Spring Break in London

December 9, 2012

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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Spain – Yes or No?

December 8, 2012

February 28, 1956

Dear Dad & Russ,

First of all, I really think I forgot to mention in my last letter that my first issue of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books arrived. Thanks a million.

Well, Bill will have been here two weeks as of tomorrow. Sure is nice having company from home. He may stay on for another 10 days or two weeks but is not sure as yet. He bought himself a sketch pad and some water colours to keep himself out of mischief. Last Friday Sally had a bit of a party so Bill was able to meet some of the Canadians here in Bonn. And tomorrow night we are both invited to Pam and Art Tough’s for dinner. This afternoon Bill is baking a cake (so he says) in a cake-tin he borrowed from Pam. Should be something!

On Sunday I took George into the hospital and yesterday morning he had his tonsils removed. I was over last night and again today but he is really quite miserable as yet. However, I expect by tomorrow he’ll be feeling much better. He’s quite glad to have the operation over with so that he’ll be in good shape for Spain next month.

I received your letter of February 22 a short time ago for which I thank you very much. I quite agree that my bank balance has taken quite a beating lately, but as you say, I now have a VW to show for it! I feel quite proud to be the owner of a car at 21 and certainly don’t regret once cent of the investment. I honestly don’t know what I did without it!

We’ve had a slight break in the weather these past three days – today it is raining. The snow and ice is beginning to thaw now and I’m sure before long spring will be here. Certainly has been a rough winter – at least on THIS side of the Atlantic.

Well, I figure that’s about all the news for now. I’ll certainly try to get another letter off next week.

lots of love, Dave

March 5, 1956

Dear Dad & Russ,

This morning I received your most welcome letter dated March 1st and it just occurred to me that you will probably have this letter by next Thursday, just ONE week after writing me! What a difference from Phnom Penh-Ottawa letters.

I read Bill the appropriate sections of your letter and he was glad to hear from you and to hear that his letter had arrived O.K. I think Bill is planning on staying for another week (he isn’t sure yet) because he wants to see the Milan Opera Company when they come to Bonn next Saturday. It really has been fun having Bill here these past few weeks. Did I tell you that Bill knew Mrs. Ritchie (Ambassador’s wife) in Ottawa? We were invited to lunch at the Residence in Cologne a short time ago and Bill has since been asked back for afternoon tea with Mrs. Ritchie.

Last Saturday Bill and I took off in my V.W. for a little trip into the country. It was really wonderful. We found a little river called the Ahr just a few kilometres south of Bonn which we followed way into the wine-growing district. We visited an ancient walled city and poked around an old castle. The weather was rather wet but we both enjoyed the outing in spite of it.

Ahr Valley

Ahr Valley

Speaking of weather. Well, the snow has all left this part of Germany and we have had real spring weather for the past few days. Things are beginning to turn green again and a few trees are starting to bud. However (alas) today is just “one of those days”. It started off cloudy and rainy then developed into hail. At noon the sun came out and the sky was deep blue. And at this moment it is snowing!!

A castle above the Ahr

A castle above the Ahr

Say. Here’s news. I just found out today that I have been promoted to a Teletypist Grade 2!! This probably won’t affect my salary to any alarming extent, but at least it’s a step upwards.

Well, poor George has had quite a rough time of it with his tonsils. His operation was a week ago today and it is just within the last two days or so that he’s begun to feel slightly better. The doctor says he’ll have to stay in the hospital for another two or three days at least. As I think I told you before, neither George nor I are going to have too terribly much money to go to Spain this month. However, we are still planning to make an attempt at it anyways.

Well, not too much news this time but I do like to bring you up to date on my doings. Will write again next week before taking off for sunny Spain (I hope!).

love, Dave

March 13, 1956

Dear Dad & Russ,

Yesterday I received your letter of March 7th for which many thanks. No, I wasn’t affected by the Rhine River flooding, although, last year I understand the water was right up to the apartment front door. In spite of all the snow this year, however, it was a comparatively slow thaw and the river didn’t come any closer than across the street from my place. Bill kept saying that if the Rhine came any closer he would have to leave because he “didn’t bring any rubbers”!

