The Festive Season Begins

November 30, 2012

December 19, 1955

Dear Dad & Russ,

I managed to borrow my typewriter from the Embassy last Friday night so I thought I might dash off a few lines while I have the chance. I sent my first letter off to you in such a rush I can’t for the life of me remember what I said in it! In case I didn’t mention it (probably not) the address you folks should send your letters to is c/o Canadian Embassy, Zitelmannstrasse 22, Bonn, Germany

My home address is Austrasse 14, Mehlem, but please don’t send mail here. By sending it to the Embassy I get it nearly a whole day sooner. All our mail goes out from the Embassy too. Johnny York is in charge of selling stamps to Embassy personnel and about twice a day one of our drivers takes the mail to the Post Office. Quite a nice arrangement. Another little step-saver the Embassy provides is laundry privileges. Every Tuesday afternoon the laundry man picks up our laundry at the Embassy and delivers it back the following Tuesday!

Well, last week I tucked my first three German lessons under my belt. I have an excellent teacher (female) who also teaches a great many other members of the Embassy. She speaks perfect English, too, which is always a help. But here’s the pay-off! I take my lessons right at the Embassy DURING OFFICE HOURS!! This I don’t think should get around, as I’m sure the Department would have a fit if they knew their Bonn personnel were taking German lessons on Government Time! Of course, the funny part about this is that the Department pays for these lessons and, when you become fluent in German, they increase your salary by $10 or $12 a month!!

Canadian Embassy, Bonn (garden view)

Canadian Embassy, Bonn (rear/garden view)

I have never in my life met such a bunch of party-loving people. Most of the staff are young and those that aren’t young in years are young in heart. Last night, for example, Sally Swenson and one of the other girls at the Embassy threw a party that lasted until 8 a.m. this morning!! A glorious time was had by all, needless to say. Also needless to say I didn’t get out of bed until 3:30 this afternoon. I have spent the rest of the day housecleaning, stoking the fire, pressing my pants, washing my hair, making my supper, etc.

A week ago last Thursday, the German couple who live upstairs invited me up for supper. Von Studnitz is their name and they both speak fluent English. They are very fond of Canadians and assured me they would take good care of me. Last week I met Frau von Studnitz in the hall when I was going to work and she said she had been sick with a cold for most of the week and was very apologetic because she hadn’t been taking care of me!! And last Saturday morning, the First Secretary of the Turkish Embassy (the other upstairs apartment) dropped in to pay his respects to his new neighbour. He also speaks English. Across the hall from me live the Wilborns (German) and, although they don’t speak any English, Frau Wilborn came over one day and said “Anything you want, just call”. What a bunch of neighbours!!

I found a wonderful store one block from the apartment. Two of the clerks speak fluent English (which makes it nice) and this store has all sorts of things I never expected to find in Germany – Horsey fruit juices, Heinz soups, etc. They also have a selection of potato salads, cole slaw, cold meats, etc. I sure was fortunate to find such a place.

Last weekend the Arbuckles dropped in from Paris. “Buck” is our European technician and I knew him in Ottawa. On Tuesday night, George Howell and I took them out for dinner at a very quaint German restaurant. And then on Thursday night, I had dinner at the Mitchells’ home. Sam Mitchell is with the Trade & Commerce branch of the Embassy. Next Tuesday night the staff is having a buffet dinner at the First Secretary’s home and George is planning to have a party on Christmas Eve. One of the stenos is having a party on Boxing Day. Have you ever heard the likes of it?

The Embassy here is just a dream. Zitlemannstrasse is the last street in Bonn before Bad Godesberg and No. 22 (The Embassy) is the second-last house on Zitelmannstrasse. At the end of the street there is a field stretching down to the Rhine. There is a beautiful garden at the back of the Embassy and all the offices on the first floor have picture windows looking out over the garden. My office, of course, is in the basement right next to Johnny York. However, it is quite cheerful and I do enjoy working there. Of course, I don’t have a termendous view, being in the basement, but I make up for that here at the apartment with the Drachenfels just outside my living room window!

Did you know there were Esso and Shell stations here in Germany? A little touch of home.

