This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
{ Click on the image to expand the photo }

Mud Walking with Music

10 June 2016

Mud, mud, glorious mud

Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood

So follow me follow, down to the hollow

And there let me wallow in glorious mud”

chorus to The Hippopotamus Song by Flanders & Swann

It's a rare find to see a vintage photo
of musicians in their bare feet.
The members of this brass band wiggle their toes
in a muddy seashore surrounded by
a large crowd of men, women, and children
who join in a cheer, all sans shoes and stockings.

 But it is also for their


The postcard is captioned:

Nordseebad  Büsum
Wattenläuffer mit Musik

These mudflats are alongside
the small coastal town of Büsum, Germany
in the district of Dithmarschen, in Schleswig-Holstein.
This small fishing community was, and is still,
a family holiday destination
originally made popular as a health resort,
when it was officially designated
as a Nordseebad - North Sea Spa in 1837.

Wattenläufer translates roughly
as Mudflats Runners.
or maybe Mudflat Bishops or Mudflat Carpets.
German is a funny language.
 This northwest coast of Germany
does not have sand beaches,
nor stony shingle beaches
like the English spa towns
on the opposite side of the North Sea.
In Büsum the ocean tide is quite dramatic
when it goes out
revealing a broad shallow mud flat,
home to shellfish of all kinds.

At some point
in its early years as a health spa,
patrons of Büsum discovered that
walking barefoot in the local mud
produced salubrious
and invigorating improvements
to ones fitness and vigor.
This healthy mud
made Büsum famous,
and its souvenir shopkeepers prosperous
from all the postcards that promote
the benefits of Mudflat Running.

This postcard was mailed on 25.6.09 – 25 June 1909.


People lined up to follow the band
as it led a parade onto the mudflats
made warm by the summer sun.
The Nationalpark Wattenmeer
now protects this area
but mudflat hiking,
which has its own Wikipedia page,
remains a popular recreation.
Today, licensed guides are recommended, as are shoes,
for there are dangerous places where the mud is like quicksand
and hidden in the muck are many sharp and rough edged shells.
But our ancestors were made of sterner stuff
and happily took a muddy promenade in naked legs.
The modern guidelines for this activity do not mention sticks
but in the olden days, nearly everyone
carried a long staff, sometimes even a flag.
Perhaps it was used as protection against encounters with clams.

It all seems like jolly sport.
So why not have a brass band play
as one took a stroll through the mudflats?
A brisk polka might warn when the tide was turning.

The caption reads:

Nordseebad  Büsum

This postcard was sent on the 31st of August 1913.
One year later, in September 1914,
Büsum's harbor and shipbuilding industry
would be preparing to defend the Fatherland
from the British fleet.
The mudflats were not so carefree then.

But these happy people are not there yet,
so let us celebrate with them
and sing along
(in English)
to The Hippopotamus Song
and Büsum's wonderful glorious mud!



This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where everyone is leaping for the beach.


Deb Gould said...

Yup. Those sticks (or flags) are to fend off those freaky giant clams; without your stick, you might get sucked right in...what a bizarre photograph! I love it!

La Nightingail said...

And what a contribution it is! What fun. Never heard of anything like it. The folks in the photograph appear to having a great time and with a band to lead them, no less! :)

anyjazz said...

Fine collection! I wouldn't have dreamed there would be parades in the mud!

Nancy said...

What interesting photographs, Mike, made all the more interesting by your background information. These days it's hard to imagine a band leading a parade into the mud flats. And, of course, I enjoyed the fun video at the end. Thanks.

Jo Featherston said...

Amazing what people will do when led by a band of pied pipers! I hope no one slipped over in that health-giving mud, and it wouldn't do their instruments much good.

Jodi Lynn Strait said...

What a great take on a beach scene. I love the casualness of the band members with their toes in the mud.

Wendy said...

And here I thought "I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas" was the only hippo song. So I wonder if lively music in the mudflats resulted in much toe tapping and foot stomping.

Tattered and Lost said...

Don't you think the flags were so they could find your body if the quicksand got you?

Growing up in the '50s, watching tv shows, I was always convinced that at some point in life everyone faced the dreaded quicksand or piranhas. So far I've not faced either, but there's still time. Well, there was one piranha at the aquarium, but that sucker was behind glass and I stuck my tongue out at it.


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