News – Good, Bad and Middling

December 29, 2012

March 10, 1957

Dear Dad and Russ,

It’s been so very, very long since I’ve had a chance to write you that I must have at least a dozen letters to thank you for.

Well, this letter I’m afraid, is going to be a combination of bad news and good news and I suppose I’d better get the bad news over with first. I’m terribly sorry to tell you but I have found it impossible to keep up with the exhausting pace of working all day (and usually all night!) at the office then coming home to work even longer on correspondence courses. But no one is more disappointed than yours truly I can tell you. Quite frankly trying to work the way I was is killing. I’m afraid I can’t really tell you just what is involved in “communications” work but I can tell you that it’s far from the easiest job on Earth and really takes quite a lot of a person. Especially of late. As of April 1 I shall have 57 days leave to my credit and over half of this is overtime leave! 57 days leave totals 11 weeks and two days leave, by the way, so don’t worry about my having lots of leave for you folks next September! However there is one little ray of sunshine in all of this. Helen Small who has given me so much time in helping me along with history and English literature quite agrees with me that it would be pointless to continue when the work is becoming such a burden, but she suggested I carry on with history doing maybe one lesson a month or just as many as I can handle and then write that exam off in June ’58. I must say she’s determined to see me finish this business up! So please don’t think the show is being given up on completely. I’m fully convinced that work and great amounts of schooling just don’t mix but I’m sure that by taking things a little more gradual everything will work out to the best.

Now for the good news. Last Wednesday saw the arrival of another communications operator at the Canadian Embassy in Bonn. No one could have been more welcome (or more necessary!) as far as I am concerned.

March 11, 1957

Hi again! The Toughs phoned last night to ask me over for a game of Canasta so I didn’t get very far with this letter. I was just telling you about the recent arrival of another communicator from Ottawa. His name is Al Sauve and he’s married with three small children. He seems like quite a nice chap and is very anxious for me to get away on some well-deserved leave. I can tell you that even in the few days he’s been here it’s made a tremendous difference in the work.

I don’t recall if I’ve ever mentioned Allan Hobbs to you in my letters. Allan is a young chap at the British Embassy here in Bonn (he works in communications too, by the way) whom I met a few months ago. It was swell having single companionship for a while (bachelors are very rare in Bonn). I say “was swell” because a week ago last Saturday I was best man at Allan’s wedding in Düsseldorf. He married the ambassador’s secretary at the British Embassy who is a very charming redhead named Pat. I’ve become very fond of Pat and Allan and we see a lot of each other from time to time.

Well, I guess you’ve been reading about the German “Carnival” season in the papers back home. Cologne and Bonn are right in the heart of the Rhineland Carnival district so there were all sorts of local high-jinks going on here for the past few weeks. I was just to one costume party this year at the home of a French friend of mine. It was a tremendous party and “tres internationale”, with representatives of France, Germany, Turkey, Japan, Spain, Brazil, Romania, Austria, Norway and Canada being present.

About a month ago I had a visit from John Powell, Canada House, London one weekend. Sylvia may have mentioned to you that she stayed with the Powells when she was in London last year. John had visited me just before Sylvia arrived – he was hitchhiking down to Austria. Well, anyways, on the Sunday of John’s visit we drove down to Heidelberg with two of our stenos from the Embassy. We had a terrific time in spite of the rain (we’ve all got so used to the rain around here it really doesn’t dampen our spirits anymore!). We stopped off on the way to Heidleberg a little Rhinish town called Limburg which must be a million years old.

Heidelberg (2010 view)

Heidelberg (2010 view)

The Toughs are due to return to Canada next June and I will surely miss them very, very much. They intend to look you people up when they get to Ottawa. Which reminds me I had a letter from Cecile Fyen last week and she was telling me just how much she was impressed with the Nixon hospitality. Cecile is not too happy in Ottawa because I think she’s missing the European way of life very much. Which also reminds me that another visitor to the Nixon household – Theresa Hanratty – is leaving Canada in June for a posting in Belgrade. Well, I started off telling you about the Toughs. Art’s replacement is a chap named Jean Blackburn who was out in Indochina (Hanoi I think) about the same time as me. We shall surely have lots of things to talk about when he gets here.

About southern France. Well I tried to take some leave last month but unfortunately Paris could not provide a relief operator for Bonn so no go! However, now that Al is here I am planning on taking the last week in March and the first week in April off. I shall do nothing but loaf and rest right here at Austrasse 14 for one week then I am planning to dash over to London for a week to do some shopping and visit old friends. I don’t know whether or not Bob and Joan have found a place to live yet but I have five other invitations to stay with people in London, so accommodation should be no problem! Of course this is all indefinite as yet but I am going to try to get away from Bonn for short time.

I’m also going to try to get up to Holland some Sunday afternoon during the Tulip Festival time to get some coloured slides. Then, all being well, in June I’m hoping to spend two weeks with the communications operator from our Embassy in Rome at a little town called Lindau on the Boden See. Lindau is on the German side of the Boden See on the opposite end of the lake from Constance. Right across the lake is Switzerland and about 5 km to the east is the Austrian border. Liechtenstein is about 35 km south of Lindau. You can probably spot it on an atlas.

Well honestly folks there just isn’t much more to write about as I’ve been too darn busy lately to be doing anything much of interest. I’m looking forward so very much to next September. By the way, don’t forget to get your passports in lots of time. I’m just about to have a bath and then get an early night so must close for now.

Lots of love, Dave

PS: Meant to mention before that weather-wise this has been the most extraordinary winter here in Bonn. With the exception of Christmas Eve we had absolutely no snow at all. On about a dozen mornings there was a little frost on the ground. The crocuses have been up for almost a month and now the tulips are showing and all the trees and rosebushes are in bud! Spring seems to arrive in the middle of the winter around here!


