Morawetz home from 1920-1924
In 1920, although the summers were still spent in Světlá, the Morawetz family moved to Úpice where their eldest son Herbert
started school. Úpice was a typical "mill town" of 6000 people in the foothills
of the Sudeten mountains. Morawetz' father, Richard, bought a house from the Čapek family.
Dr. Čapek was the family physician, and his youngest son, Karl Čapek, eventually became a
famous playwright. He wrote the play, RUR (Rossum's Universal Robots), in which he coined the term "robot",
an abbreviation of the word "robota" which means "hard labour" in
Czech. The term "robot" is used all over the world today to signify a machine
that accomplishes human work.
At this time, Richard Morawetz owned the jute manufacturing company in Úpice
jointly with his brother Moritz. Every morning Moritz would come to pick Richard
up to go to the factory, and would tease Richard's young sons by threatening
that he was coming to take their little sister away. This was repeated every
day, and the boys never caught on that he was joking: they would hurl insults at
him daily as he departed with Richard!
Morawetz home from 1924-1927
In 1924, the Morawetz family moved into a home that had been built by Moritz, and lived there until their move to Prague in 1927.
School Morawetz attended
Morawetz started school in 1923. School was never a pleasant experience
for him. The classes were huge - perhaps 60 or 70 boys - and as the school did
not hesitate to fail even a first grader who didn't "make
the grade", there were often many older and much bigger children in the same
class as youngsters. This terrified Morawetz. Furthermore, he was Jewish, and most of the students at the school
were Christian. Moreover, Morawetz came from a wealthy family and was always
well-dressed. He felt sometimes embarrassed that he must wear shoes to
school, while most of his schoolmates were the children of poor factory workers,
who came barefoot.
Furthermore, unlike today in North America, where disciplinary action is taken against unacceptable practices,
teachers in Europe in the early part of the 20th century could run their
classroom completely unchecked by any authority. Morawetz recalls a history
teacher who would enter the class, sit down at his desk, open the textbook and
begin to read. There was a long silence while he read, and then suddenly he
would pick one child and say: "and what happened next?" Similar ludicrous examples endured all through Morawetz'
early school years.
When not at school, Morawetz had plenty of hobbies to occupy himself. One of
these hobbies was similar to the modern-day mechano toy where one constructs
large, complex edifices. In his memoirs, Morawetz' brother Herbert describes his
patience with these exploits, and how he could be so single-minded with projects
that interested him, and yet so unaware of the world around him, which no doubt
led Morawetz, in later years, being labelled "the absent-minded professor":
Oskar was always an amazingly single-minded child. Before music became his all-consuming interest,
he spent countless hours and days building huge intricate structures from toy sets which he obtained as
birthday and Christmas gifts for many years. In the end he owned over thirty such sets containing many
thousand pieces. He went about his projects in a very methodical way, building first structures for which
plans were enclosed and drawing up later plans of his own. The size of these enterprises was such that it
took him in the end a whole afternoon just to take a building apart. He did this with infinite patience and
was very upset when any of the stones were damaged.
Later, when music became his great passion, he developed a particular love for opera and spent quite
often a whole Sunday afternoon playing a piano extract of an opera from beginning to end. Friends of
our parents kept insisting that this is a poor way to develop good musicianship, but
Oskar hated to have his favourite pastime interfered with. He also started to read orchestral scores
when he was quite young, something which to me was just so much black magic. My attitude to him was
a reflection of the strange contrasts in his nature. On the one hand, I saw him frequently as in a
trance at the piano and was convinced that he had the makings
of a great artist. The sound of his playing was a part of the atmosphere
of Světlá summers which were very dear to me. When Oskar talked to me
about the lives of his favourite composers, he seemed full of a deep understanding. But on the other
hand he was unbelievably naive in subjects related to everyday living and this led sometimes to
situations which I found most embarrassing. When I was about ten years old, Oskar and I
went on an excursion with a gymnastic organization to which we belonged. One of the boys
asked Oskar what kind of job his father had. "Oh, he
just beats people in the factory to make them work" was his reply.
I felt so ashamed that I could have sunk into the ground.
On Nov. 17, 1925, Morawetz' maternal grandfather attained the age of 70
years. There was a great birthday celebration for him, and many members of the
family provided entertainment in the form of original songs and poems. This
celebration was no doubt one of the seeds of the tradition of holding large
family gatherings, filled with good food and entertainment, which the
Morawetz clan adapted for many years after
immigrating to Canada.
Adolph and Hedwig Glaser with their 7 children and spouses
|Back row: Richard
Morawetz, Alfred Glaser, Rudolf Glaser
Middle row: Paul Glaser, Jetti (Glaser) Stein, Oswald Stein, Mitzi
(Glaser) Bondy, Herbert Bondy, Harry Glaser, Annie Glaser
Front row: Vilma Glaser, Frida (Glaser) Morawetz, Hedwig Glaser,
Adolph Glaser, Eli Glaser