Spring Break in London

April 5, 1956

Dear Dad & Russ,

Just returned from the American cinema and decided it was high time I got a letter off to you folks. I’ve been very busy at the Embassy since returning to Bonn on Monday so no time to get a letter off from work.

Well, London was glorious! I certainly gained a far better impression of London than I did when I passed through there last November (over four months ago). Then it was cold and foggy – the past two weeks have been warm and clear.

George and I left Bonn at 7 p.m. Friday March 16 aboard the Rhinegold Express which took us up through northern Germany and clear through Holland via Rotterdam to the Hook of Holland. There we boarded the ship for England and shot across the North Sea. The next morning (early) we were in Harwich, where we took the Continental Express for London, arriving at 9:15 a.m.

To go into detail about the following two weeks’ activities would take pages and pages, so shall just give you the highlights of what we did each day.

Saturday, March 17: Went to Canada House and got in touch with Harry Richards (Communications Supervisor). Had lunch with Richards then drove back to our hotel (The Strand Palace on The Strand right across the street from the Savoy Hotel) and changed for the theatre. Very good musical called “Plain and Fancy“.

Sunday, March 18: Took in Madame Tussaud’s Wax Works in the afternoon then out to the Richards that night for dinner.

Monday, March 19: Sightseeing – Tower of London, including the “Bloody Tower”, the Crown Jewels, etc. Went to the cinema in the evening – Laurence Olivier’s “Richard III“.

David's "arty" shot of the Tower

David’s “arty” shot of the Tower, March 19

"Beefeater" at the Tower, 1956

“Beefeater” at the Tower, March 19

Tuesday, March 20: Sightseeing – walked from the hotel down the Strand, across Trafalgar Square, down the Mall to Buckingham Palace (quite a place) then through a park via “Birdcage Walk” to the Parliament Buildings, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey. The Abbey is really fabulous – saw the Coronation Chair and, of course, many, many tombs of kings and queens of the past. Was surprised at one point to look at the floor and see that I was standing on Charles Dickens’s tomb! That evening we saw a wonderful musical called “Salad Days”.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey, March 20

Buckingham Palace from the Mall

Buckingham Palace from the Mall, March 20

Wednesday, March 21: During the afternoon we went to a matinee – “Summer Song“, which is the story of Anton Dvorak’s trip to the U.S. where he collected the music for his “New World Symphony” (Russ has the record). Very beautiful. Cinema at night – “Cinerama Holiday“.

Thursday, March 22: Ken Thomas (Communications, Canada House) invited us to move into his flat for the remainder of our stay in London. We gladly accepted – he had a very nice flat in Chelsea on Sloane Avenue, very near Sloane Square. Enjoyed “Pajama Game” at the theatre in the evening.

Ken Thomas & George Howell, Trafalgar Square

Ken Thomas & George Howell, Trafalgar Square, March 20

Friday, March 23: Spent most of the day walking all over London (or so it seemed, the way my feet felt that night!) then went to the theatre in the evening – “Teahouse of the August Moon“.

Saturday, March 24: Cinema in the afternoon – Richard Burton in “Alexander the Great” and theatre in the evening – “The Boy Friend” – very good 1920’s comedy-musical [starring a very young Julie Andrews].

Sunday, March 25: Visited with a friend of George’s most of the day – Howie Gales who used to work in Bonn.

Monday, March 26: Went to the magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral. Saw London stretched out below us from the top of the dome. Beautiful sight! Theatre: “Meet Me on the Corner” – a real old-tyme variety show at the Hippodrome.

St. Paul's from Leadenhall. Note bomb damage on left.

St. Paul’s from Leadenhall, March 26. Note bomb damage on left.

View from St. Paul's

View from St. Paul’s

Tuesday, March 27: Spent most of the day exploring the zoo at Regent’s Park. Theatre: a light comedy called “The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker”.

Wednesday, March 28: Morning – changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and Clarence House. Afternoon cinema – “The Man Who Never Was”. Evening theatre – Richard Burton in person as “Henry V” at the Old Vic – wonderful!

Changing of the Guards

Changing of the Guards, March 28

Thursday, March 29: More walking around London – discovered Scott’s ship “Discovery” on the Thames and explored it. Evening theatre – “Kismet“.

Good Friday, March 30: MORE walking, including Battersea Park.

Saturday, March 31: Two cinemas: afternoon – Danny Kaye in “The Court Jester” and evening “Helen of Troy” – spectacular!

Easter Sunday, April 1: Spent most of the day getting packed and organized. Left London at 7:30 p.m. for Harwich the caught the boat for Hook of Holland.

Monday, April 2: Arrived back in Bonn around noon and were immediately invited for lunch with the Johnny Yorks. Visited Pam and Art Tough in the evening and “told all” about our London Venture.

Which just about sums it up. London is really quite a city – actually, I kept feeling that London was several cities, it’s so huge. It has all sorts of personality – theatres on Leicester Square, crocuses in Hyde Park, stately churches and monuments, green little parks all over and, of course, the English pub, a truly wonderful gathering place for people from 18 to 88!

Now that George and I are back in Bonn, we are planning to hop aboard a train for Paris (it’s only four hours away by train) for a long weekend. We’ll either go to Paris around the first of May or else wait until the 24th. The Arbuckles (technician from Paris who comes to Bonn every month) are in town now and have asked us to stay with them in Paris when we go.

Your welcome letter of March 23 awaited me when I returned las Monday. I saw Bill a couple of times in London – he’ll be going back to Canada on the 13th of April, by the way. Yes, George has fully recovered and I am NOT putting on much weight – I’ve lost a little but still weight around 155 lbs (according to a London scales). Just comfortable. It’s a wonder I don’t put on weight with all this good German food!

Just about out of paper so will close for now. In case my next letter should arrive too late, HAPPY BIRTHDAY on the 14th Russ! All the best to you both.

Bye for now, love, Dave


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