Charles and Linda met at a lunch counter in Charlotte over 50 years ago – six months later they were married. She was barely out of her teens, he was already out of college and had recently returned from Fort Lewis in Washington after being discharged from the US Army.
Charles was the youngest of three boys born between the Great Depression and World War II. They were raised in the “big city” (Southern North Carolina style). Like most families of that time, they got by, all three growing to become educated, hard-working family men. His oldest brother, Al, was his senior by seven years; Frank was only two years older.
Their father was also an Al – Albert Frank Bernhardt, I, who was born in October of 1902. A native of Philadelphia, according to Charles, Grandpop attended Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry (now Drexel University). He was an electrician in Philadelphia before moving to North Carolina between 1925 and 1930. He met his bride, Myrtie, during this time, and on January 24, 1929, they were married in Philadelphia at Bethany Reformed Church (now Bethany U.C.C.). Bethany was the German-speaking Evangelical church that Grandpop attended as a youth. He began his membership with Bethany by baptism in 1918 and remained a member of the church until moving to North Carolina. There the couple joined Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, in part due the large German community there.
One of Al's first jobs there was as a weaver in a hosiery mill, a skill he likely learned from his father, a weaver and a tailor. By 1933 he was again working in his chosen field as a radio serviceman for a company called Glascow-Allison.
With a brief exception, Grandpop lived in North Carolina for the remainder of his life.
During World War II the family moved to East Orange, New Jersey. Al worked for Bell Labs in New York City, working on materials sensitive enough that he was required to wear a sidearm. Grandpop was perhaps fortunate in this regard, as anti-German sentiment was high during this time – perhaps this spoke to his knowledge and ability in the field in which he worked. He was also an auxiliary policeman for civil defense during the war.
It seems likely that the brevity of this time in New Jersey was expected, as the family moved back into their home in North Carolina around 1945. Upon returning, Grandpop worked for a company called Williams and Shelton before opening a television repair shop just around the corner from his home. He ran this shop until retirement. After retiring he focused on wood crafts - on a large scale such as cabinetry, and on a small scale, building dollhouses and furniture for his five granddaughters. Al also had four wonderful grandsons he enjoyed working with in his basement. He tended raspberry vines that he grew in his backyard.
Grandpop was active with the Boy Scouts of America and a member of Phalanx Masonic Lodge in Charlotte, North Carolina. On the weekends he could usually be found in his blue armchair smoking his pipe or in his basement work shop. These times left memories that are often stirred by the smell of sweet tobacco, wood-burning tools, and musty, earthy basements.
Grandpop passed away in December of 1988 due to complications from congestive heart failure. He lived to be 86 years old, perhaps a testament to the strong German stock from which he came.