What is Genealogy?
“The pursuit of family history tends to be shaped by several motivations, including the desire to carve out a place for one’s family in the larger historical picture, a sense of responsibility to preserve the past for future generations, and a sense of self-satisfaction in accurate storytelling.” Ronald Bishop
“You really need to talk to Clara.” That is what several people said when suggesting the best person to give the inside story of what it was like to work at the Gingerbread Castle. Early in the project, Clara Wetterauw Wilson agreed to talk about her experience working at the Castle, but the story is much bigger than the one about her teenage job.
Like many teens from Hamburg, working at the Castle was the first break into the world of work, but for Clara it was a family tradition.
You see, Clara is the niece of the original Gretel – Olive Williams Green. Olive was the daughter of Fred Bennett’s miller – John D. Williams. Olive not only lived in Hamburg, but she essentially lived at the Castle on Wheatsworth Road. According to the interviews conducted by Marion Wood for “All About Hamburg”, Olive’s father John is depicted in the tile work showing the image of the “miller.” Their family is memorialized in the very structure of the Castle.
But this family tree of Gingerbread employees is bigger than these two Olive and Clara branches; Clara’s sister, Carol Wetterauw, also worked at the Castle. Clara and Carol worked in the 1970′s selling souvenirs, selling tickets; Clara waitressed in the Castle Restaurant and eventually she moved up to manage the kitchen operations for two years.
Clara’s father Nick Wetterauw was also on the scene, he worked at Plastoid Corporation which had taken ownership of the Castle in 1943.
The Best Job of All
But the mother of all Castle jobs was to be the official “Baker of the Gingerbread”. This role was held by none-other-than Clara and Carol’s real life mother, Marguerite Wetterauw. Marguerite worked tirelessly for many years crafting 1,000′s of Gingerbread Boys each and every week to feed the streams of visitors. While other cookies were also on the menu, the smell of the Gingerbread proved hard to resist for most people. Sometimes the two girls would accompany their mother back to the Castle’s kitchen at night to help Marguerite get caught up with the production and icing work in the quiet of the closed Castle. They would work to ice as quickly as they could, making it into a family challenge of sorts. Despite all of this exposure to cookie making in her youth, Clara still enjoys some gingerbread now and then, all these years later.
Many other families are likely able to connect the roots and branches of their family tree to experiences at the Castle; we hope they share their stories with the Gingerbread Castle Library.
My mother, Shirley Kimble Holley had been a Gretel when she was a young girl as was my daughter Kristen Dehnel Doherty. When Joe D’Figlia reopened the castle, I was hired to design and sew the dresses for Bo Peep and The Story Teller.