Dan Webster (2008)
In 1959 Dr. John C. Webster, a research psychologist with the Naval Electronics Lab in San Diego, was awarded a National Science Foundation fellowship for a year of study at the prestigious Applied Psychology Unit in Cambridge, England. The year was also to include professional meetings in Montreal, Stuttgart, Essen, Paris, and Bonn, trips to meet and work with European scientists in their labs as far afield as Stockholm, and a cruise on a Royal Navy ship in the Mediterranean. But what made this year particularly momentous for some of us was that Dr. Webster, Dad, took us along (except for the Mediterranean cruise); Mom (Mary) and the five brothers, John (11), Tom (7), Bill (5), Charlie (3) and Dan (who celebrated his first birthday the day we took off). And, in addition to the professional papers and reports from his scientific studies, Dad took the time to record this extraordinary family adventure in a manuscript which he titled Daniel Webster’s Year Abroad.
Daniel Webster’s Year Abroad is primarily a travelogue, documenting our journey across the United States and the Atlantic, sightseeing trips to London and other British destinations, lengthy vacations on the Continent in a VW camper (planned around professional meetings or lab visits), and finally the long cruise home through the Panama Canal. Each chapter describes new scenes and adventures, but also challenges; language, logistics, driving conditions (Dad’s obsession) and of course the problems posed by five small boys.
This was the world of a half-century ago, with ocean liners, steam locomotives, horse-drawn carts and a Europe still recovering from the physical and economic damage of World War II. This was long before cell phones, credit cards or ATMs, not to mention the internet and email. Once you left home you were pretty much out of contact, although some trips included a stop at a designated post office for mail forwarded ‘poste restante’. Expenses were paid in cash or travelers checks. And we weren’t the only family attempting to see Europe under these conditions. As night fell and travelers congregated in the camping sites it wasn’t unusual to find another VW camper full of Americans, sometimes heading for the same meeting.
Of course we didn’t spend the whole year on the move. The other theme of Dad’s book was home life in an ageless English village. In many ways this was a step back in time. There was a medieval church around the corner. The streetlights were gas. We lived in a nineteenth-century former Manse heated by coal fireplaces in each room. Kitchen appliances were primitive (although there was a tiny refrigerator). There was no telephone. Dad found a wealth of material in the differences he observed in British culture, schooling, politics, food preferences, and, inevitably, driving habits.
You might think that the challenges of living and working (or attending school or minding toddlers) in a foreign country and occasional weeks-long camping trips would be entertainment enough, but Dad couldn’t resist the cultural opportunities in nearby London; operas, ballets, plays, the Royal Tournament, etc., and he took as many family members along as possible. He also found time to play clarinet with the Cambridge University Musical Society orchestra for a week’s performance of the “Damnation of Faust”. And of course there was participation in ‘chapel’ and school activities.
At the end of the year we left our English village to return home. Remarkably, Dad was able to arrange a sequel, in 1966, which duplicated Daniel Webster’s original year abroad in almost every detail; Dad worked at the same Unit, we lived in the same Manse in the same village and made camping trips to the continent in the same type of VW camper (a 1967 model, not a 1959 model). There were differences, though. The postwar recovery had continued to sweep across Europe. Dad had access to the PXs in the many nearby US Air Force bases for those previously unobtainable American staples. The Manse not only had a telephone but a TV, and horror of horrors, there was even a channel with commercials. The roads were not much better but were even more crowded, with the new Minis. The BBC had made way for the Beatles and pirate radio. And the boys, now 8 – 18, were probably not as entertaining either. Somehow Dad never did get around to writing Daniel Webster’s Year Abroad, the Sequel.
“Is this England, Daddy?” asked Charlie, our three-year old as the airplane landed.
John, our oldest boy, who had been literally shaking with fright all the way from San Diego said, “No, Charlie, this is Phoenix.”
Then Charlie asked Tom, our seven-year old, “Did you see the toy cows down there just before we landed?”
And agreeable Tom said he had. So started our trip to spend a year studying in Cambridge.
Actually of course it started much earlier, when I applied for my fellowship. Not much was said to the five boys then because of the odds on chances the fellowship wouldn’t be granted.
I suppose we can say the trip started six months earlier, 4 December ‘58. On this day, one day before I expected to be on pins and needles awaiting the outcome of my application, the phone rang at work during my noon hour. The phone always seems to ring during our relaxation period after lunch, and right in the middle of our dart game. In fact we had gotten in the habit of taking it off the hook, since nobody took seriously my solution for telephones, namely that all telephones the world over be connected to make outgoing calls only.
Anyway the phone rang and after letting it ring long enough to find out it was an “outside” call, I finally answered it. You see calls from inside the laboratory had regular rings since they worked off the automatic switchboard while outside calls were handled by an operator who rang longer and seemingly louder, the longer you tarried in picking up the phone.
Back to the call. It was Mary, my wife, who seemed to know exactly when our dart game was in progress. Although she phoned only about once every second week she always caught us at darts. So I wondered which boy had just broken our kitchen window again. But no, she said I had a letter from Washington. This was really not too surprising, my mother lived there, I work as a scientist for the navy and they have some sort of office in Washington. I couldn’t yet see what occasioned the phone call, and anyway it was my turn to throw the darts. Then she said it was from the National Science Foundation. That stopped the dart game, but as a disinterested spectator I asked if she had opened the letter and she allowed as she had. From the obvious lack of enthusiasm I figured I needn’t ask her any more questions. But with obvious relish she stated was just a form letter. I had expected a form letter telling me the sad news but thought it would come to me at the laboratory the following day. I figured successful candidates would receive long distance phone calls and duffers like me form letters.
So with dejected resignation I asked the final unnecessary question, what did it say? Never raising her voice once she read “you have been selected as a Senior Post Doctoral Fellow and will begin your tenure on or about 1 July at Cambridge University.”
Even Mary couldn’t pull that serious a hoax on me so I just about believed what she read must be so. After a stunned period of dead silence I finally quizzed her again and she continued “details follow.”
On returning home that afternoon John 10, Tom 6, Bill 5, Charles 2, and Dan, that is Daniel Webster age 6 months, were beaming from ear to ear. Charles wanted to know if he could take his tricycle to England, which he figured must be as far as Uncle Harold’s, 10 miles away.
Then came the hard work. Johnny wouldn’t fly across the ocean no matter what, and all tourist space on ships in June was already taken; solution we go by ship in May.
Our up-to-date cars, ‘40 Dodge and ‘49 Pontiac Station Wagon wouldn’t get us, not with my nerves, all the way across the United States; solution fly to Iowa, visit relatives and filter on to east coast.
If flying, our present luggage was too heavy; solution buy new light-weight luggage.
To see Europe with 5 small boys on scientist’s earnings cheap transportation and lodging would be needed; solution order a Volkswagen Microbus complete with camping equipment. This required correspondence to Germany where the camping equipment installers decided we should have their longest luggage rack for “with these many boys you will have much luggage”.
Getting rid of our cars and arranging to rent the house were just part of the logistics problems encountered.
The boys’ rolling stock, 4 bicycles, 4 tricycles, wagons, scooters, 4 baby buggy wheels, etc., also had to be loaned out.
We decided to have mom and four smallest boys on one passport. The photographer earned her money that day. A witness was needed on our passport application (and our friends have children too) so seven of us plus another mother and two children started off to the court house. It so happened passports and marriage licenses were issued in adjacent offices and the passport lady was gone when we arrived. The marriage license lady was handling passports. It didn’t occur to us that this created quite a sight to the sailors and their girls who came after we had been ushered into the marriage license office. I saw a few whispered conversations and felt awfully sinful somehow but we did get our passports.
Actually we gave the oldest car to Harrell and Dion Hurt, some church friends (at least they were our friends) with instructions “If it lasts till we get back we want it back, if it doesn’t it has long since paid for itself.” As a matter of fact, like Old Ironsides or the One Hoss Shay that car never gave a moment’s trouble and on many occasions we used it to get our new (1949) car and many other new cars started.
The station wagon we gave to the church as our pledge for the rest of the year and besides “with these many boys” I hadn’t the time to try to pawn it off on any one anyway.
T’WAS THE EVE OF DEPARTURE
T’was the eve of departure
And all through the night
Was poor mama at packing
With morning in sight
The children were tossing
Too warm in their beds
While dread visions of’ flying
Thrashed through their heads.
At first there was flying
And relations to see
Then miles of driving
And a ship cross the sea.
Since the flying was first
And the bags need be light
With five children to pack for
Did mom have a fight.
To get clothing and playthings
For one year abroad
She was sorting and stowing
And would not be awed.
When out on the porch
There arose such a clatter
That we stopped all our work
To see what was the matter.
There were neighbors and church friends
With candy galore
And we sat and we chatted
Till back to the chore.
From seven to thirteen
The bags did increase
And then to our sorrow
We just had to cease.
Then laying our fingers
Aside us in bed
And getting two nods
Up for traveling we sped.
We looked like some peddlers
Just closing our packs
When up got the children
For breakfast and snacks.
Our friends now arrived
In two cars for to carry
Our family and baggage
Down to the air ferry.
As into the terminal
The bags they did carry
The agent just smiled
And said “Please do not tarry.”
And completely befuddled
We parted from friends
While our Danny was cuddled.
As we got on the plane
And prepared to depart
We said to our friends
“Goodbye” from the heart.
After our first stop in England and a walk in the hot Phoenix sun (and a trip to the restrooms) we were off again for Denver. The feel of solid ground did wonders for John and he almost enjoyed the next leg of the trip. He even looked out the window. The boys got one of their few views of snow as we crossed the Rockies. They were quite fascinated. What concerned me however was the fact that we were a half hour late and we had a half-hour plane connection to make in Denver.
Originally it was an hour and a half wait and I figured this would give us time to eat lunch. However, that great institution Daylight Savings Time came into effect two weeks before departure. United changed their clocks but not their schedules thereby advancing their flights an hour (by the clock). Western flew by the sum and changed both clock and schedules so we left a clock hour later than planned. Now we were a half hour late so I gave up the idea of eating. I began wondering how to notify our relatives from Des Moines who were going to pick us up at Omaha that we might be slightly (about 4 hours) late. Of course, I couldn’t work up a first-class stew complete with anti-acid stomach pills because Charlie, now perched on my lap, kept wondering what all those buttons were above our seats. I just became aware of his curiosity when the Stewardess showed up and asked us if she could be of assistance. I could think of fifty dozen things she could do; answer Charlie’s questions, get the candy off of Bill’s jacket, calm John’s nerves, or rock Dan to sleep. However, I answered in the negative and wondered what brought her along at this time. After all she had already made John, Tom and Bill Honorary Pilots and since the management miscalculated on the ratio of boys to girls in the “children’s emergency packet for stewardesses” she had made Oblivious Charlie Honorary Stewardess. They wore their badges proudly.
She left with a somewhat bewildered expression only to appear again ten minutes later. About now it dawned on me why she was “on call” and it dawned on me that maybe I wasn’t aware that she had been called. So five cups of milk were distributed all around. Then I told Charlie you don’t just punch every button you see (as I turned off the seat lights.) I was just telling him for the twentieth time that the plane was not going to fall out of the sky when the “Fasten Seat Belts” light went on. After getting him fastened in I had to start the old routine again that this was not England but Denver.
As the door was opened the gateman said “all passengers for Omaha follow me”. We joined, in fact we were the greater part of, the parade (as well as being the least disciplined). Except for six well distributed single seats the new plane was already filled with impatient passengers. John found a seat well forward, Tom well aft, Bill amidships, Mom and Dan were inseparable in a single seat, the stewardesses gave up their double seats to Charlie and me. This was, of course, to be expected but nevertheless I was a little annoyed. I am a 100,000 miler on United and had made reservations weeks in advance. In the past I had often been quite put out at seeing double seats roped off “Reserved for People Traveling Together”, and thought this would be my time to benefit by their custom. But, in any case we were lucky that they waited for us.
In fact the wait had just begun. It seems there was one more seat and two potential passengers. A corporal on emergency leave and a woman who for some reason preferred stopping at Omaha, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Philadelphia before arriving at New York instead of transferring to a plane that left one half hour later but arrived in New York non stop an hour earlier. After much persuasion (80 minutes worth) and promises of many telegrams, etc. she was convinced, the corporal got on, and we took off.
The candy we had received before take-off now became our lunch and Charlie and I dozed off. I was awakened by some well-known bumps and looked out to see clouds and rain. Luckily we were close to Omaha but not close enough. I looked around to spot Tom and saw an ashen-gray face, an anxious stranger, and a hurrying stewardess. We were strapped in for landing and I could do nothing. In fact, upon landing we couldn’t compete with the crowds and had to wait for the plane to clear before we could get to Tom and help him gain his composure. We sent John off to tell our relatives we would be along (but of course he didn’t recognize them nor they him). However, we soon got off, met our relatives and while I guarded our thirteen pieces baggage my uncle and cousin went off for their cars to get us (and bags) loaded into.
Many hours, words, miles, chicken dinners and rain drops later we were carrying thirteen bags and two boys into a large farm house in the middle of Iowa. The slightest touch on the locks of the largest bag caused it to pop open of its own accord. Then John’s green, Tom’s purple, Bill’s blue, Charlie’s red, and Dan’s yellow cloth sacks with sleepers, socks and underwear were duly issued. It didn’t take long to get Tom and Bill settled in bed in an upstairs room.
Charlie and Dan were now awake and had discovered the staircase. They proceeded to explore this novel new plaything. Charlie confided that he liked this England. John soon gave up and finally only the 2 oldest and 2 youngest remained awake. The oldest on habit alone, the youngest to run off the undissipated energy resulting from being cooped up all day inside moving vehicles.
Finally welcome sleep came only to be rudely interrupted by Iowa’s famous thunder and lightning storms. Luckily all boys slept through it except Charlie and he wanted to go home to San Diego right now. We had lived in California long enough now to have five “native sons” and they hardly knew of thunder and lightning and we had forgotten how frightening such a storm can be. The lightning lit the room well even if only sporadically but the noise, Charlie’s was continuous. We could occasionally hear the thunder above Charlie and we could sympathize with him in his desire to “go home”.
So ended our first day, and our first 2000 miles. There is nothing like a three year old’s cry wanting to go home to make you wonder about the wiseness of the decision to tear up seven roots, five young ones, and transplant them for a year. At this point four were oblivious, one was vocally and two were tacitly doing some serious thinking about home in the placid air-conditioned state on the Pacific. And more than 4000 miles yet to go and sixteen months. Wonder what the ‘49’ers thought after a month’s travel westward?
The boys loved the farm, although farms aren’t what they used to be. Whereas I rode the horses as they pulled the corn cultivator, the boys rode with Uncles Art and Glen on the tractor. In fact, John made a quarter “helping” Uncle Art on his tractor pull a car out of the ditch (after the rain).
Long before any sensible Pacific Timers (only 1 day but 2 hours removed) should be getting out of bed, the Central Timers and three boy Pacific Timers were up romping around. What with hay lofts, mud, cellars, mud, tractors, mud, a real working pump (water, that is), more mud to explore and develop, there was no time to tarry in bed. So when we got navigating again the boys already had gone through one breakfast and one change of clothing (mud, you know). Before lunch all the pigeons had been frightened out of the hayloft ten times, the squeak had almost been worn out of the pump, the cellar had been explored and discoveries of potatoes, pickles, and mouse traps made, and Charlie had gone exploring, quite unknown to anyone else. We soon became aware of a curious lack of youthful continuous questioning and decided someone must be missing. Sure enough Tom spotted him giving the neighbors hens a good chase. Charlie had never wandered off before, but, of course, he hadn’t the provocation. He found the “chicklies” on the neighbors farm, a quarter of a mile down the road, quite more attractive than the large rather over-friendly dog at Uncle Arts.
A trip to Uncle Glens found more wonders of the world, cows, not the milking kind, the eating kind, and pigs and chicklies. But still the dairy delivered milk, butter, and eggs to the door. It wasn’t like the good old days.
However, one thing hadn’t changed. Wherever there are pigs there is mud not just ordinary mud but hog wallows. And wherever there is mud and boys, especially city boys, there is magnetism. We soon heard a wail and looked out to see a boy, it turned out to be Bill, already tarred waiting to be feathered.
To say he was covered with mud was doing him an injustice, he was dripping mud. He had done the pigs one better. He wasn’t out of action long.
One of my cousins was old fashioned enough to milk cows and gather eggs and this saved the day. We arrived late, (with five boys you usually arrive late), and the eggs had already been gathered. But since little boys with big eyes don’t come often, they ungathered some eggs and took the boys around to regather them. Our orientation seemed to fail on Charlie on two points. Why don’t the chicklies eat the eggs? He couldn’t be convinced that “hens lay eggs for gentlemen” to eat and not for hens to eat. A similar misunderstanding occurred with milk and cows. Charlie saw little calves drinking milk from a bucket and wondered why they bothered to feed the older cows corn, oats and hay. Why not milk? He obviously had ideas of his own about perpetual motion.
Another aunt and uncle ran a small town variety store complete with cap guns, squirt guns, jaw crackers, milk shakes, and of course books (coloring and reading). We had never bought guns, cowboy outfits, hula hoops, nor Davy Crockett hats for the boys. We figured, and quite correctly, that Christmas and birthdays, relatives and friends, would see to it that our boys would be boys. And so the blanket invitation, one toy for each boy, caused quite a raid on the arsenal armory. We drew the line on squirt guns, the range is too great, the missile too dangerous. But we did hear bangs and saw assorted gun play for many a day.
So much for Iowa. We left dad’s folks on farms for mom’s folks in a small river town in Illinois. River barges and trains took over from tractors and haylofts. And Uncle Dodd had a pony (why not with five small children of his own) and a pony cart.
But the climax came when,
There were two families seven in each
Whose fathers read Mark Twain
Our oldest boy, too, had read
Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn
So when in Illinois one day
The families were together
Said Dad to Dad why not today
In station wagon gather
Two moms, two pops, two babes eight kids
For Hannibal departed
To see Tom’s cave and Clemens’ house
In wagon were they carted
Before proceeding very far
The clamor rose for food
So in they drove at drive-in
For hunger of the brood
Two dozen hot dogs, mustard please
One dozen chocolate shakes
To make the menu quite complete
Six packs potato flakes
For that one car the waiter said
Then looked or rather listened
Then set to work at double speed
With sweat his forehead glistened
While mamas kept the cups upright
And daddies ate the extras
The kids again began to play
Then started in the questions
Were Tom and Huck and Injun Joe
Real folks or story people
Will we get lost in Tom’s big cave
Is there a tall church steeple
Then finally cross the
A broad majestic river
And in the bluffs south of the town
Tom’s cave in which we shiver
Judge Thatcher’s room and Mark Twain’s house
Museums and statues too
Then heavy eyelids old and young
The sky an orange red hue
So once again like sardines packed
Yet thoughts of food did gleam
So homeward bound in Pizza shop
Six pizzas, then ice cream
Then miles and hours later on
A quite car at last
When small limp figures off to bed
The great adventure past
I left mom and boys with her folks and proceeded on to Ottawa for the spring meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (the first time in its thirty year existence it had met in Canada). To the Navy, however, Canada is a foreign country and certainly not a place for any American Society to meet. For every meeting we have a red tape snarl but when in Canada the odds are insurmountable. This is the trouble.
It is the general policy of the Navy to send no more than two people from any one activity to any one professional meeting. This means that theoretically the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts can send two and our lab can send two. It so happens our lab is one of the major research and development labs in underwater sound, communications and speech and hearing. Because of this San Diego, twentieth in population, is fifth in members of the Acoustical Society. Also it can boast (at this writing) the president-elect, two of the ten technical committee heads, and the head of the membership committee, probably the most important non-technical committee (it elects fellows). And usually at least five papers are submitted by members of the lab. In addition to this there are always so many papers read at a meeting that at least three meetings are run in parallel. So of the two authorized to go one must be in two parallel technical sessions at once often giving papers in both, while the other must attend the other technical session at all times plus attending many administrative and technical committee meetings. The two must attend everything because they are obliged to report back to all interested parties, who didn’t go, exactly and in detail what transpired in every session. Even the Navy Department realizes this and usually officially sends four or five people while the lab, by some method, usually manages to get everyone giving papers, or holding important chairs, to the meetings. This always involves many letters, phone calls and in general probably costs as much as at least one attendee.
However, when the meeting is in a foreign country another complication develops. This one has for a background the absolute necessity for a majority of our senators and representatives and members of their families, to inspect and/or investigate Europe at the close of every session of Congress. Taxpayers object to this and since we are a democracy the lawmakers on their return say quite right it is scandalous for government employees to travel at the taxpayer’s expense. So they notify the Defense Department (who furnished the lawmakers transportation) don’t let us catch any of your employees gallivanting around in foreign countries. So when our American Acoustical Society met in Ottawa (on a straight line between Minneapolis and Bangor and all of 50 miles from New York State) orders came down one member at foreign meetings. Since our lab can’t write foreign travel orders without Washington approval we were had. The lab sent my boss, membership committee chairman, and me to visit labs and scientists at Syracuse University and allowed us to take a week’s leave without pay while we slunk across the border. We arrived in Ottawa (I won’t say how since I don’t wish to incriminate innocent fellow conspirators) at 4 P.M. on Wednesday afternoon and I didn’t get outside the hotel in which our meeting was held until 3 P.M. on Saturday. During this time I presented a paper, chaired a technical session, met twice with the executive council, met with the technical committee I chaired, and with two others of which I was a member. A most relaxing way to spend leave without pay. American ambassadors aren’t the only ones who sometimes have to sacrifice their time and money to carry out their duties. Oh well, it could have been worse. The meeting might have been in Vancouver which I haven’t already seen and then I would have boiled over since I am an inveterate sightseer. I did see the surroundings of one street on the way in and the railway right of way on the way out.
My mother met me in Ottawa and we traveled on to Montreal to meet Dodd who heroically brought Mary and the boys (and his wife but not their five children) from Illinois. I shared but one night of their motel existence. “Accommodations for five adults and five children please” and “Where is the nearest restaurant?”
After a week’s separation John had to tell me how they towed Uncle Dodd’s car away at Niagara Falls. Apparently he’d parked it quite innocently in an unauthorized place. This misinterpretation of signs cost him five dollars.
And Charlie told me everything. He never stopped talking. Dodd said he had Charlie sit with him when he was in danger of falling asleep while driving. Charlie’s continual barrage of questions kept him quite awake. During the trip Dodd had retaught Charlie his Sunday School song—it now went (at top voice)
“What do cows do
Oh don’t you know
They lay large eggs
To help us grow.”
By now Charlie had more or less forgotten about “going home” but the thought of boarding the ship tomorrow made John think more of home. The utter finality of casting off for across the Atlantic had finally come home to John.
We had no difficulty oversleeping (we hadn’t for eleven years) and missing our ship. Even so we weren’t the first on board. Preening up five boys isn’t done fast or easily. We had but one bad moment when I couldn’t remember where I had put the tickets. But a thorough rummage through all pockets located these and so began the parade on board. It had aspects of Cub Scout day at dockside; a Memorial Day parade (tears for the departed or departing); and an African safari (14 bags, one up, since my mother had brought one full of emergency foodstuffs).
The Empress of England is a new and beautiful ship and our tourist class cabins were elegant. Uncle Dodd, who had been a purser in the Merchant Marines, soon showed us topside, the afterdeck, the promenade deck and in general was in his glory answering all Charlie’s questions.
But soon the “All Ashore” call came and after hurried pictures and parting words, seven of us remained onboard and three found vantage places on the dock. Ever since my short visits to Montreal and Quebec during World War II I had looked forward to sailing down the St. Lawrence, and especially the leaving of Montreal. When Uncle Dodd, Aunt Marilyn, and Grandma Webster were out of sight and John was sobbing (he didn’t like major changes in his environment) and I was getting a good vantage point to see the sights the announcement came, “All first sitting diners report to the restaurant”. Half way to Quebec I got topside again.
Our first lunch was quite trying on our table companions and a little disturbing to our steward. He was prepared with high chair but hadn’t all the answers for Charlie. Our major problem was understanding our waiters English English and the general routine of English meals. Children’s high tea baffled us most. So the children have tea at 5, then what? Also which children? And who feeds them? The idea is fine and standard British operating procedure. In theory it works this way. The children, assisted by a nanny of which we had none, eat early and go off to bed. “Daddy and mother dine later in state, with Mary to cook for them, Susan to wait.” On board it worked something like this: Dad and Mom and all five boys report at 5 expecting tea and biscuits, and find hard boiled eggs and/or cereals and cream with bananas, apples, oranges, etc. and milk, and then biscuits (cookies) cakes, or sweets (candy). The trouble was on the first day we didn’t know this meant no supper or that this indeed was the boys’ supper. In fact, we wondered why they wanted to spoil the children’s appetite just an hour before supper. Also how do you eat hard boiled eggs? The British children went right to it, but we didn’t know how to de-shell it and with what implements to attack it. And who wanted cereals and milk at 5 P.M.? Guarded questions to our fellow, but British, passengers soon gave us the clue this was the children’s supper. The children WOULD NOT be expected at our supper. This gave us 15 minutes to see if Tom, Bill, and Charlie would like the chaperoned playroom. They wouldn’t. And if John thought he could entertain Dan (age 1 year 2 weeks) in our stateroom. Dan would have been acceptable in the play room if asleep. But as crying is contagious, he wouldn’t otherwise be welcome. I don’t remember exactly how we got away, leaving all five boys in our cabin, but needless to say we hardly enjoyed our first six course dinner.
By the second day we knew the meaning of high tea and introduced the boys to the play room early in the day. They were neither completely averse nor adverse, but we did get Bill and Charlie there while we hurriedly feasted.
Dining aboard the
John liked the swimming pool and cinema best. Tom and Bill the afterdeck where ropes and pegs were available and occasionally shuffleboard. Charlie liked to walk around or sit in the deck chair and ask, “What happened to the hair on that man’s head?", "When will we get across the ribber?”, “Does that man have more cake?”, “Why is that lady so fat?”, “Why can’t we go in there?” Dan liked to crawl on the deck and especially to play in the water in the scuttle. Dad would have liked to sleep. Momma was perfectly happy. No cooking, no dishes, just washing and ironing (which she says she enjoys). She saw her first movie, except for Ivanhoe at the drive in, in eight years and found many English mothers to talk to.
On the fifth day came sea state 8 and ashen gray boys. My cure, Dramamine and a horizontal position, was not working for the boys so at their insistence and much against my better judgment we went to the afterdeck for shuffle board. There were very few people about. John, Tom, Bill, and I played while Charlie collected the pucks. It was fun trying to counter the roll of the stabilized ship. And the mist on cheek (and glasses) felt good (but looked misty). The cure worked, the boys kept their food down and so did dad.--(who still preferred his horizontal method).
Johnny couldn’t go swimming alone, so although mom was an excellent swimmer, dad got to go in--glasses and all. Without glasses I couldn’t tell which boy I was supposed to be watching. With glasses I couldn’t have done much had he sunk from sight. Not to be outdone, John wore his non-waterproof watch in. It hasn’t worked since. Charlie, Bill, and Tom watched and in the shower room Charlie asked, “Why does that man have hair here (chest) and not here (top of head)?”
The cinema turned out to be marvelously timed. Charlie was much too engrossed by the ship for an afternoon nap. But after 10 minutes in the cinema he was asleep.
From the second day on we were, you might say, well known. We made the longest passenger list, the longest parade, and Charlie made the most continuous sound. We were approached by grandmas, granddads, moms, dads, the whole lot. Without our five socializers we probably would not have met a soul, but with them we were called by name by half the passengers.
Perhaps our trip across the Atlantic can best be summarized by the letter I wrote back to my colleagues and church friends while on board:
0930 Brit Summer Time
0130 Pac Daylight Time
Dear Dave et al
Glad to receive your letter which I received on boarding. Sailing is wonderful except for changing the kids internal clocks. Each night for 5 nights we set the clocks (the ticking kind) ahead one hour. Each night the kids get to sleep about an hour later. Last night by 2330. This morning (which is no different than all others) Mary and I, with the aid of those infernally noisy stewards and stewardesses (who keep knocking and saying cheerfully its seven thirty, with a rising inflection yet, all hands are British) flop out of bed and THEN get the kids up. This morning we fed them (midnight your time) but were never sure whether we were shoveling the food into their otherwise closed mouths or eyes.
Now all but Tom are back asleep. Yesterday it was all but Charlie - in each case, Daddy likewise happily stayed up since the sign reads, “No children allowed on deck without their parents”. Dan is the worst; he got to sleep at 0300 yesterday, but by 0130 last night. He and mommy are now asleep in the adjacent cabin.
I began taking Charlie to the 1415 movie so he would get some sleep which helped him, but at least one of the kids enjoyed the movie and I’d have to sit through it (Onionhead, Gidget, etc.). Of course, when they showed Richard III, everyone was sick so I missed it.
None the less, this is really the way to travel. For the same fare as by air we get 3 x 7 = 21 meals. Last night I had Tomato juice, Salmon, Roast Mutton with vegetables, scones, caramel sundae and tea. I skipped the soup and salad courses since I took the fish course and Mary keeps thinking me a pig (especially when Alec Guinness, our waiter) brings me a piece of layer cake to go with my dessert. Dave would love this. I still don’t completely understand the menu - it has an appetizer course olives et al, soup, fish, then an entree and a joint and a releve. Then salad, dessert and tea. The releve seems to be fowl but the difference between entree and joint I don’t get. I’ll have to ask Alec at noon.
The deck steward sidled up to me last night and whispered something which, upon explanation, turned out to be, “Do you want to take some spirits ashore”. He strongly advised it since a fifth of Scotch would cost me 27 shillings, but 35 ashore. A shilling is 1/20 of a pound which is equivalent to $2.80 ± depending on which way you’re sailing; expensive going to England, cheap when coming home. I told him no thanks, my boys are too young.
I’m king on board; no one has as many children and Dan always smiles at the right time and Charlie keeps saying, when showering after a swim, “Look Daddy that man has no hair” in his usually 100 db voice, or “I don’t like this ice cream” (which is the chef’s special pineapple, not the vanilla he has at all other meals), etc. Charlie who landed in England first at Phoenix, then Denver, Omaha, etc. now wants to know “When are we going to get across this ribber?”
The bath steward just stood with his mouth open when I requested 5 towels with my bath and as J, T, B, C and Dad filed out of the bath (bahth) he had 2 other stewards watching just to prove how big the bathrooms are on his deck.
Time to wake them up again and go to Church. I can hear Charlie now, “Daddy where’s the choir” or some such apt but loud remark.
Even with five boys however we agree with the travel books on sea crossings. They say you wonder before you board what you’ll do with all your spare time. Once on board you wonder how the hours slip by so fast. And the night before landing you wonder what happened to those short glorious days.
At all previous stops we had told Charlie “No this isn’t England” so by now he was wary. He didn’t see why Liverpool should be England if all the other places were not. But we soon persuaded him and he concluded that England is across the big ribber. For the next few days his troubles began again. Cambridge was not in England. It wasn’t on a big ribber and our Empress wasn’t there. To this day Charlie insists Cambridge is pronounced with an a as in lamb. He heard us say the city was named because it was the first (or last) bridge across the Cam (as in lamb). To him (and more power to his logic) the name is Cambridge (a as in lamb).
Stateroom on the Empress of
Driving in England is a not to be forgotten experience. As the travel literature says, you do not rush through England, but around every leisurely corner you have the opportunity to see the quaint countryside. They are completely correct in saying you do not hurry, but getting the opportunity to see anything other than the road is virtually impossible. Unless, of course, you are foolish enough to do what every tenth Englishman does as his God given right, namely just stop right smack in the middle of the traffic lane to see the sights, to adjust the headlamps, to eat lunch, to sleep, or just because he fee1s like stopping.
They have signs on major highways (the ones they paint center lines on) that say “Layby 1/4 mile”. This means that the road will widen by about half a lorry width and a trash can (dust bin) will be provided for those desiring to walk 20 feet after eating their sack lunch (tea that is) to deposit their litter,. These laybys are well patronized, much more so than our “Roadside Tables” and for good reason. After driving through English traffic for say two hours (40 miles) one does feel the need for a rest. Parking is completely impossible in towns (except by just stopping in the middle of the road which is universally done) and roadside “Dairy Queens” or “Steak and Shake” shops are non existent. The pubs are only open for some very limited times and so everyone packs “tea” and stops at a layby. However, since more people want to stop than there is layby space, they just stop on the road.
To show how deep rooted their tendency is to just stop in the traffic lane on the road let me cite the first two fatalities on M1, their one and only freeway, which opened after our arrival. It came as no surprise to me to read: 1) That a van had some minor ailment and had stopped, not on the verge which some reports said is not wide enough for a vehicle to pull clear of the traffic lane, but as on all English roads, in the traffic lane, 2) That a repair vehicle had come and stopped in the traffic lane; and 3) that two lorries free for the first time of traffic worries were running “flat out” in a slight mist; and 4) inevitably had crashed into the repair vehicle in the traffic lane. This must have caused a minor revolution because soon after this, and I quote from a Cambridge newspaper account “DRIVERS SLEPT ON Ml, Five drivers said by police at Luton today to have been found asleep in their vehicles on the M1 were each fined 5 pounds for parking on the Motorway”. I have since driven on M1 and find they are, belatedly, widening and strengthening the verges (with crushed rock) so that disabled cars (and sleepy or hungry drivers) can experience the novelty of pulling off the road to stop.
Our first experience was as follows: We got off the boat in Liverpool and paraded down the gangplank, and through customs in jig time. I am sure they figured anyone traveling with five small boys is too busy to smuggle. We had arranged in the States for a rented car to meet us at Liverpool (much against the advice of all our English friends). After all Cambridge is only 160 miles from Liverpool, at most a four hour drive. We soon saw a small man in a large overcoat (on a sunny very warm day late in May) who had obviously spotted our entourage and was making his way toward us.
“The car is just down the street" he said. "How many bags do you have”?
“Well, actually three are brief cases, and two are little overnight bags”.
At this point we didn’t tell him one was a footlocker and one a duffel bag with three sleeping bags packed inside.
“Righto, I’ll get you a porter”.
So Mom, Dad, John, Tom, Bill, Charles, and Dan, plus a porter with 14 bags arrive with the by now somewhat anxious little man at England’s newest and largest Consul complete as per instructions with luggage (roof) rack on top. The porter sort of shook his head and as quickly as possible made his exit, dumping all the bags in a heap on the kerb (curb).
The little car hire man now saw he was in it for better or worse and he actually accepted the challenge in good grace.
First the boot (English for trunk). Yes it held middle sized bags, the contents of the duffle bag (by taking the sleeping bags out and stuffing them alongside, over, under, and around the other bags).
By standing all bags upright instead of laying them down, we finally coaxed the footlocker and three large bags in the luggage rack. This added about 3 feet to the height of the car. I say about 3 feet because by the time all bags and boys were in, the car was at least 4 inches closer to the ground than when it stood in all its polished splendor unsoiled by our presence.
The three briefcases and two overnight bags went in the back seat with John, Tom, Bill, and Charles.
And now came the instruction period (if Mom and Dan could just stand outside a minute). This was the key, it went here, the brake was still right and clutch left, but the gear shaft was on the left since the steering wheel was on the right. After much explanation I got the idea the gears were like ours except left handed.
He started to explain the hand signals but soon gave up. Instead of three simple signals like we have; arm down meaning I am slowing down or stopping, arm straight out, I’m going to turn the direction I’m pointing; and arm up meaning I’m turning the way I’m trying to point (but cant reach up over the top) and in any case means O.K. for you to pass, they have, among other things, two waving signals, one of which means “I am ready to be overtaken” (English for passed) which is the same signal truck drivers in the States (and lorry drivers in England) give you when they can see the road ahead is clear even when you can’t and means come on around old buddy and be kind to truck drivers when the next request for a pay raise (American for rise) comes around. The other wavy signal means something else (I’m still not sure what). It doesn’t much matter what it means anyway, because if you are more than 10 feet back you can’t tell one wavy signal from the other. And later experience has convinced me that in any case, don’t be fooled by the wavy. It means I’m ready to be overtaken but it doesn’t mean the road is clear, except when given by lorry drivers on the open (and I use the word loosely) road (I won’t use the word highway). So as far as I can make out the English hand signal means about what a woman’s hand signal does in America, namely that the window is open.
Anyway we compromised. He finally said “Use the turning indicator lights.” This I did.
Detailed study of my road map (helped by ten hands and six voices) convinced me the shortest way to Cambridge from Liverpool was to drive west. That is, cross the Mersey River to Birkenhead and avoid all the large cities, including Liverpool. Our dining steward in the Empress told me the way to cross the Mersey from the dock was by tunnel.
So knowing how to drive from the wrong side of the front seat, and where I wanted to go, I was ready to bid our little man farewell.
I had noticed that we were parked on the incorrect (English) side of the street, namely where we should be, on the right. The little man said that was O.K. You parked on whatever side of the street you wanted to in England. I later found that truer words were never spoken. You not only park where and when you want, you also wait (park for less than 20 minutes) anywhere you want, including the main traffic lane of the main highway, within 3 feet of intersections with traffic lights and turning lanes, and in fact any place other than on verges (English. for shoulders). As far as I can see, verges are used for absolutely nothing, the only unused land in all of England.
After politely refusing my offer to drive him to the nearest bus stop or railway station, the little man vanished. Mary said he crossed himself and ran. We were ready to go. John said why didn’t we take the train. Tom just gasped. Mary clutching Dan tighter than usual, climbed (down) into the front seat and we were off.
Within a block we hit our first round about (English for traffic circle). The English Highway Code says there are no right of ways (or left of ways) at round abouts. In other words, they don’t want to be responsible. The only real highway law in England is if you are in an accident and were moving you were wrong. We later read of a case where a bus driver was fined because he couldn’t stop soon enough to avoid hitting a car that had stopped, not on the verge, but right in the lane of traffic, to adjust his headlamps, right over .the brow of a hill. The man that had stopped was not fined.
We finally decided, since cars were overtaking (passing) us on both sides, to disappear into this maelstrom. Our problem was where did we want out. We chose the third exit. We crept along at the average pace, about 15 m.p.h. until the next intersection and then found the secret. There are so many cars per street that at every intersection there is a Bobby (policeman, you see Robert Peel established the constabulary years ago and these were Bobby’s boys). Our system; at every corner as we crept by the Bobby, we looked bewildered, spoke American, and asked for Mersey Tunnel. He always answered in some completely unintelligible speech that ended “You can’t miss it” but luckily he always pointed. Finally instead of pointing straight ahead one pointed left, and we saw hundreds of vehicles concentrating on one poor little double laned street.
Once committed to the tunnel, the fast lane since we were not a lorry (at least in name) I became aware of three things: first Mary was getting closer and closer to me and saying “Do you know how close you were to that truck”? (American for lorry). Second, unlike American tunnels, this one was not lighted (except conceivably for cats) and again, unlike American tunnels where if there is no light you put on headlights, here no one had on headlights but instead they had on side lights (parking lights and actually the closest thing possible to no lights at all). Driving in virtual darkness, in fumes as thick as fog, with candles borne by lorries busses, and cars coming at you at 30 m.p.h (about the only spot I’ve ever found in a metropolitan area where traffic can move that fast) had even the captain of the ship a little uneasy. Then Mary said “The gas gauge says empty” and so it did. Anyone knows when you rent a car it has a full tank of gas, but.
We did emerge safely from Dante’s Inferno, we did find a petrol (gas) station, and our next problem was a rope to secure the bags on top. Who sells rope? Hardware stores of course. We saw green grocers, chemists, and finally obviously an ironmongers. So a rope and our first experience of stopping (behind an already stopped car) and making a one lane road out of the major artery out of town. This turns out to be more rule than exception.
Now our pulse rate could return to normal. We were tied down, full of petrol, on the road to Chester, and it was only 11 o’clock. We’d be in Cambridge easily by 4 or maybe 3.
We now had time to realize that England is indeed a foreign country. The cars including our own, were a sensible size, not domesticated tanks. The average age of car, lorry, or bus was ten years older than ours. There were people, bicycles, cars, houses, everywhere, no wide open spaces. Houses were dotted with chimneys, and chimneys were full of chimney pots (flues). We next saw a goods (freight) train with a steam engine. This really stopped us. Four wheels per wagon (car) many of them spoked. Chain and bumpers for couplers, and wagons about one third the size of our eight wheeled freight cars. We actually couldn’t believe it and thought it must be a small and branch line. It wasn’t.
Then came the strange signs. Acute Bend, Road Up, Dead Slow, Road Works, Layby ¼ mile. And Free House, No Coaches, Tea now being served. On a car ahead, Please Pass Running In which means I’m breaking in a new motor (or car). Free House means we are not a pub (tavern) that sells only Tolly, or Worthington, or Bass Ale, but whatever we please.
Our fist near miss came in Chester, an ancient town with city walls, overhanging first (second) floors, etc. It happened like this. In the States and California in particular, there is one golden rule of driving, never just change lanes. Since it is legal to pass (overtake) on either side (preferably on highways with painted traffic lanes, but actually anywhere where vision permits) you soon get conditioned (by the loss of a fender, or at least by loud honking and squealing brakes, not your own) to move forward in a straight line. Before moving to left or right you look in one, two, or three mirrors, signal, and pray, and in general you don’t swerve. In fact the only accidents I’ve ever had were two gentle bumps on cars who pulled over or stopped to make a U turn in my lane of traffic. In both cases I could easily have avoided them by pulling into the next lane. But since I knew I would just barely tap them, and by pulling out I might get myself and others killed, I maintained straight ahead.
Back to Chester.
Being new to the left hand side of the road I was staying very left, about 18
inches from the kerb (curb), when no cars were parked there (which actually
wasn’t very often). As I was half way
across an intersection what should dart out from the side street which in
America would be a STOP street but a lady on a bicycle. She looked neither left
nor right, which I’ve since found to be an almost universal rule. During my
twelve months in England I saw only one bicycler who looked before turning into
the line of traffic from a side street. Anyway, this lady in Chester turned the
corner to join me in my direction of travel. Obviously Englishmen have been
conditioned for generations to swerve to miss such obstacles. I’d been
conditioned to accept a known risk rather than swerve into possible oblivion.
She and I arrived at the opposite kerb in a dead heat, me 21 inches from the
kerb, her 3 inches from me. I was listening for the crunch on my offside since
I did deviate 3 inches, but all I heard was unladylike speech from my onside.
This really didn’t unnerve me much since I’m used to missing objects by narrow
margins. I’m not sure what it did to her, but I’m willing to bet she still doesn’t
look before turning a
corner into a busy street. After all statistics are statistics, and as I’ve said I’ve only seen one person, a school boy about 15, who has ever looked and in fact he slowed down.
We soon learned the only thing you don’t see in England is an open road. You can expect over any hill or around any bend in country or city to find a car or lorry stopped in the road. And bends they have plenty of. It is an axiom in England that if a road is straight the Romans built it. I guess Romans either didn’t have cows or else had highway engineers who considered themselves the equals of cows. That they were good road builders is attested to by the fact that many of their roads, paving bricks and all, are still in use.
I heard one story over the B.B.C. news about a village who couldn’t get the shire road people to come and repair the ancient Roman road through their village. The reply was something like this: “We didn’t build it, we won’t repair it”. Whereupon the ingenious parish council wrote to Rome, the Italian government, and asked if they could come to beleaguered Britain’s help; copy to shire hall. Result; the shire was shamed into fixing the road.
By the time we figured out that tea was the generic word for food it was two o’clock. We were about 60 miles out of Liverpool, 100 miles from Cambridge. We were hungry and I, the driver, was about a nervous wreck. Instead of peaking between 65 and 75 dropping to 35 in towns, we were peaking at 50 and then not often, and dropping to zero in towns where parking and waiting brought cross country and city travelers down to one lane so you wait for one direction to pass and then you sneak through.
A phone call to Cambridge, we’d be a little late, then lunch. Then more creeping on.
At all of these minor emergencies, that is a car stopped in the traffic lane to have tea, I noted one trouble for Americans in English cars. Every time I intended to shift from high to second, as I always do where when slowing down, I succeeded in signaling a left turn, this because I was reaching for the gears with my right hand and found the signal indicators and shifted them instead. Other Americans have complained of looking in the wrong place for the rear view mirror, but for the most part these are easterners who can survive without outside mirrors. I tend to look left into my outside mirror before overtaking in the states and found no difficulty finding the mirror in England’s backward cars.
At first I gave them the benefit of the doubt and considered it just a wrong choice to drive left not right. But after months of thinking it over I believe they are wrong. First historically; knights in shining armour afoot or ahorse carried shields in left hands and certainly bore right on any path when meeting and passing anyone head on. To this day I believe pedestrians prefer to keep right, keeping their right hand free for emergency uses. Ships, even in England keep right. The most important lever in a car is the gear shift, it should be handled by the right hand. When giving hand signals you should sacrifice your left hand and continue steering with the right.
I didn’t find it particularly difficult to keep to the left since actually in any tight situation there was just room for one car and it could be anywhere left, right, or center depending on where others had parked. I came to two conclusions before arriving in Cambridge. The English road system would be more catastrophic to California than a major earthquake. And English drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists would not last one week in California.
We had been spectacularly unsuccessful in finding a house to live in. We had some good leads but no lease in our pocket. We assumed that when an estate agent (realtor) gave us the address of a house (they never take you to see one) we could expect to move in if we liked it. It doesn’t work that way. If you like the house he puts your name on the list with others who also like the house, and then contacts the owner to see which tenant the owner prefers. This takes anywhere from a day to a month. With five children we knew how many times we were apt to be preferred.
We dearly loved one ancient and rambling thatched roof ‘cottage’, six bedrooms, large garden (yard) quarters for nanny, cook, and whoever else you could afford, and obviously designed for large families. We were put at the top of the list by the estate agent. He realized that a house built for families should be lived in by families. He also realized he had one and only one house commodious enough for our entourage.
The cottage (actually called Byrons Lodge) had always been rented to large families (2 or 3 children) and he told us we could expect to get the house. “Go off to the Continent and we’ll advise you of the owner’s decision and tell you when you can move in”. In any case we liked Byrons Lodge so well that we didn’t seriously look for another list to put our name on.
So off to the Continent we went with a hope but no promise. Early in March I had contracted (and paid for) a Volkswagen Microbus to be picked up (by us) in Hanover on 1 June. I had asked our La Jolla travel agent not only to book us across to England but also on to Hanover. She had stated that would be unnecessary. Such a short trip and so early in the season. Just book it in Cambridge.
Well, as is usually the case when I buy travel tickets I had spent hours in advance looking at ferry and train schedules and knew precisely how, when, and where I wanted to go. My travel plans had been firm since April, and I had written the VW factory to the hour when I’d be in Hanover. So, as is also usual when I want some tickets, I get in line behind someone who knows to the closest two weeks when his holiday (vacation) is, and knows in general which direction he wants to go, and how much money he has to spend, but no more. For a half hour I stood listening to “Switzerland is nice in August”, “It would cost you 30 pounds to fly but you do save so much time on the channel crossing you know”, “However you can go by rail, crossing between Dover and Calais”..... My thoughts and blood pressure were near the breaking point. Finally my subconscious mind heard “Thank you, I was just making enquiries, I’ll contact you later if I don’t take my usual holiday to Brighton”.
In a not too pleasant voice I said “I want two and four half, second class, tickets from Harwich to Hanover”. He answered something in English, which after reverberating around in my mind for a while came out to be American for “when”. I said 3lst May. His composure which he had kept during the previous half hour of nonsensical generalities, suddenly left him. “Why that’s only three days from now”. I assured him I was aware it was three days hence, but that American travel agents don’t like trifling trips, that the railway representatives on the Empress are not interested in getting anyone beyond the range of the British Railways, and that yesterday I was looking for a house. Well, he couldn’t promise anything but he’d see.
After much hustling and bustling he returned to say “Sorry no second class berths on the night ferry, only first”. Since I was in no position to be fussy I succumbed and said “I want one four berth cabin or two two berth cabins”. He replied “Sorry, all fare paying passengers (4 years and above) must have a berth. And there are no 4 berth cabins, only 2 berth cabins are available. You will need two of these and an additional berth in a third cabin”. I asked him in a slightly irritable voice, “How would you suggest I divide our family up into 3 independent self sufficient groups”. After a moment’s thought, he said, “Put the two youngest with their mother, you take the next older ones, and the 11 year old can stay alone (with a stranger in a different part of the ship)”. I asked him if he had any young children. “No why?" he replied. I thought back to the airplane where if someone had been with Tom we could have talked him out of his air sickness, or at least comforted him. I thought of many other things too, and told him that while traveling Mom and Dan slept together in one berth, Dad and Charlie in another, Tom and Bill in a third, and John alone, 4 berths.
He said “Sorry, you must have 5 berths”, which we got. I don’t know who got a private cabin at our expense.
Now as to the train; I agreed second class was O.K. Did we want reserved seats? Of course we did. We didn’t want a separate boy in each compartment. Anyway the cost is ridiculously low.
One half hour later, the tickets were ready. You see in certain countries children under 3 ride free, in others under 4. Likewise half fare ages vary from 10 to 12 to 14. Then of course, part first class, part second. One and a half hours after entering to transact a simple business I came out cursing American and British travel agents, British and Continental Railways, and myself for not having my Volkswagen delivered in England.
Sunday noon, 31st May 1959 (Memorial Day) we again loaded down our overburdened Consul, but not as in Liverpool. Two bags of permanent things (like winter clothes, technical books, and papers, etc.) were left in Cambridge. We had our last lunch in our guest house, and set off for the American Military Cemetery outside of Cambridge for Memorial Day Service. Mary and I had taught (and in fact met) in an Air Force Communications School at Yale University during World War II. We felt we owed a debt of gratitude to some of our ex-students who had graduated with gold bars into operations out of England, never to return. It was a nice ceremony flowers dropped from bombers, military bands, and speeches (we left early).
We had to drive 60 miles (3 hours) to Harwich. Most of the goods lorries (freight trucks) were off the road on Sunday (but more sightseers were parked on the roads gazing) and our pace was better than planned, that is, better than our revised plans made in England not quite up to our original plans made in America.
In any case we arrived in Harwich in good time with only one stretch of typical English Sunday traffic. In late afternoon every third car in London is returning from an afternoon (or weekend) at the seaside (beach). Since we were going to the coast we just gazed in wonderment at mile after mile of bumper to bumper, five-mile-per-hour traffic struggling home through Colchester.
We arrived in Harwich about 6:30 and hungry. At Parkeston Quay, where we were to board the ferry, there was no place to eat so we drove into Harwich for a snack. We picked a place that looked common enough to tolerate 5 children, but we were wrong. They informed us they were closing. So we crossed the street to a more exclusive looking place and ate in leisure, watching the poor unsuspecting potential diners approach the closed cafe, and indeed enter it and eat.
Ridding ourselves of our rented Consul was no problem at all. A younger small man was waiting at the quay, walked around it once, hailed a porter for us to unburden it, said we’d hear through the automobile club about any additional charges or rebate, bade us bon voyage, and was off.
The porter carried our footlocker, duffle bag, and matched set of fit-inside-each-other bags (when empty) and three brief cases (mine, the boys school work, and the boys car games) to the customs man and ticket takers. We asked about registering (checking) most of the baggage to Hanover and did so. From what I’ve heard since about letting baggage out of sight I am probably the only traveler in the world who registered his luggage and claimed it upon arrival without incident.
We were then ready to board, and on sight of the cross channel ferry, Charlie’s eye lit up and he shouted “There’s our Empress”.
The Empress of Arnheim is no Empress of England. It is older, smaller and dirtier. Our first class cabins wouldn’t hold a candle to our previous tourist class accommodation. This was to be expected but it required much explaining to the boys. Our extra privileges (going forward on the deck below the bridge, and eating or drinking in style, which we had neither inclination nor time to do) were short lived and we were soon nested in. We never did see the cabin where our fifth berth was.