Christmas and After

December 28, 2012

December 9, 1956

Dear Dad and Russ,

On Friday last I received your letter of December 4 and also your letter of November 8! This latter item turned up in an envelope without stamps which, needless to say, confused me no end until I read in the letter that you were enclosing the Carleton calendar. I remember now that the envelope containing the calendar was torn down one side, so I imagine what must have happened was that your letter had fallen out somewhere en route between Ottawa and Bonn and just now reached me!

Well, by this time you must have received my letter telling you that I sent off my enrollment in English literature and history to Toronto the day after the enrollment form reached me. I guess the mail must be a little slow around this time of year.

For the past week we’ve had nothing but rain and dense fog and today, for a change, it cleared up a little bit but it’s still so mild you scarcely need a coat to go out. We did have a little wet snow a couple of weeks ago but it melted as fast as it hit the ground. Bad Godesberg really looks lovely now, though, with all its Christmas decorations.

About phoning me during the Christmas season. Well, that sounds like a fine idea to me! Yes, I do have a phone here at the apartment. My number is Bad Godesberg 12567 (I’m listed in the Bad Godesberg phone book so you shouldn’t have any trouble reaching me). Now, just what day would be the best is rather hard to say. On Monday, December 24, I will be on my “Santa Claus” rounds. There are about 10 Canadian children here at the Embassy who all call me “Uncle David” and I must take them all a little something for Christmas (one of the duties of an uncle, I guess!). And, of course, I must pay my respects to the Toughs and the Yorks. They’ve been so darn wonderful to me all year. Then, on Christmas Day, I’m having lunch with the Toughs and, as last year, we are all going to Cologne for Christmas dinner with the Ambassador. As far as I know as yet, Sunday, December 23 is free and any day after Christmas day during the following week. The time difference, by the way, between Ottawa and Bonn is six hours. You must add six hours to Ottawa time to get Bonn time. I think around 6:30 or 7 o’clock in the evening would be the best time for me. Anyways, I’ll let you decide and be sure to drop me a line so I’ll be home when the call comes through.

My work over here seems to increase more and more every day. No sign of a let-up as yet and my overtime hours are really staggering! I must have close to seven weeks leave coming my way right now. All being well, I hope to take a couple of weeks off in February or March and go down to the south of France with Jack and his wife. Monte Carlo is only a 2-day drive from Bonn. However, that all remains to be seen.

I had a very nice and very quiet birthday this year. A whole gang of us went to the movie and then had an impromptu party afterwards. Hard to believe I’m 22 already! And also hard to believe that I’m into my second year in Bonn! Time sure does fly.

Well, I have a dinner invitation for seven tonight and as it is almost 6 I think I must get dressed and shaved etc., so will have to close this letter for now.

In closing, there’s one thing I insist on, namely – you must not be worrying about me. Our little Canadian “family” is getting along just fine over here and other than a lot more work, the recent events in Eastern Europe are very remote from Bonn. So please don’t be concerned about me one little bit.

I’m afraid next weekend will be rather hectic what with the “ball” at the Ritchies and pre-Christmas celebrations, so just in case I don’t find time to write before, may I wish you both


Lots of love, Dave

January 19, 1957

Dear Dad and Russ,

Would you believe it – today, January 19 is the first day since New Year’s Day that I haven’t been at work this month! I have never been so busy since coming to Bonn as I’ve been this month. And this, incidentally, is the first letter I’ve had time to write this year! I even had to go into work last Tuesday morning at 3 AM! It’s been that terribly busy. However, it’s all overtime to my credit; as of now I have two months leave coming my way.

Well, it certainly was a pleasure to hear from you to on the telephone. It certainly was an amazing experience talking across the Atlantic just as if we were phoning across town! Pam MacDougall (our only female officer at the Embassy) and her sister Lorna came over for dinner that evening around 7:30. I had been expecting your call at 6:30 but, as you know, it didn’t arrive until nearly 10:30. I had just phoned the operator in Cologne to find out if she knew anything about why the call was being delayed when you came on. Dinner that night, by the way, consisted of a roast beef, carrots, peas, potatoes, salad and an entrée of cold salmon and asparagus tips. Quite good, if I do say so myself.

It’s been so long since I’ve written that I quite forget what all has happened since last letter. The Christmas season got rolling over here on December 15 with a formal dance at the Residence in Cologne. It was quite delightful affair and the first time I had ever worn a tuxedo. I borrowed it from a friend of mine at the Turkish Embassy and the kids also that I looked quite smart in my Turkish tux! The place was just crawling with Counts and Countesses, Barons and Baronesses, Dukes and Duchesses, etc., etc. After the dance most of the Canadians and a couple of the younger baronesses all went back to Phil Weishar’s place to round off a very enjoyable evening.

Around Christmas and New Year’s I was booked solid with dinner invitations. I’m afraid I had to turn down about 75% of the invitations I received. That’s the wonderful thing about the people here at our Embassy, they look after us single types as if we were there very own! Christmas Eve was quite the most beautiful night I’ve ever seen in Germany weather-wise. It had snowed on the 23rd and the 24th was just cold and crisp enough to keep a little bit of the snow on the ground and trees. The sky was clear and all the stars were shining brightly. And all the church bells were ringing most of the evening. The German custom is to open all their gifts on Christmas Eve, which is the big night for them. The Kesselheims (the people George lived with) invited me over to share their Christmas Eve with them and it was a very wonderful experience. The whole family are really swell. Herman (the father) had made a great jug of what is known as a “Kalte Ente” which, in English means “cold duck”. This is a subtle mixture of champagne and white wine into which is dunked a grapefruit peel for flavor. The whole thing is chilled, then served. Which makes quite a nice drink. “Kalte Ente” is the traditional Christmas drink in this part of Germany.

