Cars & More Travel Plans

May 29, 1958

Dear Dad & Russ,

The day after I mailed you my last letter (in which I think I said: “Hope you haven’t changed your mind about buying a VW”), I received your letter of May 4 containing THE NEWS about your acquiring a 1955 Bel Air. Well, you’ll both be glad to know that I approve! Next to a VW I guess the Bel Air is one of the nicest cars on the road. I was visiting Norm and Helen Mains last Sunday afternoon (and evening – they insisted that I stay for chicken dinner) and when I told him that you have bought a Bel Air they were very interested. They have a 1954 Bel Air themselves and think it’s a terrific car. Norm insisted that I take a trial spin in his car just to see what kind of car you guys are driving back home. After I have not used to all that nonsense up front (motor, fenders, etc.) I must admit it was just about the smoothest car I’ve ever driven. And that automatic transmission! WOW! Took me a little while to get on to it (I was forever trying to change gears with the turn signal!) but once I realized that the car wouldn’t stall at every stop sign it was pretty smooth sailing.

1955 Chev Bel AIr

1955 Chev Bel AIr

Not really very much to write about these days is everything over here is pretty quiet. I spent May 10-11 in London with Bob and Joan. On the Thursday of that week I received a letter from them in which they just casually mentioned that they had moved into a new flat in Kensington and were having a few kids over on Saturday night, the 10th for a bit of a housewarming party. So, on the spur of the moment, I just decided to go up to London and “crash” the party! I left here on Friday night and after two trains and a boat, arrived in London at 9:15 Saturday morning. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the expression on Bob’s face when he answered the doorbell and saw me there!! Anyways, it was a wonderful weekend and a terrific party. And you should just see the Rivoires’ new apartment! It’s simply fabulous – absolutely the nicest apartment I’ve seen since coming to Europe. It’s on a lovely residential street in the heart of Kensington and their landlord is Dutch and his wife is American. The apartment has always been occupied by Americans (including General Mark Clark, according to Bob) so you can well imagine that it has all sorts of little advantages and conveniences not present in the average European apartment. By the way, Joan has adjusted to her father’s death very well.

I had two houseguests here last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. They were Harry Morrison and Gerry Emon, both from our office in Geneva. Harry’s our Communications chap in Geneva and Gerry is one of the security guards. We had a lot of fun while they were here and Gerry is a tremendous cook so, needless to say, we ate like kings. I now have a standing invitation to drop into Geneva anytime I would like to so if George Howell and I pass through there on our way to or from Spain in September, our accommodation problem is now solved!

With the exception of Spain, I have no definite plans for any other holidays this summer. However, I’m planning on five days in Berlin around the end of June or first of July and, if possible, I might dash over to Brussels sometime during the summer to take in the World’s Fair. I was planning on going to Corsica either late this year or early next year. The reason I picked Corsica for a holiday was because nobody ever goes there and you never hear anything much about it. Of course, the moment I start thinking of going to Corsica they would have to have a revolution, so that’s out now I guess. Maybe I’ll just go down to Capri next winter and loaf in the sunshine.

Do you ever hear of or from Sylvia these days? She seems to have vanished in New York. The last I heard from her was in February when she sent me a Valentine’s card and wrote: “Will write soon – have exciting news!” Oh well, I suppose I’ll be hearing from her one of these days. Sylvia has a funny habit of writing her letters a bit a time or writing two or three letters and mailing them all at once. The last real letter I got from her was 32 pages long and covered a three months’ period!!

On Saturday, June 7, I have been asked to attend the christening of Michael Small, Doug and Helen’s baby son. The Smalls continue to be wonderful friends and I’m over there quite a lot. Helen’s mother is visiting with them at present. Helen, by the way, has made me promise to say to myself, every morning when I wake up: “I am going back to college when I get home”. And you know what? I just might do that after all. However, we shall see how things work out and how I feel on the subject next summer.

Goodness, next summer seems so close! It’s hard to believe that, as of June 1, I will have been here in Bonn for exactly 2 1/2 years. Time sure flies.