After a hectic and rushed breakfast we boarded the train to claim our reserved seats. We found the right coach and were proceeding towards the seat numbers indicated when we came to a glass door marked “First Class”. Sure enough our reserved second class seats were in the first class potion of the coach. And there we were. No seats, and no likelihood of seats since all second class seats except singles here and there were taken. The conductor (guard, Schaffner) saw the difficulty and indicated he would straighten it out once we were underway. So we stood holding boys and bags until half way to Rotterdam when he escorted us back to another quite ancient and quite deserted coach and gave us a whole six-seat compartment.
We were fairly happy until we made a few discoveries. Namely this compartment, unlike the ones in our assigned coach, had no rug on the floor. Once Dan started crawling on the floor we remembered why passenger trains improved so much when diesel engines replaced steam engines and sealed windows and air conditioning replaced windows that opened (and like ours usually could never really be closed). His hands and knees were blacker than coal. Soon his face and clothes as well as our clothes began to turn first splotchy black, then smudgy gray, and finally rather polka-dot; dark spots on dark gray background.
The scenery was wonderful, especially the haystacks with moveable thatched roofs. When full the roofs were way up high and as the hay was used up the roof kept pace by dropping down on the poles that supported it. The scenery inside was getting darker by the moment.
Up to this point (two hours inside our first non English speaking country) we had no real language difficulty. English is not American, but except for a few (thousand) words that mean different things, broad a’s, a rapid pace, and soft voice level, everything could usually be deciphered. Except of course the English money system (or lack of system), but more on that later. And we were now on a train that met the cross channel boat from England. Anyway everyone says every European knows English, especially on trains, in hotels, etc. I hadn’t even bothered to take my German-English dictionary out of the luggage and put it in my briefcase. Then came our first shock and minor setback.
A young man wearing an apron entered our compartment and started spreckend Deutsch. I looked a little startled but rose to the occasion and asked “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” To my utter amazement he answered “Nein, Sprechen Sie Deutsch” and there we were.
Actually I had studied German two years in high school, and a year in college. I also had taken a special German course and translated a short book on the history of the clarinet and had easily passed my German “reading” test in qualifying for my Ph.D. I had also attended night adult school in San Diego (at a school two blocks from my home) and had a delightful time listening to Frau Busch telling auf Deutsch of her impressions of Germany. I had even been teaching German to my oldest boy (and three of his school mates) so that he could better appreciate our trip to Germany. Nevertheless I hadn’t expected such an abrupt nor decisive change of gears into a foreign language.
After a lengthy conversation where my most used words were “Ich nicht verstehe”, and “langsamer bitte” I gathered he wanted to know did we plan to eat in the Speisewagen (diner); ja. Did we want the erste (first) oder sweite (second) sitting; erste. What did we wish zu essen (to eat), followed by a series of words about every fifth of which I understood, like eggs, potatoes, and sauerkraut. I chose something which included the word Eier (eggs) and he gave me a piece of paper with a table number etc. and departed much more tired than he had entered (and much later than he’d planned, I’m sure).
Then John, to whom I was “Herr Schulmeister” himself, eagerly asked what transpired. I regained my composure and triumphantly told everyone would eat at 11 o’clock and have eggs of some type, probably an omelette.
Not long afterwards as we approached the border between Holland and Germany, some uniformed men boarded the train. Very shortly thereafter the Netherlands immigration officials, after looking at my boys and my own short hair cuts and my rimless glasses, asked in perfect English for our passports. And then the German customs man in perfect Deutsch said something of which I extracted the words cigarettes and spirits, and I answered "nein" just as if I knew what he had been saying.
Somewhere in the next ten miles we must have crossed into Germany. I had seen no massive concrete pill boxes, barbed wire, nor even any ploughed ground. In fact I hadn’t the vaguest notion when we entered Germany and believe me I was looking, for four voices kept asking “Are we there yet”. It was somewhat disappointing not even knowing. After all, every movie you see shows barricades, guard houses, sinister looking guards, and you somehow expect a change in something or another.
The change soon came, we stopped in the first German town to change engines (and about everything else). I expected things to really get efficient now. So we sat, and sat, and soon noticed it was 11 o’clock and so I stepped off the train to spot the Speisewagen and it was gone. Part of our train was going to Scandinavia and part on toward Berlin. There must have been some mix up as to which cars were going where, and maybe they had only one engine. It seemed as if this engine must have gone to Copenhagen and back and was now ready to take us to Hanover. After a forty five minute wait we were again eastward bound and also walking toward the Speisewagen. Because of the delay they must have telescoped the two sittings into one. In any case when we arrived our assigned table and all its four seats was already one-quarter occupied.
I am not sure yet how we did it but somehow our seven got themselves in the remaining space. Luckily our unfortunate dinner companion spoke excellent English and either had a good sense of humour or was exceptionally well mannered and well poised. He seemed to half way enjoy the consternation threw into the diner crew and entered into the festivities with gusto. He suggested and in fact ordered two German brews for Mary and me (kind of a nerve tonic) and reordered one for himself. Then after a chat with the waiter he asked if we had really ordered a dill-pickle and potato omelette. I acknowledged that we probably had.
Not too long afterwards (in fact I often had the feeling that certain parties were anxious to see us on our way) a giant sized platter came with the aforesaid omelette, with ham yet. Actually we couldn’t have done better, it was wonderful and even the boys relished it. All except Dan. He went to sleep. The dead weight added nothing to the ease of devouring that typically huge German meal. Before the ice cream came around Charlie was also asleep. We knew this might happen, that’s why we chose the first sitting. Unscheduled events cause havoc in families with small and many children.
Our meal was really quite a success, thanks to our unexpected interpreter, baby feeder, spirit lifter, and companion to the end (of the meal). We succeeded in waking both Dan and Charlie on the way back to our coal-floored compartment and so had the pleasure of entertaining two cross boys the rest of the way to Hanover.
It was apparent to me now, that not just everyone in Germany spoke English. So since I didn’t really expect a Volkswagen representative to meet us at the station and escort us to our new home on wheels I looked up the address of the factory. I was right on both counts, no representative, and no one who knew English. I couldn’t make up my mind whether to leave Mary and the boys at the station while I got the car, nor whether to claim our substantial luggage and take it along. After noting that waiting rooms in Germany seem to be tied up with eating, and needing moral support anyway, I suggested they come along. We had enough problems, I left the luggage strictly unclaimed.
We left the station and made for the nearest policeman and as usual said “Sprechen Sie English” and as usual heard “nein”. So now with somewhat more confidence I asked the way to the VW factory. He was giving me details on this and the other tram when I broke in and pointing to the boys said “Ich habe funf kinder mit mir” and he seemed to get the idea and pointed a different direction and said “Taxi”.
We walked over to the taxi stand and noted what looked like two or three taxis deciding they weren’t going to pick up passengers at the station after all. It could all be imagination but that’s the way it looked. Anyway, the next taxi driver was looking in his rear view mirror and stopped automatically at the stand. Before he could size up the situation, we had the door open and were half loaded. I then went through the usual “Sprechen Sie Englisch” and heard the usual “nein” and proceeded auf Deutsch to tell him where we wanted to go. Somehow Charlie and I got to sit in front with him, leaving only Mom, Dan, Bill, Tom, and John in the back. So with much forethought and confidence I began asking questions.
The trouble with learning a foreign language is not in the speaking but in the listening. After all in two minutes by sub audible rehearsal I could get out a quite decent five to ten word question. The only trouble was that in the next two minutes I would hear a one or two hundred word answer, usually only about one tenth intelligible. I noted however that the proportion of understanding increased daily until it got between a quarter and a half on first hearing.
We soon got to the new, beautiful, and large VW Werke, then came the usual difficult decision, which gate. We were wrong first but soon found the correct one. After a few phone calls and runnings back and forth between taxi and guard shack we bade farewell to our last link with the dependent past. We were on the threshold of independence from hotels, travel agents, trains (much to John’s regret) and eating in cafes, restaurants, pubs, hotels, and the like.
After a short wait in the guard shack we saw a man walk out of the factory and knew our language exile was temporarily over. Something about the whole surroundings made him appear to be a prisoner released from prison. The giant, beautiful though stark building, the fences and guard shacks, the absence of any people except guards, and I suppose our sense of lingual imprisonment. However it was our release, not his. We could now talk again to someone other than our family. Our lingual imprisonment had not been ‘in solitary confinement’. In fact in many instances our English speaking contingent was numerically superior. And of course Charlie was not bothered by the fact that be got no answers. He continued his usual questioning of our captured audiences. And now he had some new questions, “Why do they talk so funny?” “What did he say, daddy?” and finally he learned “Does he speak English?” But it was nice to speak English to an outsider again.
We were soon escorted into a palatial waiting room, circular stair cases, very high ceiling, gorgeous rugs, and modern furniture. Each of the boys was given a toy VW and proceeded to scoot them across the bare spaces between rugs.
Our transaction was quite typical. Even though everything had been specified and paid for in advance, I still ended up giving him a substantial number of newly acquired Deutsche Marks. He said they had figured my insurance for the small VW, not for the Microbus.
He then gave me two keys, a packet containing instructions for operating VWs, coupons for regular inspections, maps of VW service dealers, and our insurance spelled out in all its detail, auf Deutsch. Then came the carnet, the papers that get export vehicles across borders without tariffs, in perfect French. Some paper to give to the guard as we drove out, another to give customs officials as we left Germany.
And then the routine question, “I suppose you know how to drive a Volkswagen” and the not so routine answer, “I’ve never even been in a VW Microbus” (except in the show room in San Diego). After ascertaining that I had driven other cars for 20 years in America (and five days in England) he figured I shouldn’t have any difficulty. He’d show me how outside the factory and it was only a short easy run to the Autobahn where I could get better acquainted. “Fine” I said, except that all our luggage was at the railway station right smack in the center of town (and it was now 4:30). This created a slight emergency (for me, it needn’t have really worried him but it did). “Wait til I phone my office, perhaps I can arrange to have someone drive you downtown. You’d never make it alone with a strange gear shift and sitting five feet forward and two feet higher than usual”. Here was a man really sold on his product. He had made his sale. But obviously he couldn’t bear the thought of his nice new VW getting crinkled and disabled with less than ten kilometers (six miles) on the speedometer.
My driving lesson was swift and simple; the lowest gear was like the usual reverse, all other forward gears as could be expected. Reverse itself (push down, pull back) was, and remains, somewhat of a problem. Always shift down when slowing down, and in general shift when the speedometer needle crosses the red lines marked on the speedometer.
At the VW Werke in Hanover (note the dirty knees from the train)
So we loaded boys and bags inside (and unlike the Consul we still had some room left over). Then I remembered my camera and lined them up outside beside the only new car I’ve ever owned and recorded the event. About now the English speaking sales manager reappeared and said he would drive us downtown in person and we were off. This was a hair raising experience. Apparently VW engines are most efficient at near top speeds, and gas mileage is obviously best in the highest gear. We soon discovered that 36 horses under expert guidance can cause heads to rock on necks, eyes to bug out, feet to push on imaginary brakes, and stomachs to rise to near mouth level. Unlike English traffic which never exceeds 30 mph in towns, German traffic never is less than 30 mph except for the few seconds it takes to achieve this speed. It is well known that personalities, especially hidden aggressions are reflected in a person’s driving habits. The reserved, tradition bound, polite, and ever enduring British put up with traffic conditions no American can understand, (nor tolerate), with unbelievable restraint, patience, and apparent good humour. Germans, efficient, intolerant, self important, always in a hurry wear themselves, and their countrymen, out by never giving an inch, nor slowing down for any obstacle (cyclist, pedestrian, or other car). Our heads continually rocked back on green (and yellow) lights, jerked forward on red lights, and rolled sideways for stationary or slow moving objects. I learned in the space of two minutes that Microbuses are a foot narrower on each side than they appear, can turn on a dime (or English 3 penny silver bit), are powered by an engine highly underrated by horsepower engineers, are never to be run at less than Top RPM, don’t require any breaking in (running in) time, and can run equally well on streets, curbs (kerbs) or sidewalks. I also learned that there are events such that even Charlie is speechless and that this type behavior in German drivers must not be out of the ordinary since our driver carried on a normal, reserved, conversation the whole trip.
The taxi ride hadn’t been nearly as nerve racking, possibly because the taxi wasn’t my brand new sparkling car, or because the taxi still had an engine and hood (bonnet) between me and eternity, or because the rush hour traffic hadn’t started, even possibly because the taxi driver couldn’t keep up such a pace all day and subsided into somewhat saner habits. In any case we did get to the station, and in jig time (and rhythm). A few words auf Deutsch to a policeman and we were parked and were trotting over after our baggage. At this point the difference between my inexperience with the German language, character, and personality, and my host’s knowledge really became pronounced. Whereas even in England or the U.S.A. I stand back trying to decipher unintelligible signs and go to the baggage room only to find it a place to check parcels, then to the checked baggage counter, to find this is where you check outgoing baggage and finally find the incoming baggage counter (where I would have brought my bags when I came in to start upon a trip), my host (with me three feet in arrears and panting quite somewhat) read no signs but spoke up boldly from behind two layers of people asking some questions auf Deutsch got us to the correct counter before I could hand out my claim tickets. In a twinkling we were behind the heavy iron fencing telling the baggage man which were our bags and loading them in a dolly that miraculously showed up from somewhere with a man pushing it. Before the baggage man, who was really not just a clerk but a customs official, could catch his breath and become officious, my host was telling him the contents, the destination, and the valuation of the luggage, and that we were in a hurry. How he knew the contents I don’t quite know, he didn’t bother checking with me, but in any case I was signing some release papers and being pushed out before the customs man could really show me what authority he had. And believe me Germans in positions of petty authority delight in making this fact felt upon the slightest provocation. Before I could gain my composure and tender a ten mark tip to the porter my host had given him five and dismissed him. This was real German efficiency.
Whereas this same luggage had doubled the subjective size of our rented Consul getting to the boat in England it was swallowed up over the engine inside the Microbus practically unnoticed. Five minutes, and many suppressed gulps, later we were sitting on the approaches to the Autobahn bidding a fond farewell to our super charged efficient, self sacrificing, bi-lingual friend. Actually he drove us directly to the autobahn and walked home (he said only a few blocks, probably a mile) rather than having us drop him off and finding the autobahn ourselves. I was never quite sure whether this was graciousness carried to the extreme, the desirability of getting us out of Hanover (and his responsibility) as fast as possible, or a certain pre judgment of my mental facilities relative to navigating and driving his obvious pride and joy. In any case I take my hat off to him. After being plagued by inefficiencies, bad judgments, unscheduled delays, coal black train compartments, and general complacencies for 24 hours this true salesman (he aims and succeeds in pleasing) made us very happy to be in Germany, in a VW and alive.
Everything was rosy now. Our independence was nearly complete. No more transport problems and only one more night of lodging problems. We were on our way to Wiedenbruck to have our new bus converted into a ‘campster’. We were on a typical American highway in a new and clean car, no coal smoke nor remains of such, driving at a slow but still more American than English speed of 50 m.p.h. which we could expect to maintain for miles on end. No more cars stopped on the highway in front of us around every bend or over the crown of every hill. Driving on the right side of the road, shifting with the right hand, signaling with the left. Things were indeed rosy. Is this our car daddy? Can we keep it? Can I ride up with you? Dan’s asleep".
Before we hardly became aware of the trademark of German motoring we had covered twenty miles on the Autobahn and were ready to take some lesser roads to Hamelin to check on the current population of rats. Even in the thirty minutes we were on the Autobahn we did discover the famous German blinking light signal. Fifty m.p.h. is not a fast speed on an Autobahn but it is faster than many vehicles and we did have occasion to pass (overtake) some cars. It was then I noticed in my rear view mirror the blinking lights. It would appear that cars in Germany, at least those driven by Germans, have just one speed forward, namely the fastest speed the car can possibly go. When you pull out to pass someone you quite normally pull into the passing or fast lane. If any car no matter how far back sees you pull into “his” territory he immediately starts blinking his lights. This is to notify you that you are trespassing and you’d better be quick about getting back into the driving lane out of the passing lane, because “here I come and I don’t intend to slow down”. Of course no sane driver attempts to overtake without checking his rear view mirror, and if any car is in sight to signal his intended move into the passing lane. However in most mature civilized communities the rights of other people are respected and car overtaking another car half a mile ahead of where you are is ordinarily not even noticed. In Germany one gets the impression that any time one usurps the passing lane it is a personal affront to that whole cult of drivers in both America and Germany who use nothing but the passing lane. To challenge everyone who dares enter the passing lane seems to be the new national pastime in Germany. I now knew in England roads are to park on, in Germany to speed on. Normal, medium speed, straight line driving has yet to be learned in both countries. Enough philosophizing, back to Hamelin.
Johnny, our oldest boy, had been the Pied Piper when his class presented the story to the P.T.A. back home. Obviously we had to stop to see the Weser, the hill, the lack of rats (and children). We arrived just before dark and started hotel hunting. Actually it was only 1 June no tourists yet, no problem. Just one, five children. That is just one big problem, the other problems were speaking German, and recognizing potential hotels when you pass them. Every time I thought I spotted a hotel I’d walk into a bar, tavern, or beer garden. And usually it was a hotel of sorts but either for permanent residence, or not enough rooms or beds for five children. Actually five children aren’t as awful as they sound. Two double beds could suffice. After many trials and much advice we did find a place, one large room, a double and three single beds. As long as we left by 0830 we could leave the car on the street. They served dinner and breakfast. All was well. The dinner was no more delirious than usual. Difficulty in reading the menu, gauging the boys hunger, keeping Charlie awake, and keeping Dan’s hands out of the soup were by now accepted hazards. In fact we found German waiters and waitresses much more tolerant of children than those in America or England. Maybe our lingual plight made them more agreeable. We were soon upstairs again looking out the window at the curious and envious populace admiring our shiny new bus.
Actually I’m sure the whole rationale of America’s post war prosperity is based on the American’s desire to outshine his compatriots with the newest, gaudiest, largest, and most outlandish car. Each year the cars get more, i.e. larger, wider, heavier, more expensive to run, etc. I had never succumbed to this illness and in fact rebelled and profited from it. My two cars were nine and nineteen years old, purchased at low cost, cheap to run and with very low maintenance costs. You see I only wanted transportation and even then for short distances. I didn’t need a status symbol. I just didn’t care what my neighbors thought. Anyway now I was the possessor of the only new car I will probably ever buy. And here were people actually “ohing” and “ahing”. I should have felt very proud and boastful. Actually I felt ashamed. I knew the Europeans concepts of rich American tourists, and I was not rich and didn’t want to be considered a tourist. My Z license plates told one and all this was an export VW and I only wished it were old and dirty so I could be one of the folks again and not a rich American tourist.
With these thoughts and knowing full well there would be no street music nor rats to disturb my dreams I and six other mighty tired people fell asleep at the end of our first non-English day.
The journey of Daniel Webster, his four older brothers, and father and mother was really just starting. Let us summarize his trip to date and forecast highlights of his forthcoming summer’s itinerary in what might be called the Land of the Midnight Sun:
LAND OF THE MIDNIGHT SUN
There was a family seven strong
Who sailed across the sea
From U.S.A to Europe bound
To see what they could see.
They landed first at
And stepping on the shore
They said, while dodging left-hand cars
This country we adore.
It was but six days later on
At Harwich (Parkeston Quay)
That all were ready once again
To sail across a sea.
For Hook of Holland bound were they
And hence by train to buy
In Germany at Hano’er town
A car with which to hie.
A green and white Volkswagen bus
To serve as car and home
With beds inside and tent attached
And luggage rack as dome.
Then heading North again they came
To water cross their course
So once again but now they drove
On board for land of Norse.
In Copenhagen ships they saw
While cruising harbor round
In Elsinore upon the shore
Prince Hamlet’s castle found.
Across the water once again
To Sweden’s lakes they came
In Stockholm with the clock at twelve
The palace guards changed name.
By now in land of midnight sun
In June the days came round
When even in the midst of night
Sun’s light did yet abound.
The children this indeed did love
And tarried from their beds
But Mom and Dad with chores to do
Awoke with eyes of lead.
So off for land of setting sun
To Oslo and its hills
An old stave church and Viking boats
And many other thrills.
Off west again through lands of trees
And rising heights to mount
Until in winter playground land
Snow Patches can they count.
Across a barren tundra land
Until great falls they see
And then the fiords come to sight
And roads drop down to sea.
Again at Bergen boat they board
And to the purser’s grief
A personal check their passage pay
For cash was very brief.
Across to Hadrians wall they sailed
And first in weeks to see
Was mist and grime and rain and fog
For they in England be.
The rain did go the sun did shine
And beauteous weather came
The likes of summer fifty-nine
Will not be seen again.
At Sherwood Forest needs they stop
For Robin’s tree to see
And then to Nottingham they go
For there a castle be.
And then to Cambridge town they came
A house for them to find
So study could both dad and boys
Alas no house unkind.
For yet lo oer the whole wide world
With children yet to house
Landlords for ages past have said
‘Indeed sleep with the cows’.
So caravan they rent and park
Together with their bus
They sleep and eat in camping style
While house they seek, and fuss.
In Fulbourn village close hard by
What used to be the Manse
I guess because in God they trust
Became their habitance.
And so half way around the world
From sunny Californ
They settle in their eight room house
To see what brings the morn.
Their travels for one summer done
School starts for dad and boys
When summer heat returns again
They’ll look for greater joys.
J.B. and J.C. Webster
20 January 1960.
3 June 1959, Wiedenbruck, West Germany. As of this date we were by definition full-fledged campers. We possessed one two-day old Volkswagen Microbus and one one-day-old campster modification. Our converted VW now called ZW (Zigeunerwagen or Gypsy Wagon) included a full length luggage (roof) rack complete with canvas rain cover, tent that attached to roof rack, camping box which allowed car to be large bed at night but seats in day, 2-burner benzine (petrol or gasoline) stove, and assorted foam rubber mattresses; three sleeping bags and three wool comforters of varying sizes (brought from U.S.A.); two pans, a kitchen knife, and assorted paper plates, cups, and eating utensils (just purchased in my best German the preceding day), and one batch of very dirty clothes, some still surrounding only slightly cleaner boys, and some beyond foreseeable help.
After clumsily getting the car; bedroom, metamorphosized into car; traveling, we set off to find breakfast, and ended up in a hotel restaurant. I was never quite sure that this hotel intended to serve breakfast to transients (non-residents). Nor was I sure whether breakfast in their eyes was some set combination of foods including milk (hot for children), coffee, bread, and butter or whether they intended one’s imagination to turn to such things as pancakes, sausages, eggs, and tea. In any case since I was fresh from America where freedom of choice is a virtue zealously exercised. (But actually highly overrated when it comes to ordering breakfast since one might as well just specify small, sweet (coffee and sweet roll); small, toast (coffee and toast); medium (coffee, fried eggs, bacon and cold white toast); or large (coffee, pancakes and sausage). To get, for example, tea, or whole wheat toast, or milk, or poached egg is possible, but actually ostracizes you, at least from the cooks and waiters viewpoint. Usually even the other clients move away or unfold a newspaper between themselves and you, which lets everyone else in the establishment know in a manner far superior to words that they are not in your party.)
Anyway being a non-conformist (at least at breakfast) and being hungry, I ordered in my by now polished (3-day-old) German assorted milks, coffee, tea, pancakes, sausages, eggs, cereals (to each his own). About a half-hour later we got 5 milks (hot), 2 coffees, and 6 large German pancakes. I’m sure this is exactly what we would have received if I’d not said a word, which I must assume is essentially what our host thought I had said; nothing.
Finally, after a final round of shopping for bread, cheese, bananas, and other essentials for lunch, we set off in the direction of Hamburg. Our first, stop for gasoline (benzine) was fairly routine except for getting some gasoline into our stove. The tank had an opening of about a quarter of an inch. We soon decided we needed either a funnel or a separate container, with a larger opening, or both. Or German service station attendants needed calmer nerves, lower volume pumps, or finer nozzles. We put “gasoline carrier” on our list.
At one o’clock one thinks very hard about what one had already thought about at eleven or twelve, namely lunch. Lunch time with five children means milk. Milk means grocery store. Grocery store means window with tins of food, boxes of cereal, maybe bread together with an open door. We found after much looking that the sign “Lebensmittel” probably signifies the equivalent of a grocery, but we also found the sign “Geschlossen zwischen 1230 and 1400” on a locked door means “out for lunch.”
With tighter belts and drier throats we continued our journey when to my pleasant surprise I saw a traveling dairy wagon. A man selling milk, butter, eggs, cheese, etc. to the neighborhood women. I stopped, waited my turn, spoke my piece, and returned with a liter of milk. We traveled a few miles out of town, found a nice place to pull off the road alongside the Weser River, and had our first meal on the go. We also met for the first time our continual companions, the wasps. They liked the jelly best.
Since we wanted another night of practice on changing from car; traveling, to car; eating, to car; sleeping, before hitting the big time, we stopped short of Hamburg. We bought powdered potatoes, beans, sausage (wurst), and drove down a side road to a camp listed in our book as possessing a store, restaurant, showers, flush toilets, trees, and guarded. We arrived at a German tavern or pub and were herded into the adjacent pasture, fenced and forested, and full of chickens. The store-restaurant, was the pub, which also housed the flush toilets. The shower? Well, it was out in the pasture with us. It consisted of an old oil drum, perched on high, and a concrete apron below. No walls, no curtains, no roof, .i.e., no building of any sort. Hot? Yes, after a hot day in the sun. Cold? Yes, most of the time. Used by us? No.
We had no more trouble than expected getting the tent up for the first time by ourselves, but found the stove quite a challenge, more of a smudge pot than stove. But since smoked sausage is indeed a delicacy, we feasted, turned Charlie off, and went bed.
About a week, and seven unused cold showers, after starting our camping trip, we arrived at our first real destination, Stockholm. Not that Hamburg with its harbor ride and zoo, Lubeck with canal ride and torture chamber museum, Copenhagen with harbor-canal ride and Tivoli, Elsinore castle with torture chamber (and Hamlet’s ghost), and the trip through Sweden’s lake country were uninteresting and not appreciated. These were just frosting on the cake that was Stockholm where I was to study for two weeks.
By now, in Denmark and Sweden, there was virtually no oral communication. Travel books and bureaus may say everyone in Europe uses English as a second language, but they fail to mention that proprietors of village grocery stores and fellow campers don’t really get a chance to use English except maybe once every twenty years. And they tend to get a little rusty in understanding things like, “Do you speak English”, or “Have you a loaf of bread”, later shortened to, “Have you bread”, then “Bread, bread”, and finally, “Bread, brot, pane, pana”, followed by a game of charades. Actually as we found out later, Scandinavians as a whole do speak more English, than say Italians, Spaniards, or Portuguese, and in fact, occasionally a gas station attendant might actually point out the telephone instead of the toilets when the telephone was indeed what was wanted.
The long distance call to my English speaking (and MIT trained) colleague at the Royal Institute of Technology was most gratifying. I especially liked the part about the camping site being located adjacent to a motel. Our first week of camping thus ended in said motel where I was inaccessible for a half hour in the hot bathtub. My boys showed their true colors however, and had to be coerced into said bathtub.
Buying groceries in village stores was no more challenging than buying a meal in a Swedish cafeteria. My first faux pas was getting big bowls of tapioca pudding (at the soup end of line) only to find they were sour cream. The meat dishes were not displayed, just listed on the menu overhead. When you know not what is available, and know not what might be acceptable, and know not how to speak the words that you know not, ordering becomes difficult.
After two days to recover from our first week of camping (at $10/day) we moved from the motel into the adjacent camp site and settled down in Stockholm for two weeks. Our biggest problem was dirty clothes. My Swedish colleagues, with whom I was studying, took charge and dropped them off at a nearby laundry with “rush” instructions, i.e. 5-day service. Apparently these were the only instructions given. Five days later I went to pick up the laundry and was presented with a bill for 105 krona ($20). To say the least this stopped me cold. But as I couldn’t translate the bill nor very well argue, I retreated to my ivory tower and had my Swedish colleagues explain to me about laundries. It seems they iron everything unless told contrariwise. So the laundry bill was only $1.50, but for ironing 40 underpants, 28 pairs of socks, and numerous undershirts, the bill was $18.50. We decided forthwith and we told the boys, “No more dirty-clothes”.
Our real problem in Stockholm was the sun. We couldn’t get rid of it. Come eight o’clock and time for the boys to go to bed, there was the sun. Come ten o’clock, time for me to go to bed the sun again. Come two o’clock, time to take Charlie to the potty clad in pajamas and walking through the camp, and again the sun. Granted at midnight there was no sun, but you could read a newspaper. I got sleepier and sleepier. We couldn’t get the boys to bed and although all seven of us slept in the ZW, it took a certain amount of cooperation. The ZW worked well as a car, as a kitchen and dining room, as a living room or as a bedroom, but not as a car and as a kitchen; nor as living room and bedroom.
We pretty much led a completely communal life, what one did we all did. But boys seem to think darkness precedes sleep and no darkness, no sleep. I, on the other hand, knew that sleepiness precedes sleep, darkness or no. Contrariwise I know from years of experience that the dawning light means wake up, and off to work. Contrariwise, boys know that waking up follows 8 or 10 hours of sleep. The routine, if there ever got to be any was, “I’m ready to go to sleep, boys, GO TO SLEEP”. Come morning, “Time to eat, boys GET UP”. This in contrast to years of mornings where the conversation was more typically, “Boys, keep quiet so we can sleep an extra half hour”.
After a week of this no sleep routine, I was dead tired and we moved into the motel for a night so I could go to sleep at eight o’clock, sun or no sun, and boys or no boys. It’s hard to say which the boys liked best; the boat ride around the canals and harbor, or the trip to Skansen, the park with typical buildings from all over Sweden congregated in one huge park. Watching them put up the pole for midsummer’s day in Skansen was great sport as was watching the polar bears and Dan.
We were invited out to a colleague’s house for dinner one night and sat talking until dusk, that is until midnight. A great deal of the talk was about when and how do people sleep in summer and stay awake in winter. Since Ulf was a native Laplander he said it wasn’t at all bad in Stockholm but further North, oh. He said many people had blackout curtains or shutters and that most were sleepy. After we played the Mozart Clarinet Concerto (I had brought my clarinet and he was a good piano player) we converted car to bedroom in his front driveway and our usual 4 hours sleep.
As we left Stockholm for Uppsala it was still Midsummer’s Fest and we stopped along the road at a small village to watch the festivities. Before we knew it, the villagers had the boys in line for refreshments and games. The holiday spirit is contagious and the refreshments were good. If only I hadn’t been so sleepy, I would have thoroughly enjoyed the day.
Our remaining camp sites in Sweden were all on lakes but the mosquitoes never quite outnumbered the wasps. Johnny got the idea that with lakes there should be fishing and since he picked up languages faster than any of us, and therefore did the grocery shopping, he ended up a few days later with some string, cork, weight, and hook.
The other boys were more interested in wading and were all fascinated by the birthday suits worn by the Swedish children when swimming (or wading). Charlie was never one for shoes anyway, and we always had to find them laying around somewhere before decamping. In fact, that was usually our last act before leaving a camp site. The word would be passed, “Find Charlie’s shoes and we’ll be ready to go.”
Our last camp site in Sweden was not only on a lake, but also on a creek that fed logs into the lake. Log rafts were made and at sunrise (2 A.M.) we heard the chug-chug of a tug pulling the rafts away. Much later in the morning (6 A.M.) we were out taking pictures of logs and loggers unsnarling jams. All in all, we got so absorbed in observing Sweden’s greatest industry that we deviated from our usual routine. Many hours later in Norway, we noted Charlie had no shoes, nor were any shoes to be found in the car. Two days later when we were finally convinced that Charlie had no shoes, we stopped in Honefoss, Norway, to purchase a new pair. Actually he wore them so seldom a two-day wait meant nothing.
After buying Charlie’s "Norwegian Shoes" we proceeded straight ahead on the street we had been on. The road soon changed to gravel and kept going north. I assumed the Oslo-Bergen highway would be hard-surfaced and in general would proceed westwardly. I kept looking for a highway marker to confirm my belief that we were on the wrong road. No markers. It was lunch time so we stopped in a grove of trees and I studied the map while Mary made the sandwiches. I determined that even if we were wrong we were not too badly off. In general we would be taking two legs of a right triangle instead of the hypotenuse.
I was soon convinced we were on the wrong road but the scenery was lovely and we were far enough along we decided to stick it out. Before long we came to some “Road Works”. I was perhaps traveling a little fast for a gravel road but in any case I pulled too far toward the edge and got mired down in loose gravel. Before we could even get out to see how badly off we were four husky construction workers were shoving and we were gone with no noticeable delay.
Further along the road at a small hamlet a man who looked like another construction worker flagged us. I presumed he was going to stop us while some approaching traffic came through. He had no red flag and there were no warning signs but after the lecture I got from Mary about the last little construction incident I was being extra careful.
He approached the car and the ensuing futile conversation was held first in English, answered in Norwegian and then in sketchy German answered by equally sketchy German. I surmised at about the same time Mary did, who knows neither Norwegian nor German, that this was no flagman but a hitchhiker. And here we were stopped, talking, and so to speak trapped. We never pick up hitch-hikers for at least two reasons, no room, and fear of consequences. But in these circumstances we welcomed him aboard.
Actually I’m sure he was as nonplussed as we. He could see we really had no excess room. And I’m sure he really didn’t intend to flag down someone with whom he could not talk. He was obviously a local farmer or forester, about medium build, and probably in his thirties. He had a simple, kindly, though weather-beaten face, and was dressed in the rough and ready dress of the region.
Mary scooted over and our new found friend crawled in hoisting a back pack we had not noticed before. The pack gave some trouble, namely there was really no rooms for it on his lap, since Dan was on Mary’s lap. So we hoisted it over into the back with the boys. And we started forth again through this hilly, river valley country. We soon surmised, more through osmosis than through conversation that he had walked, or hitch-biked, about 10 miles into town for a few provisions and some socializing. In the process he had partaken of some form of spirits. He was not at all tipsy but his breath gave away his secret. He was in fact just far enough gone to be at ease in this somewhat bizarre and potentially embarrassing situation.
He and I tried some rudimentary German conversation of which Mary seemed to understand more than either of us. After a few miles I thought ZW was smelling of beer, not rebreathed beer but spilled beer. The boys mentioned something of a strange smell and in our consternation our friend became aware that something was rotten in Norway. After a few minutes of this bewilderment he pointed to a high bridge and a cross road and stated this is where he wanted off. As the boys were handing him his back pack, they remarked that it was dripping wet. And so it was. Apparently in passing it into the back seat and stowing it away it got turned upside down. Also apparently the pack contained a partially empty (and partially full) bottle of beer that had not been securely stoppered. At this point our friend looked like the main character in a Laurel and Hardy comedy.
The leaking pack had made a puddle in the car and he in the interest of good international relations wanted to clean up his mess. He opened his pack to get a mop rag (a big handkerchief) but it also was dripping wet. So after a few futile gestures our friend sort of backed away blushing from ear to ear. His obvious embarrassment was the only thing that kept us from laughing. We contained ourselves until we drove off. We kept wondering if the main purpose of his trip to the village had not been drained away in his ride home.
Our camp in Bergen was again on a lake and there was a raft about five feet offshore which could be tortuously and precariously reached via rocks and tree stumps. John had no particular trouble getting aboard, but I had an awful time trying to help Bill and literally depositing Charlie on this child’s paradise.
John soon found some cheese and had his baited hook in the peaceful duck-infested lake. We were so busy getting the tent up, cooking, and watching Dan, who was just learning to walk, that we didn’t pay much attention. Soon Tom came running back to report that John had caught a fish. I really couldn’t have cared less, I Was busy and tired and thought fishing a silly pastime anyway. I never minded setting in a boat or ashore, holding a string and reading a book, but always got annoyed when the string pulled and I had to put my book down. Usually I was careful to see that no hook got placed on my line, then if I could find a shade tree, I liked to fish. Mary, on the other hand, had been raised in a fishing village on the Illinois River and her family had in fact run the fish market. (The go-between from fishermen to retail stores or cafes.) She could see I wasn’t much account at instilling manly virtues into my boys and so she encouraged the fishing and went over to help John unhook his fish.
I belatedly carried Dan over in time to see Mary unhook an ugly-looking eel, and much against John, Tom, Bill, and Charlie’s wishes, she threw the eel back. About fifteen minutes later just I was about to round the boys up for supper, Tom came flying back and screaming, “John caught a duck.”
This did disrupt our hectic routine and Mary and I (and Dan) ran over to see what this was all about. It seems after the cheese ran out, John used bread for bait, and of the numerous ducks on the pond, one was unduly hungry. Now we saw one very unhappy duck with a fish hook through his bill, and one unhappy boy with a duck on a leash. This situation stopped even Mary and we just sort of stood, feeling sorry for both the duck and John. It finally became apparent we must do something, so we called in outside help. The camp manager was soon rounded up and with a look of utter amazement as “how could this happen to me”, he went off in all directions at once. Within a few minutes he had his teen-age son, a pair of dikes and some gloves, and proceeded to hold one unhappy squirming duck in both hands while his son took the dikes and cut the curved end off the hook. Then they extracted the by now more or less straight wire from the duck’s bill, and threw the squawking duck back into the pond.
At this point I was very happy that I knew no Norwegian and that our host knew very little English. John hasn’t hankered to fish to this day.
No trip, in fact no facet of modern day life, is without financial worries. As Parkinson has stated, “....expenditure rises to meet income...". No matter how much or how little a person’s, church’s or government’s income is, there is always the tendency if not the outright necessity of spending just a little beyond said income.
Our trip was no exception. I’m sure there is no more liberal paying fellowship than my NSF fellowship; salary matching plus up to $2000 toward travel. However as usual in these types of things the expenditures always occur before the money is available. Also no one in his right mind would study in Europe without doing some sightseeing. With five smallish boys, traveling and/or living abroad presents planning, financial, and just plain ordinary problems. Months before we ever left San Diego we had ordered and paid for our VW become ZW (Volkswagen to be converted into Zigeunerwagen, or Gypsy Wagon), our air tickets to Omaha, our steamship tickets from Montreal to Liverpool, a hired car to meet the ship in Liverpool, new lightweight luggage, and twenty dollars worth of English pounds, Netherlandish guilders, German marks, Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian kroners, and a large cashier’s check with which to open an English bank account. Needless to say, we did not leave feeling financially free and easy.
Our first extra came at Hanover. Someone had figured the insurance premium incorrectly and there went some of our precious travelers checks. Since we figured things pretty close anyway this extra expenditure made it necessary to stop on our way to Hamburg for more marks. It took a full two hours to find a "Wechsel”, get a parking place, return to get my passport (why they needed to see a passport beyond me), and finally walk away with enough marks to get us out of Germany.
By the time we got to Stockholm we were flat broke and had to borrow money from my international colleague, Dr. Gunnar Funt. Luckily before we left a big fat travel cheek from NSF arrived and temporarily relieved our plight. The only trouble was I got overconfident. Instead of keeping out about twice what I figured I would need to get back to England I kept only just enough. With the rest I wiped out one of my big debts and deposited a substantial amount to my English account.
All was well the rest of our Scandinavian stay (except the 105 kronen, $20, laundry bill). However another misplanned event caught up with us. Since we camped out we didn’t plan in detail how far we would drive each day. That is, we had no advanced reservations in hotels. I might put it in reverse, because with "funf Kleine Jungen" it was impossible to schedule in advance, we camped. In any case I looked at the kilometers between cities and figured we could drive from Stockholm, to Oslo, to Bergen, and back through Denmark, Germany, and Holland and get back to England easily in two weeks. One week and five days later as we drove into Bergen I could see that something had gone awry in my planning.
I knew that an overnight boat service ran between Bergen and Newcastle and figured maybe this would solve our time problem. There still remained a money problem, the fare, and a reservation problem, namely we had none. To top it off we arrived in Bergen too late on Friday to see about reservations. On Saturday the steamship offices were closed and the boat sailed on Sunday. Actually the offices weren’t completely closed. A young clerk was around who found out by marching through other people’s files that there was room for a ZW and an 8-bunk cabin available and he proceeded to sign us up. I told him that I had no cash nor travelers checks to pay the passage and would have to write a cheque on my English account. He wanted no money, no cheque, let the purser on board worry about it. I asked if be could warn the purser to expect a cheque. He couldn’t care less. He said he’d see that everything would be OK. Just don’t worry, let the purser worry.
Our five weeks of near-perfect weather came to a close as we drove up to load ZW and occupants on board. The motor clubs got the Carnet, insurance, etc., checked and the ZW whisked away before we had hardly finished our picnic lunch inside and gotten our baggage, papers, potty, and spare food out. We then filed into the terminal, loaded down to the gills with baggage, sacks, and boys.
On one of the very few occasions where our multitude caused a difference in the usual routine, the purser saw us at the end of the line (we always were, since we couldn’t keep them lined up and at the ready) and told us to come to the head of the line and go right on board. When he asked for tickets I told him of our late arrival and arrangements with the boy in the office yesterday. He looked at the bottom of his list and sure enough found our names. When I muttered something about paying for the passage he said, "Later, on board." I started to explain about personal cheques, etc., but he paid no heed.
We got aboard, found our spacious 8-bunk cabin, hot shower, and clean towels and were really reveling in comfort. We were soon sailing out the fiord toward England. About this time the purser had finished his other business and called over the ship’s PA system for me to come to his office.
He verified the ages of the boys, the volume and weight of the car and figured out we owed him 588 kroner ($112). He then turned his smiling countenance to me and asked how I planned to pay, cash or travelers check? I hesitatingly said that I planned to pay by personal check. His jaw dropped about two inches, color came to his cheeks and he fairly shouted, "Personal check, we don’t take personal checks!” I said meekly, “That’s all I have." "But the company won’t allow me to take a personal check. Didn’t the man who made the reservation make that clear?" "On the contrary, I tried to pay him yesterday so he could wire Cambridge if need be to verify my account:" "What did he do?" "Nothing, he said to let the purser on board take care of the passage money." "He must have been insane, how much cash do you have?" “We counted out about 5 pounds, 100 Danish, Swedish, or Norwegian krone, a few coins from the Netherlands, etc., and came up with about $30. And with the most despairing look I’ve seen on anyone since I’d told my boys a year ago they couldn’t have a dog for pet, he asked, "And you have no travelers checks?" "No." "Nor anymore cash?" "NO." I thought he was going to collapse. Then in a weak, sickly voice that could hardly be heard, he asked, "And with what bank is your account?" "Lloyds Bank in Cambridge." "Do you know the address?” "No, but I could show you on a map I have in the cabin where it is located." And in an almost inaudible whisper, near a state of complete exhaustion, he said, "Yes go get your map and let us find the address of your bank."
About ten minutes later I came back with map (and cheque book which I didn’t even have with me before) and we continued our conversation. By now of course I felt terrible seeing the man so put out. After all I knew I had money in the bank. At least I thought I did. I wasn’t positive I had 40 pounds ($112), since my original deposit was $100 and I had no positive assurance that the money I had the Swedish bank send was actually deposited. But anyway I was quite sure I had money in the bank.
Leaving Bergen on board the ‘Leda’
Upon my return however he was happy as a lark. He must have had some narcotic or some spirits hidden away that he had partaken of in my absence. Or seeing he had no alternative perhaps he had put on his happy mask. He was probably practicing the part the old Chinese proverb about relaxing and enjoying those things that are inevitable anyway.
In writing the cheque I just about brought on his state of collapse again. You see this was the first English cheque I’d written and I didn’t know how to do it. Where we write, "z and y hundredths" Dollars, where y can be “no”, the English write, “X pounds y shillings and z pence”, where if z or y and z are zero, you write “only”. Once he told me about the “only” we were all right. I wrote Forty pounds only. Then he asked me to cross it. “Cross it? What’s that?” “You don’t know about crossing cheques?” “Never heard of it.” Vertically across the cheque you draw two lines, about half an inch apart, and write ‘and Co.’” “Why?” “This means no individual or company can receive cash from the cheque. Instead it is deposited in some bank to the account of whoevers name is on the check. They then draw the money out of their account.” “Oh!” “This is to protect against forgeries and/or lost cheques. A crossed cheque is not negotiable.” “Two lines, you say. Right on top of the writing?” “Yes, that’s it, thank you.” At this point he probably realized no cheque artist could be this stupid. Being thus assured he was my friend for the remainder of the trip.
This was a very pleasant trip. We really hadn’t found our camping “wings” yet and getting back to bunks, hot showers, and served meals was a real luxury. The food was both wonderful and inexpensive. We found another family with a boy flush, but only four of them so we were still kings.
The purser’s lecture on the crossing of cheques was my first lesson in English banking. I had much more to learn about English banks, and I will add it was all quite pleasant. To begin with I found that George III is still king in England. Whereas we fought a revolution over the stamp tax, the English still pay tuppence for a stamp which is duly affixed to all cheques when they are cashed. Maybe this is why cancelled cheques are never returned, at least mine weren’t. Instead, the bank statement (which was mailed not every month, nor every second month but when the page was filled up) told to whom the money was paid. That is, the statement told you this if you knew the code: For example, CCC was Cambridgeshire County Council, for taxes, licenses, etc.; EEB meant Eastern Electricity Board; CQS or CHQ meant check (cheque) i.e. something deposited to the account; Stamp, or Stamp on CHQ told of the tuppenny stamp tax deduction; AMT Dusseldorf, or MT Bonn meant some marks had been sent to Germany.
There was no bank charge for deposits or cheque transactions (other than the tuppence stamp tax) but instead each book of cheques was purchased 24 for 4 shillings or 2 l/3 cents a cheque. The thing I could never get used to was that I never knew how much money I had in the bank. I had arranged my finances so that my NSF stipend check went directly to my San Diego bank who had my power of attorney to deposit the money to my account. My life insurance payments were deducted from my account automatically each month. The bank was instructed to send to England, upon receipt of the NSF check, a fixed amount to be deposited in Lloyds (of Cambridge). What I didn’t know was when the check from America arrived and what the exact rate of exchange was on that particular day. So I was always phoning Lloyds or going in to check on my balance. They weren’t supposed to tell me over the phone but I soon became such a familiar voice that few verifying questions were asked.
However this incessant phoning was both embarrassing and time consuming so after five months of having things work out OK, i.e. having money on deposit before I wrote cheques I got careless on the sixth month. I wrote several good sized cheques without phoning Lloyds bank, assuming NSF, the U.S. and U.K. postal systems, and my bank in California were performing in accustomed efficiency. To my utter amazement one morning in the 7 A.M. mail I saw this letter from Lloyds marked quite conspicuously on the outside of the envelope, “PRIVATE”. I opened the envelope and read,
Doctor J. C. Webster,
Cambridge. External Account
I think you would like to be advised that cheques have been paid making the above mentioned account overdrawn L87.15.5d.
You are no doubt aware that under the Exchange Control Regulations overdrafts are not permitted on External accounts and I shall be glad therefore if you will kindly let me have a remittance to place the account in credit.
(signed) W. de W. W. Symour
This was the politest letter I had ever received that told me I was overdrawn to the slight amount of $245.77. The letter appeared to me to be absolutely apologetic. They seemed somehow to be sorry they had to remind me of this insignificant oversight.
Two mishaps occurred together to cause this misfortune. For some reason my NSF check was late, and secondly some new clerk had sent my English bank deposit to me, not to the bank. I received it the same day I got the distress appeal from the bank.
Of course in the confusion my automatic insurance payments came due in California before the NSF stipend check came in and this of course made my California bank downright neurotic. The reason I hadn’t heard sooner about their psychosis was that apparently the same new clerk who sent my English bank deposit check to me, not to Lloyds, had put only a surface mail stamp on the nasty letter. I’m sure they gave her one air and one surface stamp and she failed to realize which was the important letter and had sent money by air and dire warnings by ship. In contrast to Lloyds reticent reminder of an insignificant oversight my California bank was right to the point. In fact beyond the point. They stated that my fixed commitments (insurance premiums and deposit to England) exceeded my NSF stipend check and my residual balance couldn’t maintain a favorable (black ink) balance. This was not true, in fact I accrued $60 a month from my NSF stipend. The trouble was that our renters had failed to pay the rent for 2 months and I had to make my house payments out of the fat. All in all, no rent and late NSF check resulted in much consternation to everyone except me. Before I could answer my California bank the NSF check had come in and got me cleared. But what really burned me was that while I was in the red in California the date to pay “costs” on deposit and withdrawal transactions came due and instead of waiting 2 days, they put me doubly in the red, at $1.50 per transgression. Of course Lloyds charged nothing for my financial sin.
I was really quite unhappy with my California bank especially when I remembered my other experiences with banks and bankers. Incident one occurred after WWII when I was a newly married, and not very solvent graduate student back in the hometown I had grown up in. I had my account in the bank my mother had patronized during my childhood (she no longer lived there). I had played clarinet in the same band with the bank’s president in high school and one of the senior tellers was the father of one of my oldest and best friends and classmates. My account was never very flush and I was always estimating the “cost” to be sure I wasn’t overdrawn and one month my estimate was in error. I received a three cent letter, dictated by a $3 per hour teller to a $1 secretary to tell me I had overdrawn my account by one cent. I somehow thought I could have been trusted.
Incident two occurred with my self-same California bank just after moved there. I have always traveled a lot and wasn’t always home on pay day so I gave the bank my power of attorney to deposit my pay check without my endorsing it. Our secretary often mailed my check in. On returning home from one such trip Mary was fit to be tied. We were still living in the house trailer we had drug to California from the University and were in a big camp with a community type mailbox. She had been embarrassed by the postcard read by one and all in the camp stating we were overdrawn. Of course the trouble was, the check was at the bank but some new clerk hadn’t bothered to see if I had a power of attorney and just didn’t deposit it. But no one in the trailer park knew the details, only the results.
So much for banks, but not for bankers. My final year in college started within months after our new house was built and we had to rent it out. We told the realtor to keep the rent reasonable and get a “good” renter. We were informed by mail that the manager of a newly opened bank in our neighborhood was our renter. We were overjoyed. Overjoyed that is until we started getting postcards from the water company, the gas and electric company, and the phone company, all with the same story. Pay your bills or the service will be discontinued. We replied, the lease says renter pays utilities, go ahead and shut them off. This went on the whole time I was in school. On our return the neighbors told us our renter couldn’t pay his bills because of his wild parties. He had a high and riotous time in our new house (and in addition his dog scratched the paint). All in all a very bad tenant. And a year later we read in the paper where he drew a suspended sentence for embezzlement. Suspended because he was “such an upright citizen”. We didn’t testify.
Personally I like English banks and I always waved with enthusiasm to the Foreign Business Clerk (the clark with whom I had most of my dealings) as I passed him riding his bicycle to work every morning. I was confident he wasn’t living beyond his income. And by the tone his letter to me on my transgression he wasn’t really very worried about my solvency.
Our second arrival in England was more somber than our first. After a month of near-perfect weather in Scandinavia, we hove into Newcastle in a dismal fog. It was reassuring to see our ZW lowered by sling onto the quay. But the sickening feeling lingered that there by a string hung our home, our transportation, our accumulated savings, and some bread and cheese for lunch. In Liverpool five weeks earlier, the day was bright, our hopes were bright, our expectations high, and our pocketbook relatively full. Now our first fling was over, our pocketbook relatively empty, (its contents were held dangling over our heads in the form of our ZW), the serious business of finding a house and starting in earnest on fellowship business was at hand.
Even so, the night’s rest on the “Leda” had perked up my spirits, got some pink back into Mary’s cheeks, and really charged the boys up. Even Charlie was convinced this was England; we had crossed a big “ribber”, we were disembarking from an Empress, and this time we even had the weather we had told him to expect.