I received your two wonderful Christmas cards last week and also your two letters. Also a Christmas card from the Morlocks and one from Marg In Wellington, New Zealand. Still no sign of the parcel but I expect it shall show up next week. You mentioned in letter of November 25 about the Canadian Ambassador to Turkey travelling on the Empress of Scotland. As a matter of fact, I played Bingo with his wife for most of the trip and I had cocktails with them one evening in their cabin!

As much as I’d like to, I’m not going to get a letter off to Bob [Rivoire] tonight. Please phone him for me, Dad, and give him my best and ask him to say hello to all the gang for me. I shall try to bring my typewriter home again some night next week (in between parties and dinner invitations) and get a letter off to him. By the way, my Christmas cards are going to be a bit late this year. Yesterday afternoon, when George and I went shopping, was the first chance I’ve had to buy Christmas cards. So tomorrow I’m sending one to you folks, one to Bob and one to Sylvia. Under the circumstances, I’m afraid I’m going to have to overlook a lot of people this year.

Well, my cuckoo bird tells me it’s midnight so I must be going for now. I’ll certainly try to write again before too long.

lots of love, Dave

PS: With the exception of one very cold day, the weather here has been like spring! Guess I’m in for another green Christmas.


Arrival in Bonn

November 29, 2012

Canadian Embassy

Zitelmannstrasse 22

Bonn, Germany

December 7, 1955

Dear Dad & Russ,

Well, at long last I’m getting around to writing a letter! Honestly, I’ve been so busy since my arrival in Bonn last Thursday that this is the first moment I’ve had to dash off a few lines.

Before I go on, I would like to explain that the only place I can type my letters is right here in my own little office, so I’m afraid there won’t be too many “14-pagers” like Indochina. However, I certainly shall keep you posted on my activities at least once a week if at all possible.

I won’t go into too much detail right now about the trip over on the Empress of Scotland. It was a wonderful trip – just like crossing Dow’s Lake, it was so smooth. The train trip from Liverpool to London was lots of fun. My first impression of England was “chimney-pots”! I was met in London by a driver from Canada House and our two communications supervisors in London. On the way to my hotel we passed Buckingham Palace, the Parliament Buildings and drove through Hyde Park. My hotel was just across the street from Hyde Park by the way. I took in a movie on my one night in London and spent most of Wednesday at Canada House renewing old friendships, etc. At 7:30 Wednesday night I boarded a train bound for Harwich and stepped directly from the train onto the S.S. Arnhem, a rather petite but very comfortable Dutch boat. The next morning at five I arrived at the Hook of Holland and boarded the Rhinegold Express for Bonn. We passed through Rotterdam, Tilburg and Cologne en route.

“A rather petite but very comfortable…boat”

I was met in Bonn by quite a delegation of people. There was Mr. Starnes, 2nd in charge at the Embassy, Harry Stewart, our admin. officer, and Garny Foley, the chap who Johnny York is replacing [as Registrar]. They took me right to the hotel in Bad Godesberg. I had a lovely room with a little balcony that hung right out over the Rhine River!! My first German meal consisted of Wiener Schnitzel and good German beer! Food is so cheap here in restaurants! You can have a full-course meal including soup, steak, potatoes, vegetables, salad and dessert for about sixty cents!

Friday morning I moved into my apartment. I certainly was surprised to find that Marg Newton had moved out already! The apartment is really delightful. It is very modern – Marg was the first tenant – and is situated in a little town called Mehlem, about five miles from Bonn, just the other side of Bad Godesberg. The Rhine River is about 500 yards from my front door and from one of the living room windows I have a wonderful view of the Seven Mountains and the Drachenfels where Siegfried slew the dragons. Who could ask for more??? The furniture is very nice and modern, although I will need a few more pieces before I’ll feel settled. In some future letter I’ll draw you a plan of the apartment so you’ll have a better idea of what it is like.

Königswinter, with the Sieben Gebirge (Seven Mountains) and Drachenfels

When they call this Embassy “the friendly Embassy” they certainly mean what they say. I have never in all my life met such a wonderful group of people! On Friday night we had a terrific party here in the Embassy to say farewell to those leaving and to welcome Johnny and me to the staff. The party lasted until 5 a.m. Saturday morning!!! Just to show you what a swell group these people are, Harry Stewart asked if I’d like to stay at this place for a few days until I got settled. When I told him that I thought I could manage alright, his wife insisted on at least lending me a pillow as my apartment was lacking this rather essential item.

