Letters home: a civil servant's European Odyssey: 1

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Letters home: a civil servant's European Odyssey: 1

Postby MeowGoodness » Mon Sep 30, 2013 2:17 pm

I have the task and the pleasure (I think) of scanning into digital format the letters my dad wrote home during the time (1959 - 1963) we lived in Europe. To help speed things along (I hope), I will periodically post a letter or two on this forum for your amusement and amazement. Here is the first installment.


August 11, 1959
Dear friends,
Well here we are on our fourth day at sea on the United States Liner S.S. America and having a wonderful time. We will stop at Cobh, Ireland, Thursday morning, at Le Havre, France, and Southampton, England, on Friday, and arrive at Bremerhaven, Germany, late Saturday night. Sunday we will travel by train to Frankfurt am Main.
This late in the season the first class passenger list is quite light and seems to consist largely of U. S. government employees and military officers. The inside stateroom originally assigned to us was switched over to cabin class and we were given much better accommodations, a larger outside stateroom with two portholes. This was quite a break because the weather for a couple of days was very hot and humid. A fellow passenger who crosses quite often said it was the hottest crossing he had made. However, today has been very cool, more like the weather we expected in the North Atlantic.
The cuisine is out of this world. A terrific selection--everything from roast pheasant with wild rice dressing to kangaroo tail soup. The pheasant was delicious; you'll have to ask someone else about the soup.
The swimming pool on board is small and not used by many passengers. It is almost like swimming in the ocean, salt water pumped in from outside (warmed slightly) and with good-sized waves going back and forth with each roll and pitch of the ship. It is not easy to swim in it and we haven't used it very much, but we have gone to the ship's movie theater almost every afternoon. Most of the boys on the ship have bought toy racers and and are having a great time playing with them on the game deck.
The trip has been great right from the start. On the train the two older boys had a fine time climbing up and down the ladders to the upper berths and arguing about who would get to sleep in the uppers. The bedroom that we had on the Southern Pacific was much nicer than the ones on the two eastern railroads we rode on, the Louisville & Nashville and the Seaboard Airline. We made a mistake by getting only four berths on the naive assumption that Russell could sleep with one of the older boys. That lasted
about 10 minutes of the first night. After that June and I took turns sleeping with him. We soon dubbed him "the octopus" because in bed he seemed to have many more than the usual complement of two arms and two legs which are attached to the normal human torso. The boys were introduced to one novelty in the diner, the finger bowl. Once they learned how to use it they thought it was a great idea. The first time we ate in a restaurant in Florida, Dean looked around and asked "Where are the finger bowls?" One would have thought he had been used to using them all his life.
We enjoyed visiting with all of June's relatives, although it got to be a bit confusing at times, what with two Lloyds and two Deans at Lynchburg, Virginia, and two Davids at Towson, Maryland. June's brother Dean in Lynchburg has a son named Lloyd and her brother John in Towson has a son named David. By the time we left Towson, both Dean and Russell were occasionally calling me Uncle Lloyd. I think the boys enjoyed their visit to Florida most and it's not difficult to understand why. June's mother and stepfather live in an apartment building in Deerfield Beach which is long and narrow, so that each apartment extends from one side to the other, and by opening the doors and windows on each side they can get a cool breeze through the apartment at almost any time of day. They have a window box air conditioner but seldom turn it on. There is a large swimming pool and a smaller wading pool behind the building, and the ocean is just a few steps beyond. It's no wonder that David decided that he would rather live in Florida than California. He thinks that all of Florida is like the Cove Beach Club.
As might be expected we ran into the most heat and humidity in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where we visited June's sister and brother-in-law, Judy and Gordon. It didn't bother us too much as their home is air-conditioned, but it was a bit confining for the boys to have to remain indoors for most of the two days we were there.
We spent a day sightseeing in Washington and Arlington, and I had a short meeting with the Assistant Comptroller General, Frank Weitzel, who is in charge of GAO's European Branch. We had also planned to spend two nights in New York in order to allow for a full day of sightseeing, but by the time we got to Towson we decided we were trying to do too much on one trip. We stayed an extra day at Towson and cut our stay in New York to one night, limiting our sightseeing to a trip to the top of the Empire State Building.
On board ship we have had to advance our watches one hour each night, so we have had a series of 23-hour days. Between the eastern progress of the ship and the northern latitude we get only seven or eight hours of darkness each night. This has one big disadvantage--Russell refuses to go to sleep until it is dark and doesn't sleep for long after it gets light in the morning. I'll swear, if we ever take him to Norway in the summer he'll stay awake 24 hours a day. It doesn't seem to bother him though. He is full of pep and energy all day and still has plenty of fight left in him at bedtime.
Please excuse the messy typing. I borrowed a typewriter from the purser, but he didn't furnish an eraser with it.
Sincerely yours,
Never underestimate the power of positive nudity.

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Re: Letters home: a civil servant's European Odyssey: 1

Postby Ireneb » Tue Oct 01, 2013 2:05 am

What a lovely project to work on. I really liked reading that. And I remember the summer of 1959 as a child myself, it was one of the hottest on record.

My grandparents took a nine month trip to South Africa in 1953, I still have the meticulous diary my grandfather kept of the journey on one of the Holland-Africa line ships to Cape Town. I really ought to knuckle down and start to translate it into English for the benefit of his descendants who don't speak Dutch. Your post was a nice reminder!
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Re: Letters home: a civil servant's European Odyssey: 1

Postby Mao Mao » Sat Oct 05, 2013 1:49 am

I really enjoyed reading the letter, and as a parent I can definitely relate to having a child dubbed 'the human octopus!'

Please post more letters!
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Re: Letters home: a civil servant's European Odyssey: 1

Postby tonksrok » Sun Oct 06, 2013 7:50 am

Wonderful project MG!! The letter gives you a window on the way things were back then - much slower then! Every now and then I think about my family's cross country trips back in the 50's and 60's when my Dad was changing duty stations, we saw some very interesting things and had some great fun too. I'm looking forward to the next installment. :thumbsup:
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Re: Letters home: a civil servant's European Odyssey: 1

Postby Dandelion » Sun Nov 10, 2013 10:37 pm

That was cool! Thanks for sharing!

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