"Kalte Ente"

“Kalte Ente”

I had Christmas lunch with the Toughs this year and nearly burst at the seams! Pam is English and she turned out a genuine English Christmas feast which would really have made your eyes pop! There was turkey, baked ham, brussels sprouts, carrots, potatoes, sage and onion dressing, chestnut dressing, plum pudding, mincemeat tarts, Christmas cake, and a few other items which I can’t quite remember. Peter and Susan Tough give me some socks and hankies and later on in the day, when I could manage to walk after that dinner, I called in on the Yorks, where I was presented with a cocktail shaker and ice bucket! I don’t know if I told you before or not, but over here I’m known as “Uncle David” to about 10 Canadian children! Quite a family.

The Ritchies had their usual Christmas dinner at the Residence on Christmas night followed by a party. Then, on Boxing Day, I had lunch at the Mitchell’s (Trade and Commerce). The following week was just one party after another and one dinner after another.

On New Year’s Eve Marion Greenwood and I had a party here at my place which turned out to be a roaring success. Instead of the usual little sandwiches and odds and ends you usually get these parties, we served up something like 42 grilled Canadian hamburgers for refreshments. This went over with a bang, especially with some of our foreign guests (including Belgians, Turks, Germans, and Norwegians!).

On New Year’s Day most of the single kids turned up at the Mains about noon for bowls of hot, homemade vegetable soup. Wonderful! Then over to the Yorks for a goose dinner that evening. Whew! Quite a busy week!

Well, the books arrived in perfect condition last week along with that wonderful picture of you folks outside the apartment with George. Also the desk calendar. Many thanks for everything. The most extraordinary thing happened shortly after the books arrived. One of our officers here, Doug Small, and his wife, Helen, offered to tutor me in English Lit. and history! Helen majored in history of college and was a schoolteacher before marrying Doug. And Helen’s mother just happens to teach Grade 13 Lit. back in Canada! I have a lesson now every Monday night and the interest those two are showing in my work just amazes me. You would honestly think that they were the ones who were going to go to college! Helen is more than happy to do this for me because as she said, she has so much spare time on her hands over here she hardly knows what to do. The Smalls have many personal friends on faculties of various colleges in Canada and they’ll be able to get all sorts of information for me to help me along. People are really pretty darn wonderful aren’t they?

I was talking to Gordon Happy the other day on the phone. Hap is up in London now along with Pat and Debbie, of course. No more lone postings for Hap if he can help it! The strange thing was, however, that we had asked Ottawa for another Communications Clerk because of the tremendous increase in work in Bonn as of late and Hap to was the one chosen! Then, just about a week before he left for Bonn, there was a change of plans somewhere and he was posted to London. We still haven’t heard who is coming out to Bonn to help me! This, incidentally, is all classified information that shouldn’t go beyond the Nixon household.

Gene Loo's Xmas Card

Gene Loo’s Xmas Card

Well, folks, I should like to chat away for a while longer but I simply must get cracking on letters to a dozen other people who wrote to me at Christmas (including Jean Loo, my Hong Kong tailor!).

All the best and I’m looking forward to September very much,

Lots of love, Dave

Career Planning

December 26, 2012

October 17, 1956

Dear Dad,

This is just going to have to be a very very short note I’m afraid because I’ve got enough work before me to last a good week!

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately and I finally decided the best move I could make would be to go to college on completion of my Bonn posting. I talked this prospect over with Harry Stewart, our Admin Officer, and he thinks it would be a very wise move. I’m also making inquiries about leave of absence from the department for a few years and I’m not too sure yet but there may be some chance of their paying at least some sum towards my college education (strictly unofficial by the way).

Just one problem, of course. And that is my lack of senior matriculation. Therefore, I decided to try to write off at least a few of my Grade 13 papers while I’m in Bonn. Would you be good enough to do me a favour, Dad? Could you write to the director, correspondence courses branch, Department of Education, 206 Huron St., Toronto 5 and ask them for information concerning completion of at least some of my Grade 13 subjects. Or maybe you could get me some information from the Board of Education right in Ottawa. Anything you can do would be much appreciated, as I’m anxious to get started as soon as possible.

Hope this won’t cause you too much trouble, Dad. I’m really quite excited about the prospect of college now that I’ve made up my mind. It took a little time to think things over but I’m sure my travels will stand me in good stead someday. Quite an education in itself!

Must dash for now,

Lots of love, Dave

October 28, 1956

Dear Dad and Russ,

Dear me, it seems that the only time I’ve got to write letters these days is on Sundays. I’ve never been so busy since coming to Bonn as I’ve been the past few weeks. [Perhaps it’s something to do with the Hungarian Revolution.] Nothing official as yet, but if I kept my way will soon have two operators instead of one at the Embassy (goodness only knows at times we could use four!).

Well, without further ado, I’ll get on with answering the questions raised and you’re very, very welcome letter of October 21. To tell you the truth I did have it in the back of my mind to go to college outside of Ottawa (to avoid distractions of close friends “on the loose”) but the more I think about it I guess it would be much better to stick to Carleton, both from an economical point of view and also because it would be kind of nice to be home for a couple of years! Yes, I think taking everything into consideration, Carleton is the college.

As for the course. Now this presents a bit of a problem. Actually I had not made up my mind as to which course to take when I wrote you. I was thinking primarily of finishing up my Grade 13 first. However I do believe either Commerce or Public Administration would be the answer. Public Admin rather interests me at this point and I would appreciate very much receiving some pertinent details about this course. Incidentally, Harry Stewart, our admin officer, suggested this would be a more appropriate course of studies rather than general arts.

I’m afraid there’s no way of telling as yet about the possibilities of working part-time in the East Block. However, if such will be the case, then this is all the more reason for attending Carlton.