Friday afternoon and Saturday I spent shopping for pillows, pots and pans, cutlery, dishes (including a black and lime ceramic tea set) and a bit of food (soup, eggs, cheese, etc.) I also bought a Black Forest Cuckoo Clock for $6.50!! This wee bird is real company for me, believe me. Every half hour he comes out of his little house and says his little say. Then each hour he comes out again and cuckoos once for each hour to the accompaniment of chimes.

I met a very nice chap here at the Embassy by the name of George Howell. George is the clerk to the Military Attache here in Bonn and his also the OTHER bachelor. He has a little Volkswagen and we go out for lunch each day together. And, as I said before, for 60 or 70 cents you can buy a banquet here! Last night after work George came home with me to help build a fire (it had gone out and I wasn’t too sure how to operate the stove) and he stayed for supper (tomato soup, ham and eggs, cheese and coffee). Then we went to a movie and home I went.

I nearly forgot to mention that on Sunday night Mr. and Mrs. Tough (the accountant) invited George and me over to their home for dinner. Also, I have received two invitations to attend various parties during December. One of our stenos has given me a toaster and another steno is digging me up an iron.

I think I’m going to like it here in Bonn!

On Monday I became a man. I spent my [21st] birthday by working at the office until 9 p.m. and then went over to George’s apartment, where we celebrated with hamburgers and champagne (what a combination!).

December 8, 1955

I’m afraid this letter will have to be continued. Awfully busy. Will write just as soon as I get a chance.

Lots of love,

Dave


On Board the Empress of Scotland, part 2

November 29, 2012

On Empress of Scotland Airmail Stationery

November 27, 1955

Dear Dad & Russ,

Well, here I am, nearing the end of a most enjoyable voyage. We stop at Greenock tomorrow morning where, I expect, this letter will be posted.

Until I get to a typewriter I won’t go into detail about the trip so far. Besides, there will be much more to tell you, I’m sure, about crossing England, the North Sea, Holland and Germany.

I’ve met some awfully interesting (elderly) people on board, including [Lord] Beaverbrook’s sister and Mrs. Madge Macbeth, the Canadian writer who is off to the Canary Islands to write another book.

Guess what? I’ve won £5 14s 6d (about $16.50) playing Bingo and horse-racing! Not bad for a beginner.

So far the Atlantic has been about as rough as Dow’s Lake – hardly a whitecap all week.

I must go now – tea is being served in the Lounge – complete with a string quartet!

I’ll write you a good long letter from Bonn around the end of the week.

Love, Dave

Menu for Last Night at Sea


On Board the Empress of Scotland, part 1

November 29, 2012

On Empress of Scotland Airmail Stationery

November 22, 1955

Dear Dad & Russ,

Just finished a sirloin steak and thought I’d drop you a line. Believe me, the Chateau Laurier has nothing on the Empress of Scotland.

We had life-jacket drill this morning. No young people on board at all so I rented a deck chair and am spending my time reading Greek mythology. Wonderful rest anyways. I have B-11 and the boat is not very crowded.

Had a wonderful send-off with Bill [Glenn], Sylvia [Tysick], and Penny [?] last night, and Bill and Penny were down on the wharf to wave at 8 o’clock this morning. Very nice!

Guess what? I forgot my blue raincoat! And me bound for London at that. Will you please get it ready to send to me as soon as I write saying I’ve arrived in Bonn?

Will drop you a card from London or Liverpool.

love, Dave

First Class on the Empress of Scotland


Homeward Bound

November 27, 2012

July 11, 1955

Dear Dad & Russ,

Well, here I am again. And just as soon as we get an O.K. from Ottawa, I am coming home. I’ll dash off an airmail letter to let you know. Also, just the minute I have my travelling itinerary laid out, I shall also airmail you the details. And if I am allowed to return via Paris I shall send you a cable just before leaving Paris, telling you exactly what time I shall be arriving in Ottawa. Keep the Ford in good shape, please!