The hot shower on board (and the hurriedly washed socks and underwear) had set me straight again, although the boys could still neither see nor experience any real material or spiritual uplifting by said showers. The fact that they now looked tannish-white instead of grayish-brown meant nothing to them. Nor did the slightly errant-looking bushy blond hair standing upright in true “crew” fashion, as compared to yesterday’s used-broom appearance, mean anything to them.
The two chief items of business were to restock the food locker and on to Hadrians Wall. We cleared customs in our usual short order. The British officials are sticklers; efficient, polite, and somewhat pompous, but with five boys and a ZW loaded down with luggage, sleeping bags, half-eaten loaves of bread, and half-empty orange squash bottles, no unnecessary delays were encountered. Of course, the custom officials were as anxious as I was to keep the process simple; in fact, as subsequent events will show, one or the other of us erred somewhat on passing ZW through on a carnet describing a VW only.
Hardly had we left customs before the road changed from pavement to cinder, indicating to some that we were lost. However a few twists, turns, railroad tracks, and dingy warehouses later we were on a road toward Newcastle. We replenished bread, cheese, sweets, orange squash, and capped sterilized milk, and were soon headed for Hadrians Wall. Within a half hour and about four “left, top of the road . . . straight away . . . and you cawn’t miss it’s . . .” later, we saw through the mist a sign and a stile over a stone wall and a muddy path. While Mary sliced bread and cheese, the boys and I sloshed through a pasture to a coherent pile of rocks that formed what used to be a turret (sentry room) along the wall. John and I in turn shaded our camera lenses to keep the condensing mist off and took a picture of our first Roman ruin. We soon retreated over the stile and noted the stone fence looked as if it were made of the same stuff as the Roman wall. As we ate of our picnic-in-the-car, we noted a nearby farm building also looking strangely Roman-stone-like.
We were soon headed south through some of the most dismal looking stone villages in England. It’s hard to say whether the weather or the barren age-old poverty-stricken villages contributed most to the dismal, melancholy pervading atmosphere in and out of the ZW.
Spirits and clouds continued low through the afternoon. We still, after a month’s driving on the continent, had not lowered our sights on our accustomed 50 miles covered for each hour of driving. One of the contributing factors was the rate at which `kilometers in Germany and Scandinavia passed by. It was quite customary to see kilometer signs, to say Stockholm or Oslo, read about 50 less per hour (corresponding to 30 miles in said hour.) Without giving it much thought, we kept thinking in terms of Cambridge by sundown; after all, the distance between Newcastle and Cambridge is only 229 miles and we had started south from Hadrians Wall at about noon. However, 100 miles and five hours later we camped.
Our first camp site in England was a portent of things to come. At a pub coming into Bouroughbridge we found a camp site. The weeds were a foot high, it had not stopped misting all day and the ground was mighty soggy. The store, as our first in Germany, was the pub and they were lacking on many essentials. The restroom facilities were of the proverbial “red brick” variety. Other inmates consisted of a caravan of WWI vintage permanently bogged down on this dismal moor. We met a new traveling companion at this site to add to the wasps and mosquitoes; namely, a slimy variant of our silver fish. We met them on folding our tent and silently fading away early next morning.
The conglomerate spirits in the ZW perked up considerably when John noted that Sherwood Forest lay between our present position and Cambridge. Tom and Bill were soon singing about Robin Hood and Little John, and as our spirits soared so did the clouds, and by mid-morning the sun was out and we were shopping for our “Merrie Band” picnic to be consumed out of reach of the Sheriff. This stop was a great success. Dad, me that is, was sheriff, and the boys were the band. Luckily their ambushes cost them the excess energy they had to burn. My path, pushing our treasure (Dan in his stroller), was straight, narrow and energy conserving. Our Merrie Band, momma included, easily got inside Robin’s “Major Oak”. At the time telephone-booth packing was in vogue in the States, and I’m sure the verger’s story of 17 members of Robin’s band hiding from the sheriff inside this tree could have been tripled by any good U.S. college fraternity. Sherwood Forest was such a success that nothing would do but a stop at the sheriff’s castle in Nottingham.
After many false starts, and at least five “You cawn’t miss it’s”, we found the stronghold of the enemy and were soon marveling at old armour, dishes, coins, and the like. While Mary tended Dan, the rest of the boys and I took a guided tour through all the underground passages out through the cliff on which Nottingham Castle stands. We heard tales of kidnappings of princely charges and the like, but my most vivid memories were steps, down, then up, then down and up, then up and down, and finally up, up, and figuratively and literally out. We soon became aware it was late afternoon and we were still 84 miles from Cambridge, so we were off at the usual English bicycle pace.
Although we had looked for houses in our previous 4 days in Cambridge, we had not looked for a camp site. After finding the “Red Lion” full we came across one of our most fortunate choices of our whole trip, Waverly at Great Shelford. Waverly was really a Caravan Park, but transients in rigs as ours could be put up for short stays. Waverly was well tended, well located, well run, and turned out to be a welcome and pleasant haven for us, especially now that the mists were behind us. We really hadn’t intended to make Waverly our summer home, but tides and taxes you know.
We folded camp as usual on our first real day in Cambridge and reported in at the Unit to find which house they had rented for us. Then the sad tales, “... 5 children ... not vacant until August ... 5 children .... owner back by May …. 5 children …. rented in June while we were in Scandinavia …. 5 children ...”. We then went to many estate agents, many houses, and heard many times “.... 5 children? …. 5 children! .... 5 children ....” We pitched our tent many evenings, folded it many mornings, and drove many miles, and were getting nowhere. Finally Mrs. Watling, the proprietor of Waverly noted we were weakening, and we were. It is one thing to travel and camp, and quite another to make and break camp each day so the car can be used to get to work and to look for more houses. We were not only tired but weary, disheartened, discouraged, depressed, dispirited, dejected, downcast, disheveled, dismayed, despondent, distressed, doleful, and disconsolate. Mrs. Watling said, “I know it isn’t much but if you find a house that can’t be occupied immediately, we have a caravan here that you can hire (rent) to wait out the interval.” At this point, even a permanent tent would have looked good, and we lost no time in agreeing to a week by week hiring of said caravan. Now with time on our side, we took new heart and went house-hunting again. We also cast caution to the wind and went to the most expensive estate agent and within 2 days had found an 8-room house in Fulbourn that would be vacant on 17 August, six weeks hence. At this point we would have agreed on a Christmas moving-in date. We were particularly happy because Mrs. Laurence, the estate agent, said we needn’t worry about the landlady refusing 5 boys. The landlady had given her, Mrs. Laurence, complete liberty in leasing to anyone.
So started our six weeks in a caravan (to sleep 4). Obviously we weren’t concerned with the limited sleeping facilities. Our ZW slept 7; the trouble was it wasn’t there during the day and the family had no roof, no stove, no table, no napping facilities, or in general, no home. Our ZW, marvelous as it was, was either a home or a car, not both simultaneously. So now we had sleeping accommodations for 11, and a permanent roof, stove, table, silverware, and plates. What could be more ideal? Possibly an 8-room house right now.
Luckily the British summer of ‘59 was unbelievable, even the historical weather records fell; more sunny days, highest temperatures, less rainfall, in general the best summer in 200 years. The weather, Mrs. Watling, Waverly Park, Great Shelford, and the British Railway made the month of July very pleasing. You see, the mainline to Liverpool Street Station, London, was within two blocks of Waverly. The boys had a large garden (yard) to play in, and spent untold hours at the level crossing copying down the numbers on the “belly puffers” (steam locomotives) on the ”up line” (to London) and the “down line” (to Cambridge and points north and east).
A guarded level crossing with its gate is a marvel to behold. All “level crossing gates” on any road at all are manned. Very important ones like the mainline from Cambridge to Liverpool Street Station and its intersection with Station Road, Great Shelford are not only manned but are remotely controlled. The signalman sits in his glass tower with banks of levers and controls and manipulates not only the gate but also the semaphores in his section and the points (switches). These gates are not ordinary American-type gates. American gates stand vertically at the edge of the road when no trains are in the vicinity and lower to a horizontal position across the vehicle roadway to discourage automobiles from passing over the tracks. I say discourage, because any ordinary American auto with its excess mass, horsepower, and speed could easily negotiate said barrier with only a few dents and some broken headlamps. The British Railway gates are always horizontal, they either close off the railway or the roadway. They are true gates in that no pig, chicken, man, nor car can get through when the gates are closed. If perchance both the signalman and the engine driver (engineer) were asleep so that the gate remained across the rails and the corresponding semaphore ignored (a very unlikely combination of happenings), the gate would not contain a fully-charged and chuffing belly puffer (steam locomotive). However, those smallish, unpretentious slight English cars would have to have quite a running start to make much of a mark on said level crossing gate. A double-decker bus (fully loaded) or a large lorry and driver (fully loaded) might possibly negotiate both of the closed gates but it would be pretty messy and for the next few hours trains would probably be delayed.
These level crossing gates should really be the subject of a separate treatise. Britain without level crossing gates wouldn’t really be Britain at all. My guess is there is no other people the world over who would put up with level crossing gates ala England. It is my contention that the quality of the British people that allows level crossing gates is the same basic quality that won WWII (at least the Battle of Britain) and is now losing them the battle of the highway (or traffic, or automobile, or automobile traffic on the highway). Since the gates are true either-or devices (across the tracks or the road), and since they are coupled directly with a semaphore at least a half-mile away, they are closed well before the train is in sight (or in sound). The ever suffering, courteous, happily resigned, non-hurried British motorist quietly and patiently stops his little car, often turns off the motor, sometimes takes out a paper to read, and his boys often get out of the car to get a better view of the train (and copy down the engine number). Of course, the bicyclers and pedestrians, who usually outnumber the cars, continue crossing the tracks via a small gate at the edge of the roadway until finally at some crossing the signalman throws a bolt and locks this gate also. The remarkable thing is that the British motorist tends to accept level crossings and associated minutes of delay with the rest of his road burden and doesn’t appear to object to these proceedings. I can just see a north German, or an Italian lorry driver, or an American putting up with such time-consuming protective devices.
On farm roads that are seldom used the gates tend to remain across the road, not across the railway. At such crossings there is a bell to ring which rouses the gatekeeper, or his wife, or older child. Said gatekeeper will, not always happily, come out of the house still chewing his luncheon sausage (cold), or with lather over half his face, or his wife may have bread dough in one hand or lean the garden rake against the fence as he or she opens the gate.
Apparently, according to an article in the Cambridge News, gates in fields that line the tracks also act as either-or devices. The article stated that, Mr. Ian Whitehorse, a farmer from Little Wilbraham, was fined 5 pounds for leaving the crossing gate across the BR (British Railway) tracks. In his defense Mr. Whitehorse explained that he was only going in his field for a few minutes and since he neither saw nor heard any approaching train and knew that none were scheduled (pronounced sheduled) he left the gate across the tracks. Nothing was quoted concerning the comments of the engine driver; chances are it would not meet the criteria of the New York Times, “All the news that’s fit to print.”
Probably the majority of level crossing gates are neither remotely controlled as at Great Shelford, nor, farmhouse manned as on Teversham Road, Fulbourn, but are pushed by a signalman who comes down from his signal tower at the proper time to push the gates from one position to the other. Such was the gate on Station Road, Fulbourn, where Mr. Newman performed to the fascinated gaze of our boys later when we moved into “The Manse” at Fulbourn.
So much for level crossing gates in general and back to Waverly, or more precisely, three squares away at Great Shelford station with its remotely controlled gate. The daily routine at Waverly was: keep Tom in bed as long as possible; get up when Tom woke up John or Charlie; convert 2-bedroom caravan to kitchen and dining-room caravan (same 2 rooms); wash and shave and try everything from promises and coercion to threats and violence to get boys to wash; cook, eat, and wash dishes; convert one bedroom ZW to VW; convert dining room of caravan to living-room; encourage Dan and Charlie to get ball or toy trains on grass (in garden) and start playing; get dirty laundry, shopping list, etc., and drive VW to Unit; and watch John, Tom, and Bill start off for level crossing gate out of rear view mirror. On returning, the routine was to come by way of level crossing gate and pick up John, Tom, and Bill, and so reunite the family. This reunion was generally followed by a walking trip to the grocery to claim minerals (soda pop) especially placed in refrigeration for “those Americans who actually like minerals cold.”
Occasionally this routine was altered; for example in John’s words:
One day, while Dad was at the Unit, Mom finally gave in to our steady pleading to take a train ride to Cambridge. After much pain we got down to the Great Shelford Station, bought a sheaf of “return” tickets, crossed the tracks and waited. Soon semaphore signals began popping up and the infamous “level crossing” gate shifted from track to road. Unlucky automobiles began piling up behind the gates and bicyclers passed through the pedestrian gate. Then a distant horn sounded and presently a British Railways new two-car “rail car” hove into view. This was one case when it took no urging and it wasn’t very long before everyone was aboard her.
The only incident on this 3 1/4 mile trip was the discovery that you could see Waverly Park from the railway but unfortunately not vice versa. In practically no time at all, we passed under Hills Road bridge, bounced over points (switches) and cross-tracks, and screeched to a stop at the unique single platform of the station of the University City of Cambridge. With much urging we got the smaller children out of the train. After I had made my rounds and jotted down some more engine numbers, we found a southbound train which by amazing luck, turned out to be the right train. The train was made up of single compartments with no corridors between them. If you got in one, the only other way out was the other side. We pulled each other into a compartment and tried to make ourselves comfortable. After we got ourselves reasonably settled, we were surprised to see a man entering our compartment. It seemed rather unreasonable as there were other compartments not already occupied.
When the train started, we all had that uncomfortable feeling that goes with an intrusion of privacy. The train rumbled on and pretty soon we stopped at Great Shelford. We tried to get out but there wasn’t any handle on the door. All there was was a leather strap. It went into the same well as the window and appeared to raise or lower the window as required. We were getting desperate since the train didn’t stay there forever. Finally our fellow passenger got up and with a bewildered look, calmly lowered the window, reached out, and opened the door with the outside handle. After thanking him, we grabbed the stroller and quickly dismounted. No sooner had we got out than the train started again and we started home, wondering if we would have been in Bishops Stortford or London before we would have figured out how to open the door.
John’s tale sounds routine but momma was still in a state of shock when I got home, “What if that man hadn’t been with us; we’d have been on that train yet.”
Trains became the focus of all attention for the boys. We had brought along their baseball gear (balls, gloves, and bats), but they seemed to sense that in England baseball was not the summer national game. Whereas at home they played baseball hours on end in our backyard (we couldn’t keep any grass growing around the bases, plate, and pitcher’s mound), in England within a week trains were king.
It was probably the signalman or perhaps some English boys at the crossing but within a week John, Tom, and Bill had purchased an Ian Allen Loco Spotting book. For English boys no more need be said, but for Americans I’d better explain about loco spotting and Ian Allen. Whether it is because steam locomotives are still in use, because no British home is over 5 or 10 miles from railroad, or because the English as a race are born clerks (pronounced clarks), loco spotting is a national pastime for boys 7 to 70. In its simplest form loco spotting is merely copying numbers off the engines as they whiz past. But of course you learn that there are many classes of locomotives and each has a basic number and the early members of a class are also named. For example there is the King class whose basic number is 6000. King George V is 6000 and it often pulls the Red Dragon. King Edward V is 6001, etc.
Then there are the different regions like the Eastern Region which before nationalization consisted of the Great Eastern and Great Northern; and the Midland Region which was the Midland Railway; and the Western Region which was the Great Western. Since the Regions were once independent railways, certain older engine types are peculiar to certain regions and only the very modern engines are distributed among all of the various Regions.
In general each region has its own station in London; the Western region trains use Paddington; Southern region trains use Waterloo, Victoria, and Charing Cross; Midland trains come into Euston and St. Pancras. Scottish region engines do not come into London since the engines are changed at Newcastle or Carlisle but the Scottish trains come into Euston, St. Pancras, or Kings Cross. The Flying Scotsman goes between Kings Cross and Edinburgh and is ordinarily pulled by an engine of the A4 class. The Royal Scot leaves Euston for Glasgow pulled by an engine of the Al class. And the Waverley leaves St. Pancras for Glasgow.
Ian Allen has little books that describe all the engines in a given region and has a list of every single engine number in that district. The trick is of course to check each number you have seen until you’ve checked the whole list. In Cambridge you would start with the Eastern book and work on it until you knew that number 70000 was a “namer” called the Britannia and was of the 7P6F class, and often pulled the Fenman. After a few years of this, getting older all the time, you branch out and take the rail bus to Peterborough on Saturday and spend a day on the Eastern Main Line. Here you are apt to see the "Mallard," 60022, pulling “Queen of Scots” or a new Deltic Diesel pulling the “White Rose” which goes from Kings Cross to York. Later you take the Oxford Railbus to Bletchley which is on the Midland region main line to find that “City of Liverpool”, number 46247, pulls the Irish Mail, or that another diesel was pulling the “Red Rose” (to Lancaster).
Of course a trip to London is pure ecstasy. You have your choice of all the aforementioned large stations or London Bridge, Cannon Street, Charing Cross, Broad Street, and Blackfriars Station, which are primarily suburban stations or to the Goods Depots (freight stations) adjacent to Paddington, or St. Pancras, or to the Carriage Shed near Euston or the Carriage Cleaning Shed near Victoria. At Marylebone there is a Parcels Depot, a Carriage Shed, and a Goods Shed.
If you ever get all of Ian Allens British Railway numbers then you switch to the London Transport (underground) and find again that in general the Bakerloo line uses different equipment than the Piccadilly line and the Waterloo and City line is in a class by itself. At about age 80, if you have been diligent, you will have all the numbers of all the rolling motive stock in Britain. Before we left England, a year after our six weeks in Waverly, John had a stack of Ian Allen number books six inches high. He had timetables from all regions (weight 5 pounds) and had descriptive literature on all engines including the London Underground and every month he bought the trade journal, Trains Illustrated. In general we had half a tea chest full of John’s loco spotting books to pack when we left England.
Then there is the Dia Dema club. For 5 pounds a year you get 32 coloured slides (plus storage binders, etc.) of any type British Railroad. This club is really cosmopolitan because you can also get slides of locomotives of all the European Railways. Needless to say, we were soon members of the Dia Dema club.
Then there are the Lone Star Locos. These are Tom Thumb sized trains that run on ‘000’ scale tracks. These tracks have cross tracks and points (switches) that actually work and for about 2 pounds you can buy enough track to spend hours and days making every configuration an ingenuous mind can invent. Then of course the Lone Star makes famous locomotives typical of the more famous classes on the British Railways. We soon had a 4-6-2 Class A4, Gresley Streamliner, a 4-6-2 Princess Royal Class 8P, a 0-6-0 Tank Class 3F, and even a Diesel Shunter. We had a brake van, a cattle wagon, a tank wagon, a flat truck, and numerous just plain goods wagons. We had BR Express Passenger Coaches, and BR Midland Region Passenger Coaches, and in fact, most everything. We soon had as much track and rolling stock as the Kentish section of the Southern Region and the price of these was so slight that I couldn’t even really object much to their new hobby.
Within a fortnight the boys were torn between loco spotting at the level crossing and building Lone Star right-of-ways in Mrs. Watling’s garden (yard) at Waverly Park. Just like backyard baseball, Lone Star railroading got so that it interfered more than somewhat with mealtimes, bedtimes, and sight-seeing time. And of course, after labouring hours to make a rail layout that eclipsed the best of yesterday’s, or even just duplicated yesterday’s, loud cries of anguish followed such logical and straightforward pronouncements as, “Pick up the trains for the night,” or “Time to put the track in the box”, or more subtly, “What do you want me to pick up first?”
The boys were so engrossed in trains that they had no interest in driving to Kenilworth to see another old castle, “We’ve seen a castle, we want to play trains,” or cathedrals, “Who wants to see Ely Cathedral, we’ve seen churches before.” The only sightseeing suggestion that fell on willing ears was, “Let’s go to London” and the response was unanimous, “The train for London leaves Great Shelford at 8:45,” and the following Sunday we were on it. Our original thought was to drive to London but we soon saw the light and realized that only parents could be stupid enough to think it might be easier to take care of five boys from a well-equipped ZW than from a transitory train.
Our first trip up to London started at the crack of dawn. Tom had Charlie turned on before we could even crack one eyelid open. With Charlie spouting forth, even our one and only sleepyhead, Bill, was soon up and the metamorphosis from bedrooms to dining room to living rooms was accomplished in short order. Whereas ordinarily you can’t coerce, threaten, or inveigle Bill into getting his clothes on before Mom’s temper has but one remaining stop, and my blood pressure has assumed pathological proportions, Bill was dressed before Charlie. Charlie couldn’t stop talking long enough to get dressed; “Will we see the Queen?”, “Is there really a mouse under her chair?”, “I’m not going on London Bridge, it will fall down.” “I’m going to eat blackbird pie.” “John, will we go on a namer?” “Will it be a streak or a brick?" “Will we take Dan’s stroller?” “Can I take my Princess Royal engine?” “Do I have to wear my Norway shoes?” “Mom, are you going, or just us boys?” “Tom, will you take care of me?” “Is time to go yet?”
Everyone was ready to go an hour before train time except: John hadn’t shined everyone’s shoes, Tom couldn’t find the engine he wanted to take, Bill was dressed but hadn’t washed, Charlie couldn’t find one shoe, and Dan was playing trains and didn’t want to move. Mom was fit to be tied. After traveling in ZW for weeks, how do you get all essentials into a diaper bag, handbag, and boys’ pockets? Who would carry Dan’s stroller? Should we pack a lunch? What time does the train that stops at Great Shelford return?
We finally paraded down to the Great Shelford station and I exchanged some of my railway coupons (bought in America at a discount to get dollars for England) for tickets. Luckily we found an unoccupied compartment and were soon spread out all over it. During this trip we had time to examine the coach rather carefully. We marveled at the old-fashioned ingenuity of leather strap as window regulator. This two or three inch wide leather strap with holes punched every two inches went down into the window well, underneath the window and was fastened inside the well at the top but on the otherside or outside of the window. The strap made a loop underneath the window; by pulling the strap tight the window was raised, by letting all slack out of the strap the window was lowered. Holes in the strap fit over a blunt hook and kept the window at the desired height. This method was marvelously effective, as compared to, say, stuck bus windows I have come in contact with, but a little loose fitting, that is, drafty.
The history seems to be that when railways first replaced carriages and larger coaches, they merely put small flanged iron wheels in place of the spoked wooden wheels. Later they replaced the horses with steam locomotives. The carriage and coach furnishings still persist, although now they have in essence put 8 or 10 coaches onto one a single railway coach and call the individual coaches compartments.
Even in relatively flat southeastern England the train went through a couple of tunnels (between Cambridge and Bishops Stortford). Dan didn’t like this one whit. As the sun went down and he reflected train noise level increased, the noise level in our compartment really went up. Nor did Dan adapt fast. The second tunnel triggered him off louder than the first.
This was our first long trip (54 miles) on BR and we kept wondering when the conductor (guard) was going to collect our tickets. We still had our tickets when we arrived at Liverpool Street Station and luckily so, for no one got out of the track platform without said ticket. Apparently on some trains at least they look at your tickets to allow you onto the loading platform at your originating station and collect them at the terminating station. No collectors en route. Mary and the boys had observed this on their short (but nearly longer) train ride but attributed it to the distance, not the general accounting system.
Both John and I had studied the Underground System Map and knew that to get to Westminster we wanted the Circle Route. Mary being familiar with the New York Subway where the worst in man beast comes to the fore (namely push, shove, look out for yourself only and let the timid be trampled) was not looking forward to the tube ride. However, Sunday morning in any large city is a quiet time, the only time to really see a city. And Britishers, living shoulder to shoulder, have an inherent politeness and live and let live attitude (unheard of in New York City but strangely enough somewhat evident on the freeways of California), that made our first tube ride a pleasant experience. They actually stood back and saw to it that this rather numerous but midget-sized army stayed together as a single pocket of resistance.
As we climbed up to the daylight again we saw Big Ben in all its majesty and almost felt that already our little excursion was worthwhile. We had lunch at one of London’s equivalents to a Times Square snack bar and started our walking tour, Westminster Abbey, Whitehall, 10 Downing Street, Horse Guards Parade, the Mall, Duke of York’s Column, and up Regent Street to Piccadilly Circus. This took about 2 hours and 7 lollies (ice cream bars). It was rather hot, lollies are sticky, no drinking fountains were in evidence, and in any case after 2 hours with small children we were on the lookout for a "Public Convenience." Finding none on it fell to me, the father of five boys, to take same (except Dan, he was by definition still a baby and therefore not a boy) and descend into the depths of the Piccadilly Circus Underground Station for purposes of Public (and private) Convenience. Here is where the ZW would have been and ordinarily was invaluable. With all boy children, a tin can in ZW is a great public convenience. In the countryside there are no disposal problems. In the city there is always a sewer drain within a half block. So with boys, ZW, can, and modern sanitation (sewer drains) we were never beset with numerous, small, emergency, right now public convenience stops. However with ZW serenely standing under a shade tree in Waverly Park, Great Shelford, and us in the vicinity of Piccadilly Circus we had a problem.
We soon found ourselves in a great circle (circus) with spokes running inward and hallways running outward and upward, one great mass of confusion. By circumnavigating and with sharp lookouts we soon found our objective and since it was crowded the boys took off in all directions. When reassembly was called Bill was missing. This was not completely unexpected since Bill has a tendency to know a little more than he understands. Even if we hadn’t separated to find vacant conveniences, and even if Bill had been within my sight there comes a time in every man’s life when he does not stop what he is doing instantaneously and start out in hot pursuit of an errant wayfarer. John is just inherently cautious and we need never really worry that he will walk off a cliff or go in water over his head, or climb the Eiffel Tower with mountain climbing gear. Tom is inherently obedient, he has his wild streaks and can on occasion act more like Tom Sawyer than Tom Webster, but in any emergency, he will do what he is told or has been told in the past under similar circumstances. Bill is number three, he has two older rivals for attention, he will get none being cautious or obedient so he tends to be somewhat impulsive. A year earlier at a beach party he saw John, who can swim, run and dive into the ocean; he saw Tom run and jump in (carefully keeping his head above water and his feet on the bottom, all of this unobserved by Bill). So Bill, who had never really been in or near the water, figured this was the way to play in water and proceeded to run and jump in. Luckily John saw him and dragged him out, sputtering and crying. John, and especially Tom, also knew in general their capabilities and limitations. All Bill knew was if they can do it he could too. But of course he didn’t know what they couldn’t do and thought he could do these things too. Cautious John and obedient Tom wouldn’t have thought of exploring the subterranean reaches of the Piccadilly Underground Station by themselves. But Bill didn’t know this and figured he would too. Charlie wouldn’t wander off, he’d have no one to talk to.
Anyway there it was, Bill gone in a maze equaled by very few other mazes in London. The forces had to be mobilized and a strategy planned preferably without letting Mom know that Dad had done it again. Ordinarily she wouldn’t trust me to look after the family cat, let alone the boys. Probably the only reason we don’t have a dozen boys is that we have no close relatives living anywhere near us to look after the boys, and Dad, when she goes to the maternity ward. She never stays more than three days fearing that the dirty dishes would block reentry into the house, and worrying that one of the boys might wander off and I would never even know it. Anyway the great thing was to find Bill before she got all upset. After all, what was there to be upset about? He had to be somewhere in or around Piccadilly Circus, either underground or on the surface. He could only leave on one of four trains going to Charing Cross, Kings Cross, Hyde Park, or Baker Street. Or he could if he surfaced, go away from the circus on one of only seven streets. Besides there weren’t over about 20 halls and/or stairways leading away from the area. Why should we unduly worry Mom about little misadventures like this; after all he could have been lost at Times Square (the Piccadilly of New York), or Grand Central Station, or in the Louvre, or in any of a number of zoos. After all, he was 5 years old.
But to action, “Tom, you stay right here. Watch this entrance and put Charlie at the other in case Bill comes back looking for us. And, Tom, don’t let Charlie out of your sight, and don’t wander off. We will be back. John, you start around the circle clockwise and I’ll go counter-clockwise, and I’ll meet you part‑way around. Look into all inward leading halls or doors and up the outward leading stairs. Macht Schnell!”
Three minutes later John and I asked Tom if Bill had come back. No Bill. So plan number two. Tom and Charlie as before, but John and I would climb out of each of the nearest stairways and look in the immediate vicinity on the street level. But, “Don’t go up the one we came down and run into Mom.” Besides, I wondered if anyone knew which one we had come down. I did only because I made a complete survey of its environs when I came down, to be sure we wouldn’t lose Mom and Dan. But it was way around the circle from where we were and I couldn’t really imagine that any of the boys knew which it was. It had no particular special markings.
Five minutes later we decided it was time to face the music. We picked up Tom and Charlie and started toward the stairway up to Regent Street where Mom and Dan were. I knew with chatterbox Charlie along we needn’t act unconcerned as he was talking all the way up the stairs, “Do you think Bill went to see the queen?” “I bet Bill went on the tube train.”
As we gained the top of the stairs, we saw Mom pushing Dan and window shopping along Regent Street with Bill tagging along behind. I tried to slow the boys down and to act nonchalant but Charlie yelled, “There’s Bill, Daddy, he’s with Mom.” And then, “Bill, where’ve you been, Dad’s been looking all over for you.”
Mom’s comment, “Glad to know that you missed him. Must have had your eyes open today.”
The atmosphere was never quite the same for our walk down Haymarket, through Charing Cross and along Victoria Embankment until, another round of lollies to the contrary, our energy and time gave out. We boarded the tube train at Mansion House, got our Cambridge train at Liverpool Street Station, woke Charlie and Dan up at Whittlesford and arrived safely home at Waverly, Great Shelford.
The reverse order of living, to eating, to sleeping quarters was accomplished in nearly the record time of the morning, and soon all was serene again in the ZW-Caravan home.
The pattern for the
remainder of our stay in Waverly was now set. Trains for the boys, housekeeping
for Mary and work at the Unit for me. We found that England had laundromats,
including dryers and this was our American Express. Here we met our
Our sightseeing trips included our first visit to a cathedral, fifteen miles away in Ely, a trip to Oxford, Stratford, Warwick and Kenilworth Castle, and a trip to the British Railways (BR) exhibition of rolling stock at Peterborough. You might think that visiting a cathedral or at least a ruined castle would be the highlight of the summer for the boys. If so, you don’t know boys who have first experienced steam engines.
At the new Peterborough North Goods Depot was held an “Exhibition of British Railways Locomotives, Carriages, Wagons, Containers and demonstration of Mechanical Appliances.” The boys listened to old engine drivers tell them which lever was the throttle, which the brake, which gauge read steam pressure and which read vacuum.
It is hard to say whether the class V.2., Mixed Traffic Steam Locomotive, the BR Standard Class 9, 2-10-0, or the class A.4, “Pacific” was the star of the show. Of the V.2 the program noted: “Built whilst Sir Nigel Gresley was Chief Mechanical Engineer of the London and North Eastern Railway, the locomotive has many of the characteristics of his 3-cylinder designs. Introduced in 1936 the first locomotive was named “Green Arrow” to mark its association with the Green Arrow system of registered freight transits. Although not as suitable as the Pacifics for working heavy or fast express passenger trains, nevertheless, the V.2 Class gives invaluable service on passenger duties during the peak summer months and at Bank Holiday times.” The class 9 was “...one of a class designed as a British Railways Standard Locomotive after nationalization.” Probably the A.4 was the star since as the program said “The locomotive on view, No.60022 named ‘Mallard’ attained a speed of 126 m.p.h. in 1938 creating the world’s speed record for steam locomotives which it still retains. This class of locomotive was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley in 1935 especially for working high speed streamlined trains running between London, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh. The corridor in the tender is provided to enable engine crews to be changed when working on non-stop trains between London and Edinburgh, a distance of 393 miles, the longest daily non-stop run in the world.”
After the initial haze of the steam locomotives wore off the boys even went aboard some diesel engines. Finally they inspected the goods wagons and had a guard (conductor) tell them about hand brakes and vacuum brakes. They saw the chains and bumpers that do the work of couplers. They then inspected the Bulk Grain Wagon, the Shock Absorbing Wagon, the “End-Side” Door Pallet Van, the Iron Tippler Wagon, the 24 Ton Covered Hopper Wagon, and the Hopper Mineral Wagon. That just whetted their appetite for the Bogie Bolster Wagon, Insulated Fish Van, and Tote System Demonstration Van. I was looking forward to the Tote Van thinking the British really had something if they had a railway van all set up for rolling into race tracks to ease the shortage of betting windows. However it turned Out that Tote Bins are for “...transporting powdered or granular traffic...” and are pre-loaded and then hoisted onto railway cars with fork lifts.
The passenger coaches were featuring Open-Plan Saloon Coaches (not the swinging door kind). Why all Englishmen ahed and ohed over these standard ordinary American type coaches and hardly looked at all those nice compartment type carriages remains a wonder to me. By brute force alone we finally drug the boys away from the exhibition and headed back over the fen country towards Cambridge again. And of course an additional stop at the Lone Star loco store to get a Pacific Class locomotive.
This visit and his year long interest in trains probably accounted for his choice of subject for his “pretend to be an inanimate object” theme in composition at Cambridgeshire High School for Boys later in the winter. He wrote:
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A RAILWAY ENGINE
My name (or number) is 62785 commonly called by railway enthusiasts “twenty-seven eighty-five.” I am an only son (that is to say the only engine in my class), born in 1891. I am much too old to remember where I was born for I’ve been most everywhere in the Eastern Region.
When I was born I was the pride of everyone, being one of the best engines in England at the time. Now, when I wait on the slow line to make way for a diesel, I think sadly of what boys at the last school I passed had said. “It’s twenty-seven eighty-five again,” some said. Others said “Scrap it” or “Bring a diesel next time” or “It’s a crate.” Obviously I’m out of date.
When I woke up in the morning my old pal and driver, Joe Bailey, poked up the slumbering fire in my dirty fire-box and set about oiling, cleaning, and fitting my underparts. When I’d worked up enough steam I tooted my whistle and chugged out of the smoky shed to the bright light outside. Then my driver got a message that a goods train was waiting at the goods depot so we chugged over to it. My driver talked with the guard while the shunter with his long pole hooked me to the first wagon. After a few minutes of checking we signaled to the man in the signal-box that we were ready to go. After waiting for a diesel to pass on the main line we saw the signal go “off” and so I tooted my whistle and chugged away. We went about quarter-of-a-mile on the slow line, then waited about half-an‑hour for the main line to clear. There is a rugby pitch next to the railway so my driver spends his time watching rugby but I am not interested in rugby so I must sit and watch the big trains pass. Then the signal goes “off” and I started off again.
When we arrived at the next big station we were routed through the goods depot where our cargo is inspected. Three of our wagons were meant for that station as Joe told the shunter, so he started uncoupling the wagons. About an hour later we were ready to leave and so departed from this station. This procedure was carried out several more times on the route and finally, about eight o’clock (seven hours after I started) I arrived in London (Kings Cross).
After shunting around for awhile I took a short rest in the goods yard while my driver had a talk with some shunters. Then he went to the office and arranged that I would pull another goods train back to Cambridge at eight o’clock on the next morning. Then he climbed into the cab and I chugged away to the shed where I went to sleep for the night to rest up for my trip next morning.
I had had a very hard day and slept heavily that night and dreamed of the good old days when there were no diesels to question my honour.
I could never truthfully say that I liked Oxford as well as Cambridge. We visited Oxford on official NSF business and since we had no house anyway, the whole family went along. I wrote my colleague, Neville Moray, to find us a campsite. We had breakfast in beautiful Waverly Park in Cambridge and tea (the evening meal) in a farmer’s field outside Oxford. I was assured by Neville that he really looked for a caravan park or campsite and that this was it. There were a few other pre WWI model caravans at the other end of our field so this probably was THE Oxford campsite. I found out later in my correspondence with the Camping Club of Great Britain and Ireland that this was the true way to camp anyway. It was back to nature and since the bull was in the other field, the friendly cows were safe enough, and the boys were fascinated by their pies. Anyway as I say I prefer Cambridge (Waverly) to Oxford (Potters Field).
Of course there were highlights to our trip. We found a Wimpy Burger Snack Bar, and had a delightful walk along the Isis (Thames) and Cherwell Rivers. We saw many old and beautiful colleges and the Experimental Psychology Laboratories had as big and pleasant a garden back lawn) as did the Unit at Cambridge.
Then there was the visit to Blenheim Palace. Americans visit because it was the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill (and the English visit here because it is the ancestral home of the Duke of Marlborough). Dan had a little more vocal effort than our guide and Mary didn’t get the complete tour. Charlie wasn’t exactly entranced at the elegance either, he wanted to take the boat ride on the lake.
Stratford-on-Avon was interesting as tourist places go. We found the Mary Arden House, well removed from the town and beyond the time and distance range of many tourists, by far the most interesting place. Primarily because of the old couple who acted as vergers. They really liked the old place and took pains to point out the dovescot where the squire of the manor kept his eating doves. The doves themselves ate the grain from the tenant farmers’ fields. They showed us the garret where all the womenfolk slept and at the other end, but inaccessible except by going downstairs, the garret where the menfolk slept. Their museum also featured man traps (for poachers) and other niceties.
The castle at Warwick is worthwhile. It is still lived in but has a glorious past. The Earl of Warwick was very high placed and was known as the king maker. His descendants still carry on, but not as king makers. We saw trap doors, swords with hidden guns and all sorts of conveniences for gentlemen who may at one instant be on the inside track (and get buried at Westminster) and hours later be derailed (and get beheaded and thrown into a common grave at the Tower of London).
However the boys preferred the ruined Castle of Kenilworth, I was taken with it too, having read Sir Walter Scott’s novel as a child. John used this visit as the subject for his “descriptive” theme at school. He wrote:
My Adventures at
It was about 3:30 in the afternoon when we saw a series of strange road signs: Acute Bend, Ford, and Kenilworth Castle. We rounded the bend, forded the stream and soon arrived at Kenilworth Castle.
We left my mother and two of my youngest brothers in the car and went in the gate of the castle. There we bought a guide book and some tickets and started looking around.
Once inside we saw that Kenilworth was indeed a ruined castle.
On the left hand side as we walked in was a Tudor barn, built much later than the rest of the castle. We went to the keep and explored the crevices until my father called us down. Then we went through the ruined dining hall to one of the towers. We climbed up the steep, circular staircase to another passage. This passage led us to another stair tower which brought us into the court below.
The first thing that caught my eye was a new wooden staircase which led up to an observing platform. I led my brothers up at top speed while my father waited below for the signal to come up (as we had turned back enough already). At the top I signaled that all was clear for him and he came up. I took a few pictures from the observing platform while I waited for my dad. I took a view of the mere (bed of the man-made lake which they used as a moat), and the ruined main tower.
We descended the creaky wooden stairs to the bottom and made for the gate that leads to the dam (not the entrance gate). We went through this gate and walked out on the dam. The middle of the dam had been blasted open by the Parliamentarians as had other parts of the castle. We stood admiring the place for a little while then went to the main gate via the wall. We went out the gates and drove away to Coventry.
Kenilworth Castle is indeed a beautiful place with its crumbly sandstone buildings and beautifully kept grounds.
Ely Cathedral didn’t really impress any of us much on our first visit. I hasten to add that later visits proved us wrong. We liked it more on each return visit. Our first impressions were: it was worn out, crumbly, maybe even unsafe, the outside was (smoke) dirty, the inside was cold, it was mostly empty and bare, all the statuary was defaced. The boys were even less enamoured but their spirits picked right up when we adjourned for fish and chips, with orange squash to drink.
It was in a restroom at Ely that the boys discovered they did not weigh 20, 30, 40, 50, and 80 pounds but 1 stone 6, 2 stones 2, 2 stones 12, 3 stones 8, and 5 stones 10. Be that as it may, their general comment was, “Let’s get back to Great Shelford and play with our trains.” A great bunch of sightseers.
We had been to London before and we had camped before. In fact we had camped for weeks on the continent, but we had yet to take our first camping trip to London.
Camping in Europe means well run camps almost always with a store for groceries, usually with flush toilets, and often with restaurants, washing and ironing rooms and sometimes with a large central kitchen (coin operated gas stoves) and coin operated hot showers. These camps are located all over; on rivers, lakes, and seas, in the middle of large cities, (Hamburg, Stockholm, Oslo, Stuttgart, Munich, Vienna, Rome, Paris and Madrid), near historic or legendary sites (Lorelei Rock, Bridge of Avignon and Toledo) and sometimes just beside inns, cafes, or restaurants.
Camping in U.S. usually means state or national parks or forests and, in general, rustic surroundings. In Europe the majority of camps are for one night stands on the way to or from somewhere. In the U.S. they are more often places to stay a week or two at a fixed location.
In England camping is rugged. Granted in Wales and Scotland and a few other vacation spots they have some organized camp grounds. But to a true Englishman camping means an individual or family finding a spot in a national forest or in a farmer’s field and roughing it. To quote from the Camping Club of Great Britain and Ireland brochure, camping....”is the spontaneous expression of a desire to....get away from towns and cities and fend for himself . . .”
I considered traveling with a wife and five boys aged 1 to 11 rough enough. Camping with the aid of a VW Microbus converted to sleep seven but with attached tent for washing, dressing, and cooking was to me a rugged and trying experience. Not wishing to share the secret of the location of England’s camp sites without sharing in the cost I wrote to the “Camping Club of England and Ireland” expressing a desire to join their club and to buy the “location booklet” (a desirable and necessary aid for finding sites). Since I was quite proud of our sleep-seven arrangement I stated our method of camping in my letter of financial aid and site request.
To my surprise and chagrin I obtained the following letter in reply stating in no uncertain terms that I was NOT a camper.
“We thank you for your, but have to inform you, however, that the Volkswagen Microbus comes under the heading of sleeping in cars, and as you will be sleeping in the bus, we could not in the circumstances accept your application for membership”.
In an accompanying brochure they had underlined “to maintain the recreational character of our health-giving pastime, the Club regards sleeping in motor cars as contrary to its standards of camping and caters only for recreational not residential, caravanning.”
In spite of this rebuff I thought the time had come to drive the family to London. To make staying out economically feasible when we drove we camped, or in English terms lived in luxury in our traveling hotel. You see we weren’t caravanners either. A caravan, according to the GB&I Camping Club brochure is,”....a vehicle built or permanently adapted for use as a mobile temporary dwelling which is immediately able of being driven upon the public highway where it will comply in respects with the law. The description ‘caravan’ can only be applied to a ‘van’ in which there is sufficient headroom for the occupant to stand upright.” This last statement explains why in the British version of our “Campster” the roof hinges on one edge and folds up at about a 45° angle with an accordion type transparent plastic covering the opened edge. This does allow one to stand upright. In our case, only five of the seven of us could stand upright, except under our attached tent. In England, we were neither fish nor fowl and obviously not quite human, preferring to sleep in the car instead of under a tent.
London has one camp site. Every year it fights for its life and in the opinion of experienced continental “campers” it just barely makes it. It certainly can’t compare to the facilities in any other European capital city except Bonn and Lisbon which have no in-city sites at all.
In the time of Queen Victoria, at the Exhibition of 1851 a Crystal Palace was built, the elegance of which is legendary. It was so well thought of that when its central location could no longer be justified it was moved to Sydenham Hill in south east London. Here in the year 1936 the fabulous Crystal Palace came to an inglorious end in a sea of flames.
Today, the “Site of Crystal Palace” is the home of motor races, a 1000 foot TV tower, and London’s only camp site. The LCC (London County Council) regulates the camp and yearly threatens to disenfranchise it. They impose rules such as no tents attached to cars (which just about disables us). This is a fire precaution rule that I’m sure the excellent camp site in Paris, that has about five times as many campers, would be glad to hear about, or for that matter most any camp in Germany where they are crowded in night after night all summer long. Of course, we, like most others affected by the no attached tent rule, just set up the stove in the car, in my opinion a more dangerous procedure, but anything to keep safe.
I’m sure the LCC would like to eliminate the camp also to rid the city of all the undesirable people who camp. I recall all the undesirables I met there, the Fulbright Fellow returning from Finland, the Grinnell college professor and his wife, the Penn State National Institute of Health Fellow, the 2 different public school teachers from the Los Angeles area, and I could go on. I also remember the desirable tourists I met later at a high class downtown hotel complaining about this, that and everything and in general making Americans abroad as popular as the plague.
Anyway, we drove to London. We camped in “Crystal Palace”. Then came the object of our trip, to see the changing of the guard. We endured the crowded facilities at Crystal Palace and headed for Whitehall. Charlie and Dan were not overjoyed at being stuffed in the bus again and so momma was very happy to spot a milkhorse complete with feedbag. Charlie’s eyes popped out. I’m sure San Diego hasn’t had a horse, except for riding for many decades. And to see one with his nose buried in a feed bag eating almost changed our days plan. The sight not only diverted Charlie and made him happy but immediately he was so interested he didn’t want to go on. Since, as usual, we were behind schedule we had to push on.
We arrived at Horse Guards Parade, found a parking place and went to see the great event. This was only August and less encumbered tourists had already found all the good locations. However, we were able to see the two mounted guardsmen in their little cubicles facing Whitehall. And they were fine specimens indeed, scarlet tunics, bearskin caps, polished brass and silver. The horses were no less resplendent, groomed to perfection with bridles and reins fairly glittering with silver. We pointed this magnificent sight out to Charlie, “Look at the soldier on the beautiful horse.”
Charlie answered, “Where is it?”
We said again, “Right up there, see the tall black bearskin cap.”
Charlie answered, “Where is it?”
I now picked him up and pointed and said, “Over there, see that shining black horse.”
Seemingly unimpressed, Charlie repeated, “Where is it?”
Tom now tried, “Don’t you see, there under that little roof?”
And John added, “Charlie you’re looking right at it, don’t you see the grenadier.”
Mom and Bill joined in the chorus, gesturing and pointing and adding, “the red guard,” “on the black horse.”
Finally Charlie almost in tears said, “Where is it momma, where’s his feedbag?”
We hushed him up as best we could and slunk out of earshot of the other laughing tourists and decided we’d come back some other day after the tourist season was over. Actually, we never did. Why go this weekend, we’ll be here all year?
One day as I was about to enter Alpha, our caravan, after my day at the Unit, I heard a strange feminine voice. This one was calm and British. The words pouring forth were too weak to be understandable, but every other word was not stop, or don’t, or no, nor Dan, nor Charles, nor Bill, nor Tom, nor John. Obviously we had a visitor, perhaps Mrs. Watling. Upon entering the caravan, I saw a pleasant looking, well filled out but not plump woman, who Mary introduced as Mrs. Whitehouse.
I was wondering how the English equivalent of the Community Chest had found us so quickly. Mrs. Whitehouse couldn’t have been a saleslady; she wasn’t dressed to the teeth, and she was neither painted nor polished like the women in soap advertisements. She was simply dressed and was obviously an English neighbourly housewife. A very pleasant lady, likeable on first sight. I had no sooner classed her as a potential friend, even if a collector for some charity, than Mary told me, “Mrs. Whitehouse is the owner of the Manse, in Fulbourn.”
My heart fell. Even in a split second it was not hard to figure that if our potential landlady was here in the caravan visiting us before we moved in, all was not well. To begin with, it was not easy to find us. Three people in all of England know we were at Waverly Park; Donald Broadbent, the director of the Unit; Mrs. Laurence, our Estate agent (real estate agent); and Mrs. Watling, owner of Waverly and our patron Saint. If Mrs. Whitehouse had found us, it had not been without some effort. If she had found us, it was not without purpose. She had indeed found us and all I could think of was, “There goes our eight-room, nine chimney pot house.” How could such a friendly looking person with such a melodious voice and inviting smile be the harbinger of such bad news?
My face must have fallen as much as my heart. My feelings of gloom were written all over my face. This was completely typical of my behavior. Because my mood is always expressed completely by the look on my face, I am about 95% honest; and because of this, I am a near total social failure. Upon tasting my first (and last) martini at a party given by the chairman of my PhD committee, I gulped, turned two shades of purple, and even without a word being said, I conveyed my complete opinion of martinis to the man who held my academic fate in his hands, and whose favorite do-it-yourself host fete was making martinis. His fame for this accomplishment was a well known secret among graduate students, and it was the thing to do to compliment him on his concoction. Obviously, socially I had flunked my first test. And then there was the occasion at the first party at the laboratory where I now work. I was playing bridge with the wife of my new boss. My facial expression at the conclusion of a “down two” performance of a sure game bid prompted her to ask the rhetorical question, “Could the bid have been made?” Oblivious of all social graces, I thought she was a student of the game and really wanted to know how she could have made it. I proceeded to tell her. I was informed months later that she had given up bridge.
Anyway, my look of “Let’s pack up and go home” prompted Mrs. Whitehouse to come straight to the point. She said, “I’ve come to talk to you and your wife about moving into The Manse.” I interpreted this to mean that she had come to tell us we could not move into our five-fireplace house. As the conversation proceeded, it became evident that this had indeed been her intent but ……. Well, this is what she said:
She agreed that she had indeed told Mrs. Laurence that as Estate Agent she could have the final word in renting the Manse. However when Mrs. Laurence had told her that her next renters were 1) Americans, 2) a Dr. of psychology, and 3) with 5 children (boys yet) she, Mrs. Whitehouse had exclaimed, “Are you out of your mind?” You see, that castle-like building set apart behind high hedges and according to the sign “Fulbourn Hospital” is really the Fulbourn Mental Hospital. The village of Fulbourn had seen many Dr.’s of psychology and had likewise seen many children of psychologists and psychiatrists. It is hard to say whether preachers’ children or psychologists’ children have the reputation for being the most incorrigible. And I will be the last to refute any such fairy tales about said children.
So as it turned out, it wasn’t because we were Americans with boys that had prompted the visit of Mrs. Whitehouse, but the fact that I was a psychologist. She was quick to tell us that other psychologists with other children had already lived in the village and had not made a good name for the profession. Not that they hadn’t made a name, it was just that it wasn’t good.
She was quick to explain she was not a social reformer or a hater of children; it was just that she didn’t want to be responsible for bringing trouble to the village. Had someone else been the perpetrators she would not have cared, but she did not want to be the instigator. Those were her thoughts when she started out on her journey that day; in short, “Why did this have to happen to me?”
She stopped first to see Mrs. Laurence to see what had unhinged her. Mrs. Laurence admitted I was a psychologist and therefore my children were indeed psychologists’ children. But Mrs. Laurence had told her I wasn’t a clinical (Fulbourn Hospital type) psychologist, but an experimental psychologist. Mrs. Laurence and I had gone through all of this earlier because she had the obsession that I was a professor. After all, she had been finding accommodations for Americans with families on sabbaticals or fellowships to Cambridge for years, and they were all professors; ipso facto, I was a professor. So I had to explain I carried on research in a laboratory. Then she got it, I was a chemist. No, I was an experimental psychologist. This stopped Mrs. Laurence. She had heard of professors, she had heard of scientists (chemists and physicists) and she had heard of psychologists. But what was an experimental (scientific) psychologist? Did I experiment with the mentally ill? No, I told her, I worked in sensation and perception; how we see and hear and how we make sense out of what we see and hear. My specialty was speech and hearing, and I worked with normal people in abnormal environments. My general problems were how do people talk and listen in high level noises (around jet aircraft), or underwater, or when everyone else is talking. She got the general idea. At least she got enough of the idea that she convinced Mrs. Whitehouse that I was quite normal, a scientist really and not actually a psychologist. This was a step in the right direction.