Glad to hear that you had a chance to meet Sally Swenson. We are all waiting anxiously here for Sally’s first letter from Indochina.

You mention Gordon Happy in your letter. Well, as a matter of fact, just the other day I noticed that a G.A. Happy have been posted on temporary duty from Communications Division, Department of External Affairs to New York. Actually, I didn’t even know that Hap had joined the department. However, I’m sure that once the Happys get squared away we’ll be hearing from them.

Last Wednesday we had a real treat in the form of the New York City Ballet in Cologne. It’s very seldom we get any such form of entertainment in this part of Germany, so needless to say the Canadians turned out in full force.

I guess we can settle on September, then, for your European jaunt. As far as staying over a bit is concerned, Dad, you are more than welcome to stay just as long as you like. A lot of the kids over here have their families visiting for a couple of months. I’ve got lots and lots of room and it would be wonderful if you could share the apartment with me for a while.

Well, as I said, Sunday night is the only time I seem to get to write letters so I’m afraid I must get a few more written before going to bed. I’m very anxious to hear what you can do concerning the completion of Grade 13.

Bye for now and lots of love, Dave

November 25, 1956

Dear Dad and Russ,

Just finished making myself some dinner (pork chops à la Dave), stoked the fire and now must get a few lines off to Canada. By the way, I picked up quite a few kitchen hints since coming to Europe so don’t expect to starve when you to come over here next September!

First of all I must thank you for sending me the Carleton College calendar, which, incidentally, has decided me on the commerce course. Taking everything into consideration I do believe it will be the best course for me. Then yesterday I received your letter of November 19 containing the application form and other information re: correspondence courses. I just filled out the application form for English literature and history. So if you could get the appropriate books to Bonn some way, Dad, it would be most appreciated. Both English literature and history are old favorites of mine and so I think they would be good starters for me to take.

I’m really getting quite enthused over this “back to school” business, let me tell you!

Thank you also for sending me the booklet “Adventures in Christian Stewardship”, Dad. Say, that is a real good picture of the “General Chairman”! I’m sure that last Sunday’s service must’ve been a wonderful experience for you, Dad, and, like Russ, I am real, real proud of my Pop! I just regret very much I couldn’t have been there too.

You might be getting a phone call one of these days from Yvonne Jukes. Yvonne was one of the stenos who went up to Holland with me on Labour Day weekend. She recently left Bonn and is on her way to California, stopping over in Ottawa for just a few days. However, she said she would give you a call if she got the chance.

Which reminds me, Cecile Fyen is due to leave Paris on December 12 for home (Montréal). She will definitely be getting in touch with you Dad because she has the two air-packs for you and Russ. Cecile had quite a lot of clothes and not too much luggage so I gave her the air-packs to take back to Canada with her. However, I don’t expect Cecile will be in Ottawa until after Christmas sometime. Both Cecile and Yvonne are “charmers”, Dad, and anything you might be able to do for them while they’re in Ottawa would be much appreciated by me. George Howell, for one, just couldn’t get over the “Nixon hospitality” during his stay in Ottawa.

I just wish you could see my apartment now. It’s absolutely fabulous!! What a difference a little bit of wallpaper and paint makes in an apartment. I have purchased some wonderful water-colours of German scenes which I shall be hanging in the apartment just as soon as I get them framed. I’m sure you two are going to love this place when you see it’s next year.

The first chilly blasts of winter on the Rhine are making themselves felt the last few days. No snow yet but plenty of frost. I have my little stove going full blast and, I am thankful to say, the apartment is as cozy as can be. My little VW runs just as smoothly and starts just as quickly, of course, as it would in the middle of the Sahara! Wonderful car!

Well, I must get my application off to the Department of Education now so will close this letter for the time being. Hoping to hear from you real soon and lots and lots of love, Dave

PS: I sent a little parcel to you two on November 15 for Christmas. It contains all the slides I’ve taken since coming to Europe and also some of Cape Cod which Bob Rivoire is most anxious to see so maybe you could give him a call when they arrive. Also in the parcel are two pairs of cufflinks – one pair of Topaz and one pair of mother of pearl. I’ll let you two decide who should get which pair. Hope you like them.

David & Bob Rivoire at Cape Cod, c. 1954, doing either Isadora Duncan or Martha Graham

David & Bob Rivoire at Cape Cod, c. 1954, doing either Isadora Duncan or Martha Graham

Postcards, Travel Snaps, and Back to Bonn

December 26, 2012

St. Mark's Square, Venice, August 1956

Postcard 1

Hi Russ & Dad,

Well here we are in Venice. The drive thru the whole of Germany, Austria & some of Italy was heavenly, although we drove all last night and arrived in Venice at 5 in the morning, so all I can say about northern Italy would come from maps. However, we should see most of it on the way to Verona and Milan when we go to Geneva. I’m writing this right here in St. Mark’s Square & they have a wonderful string orchestra playing Viennese waltzes.

Bye for now,

Sylvia & David

Sylvia with her Venetian hat, bag and gloves

Sylvia with her Venetian hat, bag and gloves

St. Mark's Square

St. Mark’s Square

Sylvia feeding the pigeons

Sylvia feeding the pigeons

Geneva Aug 56

Postcard 2

Dear Dad & Russ,

Greetings from Switzerland. Had a fabulous trip from Venice right across northern Italy, stopping at Verona & Milan. Then up to Lake Lugano & across the south of Switzerland to Geneva, arriving last Sat. night. On Sunday Sylvia & I & two chaps from our delegation drove to Mont Blanc where we had a tremendous snowball fight! Sylvia flew to Paris last night & I leave for Bonn tomorrow morning, via Basel, Black Forest, the Saar, Trier, Mosel River, etc. Lots of love,


October 15, 1956

Dear Dad and Russ

Since last writing I received your two most welcome letters dated September 23 and October 3.

