The World of Ephemera: A Swiss Folklore Evening

I love ephemera, (you can see a summary page of all my previous posts on the subject here), and I can’t resist sharing more bits with you as I find them.

Today, we’re off to Switzerland, Luzern to be precise, and what could be more exciting than going by motor launch on the lake to one of the lakeside resorts for an evening of particularly Swiss entertainment – yodelling of course, plus alpenhorns and flag-throwing…

… and all led by Franz Hug, the world-famous flag-thrower who carried (and threw) the Swiss flag at the Berlin Olympics in 1936.

No evening would be complete without getting a signed souvenir (and the signature is genuine, not printed, I compared it with a copies on sale for £2.99 to €10, and you can see the glint on the ink!)

I can’t date it except as after the Olympics, but probably, going by my parents’ hols, this was sometime in the 1950s. (Norm can you help?)


This drove me to find out a little more about Franz Hug.  Searching online I found a picture of him in action at the Olympics.

This is from a Swiss radio station, SRF’s website. They had broadcast a radio play about him «Der Olympiafähndler» (The Olympic Team Leader) by Hanspeter Gschwend.

Roughly translated, the blurb for the play tells:

The radio play is based on a true story: The Lucerne-born Franz Hug presented his flagpoles at the opening ceremony of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin at the top of the Swiss athletes’ delegation.

In the 1930s Franz Hug was an international star among flag throwers (and also a dazzling figure). The white cross, high in the sky, in a red field sparked enthusiasm among the 100,000 spectators in the stadium.

It was said that after the festivities of Nazis, Hug had been persuaded to swing the Hitler flag. This gave a huge crash in Switzerland, in which the federal court was finally involved.

By April 1937 he was, so The New Yorker tells us, ‘on a year’s leave from the Swiss Postal Service. He hopes to go into circus or vaudeville.’  Maybe he was waiting for things to quieten down back home?

In 1938, he had a part in Laurel and Hardy’s film Swiss Miss – in which Stan and Ollie are hoping to make money in Switzerland selling mousetraps, but a cheesemaker swindles them. Ollie, who has fallen for Anna, an opera singer, agrees that they’ll move her husband’s piano…

And what role did Franz Hug play?  A flag thrower or course.

It appears, he settled for a while  town of New Glarus, founded by Swiss immigrants in Wisconsin. He taught flag throwing in at the university of Wisconsin, Madison. New Glarus hosts an annual Wilhelm Tell Festival which is now in its 79th year. Hug appeared in the pageant while there. Find out more here.

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