As I shall be flying home via commercial airlines I shall only be allowed 44 or 66 pounds of luggage, depending on whether I’m in First Class or Tourist. Therefore, I am sending one of my airpacks home with John Plourde. John leaves here tomorrow and leaves Saigon next Saturday. He will be in Ottawa approximately eight days later. As soon as he gets to Ottawa, Dad, he will be giving you a phone call and I would appreciate it very much if you would drive over to his place and pick up my suitcases. I’ve given John the keys, too, so perhaps you could open the suitcases and sort of air them out for me. I’m enclosing a list of of the things I’m sending with John and you can get his address off this list. I’m also enclosing a copy of the “Declaration of Articles Acquired Abroad”. John has the other copies for Customs purposes.

This morning I had my 14th shot in the arm. This time it was for cholera.

July 14, 1955

You know, at times this really is a mad old world we live in isn’t it?

By the time you receive this letter yours truly (that’s me) will probably be flitting about from India to Pakistan to Iran to Egypt, Greece, Italy and Paris, France. Or, perhaps I shall be atop the Eiffel Tower in Gay Paree taking in the sights! The whole point is, anyways, by the time you receive this letter I shall either be on my way home to Ottawa or just about to leave for home.

And it all happened so suddenly, really it did.

Up until a little over a week ago I was labouring under the impression that I still had another month and a half to go at the very least. Today, a wire arrived from Ottawa authorizing me to proceed to Ottawa IMMEDIATELY! And just before we closed up the office at 1 o’clock today, a PRIORITY wire was sent to Saigon requesting our Delegation there to please reserve my air accommodation at the earliest possible date!

Just like that. I’m practically on my way home now. So folks, it’s just a matter of waiting for Saigon to reply to our telegram (which shouldn’t take more than two days) and then away I go!

So tonight I must start getting things organized for the Big Trip. Which might prove to be quite a job. It’s amazing how much stuff you can collect in11 short months!

I might mention here that after you receive this letter, please don’t write me ’cause I just won’t be here no more!

David and his posse, 1955

David and his posse, 1955

July 16, 1955

If you two have nothing better to do next July 29th at 3:45 in the afternoon, then how about jumping in the Ford and driving out to Uplands Airport to pick me up?

Things have happened fast around here lately! Last night the wire came in from our Delegation in Saigon telling me my flight schedule. Which is as follows:

  • Depart Saigon             1100 hours           21 July
  • Arrive Paris                 1420 hours           22 July
  • Depart Paris                2230 hours           28 July
  • Arrive Montreal            1215 hours          29 July
  • Depart Montreal           1450 hours          29 July
  • Arrive Ottawa              1545 hours           29 July

Which means that two weeks from this very minute I shall be home again!! Hard to believe, eh? I leave Phnom Penh next Tuesday, July 19 for Saigon, then at 11 o’clock on Thursday morning I’m on my way!

Needless to say, I’ve got just oodles of things to do before leaving next Tuesday. Please don’t be worrying about me one little bit. I’m so accustomed to flying about strange foreign lands now that it’s just like taking an Ottawa street-car! You’ll be hearing from me from Paris.

Lots and lots of love,

Dave

What David didn’t know was that, while on his way home via Saigon, he would witness an attack on the UN headquarters in the Majestic Hotel! 

It started over here, with the man holding the flag

It started over here, with the man holding the flag

Then there was this large crowd gathering

Then there was this large crowd gathering

Sometime later, around the corner, at the Hotel Majestic, the damage was done. According to David, the woman on the right in the white dress is Clare Booth Luce

Sometime later, around the corner, at the Hotel Majestic, the damage was done. According to David, the woman on the right in the white dress is Clare Booth Luce

"What a dump!" Interior damage at the Majestic

“What a dump!” Interior damage at the Majestic

Look over there - some burned cars!

Look over there – some burned cars!

I'll just stand here with my cigarette.

I’ll just stand here with my cigarette.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, following along eventually was this, from Gene Loo.

And so, David arrived back in Ottawa… but not for long!


Snippets – Nearly Home

November 26, 2012

July 4, 1955

Dear Dad & Russ,

Well folks, all being well, I’ll be home NEXT MONTH!!! I suppose this thought has occurred to you too, but I just thought I’d put it down on paper ’cause it sure does look good, doesn’t it? Yes, here we are in July already and, according to my contract, this is a twelve-month posting. And July is the 11th month. And then – just NEXT MONTH!!