First of all to your letter of September 23. You mentioned Sweden and Finland as “places to see” in Europe. Well, as a matter of fact I too, do have a great desire to visit the Scandinavian countries. George Howell often said that of all the places he has visited in Europe, he enjoyed Copenhagen the best. Oh well, one of these days… Would you folks be at all interested in visiting any of these countries? It would complicate things a little, i.e.,we would have to make a special trip north and then backtrack south again. But if you were really interested, I’m sure we could arrange something. However, we can easily visit Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and France from Bonn.

I wouldn’t worry too much Russ, about only having three weeks leave. Three weeks is a long time over here as the distances are so short. Anyways, we’ll just try to see as much as possible in the time you do have. By the way, September suits me just fine too – I think it will be much easier for me to get leave and also the tourist season will have pretty well finished by then. Weather-wise it should also be much more comfortable for traveling around Italy.

Here’s a suggestion. If I’m not mistaken, I think the Montréal to Düsseldorf plane stops in London en route. If you two would like to see London (and it’s really worth a visit) I think you could arrange something with TCA [Trans-Canada Airlines, now Air Canada] for a London stop over before coming on to Germany.

You ask about Protestant churches in western Germany. Afraid I don’t know too much about this matter except that here in the Rhineland the people are almost all RC’s. The British and Americans have small Protestant churches in Bad Godesberg but other than that I think they are few and far between.

Now for local news. Really nothing too exciting to report this time – haven’t been outside of Germany since last letter. Thanksgiving weekend was pretty quiet. I had to work on the Saturday and Sunday and it rained. Monday, however, was a nice crisp autumn day so two of the stenos and I took the ferry across to Königswinter then the little train up the Drachenfels. You get a really beautiful view of the Rhine from up top.

David's view July 56

David’s view – Königswinter and the Drachenfels from across the Rhine

I’ve had company for the past month at my apartment. Capt. Jack Wolfe is sharing the apartment with me, probably until Christmas. He’s a swell chap with a terrific terrific sense of humor. He’s stationed in Soest and is in Bonn for the Status of Forces Conference. Also, Cecile Fyen was visiting for the week prior to Thanksgiving. She’s a terrific cook and Jack and I sure appreciated her presence. Jack’s wife was also visiting for a weekend the same time Cecile was here. I’m rather glad I got a big apartment! I’m having the apartment redecorated sometime this month and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you see it next year.

It’s getting much colder these days and last Saturday I have to get the fire started again. The price of coal has gone up as a result of last winter’s cold weather – makes quite a hole in one’s budget.

Well, as I said, really not much to write about these days, so I’ll close off with

lots of love, Dave

[Readers will note that David seldom, if ever, mentions the nature of his work. Among other things, as a cryptographer, David was coding and decoding missives seen only by the Ambassador (Charles Ritchie), the Minister of External Affairs (Lester Pearson), and the Prime Minister (Louis St. Laurent). The period of mid-to-late 1956 saw great upheaval in world events in which Canada played a major role. The Suez Crisis began in July-August and continued through the remainder of the year. It was the Suez Crisis that cemented Canada’s role as a peacekeeper from the 1950s onward.]

Comings and Goings in the Rain

December 26, 2012

June 25, 1956

Dear Dad and Russ,

Whew! I’m in the midst of a little breather here at the Embassy so I decided now would be as good a time as any to dash off a letter to Canada. It certainly has been busy here the past week let me tell you!

Since George left I’ve led quite a quiet social life (that is in comparison with the past few weeks just before George left). I spend a great deal of time playing canasta with Art and Pam Tough and going to the movies with them. Last night, incidentally, Art and I went to “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea“, which was, to say the least, excellent. Did I tell you that Art has been posted to Geneva for the month of July and is going to meet Sylvia’s plane and get her organized to come to Bonn? Then, all being well, Pam Tough, their two kiddies, Sylvia and I will be spending a weekend in Holland next month and then, also all being well, I hope to get a couple of weeks off in August so that Sylvia and I can motor down to Switzerland and Lake Lugano.


Ken Thomas, the chap that George and I stayed with in London last March, has been posted to New Delhi as of July 3. Lucky guy!

My cold is much better now, but unfortunately is still with me. Practically everyone here at the Embassy has caught the same cold. George wrote me a letter just before he left London for Liverpool in which he announced that he too has not escaped catching a Bonn cold. We all blame it on the miserable weather – and I really think we’re quite justified! It has rained every day for almost a month now and it is so cold we all are wearing sweaters and coats and have little fires going or electric heaters all the time. In the morning you can actually see your breath! On Saturday, lo and behold, the sun came out and the clouds disappeared – for about three hours! Then everything got inky dark and lightning flashed, thunder roared and it rained cats and dogs again and it is still raining! Depressing to say the least!

I can’t tell you yet which month, July or August, would be best for you two to come over here next year. Actually, I think either month would be equally nice, according to the natives – that is if it stops raining by then!

August 1, 1956

Well here is August first already, which marks the completion of eight happy months in Germany. Eight months certainly seems like a long time but I must admit the time has passed all too quickly. Before I know it, the other two years and 10 months of my Bonn posting will be all over and done with!

And I’m sure it must be close to eight months (or so it seems to me) since I last wrote you folks! Hope you haven’t been worrying about me now, just because you haven’t heard from me for so long, because you’ve certainly no need for worry. The only reason you haven’t heard from me before this has been a distinct lack of letter-writing time. As a matter of fact, Johnny York took the last two weeks off for leave and I had to run the Registry as well as Communications. Brother! What a job. I ran up 42 hours of overtime for the month of July alone, which incidentally gives me a total of 35 working days leave coming – or in other words seven full weeks!