Mrs. Whitehouse next visited Mrs. Watling, our present landlady. Since the boys were so fascinated with trains and spent hours at the level crossing or with their toy trains, they hadn’t had any time left over for trouble. They did play some ball but again, no loud arguments; nor broken windows, hedges, or flowers. In fact the boys, one and all, were so amazed by their new surroundings and were so busy enjoying themselves they didn’t get into any trouble, and Mrs. Watling was nearly hypnotized by their good behavior. She had remarked to us of her fascination with our boys, but we figured maybe she thought we were thinking of leaving and she had no other prospects for Alpha, her Caravan. But she told Mrs. Whitehouse that she had never seen such well-behaved boys. Her remark was that they had been playing in her garden (yard) for 3 weeks now and she had never even heard them, she wasn’t even aware they were around. Of course silence usually forebodes danger, but in this case they were just plain so busy with Lone Star and British Railway Loco’s that they were indeed silent. That comment by Mrs. Watling, our patron Saint, just about turned the trick. By the time Mrs. Whitehouse came to our caravan, she was convinced we were either suitable tenants or so bad that both Mrs. Laurence and Mrs. Watling would perjure themselves hopelessly to get us out of their care.
When she knocked on our caravan door, she had almost decided we might be acceptable, but she was curious. She had seen American children in the village before, she had boys of her own, and she had witnessed psychologists’ children in action. How could an American psychologist with a family of 5 boys hoodwink two fellow Britishers into such good reports? In spite of our references, the battle wasn’t yet won. Although the summer of ‘59 was unequalled for sunny days, it was raining when she arrived and all 5 boys were in the caravan. It doesn’t take much knowledge of geometry to know that if the total floor area of an English caravan is x square feet and this is divided into 7 equal areas (5 boys and momma and Mrs. Whitehouse) that there is hardly room to sit down. Likewise it doesn’t take much knowledge of acoustics (and speech and hearing) to know that 5 boys, even if relatively quiet, in the same x square feet sound like a monkey cage at the zoo. Perhaps because there was no space left, Mary and Mrs. Whitehouse were in such close proximity that they could talk and listen in said monkey cage.
But you can’t keep monkeys either quiet or segregated. We had as yet discovered nothing that would keep our “uninhibited voice” Charlie quiet. And as Mrs. Whitehouse was coming to the end of her tale and was reaching the decision stage, Charlie sidled up to her and said, “She looks like my Grandma Bryant; I like her, momma; can I give her a cookie (biscuit)?”
That did it, Mrs. Whitehouse was now convinced that Mrs. Laurence and Mrs. Watling were excellent judges of character and that we would not drag her name into disrepute in the village. She said we were welcome to the Manse. She did have to convince her husband yet that she, too, was not crazy, but this she felt she could do. It was now just business details. They had wanted to take the fireplace out of the kitchen and replace it with an Aga cooker (coke stove). If we moved in the day the Halios moved out, when would they make the conversion? That was easy. We planned to move in on the 17th and we had ferry reservations for the 24th to go on a five-week business-pleasure trip on the continent.
And so it was we had a new patron Saint. Mrs. Whitehouse was not only convinced we were OK, but as it turned out, she had paved the way with comments to the correct people, so that when we did move in, we were met on the first day by friendly delegations of tradespeople and neighbors, who before our stay was over, were our fast friends. This was one day when our uninhibited voice, Charlie, didn’t hurt our cause.
With our immediate future now secure, after nearly two months of looking and hoping, we could relax and look forward to moving into The Manse and getting our things unpacked. But just as the twenty year prisoner so looks forward to release that he tries an escape six months before his release (and gets 5 more years) so we now got restless.
As part of my fellowship duties I was to spend a week or ten days with Walter Lawrence at Christchurch, Hampshire (on the south coast). He had developed PAT (a Parametric Artificial Talking Machine) that I thought might be useful in my research. So we figured, why not the first two weeks in August? Our British colleagues told us, why not the first two weeks in August, but they weren’t living in a caravan and itching to get into a house. They told us everyone in England is on the roads during the August Bank Holiday and indeed for the whole month of August, since this is the only month the children are not in school. However we figured that for the Bank Holiday week-end everyone in London would head for the sea and we would take over in deserted London. We weren’t too far wrong and this part of the trip was a great success, except for Charlie’s misunderstanding about the eating habits of the horses of Horse Guards.
On Tuesday after the Bank Holiday we took the Great West Road toward Stonehenge, Salisbury, and Christchurch. At Slough we experienced the first of the famous 15 mile long queues of bumper to bumper cars. We later found others at Exeter, Polperro, and at the ferry at Fowey.
At lunch time we tried out the standard operating procedure of English driving practice; namely come time to stop, you stop right in your tracks. You stop on the carriageway (road), not on the verge (shoulder), since usually there are none or else you can’t get on them, kerbs (curbs) you know. So flouting a sure fire $50 American fine we enjoyed that typical British habit of stopping in one lane of traffic (on the Great West Road) to have a quick car picnic, potato crisps (chips) and cheese sandwiches. We felt quite important making all cars pull around us while we nonchalantly ate (pronounced et) our lunch. We doubly enjoyed our lunch; thinking of the $50 we were saving by doing this in England not America, and watching all the British drivers slow down to go around our lunch wagon. We thought this was only poetic justice having silently cursed, developed functional ulcers, and reduced our usual driving-speed by one half to go around the myriad of British cars enjoying the parking privileges of arterial highways. Of course we couldn’t really enjoy our revenge lunch, and in fact never did it again, in as much and we knew how completely silly, potentially dangerous, and deleterious to travel such unrestricted parking was. We were also chagrined because none of the British drivers even frowned, let alone visually or orally cursed us for our utter stupidity, lack of courtesy, or flaunting of the driving code. The reason is of course that if every second car in England is parked on the highways the remaining half are so accustomed to the inconvenience they think nothing of it. For that matter before the day is out the other half will be stopped in the middle of another highway at another place.
There is a cataclysmic difference between the California Vehicle Code and the British Driving Code. In California the code is the law. The vehicle code is preceded by the statement, “Drivers are required by law to comply with state traffic laws....” A point system is set up such that, “...any traffic conviction involving the safe operation of a motor vehicle upon the highways shall be given a value of one point...”, “…two points for...driving without...license…hit and run…drunk..(or)..reckless driving…a total of 4 points in 12 months causes suspension of drivers license”. Laws are strictly enforced with stiff fines for offenders; for example $50 for going so slowly in a fast traffic lane that more than 6 cars are bunched up behind you, $10 for following too closely, $10 for stopping (parking) in a traffic lane. On a Sunday ride, or for that matter driving to work, if you don’t see a police car every ten miles you are lucky.
The Highway Code (Her Majesty’s Stationery Office Price 6d Net) by contrast is a set of suggestions prefaced by the statement, “A failure on the part of any person to observe any provision of the highway code shall not of itself render that person liable to criminal proceedings of any kind, but any such failure may...be relied upon....as tending to establish or to negative any liability which is in question…..” Road Traffic Act 1930 Section 45.
Some typical “suggestions” are: “In traffic hold ups do not jump the queue.” “There are no rights of way in general at roundabouts”. “Use dipped headlights at night in built up areas, unless the street lighting is good.” They don’t say what to do if street lighting is good but what you do is to drive with side (parking) lights. “At railway level-crossings with gates but no gatekeeper, open both gates before starting to cross and do not stop on the lines (rails). Close the gates after you.” “Do not park or let your vehicle stand on (a) the carriageway; (b) the slip roads; (c) the central reservation; (d) the verges....” If they would enforce this last “suggestion” alone with some arrests and fines the Chancellor of the Exchequer could without fear of inflation, 1) cancel all income taxes for one year, 2) cancel all purchase taxes for a year since no one would have any money left after the fines were paid, and 3) have a surplus in the treasury. Likewise the Minister of Transportation could cancel all highway construction for five years (and build some car parks instead) because, without non-moving cars blocking them, British highways would almost be adequate for handling moving traffic.
After our foolhardy lunch was topped off with lollies we proceeded to Stonehenge. Later in school John had to write a theme on the origins, etc. of Stonehenge in which he states:
This ancient circular stone temple is situated near Amesbury in Wiltshire. It is not on any very large hill and so seems a strange place for an ancient stone temple. A possible explanation is that Stonehenge stands on sacred ground since another temple Woodhenge is no more than five miles away. Another possible explanation is that in ancient times the vicinity had a very large population. The soil is shallow making it quite an open land with few large trees but quite adequate for simple farming. This seems likely because of the number of early monuments in the vicinity. About 25 miles away are the two ancient lake villages, Glastonbury and Meare.
The New Stone Age men who built the outdoor temple thought it important to get the right building stones. The sarsens, which were the giant grey uprights came from a place only 20 miles away. But even at 20 miles it took 1,000 men 10 weeks to get the stones from the quarries to Stonehenge using rollers of hardwood. But the Bluestones and the Green sandstones came from Prescelly and Milford Haven., both in Pembrokeshire. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the XI century historian wrote in his books about King Arthur’s magician, Merlin. Geoffrey said that Merlin, by his magic, had taken the monument from Ireland and set it down in Wiltshire, not far from Camelot (Winchester) his master’s capitol. This may have been partly true but Geoffrey was not entirely correct. He wrote that the whole monument had come from Ireland. Actually the Blue stones and Green sandstones came from Wales.
The massive monument is surrounded by a ditch and Bank as can be seen in the drawing. Right inside the ditch and Bank are the Aubrey holes named after their discoverer. There are 56 Aubrey holes but we do not know what, if anything, they ever had in them. In the north-east section of Stonehenge there is an avenue and in the middle of it is the Heel stone. Some people call it the Hele stone after Helios (Greek for Sun). Many people who have seen the Heel stone think it used to be in line with the sunrise. However, astronomers say, it has never been in line but will be about AD 3660. The Ditch and Bank, Aubrey holes, and Heel stone were made between 1400-1700 BC.
There were 30 lintel stones at Stonehenge resting on sarsen uprights. They formed a circle of about 60’ radius around the centre. The uprights were raised by sheerlegs. They used manpower to tilt the sarsen and it would then slip into the hole. They had to account for the fact that when a five-ton sarsen landed at the bottom of the hole its impact would cause it to sink three or four inches. To get the lintel on the top they simply levered the stone up and built a platform under it. By repeating this process the lintel will gradually move towards its resting place on the top of the sarsens.
Incidentally for this effort, John scored seven of ten possible points and received the following comment from Master Warne, “There are gaps - perhaps because you did not listen carefully enough - but this work (which included 4 full pages of detailed drawings, a plan view, a close-up of how lintel stones rest on sarsens, and how sheerlegs and levers are used to tilt sarsen stones into upright positions) shows much more interest and determination.”
At the conclusion of our sightseeing, John begged a ten shilling note to buy some mineral bearing rocks. At the concession stand he had seen the sign “Minerals and Ices”. He soon returned with minerals for the whole family, orange squash for Dan, grape for Charlie, cherry for Bill, and Pepsis for Tom and himself. Mom and I had vanilla and chocolate ice.
We didn’t have much time at Salisbury but did get a glimpse of their very beautiful cathedral. We arrived at Christchurch (120 miles from London) at 6 P.M. exactly five driving hours (or eight total hours) after we had left London. Walter Lawrence had arranged with a farmer for a corner of his field for our ZW. This in the typical British Camping manner. Even though Bournemouth (adjacent to Christurch) is a holiday center there was no real campsite there (as there had been none in Oxford earlier in the summer).
During my week with Walter at the Signals Research and Development Establishment our routine was: eat early, pack up and drive to the commons (on a little inlet in Christchurch), leave the family and ZW and ride in with Walter. Mary and the boys lounged around all day until I came again in late afternoon. For entertainment they had pony rides, boats to rent, a miniature train, swans, and lollies. One day the boys conned me into hiring a boat and going up the Avon (Hampshire variety, not Stratford). The man told me specifically keep left and I nodded indicating I had driven left for many months now and knew the rules of the road in spite of my accent. Off we went upriver and to the left. Coming downriver we again bore left and were soon mired down on a sandbar. The hirer of boats seemed to know this would happen and was to the rescue in record time in his hip length Wellington boots. At this point he explained he meant keep left going upriver and on the same side, the right side, coming back.
On Saturday we picnicked with Walter and Ursula Lawrence in the New Forest (new in the time of William the Conqueror’s heir). Here as on Dartmoor wild ponies run loose and these gave the boys a new thrill, namely feeding them, all the signs to the contrary. Obviously the ponies were used to hand feeding. If you stopped your car on the road (not if, but when) to watch the ponies they came right over and thrust their heads completely inside the car.
As suggested by the Camping Club of Great Britain and Ireland we camped in the New Forest after Walter and Ursula had departed. We didn’t put the tent up but very unBritishlike we just slept in the car. At about midnight two couples of party happy individuals drove to within 20 feet of us. They obviously had partaken of many bitters and were noisy and perhaps malicious. I couldn’t make up my mind whether they were prowling or carousing. I was beginning to get concerned about their prowling when a torrential downpour started and they embarked and departed post haste. I slept easier. I also thought again of my basic disagreement in policy with the Camping Club of GB & I and reaffirmed my belief that with 5 children, I’d camp in car and in guarded campsite (if one could be found in GB & I).
Next morning we ventured into Thomas Hardy country. The boys had heard his “Trumpet-major” serialized on the BBC, but all I could remember was “The Return of the Native” and I kept looking for a reddelman. Outside of Colchester we visited Maiden Castle, another favorite subject of John’s history master. Of Maiden Castle John in his theme for Mr. Warne wrote:
Maiden Castle is a hill-fort near Dorchester in Dorsetshire. A hill-fort is a fortification built out of a large round-topped hill, covered on the outside with limestone. The New Stone age men made a trench by digging a ditch around the hill and throwing the spare earth up into banks. Then the men continued this process several times higher and lower on the hill until they had a good defensive position. In time of war both men and animals occupied it.
Maiden Castle was built by Stone age and Bronze age workmen and touched up by early Iron age men. Nearby is the camp in which the Romans lived when they were sieging the earthwork castle. The Romans over-ran this castle and made it into a fort of their own.
And of his History Master John wrote another theme for his English master, Mr. Cox, entitled, “A Bullied Time at School”:
It was just past break time and we were in the midst of a row when Mr. X (commonly known as “Whacker”) entered the room. Soon there was a queue by his desk waiting to get whacked. For no good reason I was among them and very soon it was my turn. They were all cool hands at being whacked but I was new and it was my first time. I walked up to him, bent over (by means of a slap on the back) and got the slipper. He was our History master and as our History droned on I thought of my aching back and what a cruel master “Whacker” was. Suddenly I heard my name called out and of course hadn’t the slightest idea what I was asked for. So I had to have another whack. Then I settled down and tried to keep my mind on my work but I couldn’t. “Whacker”, fortunately, was in a good mood and he only told me off and I soon was able to study again.
The bell rang then and released me from the power of “Whacker”. I doubt if I can possibly equal that for a bullying experience.
Our week in Jamaica Inn Country (Cornwall and Devon) was not an uproarious success. The summer of ‘59 was unusually sunny. It rained very seldom and then only for short periods. To my knowledge there was only one time when it rained more or less continually for four days, and these were the days we were in Cornwall and Devon. We did indeed see St. Ives (but not man with seven wives), Penzance (but no pirates), Lands End, and Tintagel (but no Round Table nor sword Excalibur). We drove along many picturesque roads where the hedgerows were higher than our ZW. We got involved in many August Holiday queues of cars and stayed in many water-logged and not overly satisfactory camps (the one at Tintagel was fine).
We returned to spend a longer time at Salisbury and saw a replica of King Arthur’s legendary round table at Winchester. If we hadn’t seen Alfred the Great in all his stony glory in the middle of High Street, we would never have realized that Winchester was the ancient capital of England (Wessex).
A quick ride through the rebuilding of Southampton, a few hours at Windsor Castle, a two step through St. Albans Cathedral and home for one last camp (without caravan) at Waverly. Tomorrow was moving day, on to the Manse.
This essentially completed our first summer in England, our nomad summer. We had learned about lollies, minerals, and ices; British Railways, loco spotting, level crossings, and Lone Star locos; caravans, camping sites (or lack thereof), and camping practice (GB & I Camping Club style). We were beginning to learn about cars (especially those stationary ones on all streets and carriageways), driving(?) habits, and picturesque but non-traffic moving roads. The housing disadvantages of having 5 children (boys yet) had been impressed upon us. We found that housing and being an American, and in particular being a psychologist from America with 5 boys were nearly incompatible. Charlie was learning the eating habits of milk horses but not Horse Guards horses.
However we were still American tourists; campers yes, but still Americans. The boys wore American clothes, spoke American English, and ate the English equivalent of American foods (cold minerals, lollies, potato crisps, and corn flakes). I still blew my top at cars parked at every conceivable unlawful, illogical, and dangerous place in the roadways, and was annoyed at waiting minutes for trains to whiz by guarded level crossings. Mary still washed at the laundromat. Thanks to the unusually hot and dry summer, we still had our California tans that had amazed people in late May when we had first arrived. We converted all sterling money amounts to shillings and divided by seven to keep track of our expenses. And we drove everywhere. Our legs were still in the American state of near atrophy. We were just beginning to settle in.
Tomorrow we would move into our English house (The Manse) in our English village (Fulbourn) and perhaps then we would start to become Anglicized.
Fifteen weeks and two days after leaving home in San Diego we were moving into The Manse in Fulbourn, Cambridgeshire, England. The intervening one hundred and seven days could be accounted for roughly as follows: 14 days with relatives in Iowa and Illinois, 8 days and/or nights on ships (mostly crossing the Atlantic), about 10 days in hotels (in Cambridge and Hamlin) or motels (from Illinois to Montreal) about 45 days camping, and 30 days in “Alpha” (the caravan in Waverly Park). It is not that we didn’t think the ZW was the best home ever devised on wheels, but more that the companion caravan to “Alpha” namely “Omega” was more fitting to our mood at this point. To say the least, we were happily anticipating the end of our gypsy existence.
To say we were happy to be leaving Alpha (and Omega) and to let the mattresses in ZW rest for the first time in 75 days (even in Alpha, Tom and Bill slept in ZW) is an understatement of the first magnitude. After all Dan had been a gypsy now for one quarter of his whole life. And of course the irony of the whole affair was that after 6 nights in the beds of The Manse we would be off for another five week camping trip on the continent where I was to give a paper at a professional meeting in Stuttgart.
Although bone weary we were up at the crack of dawn, and were packed up and ready to go by 8:30. Our usual departing time was 1100. The plan was to drive out to The Manse trade Mary and the boys the Halios, (Dr., Mrs., and two children), and while I drove the Halios to the train station, Mary and boys could start moving in. Luckily the Halios were ready for if they hadn’t been I am afraid they would have been stampeded in the exchange.
From the train station I drove to the Unit and picked up some of our larger bags, deposited there ten weeks earlier, and proceeded post haste to The Manse. Although there was no time, nor even a real mood for relaxing you could feel the relaxed attitude of the family in this hectic long awaited, busy, and fateful day. Even in the midst of making up 5 beds, unpacking 14 suitcases, figuring how to work an ancient electric stove, and an agitator-less pocket sized washing machine, worrying about lunch, and keeping watch on 5 boys just released from the captivity of the narrow confines of ZW and Alpha, Mary seemed somehow relaxed.
Of course the orders flew hot and fast; Tom, you and Bill go to the store and buy some cheese, butter, lunch meat, peanut butter and jelly; Dad, load Charles and Dan in the car and find some milk, soap, and clothes pins; where’s the bag with the sheets; take off those dirty clothes so I can wash them; how do you heat the water here?
Many of the problems answered themselves. Both Mrs. Whitehouse and the Halios had passed the word of our coming. In the midst of flying dust, words, calories, and boys a knock at the back door heralded the arrival of a stranger. A youngish, well built, medium sized man with a broad smile over his ruddy-to-red complexion. He stated he was the milkman, and he had been the Halios’ milkman. He delivered milk every morning and eggs upon demand. He had TB tested and regular milk, it came in English (oversized) pint bottles and he had some right now to start with. The early bird gets the worm and he had just increased his delivery route by an appreciable amount.
Mrs. Whitehouse was next to show up. And she was either pleased with her decision to allow us in or was making the best of a potentially dreadful situation. She was all smiles and full of interesting facts like, “You turn the stove on this way”, “This little heater keeps this large tank of water hot”, “The coalman lives next door”, “I told Mrs. Rodwell down at Myrtleberry’s store that you would be moving, in today, she will probably drop by to see you. . . . .”.
Shortly a Hillman van, or panel lorry, stopped in the street and in a sprightly gait, a woman about our age came up to the front door. Mrs. Whitehouse said, “There’s Mrs. Rodwell now.” Mrs. Rodwell was one of these “jolly fellows well met” whose enthusiasm seems to permeate the environment and carry the situation along in a light gay mood. She was the perfect “Welcome Wagon” greeter. She had heard, from Mrs. Whitehouse, about our five boys and wanted to meet them. She was also well acquainted with our backgrounds from conversations with the Halios and Mrs. Whitehouse. We had visited the Halios a couple of times. They also were from California. At the conclusion of this gay welcome I hopped in the van with Dan and Charlie and Mrs. Rodwell drove us to her store so that we could buy many needed staples.
Myrtleberries, about two blocks down Pierce Lane from The Manse was a typical English village store. The Rodwells lived in a two- story brick house set behind a hedge that fronted directly on the road. There was no sidewalk between the hedge and the road. Attached onto the house, probably at a later date, was a one-story rectangular appendage that was neither architecturally beautiful nor distasteful, purely utilitarian.
The store consisted of 3 rooms, one large sales, one small storage room and one tiny room for the refrigerator. There were two girl clerks a redhead and a brunette. Both mighty pleasant to look upon and both seemingly happy. Around the room were shelves of canned goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, toys, biscuits, and such things as hair curlers and shampoo. They had Edam and Welsh Cheddar cheese, lunch meat, canned orange juice (no one had frozen orange juice), Cadbury chocolate bars, tomatoes, lettuce, and cucumbers, but no peanut butter. Our lunch problems were solved.
After lunch we had time to settle back a little and survey our temporary home. The Manse could not have been simpler in basic design. It was essentially a 40 x 25 foot rectangular brick box two stories high. This solid box was capped by a peaked roof. Had the width of the house equaled the length the roof would have formed a pyramid. As it was the slopes from front and back met in a ridge, while the slopes from the sides just narrowed down at their apex to join the ridge. At their junctions, at the apex of the side triangles were two of the three chimneys. Scattered among the three chimneys were 9 chimney flues (pots). This would signify that there were 9 fireplaces. The count of chimney pots agreed exactly with the number of rooms, if the two bathrooms were not counted in.
Upstairs there were 4 large bedrooms and a complete bath. Downstairs there were two parlors, a dining room, a kitchen, a scullery and a small bathroom. The house was divided into two equal parts by a hall running from the front door to the back door. Along one side of this hall was the stairway. At the top of the stairs at the back of the upstairs hall, was the bathroom. The downstairs bathroom was below the upper one but wasn’t as large and didn’t block off the end of the hall. The scullery was appended onto the kitchen and spoiled the complete symmetry of the house. Each large room had at one time had a fireplace, but now only the five downstairs fireplaces were intact. Upstairs there was neither fireplace nor source of heat of any sort, except for the windows which in the summer would pass the heat of the sun. In the upstairs bathroom was a small heat lighting fixture tube up near the ceiling.
The Manse (gas streetlight in foreground, medieval church tower in background)
Symmetry was the key to The Manse. In the exact center in front was a doorway and above it a window. Equally spaced around this center were two windows below and two windows above. The doorway was really an arch built of bricks which protruded out about half the thickness of a brick. The door itself was set in about 4 inches in the center of this brick arch. The door itself was rectangular and the arch above was a window. At the top of the arch was a keystone built of bricks. One could easily predict that each front room both upstairs and down had a large front window.
What was not obvious from the front of the house was that none of the front rooms had any other or side windows. Contrariwise the back rooms had only side windows and no back windows. The bathrooms did of course have back windows.
The Manse was built
about the turn of the century as a residence for the pastor of the chapel. It
was occupied as such until WWII at which time the elderly pastor retired and
the dwindling congregation could not afford a new one. Visiting pastors don’t
need Manses and so The Manse was sold. As I look at this it must have been the
fates acting in our behalf. I was not brought up in a church atmosphere,
although Mary was, but we were both active in church work now. We could easily
rationalize that our long and trying ordeal in the wilderness was and could
only have been ended by our inheritance of heaven, in this case in the form of
The Manse. This could also explain the change of heart of Mrs. Whitehouse on
the road to
The Manse was not
old as houses go in
The back parlour was similar to the front except it was smaller, had only one large overstuffed chair and a regular sized table; no cabinet. Its window opened southeasterly and its dormant fireplace added to the August warmth of this cozy den. There was a writing desk in this parlour and undoubtedly this was the old pastors study (and our boys train room).
All the bedsteads,
wardrobes, chairs, rugs, and dressers upstairs were old. In this case perhaps
more antique old than venerably old. Beds are too functional to be venerable,
when slept in. For viewing at
fixtures in all rooms consisted of bulbs hanging on the end of a wire in the
middle of the rooms. They did however turn on from wall switches. To me they
turned off instead of on and vice versa, you see in
The wardrobes were
another source of amusement, or annoyance, or amazement, depending on your
mood. There were no closets in the Manse and for want of a more adequate sample
I will say this is typical of older English houses. Wardrobes are essentially
portable closets. Functionally they are a large ornate box about six feet tall,
four feet long, and 18 inches deep. Two doors hinged at the edge allow egress
and ingress. A pole across the top inside is ostensibly to be used to hold up
clothes on coat hangers. However clothes hangers, at least with clothes on
them, won’t hang properly on this pole because then the doors won’t shut. You
see, a coat hanger is at least 16 inches wide and with a coat it is at least 18
inches wide. To get many coats or clothes of any sort requiring an 18 inch
width inside a box whose outside dimension is 18 inches becomes an exasperating
task. The trick is to slant all hangers the proper amount and to bang the door
closed before the hangers, obeying the laws of
The bedrooms were not things of beauty. However on this first day, and for that matter from thence forward, they were no source of concern. Even antique beds need only meet one or two rather lax criteria. They must be somewhat soft and somehow un-hammock-like. That is, no sagging in the middle, and no boards for mattresses. This plus warmth equals a good nights sleep, and sleep makes a bed. The bedrooms were completely adequate. The eiderdowns tucked away in wardrobes or dressers were of no particular concern in August.
Houses are functionally made for sleeping and eating. After these comes keeping clean and finally relaxing. Eating involves preparation, consumption, and cleanup, or functionally a dining room and/or kitchen. The Manse had both. The dining room was obviously the used room. The rug was worn threadbare. It may have had a design and maybe even a colour at one time but not now. The table and chairs were well worn but sturdy. An old glass door enclosed bookcase, a dish cupboard and another upholstered arm chair completed the furnishings. Some people might consider the dining room drab, it was. Others would consider it well lived in, it was. Others might say it had character, it did. With its fireplace and its large window (which the boys soon found amenable to crawling in and out of) it was a cheery room. As an unoccupied room it was drab. When graced with 5 boys, and/or Mary’s culinary concoctions, it was cheery, lived in, and possessed much character; too much (or too many) perhaps.
equipment has developed most in the past decades and as compared to the other
furniture in the house, the kitchen may have been modern, it somehow did not
A scullery behind the kitchen contained the pee-wee electric washer, another sink, another fireplace, some more cupboards, and a very large uninsulated water tank, inside a cupboard known as an airing cupboard. This was the hot water tank. It could also be heated electrically. The cupboard surrounding it was for items that need be kept dry.
Behind the scullery was a separate shed divided into a large bin for coal and coke, and a smaller bin for storage of wood or whatever.
The Manse was built of faded yellow brick, had a grey slate roof but was trimmed in a bright light blue. The window frames, outside doors, and eaves fairly glistened with the glossy blue trim. Between The Manse and the street was a 10 foot garden (lawn) and an eight foot high hedge. The front of The Manse was not parallel to the street but at right angles to it. The front garden was about 25 feet wide and terminated in a garage (too small for ZW) and a driveway slanting down to the street. This driveway was closed by a pair of swinging wire fence gates so that the whole of the garden around The Manse was enclosed. The hedge gave way to a wooden fence between The Manse and the Eastern Electricity Board’s transformer station. After turning the corner, the wooden fence which was at least 8 feet high, gave way to a loose wire fence and/or hedgerow separating the Manse from an open field which in turn opened onto the village school.
Were we pleased with our long awaited house? It was no architectural gem. It was not ultra modern. In fact you might as well admit it was old, it was furnished with odd and old pieces of furniture, there was no uniformity or central design of furnishings or interior decoration. The rugs and wall paper were generally drab. Plumbing and appliances were old, small, and outdated, the garage was too small, as were the wardrobes. BUT it was a house, a large house, with enclosed yard, fridge and washing machine, electric stove and five fireplaces and for the next year it was our house and we were now in it. We loved it.
discovered that there was a sidewalk all the way around the house and to this
day he says, “I like houses in
After the first night’s sleep in a house in more than three months we felt revived enough to do some further exploring of our village. In the next five days before leaving for a five-week camping holiday, we made a few visits of exploration.
Just across Pierce
Lane and down about two houses from The Manse was a very typical two story
yellow brick building with the long side parallel with and set back about 10
feet from the sidewalk. The gabled roof ran the length of the building and the
eaves were in front along the street. There was a small sign which said, “
The tiny sales room consisted on the outside of a picture window, about four feet square, and a door. Inside the door was room for perhaps four adult customers, or room for me alone if accompanied by all the boys. A small display case topped by a glass counter held all sorts of delicious looking objects, fruit tarts, hot cross buns, Cornish pasties, various varieties of biscuits (cookies), and pork pies. In the show window and on Shelves behind the glass counter were unwrapped and unsliced loaves of white and, brown breads, and assorted cakes and pies.
Not to be outdone by grocery stores, the bakery also had complete selections of hard rock sweets (candy), tins of toffees, gum, Cadbury’s chocolate bars, and minerals (pop). Actually if you were not too fond of proteins you could buy a very appetizing, if not very well balanced, meal at Dixons. Adding to the pleasant sight of cakes and tarts, and the wonderful smell of freshly baked bread, was the pretty sales girl. I always liked to go to Dixons even when the tall, young pretty girl with the big smile was replaced by Mrs. Dixon. The smile was just as big, the greeting just as merrie, and the bread and tarts just as good. Dixons was a jolly place, even if it were a mite tiny. We were soon regular customers and had our standing order in for bread on Saturday.
was another square down
We had already
found that milk is not sold in grocery stores in
The closest store
to the Manse was Tyrells, all trimmed in red and with the show window packed
with glass jars of hard rock sweets.
Mrs. Tyrell, an elderly widow, was treasurer at the chapel. She was
short and on the plump side, very pleasant but sometimes somewhat forgetful.
She was assisted by a grown daughter and one or two other women. Tyrells was
the place to deposit laundry and cleaning. A laundry lorry from
Tyrells – with the jars of sweets in the window
Webbs, just around
the corner from
Webbs Store – Mr.
Beaumont and a customer (in
Webbs were the newspaper, magazine, and paper back book dealers and had picture postcards of Fulbourn. Mr. Beaumont himself, certainly in his fifties if not sixties, and slight of build, delivered the morning paper on his bicycle. One of his clerks, a Mrs. Smith also of the same age and build delivered the evening paper on her cycle. She collected weekly on her rounds but for the morning paper and Newsweek I paid at Webbs on Saturday or Monday or whenever I was in.
All of the stores, Myrtleberrys, Tyrells, Webbs, and Peaks on around on School Lane had more stuff packed away on shelves back in their living quarters or in back rooms than met the eye. Being inveterate super market shoppers, this disturbed us. Instead of seeing all the merchandise and selecting what we wanted from open shelves, we could at best only squint and point to those items we did see and ask for other items by name. And this was often disastrous since American words and English words are far from synonymous on many items. Even if the names agree the products often do not.
Examples are: sweet pickles are gherkins, molasses is treacle, squash is marrow, turnips are swedes, mustard (mild for sandwiches) is mustard (hot and powdered for footbaths), peanut butter is generally not available, kerosene is paraffin (which is obtained from grocers , paraffin is paraffin wax, and tomatoes are tomahtoes.
Between Webbs and
the butcher shop was a tiny one room Electric Shop. This was not always open
and was usually staffed by someone with little knowledge of electric
appliances. In the afternoon a man, probably from
Dick Whitmore's Family Butcher
Beyond the Electric
Shop was Dick Whitmore’s butcher shop and it was a marvel to behold. One end of
his two story brick residence that sat right on the sidewalk three feet off the
street was the butcher shop. On Monday mornings his big dark green blind was
pulled over his large show window. He was in at the
By Wednesday Dick usually had his meat cut up into smaller portions and stored away in his large walk-in fridge. Whenever he got too busy, and inevitably on Saturday, he didn’t get time to replace each large portion in the fridge when be cut off a customer’s request. The meat just piled higher and higher on his cutting table.
Dick Whitmore at work
He had the whole gamut of cutlery, a meat saw (for bones), a cleaver (for bones) and “the sharpest knife I ever saw” said Charlie every time he went in. Dick was continually sharpening this knife on a long spindle-shaped file (or emory) by pulling the knife down with his right hand toward his left hand which held the file. I’d swear he missed his own fingers by only hundredths of inches with a knife sharp enough to strip his finger to the bone. Somehow he always kept his fingers whole. You could buy hares, pheasants, pigeons, ducks, geese, turkey, chicken, lamb, pork, beef, veal and sausage. He did not, nor did any other respectable butcher handle wieners, lunch meats and the like. He was about as slick and quick at finding and preparing any desired cut as anyone could be. He would have the meat cut, on and off the scales, and wrapped in a newspaper before the needle on his scales could anywhere near settle down to a stable reading. For our family he just counted noses, guessed appetites and cut away. I never knew and I’m sure he didn’t know how many pounds and ounces of meat we had but the number of pounds and shillings always came out the same.
The Six Bells
There wasn’t much time for darts during this short stay so my relationship with the Six Bells, the High Street pub was purely platonic. Even from the outside however the Six Bells was a thing of beauty. Here was an old inn straight from Dickens. The eave line of this thatched roof was two stories above and parallel with the street and the ridge three stories high. One of Fulbourn’s taller buildings. At each end and running up the outside were big brick chimneys. The upper floor overhung about three feet over the sidewalk. At two places along the sidewalk the windows of the pub protruded out in an angular arc. These bay windows were tangent with the overhang on the upper floor and like the guard (conductor or brakeman) in the guard car (caboose) the people supping in these windows could survey up and down the sidewalk. All busses and coaches stopped here as I’m sure they have done, for the past two centuries. They no longer change horses here but I’m sure in the past they did. One got the feeling that The Six Bells was an inn, a meeting place, a coach station, and not a tavern, or bar. Actually it was all of these. I later found it to be a habitual haunt for Dick Whitmore the butcher, our milkman, Fred the barber and many others. The dart board next to the fireplace was well worn.
Beyond The Six
Bells on the corner of High Street and
Inside the Six Bells
Miss Ball, her
chief assistant, was much younger (in her fifties or sixties) and delivered the
mail on her bicycle (before each morning). The bright red pillar box
was not really a pillar box at all in this case but was just an ordinary letter
or mail box mounted on the wall. After closing hours letters dropped through
the holes outside the building ended up inside the building (and the letter
box). Two or three times a day the miniaturized mail vans would collect and
deliver mail. And I must add mail service is indeed first rate in
The Post Office also collects telephone bills, issued four times a year and NOT in ADVANCE. They deliver telegrams (Miss Ball on her bicycle), and sell radio and Telly licenses. Unofficially they also sell beautiful Christmas cards. An artist has sketched many of the venerable old buildings added a Christmas greeting and ended up with a delightful remembrance.
During our six day stint as respectable, settled, and staid citizens between our two prolonged gypsy episodes there came time for haircuts. In two tiny rooms, a vestibule and a shop, underneath the sign “Gents Hairdressing” was Fred the Barber. His shop was open from 4 until 7 and he came out by bus. He was no older than many others riding bicycles but, as I was informed by Dick Whitmore in the Six Bells one day, he had a heart condition. He was old, and small, and talkative, and pleasant, a good barber, and a nice person. He always wore a white knee-length smock, as did most every other tradesman in the whole village. The butcher’s smock usually ended up red at the end of the day and the Cobbler’s was streaked with black and brown. Fred wore horn rimmed glasses and as befits a barber he still had plenty of brown hair, receding a little on the temples, but a goodly lock hung down over his forehead. He had a peaked nose and small mustache and could well have played the part of the hero in a village production of “Mein Kampf”.
Fred’s shop was a most incongruous mixture of the old and the new, the old usually winning out. The barber chair was simplicity itself. Fred may well have made the chair himself. It consisted basically of four sturdy legs which also served as anchors for the arm rests. A leather covered cushion and a straight slightly cushioned back completed this rudimentary chair. Its distinguishing features were simplicity, ruggedness, lack of moving parts and squareness; no contours, no rounded corners, no swivel, no mechanism for raising or lowering the height, but all the necessities, a seat, a back rest, arm rests and a board which sat on the arm rests and served as a seat for children. A separate box that had a sloping top sat on the floor and acted as a foot rest.
Fred's Gents Hairdresser Shop
Other major equipments were sink, with electric water heater, many bottles of shampoo, hair oil, and I imagine hair restoring compounds, an electric clipper and assorted combs, brushes, and towels. Auxiliary equipment consisted of a waste paper basket, a gas fire (heater) and neatly balanced on top of the gas fire was a tea kettle. Fred always had hot water for tea. Fred believed in diversification, he also sold cigarettes and tooth brushes.
By our standards
Fred’s shop was medieval. Also by our standards Fred’s prices were medieval,
two shillings for a haircut (28 cents).
By any standards Fred’s haircuts were first rate and his conversations
worth listening to. He liked the boys and they liked him. At 2 bob a haircut
mom had five fewer jobs to do than she had in America, and Fred had himself
about 800% more business than our American barber, all the boys and all of us
more often. You see, haircuts for me and all the boys cost less than a haircut
for me alone in
The cobbler at work
The cobbler in his
thatched roof shop across from the butcher shop was a young man. The only young
shopkeeper in Fulbourn, and a man with foresight. He wanted to increase his
trade from repairing to merchandising. We agreed this was a good idea. We had
already found that parking space in
We did have one
item we wanted built during our six day rest; a set, of light wooden boxes to hold
food, travel books, our benzin (petrol, gasoline) stove, and cooking utensils.
There was a carpenter shop right across from us and I took them the problem
and its partial solution. I measured the exact sizes we needed and drew up
plans. With this much cooperation the foreman told the carpenter to try to get
the job done. The carpenter selected the proper light weight wood and told his
apprentice how to brace the boxes and the apprentice went to work. It is not
This young boy was a marvel. He not only made the boxes, but trimmed them up, sanded off the rough edges, and stained and finished them off. They looked as beautiful as the highly varnished camping box the Germans had installed in our car. The boxes looked so nice it was hard to desecrate them with belongings. I would have expected such a job from an old cabinet maker or craftsman of the old school. But from a teen-aged boy in this generation I was astounded.
It’s hard to say whether the excellent job or the ridiculously low price surprised me the most. I had been accustomed to paying carpenters, painters, plumbers, and the like more in hourly wages than I earned as a scientist. And to pay them these wages for work that looked like I, the scientist, had done it. Needless to say I was greatly impressed to get excellent work at a price I could afford.
My exploration of the shops in the village convinced me that this was the place for us. We had waited 107 days for our house but it looked as if our wait was to be rewarded. Our first impressions were favorable.
However we had only time for first impressions. Our next adventure in our near perpetual travel was at hand. We were to travel far and wide on our “Continental Camping Holiday”:
At Summer’s end with tourists gone
A second trip you see
For Dad a paper had to give
And drive to
Then on to
The vineyards grow straight up
At harvest time with wine to make
They squeeze it in a cup.
We travel in our bus by day
At night attach a tent
At Lorelei on
While barges came and went
And walk through Dom at
Eat stew, drink milk by pints.
Then on to
We pay our deep respects
To Luther and to Gutenburg
To kings of all aspects.
And camp upon its banks
To stay a week with thanks.
Dad goes to meetings day and night
He rides the Strassenbahn
For car is now a home for all
Through day and night and dawn.
From Fernsehturm, or TV tower
Sights great, knees shake, winds raw
On Sunday south through Tubigen
Burg Hohenzollern we saw.
Medieval towns were next to come
Beneath our pounding feet
We camped one night in Dinkelsbuhl
Old towns are hard to beat.
There’s Rothenburg and
With Nurmberg in between
Then cross the
In Munich Nymphburg palace stands
In Ratskeller we dine
Up St. Michaels spire we go
Below see city shine.
On Autobahn to
To Mozart yet our due
Around the town behind a horse
The time of day it flew.
Saves much in hotel fee.
Prince Eugen stands in Heldenplatz
St. Stephens towers o’er all
In Schonbrunn formal gardens stand
The opera gets our call.
O’er Dolmite Alps we go
We leave our bus in city site
And then by boat, heave ho.
By gondola canals we see
Then boys the pigeons feed
Who swarm the piazza of St. Marks
When walking please take heed.
On balcony Juliet stood
The Amphitheatre from Roman times
For opera is good.
Cathedral likewise beckons all
To hasten from the strands.
On Autostrada south we go
La Scala in
And found our famous land.
Where people take their chance.
Thru Nice and
Across from bridge we camp
On petrol stove we cook our food
And settle down to nap.
When music sounds and fireworks glow
And on the bridge anon
The village children dancing to
As up the
Then Bill his sixth birthday he has
For him we buy gateau.
At Fontainbleau a palace see
From high atop the
Paree looks like a map.
We see the place where guillotine
Took lives in one short drop
A greater hazard yet today
Are cars that hop and pop.
Then north we drive once more
In peace no war planes roar.
Its dark, its after five
So ferry sign we do not see
At to Manse we drive
Both tired and lightly fed
For yet five weeks on road were we
Now house, and food, and bed.
The Manse, Fulbourn,
Daniel Webster (with
baguette) on Continental Camping
I imagine no family
Our desire was now
blunted however by our summer in Alpha and ZW and our damp
However it was the
Third International Congress of Acoustics to be held in
looking rosier right after our French meal on board, complete with the French
national beverage. The rosy effect soon changed to another well known effect
and I was asleep in the deck chair for the remainder of the crossing. My nap
did wonders for me and our trip along the
Next morning we
took Charlie’s and Dan’s favorite sightseeing trip, a horse-drawn carriage
ride through old
This was but one
example of a fact not well known by anyone, namely that an Englishman’s view of
history does not agree with anyone except other Englishmen and then only
southern Englishmen (not to mention Scotsmen). And an American’s view of history
is not held by any other nation even southern Americans. I could repeat this
same statement a hundred times just replacing English and American, with
French, German, Chinese, etc. The most important war we ever fought was our
revolution but in
We followed the
As in any battle or
any war, or even in a family argument, there are at least two antagonists. And
so about two miles down the road from this angel white paradise lie the
vanquished enemy. Everything about the
It brought to my mind that even on the wrong side, armies are composed of men, husbands and sons. In death who knows who were victorious and who were defeated, whose cause the righteous and whose the unjust, who the invaders and who the defenders. All of the soldiers in both cemeteries were fathers or sons and to mothers, wives, and daughters all were heroes. Who will condemn a man because he fell in battle for a cause that most people will agree was evil? Individual soldiers have little to say and can do little to alter the course of fates that carry them to death on a field of battle.
We were proud of
We advanced in
peace and charity across the German border to spend the night in the oldest
(Roman) town in
Next morning was
mail day and shopping day. The biggest item on the shopping list was Lederhosen
for the boys. Laundry was one of our biggest problems. Ever since our $20
laundry bill in
We noted the city
was dressed for and had the air of a fete. Within a block we came to a general
information center and a first aid station. This seemed like a logical place to
inquire about the whereabouts of the post office. Before we left
We were obviously
too early for the expected throng and the English speaking informant, if any,
was not yet at the information center. Ones ability to converse in a foreign
language improves with use and this was my first full day in
Along the way with John, Tom, Bill, and Charlie or now Johann, Thomas, Wilhelm, und Karl we continued our rather tortured conversation. She found I was also interested in buying some Lederhosen. We soon found the Hauptpostamt and I did have a letter, but not my slides. Our friend now nodded her head and smiled as she could see I had some point in my stubbornness.
Our volunteer guide was now convinced I knew what I was talking about, even if I didn’t know all the correct words. She promptly took charge and on we went to the Lederhosen store. Now she did all the talking just as if she were Mary, or my mother, and soon two clerks were hopping around showing gray suede Lederhosen, green slick Lederhosen, and black polished Lederhosen. I finally agreed I liked the green ones and next came getting the proper sizes and especially the right length Trager (suspenders). He could fit Johann, Thomas, und Wilhelm aber nicht Karlchen. I paid the clerk a hundred and ten Deutsche Marks and the boys walked out of the store in splendor. All except Karlchen and he walked out making more noise than a brass band, although not such pleasant noise. It is difficult to explain to a three year old that they couldn’t fit him when he could see all the green Lederhosen still hanging on the racks.
Our guide and shopping mother was now practically like a member of the family and she insisted on coming back to the ZW to meet Mary and Dan. After she had met all the boys and their momma she took her leave to go back to help the next person desiring information. If she was as thorough on all comers as she had been for us she wouldn’t parry many questions but she would make lots of friends.
Charlie had not really quieted down yet over his non-possession of Lederhosen so even before we could eat lunch we went to a place much nearer where Mary had spotted some Lederhosen while she and Dan were window shopping. We couldn’t find any green Lederhosen but at this point Charlie didn’t care and we quieted him with a pair of gray suede Lederhosen.
our food larder we started on the journey I’d planned for 5 months. We left
Rather late in the afternoon we spotted a castle high on side of the valley above Bernkastel-Kues. We detoured up the mountain and saw the vineyards at first hand and sampled the light green grapes. Later in the ruined castle, now a restaurant, we sampled the fermented and unfermented juices of the local vineyards. From this point on, the boys’ favorite breakfast juice was Traubensaft (grape juice). We lingered so long that we decided to camp across the river from the castle. The campsite was reached by a two car ferry. This man-with-crank-operated ferry was a great fascination to the boys.
We liked this trip
so much we slowed our pace down. We ate lunch at
Lorelei Rock on the
Next morning we visited
Castle Rheinstein on the dizzying heights above the river. Tom and Bill were
delighted, John unhappy, and me just anxious. We paid our respects to
Gutenburg and the cathedral in
Martin Luther was
one of the boys’ favorite historical figures so we visited
We camped at
We soon came to the
fabled walled city of
I told her we were looking for the town square. She apparently understood my question and rattled off some answer a mile a minute. After a few more tries she commented that she couldn’t understand how I could talk German so well and understand so little. In the meantime it was starting to dawn on me that the full name of the fairy tale village was Rothenburg-on-Tauber and among other things this village was high on a hill, there was no river, not even a creek. I terminated our conversation as best I could without making her think me more stupid than I really was and we departed.
As we proceeded down the Neckar her remarks started me thinking. I can make myself understood because I have lots of time to configure my 1000 word vocabulary into a sensible question. But when a reply is fired back from a 10,000 word vocabulary at 300 words per minute my comprehension falls apart.
However my experience in Trier and Rothenburg convinced me that elderly German women, like my high school friend’s mother, are as nice as people come. The time, effort, understanding, and consideration shown me and the emotions displayed at the Luxembourg cemetery convinced me. People are OK, if governments could get along as well as people, we’d have a wonderful world.
From a camping standpoint it would be hard to beat Stuttgart as the site for the week long Third International Congress of Acoustics. The Stuttgart Municipal Camp on the Neckar River is one of the best, if not the best, campsite we encountered. It had well mowed grass, it was flat, and the facilities were first rate. The light, airy, spacious, and amply sized restrooms were spotlessly clean. Hot showers were available. There was a roomful of coin-operated gas stoves. And the provision store, though not large, was well stocked. The camp was not crowded and it was not located in a crowded area. By walking two blocks I could catch a tram into my meetings. The boys liked to walk along the top of the dike. Mom and the boys by walking about 4 blocks could shop at a butcher shop and a bakery. I took the boys for haircuts in the same shopping area. A better situation could hardly prevailed for spending a week at a single camp.
Our longest excursion out of Stuttgart was to Burg Hohenzollern a fairy tale castle atop a conical mountain about 40 miles south via Tubingen, an old university city. The boys had really seen about all the castles they wanted to see but they didn’t complain of this one. Burg Hohenzollern is strictly out of the fairy tale books. The road that wound around the mountain was clockwise so that attacking soldiers would approach with shields out and not between them and the defenders in the castle. From the top the surrounding area could be surveyed for miles. Our only mishaps were that Dan who always goes to sleep noisily, didn’t quite get to sleep. And so Dad, carrying Dan, didn’t quite get to finish the tour. When the tour was over and we were ready to walk the half mile back to the car, Dan did fall asleep. We therefore had two inert superfluous objects, deadweight Dan for Dad to carry and his empty stroller for Mom to push. In the struggle that ensued, getting Dan in the nest of the ZW, and everyone else aboard without falling off the mountain road no one bothered to see that the stroller was packed into the ZW. It wasn’t. We now had more room inside but more transportation problems at every stop.
I met all my stateside colleagues at the meetings. I was so enthusiastic about my fellowship and our camping VW (our ZW) that one of my colleagues decided he’d apply for the same fellowship next year. He applied and he was accepted and he ordered a VW to be converted to ZW. And as it turned out we turned over our keys to The Manse to him.
My paper was
scheduled for Thursday afternoon and by Wednesday still no slides. I had
revamped my paper somewhat to add words to replace the missing visual aids.
After the Thursday morning session I checked again and sure enough there was a
package from my lab. However since there seemed to be some customs duty due they
had held the package at the Postamt. I was then informed how to get there. This
was of course hopeless, it was now noon, my paper was at two, the ZW was a
house in the campsite, not a vehicle at the meeting, and my German, although
passing fair, was probably inadequate to argue
with a customs man.
A young Swiss physicist on duty at the time said he was essentially through at noon, he would drive me over. When we arrived at the customs section at the post office we were informed everyone was out to lunch - could we come back in an hour? "Ach, nein", I sputtered and then my physicist friend took over. Soon he turned and asked me if I knew what was in the package. Obviously I knew what was in the package, slides. Then after more words auf Deutsch and fast between the physicist and the customs man came the question, “How come the package is so big?” I was stumped, I had not expected a big package. Then I had a glimmering. For some reason or another a box including my slide rule, a few key books, and many unfinished manuscripts had never arrived at the Unit yet from my lab. Were they in the package? I said, “It may include a few of my personal professional belongings, books, manuscripts, and a slide rule.” “Slide rule?” “They have heavy duties on slide rules.” “But this one is mine, it’s old, I bought it second-hand fifteen years ago, it’s got my name in gold engraved on it.” More words between Swiss physicist and German customs man, auf Deutsch. “The customs man wants to open the package.” “Go ahead.” Two minutes of cutting, tearing, inspecting, and discussing auf Deutsch, then, “You were right, old books, a worn slide rule, and many typewritten pages.” He says, “No duty, take it away.” At five minutes to two I was back at the meetings trying to line up the correct order of the slides. At two I got my first good clear look at the slides as they were projected on the screen. Luckily no major errors.
On Friday, before our trip to Burg Hohenzollern, most members of the Congress took a busman’s holiday to Munich to visit places of acoustical note and study the quieting methods of the German railroads on their passenger cars.
Our family stayed in Stuttgart and took the opportunity to visit Killesberg Park with its little train, sky lift, and spacious greenery. After a busy afternoon riding through the air, over miniature tracks, playing on swings, slides and teeter totters and learning the German words for “2 adults” and “from 3 to 5 children” and for “soda pop” and “hamburger” we finally headed homeward.