You know, when I think back on these past 11 months I just can’t for the life of me figure out where the time has gone. I suppose the fact that everything is so new and exciting and busy has made the time fly quickly, but even so, it just seems like last week I boarded the “Empress of Tokyo” bound for unknown adventures. A lot of water has certainly gone under that proverbial bridge since then!

Some of the Commission gang on the terrace, including the new steno and Errol Wyse (redhead in the loud shirt)

Some of the Commission gang on the terrace, including the new steno and Errol Wyse (redhead in the loud shirt)

Did I ever tell you about the letter I got from Cecile Fyen, our first steno, who is now with our Embassy in Paris? Cecile wanted me to try to get to Paris on July 14 to drive to Holland, Belgium, etc., with her and a gang from the Embassy!! Sure sounded good, but, of course, I had to say no. Sooo, just yesterday I got a letter from Cecile stating that if I can possibly arrange to come home near the end of September via France, I am included in a guest list at the home of the parents of a friend of hers. Follow me? The really “nice” thing about all this is that her friend’s parents have a chateau or something in “Nice” on the Cote d’Azur in southern France – French Riviera you know! Too bad both these invitations are either too early or too late, eh? Oh well, Cecile says that even if I can’t make either one of these dates, to come along to Paris anyways and she will have all sorts of sightseeing trips lined up for me. I shall probably spend four or five days in Paris, en route to Montreal. Paris, however, will be my only stop-over, you can rest assured!

Last week was pretty uneventful for a change. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, a whole bunch of us fellows were decorating City Hall for our Canada Day reception on Friday, July 1. We had a whale of a lot of fun, but unfortunately I took slightly ill on Thursday night and missed the big show itself! Now don’t get excited! When I said slightly ill that’s just what I mean. It was nothing but a little fever caused by a bug or something. It was all over on Saturday but the doctor suggested I just stay in bed till today, which I did. My appetite didn’t suffer at all, I’m glad to say – I ate like a horse!! The point is, however, I’m all better now and just rarin’ to get these next few weeks tucked away under my belt and be on my way back to Ottawa!

I’m glad you got a kick out of my Hong Kong effort. Of course, when I get home, I can elaborate a lot more about my trip to Hong Kong. It’s so darn tricky trying to express yourself on a piece of paper!

I still haven’t heard any definite date from Ottawa yet, but I’ve got my suitcases all dusted out and ready to roll at a moment’s notice. Not much longer now, I’m sure.

What David sent home with Sgt. Plourde
Check the declared purchase prices! (Click on the image for a larger view)

July 11, 1955

Well, folks, this won’t be a very long letter as I want to send it airmail.

For a long time now, I’ve been looking forward to the day when I can sit down at my typewriter and type the following four words: I AM COMING HOME.

And today is that day.

Yes, I’m coming home after nearly 11 months in Indochina. Now, I don’t know for sure, but this may all be “old news” to you two if External Affairs has already phoned you or something. However, old news or new news, it’s GOOD news!

In last week’s letter to you I mentioned my wee fever episode that took place on Canada Day weekend. The doctor didn’t tell me anything at the time, but, evidently, while examining me and my fever he discovered that I was just generally exhausted and in a wee bit of a run-down condition. Now, for goodness sake, please don’t go jumping to any wild conclusions. I am not in the least way sick at all, please believe me. I’m just plain and simply “run-down” and in need of a few weeks’ rest – IN CANADA.

[What David’s “little fever” turned out to be was dengue fever. A relatively mild case to be sure, but it precluded him from ever being a blood donor and reoccurred for a day or so every few years.]

The Indian Medical Officer has recommended my early repatriation to Canada and General Snow, who is Acting Commissioner, has informed Ottawa of this fact. So now it’s just a matter of waiting until Ottawa wires their “O.K.” and I’m on my merry way home! General opinion has it that I shouldn’t be in Indochina for more than two or three more weeks more at the most.