I have before me four (4) unanswered letters from you, dated July 6, July 8, July 15, and July 23! Obviously you have been far better letter writers than me! I also received your cable telling me about the changes in Sylvia’s plans. I phoned Geneva and Paris immediately to transfer the reception committee duties from Switzerland to France.

If my memory serves me rightly, I haven’t written you at all during the month of July. Cecile Fyen was here for the July 1 weekend and we both attended Mr. Ritchie’s Canada Day reception in Cologne. On July 12, a Canadian chap from Canada House in London arrived in Bonn, en route to Venice. He was walking, by the way. He says it’s the best holiday he’s had. His name is John Powell and he seems quite a nice person. Well, anyways John stayed at my place overnight and we have sort of tentatively planned to take some leave together in October to hitchhike down to Vienna. John will bring his wife and little boy over here to Bonn and they can stay at my apartment while John that I hoof it down south. Of course, nothing definite as yet but sure sounds like a lot of fun.

Sylvia got in touch with Cecile Fyen in Paris as soon as she arrived and, of course, Cecile would hear nothing else but that Sylvia should stay at her place. On Friday, July 13, she arrived in Bonn. It was really wonderful to see her again – she hasn’t changed a bit. Sylvia stayed here until Tuesday morning, July 17, and she returned to Paris to study ballet. On the Sunday she was here the two of us hopped into the VW around noon and drove up to Arnhem in Holland. It was a wonderful trip and we were back in Bonn by 8:30 that evening for dinner with Pam Tough. Seems a little ridiculous doesn’t it, taking an afternoon drive to Holland! Sylvia phoned me from Paris last week to tell me how things were going. She is studying ballet with the Roland Petit ballet company and, evidently, Roland Petit himself told Sylvia that if she had been in Paris three weeks earlier and auditioned for the company, she would have been a member of it now! The Roland Petit company, by the way, is the company that Leslie Caron was in before going to Hollywood. They have been in several films, including “American in Paris”, “Daddy Long Legs”, and so on. Sylvia was quite excited to say the least.

Leslie Caron & Roland Petit

Leslie Caron & Roland Petit

Sylvia is coming back to Bonn on Friday and then Saturday morning we are taking off to points unknown. We are just going to drive down the Rhine to the Black Forest, Bavaria, Switzerland, maybe Italy, and goodness only knows where else. We’ll just have 12 days together as she have to go back to Paris on the 16th to leave for Canada again. However, you can sure see a lot of Europe in 12 days! We’ll be dropping you postcards from time to time to let you know what progress we are making.

Your letter of July 15 (and George’s letter and Bob’s letter!) certainly came as a very pleasant surprise! I didn’t expect George to be in Ottawa until around the end of July. However, I’m so glad you had an opportunity to meet George and were able to do something for him. He is really a swell guy (as I’m sure you’ll agree after meeting him) and I’ll never be able to repay him for the way he took care of me during my first few months in Bonn. To tell you the truth, it just doesn’t seem like the same place here without George around! However, I’m sure our paths will cross again someday, someplace.

Sally Swenson is leaving for home next Saturday. Last Saturday night we had a real old-fashioned Canadian wiener and marshmallow roast for her on the banks of the Rhine. We were very fortunate in not having any rain and I can tell you everybody enjoyed themselves immensely. It was quite a new experience for the Europeans present and they seem to got more of a kick out of it than we Canadians!

You know, having not written to you for over a month makes it very difficult to bring you up-to-date on all the news. I’m still being invited here and there for dinner nearly every other night – being a bachelor at a post like this certainly has its advantages. Never know quite where the next meal will come from but I’ve yet to go hungry!

Which reminds me. The weekend Sylvia was here I invited two of our stenos over for dinner. I cooked (repeat I COOKED) a roast of veal with tomato sauce, onions, peppers, spices, etc., and spaghetti. I was so pleased with the results and the others seem to be pleased also (and I guess a little bit surprised) that I have a repeat performance last Sunday night for Sally and the other two stenos. This time I added a green salad to my menu.

I took the car in for a checkup yesterday and they guaranteed that it is now in perfect shape for “going over an Alp”. I’ve been getting such wonderful service out of my little VW. Also I’m completely sold on VW’s now and swear I’ll never ever drive any other type of car (except, of course, a Ford occasionally!). That also reminds me that as of today, August 1, the car is all mine. The last payment to Sally went through today.

Things are improving a little bit weather-wise here. It only rains about every other day now instead of every day. However it is still quite cool and a sweater is usually the order of the day. However, folks who have gone south (as Sylvia and I plan to do on Saturday) have all returned with wonderful suntans and glowing reports about the weather down in those parts.

I’m typing this letter during my “guard duty” and as it is now nearly 2 o’clock and people are beginning to drift back from their lunch hour, I’m afraid I’ll have to close for now. You’ll be hearing from “S and D” on postcards for the next two weeks, then I’ll try to write you another letter when I get back.

lots of love, Dave

P.S. Incidentally, Sally Swenson is just going to stay in Canada for about a month and then she’s off to INDOCHINA for nine months!



A Paris Fling and A Farewell

December 25, 2012

May 24, 1956

Dear Dad & Russ,

Spring is definitely the time of year to visit Paris! Golly, but it was beautiful! And the weather was absolutely made to measure – warm sunshine and blue sky the whole time.