Speaking of time flying, it’s getting on towards midnight so I really must call it a day and get to bed now.

Lots of love, Dave

PS: just thought of something. Do you think you could send me a parcel containing a few “unobtainables”? There are a few things that I am running out of which cannot be bought at all over here. They are:

  1. Eversharp Schick injector razor blades – I would like about six injectors. (Shades of Indochina!)
  2. Ronson “Redskin” flints – about six packages of these. We can only get Ronson “Firebronze” flints over here and they are not so hot, I find.
  3. “Fruit of the Loom ” T-shirts – I think four of these would be enough – size 38 (medium). You might mention to whoever you buy these from that as far as I’m concerned these are the best T-shirts on the market. I’ve had one now for about four years the collar hasn’t stretched one centimetre! The only trouble is that my cleaning woman boils all my laundry twice a week my last remaining T-shirt just fell apart last week as a result of being “boiled to death”!

Well, anyways, if it’s not too much trouble I sure would appreciate getting these few things. Let me know the total cost and I’ll send you a check to pay for them.

Dave

JUNE 9, 1958

DEAR DAD AND RUSS,

SORRY FOR THE PECULIAR APPEARANCE OF THIS LETTER, BUT I AM TYPING IT AT WORK ON A COMMUNICATIONS TYPEWRITER WHICH (AS YOU CAN SEE) ONLY TYPES IN CAPS. HOPE IT DOESN’T GIVE YOU EYE-STRAIN TRYING TO READ IT!

WELL, FIRST OF ALL, YOUR LETTERS OF JUNE 4TH!!! WOW!!!! WAS I EVER TICKLED TO HEAR ABOUT RUSS AND PETE PLANNING TO INVADE THE CONTINENT THIS YEAR! I’VE ALERTED THE EMBASSY GANG AND WE’RE ALREADY MAKING PLANS FOR A BIG PARTY WHEN YOU GET TO BONN. I AM GO-AHEAD NOW AND ANSWER RUSS’S NUMBERED QUESTIONS WHICH WOULD GIVE YOU AN IDEA OF HOW THINGS MIGHT WORK OUT:

  1. MY PLANS FOR HOLIDAYS THIS YEAR: I MUST STAY IN BONN UNTIL THE END OF AUGUST SO AS TO ACCOMMODATE OTHER PEOPLE’S LEAVE PLANS. HOWEVER, I’VE BOOKED THE WHOLE MONTH OF SEPTEMBER AND THE FIRST WEEK OF OCTOBER FOR MYSELF. AS FAR AS DEFINITE PLANS ARE CONCERNED, I AM STILL WAITING PATIENTLY TO HEAR FROM GEORGE HOWELL TO CONFIRM THAT HE IS STILL PLANNING ON VISITING EUROPE THIS FALL (SEPTEMBER) AND IF SO, WE ARE HOPING TO TAKE A SMALL JOURNEY SOUTH TO THE CÔTE D’AZUR, BARCELONA, MADRID, LISBON, GIBRALTAR, NORTH AFRICA (TANGIERS) THEN BACK NORTH ALONG THE SPANISH RIVIERA. OUR MILITARY ATTACHE (COL. DEANE-FREEMAN) JUST CAME BACK TODAY AFTER DOING PRECISELY THE SAME TRIP IN MERELY THREE WEEKS AND HE SAID IT WAS NOTHING LESS THAN TERRIFIC. THERE WAS ALSO SOME TALK BETWEEN GEORGE AND I ABOUT POSSIBLY GOING FIRST TO VENICE AND APPROACHING THE CÔTE D’AZUR ACROSS NORTHERN ITALY.
  2. LEAVE IN SEPTEMBER? YUP – THE WHOLE MONTH.
  3. WOULD I CONSIDER JOINING YOU ON THE GERMANO-AUSTRIAN PART OF YOUR TOUR? WILL ALL DEPEND ON WHETHER OR NOT GEORGE STILL INTENDS TO COME OVER. IF HE CAN’T MAKE IT, THEN I WOULD BE ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTED TO ACCOMPANY YOU.
  4. (A) USE OF MY CAR: GRANTING I WILL NOT BE MAKING SAID SPANISH TRIP WITH GEORGE, I WOULDN’T CONSIDER TRAVELING IN ANYTHING ELSE THAN MY VW! AS YOU WELL KNOW, RUSS, A VW IS THE CAR FOR THOSE MOUNTAIN “SHORTCUTS”. (B) NO, YOU’RE NOT ASKING TOO MUCH AS I LOVE TO TRAVEL ALL OVER THE PLACE!
  5. WOULD I WANT TO TRAVEL THE SAME CIRCUIT? ONCE AGAIN, GRANTING THAT OLD GEORGE DOESN’T APPEAR, I WOULDN’T REALLY MIND TOO MUCH TAKING THE SAME TRIP AGAIN THIS YEAR. HOWEVER, QUITE FRANKLY, AS THIS WILL PROBABLY BE MY LAST LONG TRIP IN EUROPE, I WOULD PREFER TO SEE SOMETHING NEW THIS TIME.

