many talents, and building "stuff" was one of them. Papa would buy, fix up, and flip properties like crazy. One day, my parents made a trip to Solvang, CA, over 100 miles north of Hollywood, and my dad fell in love with the concept of a European village. Missing his heritage and being the only child out of 13 in the states, Josef decided to bring a piece of his homeland to Torrance, California and the family business began with ALPINE VILLAGE.
Life was great! In February of 1959, my Mama discovered she was pregnant. Papa was excited and joyful but also nervous. Their bundle of joy arrived on the 21st of October, and they named him Bern Josef Bischof, now known as Bernie. My brother was the cutest little boy, and everyone adored him. Bern was a Mama's boy, but also a big-time, Grossmama's boy. He was the first boy in the family on my Grossmama's side. Every Sunday, Bern would spend it with Grossmama, and she handmade his clothes and completely spoiled him.
My Mama's life was busy, being a devoted wife and mother while also caring for Grossmama, running the family business, and teaching children's polka dance class. In addition, my parents moved quite frequently during this time, seven to be exact. As a result, Dolores rarely had time for herself, but she could still brighten a room whenever she entered.
Done with the whole L.A. lifestyle, my parents noticed people were flocking to Orange County in the early 70s. So Papa searched until he found the perfect nine acres to build Old World Village. Back to the drawing table, Josef Bischof designed and built another European village, even better than the first village in Torrance. Old World has always been very dear to my family, especially Mama. Old World Village was where Dolores finally felt at peace and at home. The village was where my Grossmama passed away and the last place my Mama called home until the day she died.
At 42 years old, On the 10th of February, 1976, Dolores gave birth to me, Cyndie Dolores Bischof. My parents provided me with a wonderful childhood. Old World in the early '80s was magical, like Disneyland. I had a great upbringing and was surrounded by good and kind 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 my Grossmama, who lived till she was 103 years young.
Later, when I married in 1995 at the age of 19, it was in secrecy. I eloped, but my Mama knew I didn't go to a friend's wedding; it was my wedding. Mama also knew that if Papa knew I married so young, I would be in big trouble. It took me seven years to tell my family I was married. Mama welcomed Jason to the family with open arms, accepted my Jason Kasko, and took him under her wing. Her love was 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. Mama was thrilled that Bern had found the love of his life and that Barbara was willing to leave her homeland to join our family in the states.
Mama's first grandson was born to Bern and Barbara on the 25th of July 1998. Markus Josef Bischof, the eldest of four grandchildren, had a special place in Mama's heart who the grandchildren called, Oma. Her Markus boy meant so much to her. She would push him around the village daily in his stroller, and when Markus got older, she would take him to his favorite places, PetSmart, Jurassic Pets, and many other spots. The two shared more than the Leo birth sign; they had a unique and special bond.
Shortly after the birth of Markus, a dark time fell on my Mama and our family. Dolores was diagnosed with Uterus Cancer. She fought hard to stay with us as long as possible because she knew we needed her, and we weren't ready to let go. Finally, my Mama did it and overcame her sickness.
The second grandson, also born to Bern and Barbara, came on the 16th of November, 2001. They named him Matthaeus Gottfried Bischof. AKA little Bernie. Matthaeus reminded my Mama of Bern when he was a little boy. A kind, loving, and gentle child. Matthaeus was the grandchild who Mama knew would one day walk her frail self safely through the village and to the restaurant hand in hand.
Two weeks after Matthaeus was born, Jason and I had our first son, Ronin James Kasko, born on the 30th of November, 2001. Oma also had a special place in her heart for Ronin. Ronin was her little warrior. Mama told me that she couldn't remember much about her Daddy, but she was sure that Ronin's smile was the spitting image of Grandpa Mac. And that they both shared the same macho style.
In 2004, Mama faced a second battle with cancer and was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. She now had three grandchildren, and I was expecting my second child during this challenging time for our family. However, Mama prevailed and beat the cancer yet again. Jason and I had our baby girl on the 26th of October, 2005, and 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 would be Ava, so we named her Victoria Ava Jade Kasko. My girl goes by Ava, the starlet of this family. I see so much of my Mama in my sweet little girl. Ava has a natural matriarch-type personality, and she has comforted me during times of grief and loss.
Old World Village has had its ups and downs. But because Mama was a TRUE LADY and always taught me to see the good in EVERYTHING & EVERYONE, I'd say we have had more "ups" in the village.
Some of the greatest moments in my Mama's life were spent here in the village. As a child, I remember my parents smiling, twirling, and dancing together, a memory I will carry forever. Mama used to stand up, speak into the microphone, and welcome all our customers to Oktoberfest and other festivals Old World hosted over the years. Mama would always carve time out of her busy schedule to join me on school field trips, and she would always lift me up, and knew exactly what to say when I was feeling down. But most importantly, Mama taught me many life lessons like love my enemies, embrace life, and pray for everyone. Mama prepared me well so I could do it all and be a good wife and mother, but also spread my wings, soar high, and reach my full potential.
I learned the true meaning of "family" from my Mama, and no matter how challenging or difficult times were, family stuck together side by side no matter what. Mama always said, "The grass is never greener on the other side." and "If you know you are in the right, you never need to prove yourself to anyone."
What started with a backache at 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. It was the final battle, and I knew in my heart it would be the last. Mama had always conformed to life's circumstances; she was strong that way. My dearest Mama was weak and tired, and we prayed for peace and comfort in her final days.
The evening before we brought Mama home from the hospital, I helped prepare her room, and I found a book she attempted to write intended for me. Here are notes Mama wrote: What is one word that best describes my life, and why? This was my Mama's answer, HECTIC - being stuck in Germany for 9 war years, entering the USA as a young teenager, trying to fit into the US way of life, moving around 7 times before finally settling down, starting construction projects, building villages, and enjoying the simple days of our intricate lives. A beautiful life lesson. Enjoy the simple moments in the midst of chaos.
Dolores passed away Saturday, September 18th 2010 at 5:50pm. It was 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 shock and disbelief. Mama was gone from this life, and we would never see her again on earth. And then, from out of nowhere, I blurted out in front of my grieving family, "Well guys, as Oma would say, the show must go on."
Dolores's legacy will live on, and her life story will be passed down for generations to come. Mama lives in all of us, and she will always be the 1st lady of the Old World Village, a true pioneer. Thank you, Mama for everything.
With love, your daughter Cyndie