George and I left Bonn early Saturday morning via the “Paris-Ruhr Express” (a sleek red diesel) and arrived in Paris in time for lunch. The countryside en route to Paris was really delightful and, of course, being spring-time made it even prettier. The train trip took us across the northwestern part of Germany, clear across Belgium and halfway across France! We were staying with “Buck” and Norma Arbuckle (Buck’s our communications technician). Buck met us at the Gare du Nord and we went right to their place for dinner. The afternoon’s activities included sort of a grand tour de Paris, with stops at the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, etc. etc. etc. WONDERFUL!!! On Saturday night the Arbuckles threw a great party for George and me. The entire Communications Division was there along with some people George knew from the Embassy. Also, Cecile Fyen, our steno from Phnom Penh whom I went with to Bangkok last year. It was a marvellous party, believe me.

On Sunday we spent most of the day strolling through the Bois de Boulogne with occasional stops for iced cafe francais at quaint little outdoor restaurants. I was over to Cecile’s for dinner on Sunday night and a girlfriend of hers dropped in so the three of us went back tot he Arbuckles with a bottle of champagne to celebrate (rather prematurely) Buck’s birthday, which was on Monday.

We all slept in late on Monday and then took off on a last whirlwind tour of the sights. I returned to Bonn on Monday night, but George stayed on until last night – he figured it would be his last visit to Paris for goodness-knows how long so he wanted to get lots and lots of pictures before he left. He surely did get lots of pictures – over 100 in all!!

And that was Paris.

Still pretty busy these days. Also, am in the process of helping to organize a farewell garden party for George a week from tomorrow. Some fun! George and I are going for dinner with the Mitchells tonight and dinner with the Yorks tomorrow night. I was over to the Yorks on Tuesday to help do justice to some wonderful pies Yvonne had just baked. You know, a fellow could exist here in Bonn just on dinner invitations!

Well, that’s about all for now. The V.W. is running like a charm. The weather is much warmer and the countryside is too beautiful to describe.

June 16, 1956

Well, you’re probably wondering whatever has become of me these days – it’s been so long since I wrote you last. So long, indeed, that I honestly quite forget what I said last letter or even when that last letter was written! I do believe, however, that it was shortly after George and I returned from Paris. Right?

So here are the latest Bonn doings. Well, I quite frankly couldn’t even begin to tell you about the social events prior to George’s departure for Canada. We had parties every single night during his last week here (quite exhausting but lots of fun). Two weeks ago last night (June 1), of course, there was the huge farewell party at the Embassy. I must admit the Embassy surely looked quite lovely – we decorated all of the downstairs offices and extended an awning out over the patio at the back of the Embassy. The patio was all decorated with green branches, Chinese lanterns and coloured lights hidden in the ivy that grows up the back of the Embassy. And all through the garden we had more Chinese lanterns hung casually amongst the shrubs and trees. Quite effective!

As George didn’t want to have to pay another month’s rent where he was living he moved in here on June 1. Barry Leahy from Berlin arrived in Bonn on June 1 as well, so needless to say I had quite a house-full that weekend. As I said before, the following week was just one party after another. Then on Saturday night (a week ago) we had about 30-some people over here for a party. My apartment certainly lends itself admirably to a party! Having a spare room, of course, solves the problem of dancing. Lots of fun. On Sunday night George and I were invited out for dinner and then went over to visit George’s “family” where he used to live. The Kesselheim’s are marvellous people and insist that I drop in to visit them at least twice a month. You would honestly think that they were losing a son the way they felt about George leaving. Also, they told me that the would not rent George’s apartment out to anyone but a Canadian! I can move in anytime I want to, according to them.

Last Monday was quite the most hectic day I’ve ever experienced. George had all his last-minute packing to do and about a million and a half people to say last-minute farewells to. His train was due to leave Bonn at 7 p.m. and he was still packing at 6:30! He even took my toothbrush in the confusion! However, we just made the train and there must have been at least 20 people down at the station to say good-bye – we all sang “Auf Wiedersehen!” and away he went.

We shall certainly miss George a great deal round here – me especially I guess. He was a grand friend to me and a marvellous help in getting me settled and introduced to many people. However, his parting words were something to the effect of “I shall return” so I look forward to that day very much. George expects to be in Ottawa during the last week of July, Dad, and I gave him your address and he hopes to be able to look you and Russ up. Being a bachelor, I’m sure he’d appreciate one of your steak dinners! He’s an excellent cook himself and I had no qualms about recommending “Nixon’s Steakhouse” while he’s in Ottawa.

I don’t know if it’s the result of all the excitement of George’s departure or the perfectly dreadful weather we’re having here lately (nothing but cold, rain and clouds and dampness for weeks!) but I’ve been laid up with a bad cold for the past week! I’m one of four Canadians that have been absent from the Embassy all week! However, I did manage to struggle from my bed last night to go over to the Toughs for a spare-ribs dinner and an evening of Canasta. I’m feeling much better today and do believe I’m shaking the cold – they’re very hard to get rid of in this climate!

Well, Cecile Fyen (Phnom Penh steno) is arriving from Paris for the July 1 weekend and Sylvia (Montreal dancer!) is due to arrive in Europe for five weeks or so about July 12. It’s wonderful having so many visitors! I’ve already lined up tentatively a trip to Holland for Sylvia some weekend, then all being well, we hope to drive down to Lake Lugano which lies on the Swiss-Italian border. Should be lots of fun!

I have about another six letters to write today so I really must close this one for now. All the best and lots of love,


Snippets – Spring 1956

December 16, 2012

April 30, 1956

Dear Dad & Russ,

Well, you folks are probably wondering by this time whatever has become of me – and small wonder, it’s been so long since I’ve had time to dash off a line or two. It really was hectic here the past couple of weeks – you’ve no idea. A week ago Saturday I even had to come into the Embassy at 7:30 a.m. to finish up some work! However, things seem to get busy and then quieten down (I hope) so my letter-writing should take a turn for the better.