I’m sorry that I haven’t been able to get a line off to Clara and Russ as yet. I’ve been so very, very busy (even weekends!) here at the office that you folks are the only people hearing from me lately. However, if all goes well I should be able to get off a line or two to them from England next week.

ENGLAND?????

Oh, really, things do happen so quickly here that one hardly knows whether one is coming or going! As you well know George and I were planning to spend two weeks in Spain this month. Well, due to the lack of sufficient finances (very important for travelling purposes) we decided not to try to see all of Spain but rather to just go down to Minorca or one of the other islands in the Mediterranean off the Spanish coast. This was fine up to about half an hour ago when we heard that there is snow in Spain and the natives are freezing on Minorca!! And here in Bonn you don’t even need a coat anymore! So Minorca and Spain generally went down the drain. George and I then tried to figure out where to spend our two weeks’ leave. Going south was definitely out – too cold. So we decided to go to London instead. I phoned one of our chaps in London and we reserved hotel accommodations for next Saturday night (we leave here on the boat train Friday night) and also made reservations for the Old Vic, Sadlers Wells, Covent Garden, etc., etc. (should be a cultural two weeks anyways).

PUERTO DE POLLENSA 1956 (courtesey of www.marcomoilina.wordpress.com)

PUERTO DE POLLENSA 1956

You know, that’s the wonderful thing about Europe – you can be anywhere (even London) within a few hours. Yesterday morning Bill left for London (at 6:21 a.m. – we were up at 5!). Very quiet around the apartment now with Bill gone. Oh yes, I nearly forgot to mention that last Saturday night the La Scala Opera Company from Milan came to Germany with La Traviata. It was performed in the theatre of the nearby RAF base (about 30 kilometres from Bonn) and a great gang of us attended. After the opera about six of the kids came back to my place for a drink and comments on the performance.

George came out of the hospital las Saturday – he’s much better but rather depressed after two weeks “in solitaire” as he calls it. So I think two weeks in London will do both of us a world of good. I know that I’m ready for a wee rest from the office – very hectic lately!

A phone call just came in from London confirming my hotel reservation, etc. It’s really fantastic the way one uses the telephone over her. Hardly a week goes by that I don’t have some phone business with London, Paris, or Brussels. More fun!

People keep telling me (within the last hour or so) that London is really beautiful around Easter. Encouraging. At least we won’t have snow like in Spain (I hope)!

Well, this letter was really going to be just a note but it has got a little out of hand. I must get on with my work or I’ll be here all night.

lots of love, Dave

P.S. I figured out my Income Tax last week so you’ll find a $1.92 withdrawal in my account very soon!


What Bill Said

December 8, 2012

The following is a transcription of a letter written by Bill Glenn, who seems to have studied the “seismographic” method of writing. Hard to read, yet somehow fitting for someone with a very theatrical take on life. 

David’s “Fabulous” Apartment

Dear Mr. Nixon & Russ,

Fantastic as it may seem, to me perhaps more than anyone else, here I am in Germany. When I talked to you on the phone before leaving, I wasn’t quite convinced that I was really bashing off to foreign shores – and now, obvious as it is that I have arrived, I’m still not convinced I’m here. If I sound mixed up, it’s only because I am!

New York was glorious. I was staying with friends in their Hollywood–New York apartment on 5th Avenue – very rootsie-tootsie. The man of the house, Oliver Rea (a producer) was in the midst of opening night worries of “King Lear” with Orson Welles – Oliver produced the show. So O. and Betty his wife and me toodled off to the theatre for an evening of nail biting. The show was a great success and afterwards at the Rea’s apartment I met Mary Martin and Marlene Dietrich (big thrill) at a cast celebration. Yes, New York was very exciting.

Our crossing on the Ivernia was Heaven-prepared – the sun shone – the Atlantic purred – it really couldn’t have been more perfect. Landing at Liverpool was ghastly – God what a fearful place.

RMS Ivernia

RMS Ivernia

Scotland – ah cold-cold Scotland – I believe I met 20,000,000 relations (Ma’s side). They were all wonderful to me – shot me off to Edinburgh, the Lochs, Inverness, Ireland (Cobh), Aberdeen, Glasgow – oh everywhere! I was worn to a swizzle stick. I saw any and all of the theatre in Scotland, which was very disappointing.

Disappointment came again with nightly visits to London theatres. I saw Pyjama Game, Pal Joey, Ibsen’s “Wild Duck“, Salad Days, Scofield in Hamlet as Hamlet, Separate Tables, a trip through Covent Garden, Sadlers Wells Ballet, with Fonteyn performing on her native soil, oh God – I saw a million shows and only one had an imagination/freshness/what have you – it was Salad Days with no famous people in the cast.

But it was the eye-opener of West End theatre. They (whoever “they” may be) tell me that London theatre is in a state of complacency! I believe them, with much regret! I loved London and the people and intend going back – but I am very sad about what I thought would be wonderful and was not – the theatre.

Crossing the North Sea, taking nine hours by train through the ice and snow of Holland and Germany brought me to Bonn Thursday morning at 3:30 – we were due in at 11:35 PM but were slightly delayed.

David’s apartment is nothing less than Hollywood-New York. It really is perfectly beautiful – he’s probably gone over the details of it with you so I can only add that if anyone had told me about it I wouldn’t have believed it! (By the way I wouldn’t mention it to the taxpayers!) It’s very very modern, warm & gives the feeling of “lap of luxury”. I love it!

A corner of David's FABULOUS apartment

A corner of David’s FABULOUS apartment

David wants me to stay on for a while – and I really find it difficult to refuse. I can’t get a passage home till July and if I work (and I must if I’m to survive) in England for more than three months I may be called up for National Service. So with this in mind and David’s invitation I may stay on until the end of the month.

I’m sorry, but this note seems to have developed so I’ll close off. All I can say is that you have no worries about your son – he has everything – including a peach of a car – the Canadian government certainly does take care of its own. I hope I’ll have some pictures of the flat when I get back to Canada – IF I get back to Canada. So until then,

sincerely, Bill

P.S. Perhaps you could ring up my mother and assure her that I’m still alive and kicking – thank you!


Wheels!

December 7, 2012

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


Carnival Time

December 6, 2012

January 26, 1956

Dear Dad & Russ,

Last week at this time I was practically standing on my head trying to get the work done. This week has been quite the contrary. There’s still work, mind you, but nothing whatsoever like last week. Ah well, that’s the way it goes in this job.

Nothing really very exciting has happened since I last wrote you (last Friday, I think). George is over his tonsillitis now and is not sure whether or not they have to come out. It has been fairly quiet social-wise this past with the exception of a small party last night and another one tomorrow night. George and I are planning on taking in a movie tonight. I had a very interesting offer from the American Little Theatre group today. They would like me to play the juvenile lead in their production of “The Little Foxes“. I haven’t said yes or no as yet, but am going to a try-out on Saturday. I think it would be lots of fun to get in with a group of this sort. Evidently, last year they produced a play that was quite good – so good in fact, they were asked to take it to Berlin for a week’s run!

My apartment is so comfortable now with all the bright new furniture in it. I’m thinking of giving a “house-warming” party shortly after Bill Glenn arrives in Bonn. Still no word from Bill but he wrote that he plans to arrive in Glasgow around the 21st of January and stay there for a week or so. Then he is going down to London for a while before coming to Bonn. I expect I’ll get word from him sometime next week. Sylvia, by the way, is also planning to come over to Europe next summer for a two or three months’ visit. She’s got some money saved up already for the trip. How about you two? There’s lots of room at Austrasse 14 should you decide to go a-wandering.

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the German “Carnival” back in Ottawa. The Carnival is a little celebration that begins each year in November and carries on to the middle of February. Of course the climax of Carnival is all rolled into three days in February when everything closes down tight and the people go mad with parties, parades, etc. for three days and three nights non-stop!! George and I are working on plans for our own little Canadian Carnival party here at the Embassy next week. Everyone must come come in costume, of course, and it should be lots of fun.

German Carnival, 1956

German Carnival, 1956

Speaking of lots of fun, I received a hilarious letter from Kay and Les a few days ago. The letter was typewritten and explained how Kay survived the Christmas season’s culinary activities. The highlight of the letter was the making of the Christmas cake. If the cake was half the work of art that the letter was, it sure must have been some cake!

Another little discovery at the corner store: they have all sorts of frozen foods (vegetables, fruit, etc.) and even frozen orange juice!

I’ve decided to hire a cleaning woman to come in about three times a week. Frau von Studnitz (upstairs) is scouting about for one ow. These cleaning women cost only 1 mark an hour (about 25 cents!) and it’s really worth it to have the apartment kept nice and clean all the time. Besides, they wash up the dishes, make the bed and do clothes washing to boot!

The cleaning women here at the Embassy will press my trousers for me anytime I want. Price: 1 package of Canadian cigs!

Well, folks, as I said, there’s not too much news this, but I thought I’d take advantage of the slack in work to keep you in touch with German affairs.

Lots of love, Dave

January 31, 1956

Dear Dad & Russ,

Yesterday I received your MOST welcome letter of January 26. Boy! Would that ever be swell if you two could come over in the summer of 1957!!! As yet I don’t know for sure which would be the most pleasant of the summer months to visit Germany, but I’ll be able to tell you better after this coming summer. By the time you get here I will be sure to have a little car and the three of us can just wander around the countryside to our heart’s content! As for accommodation, well that’s all taken care of. Two can share my HUGE bed and there is also a day-bed in the living-room. No Problem there. I’m surely looking forward to it, believe me. Let me know how the “saving like mad” operations are coming along from time to time.

Well, I finally heard from Bill Glenn. I received a letter from him last Saturday – written in Glasgow! He had quite a trip judging from this letter. When he was in New York he went to a party where he met Mary Martin, Marlene Dietrich and Orson Welles, just to mention a few notables. He’s having the time of his life up in Scotland with about 30 relatives of his mother. Bill is planning on going to London this week and after a few days in London, on to Bonn. Which means, all being well, I should have my first house-guest early next week. Will let you know more about Bill next letter.

Las Friday night George decided it was about time I went “native” so he took me to a fabulous little “Bierstube” that was built in 1687 or thereabouts. It was so typically German! Great buxom bar-maids served the beer and a little man played an accordion. There were lots of students from the Bonn University there, and of course, the music led to dancing and singing. It was quite a wonderful sight to see and a good time was had by all!

A typical German Bierstube, mid-50s

A typical German Bierstube, mid-50s

Last Saturday I had to work here at the office from 10 in the morning until 7 at night! I was so tire that I went to bed at 10 o’clock that night and slept till noon on Sunday! A very quiet weekend indeed! Tonight we are having a bit of a stag party for an airforce chap who is going home soon, and tomorrow night I (George and I) are having dinner at the home of Miss Pam McDougall – Second Secretary at the Embassy. Then, on Saturday night, we are having a great costume party in honour of the German Carnival here at the Embassy. George was “Crown Prince” of Carnival last year but he has abdicated in my favour this year and will be my Court Chamberlain. As I am going as an Oriental Emperor (Slo Mo Shun by name) George and I decided that all the stenos will be harem girls. SHould be lots of fun!

Glad to hear about Mr. Towe! I’ll be looking forward to getting the slides.

Not too much other news this time. I just wanted to write and tell you how happy I am about your plans for 1957. Sure will be wonderful!

Lots of love for now, Auf Wiedersehen!

Dave


Coke and Coke

December 5, 2012

January 20, 1956

Dear Dad & Russ,

I’m just sort of between telegrams at this point so I thought I’d at least try to dash off a line or two. This has certainly been a busy, busy week here at the office! I’ve been working full blast from 9 to 5:30 every day, then dashing out to Mehlem to stoke up my fire at 6, followed by a mad dash into Bad Godesberg via streetcar each evening to visit George Howell, who is laid up with acute tonsillitis!

Since I last wrote you I have received the parcel containing bath mats, rain-coat and desk calendars (Johnny York and I both say thank you) and also the parcel from Aunt Clara and Uncle Russ. Also received the Star Weekly and the Bank of Montreal calendar. And, of course, your lovely long letter of January 13 (it’s at home at this point) arrived too. I feel real guilty that all the mail has been going in the Ottawa-Bonn direction!

I’m trying to remember all the questions you asked in your letter. Oh yes – what do I burn in my stove? Well, first of all coke*. Then, when the fire gets going good I pop in 3 or 4 brickets. I must admit (now it can be told!) that, for the first two or three weeks I nearly froze ’cause I didn’t know how to operate the darn thing correctly. However, I’ve had a continuous fire going for the past week and it really is cozy now. I just stoke it first thing in the morning, then again around 6 at night and once more just before going to bed.

A 1950s coal stove

A 1950s coal stove

About churches, theatres, etc. The American settlement has a very nice movie theatre here in Bonn. You have to pay in either Script (American) or Baffs (British) though, so we can only go if we happen to get hold of some of these monies. Also, there is a wonderful little coffee shop in this settlement where you can get such delicacies as hamburgers and milk-shakes. Coca-Cola is manufactured locally here, by the way, and you can buy it in any store (gee whiz – it’s civilized!).

There is also a church in the American settlement but as yet I haven’t managed to get to it. It’s quite a distance from Mehlem  and not having a car does complicate matters slightly. Besides, Sunday morning is usually spent in bed here in Bonn!

All my new furniture arrived last Friday and honestly it is just too wonderful for words! It is all ultra modern and nice and colourful. George made a brilliant suggestion when he saw the apartment all fixed up. He suggested that I take some colour slides of the apartment and send them home, which I certainly shall do.

Now, about the slides. Mr. Stone (3rd Secretary) is leaving for Ottawa very soon and his replacement – Mr. Peter Towe (I think that’s how it’s spelt) shall be coming to Bonn. It has been suggested, Dad, that you might try to get in touch with Mr. Towe through the Department and ask him if he’d mind bringing the slides along with him. Another alternative would be to simply ask the mail room if they’d send them to me in a sea bag. Or, failing both these, send them by ordinary mail insured.

So glad to hear that Bob [Rivoire] got into the Department at last. I’m sure it will do him a world of good. I expect to hear from Bill Glenn one of these days saying he’s on his way down from Scotland.

I fully intended to write more than this, but duty calls (in the form of a long telegram!) and, as this is Friday afternoon, I certainly would like to get out on time.

So, until I get another “break” to drop a line, I’ll say bye for now.

Lots of love, Dave

P.S. My radio arrived last week, too!

* What is coke? Coke is the solid carbonaceous material derived from distillation of low-ash, low-sulfur bituminous coal. Coke is used as a fuel and as a reducing agent in smelting iron ore in a blast furnace. While coke can be formed naturally, the commonly used form is man-made.


Holiday Hijinks

December 3, 2012

January 6, 1956

Dear Dad & Russ,

I received your most welcome letter dated January 3 this morning and I figure it is high time I got a letter off to you folks. Say, that’s not bad is it? Three days for a letter to get from Canada to Germany! Sure beats Canada-Cambodia mail arrangements!

I have another letter from you folks at home (in fact I think there are two!). However, no sign of the parcel yet. Some of the people here had parcels sent from Canada as early as November 15 and have still not received them, so I’m not worried about your parcel. Now that the Christmas rush has died down I’m sure it will arrive in Bonn one of these days.

I’m quite satisfied with my bank balance as reported in your latest letter. You see, my share of the rent is deducted at source, which means that I just have water, light and telephone bills to pay myself here. Incidentally, I spent yesterday afternoon picking out new furniture for the apartment. I’m sending back all the old furniture (rented) and doing the whole place over to my own taste. The furniture I picked out is all modern (and also rented, by the way – it’s included in the rent for the apartment). Most of the furniture is in white maple with black trim. The chairs and sofa are in black, Chinese red, yellow and some grey. Quite effective, believe me. But my real pride and joy is the bedroom suite. The bed I chose is about 7 feet square and shaped like an Egyptian divan (whatever that may be!). It’s quite tremendous anyways.

Mid-50s German Furniture Design

Mid-50s German Furniture Design

We do get Ottawa newspapers here in Bonn and I was very sorry to read about that awful fire so close to the apartment. The Russian Embassy also made news here in Bonn. [The Russian Embassy in Ottawa burned down and the Russian Embassy in Bonn opened.]

So far no snow in Bonn. Lots of frost every morning, though.

Now about Christmas-New Year’s activities in Bonn. Honestly, so very much happened I’m sure I’m going to forget half of it but here goes: (incidentally, wherever I say “we” I’m referring to George and me.)

December 20: buffet dinner and party at the home of Mr. Starnes – First Secretary

December 22 – buffet dinner at the home of Mr. & Mrs. Tough (Pam and Art) – our accountant

Christmas Eve: tree-decorating party at the the Mathewsons home – one of our officers

Christmas Day: first of all we went to the home of Mr. Stone – Third Secretary – at 11 a.m. From there we drove to a town called Beuel (across the Rhine from Bonn) for Christmas dinner with Mr. & Mrs. Lyon – information Officer – at 1:00 o’clock. Then, Christmas night we drove up to Cologne for Christmas dinner (another one!) at our Ambassador’s home (this was quite a tremendous affair and lasted way into the wee small hours!).

A typical German Christmas Scene

A typical German Christmas Scene. The caption asks “How did you spend Christmas?”

Boxing Day: dinner at noon with the Mitchells (Trade & Commerce), then a party that night at the home of one of our stenos.

New Year’s Eve: party (and late supper) at the home of Col. Forbes (Military Attache) followed by another party at the home of Mr. & Mrs. Lyon, followed by another party at George’s place! Whew!!!

January 1: slept all day!

Believe it or not, this list is far from complete! There were several other parties and dinners that George and I were invited to at the spur of the moment. However, I think the foregoing list will give you at least a sketchy idea of how I spent the holiday season. As I said before, these people here at the Embassy in Bonn are the friendliest, party-lovingest (?) bunch I’ve ever met! They’ve all opened their homes to me since I’ve arrived and let me tell you it makes all the difference in the world! It would take a pretty nasty type of person to not enjoy himself in Bonn!

George gave me the most wonderful book for Christmas. It’s called “A Man’s Guide to Europe” and tells you everything you ever want to know to have a good time in Europe. Incidentally, if you get a post-card from Spain or Spanish Morocco sometime in March don’t be alarmed. George and I are planning a wee sojourn to Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar and possibly a day or two in Africa (Spanish Morocco) around the end of March. Will report further on said sojourn in later letters.

Speaking of wee sojourns, did you know that Bill Glenn is leaving next week for Europe? Should be lots of fun when he lands in Bonn. Which reminds me. Everyone here is awfully interested in seeing my slides of Indochina, Hong Kong, Siam, etc. Do you suppose it would be possible to send them over with Bill? If not, perhaps you could maul them to me. I wouldn’t keep them here for long, however. As soon as everyone sees them I’ll mail them back to you or send them home with Bill. I wish you could do this for me fairly soon as the folks here are very anxious to see them.

Well, folks, I consider myself very fortunate in being able to type this letter at work. Quite unusual to have a slack like this, believe me.

I’ve probably forgotten all sorts of things that I meant to tell you, but gradually, letter by letter, I should be able to paint you a fair picture of life in Bonn.

One place I meant to tell you about last letter is a quaint little restaurant in Bad Godesberg. The walls are completely covered in bleached burlap sacking and all the tables are bare, scrubbed wood. And the food – WOW!

It’s nearly time to close up now, so I’ll say Auf Wiedersehen for this time.

lots of love, Dave


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