As he grew up in Jefferson City during World War II, the FBI investigated Walter Schroeder’s family as it sought to keep track of the country’s German-born residents.
Schroeder, a descendant of German grandparents who lived with the family in Jefferson City, said his family likely faced discrimination during the war, but at the time, he never realized the ways authorities treated his family different from others.
“As an 8- to 10-year-old boy, I wasn’t aware of any (discrimination),” Schroeder said. “But in retrospect, people tell me there was.”
Now a historian with an affection for his hometown, Schroeder, 84, shares 42 stories of his time growing up in Jefferson City during World War II in his third book about Jefferson City’s history. “Buddy’s Stories” shares stories about heating homes with coal during the winter, rationing supplies for the war and watching Harry Truman and Winston Churchill visit Jefferson City.
A longtime-Columbia resident, Schroeder’s two previous books about Jefferson City focus on history as adults understand it. With “Buddy’s Stories,” Schroeder wanted to give readers a different perspective.
“This one is about my personal reflections growing up in Jefferson City and it’s written from the perspective of 10- to 12-year-old boy,” he said. “I’m writing it from the perspective of it as it happened as a kid.”
A long-time University of Missouri professor of geography with a doctorate in history, Schroeder began writing books from a scholarly prospective. His first book about history, “Breweries and Saloons in Jefferson City, Missouri” focuses on what modern-day Jefferson City residents can learn about the city’s past as a hub for German brewers. His second book, “Southside Sketches: Essays on Jefferson City’s Old Munichburg,” shares Schroeder’s reflections of life before air-conditioning, shopping at mom-and-pop grocery stores and other stories about the city’s Old Munichburg neighborhood.
In his next project, he plans to work with Gary Kremer, State Historical Society of Missouri executive director, to translate the memoirs from Schroeder’s German piano teacher who was in his 80s during the 1940s.
“Buddy’s Stories” takes readers to times Schroeder watched fireworks in Washington Park and saw the city’s original wood-decked bridge over the Missouri River swing open to allow steam boat traffic to pass. These stories allow readers to reminisce if they want to, Schroeder said. Still, he hopes people will use the 42 stories told in the book to take away their own interpretations of how World War II shaped Jefferson City.
“Historians use the word history differently than the rest of us,” he said. “To be a professional historian, you can’t just collect things like postcards, you have to interpret those things.
“What I said I would do first and foremost is to write 42 stories (and) see what people can learn from those things.”
The 200-page paperback book has 70 photos and illustrations and was published by the Old Munichburg Association, which hosts events and fundraisers like Oktoberfest, that promote the Jefferson City’s German heritage.
“Buddy’s Stories” can be bought for $15 at Downtown Book and Toy at 125 E. High St., Samuel’s Tuxedo’s and Gifts at 236 E. High St., the Ecco Lounge at 703 Jefferson St or through Old Munichburg Association’s gift shop at www.oldmunichburg.com/giftshop.html.