All being well, we expect some Canadian visitors here in Bonn for the next few days. The National Defence College are making their annual European tour and included in this year’s tour are Mr. R. Duder, Col. Deane-Freeman, and Mr. A. Kilgour – should be quite an Indochina reunion!

And speaking of Indochina, I must tell you that my slides arrived in 100% perfect condition by courtesy of the Towe’s. George and I had a great evening looking at them. And you were quite right about the Towe’s. They’re a wonderful couple and lots of fun. They had a house-warming party here a few weeks ago and you should just see their house! It’s way up on top of a hill back of Bad Godesberg with a magnificent view of the Rhine Valley. They are in the process of building a swimming pool, which should be lovely during the summer.

It did turn out well - nice pool!

It did turn out well – nice pool!

As I was driving back to work this afternoon I just thought what a wonderful thing it was having my own car. I really don’t know what I ever did without it. And a V.W. is such a wonderful little car – costs practically nothing to run (one filling lasts over a week and costs about $2.50!) and just nothing ever seems to go out of order. I’m firmly convinced that I shall drive nothing but V.W.’s from now on.

And it will be so wonderful when you folks come over here in ’57. We’ll be able to jump into the car and just drive wherever we wish. I’m really looking forward to that visit.

George and I have been doing quite a bit of bowling (10-pin) lately at the American Settlement. I’m hoping to start playing volleyball with a group of fellows from various embassies here in Bonn next Wednesday. Also a few of the kids here at our Embassy want to start playing badminton and do some swimming at the American pool. Should be quite a summer. Other activities include Bingo every Wednesday night and, of course, the odd movie.

After 4½ years, George is leaving Germany around the 11th of June via the Empress of Scotland. He’s been a real friend to me and I’m surely going to miss him greatly when he leaves. However, through George I’ve met quite a few friends so it won’t be too bad.

May 7, 1956

Here I am on guard duty again – about the only time I have these days to write to you folks. I may have mentioned in last week’s letter that I expected things to calm down a bit. Those were certainly “great expectations”! No sir, it got busier and busier as the week wore on – so busy in fact that one day last week Johnny York and Harry Stewart (our Admin Officer) spent the whole day helping me!

Today is a really beautiful, warm, spring day. All the trees are out here in Germany now it does look so nice. And last weekend saw the opening of all the local beer gardens. These are so very colourful with bright sun umbrellas, variously coloured tables and chairs and, of course, the bar maids in their native costumes. Certainly is a lovely part of the world to be in around this time of year.


Not too much news since last letter. George is in Berlin for a few days (back tomorrow morning). I drove him to the airport at Wahn (about ¾ hours from Bonn) on Friday night, then dashed back to Bad Godesberg to baby-sit with the three wee York’s. Saturday was a wonderful day so I spent it sun-bathing out on my little balcony. Then over to the Toughs for dinner and Canasta. Last night I went to the show (“My Sister Eileen“) with the Toughs. And tonight I’m having a few of the kids in for sort of a planning committee meeting for a going-away party for George next month.

May 14, 1956

Well, since last writing you folks I’ve been away from Bonn for a bit of a trip. George and I took off Friday night around 8 o’clock via mein V.W. bound for Soest. It’s only about a three hour drive from Bonn – all on the Autobahn – and takes you through the very industrial Ruhr Valley area of Germany. We arrived in Soest around 11 p.m. Friday night, but rather than stay right in Soest we decided to try to get some accommodation on the Möhne See, a lake about 9 k.m. from Soest. However, being a weekend all the resort hotels on the Möhne See were filled, so we backtracked to a little village called Körbecke and stopped off at a typical German “Gästhaus” by the name of Böhmer. This inn was constructed in the year 1731 by the way. And it was all typical German. I just wish you could have seen our beds! They were very deep with the head propped up (typical German) and they were covered with the thickest eiderdowns I’ve ever seen! They were easily a foot thick, light as a feather and very, very cozy.

Gasthof Böhmer and scenes around the Möhne See, 1950s

Gasthof Böhmer and scenes around the Möhne See, 1950s

Saturday morning we got in touch with Pete and Sybil [Shaver] and took them out for lunch – sure nice to see them again. We spent the afternoon shopping at the Maple Leaf Service stores in the Brigade P.M.Q.’s [private married quarters]. All sorts things available there from Canada. Then we went over to visit a friend of George’s (a Sgt. with five children) and stayed for dinner. George’s friend then took us to the Sgt.’s mess where we saw a movie and just sat around and chatted.

David's picture of That Dam

David’s picture of That Dam

We spent most of yesterday at the Möhne See. Did either of you see that film,”The Dam Busters“? Well, if you did, you’ll remember the Möhne See is a dammed-up lake that controls the electrical power for most of the Ruhr Valley. It was the biggest of the three dams that “the dam busters” busted. It’s quite something to see – of course, it’s been rebuilt now and is in full operation again. The country was very beautiful around the lake – somewhat like the Gatineaus.

When we got back to Bonn last night, George came over and we cooked up a tremendous spaghetti dinner that we purchased up in Soest! Oh, and here’s an interesting fact – it is approximately 125 miles from Bonn to Soest – 250 miles return. And while we were around Soest we must have easily driven another 5 miles around the countryside. Which means that all in all we travelled approximately 300 miles over the weekend. And here’s the surprising thing! We only filled up the gas tank once – that is, before we left Bonn on Friday night! Now if that isn’t good mileage I don’t know what is! The return trip cost us each about $1.50 for gas and $1.00 a night each for accommodation. Not bad, eh what?

Well, that seems to about sum it up for now. I’ll be over in Paris next weekend and won’t be back until Tuesday (Monday is a holiday for us, too) so I’ll probably be writing you about the middle of next week Seems silly doesn’t it – saying that I’m going over to Paris for the weekend!!

All the best to everyone,

lots of love, Dave

%d bloggers like this: