1958 and More Travel, Taken and Planned

While David was touring a good chunk of Europe with Russ and Glen in the autumn of 1957, there were no letters home. The Nixon trio covered a lot of ground in David’s VW – up through Holland, down the Rhine, through Austria and back through Germany. In Austria, they stayed at the Schloss Itter Hotel, a converted baronial manor that induced them to stay two extra nights. Russ had less vacation time than his father so had to leave after three weeks, and David then took Glen to Copenhagen by train. 

June 1957 had seen a federal election in Canada and the Liberal Party, led by Louis St. Laurent and which had governed Canada since 1935, was defeated by John Diefenbaker’s Conservatives. Lester Pearson, former Minister of External Affairs, became leader of the Liberal Party and Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons.

With a change in government usually come changes in diplomatic appointments. Charles Ritchie was pulled from his post as Ambassador to Germany at the end of 1957 to become Canada’s representative to the UN in New York. Mr. Ritchie’s replacement in Bonn was Escott Reid, previously High Commissioner to India.

January 19, 1958

Dear Dad and Russ,

Well, I just finished up a big job – namely, putting titles on and wrapping up three boxes of coloured slides, including those we took on our “grand tour” last fall. The others are various pictures taken around Bonn and during my travels to England, Holland, etc. There are some rather good shots of the Toughs which they might like to see if you have them over some evening. Anyways I’m shipping the whole works off to you tomorrow. I’ll have to send them by ordinary mail, though, as they weigh too much for airmail – however, you should have them within two or three weeks at the latest.

I really must apologize for the loooooooooong delay in writing since last letter. I hope you got my “in between letters note” from Brussels last weekend. More about that later.

I might as well start this letter was telling you to about how I spent my Christmas this year. Before Christmas I made a sort of resolution not to get TOO involved with present buying, carding, etc. this year. However, like all good resolutions, it went to pot and practically right up to Christmas Eve I was frantically running around buying presents for all the Canadian families and kids here in Bonn. Seems to me that every year I have more characters calling me “Uncle David” around here! However, all went well in the long run. Dorothy Gross and I were the only two single elements left in Bonn this year as all the other kids had taken off for holidays in Austria, Holland, England, etc., so we more or less made up a team – “Mr. and Mrs. S. Claus” we were known as. We had no less than four turkey dinners this year. The first one was on the 23rd at the British Embassy canteen where we eat every day. This little dinner included cream of asparagus soup, roast turkey, sausages, dressing, mashed potatoes, peas and carrots, a glass of either red or white wine, cheese, plum pudding with Brandy sauce, and coffee. Total cost: 1 DM or, in other words – 25 cents!! Don’t know how they did it. Then on Christmas Eve, Mrs. C. and I were guests of Mr. and Mrs. Towe for their Christmas dinner (they were going out all day on the 25th so decided to have their dinner on Christmas Eve instead). They also opened all their presents then and Dot and I found gloves and socks under their tree with our names on them. On Christmas Day we had lunch with the Yorks (we nearly burst!) followed by dinner with the Arbuckles (we DID burst!). So, as you can see, my stomach was not neglected over the holiday season.

I spent New Year’s Eve with the Arbuckles and the Spenards (who were visiting the Arbuckles from Paris) and the Yorks, a very quiet time but lots and lots of fun. Everybody seemed just a little tired this year, I think, mostly due to the fact that Mr. Ritchie was leaving and there was so much to be done around the Embassy before he went.

Yes, good old Mr. Ritchie is now in New York and Mr. Reid, his replacement is due to arrive next month. Just doesn’t seem the same place around here without him, I can tell you.

The weekend of January 4-5 was a rather hectic one for yours truly. I don’t know whether or not I mentioned it but when I was leaving Brussels after my three weeks’ duty there, one of the stenos, Gwen Bottoms, gave me a surprise going away party. I was so impressed I promised to give her a going away party when she left for Madrid (she was being transferred to Madrid but didn’t know exactly when at the time.) Well, it turns out that Gwen was leaving for Madrid on January 15 so, as promised, I gave her a going away party here in Bonn. No less than eight of the kids from the Embassy in Brussels came over to Bonn for the party. And it was quite a party if I do say so myself! There were over 40 people here including the Brussels group, most of the kids from our Embassy here, three visitors from our Embassy in Paris, and Theresa Hanratty who was visiting from Belgrade.

And the whole weekend was just a panic. To start with the Brussels group were supposed to arrive at 3 o’clock on Saturday afternoon. But due to the fact that one of their cars broke down, most of them had to take the train from Düren and didn’t arrive here until 7:15 in the evening! Between 7:15 and 8:30 when the first guests arrived, I managed to cook supper for nine people and get the whole bunch of us ready for the party (they were all traveling in old clothes and had to change, wash, shave, etc. etc.). However, we did it and that’s the main thing. The party lasted all night long and right up until I put them onto a train the next day at 6 PM! (The neighbors are still speaking to me by the way – they all thought it was grand fun!) People are still talking about that party all over Europe and I’m beginning to feel just slightly like the “Mike Todd of Bad Godesberg”!

The Sikorsky Helicopter David took between Bonn & Brussels

The Sikorsky Helicopter David took between Bonn & Brussels

And last weekend I flew (via helicopter) to Brussels in response to an invitation from Mr. Stoner, the Counsellor at our Embassy there, and also Gwen’s boss, to attend another farewell party that he was giving for Gwen. The Stoners’ party was just grand – they had decorated their entire house in Spanish style complete with “Cantina Don Carlos” where we ate supper. All the girls were provided with flowers to wear their hair and we fellows were attired in Spanish type hats. The party lasted until about five in the morning.

I was staying with Frank and Elaine Poulin (and the three little Poulins). Frank is my counterpart in Brussels – the chap I replaced last October and November. Well, Frank and Elaine are both good sports and they got another party going on the Saturday night which lasted until 6 o’clock Sunday morning! Really, I can’t remember when I’ve had so much fun as lately with these mad international parties!

With the exception of all these parties, however, things have been pretty grim at the Embassy work-wise. I’ve put in about 20 hours overtime this month already! I suppose it’s just a general mid-winter flap but it sure is tiring. Believe me, I’m looking forward to next month very, very much, when I shall just loaf in the sunshine in the mountains of northern Italy. I’m really looking forward to this holiday especially I suppose because it will be my first visit to a ski resort. You’ll be getting a couple of postcards from me telling you how I’m getting along.

Glad you like the watercolor painting I sent you. It’s by the same artist that did all the paintings in my apartment here. And just in case you don’t recognize the scene, it’s of the “Siebengebirge” (Seven Hills) that are just crossed the Rhine from me.

Seems to me I could just about fill a book with all the things I was going to tell you but as this is the very first letter I’ve written this year, and I’ve got about six more to write, I’m afraid I’ll just have to leave off with the highlights of my recent doings.

A couple of favors I would like to ask you. Do you think you could find me a small calendar pad at Woolworth’s or someplace? I have no calendars at all this year in the apartment except for a German one that I find rather confusing. Also, I wonder if you could determine from somebody (probably the police) whether or not a person can obtain a license for a motor vehicle called the “Isetta” in Ontario. I think you probably can, but just wanted to make sure. I understand that there is only one place in the States (Washington DC) where you can’t get a license for an Isetta, but as far as Canada is concerned I don’t know. The Isetta, by the way, is that little car you saw over here that looks like a bubble and opens up in the front rather than on the side.

An Isetta

An Isetta

Well, must dash now and get cracking on some more letters.

Lots of love, Dave

January 23, 1958

Dear Dad and Russ,

This is absolutely ridiculous – but when it comes to matters of finance (my own, at any rate) I must be denser than a London smog!

The last bank balance you sent me was in your letter of December 31 in which you quoted my monetary status as being $475.35. As you can well imagine, I was quite elated at this news.

Just a few minutes ago, however, when I was sitting here trying to figure out how much money I will need for my holiday in northern Italy next month, I made a rather ghastly discovery! To wit: that bank balance you sent me does NOT reflect a cheque I wrote on December 16 in the nominal amount of $200! Just how this omission from that bank statement missed my attention will, I am afraid, remain forever one of those unsolvable mysteries. This is the first time (to my knowledge) that one of my cheques hasn’t gone through in time to reflect on my bank statement at the end of the month – the bank over here is usually extremely prompt at reporting withdrawals to Ottawa.

Since writing that cheque on 16 December, I have also written to other cheques totaling $250.00 which (I’m ashamed to admit) leaves me with a grand balance of $25.35! Which, added to my end-of-the-month’s cheque next week will hardly suffice a holiday in northern Italy!

Which brings me to the point ($) of this letter. Wouldn’t be at all possible for you and Russ to deposit the sum of $100.00 to my account? Just in the hope that it will be possible, I’m enclosing four postdated cheques made out to you, Dad, in the amount of $25.00 each.

I am sincerely sorry to have to ask you guys to semi-support me, but I hope you can understand my position. I’ve got my heart set on this little jaunt next month and believe you me, I need a good healthy rest!

To date, this is been a most expensive winter for yours truly. I somewhat am of the impression that I am literally “burning” my hard-earned money ever since the price of coal shot up a couple of months ago. And in spite of the lack of snow it’s been darn cold and damp around these parts, requiring a good, expensive, fire to be kept up continuously. And, of course, there was Christmas. That $200.00 cheque I wrote on December 16 just managed to get me through my Christmas shopping this year for all the Canadian families and their little dependents! I really think that next year I’ll go up to London at Christmas time and visit with Bob and Joan as I’m sure it would be a lot cheaper in the long run than staying here. And on top of all this I had to buy some winter clothes to take with me to Italy including snowboots, ski slacks and jacket, a good warm sweater, etc., etc.

However, that’s all water under the bridge. As I said before, I’m awfully sorry to have to bother you with this matter but if you can do something for me I would be most grateful. And I promise in future to keep an eagle eye on my bank statements and check for outstanding cheques!

Will close now with lots of love, Dave

PS: it just occurred to me – I wonder what people in foreign lands do without fathers and brothers at home!

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