Wheels!

February 7, 1956

Dear Dad & Russ,

FLASH!! I am now mobile!! Yes, I bought a car, believe it or not. I’m just terribly excited about the whole thing as you can well imagine! Here’s the story. Yesterday afternoon, Sally Swenson came down to my office and said: “Would you like to buy my car?” I said: “Sure!” So today I took out the insurance on it and am in the process of having the ownership papers transferred, etc., and on Thursday, the car is mine! Description of car: 1953 Volkswagen, JET BLACK in colour, automatic transmission, short-wave radio. Sally and I agreed on $750.00 as the cost of the car. Today I gave Sal a cheque for five hundred dollars and am going to pay off the other $250 at the rate of $50 per month beginning April 1st. I thought this was very decent of Sally to wait until April for the first instalment, because I will need a bit of money for my trip to Spain/Tangiers next month.

At times like this I can’t help but think how lucky I really am. Here I am 21 years old and have gone completely around the world. I have my own apartment in Europe and now I have my own car. Not bad at all, I figure.

A Black 1953 VW

A Black 1953 VW

I also have a cleaning woman now, too. Her name is Maria and she’s quite a character. She comes in every Monday and Thursday afternoon and is usually there when I get home at six. Maria must be pushing 60 years old but what a worker! She has the apartment just sparkling.

May I ask you a favour? As you know from previous letters, I didn’t intend to buy a car until late spring or early summer. However, Sally’s little proposal was too good to pass up (everyone here at the Embassy tells me that Sally’s is the best Volkswagen they’ve seen). Well, anyways, by paying out $500.00 at this point, my bank balance is deflated to around $200.00. Next month I will have another $175 deposited by the Department, which should give me plenty of money for Spain next month. But here’s the catch. I find that my coal and bricket supply is rapidly disappearing as a result of the recent cold spell we’ve had here in Europe. Which means that I’m going to have to pay out another $50.00 very soon, or I’ll freeze! I honestly hate to ask you this, but do you think it would be financially possible, from your point of view, for you to deposit say $100.00 to my account? If this could be worked out, I could pay you back at the rate of $25.00 per month beginning in September, after I get the car completely paid for. If it is not possible, then please don’t worry about it as I think I can get by fairly well. It’s just that I would like to have a little more money “in reserve”.

Well, Bill Glenn wrote me again from Glasgow last week to tell me that he was arriving in London last Friday and will notify me right away when he will be in Bonn. Possibly near the end of this week, I expect.

Our Carnival party was a huge success last Saturday night! It went on until about 4 a.m. Sunday and George and I spent all day Sunday cleaning up the Embassy. However, it was well worth it. Incidentally, George is feeling much better and does not think that his tonsils will have to come out after all.

BonnGeorge

George Howell and his Carnival hat

Lunch time is fast approaching so I shall close this letter for now. I’m really enjoying life in Bonn and am feeling quite settled now. Certainly beats Phnom Penh by a long shot!

lots of love, Dave

February 21, 1956

Dear Dad & Russ,

I really don’t know how far I’ll get with this letter (typing it at the office) but I really must answer your MOST welcome letter of the 14th and try to bring you up to date on Bonn affairs.

First of all, Russ, thanks a million for the $100.00 loan. It sure will come in handy, believe me. As I said last letter, I’ll be able to pay you back $25.00 per month starting September 1 if that’s O.K. with you. And thank you, Dad, for making me joint owner of that property in B.C. [Glen had inherited a piece of land in northern B.C. from his father in 1954.]

The winter here continues bitterly cold. Evidently, Europe has never seen anything like this winter in the 20th Century – and I don’t doubt it! George was telling me that in years past, everything stayed fairly green all winter long and if it DID happen to snow it would all be gone in three days. This winter, however, the snow is just piling up and up. In this part of the world there is no snow-removing equipment so you just have to plod through snow up to your knees. And, of course, the fuel consumption is tremendous! I’m having quite a time finding coal, but I think I’ve found a place now that can supply me with a little bit anyways.

Winter-1956

Winter in Germany, 1956

You ask about Gordon Happy in your letter. No, I haven’t heard from him either. Oh, and by all means, I’ll be happy to send you my air packs when you come to Europe next year. Maybe I can send them home with George in June. We’ll see.

Last Wednesday night at 8 o’clock I received a telegram saying “Arriving 11:36 tonight – Bill”. George came over that night to play Canasta and I wasn’t too sure of how to get to the station in Bonn, but George suggested we take his car to pick Bill up. At 3:30 A.M. next morning Bill’s train arrived! Poor Bill, he thought for sure he had been whisked into the East Zone or something! Of course, with the terrible storms raging over Europe all trains are hours late. Well, anyways, Bill is now here and we are having a swell time. You know, Bill is quite a good cook. He whips up casseroles, spaghetti dinners, meat pies and mysterious little desserts. Also he insists on doing my washing for me and pressing pants, etc. I expect he’ll be here for about a month, then he hopes to go back to London and get some kind of job before going home in July.

Just how I ever got along without a car here, I’ll never know! It’s so wonderful to actually OWN YOUR OWN CAR! And these little VW’s are just the thing for winter driving – no antifreeze and very little skidding. Comes the spring, George and I are planning to take a trip every weekend to some spot here in Germany. There are so many places to see practically at our doorstep. There’s the complete Rhine valley to see, the Mosel valley, Bavaria, etc., and Brussels is only about 4 hours away by car, to say nothing of Paris or Switzerland, which are about 9 hours away.

George and I are still definitely planning on going to Spain next month. We’ll have about 16 days due to the Easter Weekend. Neither of us will have too much money so we may just hide away on the Mediterranean coast for about a week doing nothing but loafing. And of course, there are several so-called “Paradise Islands” just off the coast of Spain, where you can live like a king for pennies a day. I’ll be letting you know further about our plans in future letters.

Mr. Towe arrived in Bonn yesterday but so far I haven’t had a chance of asking him about the slides. I expect that if they were packed in with his personal effects they won’t be here for a while yet.

Oh, I meant to mention earlier in this letter that George and I will not be going to Spain by car. Evidently the roads in Spain are unmentionable and the petrol stations are millions of miles apart. It is much better to go by train and bus.

Sylvia has been writing me about her proposed trip to Europe THIS summer. I hope she can make it because it would be lots of fun. Bill tells me that dozens of people are planning to come to Europe in the near future. Guess I started something!

Incidentally, Bill (who is apparently some sort of authority on interior design, furnishings, etc.) took one look at my apartment and called it “Hollywood”! Also, the funniest thing keeps happening – whenever Bill is about to say something “stunning” and “brilliant” to George and me (Bill always announces when he is going to say something like that – you know Bill), my cuckoo comes out and voices HIS opinion of what Bill has just said. Of course George and I are just in fits of laughter whenever this happens!

Well, folks, I guess that’s about all the news for now. Once again, Russ, thanks for your donation. I’ll be writing again before very long.

lots of love, Dave

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