We had come by one street car line and being an inveterate sightseer and by disposition and profession an investigator I decided to return by a different line. After all I’d been in Germany 2 or 3 weeks and knew how to ask directions and had ridden the street cars from our camp to the meetings all week. Likewise, I knew from what intersection the street car left and what its number was. I also knew, but didn’t confide my fears in Mary, that the loading platform was in the middle of one of the busiest intersections in Stuttgart and highway construction work made access precarious even for single able bodied and unencumbered adults. But, a little bit to my surprise, I had found during my weeks stay in Stuttgart that the German people, at least south Germans, were inordinately polite and helpful and I knew we would get aboard our street car somehow.
At first sight of the intersection, Mary, who was pushing Dan in his Swedish stroller which we never had quite understood and couldn’t get to work to our satisfaction, looked at me with that “have you gone out of your mind” look.
However, having reached the Rubicon I couldn’t turn back now and sure enough a harried policeman saw our plight and took action. Whether he came to our aid out of utter amazement or in an attitude of help the mentally retarded I’ll never know; perhaps he acted to repent for some haunting sin. Probably he was cursing the day he crossed his superior and got assigned this intersection, but stuck with his duty he had to act so he halted half the flow of goods and people into Stuttgart for a full minute while we paraded across the street around the construction work and finally arrived safely on the loading platform.
Now we realized our troubles had just begun. The problem was how to get our troop, including one in his mobile troop transport, along a three foot wide raised platform already completely packed with tired, home-bound people. We spotted our trolley car all the way at the forward end of the platform and started toward it.
German trolleys are operated by two people, a conductor and a motorman. People board from the rear onto an open platform, no doors to open or close, and the conductor signals the motorman when all are aboard. We didn’t know that the all aboard signal had already been given and that the car was standing only because the policeman was allowing one of the many streams of cross traffic to move. The conductor wasn’t even in sight - she had already moved forward into the car starting to collect the fares.
Not knowing any of this and arriving at the rear platform in staggered formation, I started loading the boys on board. John, Tom, Bill, and Charles were on board and I had taken Dan from his stroller and was standing by ready to board while Mary, already laden down with diaper bag and pocketbook, was wrestling with the uncooperative stroller trying to fold it up.
About this time the policeman gave the motorman the go ahead and the trolley started to move. I yelled for the boys to jump off but neither Mary nor I could help as I had Dan and she had the stroller. John, Tom, and Bill managed to jump off but Charlie, age 3, couldn’t make it. It is a little hard to remember who was screaming the loudest, Mary or the other boys, but one sound was unmistakable and unchallenged for vocal effort and loudness. Charlie’s screams from the departing trolley not only carried across the teeming intersection, but were soon followed by the sound of squealing steel wheels on steel tracks and a policeman’s whistle as the trolley came to a screeching stop across all lanes of traffic. Then, or course, din of auto horns started. Hardly had the trolley stopped than an annoyed woman conductor emerged with a screaming boy under one arm. She made straight across the intersection toward the platform. The German she uttered was not any that I had learned, but I thought it interesting that Charlie had had no trouble at all communicating with her. He had, in a universal language, not music, conveyed his exact thoughts into immediate action.
After the din of those few moments the icy silence that settled on our family for the delayed trip home was far from golden.
The meetings over, we succumbed to the wishes of Tom and Bill and went atop the Fernsehturm (TV tower) before leaving Stuttgart. Then we proceeded toward medieval Germany, the Romantic Road. We just touched Nordlingen, then camped outside the walled city of Dinkelsbuhl. Nothing out of the ordinary happened at Dinkelsbuhl, no one got lost, sick, or stolen. We still had seen no rain, only wasps and mosquitoes. We were blissfully happy. The countryside was as familiar as the Grimm brothers fairy tales, walled towns, hills and forests, rivers and streams. You could almost see the princes and princesses, the witches and werewolves. We were the youngest son in our seven league boots. All the dragons vanished before our eyes. It was the vampires (wasps) and bats (mosquitoes) that caused us concern. But let us start this tale again.
Once upon a time there was a man called Hans, an only son, who had married and had five small sons. Hans had been condemned by a wicked witch to perpetual traveling. This witch, called Ima Homeowner, disliked children and had condemned Hans and Maria and the boys Johann, Thomas, Wilhelm, Karlchen, and Daniel to a nomad’s life in a flying house called Vesta Pegasus, a house by night, and a flying horse by day.
In their travels through the Black Forest they spotted a fairy tale castle (Burg Hohenzollern). A stooped stranger beside the road told them that they too could have a castle in the sky. That the curse of perpetual travel could be broken. Listen carefully and follow these directions: To break the curse the family must upon seven different occasions in seven different places ascend into the heavenly heights. Begin with the castle you see on yon distant mountain. Then proceed toward the north star until you come across a Fernsehturm overlooking a river. After ascending this second height proceed for a day’s journey toward the rising sun. At nightfall you will be at a walled city. Camp outside and infiltrate into the city after sundown. There you will hear of another walled city that must be entered through three gates each guarded by darting black dragons, and whizzing gray satyrs. Inside this city you will see at one hour beyond high noon a burgermeister doff a tankard of wine in one gulp.
In the city of the three gates you will hear of a city famed for its song contests. From the halls of Die Meistersinger in the city of song proceed toward the sunny climes until blocked by high mountains. On the way you will cross a great river. Beyond the river but before the mountains you will see a witches nest where people were incarcerated in ovens. Show your boys this site so they can see that the ovens must never again be lighted.
From here proceed to your third height, the highest church steeple in the nearby large city. Look toward the rising sun for a castle atop a hill in the foothills of the high mountains you dare not pass. In the city of the castle forego Vesta Pegasus for Centaur and phaeton. Visit the shrine of the boy wonder musical genius, so your boys may gain his magic.
From castle city you will discover a mighty river, follow it carefully past many castles until you find an ancient majestic capital city with no empire to govern. From atop your fourth height, an old triumphal arch in a palace courtyard, look toward the sunny climes and set your course across high mountains, your fifth height. On the seventh day you will find a city without streets. Vesta Pegasus, your flying house will be useless. You will need proceed by boat. Beware the usurers, you will be fleeced in this island city. In the square before the campanile your son Karlchen will commune with the pigeons and find how your next seven days will lead you to your final two heights and your castle in the skies. Then Vesta Pegasus will release you from its grip and give you rest from your travels.
So Hans and his family left their modern day cares in Stuttgart, after a visit to their second height, the Fernsehturm (TV tower), and journeyed into fairytale land, for their remaining five heights.
Hans followed the stooped stranger’s directions and headed Vesta Pegasus toward the east. He passed shocked grain fields, walled cities, forests, streams, old women carrying faggots, oxen pulling carts, and black dragons (Mercedes) and whizzing satyrs (VWs). At sunset Hans found a walled city (Dinkelsbuhl). Vesta Pegasus stopped its flight and became a house. After nightfall Hans and family slipped through the gate by sending Johann, Thomas, Wilhelm, Karlchen, and Daniel ahead dressed in native dress (Lederhosen). Inside the walled village, the six storied, gable roofed, stucco buildings with wooden beams imbedded, dwarfed the narrow winding streets. In the church near the gate Johann overheard the information that to the north on the river Tauber is a city entered by 3 gates.
On the morrow Hans and family in Vesta Pegasus proceeded northward along the Romantic Road. A sign along the road said Rothenburg was close by. The road soon narrowed down, rounded a curve and headed toward an arched gate in a city wall. An elderly woman tending her geese motioned Hans through the gate. Immediately beyond the first gate was a second and on a gentle curve beyond was a third gate.
The gooseherder and her friends had a signaling system set up so that the egress of black dragons and whizzing satyrs could be spotted. When the narrow road through the gates was free of lethal monsters Hans and family in Vesta Pegasus entered. The street through this fairy tale village led straight to the town square. Hans arrived at high noon and his wife, Maria fed the boys and restocked the larder. At one hour past noon from two windows high up in the Ratstrinkstube which fronted on the square a puppet pantomime enacted a scene of burgermeister doffing a tankard of wine in one gulp.
At the conclusion of this scene a traveler who had come from the east told Hans about a city called Nuremberg toward the rising sun where a Meistersinger Festival was held. Hans turned Vesta Pegasus toward Nuremburg.
Inside the walls of the city of song the burghers were busy rebuilding from a devastation rained down from heaven more than a decade earlier in a terrific life and death conflict. The Meistersinger Fest was not being held but Daniel, Hans’ youngest son, showed one and all that he could outcry the best of them. Hans was told by the burghers that yodelers of the ilk of Daniel were more appreciated in the Tyrol mountain country to the south and suggested we proceed via Ingolstadt on the Donau (Danube) toward these southern mountains.
Vesta Pegasus was not deterred by the wide river, being much more worried by the charging black dragons that attacked from front and rear. When attacking from the rear, these dragons always belched fire first so Hans and Vesta Pegasus could easily evade their ceaseless charges. Luckily these dragons always charged at full speed and in straight lines. They always stayed to the left, never once deviating into the path sometimes used by the whizzing satyrs. The satyrs seemed more afraid of the dragons than interested in attacking Hans and Vesta Pegasus. Instead of pressing an attack from the rear on Vesta Pegasus they pulled around and kept fleeing the ever belching black dragons.
The night of the second day was spent on the wide river at Ingolstadt. On the third day Hans came to the witches nest at Dachau. The victorious conquerors of the witch stood guard around her cold ovens. Hans could speak the language of the guards and thus proved he was a traveler from the land beyond the sea into which the setting sun fell. The guards then allowed him to see the witches nest. Hans and his family were glad the witch was dead and her ovens cold. Even the sight of the witches cruel torture chambers chilled the blood of Hans and his family.
To cleanse themselves of this horrible sight they resumed their journey to a city called Munchen. Here they mounted their third height, the top of the steeple in the St. Michaels church. Karlchen, the boy who could talk with or about anything, talked with the birds in the steeple. They told him that by proceeding generally toward the rising sun and crossing into the land of the hills Hans would find the castle city with the musical heritage.
On the fourth day in the city of the castle, Salzburg, Vesta Pegasus was given a rest while Hans and family let the horse that drew the carriage take them to a house called Geburtshaus von Mozart. Johann and Thomas, who were somewhat acquainted with the magic box with white and black keys, paid homage to another boy who at their age knew the secret of the keys. Johann and Thomas did not always know which key to use at what time to unlock the magic box and allow the treasury of sound inside to issue forth. They procured a magic book that would help them solve the riddle. Wilhelm and Karlchen were more interested in the magic horse that knew where to go and when to stop. Even Vesta Pegasus which in the daytime covered the distances like seven league boots always had to be carefully controlled by Hans. These horses were indeed wonderful. They even ate through their noses.
On the fourth day the beautiful Donau River was reached at Linz and Hans and family followed the river past many old forbidding looking castles into a glorious city, designed to rule an empire, but now destined to rule a tiny land. This magnificent city had been the home of Emperors and Empresses scholars, musicians, artists, writers, and adventurers. Such a city with such a past. The trappings were still there but not the pomp and ceremony. The rulers of the political empires, and the world’s greatest musicians were elsewhere. The city sensed its lost grandeur and glistened, but no longer glowed in ethereal light. On a hill overlooking the formal garden at Schoenbrunn Palace stood the fourth height, the Gloriette or Triumphal Arch to a long forgotten victory. On the fifth day of their travels Hans and family viewed the imperial city of Vienna from the Gloriette. The view thrilled Hans and his family and set that to thinking of empires then and now. They learned that you can’t live on past glories alone. History and life move on.
The fifth height was a creation of God, not man. Higher and more massive than the previous heights the mountains that stood between the ghost capital and the island city were no problem to Vesta Pegasus. Across these mountains lay another land, called the land of the sun.
On the sixth day of travel the fifth height was ascended. The descent into the land of the sun on the seventh day brought new dangers to Hans and Vesta Pegasus. The black dragons were mostly gone but their place was taken by red segmented minotaurs. The particular genus of minotaur in the land of the sun was called Petrolorrytailus. The bull half of the minotaurs was the tailus which was as big as the man half or petrolorry half. Like the black dragons in the land of the virgin forest these minotaurs were always racing at top speed. They were two to three times the size of the black dragons and roamed on paths only half as wide. The only time these monsters ever slowed down was when the paths passed through villages. Then the houses were so close to the curving paths that the minotaurs could only get through by creeping. They didn’t mind chipping corners off the houses but they had tender skins and if they hit the house too hard they tended to explode in flames. Like the black dragons they assumed full possession of all paths and ordinary travelers, like Hans, just took whatever path or part of the path was left over. The Petrolorrytaili were not friendly with each other and often fought for the same space on the path. The pests that annoyed the Petrolorrytailus the most were distant relatives of the whizzing satyrs, the buzzing silenis (genus Fiatus). These buzzing Fiati darted in and out among the Petrolorrytaili and gave them no end of trouble. The Fiati were much faster, infinitely smaller, and not really dangerous to either the Petrolorrytaili or to Vesta Pegasus. The Fiati were mostly nuisances. Every time a Petrolorrytailus tried to devour a Fiatus, the Fiatus just buzzed away. Unlike the dragons and satyrs from the land of the virgin forests who always belched fire before charging, the Petrolorrytaili and Fiati always bellowed loudly. Whether charging from behind or from the front these horrible beasts always bellowed. Hans soon reached the point where the constant bellowing meant nothing.
Vesta Pegasus with Hans in firm control evaded all Petrolorrytaili and Fiati and soon approached the island city. Vesta Pegasus was put in a barn with other Pegasi and Hans and family walked toward the biggest of the canals, the Grand Canal. A large boat stopped for them and delivered them in due course to Piazza San Marco. Before Karlchen could converse with the piazza pigeons a gondolier approached. His sweet tongue soon enticed Hans and family onto his small gondola. That is, his gondola was small for the family of Hans.
After a delightful trip through many and diverse canals Karlchen was again ready to talk pigeon. It might be said of Karlchen that he thought no bird could survive without food from Karlchen. While Maria stood at the church wishing she were properly dressed (long sleeves) for entering, Karlchen and his brothers started feeding the pigeons in the shadow of the campanile. He soon found the talkative pigeon and found what the two remaining heights were Mt. Olympus in the land of the sun, and the highest manmade structure in the lands to the east of the great sea into which the setting sun falls. Mt. Olympus would be on a lake and would be a day’s journey toward the setting sun. The great open steel pyramid would be in a great city in the land of the forest. It would overlook a river, and be six days’ journey beyond Olympus along a mountain bordering the sea and up a great river valley.
Without Vesta Pegasus, Daniel got rather tired and Hans and Maria decided to find another boat and return to the barn of the Pegasi. Hans had to shout to end the siesta of a water taximan. Once awakened, Shylocki agreed to take Hans and family to their Pride and curse Vesta Pegasus, for 1000 lire. At the end of the boat journey Shylocki asked for 2000 lire. Hans knew he couldn’t argue in the language used in the land of the sun. Hans paid up, remembered the prophecy of the stooped stranger in the Black Forest, and left the island city with no remorse, and with no desire to return.
Next day Vesta Pegasus dodged Petrolorrytaili and Fiati and proceeded toward the setting sun. Hans and family noted ancient ruins of a very old empire, a theater in Vicenza, an amphitheater in Verona and as the sun set they approached a lake that was partly in the land of the sun and partly in the land of the mountains. Vesta Pegasus found a suitable pasture for the night atop a mountain called Olympus.
Six days later in the land of the forest Hans, Thomas, and Wilhelm rode four magic boxes to the very top of an open steel tower overlooking a river. While they were thus ascending the seventh and last great height, Karlchen was again feeding and talking to the pigeons. The pigeons told Karlchen that a day’s journey toward the north star would take him beside a great body of water. After camping on the edge of the water he was to put Vesta Pegasus on a boat and set sail for some white cliffs. From the white cliffs follow a great river to the first bridge. Cross the bridge and proceed toward the north star. An unmistakable signal would then point to a village in which would be a large house completely surrounded by a sidewalk. This would be Karlchen’s castle. Vesta Pegasus would lose his spell over Hans and instead would become Pegasus Mercury, a useful tool for Hans and his family.
And so it turned out.
We were completely enchanted with southern Germany and Austria, with Dinkelsbuhl, Rothenburg on Tauber, Nuremberg, Ingolstadt, Munich, Salzburg, Linz, and Vienna. The campsites were adequate to first rate, especially at Ingolstadt and Vienna. We didn’t stay over in Munich but I understand it is fine also. We had had nothing but good weather, no rain, neither too hot during the day nor too cold at night. Wasps, although annoying like the black dragons, never stung us, although mosquitoes did.
We loved our nomad camping existence, and I strongly recommend it to 1) people traveling on a strict budget, 2) people with children, 3) people who want to get off the American tourist path, and 4) just people. We had never camped a day in our lives before this European trip and we not only enjoyed the unscheduled, leisurely alterable itinerary but also the chance to see the countryside and talk to the people, to shop in village stores, and to camp among other Europeans.
None of us were sick a day in spite of drinking native water and milk, eating local fruits and vegetables, pastries and bread; and canned and bottled goods. We tended to get adequate sleep (now that it was September and we were not in Scandinavia) and we didn’t overeat. Mary only had one sized frying pan, which determined the size of the scrambled egg breakfast. The scrambled eggs were flavored with bacon, and/or cheese, and/or tomatoes, and/or dill pickles (except in England). Cornflakes, bread, tea, coffee, and milk, bananas, and fruit juice (orange, pineapple, grapefruit, tomato, and grape) rounded off a usual and adequate breakfast.
The Zwei Flammen Benzin Kocher (2 burner gasoline, from the gas tank, stove) was busy scrambling eggs and heating water. Water for shaving, washing, coffee, and tea. Few camps had hot water showers so most of our cleaning up was of the sponge bath type. The boys were, in their own words, “not dirty” and used a minimum of hot water. Drip dry blouses and sport shirts together with the boys Lederhosen kept laundry problems to a minimum. Only essential dishes were used; 7 sets of knives, forks, and spoons (from a dime store in Stockholm), 7 plastic plates, and cups (from a village store in Sweden), 2 pans, a can and bottle opener, and a sharp German kitchen knife.
We stopped for cheese, lunch meat, milk and bread sometime before lunch and ate beside the road. In the evening we usually provisioned ourselves at the campsite store. Johnny did much of the shopping since he picked up foreign words faster than anyone else.
The boys got to be almost helpful in the camp routine. The procedure was that sometime between 3 and 4 o’clock we would get out our camping map and look ahead 30 to 60 miles for a campsite. We would study the symbols to check on what facilities were available, the important one being a store for milk, eggs, bread, and perhaps cheese, Traubensaft (grape juice), wurst (sausage or bologna), and bananas. Another near necessity was a stream or a railroad to enhance the environment (and add mosquitoes). Other niceties were flush toilets (not a necessity), and showers. You couldn’t tell by the symbols if hot showers were available and they almost, never were, so showers were generally avoided like a dip in Lake Michigan on New Years Day.
As soon as we had selected, a campsite, and a spot within the campsite, the evening’s activities began. Many things happened simultaneously, the most important one was to get Dan and even Charlie off for a walk. This could sometimes be accomplished by sending one or both with John to the store, or with Tom and the rubber lined canvas water bag to get our water. Other times Bill, Tom, or John would be requested to entertain Dan and parade him around the camp which he usually enjoyed. This also helped us discover any American visitors. In my travels around U.S. Colleges I always brought home as gifts for the boys T shirts bearing the names Texas, Michigan, MIT, Yale, Harvard, Iowa, etc. On more than one occasion when the boys returned they brought with them a fellow camper, a student or a professor from these Universities or from Stanford, Wisconsin, Penn State, or Grinnell.
Once Dan was out from underfoot I would climb up on the roof rack and hand down to Mary the tent pipes, the tent canvas, the foot locker (3 wool comforters), assorted bags (the light, pretty, cloth zip-around type), and throw down 3 sleeping bags. Mary and I would then attach the tent pipes to the ZW roof rack (with the boys’ help if they weren’t doing the really useful work of entertaining Dan). Once the pipes were in place the canvas was snapped on and our Pegasus became a home. This would take about 15 minutes. I would then prime and start the stove, and if the boys had done their work, the water and groceries would be on hand, and so Mary would start the cooking.
If I was lucky I could now relax for a few minutes while Tom set the table which was inside ZW. If I were not so lucky I would entertain Dan, and/or finish the grocery shopping, and/or set the table, and/or get the stove going again. Within a half hour to forty five minutes we were usually eating macaroni and cheese, or canned beef and noodles, or wurst and mashed potatoes, along with fresh lettuce, and/or tomatoes, and/or cabbage, and/or cucumbers, together with bread or rolls, milk, coffee and tea. For dessert: pastries, ice cream, chocolate bars or canned peaches or apricots. Everyone was usually hungry and the meals appetizing. The pans were not too large so no one overate. The boys took over the dishwashing while Mary and I relaxed and/or washed ourselves, the boys, or some clothes, and/or made up the ZW into beds for the night.
The ZW was really a marvelous creature, by day a bus for the seven of us. I always drove, Mary refused to except in a dire emergency, and in any case my nerves suffered no more from driving fatigue than from Mary-induced riding experiences. About half the time John, Tom, or Bill would ride in front (on a rotating day basis) and Mary would take her turn the rest of the time. Her presence was especially needed in the late afternoons to read and interpret the camping map and guide, and to inspect the camping site. Dan and/or Charlie were supposed to have custody of the “nest” the compartment over the engine all the way aft in the ZW. The nest was lined with a cloth covered four-inch foam rubber pad day and night. Supposedly, and very often actually, Dan and Charlie fell asleep while playing with their cars in the nest. The real trouble was keeping John, Tom, and Bill out of the nest. They had brought along the Lone Star Locos and liked to set their trains up in the nest during the day (and at the campsite at night).
Directly behind the front seat was a camping box which extended the full width of the car and was about thirty inches wide. The height of the flat tablet surface was also the height of the back edge of the front seat. At mealtime three boys on their knees backwards in the front seat ate off of this table top. The back seats formed an L; a regular seat in front of the nest and a seat at right angles along the side of the car directly behind the driver. At mealtimes a secondary table top attached to the camping box, creating a breakfast nook. The remaining four of us sat around this folding and detachable table on the L shaped ZW seats.
The camping box contained three small drawers and shelves. One shelf was a board width above floor height. The other at seat height, since the side seat did indeed rest at one end on this shelf. These shelves contained the four large, but lightweight wooden boxes, made by the young English carpenter’s apprentice. He also had made a combination pan and dish box which held the stove. The remaining box was the chalk water evaporation cooler, for the milk and butter. The boxes held food, travel literature, cameras, sweaters, and surprises to quiet Dan and Charlie in their worst moments. In general things we might want at any hour during the day went in the boxes. Things needed only at night went in the roof rack. The three little drawers contained the silverware, important papers, knick-knacks and souvenirs.
At night the boxes on the top shelf went into the middle of the floor. The backs off the rear and side seats came off and laid beside the seat of the side seat to make a large double bed (feet under the camping box table top). The nest was still intact for Dan and Charles. The back of the front seat, hinged at the top, pulled up to extend the width of the camping box top. A foam rubber cloth covered mattress was added and Tom and Bill sleeping across the width of the car had their beds. John slept on the front seat under Tom or Bill. This seat was more or less detached from the rest of the car with little or no privacy as anyone looking in the front window could see the occupant. That, plus loneliness and condensation off the window, made us speculate if anyone would want to sleep there. However John grew to love his solitary confinement and would sleep nowhere else.
Occasionally one or more of the older boys would sleep in the tent. The ZW itself was just a hard covered tent. Curtains at all the windows gave privacy.
Although Tom was apt to be up at dawn things didn’t move too fast in the mornings. Not much could be done until the sleeping bags were thrown up in the roof rack, the comforters put back in the foot locker (which doubled as a step), and the seats reassembled from sleeping to eating configurations.
I usually got the stove refilled, primed and started and heated some water before the complete metamorphosis was accomplished. An early cup of coffee for Mary did wonders, and the tea warmed me up too. I had often shaved and occasionally even coerced Tom into washing before the standard scrambled egg breakfast. More washing, boys and dishes, preceded repacking everything into the roof rack and the inside boxes. Although the roof rack measured 10 feet by 4 feet and could be packed at least a foot high we sometimes had trouble buckling the canvas cover over the assembled or disassembled contents.
Before leaving we had a treasure hunt; tent stakes, tent poles, wash rags, pans, shoes, boys, and other odds and ends. Then we all climbed aboard ZW and counted noses. Before leaving any camp we paid up and collected our camping carnet from the camp management (never paying more than a dollar.)
In this manner of traveling our running expenses, food, lodging, and gasoline (petrol) came to $10 a day. So we not only had a cheap holiday but a healthful one. I usually lost about 5 pounds and felt physically first rate, which is more than I can say when sitting at my desk 8 hours a day and spending evenings at church and civic meetings.
The trip from Stuttgart through medieval Germany, Salzburg, the Danube, Vienna, and over the Alps to Venice has been covered in the tale, “Seven Heights to Home”. My immediate reactions to Venice are conveyed by a letter written at the time which concludes this tale. You will note that the letter is not very flattering to Venice. This is because I felt that only in Venice, of all places I visited, did the over anxious tourist profiteers capitalize on my traveling troupe. With the boys I felt encumbered, inflexible, and easy prey since if they were tempted they could put up quite a howl for some useless souvenir. In most places we actually didn’t hit the tourist centers proper and when we did the vendors usually either knew that with five boys I’d be broke, or realized my vulnerability and didn’t pressure me or tempt the boys. Not so in Venice.
John ran out of film and the pigeons must have spread the word. Before I could say “Let’s find a chemist” a man with too much film and too few lire was at my elbow with a bargain. Hardly had he been dispensed with than a roving photographer took our picture. Since we had not succumbed to this yet and I thought I might teach the boys this one, we bit. It really turned out to be quite an experience. We called at the address right off St. Marks piazza at lunch time. To find the proprietor we climbed up beaucoup steps and traversed many narrow halls. We found half the family eating and the proprietor at his siesta. We got a glimpse into many aspects of Italian life we would never have experienced on the piazza. Some aspects were strange to youthful eyes and forbidden to men accompanied by said youthful eyes. In point of fact the pictures actually were mailed to us later and were really pretty good. A nice souvenir.
Pigeons at St. Marks
The final straw was getting back to ZW. Dan was getting sleepy, our time was up. We walked to the Grand Canal where it is crossed by the Rialto bridge. After window shopping a few minutes we decided Dan was too near asleep to wait for the water bus, we would take a water taxi. Many were docked in the vicinity and we tried signaling them. No response. Getting slightly irritated by the whole lack of capitalistic enterprise I gently awoke one of the hustlers and asked him the price from bridge to garage. One thousand lire. This seemed more or less in order so we climbed aboard. At the municipal garage landing our guide said his first word as I paid him his 1000 lire, namely 2000 lire. Since I couldn’t argue in Italian and was anxious to get Dan in his nest I silently cursed, paid the illegal tariff, and to this day have an abiding hate for Venice.
The following summer when we were in the vicinity with my mother I wouldn’t even consider revisiting Venice. My letter, written at the time, reflects my overall opinion of a potential holiday mecca.
Dear Code 2124, et al
Arrived back in England again after 5 weeks on the continent. We had beautiful weather; it rained but one night (and light at that) in 5 weeks travel. Proceeded Dover, Dunkirk, Brussels, Luxembourg, Moselle Valley (hic), Rhine Valley, Stuttgart (via Heidelberg), Salzburg, Vienna (via Danube), Venice, Verona, Italian and French riviera, Avignon, Paris, and Fulbourn. Thanks to beautiful weather and wonderful city (socialistic) camps at Stuttgart and Vienna, I revived from my full time camping (less 6 days) this summer and don’t feel as tired as when I left. All of above mentioned places are worth it, except Tijuana with the flooded streets (Venice). What a gyp joint. As I see it they live completely (110%) from tourists and must train all bunco artists, etc. for duty at fairs all over the world. Or maybe these places just send their post graduates to Venice. My advice:
2. If forced to go (relatives and the like)
a. don’t buy anything from anybody
b. shop around for gondoliers and offer the cheapest 1/6 of what he requests,
c. pay in advance (one character quoted me one fare and asked double at the end),
d. learn Italian so you can tell authorities your story,
3. DON’T GO (just go to a beach at low tide, preferably near a fish market, same smell).
Other comments re driving habits in Europe:
1. Germany (worlds highest death/mi.): Everyone looks out for himself only, the identifying mark is blinking lights. When you are ready to overtake someone you will notice in your rear view mirror some blinking lights which means I’m more important than you and if you pass, I might possibly have to slow down one iota (he is at least 1/2 mile behind you) and I don’t intend to slow down so you stay behind him while I pass both of you.
2. AUSTRIA: No need of rear-view mirrors here. Everyone has 15° vision and if he sees no one directly in front of him, he will pull out from a curb, pull onto a major road or dart out of anywhere. When he passes he pulls in after his windshield passes the front of your car.
3. ITALY; As In Germany except they use horns not blinking lights. They even honk as they approach from the other direction. I’m sure the horn and brakes are reversed otherwise they would always be driving one-handed and in any case, they never use their brakes.
4. FRANCE (Except in PARIS): they are quite sane, no blinking lights, no horns, just (as in all Europe) thousands of lorries bumper to bumper. PARIS makes up for rest of France, completely insane, no lanes, no horns, just dart here and there, turn left or right from anywhere preferably from middle lane. All this frantic insanity moves traffic about 30 mph on streets that, if used with any sense whatsoever, would move traffic at 50 mph. Police don’t even bother when 2 cars collide (its a personal quarrel).
In general, Europeans haven’t had cars long and their roads are inadequate. They have absolutely no maturity. They kill each other in droves, way above our average. Morgenthau didn’t need to make Germany completely rural. He could have halved the population by supplying every German an American car.
The slides et al arrived in Stuttgart at the 2300 hour. I just had time to unpack them and show them. Am thinking of coming home via Panama Canal.
Glad Roy likes being Section Head and likes traveling by jet.
Must get down to tea.
Our opinion of Italy began to mellow as soon as we started west. Our campsite at Vicenza was very pleasant. The sights, both Roman and Italian, at Vicenza and Verona were almost worth getting hopelessly lost in the narrow, crooked, and crowded streets. I was particularly pleased as an old music major to see on the road sign, “Adagio”, probably the only one in Italy I understood.
Around the Roman amphitheater in Verona are a series of sidewalk cafes and at one of these we tried that typical American gastronomical treat, Italian pizza. It wouldn’t hold a candle to Johnny Pernicano’s in La Jolla. On about the twentieth trial we found Juliet’s balcony and then left Verona for Como. We arrived after dark and found our camp (our sixth height) to be the Mount Olympus Camp and it was properly named. It was high and by making it our home we became gods for the night.
Our descent from Mt. Olympus was perhaps not as fast as was Mercury’s, but in the opinion of Juno it was too fast. The road was narrow and full of blind turns and Jupiter was reminded of this by not only Juno but also by Vulcan, Mars, Cupid, Bacchus, and Pan. At the bottom the chaos and commotion gave lie to the environs of Ancient Greece and we were soon hustling and bustling among the northern Italians (and their German visitors). We paid our respects to the statue of Volta and scurried through the pigeons to visit the Duomo (cathedral).
We then turned southward toward Milan. The Petrol Lorries and attached tank trailers use the road between Como and Milan to warm up for the big event, the daily race between Milan and Genoa. From Como to Milan with courage, a few tranquilizers, and the luck of the Irish you can just about keep from being pushed off the road by the lorries. This is where the bush league lorry drivers practice. We too by learning here survived the main event, Milan to Genoa.
Milan is a great energetic metropolis, and typical of most European cities. The closer you get to the center of the city the narrower become the streets. Add a detour to this and you have chaos. It may not have been quite so traumatic if they’d put up more than one detour sign. They put up the one sign that got you off the main drag but no others to tell you how to get back.
We ended up at the Duomo, took a quick look at La Scala, and Mary’s pleas to the contrary left for Genoa. Her plea was to find the original of the “last Supper”. This is where our mutual agreement, that allows me to drive full time, nearly falters on the rocks of divergent desires. My desire was to get out into the great open spaces again. Mary’s to do more sight-seeing. In this case she has belatedly proven her point. In any and all discussions of our trip Mary reminds anyone with open ears that yes, we visited Milan, “You know that’s where the original of the ‘Last Supper’ is located”. And then after just the correct pause for effect, “We didn’t see it”.
The trip from Milan to Genoa is like having a ringside seat at the Grand Prix road race. The only trouble is that your ringside seat is not stationary but moves along at about half the pace of the race. The racers are evenly divided between Fiats and smallers, and Petrol lorries and largers. Everyone assumes the road is a one way highway and when they get ready to pass, they pass. If anyone happens to be coming from the other direction then what used to be a two-lane road suddenly becomes a three-lane road. Or if it were a three-lane road it now accommodates four lanes. Occasionally, about once each day, we see where a two lane road was supposed to have expanded into four or a three into a five. In any case somewhere out in an adjacent field, often on both sides of the road are one or two cars that didn’t quite fit into the pattern.
After watching a petrol lorry start to overtake me when 1) there was no room between me and the next ten vehicles ahead, 2) the oncoming traffic was not clear, and 3) his speed was about one mile per hour greater than my speed, I decided I would oblige by putting on my brakes and making room. However he wasn’t even slightly inclined to pull in, he was headed for the front of the line. Since he contained enough explosive power to blow up all 10 vehicles I decided I’d back off about a quarter of a mile and watch for the fireworks. I never did see the mushroom cloud but I’ll never know how many less fortunate motorists were lying at the bottom of some ravine alongside the road.
By the time we crept into Genoa I wouldn’t have paused to meet Christopher Columbus in person. It was late afternoon anyway so we headed west along the riviera for the first campsite. We bypassed the first and decided to take the next one sight unseen. We purposely did not take the Genoa-Savona Autostrada so that we could stop in between. We finally spotted the highway sign that indicated a camp was inland off the coast road. The road almost immediately changed from hard top to dirt, passed up along an old factory, under the autostrada, and started up a hill; a second Mt. Olympus, not so named, but it could have been. The road weaved through a small village and continued upward, the road getting steeper and narrower.
We finally arrived at a beautiful camp atop a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. Ideally located, well kept, nice facilities, and an adequate store. We had almost despaired of even finding a camp at the end of this veritable cow path but the rose at the end of the thorny vine was worth all the doubts and agonies.
The rest of the trip along the riviera was indeed beautiful. The tourist season was past its peak and the scenery is really worthwhile. The road is not quite adequate but in September the scenery outweighs the traffic hazard. We camped near the beach between Nice and Cannes and next morning the boys swam in the shadow of the Film Festival Theater at Cannes. We soon cut inland heading for Aix-en-Provence and Avignon.
The campsite at Avignon is located just across the river from the town and within a quarter mile from the end of the famous Bridge of Avignon. The bridge now ends in mid-river. At one time it led from a fortified gate and wall across from Avignon into the wall and fortified gate of the Popes Palace in Avignon.
We finished supper and popped in bed early and everyone except Mary was asleep when the fireworks and noises began. She awoke me and I popped a sleepy head out of the tent and saw the bridge literally afire with fireworks. We woke the boys up, got some sort of garb on them walked over to the river’s edge and toward the bridge. Soon the fireworks gave way to music and children started dancing on the bridge.
The week prior to our departure from California the boys school had their dance festival and Tom’s class had sung and danced, The Bridge of Avignon. Tom was entranced as we all were. We had not been aware of any festivities and had not planned accordingly. It was Sunday, but I’m sure they don’t do this every Sunday.
Avignon is an interesting town. We left ZW in a garage just outside the walls for a periodic check up and walked down the narrow crooked streets into the center of the town. We were hot and tired and sat down at a sidewalk cafe. In my best French, which is mostly English and/or pointing to items on a menu that I can almost read I ordered a fairly typical morning pick up, five milks, one coffee, one tea. Much later, in the tempo of the southern climes, we got our 7 coffees. I pointed to the boys, to the menu, I exclaimed laite, late, milk, milch, …. to no avail. I guess we should consider ourselves lucky, under similar circumstances we had been known to get 7 glasses of wine. In any case the garcon was not about to be told what dad and the boys should be drinking and so mom had one or two cups of coffee and the birds had the rest.
Having, originally planned on returning via Switzerland and deviating only because we thought it might be somewhat cold camping out on the Alps, we had not done much homework studying about France. We did not know about the petrol coupons obtained at any Banque Francais that allowed tourists tax free gasoline. At our only gasoline stop in France before Avignon we had been told of this and so in our leisure walking morning I stopped in at the Banque Francais. I had my passport and green insurance card, the only things I had ever found to be of value, and beaucoup francs and some English sterling traveler cheques. To begin with they needed to see my carnet and car registration, which I didn’t have, but they did fill out some forms to be ready for me when I returned after the noon hour. Every establishment except cafes, in every European country closes down at noon. The bank was no exception.
We did finally pick up ZW and arrived back at the banque. I picked up the loose ends showed them every document I had on ZW and was passed on to the cashier’s window to pay for the coupons. As I might have guessed if I’d been thinking, they wanted dollars. I had neither seen nor used American dollars for four months now. I had ample French francs but these were the last thing in the world they wanted. After all I was traveling on a U.S. passport and they wanted dollars. We came to some sort of compromise. By scraping together all of the Swiss money we had intended to use, together with the pounds and shillings we had, no travelers cheques please, we just made it. They weren’t happy but they were content.
Before leaving, the boys and I hiked out on the bridge. There was ample evidence of recent fireworks, and lizards all over the place. We hadn’t seen lizards since leaving California, and the boys had themselves quite a chase. But time and the tides were beckoning, we must away to Paree.
We really didn’t advance very far this Monday, 21 September for we stopped to see an old Roman Theater in Orange. A stop well worthwhile. We camped at Valence.
Bill’s sixth birthday dawned bright and clear on the banks of the Rhone in Valence. He rode in the front seat (out of turn) and was generally king for the day. We had to get a cake and my French was so rusty I had to get my dictionary out to look up cake, birthday, and candles. We stopped in the village of Vienne, just south of Lyons, and started in on our purchases. It soon became apparent that 1) my French was worse than useless, 2) bakeries (boulangeries) didn’t all bake gateaux, 3) birthday candles (anniversaire candelle) were not common household articles purchased at boulangeries, and 4) this shopping trip was going to be a time-consuming ordeal. About an hour later after visiting about ten different shops we came away with a midget cake and some small candles and actually some candle holders.
The delay put us in Lyon just as the hordes were leaving for lunch. The only time in the day when French city streets become completely clogged with vehicles. In Paris this is true at all hours, except maybe Sunday mornings. In the ensuing melee we ran out of gas at the busiest intersection in town. This was a minor embarrassment since VWs have no gas gauge and when you run out of gas you merely pull a lever and go on reserve. However this procedure works best at high speed on an open country highway. In which case VW’s momentum carries it through until the reserve gas hits. In the middle of an intersection the starter does all the work, which be embarrassing when stalled in the middle of irate and hungry citizens.
We soon refilled our gas tank, left the Rhone and proceeded toward Paris on N6. Came camping time and the sun and map agreed that Bill’s birthday party was to be in the wee hamlet of Arnay-le-Duc. This campsite was utterly deserted. Not a soul was present. As best I could read the sign on the closed store it said make your self at home and notify the people in the house adjacent to this peaceful pasture. Living proof that language is no barrier to effective communication followed. The lady who stuck her head out the upstairs window knew no English, I talked less than no French. But it was soon agreed I was welcome to stay.
We made a quick trip into the village for last minute supplies and finally pitched our birthday tent. In the height of our party the neighbor’s little girl and cat came over and were soon part of the party. Whether her father feared for her safety or whether it was just time to exchange his farmer’s hat for his caretaker’s hat I’m not sure. In any case he was soon around to collect the very modest camp fee and share a piece of cake. We were really in rural friendly France. We paused in our party to watch a farmer returning home in his horse-drawn two-wheeled wagon, and then finished the ice cream and punch. It was hard to get the boys asleep after our gala party.
Bill (between Tom and Charlie) celebrates his sixth birthday at Arnay-le-Duc
Next morning was no better. The little girl, between 8 and 10, cleaned the toilets, then came back with her kittens. Boys, cats, and girl were all over the all but deserted campsite. We really had this campsite to ourselves.
But as the stooped stranger in the Black Forest told us. We had one more height to ascend (and a ferry to catch in four days). So we reluctantly left Arnay-le-Duc and proceeded on through Auxerre and its cathedral) to Fontainebleau (and its palace). For a lolly Tom and Bill watched Charlie and Dan while Mary, John, and I toured the palace and learned to appreciate Napoleon’s favorite haunt.
We pulled into Paris in late afternoon and were lucky to find a spot in the camp in the Bois de Bologne. We were next to another ZW from South Africa.
The high point of our stop in Paris was the high point of Paris itself, that brickless Empire State Building called the Eiffel Tower. John played it smart from the beginning, he didn’t even get out of the car. Mary right sudden-like volunteered to stay with Dan and Charlie. Lucky Pierre, dad that is, got to accompany mountain goats Tom and Bill aloft.
The ride to the first level is only mildly nerve shattering. The huge, old shaky iron cage is hauled jerkily up the steep angle in one of the spread eagle legs. The ride from the first to the second level is more traumatic. The cage is smaller, shakier, and the track steeper. The final run from second level to the swaying top is the angina run. Whether the cage was from an old nineteenth century abandoned coal mine or only modeled after one I don’t quite know. Like the others it is open so that you can get the benefit of noting that the Eiffel Tower looks as though it has never been painted. You wonder how long rusty rivets will hold together rusty beams, as you violently shake and jerk upward. As if this experience is not hair raising enough they have a little surprise for you halfway up. At this point the cage shudders to a stop just as another cage from the top bangs to a stop. At this point, the passengers from the two cages interchange. With indomitable dad leading Tom and Bill by the hand, they pulled me from one cage over the sheet steel bulkhead, that buckled with our weight, from one suicide box into the other. The rest of the nightmare continued until the top was reached. Here someone has built a primitive sort of tree house that sways and buckles in the wind.
Not wanting to miss a thing the boys tried the toilets, the souvenir shop, the upper outer level, and my nerves. I pulled myself together long enough to take a picture of my high living sons leaning against the outer guard railing. I was leaning back against the inner wall but not too hard for fear the whole thing would totter over.
It was questionable which was worse getting sea sick in the tossing tree house or making the initial step into those open air coffins. In any case I had first to bolster up my last remaining nerve reserve and chase down Tom and Bill. When captured we got aboard the ferry across the river Styx and started down. Their rosy faces smiling from ear to ear contrasted like a tropical sunset to a midsummer day at the north pole with my colorless expressionless countenance. Again they drug me across that mid air transfer stop. I felt like the ant that transfers from the refueling plane to the jets at 20,000 feet.
With the boys racing on ahead I almost felt as if I was awakening from this nightmare when we reached the second level restaurant. Everything seemed so stable, so permanent and enduring, so solid, and reassuring. The feeling of relative safety in the funicular railway ride down the slanted legs was like being back in ZW on a peaceful country road; bumpy, noisy, but somehow safe and serene.
The ground never looked or felt better, even at the Atomium. Our seventh and highest and most arduous height had been scaled and it was time to catch the ferry back to England.
We detoured via Versailles for a stroll and lunch and headed for Dunkirk and our retreat from France. Our camping holiday on the continent was all but over. School and work loomed ahead. But we knew now we were returning to a house, a large solid, house in a small, old village. We were ready to return but were mighty happy that we had persevered; had left our house after a six day occupancy; had battled the wasps and mosquitoes of the Mosel, Rhein, Neckar, Danube, Rhone, and Seine rivers; had scaled our seven heights; and fought our way clear of black dragons, Petrolorrys, and the persistent smaller type pests Fiati, Citroeni, and Volksis. Playtime was over and work was ahead. All of us were ready and some of us even anxious to get to work.
Our third landfall upon the shores of Britain was more like the return of the native. Our last campsite in Dunkirk was of the English caliber. Gone were the excellent camps we had found at Habay-la-Neuve in the Luxembourg province of Belgium, in the city of Luxembourg, in Heidelberg, Stuttgart, Vienna, Vicenza, Como, Lerca di Cogoleto on the Italian Riviera, and in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris. Gone also were the not physically so excellent but well located ones such as Bernkastel-Kues on the Mosel, across the Rhein from Lorelei Rock, outside the walls of Dinkelsbuhl, and across from the Bridge of Avignon. Gone even was the sentimental campsite in the small French village of Arnay-le-Duc where we had celebrated Bill’s sixth birthday. The camp at Dunkirk like the ones we happened to hit on the French Riviera were very British, nothing to shout about.
Our third landfall was preceded by a day of English preview. Dunkirk itself is famous in English history as is Agincourt and Abbeville. Our most recent camping companions at Paris and Dunkirk were British. We had acquired some British accouterments ourselves; membership in, and an elaborate, bright yellow coloured, bumper emblem of, the AA (The Automobile Association, not the AA of England, nor the AA of Great Britain, but THE AA); a ninety-day visitors vehicle license posted on our windscreen; an O-SO-KOOL traveling cold box (a 5-sided, plus a door, cubicle box of two inch thick chalk which when soaked down each morning and left to evaporate during the day keeps the milk, butter, and bacon cool); the AA book of foreign travel and assorted AA itineraries complete with continental city maps; and the ability to almost understand the English version of English.
The queue of cars getting onto the ferry was most orderly (mostly British) with only a few impatient Frenchmen and all-important Americans trying to jump the queue. Whereas the dinner on the west-east channel crossing had been celebrated with French cuisine and French wine, the lunch on this east-west crossing was unceremoniously observed with pork pie (cold), bitters and for the children orange squash (British Railway style). Our west-east crossing was of a family anticipating a continental holiday. Our thoughts and conversations were of itineraries, camping sites, castles, rivers, and mountains. Our return was of a family returning for school and work. Our thoughts and conversations centered on needed school clothes, kitchen utensils, coal supplies, food stocks, and money. To say the least the boys of school age, John, Tom, and Bill were not happily considering the morrow. A new school with new teachers, new companions, new curricula, in a new village.
Unlike our serious and gloomy thoughts, the day was wonderful; warm and sunny. To put school aside from their thoughts the boys played sailor. They were top side most of the journey looking for the white cliffs and the castle of Dover.
The immigration officials this trip no longer stamped “Three month tourist” but instead “Student, report to police for alien registration within 10 days.” The AA men didn’t routinely post a visitors vehicle license on the windscreen. Instead they scrupulously calculated the remaining time on our original visitors license and gave us a new expiration date in October. As I say, we did not this time enter England as light-hearted carefree tourists. We were fast becoming semi-residents.
Our 112 mile trip from Dover to Cambridge started at 6 P.M. We estimated home by 10 by way of Tilbury ferry. We still had the return portion of the ticket. To maximize daylight driving we set off immediately on A2 toward London. In true British style our Saturday evening repast consisted of fish and chips, just as it got dark. Likewise in true British style we continued our trip on side (parking) lights since the “street lighting was good,” which means only that everyone else was driving with side lights, not that the “street lighting was (that) good.” In this semi-blind state we missed the sign and the turn off for Gravesend and the Tilbury Ferry. By the time we realized this, we were halfway to Woolwich Ferry (and as the petrol station man said, “It’s free, don’t turn back to Tilbury.”)
At the Woolich Ferry a very nice Bobby (most of them are) informed us, “Because of the long queue of cars, there will be a 2 hour wait.” He suggested Tower Bridge. I knew my London and knew that Blackwall Tunnel came before Tower Bridge, I’d take the tunnel. At Blackwall Tunnel the sign said, “Closed, use Tower Bridge.” And so at 10 P.M. when I expected to be driving into Fulbourn and The Manse, we were crossing Tower Bridge.
I guess all the delay was for a purpose. The delay allowed the welcoming committee time to prepare. As we left the roundabout of A11 with A604 within three miles of Fulbourn we sighted a huge conflagration. We even woke Tom up to see it. The closer we got to Fulbourn the closer we got to this burning pyre. When we made our final turnoff from A11 to get into Fulbourn there was the fire big as life and straight ahead. Just on the outskirts of the village we saw that this was not the townspeople celebrating our return with Pre-Guy Fawkes Day bonfire, nor was it our landlady in a final fit of anguish burning The Manse to rid the village of a potential pestilence. The huge fire could be thought of as the Star of Bethlehem beckoning the wisemen, or as the purposely relocated beacon light luring richly-laden ships onto the rocks of Cornwall for plunder. It could hardly be thought of as the light in the window welcoming home the prodigal son, since our total previous stay of six days had not yet made Fulbourn seem like home. We felt that the burning pyre was a friendly beacon welcoming neither the wise, the rich, nor the prodigal son, but welcoming instead the tired and heavy ladened. The Statue of Liberty which welcomed our ancestors to their new homeland could not have gladdened their hearts any more than this poor farmer’s haystack gladdened ours. Although I’m sure the farmer whose burning haystack was our guide and symbol was neither thinking of, nor would he have been impressed by our poetic, literary, and symbolic thoughts. His symbology was most certainly of the five pound note variety, a summer’s work up in flames. But if it be any consolation to this poor unknown (to us) man, we appreciated his symbolic welcome and we consider his homing beacon a harbinger of the really loving feeling we hold to this day for our adopted English village of Fulbourn, Cambridgeshire and its most friendly house, The Manse.
Our fairy tale adventure was now complete. Our ZW, or Vesta Pegasus, had made the trip possible. I salute our ZW, license number 114-Z-972:
One One Four Zed Nine Seven Two
Had traveled far and wide
This was the license number of
Our car, our home, our pride.
Our car was fixed for sleeping all
And all was seven strong
Our Dan was one and Charlie three
They made Mom’s day quite long.
Bill was six and Tom was seven
And John was eleven (or two)
Cause he was born on leap year day
So birthdays, mighty few.
All seven slept inside the bus
Though tent attached outside
And Momma cooked on petrol stove
The food we ate inside.
Outside in tent we cooked and dressed
The boys got washed when caught
To keep clean clothes a problem was
Till Lederhose were bought
Dan’s nest in rear both day and nite
Both bed and playpen made
Dad’s bed at night was seats in day
In which the boys played.
In camping out On Continent
Big families we did see
On fellowships and school leaves
In other fourteen Z’s.
Our list of fourteen Z’s is long
Most all with kids galore
Professors, teachers, scientists most
And all with open door.
One One Four Zed nine nine four
Professor in the arts
On Fulbright to Finland was he
To save they shopped in marts.
One One Four Zed eight four eight
On leave from L.A. schools
On his return broad views could give
To students on their stools.
On NSF, on NIH
on Fulbright and on leaves
Did many fellow scholars sleep
Like us among the trees.
From California many
From classrooms and from research bench
Big families save the penny.
For men who work in scholarship
Who teach or research do
The money does not easy come
They camp and eat the stew.
To see the Continent this way
Is best by far say we
For campers are a friendly lot
And much we learn at tea.
Though few museums or concerts see
To many, people talk
And countryside we see full well
Through many castles walk.
To one and all who travel will
And children many have
To get the flavor of the land
Take tent or caravan.
The boys and I had been very considerate of momma in choosing our return channel crossing date. Although school had really been started for two weeks our boys would, by pre arrangement, enter on Monday, 28 September. We not only got home on Sunday, a day before the grand entrance but very early on Sunday, namely 1 a.m. So Mary had al1 of 30 hours, three quarters of a standard working week, to get the boys clothes washed, dried, and ironed, to get the boys themselves washed, dried, and steeled, and to get the house running. (She really didn’t know how lucky she was. On our return home to the USA we left the port, one hundred miles from home, at 7 p.m. before school started the next morning, (still a standard work day and a half .)
Needless to say we didn’t meander over to church this particular Sunday. Mary tackled the clothes, I the boys. As usual I could hardly wait to get a hot bath and soak off 5 weeks worth of steadily sponged in dirt. The boys, of course, never could quite understand this particular use of water. Water in bath tubs had only one purpose, namely to sail boats on. However, it sometimes worked out to be more convenient to sail them while sitting in the bath tub. But soap didn’t sail well, didn’t even float, muddied up the water, and got all gooey, even dissolved if left untouched in the water too long. And wash rags; when used as sails they sank the ships, they were too small to use to get dry when sailing time was over, just what were they good for anyway? And dirt, what is the harm of 5 weeks accumulation of more and better polished dirt? After all it’s evenly distributed, it looks like a good Mediterranean tan. Besides with neither a house nor a yard to play in (except for 6 days) for 5 months, the boys could think of many overdue things to do, like playing with trains.
Mary was learning the intricacies of our little automatic washing machine; automatic that is except for putting in the clothes, the hot water, the cold water, the soap, closing the lid, turning on the switch, noting the time on the clock, turning off the switch, draining out the dirty water, adding rinse water, etc., putting the clothes through the ringer, and repeating same with the next small batch of clothes.
I finally enticed agreeable Tom into the bathtub and watched the color of the water change from white to brown while Tom changed from brown to white. After a short pause while the newly installed coke stove (Aga cooker) and water heater kept apace of both the washing machine and the bathtub John transferred the majority of his tan to the bath water. I finally peeled Bill’s socks off and converted him from slave to master. Finally Charlie and Dan played boats for an hour, first in the Mediterranean Sea and then in the Missouri River.
This crewing effort of mine on the boys sailing boats left me exhausted and I stretched out for a nap but the chugging of Mary’s washing machine kept me awake. After eating the remainder of our camping rations (no stores open on Sunday) the relative quietness of the ironing allowed me to doze off. The boys, of course, played merrily on building complex track layouts for their Lone Star locos. By this time Dan had discovered the staircase and I was awakened to guard the pass. And so our first day of rest, the Sabbath, passed.
The difference between us and the pilgrims was that having no ready made schools, they rested on the Sabbath and washed on Monday, the day after their landfall. And so, as the story goes, Monday became the national wash day. On Tuesday they started building houses (and schools). They had no schedules to adapt their lives to. We had to get the boys off to school on Monday, therefore, we (Mary, that is) washed clothes on Sunday. Monday for us was start to school day, restock the larder day, and find the barber shop day. Tuesday was Dad’s day to report back to the Unit for fellowship work.
With a final flourish of shoe polish on shoes and wash rags on faces I set off early Monday morning with three boys toward the village school. We opened our wire fence gate, stepped down two steps and were immediately in the street, not on a sidewalk, not on a parking (verge), but in the street. If our gate had opened outward instead of inward it would have protruded out into the road. We looked carefully to the left for any approaching cars, which of course, is a big mistake, we should have looked to the right. On Pierce Lane, however, it didn’t really make any difference. Two cars could pass, even the double decker bus and the coalman’s lorry could pass each other although it would be such a tight squeeze they would have to do it in low gear. In any case, the manager of the carpenter shop just across the road always parked his car on the street and so only one useable lane was open to traffic. So the question as to whether a double-decker bus and a coal lorry could pass each other was of only academic interest. The point being Pierce Lane, like many English roads, is used mostly in the center, only when meeting or overtaking another vehicle does anyone think seriously of driving on the left side of the road. So looking first to the left was in most cases perfectly safe when looking for motor vehicles. However, motor vehicles account for only about half of the traffic. Bicycles are the real danger. Not that you are apt to get killed by one. But you are very apt to either get hit or cause the rider to fall into the street by trying to avoid you if you suddenly sally forth from a blind entrance as our gate was. And, of course, you don’t hear bicycles. We were used to listening for short range danger and looking for long range danger. In England you look for both short and long range danger.
But off to school. We crossed over to the sidewalk on the other side of Pierce Lane and followed it until it finally just sort of disappeared under a wall. Actually I’m sure the wall preceded the sidewalk. But just before coming to Tyrells Store the sidewalk angles into the wall becoming narrower and narrower until it just doesn’t exist anymore. At this point, about 100 feet up the lane from the Manse, we crossed back over Pierce Lane where the sidewalk suddenly reappears in front of the “The Gables” the thatched roof house of our next door neighbor. The walk is about 3 feet wide except at the entrance to the thatched cottage at which point steps take up half of the sidewalk. Morale; walk single file here.
At the top of Pierce Lane, just beyond “The Gables” Pierce Lane merges in a nice easy arc into High Street (if going right) and Apthorpe Street (if going left). High Street is the major street in this and all other villages. In America we call similar streets, Main Street. Along the block of its existence, High Street boasts Webbs General Store (and domicile of the Beaumonts); the house and shop of R.A. Whitmore, Family Butcher; the Six Bells, pub and bus stop; the Legion Hall; and finally Her Majesties Post Office, home of Miss Ball. Perhaps Peeks store (and home of Mr. and Mrs. German) is also on High Street but at this point High Street merges into School Lane (to the right) or Station Road (to the left) and Peeks maybe on School Lane. Following School Lane we soon passed the library and as the name implies came to the school.
Fulbourn County School consisted of four buildings on a long narrow lot. The foremost building in size, age, and position fronted on School Lane just across from the huge thatched roof barn of Halls Farm. This ancient building was called the Church Room and was indeed used jointly by the school and by St. Vigors and All Saints, the local Church of England. The Church Room was not really as old as the 14th century St. Vigors church, it only looked that way. It was really just one large room about 50’ by 100’ with a high gabled roof. From the outside the roof had the appearance of being too heavy for the timbers that supported it. This is not an uncommon malady for tile roofs in England. If of any age at all they are usually far from horizontal throughout their length. They look as if at one-time or another they had been ridden by a herd of elephants, the impressions of which remain permanently affixed in the roof line. This sagging roof line gives the appearance of ponderousness, of massiveness. On the inside looking out quite the other effect is noted. You have the feeling of being inside an egg shell with hardly any walls, floors, or roof at all. How could it be so cold inside such a room if it really had walls and a roof. Anyway daylight can be seen through at least some upper broken window panes, if not the roof (there is no false ceiling). And the general inside appearance of mended or as yet unmended plaster gives the whole structure the aura of a bombed building that has not as yet fallen down; tattered and torn but not out.
The Church Room is certainly of the 19th century, judging by its state of disrepair, its attempt (on a limited budget) toward Victorian frills, and its sagging roof. As we soon learned to expect, this huge room was heated with one fireplace. It was of the generation and had the appearance one would expect of Tom Brown’s School and since age begets venerableness I was quite impressed with this fine old school. It must be steeped in tradition.
Immediately behind this Church Room, which was indeed used for morning chapel, was the Primary School. The Primary School was for children aged 8, 9, and l0, and so had three classrooms and an office for the Headmistress, Miss Smith, and a lounge for the other teachers. The two major rooms were covered by a high gabled roof (and no false ceiling). The third room which formed a rather stubby base for the general T shaped building may have been an after thought appended in the 1920’s to the pre WWI building. Heating was again by fireplace and I’m sure that whatever heat didn’t go up the chimney heated the angle of the high gabled roofs just fine. Were the children all giraffes their heads at least would have been warm. I noted electric fires (heaters) displayed prominently on many walls of the Primary School rooms. This building was far from venerable, just mellow. It was well lighted from copious windows, and I’m sure it was well aired on windy days.
Offset slightly but generally behind the Primary School was the Infants School for ages 5, 6, and 7. This was a modern, post WWII building; squat, square, stuccoed, and painted a yellowish tan. Although it had the usual average number of windows, the north walls had none, the south walls many. It was light, airy, pleasant, and heated by fireplace.
The remaining building, offset and more or less between the Primary and Infants Schools was the cafeteria. The same vintage as the Infants School building, it was pleasant, modern, plain, squat, square, light, and airy.
I took the boys in to see Headmistress Smith, whom I had talked to before, preparatory to leaving for the continent on my business - holiday trip. I was quite favorably impressed by Headmistress Smith. She was youngish, with a short mannish style hair do, and quite attractive. She seemed to have the situation under control and spoke with authority. After reconfirming John’s age as eleven she turned him, over to Miss Golding. Both John and I liked Miss Golding on sight. She was neither young nor old. Her smile, her sprightly gait, and her general mood made her appear to be much younger than her graying hair would indicate. She was small in stature and well filled out but certainly not overly plump. I left John in capable hands and concentrated on Tom and. Bill.
Headmistress Smith took us from the Primary School over to the Infants School and introduced me to Mrs. Harrison and Mrs. Kemp. Tom’s teacher, Mrs. Harrison, was young and attractive. She was not petite, but rather tall and well built, muscular not plump. She was very friendly and Tom was quite happy to go off with her. Just as Mrs. Harrison was of Headmistress Smith’s generation, Mrs. Kemp, Bill’s teacher was of Miss Golding’s generation. She was about the same size and build as Miss Golding, but not quite as outgoing. She was somewhat more motherly than John’s teacher if not quite as gay; more introverted. She seemed quite equal to the situation and Bill reluctantly but not unhappily went off to his new class. All was well. I was pleased with what I saw of the school and its staff and the boys seemed to be as happy as could be expected. For them Michaelmas term had started.
I left the boys in school and retraced my steps home. Leaving the school and walking toward High Street the bell tower of St. Vigors and All Saints commanded my view. This typical village church was enclosed in a large churchyard behind a six foot old stone wall. The church was among old beautiful trees and ancient gravestones. Opening onto Church Lane at the top of School Lane was an old ornate wooden Lychgate. Through this roofed gate the clock on the bell tower was the highest structure in Fulbourn (with the possible exception of a new mill a mile away by the railroad station) and was situated at the top of High Street and likewise at the top of School Lane. The squarish, unsteepled stone tower of St. Vigors anchored down very beautifully the center of Fulbourn and separated the shops from the Manor House which was immediately behind St. Vigors on Church Lane.
I took a slight detour up Station Road (which quite naturally led to the Railway Station) which was what School Lane became after it serpentined across High Street. I was investigating the remaining shops in the village and refound the barber shop. In a very small one story building with a tile gabled roof running parallel to the street and in fact separated by only a four foot sidewalk from the street was the sign “Gents Hairdressing”. On crossing the street and looking through the large 4’ x 4’ window cut into about 16 foot square sections, I could see that no barber was in. A little sign on the door said, “Open from 4 to 7 P.M.”. I left this elfin sized green building, knowing I would soon return.
High Street, Fulbourn
Around the corner on High Street again and across from the post office and the Six Bells was the Fulbourn Garage. Here, as befits the moderness of the profession, was the most modern business (and associated residence) building on High Street. The roof line did not sag, it was neither thatched nor tiled but rather shingled in multi-coloured squares. In addition to the gabled roof across the show room which as usual slanted toward the street, the roof over the attached living quarters crossed the T and ran at right angles to the street. The exterior was stucco and the upper floor of the living quarters was offset to protrude over the sidewalk. Except for uneven coal smoke discolouring, the exterior was all uniformly a yellowish tan colour. The chimney and chimney pots were trim and unbroken and set at a 45 degree angle to both the roof line and the street. The front of the show room was entirely of glass so that the ware; sports cars, motor scooters, bicycles, and tricycles were displayed to all passers by. This building was obviously post WWI. The sign, “Taxi for Hire” in one corner of the window gave evidence that all things automotive; or even on wheels, were sold, repaired, hired out, and discussed inside. Beyond the show room window, and the front door step (with two milk bottles) which protruded onto the very ample sidewalk, were the petrol pumps. Whereas the post WWI building stood out as a showpiece, if newness is elegance, the Post WWI petrol pumps looked antediluvian. Not immemorial like the two-story thatched roof pub across the street but primordial. The Six Bells, the High Street pub, although ancient in chronological age to the petrol pumps looked mature, the petrol Pumps antique. One doesn’t expect thatched roofed pubs to change, but somehow petrol pumps being in the motor age should not look as if they had been built by the blacksmith as his last act before relinquishing his premises to the horseless carriage garage. I’ll admit that these pumps with clock counter hands and faces were not as primeval as the one I saw later in Spain where 5 liters, and 5 liters only, were first pumped up into a fish bowl and then allowed to drain into the car tank, followed by another 5 liters etc. These were not hand-pumped, they were automatic, except for calculating the price. I later found it mandatory to buy petrol in integer gallons, since at the conclusion of the tank filling the mechanic-taxi driver-owner-salesman’s pretty daughter and I always retreated back into the office to look up the price on a table that listed gallons vs. shillings and pence. If you’ve ever tried finding say 7 or 9 tenths of 4 shillings threepence haypenny, you would soon decide to by petrol by the gallon, no fractions.
The hoses were mounted on hinged cranes since the pumps were on one side of the sidewalk and the cars pulled up to the kerb. People in England still use sidewalks to walk on, and the cranes are necessary to elevate the hoses over the sidewalk from the pumps to the car and yet allow passersby to use the public sidewalk. When no cars are being serviced the cranes and hoses are rotated through ninety degrees and the hoses stand hanging down by the pumps on the inner edge of the sidewalk. This arrangement piqued my curiosity. Beyond the pumps was the garage proper where the mechanical work was done. This structure was not modern (post WWI), nor trim, nor clean, nor really even a building. The garage was a sort of lean-to made primarily of wood held together with barrel stave cast off corrugated iron, and I imagine hair pins and chewing gum. It in fact burned down before the winter was out and light again entered the area.
Beyond this montage of the ridiculous with the sublime came the cobbler’s shop. Another thatched roof shop, this one bearing the sign, “C. T. Beecroft”. The front of the shop consisted of two large picture windows with a beat up old wooden door with two long, narrow vertical windows in its upper half. One picture window displayed boots, shoes, slippers, and Wellingtons (rubber boots). The other which, like the barber’s was really a honeycomb of 12 smaller windows, displayed Mr. Beecroft at his bench working. Above the door, but not centered over it, was a dormer window consisting of 12 small patchwork panes, that let light and air into an upstairs bedroom. Attached onto the thatched roof shop to complete the living quarters was a two story brick structure with a slightly angled gabled roof. The sharp angle of the thatched roof on the shop contrasted drastically with the slight angle on the shingle roof of the house. Although the ridge line of the two adjacent roofs was roughly the same, the eave lines were eight ten feet apart. The thatch eave line looked like eyebrows above the picture windows. The shingle eave line stood high above, haughty and still in horizontal plumb (obviously a rather new addition). Another clue to the relative newness of the aesthetically hideous appendage to the old thatched roof shop was that the bricks were all uniformly rectangular and of the same colour.
The last building on High Street was ostensibly just a residence and the sign on the gate said it was “The Nook”. Set back from the street it lent dignity and charm to the row of shops. Actually I found out later this residence belonged to the woman who notarized many of my official papers. Attached to her house was a rather large “meeting place” type of room. The story I heard was that a generation or so earlier the director of he Fulbourn Mental Hospital lived here. In his professional work he had accumulated a substantial fortune which he willed to his widow. When the squire built “Townley Hall” as a meeting and recreation hall, the widow not to be outdone built this meeting room. It was smaller but more centrally located, and as I understand, it was cheaper to hire. This move probably heralded the breakdown of the Manor House aristocracy in the village. I add again, “I didn’t see this terrible spat, I only repeat what was told to me by the Chinese plate.”
The first house on Apthorpe Street and immediately adjacent to “The Nook” was The Rectory, a new and modern-looking two-story stucco (or yellow brick) house. This post WWII house needs no description because it almost seemed out of place among the thatched and tiled roofs of its neighbors. I had seen thousands of new houses California is full of them. My seventeenth to nineteenth century trance was broken by this rectory that contrasted so gaudily from St. Vigors and All Saints Church whose rector it housed.
Back in the twentieth century I gingerly crossed Apthorpe Street looking first right then left for bicycles, motor bikes, and cars. Directly in front of me was reaffirmation of the twentieth century, the Co-op Grocery. A one story post WWII cube of stucco with no style, no history, and to me no interest. Around the curve of Apthorpe Street on Pierce Lane, and directly across from “The Gables”, was Tyrells Store. Here there was no sidewalk, Tyrells just opened onto the street. However on the other edge of Tyrells a wall jutted about 4 feet out into the street making it unlikely any large or fast moving vehicle would run you down directly in front of Tyrells. The exterior of Tyrells was bright. What wasn’t window was basically off white and the trim and the signs were bright red. A jolly shop.
On rounding the wall I saw the aforementioned, sidewalk oozing out from under the wall. I followed this by the carpenter shop and with a sharp look and listen I darted across Pierce Lane into The Manse.
There I really awakened to the twentieth century, “What took you so long?” “It’s time to restock the larder” “How did the boys like school?” “Dad, where did John leave his Lone Star loco?” “Let’s take the trains with us today so we can play with them in camp tonight.” Aren’t John, Tom, and Bill coming with us today?” “Where will we camp tonight?” “I’m thirsty, Dad, where is the milk?” “Let’s camp by the water tonight.” “I don’t want cheese on my sandwich in the car today...” Yak, yak, yak………
Within the week I visited Fred, the Gents Hairdresser. And as is typical of the time and place we started off on the weather. This discussion was not just routine, however, because the summer of ‘59 was not by any stretch of the imagination routine, for the sunny days exceeded the rainy days by a ratio unmatched in 200 years. In May I was spotted as non-British because of my California complexion. Now in October I sometimes had to open my mouth before I could be distinguished from a native, since in the fall of ‘59 all Britishers had an unbelievable atypical ruddy appearance, not their more usual poolroom tan.
If Fred had any lingering doubts about my origin, they soon disappeared when the conversation changed from the weather and he asked me pointblank, “Are you church or chapel?”
And my answer was equally blank, namely, dead silence. I was thinking, not talking, “Did he say ‘church or chapel’? How can I be either? And in any case, aren’t church and chapel synonymous?” Fred felt the conversation lagging as he snipped the hair out of one nostril and looking up into my face before switching to the other nostril, he repeated, “Are you Church of England or Nonconformist?”
I could see he was expecting an answer and was glad he hadn’t yet lathered me up and chosen the straight edge as his conversation persuader. It began to dawn on me that he was probably talking about my church affiliation, so I replied, “I’m a Methodist.”
“Oh, a Nonconformist,” he replied, and trimmed up my other nostril.
“Are Methodists Nonconformists?” I hesitatingly inquired.
“Certainly. You’re either church or chapel, and you’re chapel, a Nonconformist.”
Now that he had me to his way of thinking, properly classified, he told me the chapel was down by the lolly shop, and that the village chapel in Fulbourn was Congregational.
I thanked Fred for his information, paid him his two shillings (28 cents) and departed for the Manse.
Mary was intrigued with the gospel, as told by the disciple Fred, concerning the distinction between church and chapel. Mary and I agreed with our newly found religious authority, Fred, that what John Wesley had put asunder, we had better not join together. We decided to ally ourselves with the Congregational “chapel” and not THE “church.” We preferred being Congregationalists in Fulbourn to driving four miles into Cambridge or 10 miles to West Wickham to be Methodists.
As neophyte Congregationalists we decided we should find out what time our Sunday School and our Divine Services were held. So the family walked over to the chapel one evening to see “the word” as contained on the chapel sign board. On the way we passed the village church, St. Vigors and All Saints. It was a venerable, fourteenth century stone structure, enclosed in a ramshackle graveyard. Surrounding St. Vigors was a decaying rock wall, breached by a peaked-roofed Lychgate, which was stately and beautiful in spite of its age and unpainted appearance, or, more aptly, because of its unpainted agelessness. St. Vigors’ bell tower was not capped by a steeple but was singularly imposing in its stark, strengthful, perpendicular squareness. Small stained windows stood out like jaded jewels in this ancient edifice of stone. Had aesthetics, not ritual, ruled the day, we would have gone no farther; St. Vigors and All Saints was our dream of what a church should be.
By contrast, the village chapel, the Fulbourn Congregational Church, was no dream; it was neither ageless nor stately. Featureless, yes; austere, yes; imposing, no. It was built in 1810 and looked like a Quaker meeting hall. It did not look like a church, nor for that matter a chapel. I guess this was to be expected. When Henry VIII started the breakaway from the Roman Catholic Church, and when Wesley, Knox, and others in turn broke away from the Church of England, simplicity was stressed. Religion was to be freed from ritual, idols, symbology. The meeting halls, altars, and decorations were to be simple. The people were not to be mystified and overwhelmed with pompous ritual and Latin phrases; the services and rituals were to be kept simple. These were the ideas at the time. The proof of their success was the Fulbourn Congregational Church.
The village chapel was indeed stark, austere, plain, and simple. Not that there weren’t a few well-kept gravestones around the chronologically youthful meeting hall. And not that there wasn’t a large stained glass window over the plain raised altar. But the building was completely rectangular, with a simple gable for a roof. The chapel was not built in the shape of a cross, nor was it marred by a bell tower or steeple. There was neither a porch, a narthex, nor a vestibule. Obviously, the chapel was built with no frills. Chapel people came for religious conviction, more probably the religious convictions of their forefathers, and not, certainly not, for outward displays and hallowed antiquity.
Attached to this stark meeting hall on the off-street side was another equally box-like appendage. This we surmised was the social hall and Sunday School rooms. This offshoot was not built in 1810 nor would it be apt to outlast its more sturdy parent upon whom it leaned for support.
Our curiosity was satisfied, we had seen the venerable church and the functional chapel. And the word, according to Reverend Taylor’s chapel sign board, was, “Sunday School, 3 PM; and Divine Services, 3:30.”
On Sunday, after the usual round of scrubbings, the older boys put on their brand new school uniforms: freshly polished black oxfords, grey knee socks ringed with green at the top, short grey trousers, white shirt with green tie and yellow diagonal stripes, green blazer and cap, with school badge (a head of wheat and some straw). Charlie and Dan wore their usual American costumes of short pants and knit tee shirts.
Even though Sunday School was at 3 PM we were not ready in time to walk. This happened all the time in America at 9:30 AM but we of course assumed it was the early hour, not the crush of boys that caused the tardiness. Now we knew. So instead of walking the quarter mile to the village chapel, we belatedly hopped into ZW and drove over.
Our hearts were saddened a little as we drove past the lychgate of St. Vigors and All Saints, our calendar picture English church. And as we approached the Fulbourn Congregational Church (chapel) we noted that neither the Sabbath Day nor the presence of innumerable bicycles had beautified our chosen holy ground. We edged ZW, whose presence could hardly go unnoticed, in among the few undersized British cars, and more numerous two-wheeled vehicles, and unloaded our three English (costumed) boys and two American (costumed) boys. We then alternately led, pushed or otherwise coerced the none-too-cooperative sheep toward the fold. We suffered them to enter the austere Model 1 Sunday School appendage we had noted on our earlier pilgrimage.
We were met by Mrs. Woods, a red-haired, amply proportioned woman of Welsh descent (and accent). Her kindly but quizzical look seemed to imply, “Has a new orphanage opened out in the vicinity?”, although her query was, “Have you come for Sunday School?” She was quite astonished to hear our American accents and even more astonished at our claim to being the real parents, not the house parents, of this quite formidable flock. Mrs. Woods assigned John, age 11, to the oldest group with Mr. Hardwick, up in the church balcony. She took Tom, 7, and Bill, 6; and led Dan, 3, over to Miss Ward. Mary and I mercifully retained possession of Charlie. 
There were no particularly outstanding events during this phase of the Sunday School except the look of disbelief when the boys each put a two-shilling piece in the collection. We later found this to be quite ostentatious. Whereas we had the boys all coached to gladly give their quarter in America we switched to sixpence in Fulbourn. This created a slight amount of confusion: “If there is only one God, why give him a quarter in America and-only sixpence here?” The answer was really simple, though perhaps not to Dan, namely, his church in Fulbourn was already paid for.
From force of habit and with no fanfare, the teachers lined all the children up at 3:25 and marched them out of the room. Mary and I fell-in behind to lead Dan and to carry Charlie. We did not quite realize where we were going until we found ourselves in the chapel. There remained nothing to do but to sit down, which we did. We found ourselves directly behind the Sunday School group who sat in the front pews. I must admit this was more than I had bargained for but, “Well, there it is.”
Reverend Taylor promptly entered and everyone, except us, stood up in unison. We were still stunned by our sudden entrance into the chapel and were slightly behind in our reactions but were on our feet in near record time. We found ourselves in front of the whole congregation and the only examples we had to follow were the children and, luckily, their teachers. And yet everyone could see our mistakes, the major ones being Charlie and Dan. We hadn’t expected to end up in divine services in quite this manner, but here we were.
Rev. Taylor inside the Fulbourn Congregational Chapel
Our presence did not go unnoticed. We represented about a 15% increase in the Sunday School and Church attendance, or more specifically, it took one more row of pews to hold the newly expanded Sunday School. I noted John and his class were across to my right and slightly ahead of me, and Tom and Bill were within slap-on-the-hand range. Things could have been worse.
As soon as the Rev. Taylor gave the word we all sat down again and at his command everyone opened his hymnal. Now, thought I, I would be in my element. I sang in our church choir and although my voice left much to be desired, I could read music and sing bass parts down to E flat. Someone from across the aisle handed us an open hymnal and I was anticipating showing the natives that at least I knew about hymns and singing. I soon discovered, however, that the hymnals contained no music, only words, and that the reed organ was missing a few reeds and the others had probably not been tuned since Handel. So to a tune I’d never heard before, with words I’d never seen before, and holding Charlie in one arm, I vainly tried to sing my first hymn. The results were far from spectacular. I was slowly gaining confidence, however, and was ready to start out strong on the second verse. However, I found myself singing a solo on the first word. Instead of maintaining the rhythm and meter from one verse to the next, they sounded the chord all over again so everyone could refresh his memory as to the correct pitch, or to check that the organ was still operating. This just about finished my hymn singing for the day, but I did save face by harmonizing the bass part on the A-MEN.
Soon came the high point in the worship serve for children--the children’s sermon. Reverend Taylor came down out of his pulpit and standing directly in front of the children, explained, probably for the benefit of his greatly increased congregation, the form of his sermon. The idea was this: He would tell a bible story purposely omitting names of people and places and at the conclusion of his story, he would ask the children a series of questions on the who’s and where’s in his story.
This was his story (in my simplified and shortened version). Once upon a time there was a battle. In this battle the old King and his son and heir were killed. A new King was chosen to rule who was just and kind. The new King let it be known that if any relative of the old King could be found, he should be brought forward to dine and live with him, the new King. A few suspicions were aroused; for instance, maybe if a relative were found he would be done away with to make the new King’s position unchallengeable. Nevertheless, the King was taken at his word, a lame grandson was found, brought forward, and did indeed enjoy all the benefits of the new King’s court. The new King was truly just, kind, and benevolent. “Now,” said Rev. Taylor, “who was the old King?”
I slumped lower in my pew; I didn’t recognize a thing. The English boys and girls likewise slumped low and looked as blank as Tom and Bill. After a few moments of awkward silence a green-jacketed arm shot up. I thought finally some old veteran had caught the theme, but his answer of “Jesus” was not, under this particular set of circumstances, correct.
Rev. Taylor was about to give up on his dull charges when to my utter amazement my John’s hand went timidly up.
Rev. Taylor didn’t quite know whether to call on John or not, never having seen him before, but since there seemed to be no alternative, he said, “I see a new boy who knows the old King’s name. Will you tell us his name?”
John said in a crisp American accent, “Was the old King’s name Saul?” “It was indeed,” said the astonished pastor. “And now does anyone know who the King’s son was?”
Again the awkward silence, but now the whole congregation was watching John, who finally put up his hand and said, “I believe he was called Jonathan.”
I straightened up somewhat in my pew and tried to look unconcerned as if, “Obviously anyone should know this story, why in America ....”
Now the obviously happy pastor asked John directly, “And who was the new King?”
The children looked on in a manner between envy, disbelief, and awe while John answered, “David.”
At this point, the rest of the congregation and I sat up and smiled, for now we had all heard a familiar name and knew that the pastor and John were not making up this whole episode.
After John had identified the lame grandson, Mephisbosheth and the nations in battle, the Philistines and Israelites, the top button on my shirt nearly popped. Needless to say, our reputation in the chapel and in a great part of the village was made. At the conclusion of services we were greeted like old-timers by the pastor and the congregation. We were no longer strangers, we were not disbelievers. And, in fact, within a fortnight I was invited to be on the local PTA board and asked into the inner sanctum of the village Conservative Party headquarters to observe the parliamentary election.
However, I still didn’t know where John had learned that story. When we got home I asked him where he had learned that bible story.
He said, “From the Sunday Pix” (a Sunday School-oriented comic book).
I repeated, “Where?”
The answer, “The Sunday Pix.”
Then I remembered. Our church in California had a running battle about the issuance of comic books (containing, among other things, bible stories) to the fifth and sixth graders (age 11 and 12). From age 7 on, John had come to the Church School Office and begged a comic book. He would read the bible comic and if he became interested, he would go home, get out his bible and read the rest of the story weeks before the serialized comic strip had finished the story. The story told by the British minister had appeared in his comic book. He had gone home and looked in the book of Samuel for the end of the story.
Fred had heard all about John’s adventures by my next visit and concluded I must be correct that church attendance was greater in America than in England.
Let’s backtrack for a minute from the Sunday School Debut and pick up the boys schooling again. As you will recall we returned from the continent on Saturday, missed the turn-off to the ferry at Tilbury, crossed Tower Bridge instead and arrived home at 1 a.m. Sunday everyone, except Mary, rested and Monday we carted the boys off to school. Monday evening we were informed by Tom that; children at school wear short grey trousers, green blazers and caps with school badges and grey knee socks; that they sell them at Jacobs in Cambridge; and that he was ready to go in right now. Jacobs didn’t have everything in stock and Tom reluctantly agreed to go back to school Tuesday providing his uniform was ready by Wednesday. Bill couldn’t have cared less and John was willing to conform, but didn’t really care much one way or the other.
But by Friday things had happened to Johnny. He was eleven going on twelve and at this point, in England an exam called the “Eleven Plus” separates Primary School pupils into Grammar School scholars or Secondary Modern School scholars. The village headmistress, judging from past American students, and from the general English system of starting first grade at 5 years, suggested John just stay in the village school, i.e. essentially stay a year behind his English contemporaries. However, the Cambridgeshire Educational Officer wasn’t convinced of this and suggested John come take an exam. By Friday, just as the last piece of his village school uniform arrived, John was reassigned to a Grammar School, the Cambridgeshire High School for Boys.
Monday just after his Sunday School debut, John and I went off to see the Headmaster in Cambridge and I felt like leading a lamb to slaughter. I explained to John that his carefree days were over. He was now a man. Secretly I somehow hated to see his disgustingly lazy boyhood come to such a screeching halt, but maybe he would survive.
I wasn’t much reassured when told by Headmaster Eagling that: (1) John would be taking Latin, French, Maths (arithmetic, algebra, and geometry), English, Science, History, Geography, Religious Education and Rugby, plus woodworking and music; (2) He was now 4 weeks late, and (3) This was a first rate school with an envious past scholastic record. It was quite apparent that Headmaster Eagling; (1) wasn’t very happy about having another boy of any sort (his school like all others the world over was already packed), (2) was equally unhappy about the late start, (3) wasn’t completely overjoyed at having an American boy (in the past, some had been OK, others just so, so, and in any case, an American is out of the ordinary and British like things the same, just as they were in Victoria’s reign).
John and I were also instructed to purchase a school uniform, a Rugby outfit, a Bible, and a pen (fountain, NOT ballpoint). Everything else was furnished.
So John and I made another trip downtown (and to Lloyds of Cambridge) to get a different school blazer, cap, tie, belt, socks and badge and the aforementioned Bible, pen (fountain), and Rugby outfit. It occurred to me that the Rugby uniform was somewhat scanty, namely shorts, short sleeved shirt, with collar, and cleated shoes. It also occurred to me that Rugby was the great grandfather of American football where helmets, nose guards) shoulder pads, hip pads, knee guards, and much tape were standard equipment. Likewise, it occurred to me that this was October and this game was played through January or February and that conceivably shorts and short sleeved shirt, with no sweater nor long training pants, might be on the chilly side. I had much to learn about Rugby, called rugger, and for that matter I had much to learn about Cricket. For it turns out that when comes the spring and summer, when one might expect warm weather, also comes Cricket. The uniform for Cricket is long flannel trousers, long sleeved shirt, AND sweater, heavy. This reversal of seasons and/or costumes had me a little baffled until I decided that Rugby was probably invented in that part of the British Empire that was perpetually warm, say India, hence shorts. Whereas Cricket must have been developed in the Shetland Islands. When Englishmen do adopt anything new, as when they took up Rugby and Cricket, they aren’t apt to do it differently so if the original game of Rugby was played in shorts, then the final game, just before the big bomb, will also be played in shorts.
Actually, except for the fact that Rugger is a rough, rugged game with hard running and tackling and many separated collar bones and fractured legs and arms, the light weight outfit is fairly appropriate. Personally, I think some padding of some sort would save a few fractures, but be that as it may, the light weight uniform has many advantages. In the first place, unlike American football (or basketball and baseball), Rugger allows no substitutions. I mean NO substitutions, if a man is injured, the side plays with ten men, not eleven. So you have no substitutes sitting on a bench freezing. All players are running and running hard, there are no set plays from scrimmage, with long gaps between successive plays. The general idea is one side kicks off to another side who tries to run and/or lateral pass and/or kick the ball toward the defending teams goal. The ball is not dead when a man is tackled. Instead, a free for all develops until someone squirts out with the ball or until a referee finally decides it is hopeless and calls a scrum. Even a scrum hardly delays the game, the opposing linemen lock shoulders and push and shove each other in mass toward the goal line. This leaves a hole in the middle of this mass of humanity. From one side the “scrum half” rolls the ball into this muddle in the hopes that his “hooker” will kick the ball out backwards from the scrum, where the scrum half will recover it, lateral it to a wing half and the whole play opens up again. Of course, about a third of the time the opposing hooker gets it and the ball starts moving the opposite direction.
Other short delays occur when the ball is run or kicked, usually purposely, out-of-bounds. In this case, a line out is called where each team lines up facing the sidelines standing shoulder to shoulder. One man from the team who kicked or ran the ball out-of-bounds will now stand on the sidelines and throw the ball straight (in the referee’s judgment) back between these two single file lines facing him. The idea is to throw it so that your tallest man can jump up and knock or throw the ball back toward your backs who immediately run it forward again. Except for these two types of stoppages, the only other time outs are called by officials when someone is really hurt. So, in general, Rugger players are running flat out nearly all the time the game is going on, like hockey, soccer, or basketball and NOT like American football. So you see, they ordinarily will not have time to get cold, except maybe their fingers. Now Cricket, on the other hand, is the closest thing to no movement at all that has yet been invented. It is possible for, say, the tenth or eleventh batter to sit an entire day and never even get onto the field. When he does, he swings and swings, but actually need never run. They usually do run, but it is not necessary. More on Cricket later, but for now, yes warm outfits are needed because (1) many players sit many hours and (2) spring and summer days in Britain aren’t that warm.
But back to school. Luckily John got on immediately with at least two of his masters; the Latin master, Mr. Layng a venerable, silver-maned, distinguished looking and acting scholar from the old school who was born to wear his master’s gown with dignity, and the Formmaster, Mr. Thomas, a young, athletic fair minded, good humored, science teacher and Rugby enthusiast, who would like to work an exchange for a year with an American teacher. These two encouraged John through his first fateful week and instilled in him a love for Latin, Rugby, Science and the English system of grammar schools that will last forever.
In Latin, French, and Science John was not too badly off, all other boys were new in this also. In English, history, geography, and music he was fair to middling. In Religious instruction he was well prepared but in Maths he was horrible.
California schools teach children to be good citizens, to be conformists, and to be well liked. A perfect graduate of the California school system would likely become a salesman of some sort, belong to at least one service club, be active in civic affairs, purchase the latest model car each year, and live in the latest housing sub division. These accomplishments make one a good substantial citizen, maintains our American economy, and keeps our advertising boys in business, which in turn maintains our commercial TV and radio. Book learning does not contribute much to the success of this type of well-to-do citizen. In general, knowing the multiplication tables through ten, possessing the reading abilities of a twelve year old, knowing a little American history, and enough English to write a good “selling” letter is all the book learning necessary to make one a first class and, in fact, an outstanding American citizen. There is a saying in America, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you” and I sometimes think this is the motto of our curriculum planners in our public schools. I want to say immediately at this point that the individual class room teachers are first rate. They are grossly underpaid and, therefore, by definition not really respectable people. They do a remarkable job teaching children everything that used to be taught in the homes or at church, but have not much opportunity to teach the children what used to be taught in schools. After all, it is pretty hard to keep children interested or to make them pay you any respect if you have nothing to teach them except how to get along with one another, which they can learn on the playgrounds, how to color pictures, which they can learn at home by turning off the TV or how to run a democratic classroom, which they can learn by joining any of a number of outside activities like scouts, or church youth groups.
Because of the emphasis on camouflaging learning with play activities and teaching “living democracy” instead of 2 of the 3 R’s (They do a good enough job on reading) California schools haven’t enough time left over for “getting on” very far in arithmetic.
When put in a math class with scholars of his own age, John, whose IQ is up with the best of them was hopelessly outclassed. He had been exposed to the simplest operations in manipulating fractions, knew what a decimal fraction was, roughly, but didn’t know long division using divisions longer than three digits, and had no idea how to handle decimal points. In any case, arithmetic using the Sterling monetary system and/or stones (14 pounds) as a unit of weight makes life difficult for semi-decimalized Americans. Take for example the problem: If coke costs 9 shillings and 4 pence per hundredweight (9/4/cwt) how much does one pound of coke cost, and how much does an English (long) ton cost. Needed additional facts for Americans (1) there are 12 pence to a shilling, and 20 shillings to the pound, (2) a hundredweight (cwt) is 8 stone, (3) a stone is 14 pounds, and (4) an English ton is 20 cwt. Note: a hundredweight is 112 pounds. Answer: One pound of coke costs 1 pence; or in English 1 d (where d I understand refers back to the old Roman Denarius). An English ton costs 9/6/8 or (20) x (9) shillings plus (20) x (4) pence but since there are 20 shillings per pound, (20) x (9/20) + (20) x (4) equals 9 pounds plus 80 d = 9/6/8. An American ton would cost 2000 pence or 8/6/8. Just to confuse the issue try to convert these costs over to American dollars. Remember a pound = $2.80. The long ton costs (9/6/8) x (2.80) and the American ton $2.80 less. The only problem is how do you multiply 9/6/8 by 2.80. It is really very simple - it merely becomes (2.80) x (9 + 6/2 + 8/240) or (2.80) (9 + 1/3) = $25.20 + 0.93 = $26.13. You may see why John was a little slow in arithmetic.
It took John through Christmas vacation to catch up in arithmetic at about one hour per night. This plus keeping up on all other subjects kept John very busy. However, in defense of American boys, I think I should add that at the end of the Michaelmas term (by Christmas) he was eighteenth in his class of thirty, eleventh by Easter, and although he was never assigned, since he would not be there the following year, I think he would have been in the A stream (upper third) had he stayed.
But, of course, even more important he did make the first eleven in his form for Rugby. This was the year for Americans in Rugby. Rhodes scholar and ex Army all-American Dawkins helped Oxford beat Cambridge (worse luck) and made quite a hit with English fans. And at Cambridgeshire High School for Boys another American, Harshbarger, (dad from Penn State) made the first eleven and endeared Americans to the hearts of all local English fans with his American tackles, hard running, broad grin, and short haircut.
Likewise, John picked up the local aberration of English English and sounded to us like a cockney. Before we left we could hardly understand him. And stranger than strange in his class of 30, he found one other boy, Leslie Waters, later his best friend, who had a birthday the same day as his own. Not too surprising, except of course, he has a birthday only once every fourth year, and stranger still this was the year. The two of them together would only add together enough birthdays to equal half the number of anyone else in the class. If my mathematics of probabilities are correct, the chances of finding two leap year boys in a class of 30 boys is one in five thousand.
We had scarcely gotten the boys correctly uniformed for the correct school and introduced into the Sunday school at the Chapel when Tom brought home a note announcing a PTA meeting. Having just served on the PTA board at Kate Sessions school in San Diego, as the Spiritual and Character Leadership Chairman (I read an inspirational “thought for the day” to start each meeting), I was anxious to go and compare notes on procedures.
It turned out this was an organizational meeting and not a general meeting. The key officers had been elected but the governing committee had not been selected. This, plus planning for the three general meetings (one each in the Michaelmas, Lent, and Summer terms), and planning for making and spending the association’s money was the agenda of the evening.
Mr. Chamberlin (not the umbrella Chamberlin) the chairman, opened the meeting by reading apologies written by members who should have been there and weren’t. The custom seems to be either show, or send your apologies in writing. At the conclusion of this, he asked if anyone brought apologies for anyone else. One member said, “Yes, Mrs. Cartwright phoned me to say she was home with a cold and would not be in attendance. She sends her apologies”. He then stated that Mr. Sell would be here as soon as he could make it.
We then learned that the finances were really not too badly off but just as a steady reminder we’d better have some sort of fund-raising project. Anyway it would be nice to give the school a gift again like the venetian blinds last year.
Then Headmistress Smith thanked the PTA for the venetian blinds and suggested that the school could certainly use a tape recorder.
By now Mr. Sell had arrived and the official business could start. In addition to Miss Smith and Mr. Chamberlin, Miss Golding, John’s ex-teacher was in attendance, and about 6 other parents. One of these, Mrs. Ferguson, spoke American English and was an attractive negro woman. I found out her husband was an American Air Force Captain and was a dentist.
The first order of business was, as might be expected, the fund-raising project. Various schemes were suggested, housey-housey (bingo), harvest sale, beetle drive, raffle, whist drive, sale of work, etc. It was agreed that a raffle was in order regardless of whatever else they might have. All such church or school meetings had a raffle. Sixpence per ticket and three prizes. Mrs. Ferguson would purchase prizes from the Post Exchange. Prizes not to exceed one pound.
I told them about our system in San Diego where each elementary school had a fund-raising carnival on Halloween night. These carnivals not only kept the children off the streets but also made lots of money. Of course you can’t really keep the children from their “trick or treat” neighborhood rounds, they either do it the preceding night or in the hours just before or just after the carnival. But I’m sure it cuts down on the malicious mischief practiced extensively in my youth.
However they decided a carnival on Guy Fawkes night just wouldn’t be proper and since fireworks are the main celebration congregating too many people in one spot could be outright dangerous. They would continue their small group bonfires and skyrocket parties and have a Beetle Drive at the school later.
At this point before any details were worked out, we had an interval for tea and biscuits, While serving me my tea and after having conversed with Mr. Chamberlin and Headmistress Smith, Miss Golding asked me if I’d object being nominated to the PTA board. Although the National Science Foundation did not send me to England to study their mannerisms and customs, this was indeed one of my own private objectives. How better to learn of English customs than to infiltrate into their organizations? In any case, I was flattered to be considered an eligible nominee after only two weeks in this staid olde English village. I told her I’d be pleased and before the meeting had hardly reconvened, I was nominated and elected.
The meeting went off very smoothly from here on out. A date was chosen that gave minimum conflict with each and every member’s schedule (pronounced shedule). Mr. Sell, who taught Mechanical Art at Cherry Hinton Grammar School would make the posters, Mrs. Ferguson would buy the raffle and beetle drive prizes (at the Air Force PX), Mrs. Brown, who apparently always handled the tea and biscuit problem, would do so again. Mrs. Chamberlin would be Master of Ceremonies, Miss Golding and I would be general flunkies, and Headmistress Smith would see to it that every pupil got an announcement to take home at the proper time.
I heard no more about the Beetle Drive until Tom and Bill brought home Headmistress Smith’s announcement. Then I noticed Mr. Sell’s posters in Dick Whitmores Butcher Shop and in all other shops along High Street. Mary asked me what I was supposed to be doing. I said, “Awaiting orders.”
We hadn’t yet got Daniel house-without-momma broken or conversely we had as yet not found a baby sitter whose ears and nerves could take his continual (hours on end) crying. Poor Dan had had a rough 5 months; no crib (cot) of his own in room of his own, no house at all, and never really out of sight of mom. He didn’t take to life in an upstairs bedroom far removed from mom at all well. And he didn’t take to mom going off without him at all. So I went to the Beetle Drive alone, and early.
There was really no need of my going early. The women on the committee, as women the world over, had everything well under control. Mr. Sell, Mr. Chamberlin, and I did move a few tables and chairs but just to look busy. Our Beetle Drive was in the school cafeteria which was not overly large but just held the 30 people who showed up. Mr. Chamberlin quickly explained the rules, probably for my benefit since everyone else knew the rules. You sit four to a table. Each person has a card with 12 largish squares. There is one die (singular of dice) per table. On an initial shake the highest number gets to be first at each table. At the signal the first person at each table shoots for a six. No six, no play, pass the die around. Once a six is thrown, that person draws a big oval body in his square. Once the body is drawn, appendages such as legs, head, tail, eyes, and feelers are added with the appropriate number on the die. When someone in the room has a complete beetle the game stops. Everyone adds up his completed points, 6 for body, etc. The highest two scores move to the next table and the next beetle is drawn. Obviously the more throws per minute, the more chances of getting a beetle, so speed is the password. Every scheme is tried to get the die passed around the table quickly. If someone throws the die off the table they are ostracized.
At the interval, Mrs. Brown with the help of Miss Golding served tea and biscuits. Mrs. Ferguson, with the help of Miss Golding, held her raffle and gave away the bottle of sherry, a can of sweets, and a torch (flashlight). They also had a food auction, everyone brought their specialty and everyone else bid for it. I got Miss Golding’s plum jelly.
After another hectic round of the Beetle Drive, scores were totaled and another set of prizes given away. At a shilling per card less prizes and with the raffle and auction proceeds the total money earned for the evening was a decent sum. I must say, though, that they did indeed have a good time. I guess the children enjoy our Halloween Carnivals but I find them deadly. Children were not invited to the Beetle Drive nor to many other social activities, but the British parents really enjoy a Beetle Drive. So ended the fall term PTA meeting and annual fund raising event.
A second committee meeting set up the winter meeting in near record time. I’m sure each year the fall meeting is a Beetle Drive, the winter meeting an inspection of children’s work (with a half hour speech beforehand) and the spring meeting a school dancing program. At least this was the order this year and everything seemed to fall in place too well for all this to have been spontaneous.
There was not much question that the winter meeting of the PTA was a huge success. By the time Mary and I got there, after turning the boys over to a baby sitter, the Church Room was packed. The on-timers scowled a little but crowded up a bit and we managed to squeeze onto a bench right against the wall next to the door. Of course no one ever took off their coats at these affairs, they would freeze solid. The single fireplace in this huge room gave about as much heat as a candle in a barrel. The speaker undoubtedly got there early because he had the spot right next to the fireplace and he had taken off his coat. The listeners sat around him in concentric semi-circles.
The entrance was not at the rear of the room, or else the speaker was not at the front of the room. In any case, the entrance was on the speaker’s left, and there was a small aisle through which he could escape if the audience got too violent. To the speaker’s right, the circular rows ran almost up to the wall, a person could squeeze through and there were indeed a few seats all the way on the opposite wall from the door. Was I glad we weren’t any later. It would really have been embarrassing to cross completely across the room and directly in front of the speaker.
However we weren’t the latest comers. We had hardly gotten ourselves settled enough so that we could scowl at all later comers than in came one of the village characters. We had often noticed this middle-aged, sloppily-dressed woman walking around the village. She always wore pants and a jacket that didn’t fit. She wore her hair short and looked as much like a man as like a woman. She seemed completely oblivious of the world around her and obviously didn’t give a half crown for what other people thought of her. Upon inquiry people told us she was the wife of a Cambridge professor, a noted poet, and an avowed communist. Whether she was a communist or just gained that notorious title because of her queer dress, manner, and profession I will never know. I would be willing to bet that in Puritan Salem such a woman would have been burnt as a witch. People who don’t conform are often labeled with the worst name in current use, witch, anarchist, fascist, and in this generation Communist. I might add that her dress and appearance would have elicited her the Communist label from certain people even if she repeatedly voted conservative.
In her walks around the village she was almost always accompanied by a large shaggy dog and tonight was no exception. Of course I didn’t see “Shag” at first, I just heard some muffled instructions just before the door opened and she appeared. She closed the door, as best you can a door with a broken latch, and proceeded to make the long march across the room in front of the speaker. Of course the speaker, the county Dental Officer, had to stop his talk as she jostled in front of him. But he was an inveterate speaker and seemed to enjoy the chance to depart from his cut and dried speech to extemporaneously make some pleasant remark.
Just as the honoured speaker again got onto the subject of teeth and how Britain had the world’s worst, the door creaked and in walked “Shag”. Like his master Shag couldn’t have cared less about the assemblage or the honoured speaker. Shag started the same march as his constant comrade but stopped in front of the fireplace right at the foot of the speaker. Who wouldn’t, that was the only warm place in the whole room, and even then you could see the speaker’s breath when he talked. I think the dental officer was friendly enough with dogs but somehow the audience noise level in the form of snickers and chuckles got so high that it was obvious something need be done. So the village poet who had just settled into position, regained her feet and started the counter march back across the front of the room. The subdued laughter became an uproar and the advice to drink more milk and to eat fewer sweets came to a complete stop. After a minute or two of discussion between poet and dog a new solo entrance was made and the assemblage came to order again.
However all was not yet well. A later late corner reopened the door. Upon being beckoned by Miss Smith to the empty chairs across the room, she started the trip across the front of the room, followed unbeknownst to her, by Shag, The poor embarrassed woman couldn’t tell why everyone was laughing, and in her confusion she didn’t see the loose floor board. Need more be said. Luckily she wasn’t hurt as her foot dropped through the floor to the ground about six inches below. At this point the laughter was welcome because a potentially extremely embarrassing situation became a farce not a tragedy. The speaker now acting more like a ringmaster at a circus than as a serious speaker at a PTA meeting told a joke or two until everyone was settled.
We finally heard the horrible statistics on how the cavity-to-dentist ratio was higher in Britain than anywhere else in the world. However no one was really listening. No feature could have followed such a choice selection of comic relief.
The inspection of children’s work which followed was very similar to the same inspection in California. The major difference was that even five-year olds were displaying arithmetic workbooks, and workbooks with words printed in. The ratio of 3R work to busy work was much higher in this small English village school than in the California school the boys had left. They didn’t have a store complete with counters and empty cans but they did have some writing and arithmetic to show.
We missed the spring dance program since it came in the summer. We left our lovely village on 21 July, and on 22 July the PTA had their final (outdoor, if no rain) meeting. I feel very cheated about this and will do everything possible to get back some day in late July to see this final outing. Then I can also find out if Headmistress Smith got her tape recorder.
After John’s Sunday School debut and my election (draft) to the PTA committee, I was an alien citizen, first class, of Fulbourn. One day on my return home from the Unit, Mary asked if I wanted to observe the Parliamentary Election. It seems as if Mr. Rodwell, the husband of the proprietor of Myrtleberry’s Store was the local chairman of the Conservative Party. Since I’d proved myself to be God-fearing (through John) and community spirited, I was to be initiated into the workings of the celebrated English system of free elections. My education was to consist of observing the workings of the village Conservative Party Committee in action on election night.
I had noticed for weeks on the billboard by Fred’s barber shop something to the effect that, “You’ve never had it so good, don’t let Labour take it away, Vote Conservative.” At the Unit I’d heard many arguments that sounded strangely like arguments I’d heard in U.S. in 1956, and ‘52 and ‘48. In general every year that John had a birthday, half of the people in the U.S. would start saying the other half were doing everything wrong. This was nothing new; this happened all the time but in different cycles: for example every October half the people say hurray for the Yankees and the other half down with the Yankees (the argument gets louder in a stadium in the Bronx called Yankee Stadium, or the Park that Ruth built); about a month later half the people say down with Notre Dame and the other half cheer vocally in South Bend, Indiana for Notre Dame; most anytime of any year management and labor are at logger-heads, or the north and the south, or the east and the west. However starting in the summer after John’s birthday half of the Yankee fans join with half the non-Yankee fans and say down with the Democrats, while the other half of the Yankee fans combine with half of the non-Yankee fans and say down with the Republicans.
About the only difference I could hear between the arguments in U.S. on leap years and the arguments I was hearing at the Unit was a different set of words, instead of Republicans and Democrats I was hearing Conservatives and Labour. Although occasionally I heard of a third party called Liberal. And in fact at the Unit I heard Liberal quite often. But back to Fulbourn.
Immediately after tea, a midget Hillman panel lorry stopped at the Manse and Mrs. Rodwell came and took me in hand. We proceeded to the top of Pierce Lane and the meeting room in Mrs. Wilson’s house, The Nook. Here I already saw some familiar faces, Chamberlin the PTA chairman and the garage owner and sports racing driver. I was soon introduced to Squire Townley who lived, of course, in the Manor House.
The meeting room was a beehive of activity. The center of activity was a woman at a table with a list of names. She kept checking off names and sending off drivers of cars to pick up errant voters. Occasionally someone would come in with a list of numbers and the woman at the desk would feverishly check them against her list and bark out some new commands. After observing tacitly for awhile and noting that I couldn’t figure out the riddle, I started asking questions. Although I didn’t get the whole story from any one person and in the correct chronological order, this is what I found out.
Some weeks before the election, I presume after a registration of some sort, a notification of eligibility is sent to each legitimate voter. For the activities at hand this evening the crucial aspect was that in this mailing each voter received a number, his identification number. Each Party also got a complete listing of every voter in the district. Nowhere in this procedure does the voter declare to which party he belongs. With no primary elections here is no reason why any voter need disclose to which party he belongs and consequently he does not so declare.
On election day as each voter comes to the polls, he is met by 2 or 3 unofficial door checkers. These checkers are representatives of the Conservative, Labour, and/or Liberal parties. As each voter enters they merely ask him his number which they dutifully write down. Every half hour or so, a runner from the party headquarters comes and picks up this list of numbers from the officially sanctioned spies. Of course no one need tell these door checkers their numbers, it is only custom or courtesy which dictates such compliance.
As the runner comes back from the polls to the headquarters his list of numbers is checked against the master list. If number 23 for example is Mr. Rodwell his name, already underlined in blue, is cancelled off as a safe Conservative vote. When number 67, Mr. Perry our neighbor the coalman, comes in they underline his name in red, a bloody Labour vote, not a true blue Conservative. This works fine until number 16 has been reported as voting, but who is Mrs. Wells, number 16? She is new in the village and her name has not already been underlined in blue since she wasn’t home when Mr. Rodwell’s canvassers called.
Just as in the U.S., prior to the election each active and on-their-toes party sends out house to house callers asking each voter to vote for their candidates. In the U.S., when the door is slammed in the face of Mrs. Welloff when she asks Mrs. Toilandsweat to vote for Nixon, Mrs. Welloff concludes she has not called upon a sympathetic and correctly oriented soul. Just so, when Mr. Chamberlin looks into the unsmiling taunt and haggard face of Mr. Newman the local signalman for British Railways at his Council home, when extolling the virtues of Mr. Macmillan’s government he concludes Mr. Newman is not a true blue safe and sure Conservative. The results of such canvassing and other circumstantial evidence helps the local party decide whether to true blue or to bloody red each name on their list.
Even so many names are not categorized at all. So with Mrs. Wells. She didn’t live in Council (low rent government) housing. Her husband didn’t have an obvious TUC (Trade Union Council) job, so she could be a Conservative but no one knew. However since she had already voted the issue wasn’t vital.
The important thing at this point in the evening was those names still on the list who hadn’t yet voted. That is those names on the list who hadn’t voted and which were not bloody red. For each true blue name a car and driver was dispatched post haste. Then came the uncategorized names. And the council of war. “Does anyone know the Bates on Cow Lane?” “They read the (London) Times, they are probably with us.” “What about the Simpsons on Teversham Road?” “They shop at the co-op, let them walk.” “Who knows the Tabers on Haggis Gap?” “They listen to the third program, we’d better pick them up.”
Finally all the cars and drivers were dispatched and it was time to learn more about English politics. “What about a visit to the polls?” asked my hostess. “Fine, but am I allowed to go in?” “Certainly, come along.” And so we left the hopping activity of the committee room and got into the Hillman again. Of course I headed for the driver’s side, since in U.S. it would not have been the driver’s side. This was soon straightened out and we set off for the school house. As we entered two eager souls asked for our numbers. I was ready to retreat and stop my political education at this point. I could see me spending my year in England in gaol (jail) for padding the ballot box. Mrs. Rodwell just told them we were visiting and on we went inside. In the hall in front of Headmistress Smith’s office which led to Miss Golding’s room sat Headmistress Smith and Miss Golding barring the way into the inner sanctum where the actual voting was done. As compared to the door checkers, they looked a little more official and somewhat foreboding (if Miss Golding could look foreboding, and John says yes, she could). I was hoping Mrs. Rodwell had decided I’d seen enough since I didn’t know the password from here on in.
Headmistress (now chief election challenger) Smith smiled broadly and asked facetiously if I had come to vote. I hastened to add, lest the walls have Scotland Yard ears, that I was only learning the ABC’s of English elections, and was not intending to vote. She could understand my interest having witnessed my interest in school and PTA matters. I somehow had the feeling that I could have made my inspection more complete but I was happy to remain on the outside looking in. In any case being in the tow of the Conservative Party chairman’s wife, I wasn’t sure how many good Labourites I was alienating.
We soon returned to the inner sanctum of the Conservative Party Headquarters. By this time I could see how ridiculously simple an English Parliamentary Election is. All of this fuss and bother and all the voter does is choose one of two men, one clearly labeled Conservative, the other Labour (in some districts a Liberal may also run).
When I think of our presidential election where you vote for a president and his running mate the vice-president, a national Representative (essentially what the English were now voting for), oft-times a Senator (something more like a member for the House of Lords), a state governor, a state senator, a state representative, numerous judges, sheriffs, city councilmen, perhaps a mayor, and in California at least a yes-no vote on about 20 propositions. These propositions to do with what I thought all those men we were voting for were doing but I guess not. Anyway going to the polls in a presidential election is a chore, a real job. To vote intelligently on the propositions it is necessary or desirable to read a 20 to 50 page booklet on all the pros and cons. On the more important ones thousands of dollars are spent on billboards (which say, “Vote Yes on 3”), radio commercials (which say, “Vote Yes on 3”), bumper stickers (which say, “Vote Yes on 3”), handbills (which say, “Vote Yes on 3”), and on form letters (which say, “Vote Yes on 3”). About this time some people get curious as to what proposition 3 is. By carefully reading the newspaper you might find out what proposition 3 is. It probably has to do with taking the fluorine out of drinking water, or removing the tax free provision on church parking lots (car parks). You still don’t know whether yes means you favor the proposition or not. For example the fluorine proposition was worded such that if you favored the proposition you voted no. Since, other things being equal people tend to vote yes on propositions no one was quite certain after that election how many people wanted fluoridated water and how many did not. This is no real problem however since they just put the proposition on again at the next election and so it goes. An old age pension plan gets on repeatedly because the vote comes out differently every election.
But back to Merrie Olde England. It hardly seemed to be worthwhile to go to all the bother to vote if you have only to choose one of two men. You could just as easily flip a coin. After each district elects its representative (and the representative need not live in the area he represents) the collective representatives in Parliament then select their own leader, who becomes Prime Minister. The voters themselves do not select the prime minister, they only select their own MP (Member of Parliament).
Before I got to England I always considered the Parliamentary system to reflect the will of the people better than our system in as much as the Prime Minister always is the leader of the party who has the most MP’s. However my English friends just about argued me out of my point of view. They point out that we have an election very two years and if voter sentiment changes our House of Representatives immediately reflects this change. My impression of the British system was that if a major issue came up they just called an election and essentially elected themselves through their MP’s the Prime Minister who represented the prevailing voter sentiment. My British friends informed me this could be done but by law elections were only necessary every five years. Therefore a party with a large majority could flaunt the populace for a full five years regardless of the changed sentiments of the populace. If the majority party at the end of three or four years sees it has a strong chance of reelection, that might fade in a year or two, they call an election. In other words the majority party can call for the election whenever it is to their advantage as long as they do it within five years of the last election.
So much for political systems. The polls had now closed and I was expecting a hectic night of awaiting for results. Not in Fulbourn; by counting the true blues who had voted and the bloody reds, my friends concluded Fulbourn at least was safe for another five years. They suggested a minor sort of celebration but no one was really interested and the group dissolved before my very eyes just as if someone had made a motion for adjournment.
Next morning’s paper heralded, “Conservatives Pull Hat Trick.” This meant they had won their third consecutive election. (The hat trick is cricket for getting three batters out on three bowls, why it is called a hat trick I don’t know.) I noted my colleagues at the Unit were not nearly as happy as my Fulbourn neighbors. This did not surprise me as my scientific colleagues in the U.S. also tend to the left.
I now had it made in the village. John had gotten us into the God-fearing group; my educational trip to the PTA and subsequent draft onto the board got me into the scholarly circles; and now I had met the solid citizens, the local Conservative bigwigs. I had yet to meet the shopkeepers, the scouting people, the other overseas visitors, and the largest untapped group of all, the general workers. But all in due course.
For most of their home games, fewer than 30 people (23 plus us watched the Cambridgeshire High School for Boys first eleven Rugby team. When they played Perse, there may have been 93. In neither Rugby nor Cricket did anyone seem to care who won. As I got the story it wasn’t the game but the get together afterwards that counted. The point is athletics were relatively non-competitive at least below the Oxford vs. Cambridge level. Not that each man and team didn’t play to win but I heard the coach tell the boys more than once “That wasn’t a very sporting thing to do.” Breaking or stretching rules beyond the bounds of good sportsmanship just wasn’t Cricket.
However, in the classroom every boy was graded in every test and homework assignment. His marks were well known to one and all. Each term, in every subject, John’s 30 member class was listed from 1 to 30 in order of their marks. On the bases of all subjects each boy had his class standing at the end of each term. I had the impression that the competitive spirit was directed more at scholastic achievement and less at athletic prowess.
Even in Sunday School competition had its place. Starting the first full month in Mrs. Wood’s Sunday School class Tom came home with the following tale:
“Mrs. Wood told us to write our version of the story of Joseph.”
“Whatayoumean write, you can’t write yet.”
“She said if we couldn’t write we could draw pictures.”
“For next Sunday?”
“No, we have all month.”
“Will everyone do it?”
“Yes, she is giving a prize for the best story.”
“Well, we’ll worry about it later.”
“I want to start right now.”
“Do you know the story of Joseph?”
“No, you tell me what to draw and I’ll draw it.”
So started our, Tom’s and mine, study of Joseph. I read a little while Tom listened. That didn’t work too well. Too many big words, not enough action. What did it mean? So I read, then paraphrased the story in my own words. Still “What do I draw?” So finally, “Tom, why not draw a picture of some men bringing bundles of wheat to another man to stack.” “OK” and off to work he went. A little later, “What shall I draw now?” “A caravan (the camel kind, not a house trailer)” This, continued for four weeks.
“A many colored coat.”
“Lean ears and fat ones.”
“A rich man with servants.”
Before it was over Tom had a real collection which when pieced together formed a complete and understandable story. He even copied on each picture the appropriate Biblical phrase.
He was still quite unhappy, since the others were writing their’s. What really made him unhappy was that the others of his age could read the Bible passages and he couldn’t. We cured this somewhat by having him memorize the particular passage assigned for the day, and this worked pretty well.
Anyway came ‘Der Tag’, the day of judgment, when the class, with a little discrete direction from Mrs. Wood, would decide who had the best story, pictures or writing. Tom had done a good job on his pictures and he had stacks of them. His tale read like the comic strips and this seemed to appeal to his classmates, he won.
The prize; a tin of sweets (Turkish Delight). We had been wondering for a month what the prize would be, which only showed we were new to England. Hard candies, toffees, gum drops, and the like are the standard “sweet” in England and the kids (and their parents) love sweets. At each of the village grocers the most prominent display was row after row of large glass jars containing every variety of these jaw crackers and tooth eroderers. When mommies or older sisters would leave babies in prams (the babies, in prams could be up to 3 years old) outside of stores, they would pop one of these pacifiers into the mouth of the not too patient infant.
As the dads and moms bicycled home from work they would stop for these morsels of quick energy in order to make, the last mile. It is no wonder that the shire dental officer speaking at the P.T.A. told one all, “The condition of teeth in Britain is horrible, the world’s worst teeth.” He listed as reasons, “Too many sweets, not enough milk, not enough dentists.” It is interesting to note at this point the difference between socialized medicine and socialized dentistry. Medical doctors get paid a set rate for every patient on their lists, more or less regardless of how often they see the said patient. Obviously if the doctor can keep them well and happy he keeps himself among the idle (not very) rich (also not very). Dentists on the other hand get set fees from the state depending on services performed. Fillings, large, get him more than fillings, small. Likewise extractions, molars, pays more than cleaning. Therefore, since he has more patients than he can handle anyway he tends to make fillings large, and extractions, molars; and not examinations and cleanings.
But back to Tom’s tin of Turkish Delights. He got most of them home, his class was small and relatively polite. Now we had a new problem. The sweets were pretty good, especially to those to whom caution was a concept not yet learned. Even momma liked the candy, or the tin. I must admit the tins they put toffees and certain other candies in are both beautiful and useful. They are painted with colorful pictures of castles, or fairytale scenes, or most anything. They make wonderful boxes for foreign coins, needles, thimbles, and the like; souvenir ticket-stubs, marbles and new candy.
Dan just loved to unwrap one of these sweets. However, he didn’t really like them and we found them on table clothes, bedspreads, rugs, in mittens, on the seats of pants (formerly on chairs), etc.
Charlie didn’t like them much, he just plain liked milk. Whenever he asked for milk we knew he was either tired and about ready to go to sleep; feeling lonely and unloved; bored; knew Mamma was busy doing something she couldn’t stop in order to open the fridge; or maybe even hungry.
Bill, our boy with the worst teeth and appetite loved them and was always sneaking in between meals and ruining his teeth and appetite.
Tom, himself was so suggestible about things like tooth aches, etc. that his conscience never allowed him to enjoy his sweets or develop an uncontrollable lust.
However, we noted that at about this time Tom and Bill became very popular with their village playmates. At first these included many Sunday School classmates, including Della Joy Woods. The crowd, however, soon grew to include school chums, mostly girls.
At our house girls were just barely tolerable. The boys sometimes admitted Mom was necessary, they just couldn’t quite understand why she had to be a girl. In California they were so busy playing ball that the few hardy girls who did stray into our yard soon saw they were no competition for ball and usually withered away again. The best way to start a fight was to have Bill call John, “Debbie” and on down the line.
These English girls, however, were made of sterner stock. They chased Tom and Bill until the boys about dropped in their tracks. They could climb the back fence into the Eastern Electricity Boards transformer station, which our boys hadn’t thought of yet. They also showed Tom and Bill how to climb atop the shed roof, to the top of the apple tree and about everything else we had either told them not to do or that they hadn’t yet thought of.
Some of these girls even lasted beyond the prize tin of sweets, in fact through many new box designs we had found. I’m sure it was these girls that put the final burst of running speed into Tom, which was to pay off later at sports day. They certainly kept the boys trim but didn’t help Mamma’s disposition any. These English girls like all kids had a little difficulty in hearing certain statements. For example, any sentence that started in don’t, like: Don’t carry Dan out in the yard and drop him. Don’t get the ball out from among the transformers. Don’t give Dan anymore sweets. Don’t throw the coke, at the neighbors cat. And don’t dig that hole under the fence. They even had a little difficulty with a few Anglicized American non-don’t statements; like Run along now it’s time for tea. Or let the neighbors cat go home now.
We were used to running a general neighborhood supervised playground. But we weren’t used to the stamina and imperviousness of our village cousins. We were about ready to stop buying any more sweets and/or hiring a trainer to teach Bill and Tom to run faster when one afternoon Mary heard a terrible crash. She ran out to see which boy or girl had bashed which other with a cricket bat but found only our boys, the flying coat tails of many girlish forms and a five foot section of cast iron eave trough laying on the sidewalk.
Bill and Tom said they weren’t around at the time but knew that the greatest tomboy of them all, Sally, was trying to climb up to the coal shed roof. We pieced together that part of this maneuver including hanging on said eave. We were afraid she might have been hurt but actually never found out. Apparently the girls figured they had gone too far. We didn’t see any of them for a month and then only one or two at a time for a few minutes. Our boys had lost their ardent Amazon suitors. I heard no wailing, just, “Let’s play Rugby,” again.
We soon had the boys in school, had made our church (chapel) connection, had discovered four of the five village grocery stores, found the butcher, the barber, the milkman and paper boys, had the boys’ shoes fixed at the cobblers and got our name on the baker’s list for bread on Saturday. Now came the family doctor problem.
Dr. Jones lived and had his surgery (office) right around the corner from Pierce Lane on Apthorpe Street. I had been advised by my professional colleagues that we were eligible to participate in the National Health Service scheme, but that to further Anglo-American relations it might be well to become private (paying) patrons. I later found that a great portion of the petrol (gasoline) tax, which about doubled the price of petrol went toward supporting the National Health Service, it obviously didn’t go for maintaining or building roads. Since, by British standards, I was a big user of petrol (and milk, food, meats, shoes, etc.) I was doing my part on National Health without knowing it.
In any case, one evening after returning from the Unit where I had an office and carried on my research, I made a trip over to see Dr. Jones. It turned out he was on a holiday and his partner Dr. Hanton was there. Drs. Jones and Hanton did not, by any means, share the same surgery or have the same list of patients. In fact, Dr. Hanton’s surgery was in Cherry Hinton an eastern district of Cambridge. It was only that they were each others relief for such things as holidays or other emergencies.
I stated my problem to Dr. Hanton, namely, “Should I, an American, enter our family on the National Health Service or as private patients?”
He saw no problem. “With a family of five boys you’d better get on National Health”
“Would he and/or Dr. Jones think this a violation of English good will without contributing our share of the cost?”
“Not at all, after all who helped England back on her feet after World War II?”
“What had other Americans done?”
“Joined up, no qualms of conscience.”
“We will compromise, we’ll list John, Tom, Bill, Charlie, and Dan, but not ourselves.”
“Suit yourself, I’d sign up the whole family.”
“You don’t know Mary, my wife. She doesn’t believe in not paying our own way. She believes in giving not receiving. In fact, I don’t know if she will go along with signing on the boys.”
“Here are the cards, have her cosign them along with you and we’ll place the boys names on our lists.”
As I expected, Mary wasn’t too happy with this arrangement, but since we were in no financial position to chance a medical catastrophe she reluctantly signed. However, just as at home, our boys were remarkably healthy. We needed the doctor on only two occasions. The first was in connection with Tom’s sudden attack of schoolitis, which will be described in a later chapter, called Tom’s Black School Days. The other makes up this tale.
I had just returned from a three day meeting of the British Psychological Society in Hull in time for a special school holiday. Because of the extra holiday John’s boy scout troop was on a camp out. John was out in a nearby pasture with his village troopers. Knowing how happy grown up boys are to see parents and young brothers when on a big independent adventure of their own, Mary and I vowed not to go check on John’s state of health.
However, as the long English June twilight continued on, who should come walking up the street but the Collins. The Collins were even newer in the village than we were. Laura was a red headed Scottish lass who had been a wartime WAC. Douglas was an agricultural adviser specializing in the feeding of pigs. He was an English civil servant. Their oldest boy Duncan, like our John, was in the camp out. Whether Duncan liked it or not they were going out to see how he was doing. How would we like to come along?
Under the circumstances we got shoes on and dirt off all boys and started walking toward the Manor House. We soon found the camp, walked around the nettles and found the boys watering down the soup. It was apparent from the appearance of John’s and Duncan’s hands and faces that the water had not been used for much else.
After a lengthy talk with the assistant scout master and camp out leader about sleep and the lack of it, rain and the abundance of it, and boys the futility of it, we herded our 4 and the Collins 2 younger ones back towards the Manse. It was now 9 o’clock but still very light. As we parents sat around discussing world affairs the boys, the Collins had nothing but future Kings likewise, started running and playing.
We were the Collins’ favorite Americans ever since Mary first met Laura at the Church (not the Chapel) young wives meeting. In a conversation about how we liked the people in this our temporary domicile, Mary said, “Oh the British people are.....” Mary got no further “British people, thats what I like to hear, not English but British”. “You see we Scots think the southern inhabitants of these isles, the English that is, are not quite on a par with the northern or Scottish people, but the British people as a whole, God Bless them are the worlds best”.
Up to this point in our stay we really weren’t aware that English and British were not synonymous. Laura reminded us, however, that the designation Elizabeth II was true of England, only, not Scotland. The new Queen is Elizabeth I in Scottish minds. We realized that all is not calm across the British Mason-Dixon line. Mary had quite accidentally used the more generic term for just the right audience and we had a fast English-Yankee friend. Laura even showed us the difference in design on current one shilling pieces. The English version had 3 lions (representing England, Scotland and Wales) while the Scottish version had but one. Both were used interchangeable by any but Scotsmen or numismatists.
About the time we had decided that all English speaking people were the worlds best and our two families were examples of the best of them, we heard a crash, saw two boys bounce off of each other and heard one loud and lamentable cry. It was Johnny Collins who was crying and, in fact, seemed temporarily dazed and soon had a half egg on his forehead. Since Tom was not crying and, in fact, since we had long since given up thinking much about minor collisions, measles, and cuts and bruises we didn’t pay much attention to Tom.
Laura, however, noticed that the cut under Tom’s eye was indeed a deep one and didn’t stop bleeding fast or easily. In fact, after a few more minutes of leisurely goodbyes we decided, on Laura’s suggestion, to take Tom up to see Dr. Jones and maybe get a stitch in his cut.
I knew Dr. Jones was not apt to have surgery at 9:30 Sunday evening, but also knew that, in general, doctors expect emergencies. So with a quiet and subdued Tom beside me, I walked around the corner to the residence of Dr. Jones. Of course, no one answered the door and we were starting out the front gate when we met the doctor’s guitar playing boy. He saw Tom and guessed we were looking for his father. He told us this was his dad’s night out - we would have to go into Cherry Hinton (Cambridge) and see Dr. Hanton. He gave us the address on Cherry Hinton Road and off we went.
At about 10 o’clock we knocked on Dr. Hanton’s door and were admitted to his surgery. He took one look at Tom and asked, “What happened?”
“A collision with another boy”
“How come Tom wasn’t in bed, don’t you know it is nearly 10 o’clock. If children were in bed by 8 they couldn’t be getting in trouble, could they?”
“Well, you see ... just home from Hull ... boy scouts ... Scottish friends … running ... crash”.
“And another thing two minutes later and I would have been closed too ... Americans .. all hours of the night.....”
“Come on in here Tom and lay down”.
“Should require two stitches, maybe one will do”.
“Should really deaden area, but that requires a punch with a needle also, so be brave Tom and we’ll just sew it up with no local anesthetic.”
“This might hurt, Tom, but be brave and maybe daddy will buy you a lolly”.
Tom is as stoic as they come. He may have grimaced - I was in the next room, but not a sound.
“Say that is one brave boy”.
“We are all done now”.
“Dad, that boy deserves a fine present”.
Again one of the boys came through under pressure. Whereas Dr. Hanton was far from happy at our initial intrusion, he was now fairly beaming and patting Tom on the shoulder.
“You’ll need something to put over this to keep the air out, but its late now for finding a Chemist. Ah yes, here is some”.
He gave us a bottle full of purple liquid and liked to never found a cork, but finally got it corked and us out.
“See Dr. Jones on Saturday to remove the stitch”.
“Good boy Tom, don’t forget that lolly dad”.
Tom will always have a visible reminder of England (and Britain). The effect is the same as the dueling wound in Germany and Tom can wear it as proudly. Although Dr. Hanton wasn’t too happy with me for keeping Tom from his bed, but he was mighty proud of Tom who in the spirit of the words of advice on our passports “represented America honorably as an unofficial ambassador of good will”.
My major concern regarding my whole trip to England was how to keep warm. I wasn’t really worried about the 5 boys, Mary would somehow handle them. Nor did the prospect of buying, equipping, and utilizing a campster (having never camped a day in my life) worry me much. Schools, housing, finances, scheduling--all of these I knew could be handled. But how was I going to keep warm? Even under my desk in sunny California I had a 200 watt lamp bulb to keep my feet warm. My blood pressure is low and when sitting at my desk hour after hour, I had the feeling my circulation only reached my right hand, and on occasions my brain. I used no other parts of my body, my circulatory system knew this, and my feet got cold.
And the stories I’d heard of Britain--no central heating, rainy, foggy. Even that body temperature was 98°, not 98.6°. Nor was I too happy to read in the paper soon after my arrival when commenting on the heat wave, “On the beach temperatures in the sun reached 108 degrees. Sea temperature was 67°--seven degrees more than normal room temperature.” To me, 67° is five degrees below room temperature. Even in the few hours I spent in my office at the Research Unit in Cambridge in late May my ankles were cold. Of course they’d turned the heating system off in April.
By October, after our hectic summer, I had time to worry about my major problem. And by October I had a major problem. It really wasn’t too cold at the Unit, since they actually heated each office in the old stately mansion. Donald Broadbent, the director, knew of my malady and housed me in a small top floor room. If heat rises my garret, with its gabled ceiling, should have been the warmest nook in the manor. And if their heating system worked in large, medium, and small rooms, it should have worked like a charm in my walled-in cell. I would estimate that the volume of my nook was 250 cubic feet, or the floor space about 40 square feet. With filing cabinet and desk, and table for equipment, the floor area was about halved. And even this remaining area was not all usable since the gabled ceiling came perilously close to head height. The volume of my loft was such that just the addition of me reduced the volume of air by an appreciable amount.
However, these Britons are indeed ingenious, especially as regards heat (or lack of it). The heating system at the Unit was as novel as it was inadequate. In each room was what I figured to be a radiator. It was rectangular; about two feet high, two feet long and nine inches wide. It was painted brown, which is fine for radiating heat. It was not, however, a multiple set of radiating fins. In fact, there were no fins at all, just a smooth brown metal box. But from October to April these decorative chests were warm to the touch, not hot to the touch, just warm, so I deduced they must figure somehow into the heating system.
If these otherwise useless bits of furniture were part of the heating system, there were still many things about the system which puzzled me. First, I had never seen, heard of, or would I expect to find a furnace at the Unit. Nor had I ever seen or heard coal or fuel oil lorries depositing their wares. If a central heating furnace existed, hot water should have been available via the regular plumbing system. Small electric water heaters would not have been necessary above the wash basins in the lavoratories. (The word lavatory is pronounced LAVatory with an accent on the first syllable, where it should be. Because of the possibility of confusion between two similar sounding words whose meanings are highly dissimilar, the word laboratory is pronounced labORatory in England, the accent on the second syllable, where it should not be.) But back to my suspected radiators. I noted these “radiators” had no connecting pipes for hot water or steam. In fact, there was no apparent connection of any sort, no wires, gas hoses, or pipes. This source of heat had me baffled. Were there little men with blow torches inside? An atomic pile perhaps? Not enough sunlight in England for a solar furnace.
One day at lunch I happened to remember the riddle of the unhot, unconnected radiators and asked Donald about it. Then he told me that these were really electric fires (heaters). They sat right over the plugs so no wires were visible. But the ingenious thing was that the major component of the fire was a cement block. During the night when there was not much drain on the Eastern Electricity Board’s source of power, the fires at the Unit were turned on. And so during the night these blocks of cement were thoroughly heated and probably heated the rooms to a livable 70°. The blocks held the heat and radiated away throughout the day, keeping the larger rooms at, say, 56°, the medium ones at 60°, the small ones at 64°, and mine at 68°. All the Britons were happy with their 56°, 60°, and 64° but I was not happy with my 68°. I was therefore allowed an auxiliary electric floor fire. The kind that burn a hole through anything in their focus and don’t even faze anything else. My plan was simple, I directed my extra fire against the large dark green filing cabinet which in turn acted as a very efficient re-radiator.
This of course was only part of the solution. I attended a few lectures at Cambridge University and had tea in the Common Room at the Unit. These rooms tended to be British warm and not American warm, so some portable heat was necessary. My first attempt at this was a stop at Walkers Clothiers for Men. Here I purchased two pair of knee-length, medium thickness (1/16 inch) wool stockings. During October these worked fairly well. In November I purchased two pair of knee-length wool socks of the heavy variety (about 3/8 inch thick). These were wonderful, except of course none of my shoes fit any more. Anyway by December my feet were cold again.
One Saturday morning in the village the boys pressured me into a trip to the cobbler’s shop. They had observed their compatriots were wearing Wellies (short for Wellingtons or Wellington boots). It is not hard to imagine the derivation of the name. Some resourceful advertiser, circa 1815, had persuaded a certain contemporary war hero to endorse his product, a knee or hip length rubber boot worn without shoes. I can see the full-page ads now in The Times. “What was the secret weapon that won at Waterloo?” They probably even sent Matthew Brady I to the scene to sketch the battle. His sketches conspicuously (but only by coincidence) showing the British troops in knee-length rubber boots. Or in the Observer, “What’s good enough for General Wellington is good enough for you, wear Wellingtons.”
Regardless of who made the fortune popularizing rubber boots (and I’ll bet Wellington didn’t get rich off the subsequent sale of them), Wellingtons was now the generic term for boots.
In the process of procuring these necessary military supplies for the boys, George, the cobbler, turned super salesman, asked if I wanted some. A light started to shine in the heat area of my brain and I started nibbling at his bait. You see, Wellies are worn in place of shoes, not on top of shoes. With my new woolen socks I needed new shoes. And with December coming I needed warm new shoes. Wellies aren’t exactly shoes, but in the rain or snow it would appear to me that intelligent people would be wearing Wellies anyway. Being a foreigner I wouldn’t be expected to know whether it was going to rain or not. If anyone was curious about my Wellies, I could always reply, “Isn’t it going to rain today?”
Just to be sure my feet would be warm I bought Wellies large enough to fit over my wool, soft-soled, stocking style slippers. And this indeed did do the trick. Quarter-inch thick, knee-length wool stockings, under ankle-length woolen slippers, under Wellington knee-length boots, and my feet and ankles were warm, even during the lectures at Cambridge University.
I soon found the same three layers of heat insulation worked wonders in my state of near hibernation in my loft at the Unit. At the Unit I would condescend to change into regular shoes for tea (and then hurry back). Of course the Britishers used a slightly different approach. Sweaters were their first defense against “normal room temperature”. I always found, however, that a sweater worn as a sweater did nothing but make me sweat under my arms. If worn to keep my feet warm I always forgot and tripped over my double-footed leggings. Sweaters were not for feet and therefore not for me. A secondary defense worn by one chap at the Unit was a type of wrist glove, or glove without fingers. Apparently his Achilles heel was on the other set of limbs.
In place of the British sweaters and wrist warmers, my tertiary defenses against “normal room temperature” included jackets, heavy socks, and heavy pants. I bought a pair of pants at Walkers that were so heavy I could hardly sit down, they didn’t bend. The cloth was at least an eighth inch thick and tightly woven. These pants had certain characteristics of corrugated cardboard, namely you couldn’t really make a sharp bend in them. Mary never could really iron a crease in them.
One wearing after ironing these pants, and they took on the form of a cross section of an American football. You couldn’t even hang them up on a hanger and get the two sides of the pant legs to lay together. But they were warm, and fitted marvelously over Wellies. You could never tell whether they flared out from the internal pressure of the Wellies, or because of the potential energy ironed into the front and back crease. These pants came the closest to standing up by themselves as anything I’d ever seen. Even Bill’s pants when dried out after he fell into his uncle’s hog wallow couldn’t stand beside my English pants.
Although my grooming would not class me among Esquire’s best-dressed ten, or ten thousand, or ten million, I was warm. Had Esquire concentrated on the other end of the best-dressed distribution I might have made it. But warmth was my goal, let all other chips fall where they may.
Mary and the boys come from a different strain. You can’t get them cold. The boys wore knee pants all year, as did all other English schoolboys. It was difficult to get them to wear their Macks (Macintosh coats) to school or anywhere else. After all, none of them had ever worn coats to school and why should they start now. As a matter of fact, they were just about right. It didn’t really get cold in southern England that winter. As I told my British friends, the only place it’s cold in England is inside your buildings. It only snowed once (about 2 inches and it was on the ground less than a week). There was frost on my windscreen (windshield) on several mornings but it stayed below freezing for over 24 hours only twice. Subtract twenty degrees from the temperature and southern England is very similar to southern California, a very mild climate. The major reason people (American people at least) get cold in England is that they never get a chance to really get warmed up. If you are half frozen from sitting in a room heated to 60 degrees, then go out into 50-degree weather, you get cold.
Mary and I were both raised in America’s mid-west. Every winter the temperature would fall to minus 20 degrees (or as the English would say, 52 degrees of frost). However, our houses were heated to 70 +2 degrees. Before we went outdoors we were warm. When we came back in we could get warm again. Inside we didn’t wear heavy clothes, outside we did. The trouble with England is its mild climate. It doesn’t get cold enough for people to get serious about it.
Take the plumbing for example. Granted The Manse was built before running hot and cold water and flush toilets were in vogue. And granted that if plumbing is added later it is easier to put the pipes on the outside of the house. But houses much newer than The Manse had “inside plumbing” with outside pipes. All of the downstairs drains, for example, went through the nearest wall to an outside drain pipe or to an outside open catch basin. Drains from upstairs or from the toilet went into outside pipes. Outside of the kitchen and scullery there was an open drain. This drain was covered by a cast iron grill for keeping apple cores and other odds and ends out of the sewer. The dish water, and washing machine water all flowed out of open pipes above this drain. Every month or so I would go out and clean all the crud, mostly grease from the dishwater, off of this grill so the waste water could get into the sewer.
About five feet out in the yard from this drain was a fairly large covering over the sewer line. By lifting this cover you could see, and easily reach with a short stick, an open 4 inch pipe. The bottom half of the tile (or cast iron pipe) was there but not the top half. This was the clean-out plug. The drains from upstairs and the toilets did connect directly to this sewer line but the down pipes were outside of the house. The overflow from the bathtub, and from the toilet cistern, were just short, small pipes that ran through the outside wall, period, or, as they say in Britain, full stop. Any overflow just fell through the air to the sidewalk below.
Noting that outside drain pipes and outside water pipes were very common, I surmised that 1) it didn’t really get very cold here, and 2) the English are daft. I asked Donald, my interpreter of British customs, about these outside pipes and open drains. “Don’t they ever freeze up in the winter?” I asked. With a disdainful look of one who is being unfairly criticized, he answered, “Yes, they do, but don’t you see if they are outside it is easier to get at them to thaw them out.” Yes, indeed, I thought, but I didn’t think I’d write a beneficial suggestion home to our less farsighted plumbers.
Another aspect of their plumbing system gave me great challenge in heating up the upstairs bathroom at the Manse. The American safety valve sytem in hot water systems is the thermostat. Sometime before the water in the completely closed system changes from water to steam, and the closed system changes violently to an open system, a thermostat turns off the gas flame and the system remains closed and in one piece. In the English systems I saw, the water is heated by an Aga (coke) cooker. This cooker is usually on 24 hours a day and is used 1) for cooking, 2) to keep the kitchen warm, 3) to burn the garbage in 4) to dry dishes on, 5) to hang wet clothes above, and 6) to heat the water in the hot water tank. This system does not lend itself to a thermostat very conveniently. So they use an open water system. Somewhere way up high in the house, perhaps in the attic, but in the Manse on the wall high above the bathtub is an open cistern (bowl). A float valve allows water into this cistern whenever any is drained out lower down in the system. The cistern itself connects directly through the Aga cooker to the hot water tank. If the hot water tank really got too hot its pressure would relieve itself up through this open cistern which would merely overflow through an open pipe through the outside wall. A foolproof system.
Obviously the water in this supply cistern was outside cold and whatever heat there might have been in the bathroom was used up to bring this water to room temperature. My scheme was very simple. To convert this heat sink to a heat source all I needed to do was to run hot water out of the bathtub top, disable the float valve momentarily, collect this hot water and pour it back into the cistern. In principle and in practice this system worked fine. I could make myself a hot water radiator in the upstairs bathroom. The difficulty came in the operation of my system. The cistern was just six inches below the ceiling and could only be reached by standing with one foot on the bathtub and the other on the toilet. Pans and buckets were too large to pour between the ceiling and the top of the cistern so I had to use a quart bottle. The water pump in this hot water heating system was me, using a quart bottle and balancing on the edge of the bathtub. At least one person got heated up in this process--me, the pump. What with bending over double to catch the water in the bottle and then stretching on tiptoe to pour it into the cistern, and repeating this procedure until the cistern was full of steaming water, I was heated up. Incidentally, the water didn’t have to be very hot to steam up a 40° bathroom.
Although this system worked fine, I soon gave it up and just filled the bathtub full of steaming water and then waited a half hour for the heat to equalize around the room. The trouble with this simple system was that the bathroom looked like a steam bath. The steam did not do the nonwater-proofed wallpaper any good either. In any case, once in the bathtub I soon discovered a new heat leak. I’ve already mentioned that the overflow on the bathtub was merely a pipe running directly though the outside wall and terminating there. I don’t know how much water ever overflowed this way but I can tell you the cold outside air certainly found its way in. I always set the boys up front by the overflow; I stayed near the back. One thing about seeing your breath condense in the bathroom, you don’t tarry long.
Heating the house by fireplace was a hopeless job, though challenging. The British seemed so surprised when we indicated that there were other ways to heat a house. Apparently, for centuries past, coal had been so cheap that allowing ninety per cent of the heat (and eighty per cent of the smoke) to go up the chimney had been no real problem. Why install an efficient heating system at great expense when coal was so cheap? Now that coal is no longer cheap (it’s cheaper to import it from America), heat is just more scarce (in the houses that is the warmest air in England is just above the chimney pots on the roof).
Heating with coal in a fireplace presents many problems. The problem which presents itself first is, “How do you get a coal fire started?” After having run out of paper and small pieces of wood, consultation with Donald led to the following information: all modern houses have gas outlets near the fireplace so you merely buy a gas poker, ignite it, lay it in the coal, wait a few minutes, and your coal is ignited. This sounded fine but 1) we had no such outlet near the fireplace, and 2) we had Dan, who loved to throw switches and valves. Because of Dan we had our gas service terminated before Dan terminated himself, ourselves, and the Manse. The gas poker wasn’t our answer, so Donald’s next suggestion was, “Buy some fire starter.” I wasn’t sure he wasn’t pulling my leg but I thought I’d ask the next time I went to Webb’s store. Sure enough, there was such a thing as “fire starter”. Fire starter was some wax-like substance that was soaked in paraffin (kerosene). It was brown and came in packages about 12" x 6" x 1". Strips about 1 x 1 x 6" could be easily broken off and these in turn broken up and hidden in the coal. They ignited easily, burned hot, and usually ignited the coal, but they weren’t cheap. When Mary and the boys weren’t around I sometimes just poured some paraffin over the coal, but this was both dangerous and expensive.
The real solution to this, as to so many problems, came quite by accident. One day a smudgy, rather uncouth, and persistent little man came around with a lorry full of old London wooden paving blocks. I’m sure someone told him there were Americans living in The Manse and that the man of the house had no sales resistance whatsoever. In any case, he timed his visit when Mary was at the store and I ended up with a backyard full of wooden, tar-soaked, paving bricks. Any single brick was as hard to ignite as coal and burned about as long. However, by splitting these blocks down into slivers, and into small and medium sized pieces, and by stacking them up properly one match would do the trick. The advantages of this system were many; the boys built forts out of the blocks in the back yard, I got lots of chopping exercise each Saturday, and it was easy to start coal fires. There were, however, a few disadvantages; the tar came off on boys, melted off and made a tarry mess of the fireplace; and the tar smoke sooted up the chimney. I’m convinced no self-respecting Britisher would succumb to burning wooden paving blocks.
One might ask why anyone would use wood for paving blocks anyway. The answer is that in the good old days people were not addicted as we are to noise. You see, iron horse shoes and iron-rimmed carriage wheels on cobble stone, or brick, pavements are noisy. When streets run under arches, or near cathedrals, or by the bedroom window of the manor house, these traffic noises are bothersome. Quite obviously, horses’ hooves on wooden blocks make less noise than horses’ hooves on cobblestones. At least this was my reasoning when I observed one day at Blenheim Palace that the brick paving suddenly gave way to wooden paving blocks each time the street passed under an extensive arch or covered passageway.
Now that I knew how to start a coal fire easily I could concentrate on other problems dealing with heating a house by multiple fireplaces. We soon decided that one room, other than the kitchen which was heated by the Aga cooker, was sufficient for weekday living. The only fireplace we kept going, therefore, was in the dining room. But even here the question was how to get it warm in time for breakfast. And the answer was simple: you get up at least an hour before breakfast and rekindle the fire. By stacking on a very large piece of coal at night and/or covering the coals with coal dust it was often possible to rekindle the fire from embers still glowing. This was best heatwise since the room itself wasn’t so cold. Safetywise I’m sure it wasn’t very smart, even with the wire screen around the outside.
When guests were expected we would try to heat up one or two of the parlours. We thought this required advance planning because it took two or three hours to heat up the rooms. We found, however, on being invited out one night for dinner that we were mistaken in this concept. As we left our hosts’ parlour, which was their heated room, to partake of dinner in their dining room, which was not heated, we found that the fire was lighted just as we entered. The object of fires seems to be psychological. If you can see the fire you are supposed to be warmed by it. Feeling the effects of a fire seemed to be completely secondary. I think we were told by every Britisher with whom we were bold enough to broach the subject of heating-systems vs. fireplaces that, “We like to see the open flame.” Usually followed by, “Don’t you have fireplaces in America?” Mary’s usual answer was, “Yes, we have them. We use them to arrange furniture around but not to heat the house with.”
Our Christmas dinner with the Fergusons, our American Negro friends, pointed out a new solution to a problem that Mary was beginning to see develop. The problem was this. When we did heat the parlours and the dining room we had all the downstairs rooms warm but it was necessary to put on a coat to get from one room to the next. The hall, which cleanly clove the house into two separate parts, was an insurmountable heating problem. It was two stories high, was terminated on the ground floor by two loosely fitting doors, and on the top floor it was terminated by four open doors into bedrooms, a window and the usually closed bathroom door. It was impossible to heat the downstairs rooms and the hall with fireplaces which in any case only heated the rooms by sight, not feel. So recapitulating, the problem was how to get from the dining room to the parlour without freezing.
At the Fergusons we noted, on the landing of their staircase, a fanciful looking wick-burning flame gadget with a polished reflector behind it. This was a paraffin fire (kerosene heater). It was a marvel; it gave off lots of heat, it didn’t smell of burned paraffin, it was pretty, and it was portable. We bought one next day and set it in the hall by the downstairs bathroom.
A week later a scandal broke over all England. Said paraffin fires were death traps. It seems that if these fires were set in a six-knot wind they tended to explode, setting fire to their surroundings. We treated our new heat source with respect but did not stop using it. By setting it in the hall it kept the downstairs bathroom usably warm and kept the hall warm enough so we could take our time walking in and out of the doors of the downstairs rooms that opened on the hall.
On extremely cold nights we moved the paraffin fire to the top hall for sleeping. Except for this there was no heat in the upstairs bedrooms. This lead to a few changes in our sleeping habits. To begin with, new woolen sleepers for the lot, Dan’s and Charlie’s with feet. The rest of us slept in heavy wool socks. Next, seven hot water bottles. When I was bold enough to try reading in bed, my favorite hobby, I would wear my gloves. It didn’t take anyone long to either dress or to grab their clothes and head for a heated room. In general, everyone slept like logs.
We soon realized we were not the only people who had difficulty with heating problems. At Chapel or Church on Sundays no one, except the minister, took off their coats (or mufflers). I usually took off my gloves, but only so I could hold the hymnal. I got so I wouldn’t even put on a shirt and tie, or good suit coat. All anyone ever saw was my overcoat. I always wore my corrugated cardboard pants and Wellingtons. During the singing I could hardly keep my place because I got so interested in watching the breath condense as my neighbours sang. The same behavior existed at PTA meetings and at the village theatrical productions. In movies it was usually the same.
I took John, Tom, and Bill up to London to see “Carmen” at Convent Garden. I was worried for a week about what to wear. Wellingtons at Convent Garden somehow seemed out of place and only reluctantly did I wear shoes on the gala night. I was pleasantly surprised. Either someone had been bold enough to install central heating or they have figured out a way to conserve all the body-generated heat. It was delightfully warm, or else I was so absorbed in the performance that I forgot about my ankles. The boys were certainly enraptured. On our return I told Mary, who sat with Dan and Charlie, that Convent Garden was warm and packed. After a slight pause she answered, “Naturally, everyone goes to keep warm.”
By February we had solved, or learned to live with, the heat problem. My solution was Wellington boots worn at all times except to bed. I was getting so accustomed to our fireplace that I threw caution to the wind. We were expecting guests and I figured, since I had a whole collection of cardboard boxes to get rid of, I would superheat our room by burning said boxes in the fireplace. I knew corrugated cardboard was hard to get into small pieces, and burned hot. I figured that a few hot and roaring flames going up the chimney might burn away some soot (primarily of the London paving block variety) and save us a visit from the chimney sweep. After the second or third box, which did indeed throw off a terrific heat, and did indeed shoot flames up the chimney, I happened to glance out of our front window. I wondered where the fog had come from, it had been perfectly clear a few moments ago. I then had the rather sickening feeling that perhaps that wasn’t fog but maybe it was smoke. And further, I had the feeling that the smoke might be coming from The Manse. It got no better and soon I couldn’t even see across the street and I had the feeling that I was probably not making many new friends among my neighbors. I stopped piling on more fuel and was not very patiently waiting for the holocaust to die down. However, the room was still piled high with the boxes I had originally planned to burn.
Suddenly I heard a voice from behind the stack of piled-up boxes. It was not a very pleasant voice and the words were something to the effect, “What in heaven’s name are you doing?” These weren’t the exact words but they bear on the same subject. I think the exact words referred to the other place, where flames were quite in order. I looked up and noticed that the speaker was none other than my old acquaintance (and perhaps the one man in the village I had reason to believe wasn’t my friend), the village Bobby.
He informed me in short terse sentences that 1) I was creating a nuisance (this I knew), 2) it was very dangerous to cause flames to shoot up a chimney since chimney soot did indeed burn and if perchance there was a leak in the chimney, said flames might cause the house to catch on fire, 3) that red hot soot issuing forth from chimneys created a fire hazard, particularly to thatched roofs, 4) the more usual way to clean out chimneys was by utilizing the services of a chimney sweep (see the coalman next door, his assistant was a chimney sweep), 5) in addition to being the village Bobby he was the village fire watcher, 6) he was luckily (I somehow would rather use the word unfortunately) passing along Pierce Lane when he saw this erupting volcano, 7) really this sort of thing was against the law, 8) Americans are somewhat stupid anyway, 9) I should cease and desist, 10) this friendly chat should be considered a warning, and 11) cheerio.
We did indeed hire the services of our neighbor’s apprentice and told him to tell the next tenants of The Manse, the Pollacks, to use that shed full of cardboard boxes for a gay Guy Fawkes night bonfire.
Our social life has never flown very high. Neither Mary nor I are much for socializing. We belong to no social, yacht, bridge, nor dancing clubs. We spend our time in church work, PTA work, scouting, little League, and I play in the La Jolla Civic Orchestra. Our going out other than picnics and pot lucks for the above activities consisted of taking the boys to our favorite pizza house, Pernicanos. When an occasional office party comes about we go but only reluctantly (and usually leave early). We are not exactly anti-social, it is only that we have neither the time, inclination, nor desire for purely social activities.
In England things were somewhat different. Our church and civic activities were much reduced and we were out to learn all we could about English life including their social life. We were somewhat out of the ordinary, being aliens and so were invited out quite a bit. At first before Dan became home-without-momma broken we didn’t do much without the boys but by the Christmas season we even ventured out alone on occasion.
Our first outing was for the whole family at the, home of Dr. and Mrs. Christopher Poulton. This was a Sunday afternoon affair while we were still in our caravan at Waverly. It was a warm day, and for England it was a real scorcher. The plastic swimming pools were out, and we had hardly settled down when the Poultons asked the boys if they wanted to join their girls in the wading pool. Of course our boys did and we were delighted, they hadn’t come close to that much water for months. The Poultons had two girls and a girl cousin. The girls ranged in age from 6 to 9. As soon as our boys agreed to the wading-splashing affair the girls immediately stripped down to their birthday suits. Excess modesty seems to be a unique American trait.
At least we were continually shocked, on the continent particularly, by the number of little girls swimming in birthday suits, and at adults changing clothes right on the beach. We didn’t point out these differences in public bathing behavior to the boys, nor did we try to act as if anything was amiss.
It was quite obvious however that our boys were not yet accustomed to this type of thing. They stood aghast watching the proceedings but not reciprocating, and in fact they were somewhat at a loss to what they really should do. The Poultons encouraged them to join in the fun and Charlie obliged. John, Tom, and Bill cooperated down to their underpants but stopped at that. Their reluctance and looks of shocked surprise dampened the outing to a certain extent but no permanent international ill feelings developed. The tea, punch, and biscuits followed by ice (cream) soon smoothed things out beautifully. The girls had lots of toys and after the swim everything was lovely. In any case Mary and I had a completely enjoyable chat with the Poultons about differences in English and American customs and the whole outing was a huge success.
At Christmas there were many parties. The Unit had an office party on Saturday night. Dr. Conrad had an evening cocktail party and the Professor, Dr. Zangwill of the Experimental Psychology Department at the University, had a similar party. In general these affairs didn’t differ too markedly from similar parties in the USA except for the preponderance of sherry. We enjoyed them thoroughly because of all the things we had to learn from our talkative companions.
The party at the Unit was probably the most unique. Vera, Pauline, and the other girls worked hard to turn the old mansion back to a mansion. The Applied Psychology Research Unit was located in a stately, old, three-story, red brick house. There were at least twenty rooms, many of them large and many with fireplaces. It had obviously belonged to the well-to-do and one still had the feeling more like a playboy pursuing an intellectual hobby than a hard working scientist in a spic and span efficiently run laboratory.
The hour-long tea and coffee breaks at 10 and 4 also added fuel to the leisure feelings of the idle rich. I must hastily add that although tea was available for an hour, it wasn’t often that anyone dawdled the whole hour in the Common Room. It would easily have been possible to spend the entire hour at tea however because the Common Room was also the periodical library and the last two months issues of all the pertinent scientific journals were located there. As was also Punch.
The tea ritual in itself differed heartily from our usual coffee breaks. There was the inevitable pot of well brewed strong English tea (tea bags are as rare as American cars in England). And for the back-sliders there is a pot of coffee. There are two jugs of milk, one hot and one cold, and sitting on a shelf underneath the rolling table that brings this repast into the Common Room is a tea kettle of hot water. I’m sure the hot water was not solely for me (to dilute the tea) but I don’t think any self-respecting Britisher would stoop to dilute the tea. Nor did I ever note anyone else using the tea-kettle, but I’m still sure they wouldn’t cater to any single alien in such a grand manner. My tea consisted of equal portions of tea, hot water and hot milk. Many others had white tea which is roughly half tea and half hot milk but somehow they always guffawed to see me add water.
Along with the tea, coffee, and/or milk and hot water came the biscuits (cookies). To make financial ends meet, threepence (three Pennies) was donated for the steaming liquid and a penny apiece for biscuits. John is a semi coin collector. Semi not because he is lukewarm about it, but because he oscillates between hot and cold. In England he wanted to get pennies for every reign and preferably for every year. And in England this type of coin collecting is great sport because pennies, called coppers and as large as half dollars are used until absolutely smooth. In any one day’s rummage through the coin box in the Common Room I would find a penny from the reign of Queen Victoria (in her old age), of Edward VII, George V, and about once a week of Victoria in her youth (with hair in bun and called Victoria bun). So in addition to diluting my tea, and eating 2 or even 3 biscuits, I would sort through the coins; completely odd these Americans.
You can never tell where hobbies will lead you. Not only did John’s coin collecting make me regularly rifle the Unit’s tea and biscuit collection, but I also stopped at Lloyds of Cambridge and asked for a newly minted crown piece. These are made only rarely and are not ordinarily used as legal tender, but only as souvenirs. In the process of reserving a crown piece my bicycling clerk asked if I wanted some farthings or some three penny silver bits. Neither of these were in circulation and whenever they came into the bank they were retained. They would later be turned in. However if I wanted to buy some at their face value prices I was welcome, and this I did.
One day as John and I came home to The Manse from school and the Unit in Cambridge I noted a strange bicycle in our garden. As I started in the house I noticed a Bobby hat, a real one, parked on the stairway banister post. I wondered, “Now what?” I had registered as I was requested. They had made a routine check only a week ago. I hadn’t really burned down The Manse in my box disposal program. I hadn’t recently tried driving on the right side of the road. “What now?”
As I entered the dining room I noted this was not my old antagonist the village Bobby but a stranger. And he was sorting through John’s coins. Had we broken some law in gathering forbidden coins?
Mary soon put me at ease. She introduced me to the Bobby from the neighbouring village of Teversham. She added, “He is a coin collector, and came to see John’s collection.” He of course also had brought his own collection along. We had a gay old chat, and John brought out some brand new Lincoln Memorial pennies to trade him. Before we left he brought over more of his collection and we became good friends.
The climax of terms end at Cambridge is the “Bumping Race” on the Cam. The Cam is too narrow to race side by each. They therefore race their shells in series and the object is to bump the shell ahead. The Bumping Order is inherited from last year’s crew and each college has competed for hundreds of years. This is really one big event. For this year’s race the Queen Mother was to be in attendance. This made it bigger than ever and mandatory for us to attend. Just as I was about to give up to trafficitis and turn back who should be on duty but the coin collecting Bobby. We had no further troubles. The boys saw the Queen Mother. They had already seen the Princess Royal. The Queen herself was yet to come.
But back to the Unit and the coffee-tea breaks.
These coffee-tea breaks had the other beneficial effect of bringing all researchers out of their cubicles (all had individual offices), and into a common meeting place. Here you could ask your neighbor, who you only heard on the stairs and didn’t really ever see, what he was doing now. Or you could ask the statistician how to analyze your data; the engineers, how to debug your equipment; the secretaries, when your typing would be done; or the director, what he accomplished in London yesterday. Many times you did spend an hour at tea because your neighbor was detailing the results of his latest experiment, or the latest issue of Punch had just arrived.
At least once a week, Sir Frederic, the director emeritus, and the Professor emeritus, would show up at tea. One day he came over to me with a very puzzled look on his face and said he had a problem. It seems he had been invited to America to give a lecture and act as consultant for a week at the University of Michigan. After some tentative dates had been set, he found he had a conflict and had written his regrets. He now had in his hand a letter from Michigan which stated in the first sentence, “...I will take a rain check on your lecture...”. Sir Frederic’ question was, what have the Americans done to the Queen’s English? What does he mean? What is a rain check?
In England rugby and soccer games are played rain or shine, and Cricket considers rain as one of the opponents in the game itself. In a first class cricket “Test Match” anywhere from two or three to five days are allowed for the match, a single game. Two innings are played. A coin is flipped and the winning captain usually chooses to his team bat first. His problem then becomes twofold how to score the most runs and yet get the other team completely out in each inning. For you see there are 3 possibilities in cricket; win, lose, or draw. Many matches are draws which means only that the winning team couldn’t get the losing team out before the end of the match.
Let’s say in a five-day match the first inning is concluded at the end of the third day and his team is ahead 366 runs to 316. Now in the fourth day in the afternoon his team has scored another 206 runs and only 6 batsmen are out and the weather looks like it might rain. He must decide whether he thinks he can get all eleven men of he other team out 1) before they score 257 runs AND 2) before tomorrow afternoon at the end of the match. On both counts he has his doubts. But if he goes on to score more runs his chance of getting them out before the end of the match is less, especially if it rains yet this afternoon or tomorrow. He has the option to “declare” at any time which merely means he will not take all of his outs. At this point he could stop with, “257 runs for 6 declared.” So you see rain is just part of the game.
Anyway if the match goes on for a full day, or 2, or 3, or 5 days, what difference does it make to miss a half day, or a day, or 2 or 3 days or I might even add, to miss 5 days. Unless you like to watch a single batsman for a full half day swat the ball hither and yon and score perhaps a hundred runs, and can hold your revenge until next day when your team gets to bat (when already behind by 298 runs) you won’t enjoy a cricket match.
But back to Sir Frederic. What about this rain check business. As you can see from his national sporting background, explaining the meaning of “Rain check” wasn’t a completely simple matter. Since his mind is as keen as ever in learning new facts and, like myself, he enjoys exploring the differences that have developed between the colonies and the king, we spent an hour at tea. I have since sent him a rain check that I got in Yankee Stadium watching the Tigers and Yankees finish 2 games in one day NOT draw on a single game in two days because they couldn’t get the last batter out).
It was at tea also that Pauline, the choir singing secretary, started hatching up a musical program for the pre-Christmas Party. Mervyn (DR.) Stone, the statistician, played the guitar, Harold Dale the clarinet, Bob Wilkinson actually directed a dance band, she sang and she knew I played the clarinet. Our total potential was never reached but we did get together The Three Kings Trio. The wise men somehow or another declined to play. Our kings consisted of soprano, clarinet, and guitar, sometimes augmented by one or more of the kings prerecorded on a tape recorder. Pauline had some carol books with English tunes and a few descants and I composed a couple of descants and wrote in the chords for Merv, who was relatively new on the guitar. We rehearsed a few carols and of course were meant to be only the accompaniment for group singing the night of the party.
Come party Saturday. Dan had just permanently deafened, or at least temporarily discouraged, his last and our only baby sitter, so Dan came to the party. It was really quite simple. When the Unit took over the stately mansion for research they needed a caretaker, handyman, shop technician, and night watchman. Mr. and Mrs. Cyril Deane lived upstairs in 2 or 3 rooms and served all the above functions and on Christmas Party night, their flat also served as nursery. I must add though that Dan was a little suspicious of the whole set of circumstances and resisted my not too patient patting for some time.
When I finally got down to the Common Room I found no library, no table loaded down with Punch (the punch table was next door in the secretaries’ room), nothing that would identify the room with a scientific relaxing space. Instead the whole downstairs was now something out of a Bronte sisters novel. The Unit was gone, the mansion was back. Chairs and tables arranged in the Paris outdoor restaurant style replaced desks and typewriters. All sorts of biscuits, scones, potato crisps (chips), Cornish pasties, together with dips (no mustard), and relishes (no dill pickles) adorned a serving table. Sweets and nuts were liberally scattered around, as were holly, mistletoe, Christmas cards, and gaily coloured bunting. Cider, ale, and sherry was available and from the vocal output of the assembled guests it was obvious that the liquid Christmas spirit was pulsing in the veins of my staid and steady English fellow scientists. Sir Frederic and Lady Bartlett were amongst their younger ex-students who were so ably carrying on in the great traditions and high standards set down for them by Sir Frederic.
Pauline, Vera, and the rest of the Unit’s feminine staff were quite justly happy about their handiwork and the array of smiles on some usually very somber faces. Mr. and Mrs. Deane, in whose mansion the gala affair was celebrated, were as proud and happy as the original aristocratic owners of this gay house could ever have been. The present director of the Unit, jovial Donald Broadbent and his wife Peg, were also pleased with the progress of the festivities. This party had many hosts and hostesses and each was sharing in the Party’s success.
Dance music, recorded on one of the Unit’s tape recorders, soon beckoned many to the ballroom (Common Room) and the more youthful in mind and body started using up some of the excess calories they had just shored up on in the banquet hall (secretaries’ room).
The carol sing went off very well with lusty singing bursting forth from one and all. Our descants, chords, and lead singing were almost drowned out, but without us their singing might have been less confident. Then came the usual break-the-ice games, although I couldn’t see that they were needed. The cold-fire-hose treatment might have been more appropriate.
In the height of all this activity Mrs. Deane came down with one unhappy soul. The party spirit had not engulfed Dan, apparently only the noise. Dan himself is no piker in the noise department and his screams on the third floor were heard by someone at least on the ground floor. Dan, however, entered into the spirit of the party in short order. Dan has an affinity for food and an equal affinity for being the center of attention. His main problem was which was his greater love? After he had sampled enough cakes to have icing from ear to ear, and fearing that his presence did not really add to the original spirit of the party, we bundled him up and not so silently slipped away. Not so silently because by now he had come to enjoy the party and saw no specific reason for going home. He could entertain the boys any time. This audience was hard to come by. Before he was halfway home, however, he was dreaming of his good time and was quite happy and content. And so were we, family-office-Christmas Parties at least in an olde stately English house complete with English good humour and the spirit of well-being were much to our liking.
The remainder of our Christmas Holiday was definitely American. We had our Christmas turkey with Capt. Ferguson and his family and although New Years Day is not a holiday in England, the Fergusons and ourselves made it one with ham in The Manse.
There was another American scientist in the village with his family and we also spent an evening with them. The Bowerings, from Canada, were younger than we, they had but one baby. There were a few brand new houses in the village and the Bowerings were in one. The owner, a professor at Cambridge, was off on a year’s expedition to the Antarctic. We sat in his new house marveling at the perversity of the British. This brand new house, built for a Cambridge University Scientist, was heated by a single fire-place. It was however a modern fire-place. The cold air came from outside the house. It came through an air duct under the floor. Ours in the Manse got its cold air from the other side of the room in an unducted duct along (not underneath) the floor. You had no difficulty knowing when our fire was drawing well.
The other innovation was that in the firebrick behind the firebox were a series of pipes filled with water and these pipes formed a closed circuit with a radiator out in the hall behind the fireplace. And so when I visited the Bowerings I only wore my heavy woolen knee length socks and not as at home, my Wellington boots.
Our evening with the Sells, my PTA board colleague, was very pleasant. He was the mechanical arts and art master (teacher) at the Cherry Hinton Grammar School and appreciated good art. His own colour slides of Norway were in excellent taste. His books of photographs of olde English castles and of Prague kept me quite entranced. The fact that he was a grammar school master led to lively conversations of differences between American and English schools. Mary quite properly insisted that the English system is not democratic and as such could not and would not ever succeed in America. Selecting on IQ and achievement and training these select students apart from the others was indeed undemocratic but it is efficient. Good scholars usually manage to gain the top anyway but when I think of all the things I could have learned if adequately challenged in my pre-graduate days it makes me tend to like the European system. I was always amazed at the range of intellectual interests of my colleagues in England, their knowledge of good literature, world history, geography, political systems, in addition to their specialized knowledge in their chosen fields. For those who don’t make the grammar schools, life and education is hard; out of school by age 15 with a long road ahead if any higher education is desired. When compared to these children our system is good. But the opportunities offered the grammar school students is not matched by an equal challenge here.
The evenings we will remember longest as most typical of the England we wanted to enjoy were the evenings at the Argues. Their boy, Christopher Rouen, could not in my mind have been more British. If a new illustrator was to need a model for A.A.Milne’s Christopher Robin, he would need look no further. Charlie and Christopher played together by the hour and so of course Mary and Margaret soon became fast friends. The Argues lived in a small yellow stuccoed thatched roof cottage. The door was stooping small, and the threshold was one step below ground level. I always wondered what happened in the rain. It would appear, if the laws of physics hold for thatched roof cottages that the water would flow in under the front door. People, or water, once inside are in a small vestibule. Off of this vestibule is a large, for such a small cottage, living room. It is large in width, the whole width of the house. It is large in length, half of the total length of the house. But in height it reflects the true size of the little cottage. I could, stand straight up in the whole of the room, as could Mary. The Argues however being taller people could only stand up between the rough hewn rafters that seemed to be winning the battle of holding up the floor of the upper story. I say, seem to be winning, because on looking at the ceiling from the comfort of an easy chair in front of the fireplace one had the feeling that he was looking at the bottom of a large hammock. If I lived in this cottage I would sleep Christopher Rouen in the middle bedroom and I’d sleep on one end or the other. And I’m not sure I wouldn’t prop the broom up between the floor and the lowest sag of the rafter before I did my daily stopping stint. However since it has stood the test of centuries I was neither concerned about my safety, nor for the safety of the Argues and if they would have offered it for sale they would have had a taker.
Granted that half of the charm of an evening at Argues was the cottage, the remaining half was the equal charm of the Argues. Noel was an astronomer at Cambridge. An astronomer of the old school. No satellites, nor radio telescopes, just old fashioned astronomy. I guess I liked this so much because it seemed so impractical in these days of applied science. In these hectic days of practicality how can anyone become completely absorbed in work on stars with no thought of the possible usefulness of his work to the building of bigger and better rockets?
The Sells were often at the Argues as was Mr. Bradshaw a chemistry master from John’s grammar school. We sat by the hour discoursing on world problems moral degeneration, the materialism of America vs. the perversity of the British and many other things that none of us were authorities on.
It was these discussions on timeless and worldless subjects in this timeworn and out-of-this world cottage with these people who studied the eternities of time and worlds that added the zest to living in merrie olde England.
The whole aura of the village and its charming people inspired me to an uninspired verse about an English Village Christmas:
English Village Christmas
Out of the gate and into the street,
To the village shops we go,
The boys know the way
Through the mist and grey,
And what to order they know.
Out of the gate and into the street,
To shop in the butcher’s store.
In puddles to splash,
From bicycles dash,
And dodge the lorries that roar.
Out of the gate and into the street,
The Christmas turkey to buy.
The meat hangs round,
the carols sound,
And pumpkin we need for pie.
Out of the gate and into the street,
For bread at the baker’s shop.
Mincemeat he bakes,
With puddings and cakes,
And frosting he puts on top.
Out of the gate and into the street,
Off to the barber’s we go.
His shop is open,
From four till seven,
With electric fire aglow.
Out of the gate and into the street
To get the Christmas fare.
To the cobbler’s shop,
Thatched roof on the top,
To buy warm boots to wear.
Out of the gate and into the street,
The general store’s the place,
For toffee and toys,
For all five boys,
And candles and cotton and lace.
Out of the gate and into the street,
To visit the pub for wine,
For Boxing Day,
In package gay,
For milk and dustman to dine.
Out of the gate and into the street
To post the Christmas cards.
Her Majesty’s post
The countries boast
The village corner guards.
Out of the gate and into the street
To garage for petrol we drive
The paraffin sells
And bicycle bells
On taxi trade he thrives.
In the gate and inside the house
The Christmas tree is alight.
With candles lit
Around it we sit
The coal in the hearth is bright.
On Christmas Day with stockings filled
Father Christmas has made his rounds.
In church we say
On Jesus’ birthday
Thank God, that goodness abounds.
22nd December, 1959.
In the mail one day at the Unit came a very official looking letter from the American Embassy in London. I kept wondering all the way up the steps what I’d done now. I had registered with the Cambridgeshire police, I hadn’t tried shopping in the Post Exchanges around Cambridge (although I’m sure my Navy Identification Card would have done the trick), nor had I pledged allegiance to the British flag.
The letter was in fact an invitation to present a paper in Germany for a meeting sponsored by the Ausschusz fur Funkortung. This is a government sponsored, industry endorsed Committee on Radio Navigational Aids. The topic for the 1960 annual meeting was Medical and Psychological Aspects of Radio Navigation Problems. If interested I was to contact a General Martini via the American Embassy in Bonn. When I read further that my travel expenses would be paid by the German Committee I was obviously interested.
In subsequent correspondence we agreed upon a title for the paper and I set to work and wrote a paper and submitted it six weeks in advance of the January meeting so that German and French translations could be prepared by the meeting time.
No one else from the Unit was going to the meeting but Donald Wallis from the Admiralty (Senior Psychologists Office) was going and we made arrangements by phone to go together. The meetings were the first full week in January and to get there we needed to leave London on Sunday morning. Donald suggested that in January it would be the better part of prudence to go by train and boat not by air. He obligingly got us First Class compartment seats on the 9 A.M. train Sunday, 3 January from Victoria Station to Dover with boat Connections and seats on the Trans Europe Express (TEE) from Ostend to Cologne connecting on to Essen.
Then I found out of course that there is no train from Cambridge that connects with early Sunday morning trains out of London. Weeks before all of these travel transactions I had purchased tickets for John, Tom, Bill, and I for Hansel and Gretel for Saturday, 2 January. Top level discussions and decisions came up with the plan that the whole family go up to London by train, stay over in a hotel and see me off Sunday morning. We phoned London’s hotel finding agency and got a hotel across Bayswater Road from Hyde Park, near the Queensway Tube Station. Another gala day in London and our first family hotel experience since 1 June in Hameln, Germany.
Everything progressed smoothly. We knew our way in and out of British Railway Coaches. We chose to go via Kings Cross Station. We expected to and did lose John for five minutes in the station while he went loco spotting. Then to save time we put Mom, Dan and Charlie in those squat, black London cabs and dispatched them for the hotel while the older boys and I took the Northern Line from Kings Cross to Angel and then walked to Sadlers Wells.
Hansel and Gretel was very pleasing to my boys and to all the other children in the audience. Even the witch didn’t really frighten them. In January it gets dark early but in the tube it really makes very little difference. We transferred at Bank to the Central Line and soon joined mom and the small boys at the hotel. The great thing was the subsequent double decker bus ride from Bayswater Road through Oxford Street to Oxford Circus, then down Regent Street through Piccadilly Circus and Haymarket to Westminster Bridge. A short walk and return. The Christmas lighting was still up and Regent Street in particular was lovely.
Our dinner in a little French restaurant near the hotel was also a success, no spilled milk, nor dropped forks. We did forget Charlie’s cap but returned forthwith and retrieved it. The hotel was not American. We had two adjacent rooms, one large one and next door a small twin bedded one. A shilling in the gas fire bought enough gas to heat the room comfortably for undressing. The bath rooms were reached down the hall. No problem in getting tired boys to sleep.
We strained the hotel people somewhat at breakfast, which is included in the price of the room. We were waiting at the door when they opened and our taxi was waiting for us when we were finishing. I finally had to make my decision about my Wellington boots. I’d come prepared to either wear regular shoes and stand the chance of freezing on the train and boat or wearing my old patent foot warming Wellingtons. The weather looked threatening so I chose the course of warm feet, First Class dress to the contrary. With our light weight cloth luggage I had brought along sizes 2 and 3 where 2 fits snugly into 3. If Wellingtons were not worn they would fit into bag 3. If worn, bag 2 fit into bag 3, and this is what I did.
We weren’t overly early at Victoria so the family just stayed in the taxi for their trip to Liverpool Street Station. I now gave up being father first class and became scientist and traveler First Class (except for the Wellington boots). I was soon seated in a compartment literally bulging with suitcases, parcels, baskets, boxes, and people, four to a side. As soon as I took my seat Donald Wallis sitting opposite introduced himself (all previous arrangements had been by letter and phone). His light weight highly polished shoes caught my eye immediately and I’m sure my black unpolished rubber Wellingtons complete with red brand on the inside of the instep, also caught his eye. Being a typically polite Britisher his expression did not convey the expression of, “Who’s this odd ball I’m to spend the next week with.” He was about my age; taller, slimmer, with thinning hair, and nicely dressed. He wore a continual smile, and his general facial contours were of the happy, turning up variety, not of the soured on life, turned down type.
We had lots to talk about and one of his first inquiries was, “How well do you speak German?” I told him I was no past master but had survived two previous trips although I was ready to stand down to his abilities if they were better. He said his competence was in French, that he knew no German. That took care of that. I found he was an ex Royal Navy officer and had spent most of WWII attached to the Canadian Navy. As such he was acquainted with New York City and some aspects of American life. In general we hit it right off and I could see this was going to be a successful trip.
At Dover I went through the alien line, and Donald went through the citizen line. We soon rejoined and went on board the Dover-Ostend Channel Ferry. We stayed topside and watched the white cliffs of Dover fade from view. He told me how during WWII a radar antenna scanned the channel here, and how the populace was generally moved inland from the immediate coast. He spoke of specific incidents like for example how the German battle cruiser Scharnhorst slipped through the channel one night while the radar was down for maintenance. He often wondered how they knew it was down.
We were soon beyond the three mile limit and with his money I purchased him beaucoup cartons of cigarettes. We then descended into the dining room and seeing no vacant tables joined another amiable man for lunch. Our table companion turned out to be an international civil servant working in Vienna on the joint Atomic Energy Commission. Since all of us were civil servants and scientists we had a fine talk on mutual problems. The journey was over much too quickly. At Ostend we parted.
Donald and I had reserved seats on the TEE but there were only about 6 people on the Cologne car, we certainly didn’t need reserved seats. There was still about an hour of daylight and I saw the skylines of Bruges and Ghent as we rushed past. As soon as it was dark we ambled up to the snack car for more sustenance. While enjoying the food an announcement came over the PA system auf Deutsch to the effect that Herr Wallis was wanted at the Gepackwagen (baggage car). He had registered (checked) a suitcase and the German customs people were getting their work done early. No trouble, he was soon back.
We pulled into Cologne before 8 P.M. and I ascertained from certain words I heard that the connecting train to Essen was directly ahead on the same track. This somehow didn’t seem to make good sense but it turned out to be so. The TEE is completely symmetrical, an engine at each end, and they pulled out of Cologne for Mainz and Frankfurt by reversing directions. We scurried forward and in a short time were detraining in Essen.
Our hotel was just across the square from the station and we were soon comfortably situated. Of course Donald’s registered bag hadn’t yet arrived but he had the things he really needed. The contrast between Essen and London began with the hotel. The Handelshof was new as was all of downtown Essen. The WWII bombers had made it easy to rebuild Essen. The Handelshof was centrally heated, with spacious halls and large, light and airy rooms. My room could have been in a Hilton hotel except it had no private bath. There was a sink (with hot water) for washing and shaving but no toilet, bathtub or shower. The rest rooms down the hall were spotless and perfectly adequate. Donald’s room though much smaller had a bath tub of sorts. I’d never seen a tub like it before. You sat in this one like on a chair and the water could come up to your waist. It also had a shower which could be taken standing or sitting. I always visited Donald for my bath, and he visited me if we wanted room to stretch out in.
We had had our day and after a short walk we turned in to get good night’s sleep before the meeting next morning at 9 A.M. in a hall a block up the street. Neither of us were much worried about the early hour. Ten A.M. is a more usual and a more respectable hour to open an American meeting, and British meetings might commence even later, at least on the opening day. And at American and English meetings 10 A.M. meetings really start about 10:15. Naturally we were not concerned when we walked into breakfast at 8 A.M. and noted we were nearly alone. Why not, no one in his right mind would be eating this early. Donald took time to check on his bag and at about 9 we left the hotel for the meeting.
Not unexpectedly the corridors were nearly empty of people. As we expected no one would show up at such an early hour. We roamed the deserted halls and found the large meeting auditorium. We thought we’d look in to see what it was like. It was like most large auditoria five minutes after the scheduled opening except that it was filled with people. And a speaker was holding forth down front. We suddenly realized we were in hard working, efficient Germany.
Donald couldn’t understand a word and I could only catch certain phrases like, “Our great city welcomes you ... production since 1950 has increased 50 percent ... we have an opera house ... a new shopping center ... enjoy your stay in our city”. On my program I noticed the word of welcome was from the Burgermeister himself. At the conclusion of this speech we noted some other men stumble in, and they were obviously fellow English speaking citizens.
We decided we’d better consolidate forces, so we all retreated and looked again for the registration desk. We finally found it just as the French delegation walked up. Everyone except the extremely attractive and German speaking secretaries were up in the meeting. My German got its first crucial test. We needed some earphones to hear the translation. The secretary asked us specifically whether we spoke English or French. Although I understood the question I couldn’t understand the point of it. The earphones aren’t going to know whether we speak English or French. Or are they? As it turns out there were 2 separate translating booths, German-English, and German-French. The outputs of these translations were radioed around the room so indeed the red earphones tuned into the French speaking output. The blue phones had self-contained receivers tuned to the English translation. And then the translators worked in reverse English or French to German all German listeners put on green earphones.
This system worked fine except the German-English translator was not a scientist nor did he really understand scientific terms. He did fine on the introductions but the interpretation of slides and other technical aspects were fairly sketchy. I did almost as well listening auf Deutsch and concentrating on reading the slides and interpreting them myself.
We soon found that not only do the Germans start on time but comes the question period and they lose all track of time. Many questions, which really were unscheduled papers in themselves eclipsed the original paper in time consumed. Nor did the original paper readers adhere even remotely to their time limits. It was soon evident that once you turn a German scientist on he doesn’t turn off easily.
The Monday noon luncheon was a conference wide dinner of formal proportions. I don’t quite remember why we were late this time and in fact we weren’t but a few minutes late. In any case as we walked in the Herr Conference Secretary grabbed us by the arm and paraded us to the head table to meet General Martini. I was slightly awe stricken by the whole procedure, but nearly dumbfounded when the General snapped his heels together and shot his hand out in a stiffly correct handshake. The photographer’s flash bulb at this point did not add to my peace of mind.
As it turned out Donald and I were two of about 6 English speaking participants and I was the only one in the whole assemblage that ate with my fork in my right hand, obviously from the USA. Our cordial greetings were occasioned by two facts; we hadn’t arrived at the usual greeting time at 8:30 in the morning and we were prophets from other lands.
The never ending barrage of only slightly understood verbage soon got us to the point of exhaustion and we got in the habit of leaving at the scheduled ending times in spite of the fact that were often only half finished. By doing this we found time for shopping (I was still looking for green Lederhosen for Charlie and some for Dan), making travel reservations back, getting tickets to the opera, arranging a trip to a lab in nearby Dortmund.
Essen has been beautifully rebuilt. Accepting the near total destruction from Allied bombers, the city planners have done a marvelous job. Pedestrians only are allowed in the large downtown shopping center, cars are parked on the edges. Broad, well lighted arcades and pathways meander among the various stores. The stores are large, are loaded down with goods and are well patronized. Like New York City they have people too busy to sit down to eat so some of their snack bars, where the snack would floor an elephant, have stand up counters.
One night we got the last three (together with a colleague from Holland) seats in the back row of the Opernhaus to see Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro”. The opera was delightful; still funny after two hundred years and auf Deutsch. German efficiency showed itself again at the Interval. They must have taken a statistical sampling of how many coffees vs. teas vs. ales vs. soft drinks, because many tables were all set up with the drinks served. If you found essentially what your party wanted you sat at that table. If one or two drinks were wrong they switched drinks from an adjacent table or sometimes went to their source of supply. It did speed things up.
Another day we visited the Max Plank Institut fur Arbeitphysiologie (work physiology) in nearby Dortmund. The train ride, especially buying the tickets and finding what stop to get off at in Dortmund, was great sport. The visit was first rate and we were duly impressed by the quantity and quality of their equipment. I noted a drastic difference between my adopted Unit in England where essentially every scientist was his own designer, equipment fabricator, data collector, data analyzer, and report writer and this German lab. The Dortmund lab had essentially three top scientists who designed the experiments, supervised them, and wrote them up but a whole staff of subordinates to really run them.
Other nights we had Chinese food, ate in the Ratskeller, and had Italian food. In all cases I kept wondering what we would do after the meal and in all cases the leisurely meal with the proper wine and the talk it generated left no time for other entertainment afterwards.
Friday night was the formal cocktail hour. We had noted between the hotel and the hall a well lighted sign labeled Essen und Trinken in Essen, which puzzled Donald until I told him that Essen is not only the name of this city but also means “to eat” or “eating”. He found out what the Trinken meant at the cocktail hour. They served German Sparkling Wine known in France as Champagne. Actually we didn’t get more than a good sample because suddenly the German Navy showed up. Apparently some of the participants were Naval Officers in civvies. On cocktail night they came out in their full colours and saw to it that no one (else) over indulged in either drinking or in pampering the pretty secretaries of the German Ausschusz (committee). We found out that General Martini’s Executive Secretary, who organized this meeting had been the chief navigator on the Scharnhorst when she slipped through the channel. Donald asked him how he knew the English radar was down when the Scharnhorst made it through the channel. He said they had no idea it was down. It had been decided it was now or never. It was purely routine. He hadn’t even been awakened by the subordinate on watch to help her through.
Saturday morning we detoured to Cologne by way of Wuppertal. In Wuppertal we rode the monorail. In Cologne we visited the cathedral and the new Rhein bridge. It was mighty cold and we were on foot so we really didn’t do the town very well. On Sunday we took the train to Utrecht and visited the Institute for Perception at Soesterberg. Dr. Bouman a hard worker who also knows how to relax sandwiched our official visit into the morning and took us to a van Gough art museum in an erstwhile private estate in the middle of a large forest near Arnheim. We stopped for a pheasant dinner on the way back to our hotel.
Tuesday we stopped in Amsterdam for a look at Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” and proceeded on to Hook-of-Holland for the night channel ferry to Harwich. The British Railway ferry brought us back to reality from the newness everywhere evident in Germany and Holland.
Next morning Donald took the London train and I got on the Liverpool train. At Bury St. Edmund I changed to a diesel rail bus and was delivered right to the Fulbourn station (one stop out of Cambridge). Mary and the younger boys were there to meet me. As in Holland, England had a snow and Charlie was all for going into Cambridge for his sledge. We got the sledge but this was the only snow of the winter and was gone before the boys really knew what it was all about. And this the only snow they’d ever seen. Moral, if you want to play in the snow in Southern England, don’t leave for a week’s trip for purposes of Essen and Trinken.
By the beginning of the Winter term in January, Tom had school well under control. By nature, Tom was the living example of the saying “Keep quiet and be thought stupid, open your mouth and prove yourself stupid”. Unless he was positive that he was correct, he would never volunteer an answer. However, by January he had learned what was expected of pupils in the third year of Infants School, and had also learned all his sums, spelling words, and reading and was, in fact, a star pupil. He had even volunteered the information that the poet who wrote “----but when I am older Leery, I’ll light the lamps with you”, was Robert Louis Stevenson. That did it Tom was to be promoted to the first class in the Primary School.
Actually this was no great or even unexpected event. When Tom and Bill started at the Village School they had been matched, not to their age groups, but to their years of real schooling. In English schools there is no honeymoon period, no Kindergarten. Five year olds start immediately on Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic (sums). Bill was six, but had only been taught to get along with others, ask to go to the bathroom, climb poles and count to ten. He was, therefore, put with the five year olds. Tom was a postgraduate of Kindergarten and had been through first grade in California. In addition to pole climbing, and room monitoring (dusting the erasers), he could read, knew his number combinations and knew the Pledge of Allegiance--to the U. S. flag. Since a great part of this knowledge was superfluous to his present needs, he (age 7) was put with the six year olds.
So since he is not dumb, just discretely quiet until he has his problems mastered, he soon learned all his number combinations, he learned to read at or above grade level, to write cursively, and he learned all the words to “God Save the Queen”. He was ready to be “put up”. Unfortunately, he had impressed his teacher too much. Mrs. Harrison passed him on with such praise that his new teacher, Mrs. Harold, didn’t go through the preliminaries of letting him start in with the lowest group. She placed him in a top group and Tom’s reluctance to speak out unless he was absolutely sure he was right, got him off to a BAD start.
Of course, we knew nothing of this affair. We only knew that on promotion day plus one (P+1) Tom came down to breakfast sick. Or more accurately, when I came down to rekindle the fire in the fireplace and shake down and carry out the ashes from the coke cooker preparatory to breakfast I found Tom sick. You see, Tom was always the first Webster awake and was called “rooster” by Charlie. No mistaking that Tom was sick. He did not already have on his school uniform, have the table set, and have a paper and crayon out drawing a picture. He still had on his pajamas, the table wasn’t set, and Tom was in the bathroom vomiting.
No school for Tom on P+1 but Mary noticed that at 0930, safely after school had started, Tom perked up, got out his crayons and paper and even his sum book, the color came back to his face and everything was fine. There was a relapse at noon when Bill came home with another story about Christopher Shoesmith. Mary suggested that maybe Tom was well enough to go back in the afternoon. Tom wasn’t and didn’t.
On P+2, the postman (Miss Ball) in her deliberately noisy way of dropping our bills through the letter slot at 0650, awakened us while Tom, our lazy sleepy head was fast asleep in bed. On P+3 we, Mary is a first rate child psychologist, got Tom back to school. On P+4, a new symptom, an earache. Charlie always was getting an earache with every cold he caught. Since he was, and is, the only boy that ever got anything other than colds, mumps, chicken pox, measles, and upset stomachs he always got prompt first class attention with every earache. Now Tom had an earache, that seemed to ease when the sun reached an angle which made the sun dial read 0930.
P+5 was Saturday and Tom beat Bill in garden (backyard) Rugby with no apparent ill effects from his week’s illness. Tom was singing “Jesus Loves Me” with the best of them on P+6.
On P+7 I again carried the ashes out and the coal and coke in alone; Tom had an earache. When I returned from work on P+7 Tom and I walked over to see Dr. Jones. Of course, I could never remember when Dr. Jones had “surgery” (office hours) and this was no exception. However, Mrs. Jones, seeing the anguish on Tom’s face, assured me the doctor would stop by “The Manse”, our house, as soon as he returned from his rounds. This was more than I had bargained for and Mary was quite annoyed at my ineptness in not being able to parry Mrs. Jones concern and arrange to bring Tom in next morning during the doctor’s surgery.
In due course, Dr. Jones called around and, of course, Tom was miserable. However, the doctor could find nothing wrong with Tom’s ear. Dr. Jones admitted Tom’s throat was slightly inflamed and Tom obviously had a slight cold but no objectively evident ear trouble. We imparted in round about phrases that this could perhaps be a psychosomatic illness inasmuch as promotion, etc. And then in private I quickly summed up for the doctor the results of my visit with Mrs. Harold whom I had visited earlier in the day. In a nutshell, I said, “In an effort to give Tom a chance to show to his new class that he was an apt scholar Mrs. Harold had asked him a direct and rather simple question, which at home or in Mrs. Harrison’s room he would have answered in short order. In new surroundings Tom says nothing unless questioned directly and if questioned directly, he just fidgets, reddens, and maybe stammers out some incoherent answer. He was true to his nature, said nothing.” He was as miserable as only calm, deliberate, methodical Tom could be and probably even wished he were back in his California school playing grocery store.
“I see” said Dr. Jones and we walked back into the room where Tom was getting sicker and sicker by the minute. In adult life this sequence of events often results in the first drink which leads to the second and third. But Tom had no such easy and inadequate way out. He just felt more miserable than ever.
Psychologist Dr. Jones told Tom that if he stayed home for about two days he should be feeling enough better to go back to school. Experimental psychologist Dr. Webster (NOT clinical psychologist Dr. Webster) thought every day away from school would make reentry that much more difficult. But I think non-psychologist, just plain General Practitioner Dr. Jones, had the correct solution.
On P+10 after two days of recuperation, much orange juice and sparkling vitamin C and many pep talks by the real psychologist in our family, housewife Mary Webster, MA (in mathematics) Tom and Bill ran merrily off to school. And thats all we heard of the silly affair.
We did note that Mrs. Harold demoted Tom temporarily which allowed him time to regain his self confidence and gave him a goal. He achieved his goal in short order and was soon in the top group. He had one temporary set back. Headmistress Smith had the geography lesson one day and Tom volunteered that Paris was the capital of France and Stockholm of Sweden (he knew he’d been there). In a gallant effort to further Anglo-American relations and restore Tom’s luster she asked the simple question, “Now Tom, what is the capital of your country, what is the capital of the United States?”
Dead silence, followed by a red face followed by “Ah … New York?”
You see, the California Schools have a Harbor Unit, a Grocery Store Unit and a Railroad Unit. Finally they progress up to Indians, Mexico, and Early California, but somehow Tom, whose grandmother works for the Government Printing Office in Washington, D. C. and can see the capital dome from her apartment had not yet had a Unit covering such details as the capital of USA.
However, he won the foot race for his age on Field Day and each of his teachers expressed real regret to me when 20 July rolled around and he left their lovely school to return to his California school. There his class started off on the Airport Unit.
Our family could have brought $3500 worth of merchandise back into the USA duty free. On my income however even had we lived on charity, we couldn’t possibly have approached that figure. The only item we had of any real value was our VW Microbus and its associated camping equipment. Dutywise this was a dead loss from beginning to end. The US government has the tax law written such that if you make arrangements to purchase your car through some stateside agency, a dealer or an auto club, you pay customs duty even though you pick the car up in Europe. It is fairly hard to beat that law. You can’t deal with foreign factories directly, there is no particularly good way to learn the names and addresses of foreign dealers, and even if you did they are obliged to steer clear of such proxy arrangements. In any case it is hard for most people to know what the product is without seeing it and maybe even driving it. Not me, my usual shopping tactic is that if I decide I want something I go to the closest store and buy it. And with the Microbus I was convinced this was our only feasible method of transportation and housing long before I had ever been inside one. When I went to the San Diego Motor Imports it was not to shop but to order and specify a delivery date. While there I did look, for the first time, inside a Microbus but didn’t drive it. The major reason for ordering a car stateside is timing. We needed a car on 1 June, not 31 May nor 2 June, nor mid May nor Mid June. Anyone is welcome and permitted to go to Europe, contact a dealer and order a car, but then he must await delivery. In our case, and in most others, the car is bought stateside, picked up in Europe, and customs paid on reentry. Very simple, very fool proof, very taxable.
A magic piece of paper called a Carnet gets your car duty free into all countries except that one that lays under “...spacious skies...from sea to shining sea”. We did however have a little difficulty with a certain island Kingdom. This same kingdom under George III gave my ancestors similar trouble, called in history books “taxation without representation”. The trouble was this. We picked up our Microbus right on schedule, to the hour, and drove it 130 kilometers to have it converted to a “camping bus”. In this reconversion process the two back seats became surplus (American) or redundant (English). Our immediate solution, transacted in my best German, was to leave the seats with Knobel and Sons, Wiedenbruck for 3 weeks and we would drive back through and pick them up on our return from Norway before returning to England.
At this point in our travels the 30 mile per hour distance traveled on English roads hadn’t generalized over to European roads, We were still thinking in terms of 360 miles per day instead of 180 miles per day. The upshot of this oversight was we arrived in Bergen, Norway one day before we were due back in England. Luckily we got on the Newcastle boat and made it. It would have taken another week to have returned via Denmark, Wiedenbruck, and Hook-of-Holland.
Now you see the problem, VW seats in Germany, VW in England. To me this was no problem, I merely wrote Knobel and Sons on 1 July requesting they make arrangements to ship seats, Microbus, 2, to England. On 3 July their response said in essence, “matter turned over to a British Shipping Firm await word from them”. On l5 October I opened a letter addressed to Herr John C. Webster from the British Commercial Transport Co., Ltd. The letter consisted of a form asking in 2 or 3 thousand words for information “...to enable us to effect clearance through Customs, on your behalf,
PLEASE FORWARD US BY RETURN.
1. Statement as to nature and rates of Duty and Purchase Tax payable (Declaration required where goods are not liable to duty and/or Purchase Tax).
NOTE: No responsibility can be accepted by us for the consequences resulting from the failure to declare rates of duty, and/or purchase tax payable.
2. Original invoice and one copy (English translation essential) which must state terms of purchase. If prices include duty this must be specially declared.
3. Packing List showing separate contents of each package for consignments consisting of more than one package.
4. Form C 105 (Form enclosed - it is essential that all alterations and/or deletions are initialed).
6. Form C & E 648 (Form enclosed - to be certified on the reverse by your local Customs Officer if you are holders of Purchase Tax Registration Certificate).
Form P.T. 26 (Form enclosed - not required if you are holders of Purchase Tax Registration Certificate).
7. Import License, where necessary.
8. REMITTANCE COVERING DUTY AND/OR PURCHASE TAX.
CONSIGNMENTS OF BAGGAGE AND HOUSEHOLD EFFECTS.
9. C3 (Form enclosed - which is to be completed and witnessed by any second person in respect of used personal clothing and effects.
10. C 104 (Form enclosed - in respect of household goods and effects. To be completed and witnessed by a Justice of the Peace, Commissioner for Oaths or an Officer of H.M. Customs & Excise).
11. A List of contents (in English) and, if packages are locked, keys should be forwarded to us.
12. A deposit of _____ pounds should be sent to cover freight and charges to ensure prompt despatch after Customs clearance. Delay in replying to this advice and submitting documents will incur additional charges.
After struggling with forms C 105, C & E 648, PT 26, C 3 and C 104 I began 1) to see why we fought the revolution and 2) to appreciate the simplicity of form 1040W.
On 22 October another form letter from BCT Co., Ltd., this time to Messrs. John C. Webster read as follows:
Our ref M61429
Re: JCW 810, 1 crate ex Mecklinburg 15/10.
With reference to the above consignment, we regret to advise you that your clearance documents are not acceptable to H. M. Customs or the following reason: To enable us to pursue our claim for duty free importation would you please advise if the VW Car was imported to England in a Carnet and if so please supply details of carnet and date of import.
We would ask you to kindly give this matter your immediate attention to enable us to proceed with clearance of goods through Customs. Thanking you, we remain,
(signed) C. J. Hockley
British Commercial Transport Co. Ltd.
My reply didn’t point out the difficulty of importing my VW car to England “in” a carnet. Even VW’s aren’t that small and in Particular Microbusses would be very difficult to import “in” a carnet. I did send details of carnet and the date.
On 28 October to Mr. John C. Webster the same form letter with slightly different inserts namely:
Our ref M.61429
Re: JCW 810. 1.
crate. ex: Mecklenburg.
With references … not acceptable to H. M. Customs for the following reason:
Your favour 23/10.
Would you please advise if the missing seats were noted by the Officer on the Carnet when the car was imported into England.
We ... ask ... immediate attention ..... Thanking you, we remain,
My reply was short and to the point, namely “NO”, although I was beginning to see that their reference that things were in “my favour 23 to 10” was not going to last.
On 7 November, the same form letter, with the following insert:
In reply to your letter 2.11, would you please note Customs require duty to be paid on the seats as they were not noted on the carnet as missing.
Would you please give a declaration of value to enable us to clear goods.
With this letter BCT Co., Ltd. enclosed a long-hand written letter from Mr. H. M. Customs himself stating:
First Floor No.4 Shed
Your Ref. M 61429 Customs and Excise
Parkeston Quay West.
H.M.Customs and Excise
JCW 810 - 1 crate ex Mecklenburg 15.10.59
With reference to Mr. Webster’s letter dated 2nd November, which is returned herewith I have to inform you that the proper charges are Payable in respect of the 2 bench seats, and that duty-free release cannot be allowed.
Off. Customs & Excise
At this point in the proceedings my American heritage and my years of schooling in science and logic got the better of me. Why, I asked myself, will Mr. H. M. Customs of Newcastle allow a $1800 car to freely enter his private poaching grounds, while his cousin, Mr. H. M. Customs of Harwich, will not allow the $50 seats of selfsame car to enter? The point of law seemed to hinge on whether said seats had been declared as missing at Newcastle. What seemed to worry Mr. Customs was that I might sell the seats. In fact the idea so intrigued me I thought of setting up an agency. I could see at once that the potential market would be tremendous. The British still have no really enduring love for the Germans, what with George I, II, and III and WWI and II. At least at this writing Hillmans, Jaguars, Singers, Consuls, etc. still outnumber VW’s. And the number of Microbusses without seats was astronomical, i.e. astronomically small. But anyway Mr. Custom’s job was to see that I didn’t import saleable foreign imports from the inner six into the outer seven, and he was performing “above and beyond the call of duty”.
What put him on the scent of this obvious intent to defraud was that I had purposely disregarded specific instructions on my carnet and had not declared the seats as missing upon my arrival at Newcastle. I therefore looked carefully at my carnet, which was written entirely in French except for specific instructions on how it was to be used and this was in German. Being a past master at reading the fine print in all insurance contracts, warranty statements, guarantees, tax forms and patent applications and being a recognized expert in reading French and German (by definition any PhD has passed reading examinations in French and German) I could ascertain that the carnet had something to do with 1) automobiles and 2) borders. Beyond that I could make no sense of it.
I had been told at the VW factory in Hanover when handed the carnet, “Be sure, in fact insist, that the customs officials at each border tear out half a page and stamp the document.” When leaving Germany for Denmark the quite correct German official, who looked in his uniform like he might just have returned from the Russian front, dutifully tore and stamped; and I believe the Danish official followed suit, although I vaguely remember running off the ferry at Grosebrude just before we left to get the deed done. However when we ferried from Denmark to Sweden there was no sign of any border, any officials, nor any concern. We looked a little while for a customs building but saw nothing. Going from Sweden to Norway the officials were quite annoyed when we came to a full stop and looked as if we were going to make them check anything. We drove on.
In England our carnet said the car had entered Denmark and was now about to enter England (off the boat from Norway). With five boys neither you nor the customs official are very anxious to prolong any needless activity (and he couldn’t read the French or German any better than I). Not a single question was asked. Since I didn’t really know at the whole carnet thing was about I didn’t even know what to ask questions about. I had indeed purposely entered my car illegally. I had not specifically said, “Now look here old chap, you know this bus doesn’t have the regular seats in it. They will be shipped in on October 15 at Harwich by BCT Co., Ltd.” I will be the first to admit that I did not so state the case upon our entry.
Now I was to pay. Or so said the letter. But my Patrick Henry attitude got the best of me at this point and I wrote Mr. H. M. Customs and stated in essence: That there had already been one, if not two, wars between our great countries over such tax matters as this; that I was ready to reopen the whole matter again and stage a one-man invasion; that I would not pay Mr. H. M. Customs a farthing but that 1) 1 would give an amount of money equal to the tax to, any charity Mr. H. M. Customs would like to designate, or 2) I would deposit said amount with Mr. Customs or any of his cousins to be returned to me when I re-exported my hot merchandise, or 3) I would ship the seats directly to America. My last letter from BCT Co., Ltd., still on the same form letter and dated 26 November, said “.... We are .... arranging with our London Office to ship the goods to ..... San Diego, California.”
And so five months after my first letter to Germany to reclaim my VW seats, they were awaiting shipment to California. In April they arrived. Probably the most expensive VW seats ever to arrive in California. The total cost was $47.60 to get them to California and $8.75 to get them to San Diego ($4.20 U.S. Customs). Of the $47.60, $18.50 was for shipment from Germany to England including storage in England (9 Weeks).
This incident had some strange effects on me. When I got the bill from BCT Co., Ltd. and sent my cheque it was returned stating in essence that my figures and words didn’t agree, and indeed they didn’t. I had written 17/4/7 in one place and had written Seventeen pounds seven shillings and four pence in another place. My unconscious mind apparently was still fighting the battle. I vowed then and there not to buy anything in England I could buy elsewhere in Europe, and to buy a bunch of stuff when I left to be sent sealed to our ship and thus avoid increasing the coffers of Mr. H. M. Customs. To make me feel better a generous check to both the local churches in our village on Christmas.
An interesting sequel to Mr. Customs interpretation of the law was my subsequent talk with the AA (Automobile Association). Incidentally, this (and the RAC) are great institutions and should be supported by one and all. Anyway in talking to their foreign exchange expert (and after he conferred with his chief in London) I found out that the AA could and would, if I so desired, get my seats into Britain duty free. I also found that had Mr. Customs of Harwich sent my seats in duty free, upon leaving I would have to pay duty on the camping equipment that replaced the seats (cost of seats $50, cost of camping equipment $500). The AA also said that if the AA got my seats in duty free I might have to pay duty on the camping equipment even yet. And so it turned out Mr. H. M. Customs did me a great favor. Actually unbeknownst to me I had modified my car so that the carnet was not really an adequate or true description and had therefore illegally imported the camping equipment into England. I asked the AA if they wished to rectify the mistake and issue a new carnet to make things legal. They politely declined saying in essence, if you make it legal now you’ll have to pay duty on the camping equipment but since no one knows the difference, forget about it.
And so Mr. Customs cost U.K. a pretty penny, saved me the same, and proved only that he knew the letter of the law, and he convinced me at least that he did not know the spirit of it. Of course I could always have sold those seats, he certainly did guard against that possibility. And then again if we didn’t have such laws, what would the honest men and true who administer them do for a living.
As I was waiting for a bus one day in Cambridge, I noted in a store window a poster stating; “Cambridge University Musical Society will present three concerts - - - tryouts by appointment, phone - - -”. I had brought my clarinet along and this invitation intrigued me.
You see, in high school and as an undergraduate in college, I was very active as a performing musician. In fact, I was the principal clarinetist in the high school band and orchestra for my whole four year tenure. During which time both the band and orchestra won top national contest honors, as did I as a clarinet soloist and as a member of many small chamber music ensembles. On the basis of this, I obtained a music scholarship to the university and obtained my BA and MA in music. In the university, also, I was principal clarinetist in the band for two of the three years I played in band and was the principal student clarinetist in the symphony for three of my four years in orchestra. I am implying that, as a performing classical musician in my time, I was no slouch.
Had I not graduated just after Pearl Harbor, I would undoubtedly have been a professional musician, performing, teaching, and perhaps working some outside job to make ends meet. As it was, I did not want to spend the war in a military band. Each of the three years I was an undergraduate I took mathematics (algebra, trigonometry, analytical geometry, and differential and integral calculus) and/or chemistry. And as a graduate music student, I took physics and wrote my thesis on the physical analyses of clarinet tones. The head of the music school thought me somewhat odd, but since his music faculty included a chemical engineer (now the head of the music department) and a mathematician (concertmaster of the orchestra and harmony and counterpoint professor), he always signed my choice of courses. I guess he figured better to keep a scientist musician than lose him to medicine as two of the others in our woodwind quintet were to be lost.
In any case, I figured if I could get into electronics before being drafted I would do myself and the USA some good by being put into radio or radar in the armed forces instead of in a military band. So with-my 31 hours of math and science I got myself a civil service job teaching radio communications to Air Force cadets. Then in quick succession I was drafted, classified 4F (physically unfit, 20/800 vision in each eye, but luckily corrected to 20/20), and sent off to Yale University with the Air Force School as a permanent (4F) civilian instructor.
During my two years at Yale I played in the Yale University Orchestra and the New Haven Symphony, and played in chamber music groups with local doctors, and members of Glen Miller’s band (these particular members being ex-members of the Cleveland Symphony). I also attended night classes in Electrical Engineering and started my change over to scientist leaving my past role as musician.
All of this is background is to show why, when I left for Europe, I took my clarinet along. Actually since WWII I had played very little, but did manage a fairly respectable performance of Mozart’s A Major Concerto (with music) with the La Jolla Civic Orchestra.
So my past interest and wasted training got the better of my good judgment and I phoned and arranged a date for an audition. I had brought along no music suitable for an audition (actually I had packed some in a box to be sent over later along with some pertinent scientific reprints, but the boys at my lab misplaced the box). So I got my embouchure in shape, but just sight read what they gave me at the audition.
Although they were favorably impressed, they must have had more and better clarinet players than usual and I was passed over ostensibly because I was only going to be there one year, the others longer. But I knew I wasn’t the player I used to be, and this just convinced me of it. In any case, thought I, there goes my musical activities in Cambridge. I now had no alternative but to spend all my time on science (and learning about England, going to operas, museums, Rugby games, church and PTA meetings, listening to the BBC and keeping 5 boys out of trouble).
One day in dark, dreary, wet February, Pauline the secretary at the Unit phoned up to my third floor Bohemian type cubicle and told me I had a lady visitor in the Common Room. Well, this was indeed a pleasure and to say the least, unexpected. In honor of the o