You know, all this has happened so suddenly that I can just hardly realize it. I really can’t. By this time next month, all being well, I should be sitting right in the living room of #6-574 Kirkwood Avenue, half a world away from me at the moment. I don’t think I shall realize that I’m actually coming home until I’m soaring across the Atlantic or maybe not even until I land in Ottawa! It just seems so fantastic that 11 months have slipped by already! Oh well, it’s been a fabulous 11 months and an experience I shall never, never forget – or regret – as long as I live.

Well, I shall close this letter and get it on its hasty little way to Ottawa via airmail.

Lots and lots of love – and please don’t be worrying about me,

Dave

Our Mister Nixon in a cyclo-pousse

Our Mister Nixon in a cyclo-pousse

Some of the gang in downtown Phnom Penh
Some of the gang in downtown Phnom Penh


Behind the Bamboo Curtain

November 25, 2012

June 27, 1955

Well folks, since I last wrote you, your globe-trotting son and brother has made a wee excursion behind the “Bamboo Curtain”!!

Yes, last Thursday morning I flew up to the city of Hanoi in the land of Ho Chi Minh. It was a very strange feeling, going back again to Hanoi, the scene of my first days in Indochina. But the Hanoi of today is certainly not anything like the Hanoi of last September!!

Dad, I was met at the airport by none other than your friend, George Bevan. It was a pleasant surprise, to say the least! George had typed up a memorandum for me to help me out during my stay. I thought this was very helpful and I thought you’d be interested in knowing how well I’m being taken care of in this strange land of Indochina.

My first glimpse of a Communist regime in full swing was when I stepped off the plane at the airport in Hanoi. The Viet-Minh Police were standing right at the the door of the plane marking things down in little books. I suppose it was sort of a traffic check or something. One thing I notice about the Hanoi Airport. At one time, Hanoi had one of the busiest airports in Southeast Asia. Today it is deserted! Only our Commission plane are allowed to land in Hanoi from the Free World.

Driving from the airport to the city of Hanoi, you have to cross over a great long bridge. On the airport end of the bridge you are greeted by a huge picture of “Uncle Ho” (Ho Chi Minh) grinning his welcome to Hanoi. In spite of all the propaganda you hear about how happy everybody is under the influence of Communism, I was struck with quite the contrary picture in Hanoi. I have never seen such a sad-looking people.

Hanoi Long Bien Bridge (current)

On practically every street in Hanoi, there are hung great RED banners with Vietnamese writing on them. I am told that these banners simply welcome the peasants to the “happy city of Hanoi”. Perhaps you will remember a picture that appeared in the Star Weekly last August of the Hanoi Opera House? This Opera House is now decorated with a two-storey high picture of Ho Chi Minh and also great banners and flags all over the place.

Hanoi Opera House and "Uncle Ho"

Hanoi Opera House and “Uncle Ho”

Everybody in Hanoi is dressed in one of three fashions: (1) the peasants and common people wear black pants and brown shirts. (2) the “workers” are dressed in blue uniforms. (3) the soldiers (of which there are many) are dressed in drab khaki uniforms with brownish-yelloe (sort of a mustard shade) running shoes on their feet and khaki sun-helmets on their heads.

All the Commission vehicles are driven by Viet-Minh soldiers, and all the Commission buildings (including the hotels the Commission occupy in Hanoi) are guarded by these soldiers. In addition, you will find little soldiers all over the city, just standing on corners or lurking in yellow sentry boxes. They all carry machine-guns or bayonetted rifles, to say nothing of hand-grenades in their belts. If one of these soldiers happens to be standing in your way, he will not budge an inch! No sir, you just have to go around him. These little men have the most annoying habit of pointing their guns at you all the time, a fact which made me just a little uneasy during my first day.

I was given a room at the Hotel Splendide. This is a very nice hotel, but it does have one little drawback. Namely, it is used for the twice-daily compulsory lectures!! Everyone in Hanoi must attend these lectures. Twice daily!! The people are told what they are supposed to know, then follows a great sing-song in Vietnamese. I was told that this wee tune is the workers’ song and it is all about just how happy everybody is! I suppose if you keep telling a person that he’s happy all the time, that person will come to believe it, no matter how miserable he might be! This is the first example of brain-washing I have ever witnessed and I hope it will be the last. It is pitiful!

Under the new regime, the people of Hanoi are rationed in their rice supply. A child receives something like 17 lbs. of rice per month; an adult receives about 27 lbs. per month, and the select “few” highly-favoured government workers receive about 57 lbs. of rice per month. Now when you stop to consider that these people rely on rice for three meals a day, 17 or even 27 lbs. per month is certainly not very much.

The prices in Hanoi are ridiculous. I was walking down the street with one of our fellows up there and we saw some Gillette razor blades in the window of one shop. The price was marked as 800 dongs. We entered and the fellow asked for a package of blades. The price was suddenly 1500 dongs!! And there isn’t a thing we could do about it!!

Incidentally, I am enclosing a 500 dong note for you to keep as a souvenir. I think I’m pretty safe in saying that the dong is one type of currency that you won’t see floating about in great abundance! You will note the picture of Ho Chi Minh on the front, along with some soldiers pushing a cannon. On the back of the dong you will see some of the happy workers out in a field. Quite a change from the colourful Cambodian piastres with the pretty girls and flowers all over them!! Another interesting thing you will see on the back of this dong is the date which appears at the bottom-centre of the bill. 1951!! And the dong only came into existence at the end of 1954!! I guess Ho Chi Minh must have been pretty sure of himself!

Well, my stay in Hanoi was a very quiet one indeed. I moved to the Hotel Azure where the NCOs live after one day of political rallies at the Splendide. The NCOs accommodation is excellent. Far better than we have here in Phnom Penh. The only drawback being, of course, the presence of 3 or 4 armed guards 24 hours a day. But after a while you just get to ignore them completely. I spent a great deal of my time in our office in the Burmah Shell Building. I was utterly amazed at all the changes that had taken place since I first helped set up shop there last September! It is really a smooth-running office now.

Both the officers and the NCOs have their own mess in the Burmah Shell Building. It is the only place in all of Hanoi where anybody can go in the evening. I divided my attentions between the two messes and it was indeed pleasant to meet old friends and to see new faces also. I was told a rather interesting and sad thing in the NCOs mess. They have a boy working for them (a local Vietnamese boy) who has picked up a little bit of English over a period of time. He is a very clever chap and a hard worker, but he is just a little bit confused. You see, he was telling one of our chaps one day about what he had been told about the Canadians before he took the job. It seems that he had been told that the Canadians are murderers of widows and old men, and that the Canadians EAT small children!!! After working with the Canadians for some time he has discovered that really aren’t such a bad lot after all and, as I said before, he hardly knows what to believe anymore! The most shocking thing about all this, of course, is that this is the sort of lies that the Communists are feeding the poor, ignorant people!! It surely makes a person wonder, doesn’t it???

I don’t recall if I mentioned this to you in one of my last September letters, but Hanoi used to have a streetcar line with a huge sign on the side of each streetcar advertising a soap called “CANADA”! I noticed that the streetcars are now painted red with big yellow stars on their sides! Also, you will remember the picture I sent you in my album of a pagoda in Hanoi that is situated in the middle of a lake. This rather attractive Buddhist pagoda is now surmounted by a big red neon star!

The Perfume Pagoda (current)

Two other things I noticed in Hanoi were the presence of only RUSSIAN films in the cinemas and also the presence of “InformationCentres” that hand out booklets, etc., to the people. Also, outside these Information Centres there is a loudspeaker that pours out propaganda to passers-by all the time!!

So this is how Communism works! You really have to see it to believe it, I assure you.

On Saturday, I had lunch with Mr. Lett, Major-General Megill, and Saul Rae at Mr. Lett’s villa. We chatted a good deal and needless to say, Dad, your name came into our conversation a good deal. Mr. Lett sends his very best wishes to you and Russ.

Commissioner Sherwood Lett and Saul Rae (Bob’s father) in Hanoi, March 1955

One thing about Hanoi that relieves the monotony for our fellows is the local Cercle Sportif swimming pool. There are so few Europeans left in Hanoi now that it is almost exclusively used by the Commission people – mostly Canadians.

Well, I came down to Phnom Penh again yesterday and my adventure behind the “Bamboo Curtain” was over. It was surely an eye-opening trip, believe me!

That about does it for this week. Things are going on around her as usual, and since Errol Wyse arrived last month, it has relieved me of a great deal of work. You’ll be hearing from me again next week.

Till then, lots of love,

Dave


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