THIS IS REALLY A BIT OF A THING AS EVERYTHING SORT OF HINGES ON WHETHER OR NOT GEORGE IS COMING OR NOT AS WE TENTATIVELY PLANNED THIS TRIP BEFORE GEORGE LEFT EUROPE TWO YEARS AGO. BUT I HAVEN’T HEARD FROM HIM SINCE CHRISTMAS AS HE HATES TO WRITE LETTERS. HOWEVER, AT CHRISTMAS HE DID SAY THAT HE STILL PLANS TO “DO” SPAIN WITH ME THIS YEAR BUT SO FAR I HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO GET ANY DEFINITE DATES OUT OF HIM. I DO HAVE A PLAN THOUGH. WHEN AND IF GEORGE DOES GET HERE HE STILL WANTS TO GO FIRST OF ALL TO VENICE, THEN WE CAN PERHAPS TRAVEL THAT FAR TOGETHER IN BOTH CARS, I MEAN AT LEAST AS FAR AS INNSBRUCK, THEN YOU AND PETE COULD DASH OFF TO VIENNA WHILE GEORGE AND I MAKE FOR SPAIN. ALTERNATIVELY, WOULD YOU TWO BE INTERESTED IN ACCOMPANYING US ON OUR TOUR OF SPAIN, PORTUGAL, TANGIERS, ETC.?

WHATEVER YOU DECIDE, I HOPE IT WILL BE POSSIBLE FOR YOU TO SPEND A DAY OR TWO (OR AS LONG AS YOU LIKE) IN BONN. I IMAGINE GEORGE WILL WANT TO LINGER AROUND HERE FOR A DAY OR TWO AT LEAST TO RENEW OLD ACQUAINTANCES AND IF YOU TWO COULD MANAGE TO ARRIVE BEFORE WE TAKE OFF ON OUR TRIP IT WOULD BE TERRIFIC. FAILING THIS, HOWEVER, YOU WILL FIND THE KEYS TO MY APARTMENT AT THE EMBASSY WHEN YOU GET TO BONN SO YOU CAN MAKE IT YOUR EUROPEAN HEADQUARTERS WHILE YOU’RE OVER HERE. JUST THOUGHT OF ANOTHER IDEA. IF YOU COULD TAKE YOUR LEAVE DURING THE LAST WEEK OF AUGUST AND FIRST TWO WEEKS OF SEPTEMBER, THEN I WOULD BE SURE TO SEE YOU.

I GUESS THAT JUST ABOUT COVERS IT. LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU DECIDE AND I’LL GET WORKING ON GEORGE TO GET DEFINITE DATES FROM HIM. NOW I KNOW HOW COOK’S MUST FEEL WHEN THEY’RE TRYING TO ARRANGE TOURS FOR PEOPLE IN THREE DIFFERENT CITIES ON TWO DIFFERENT CONTINENTS!

DAD, YOUR BONN PICNIC AT CAMP “Y” SOUNDS TERRIFIC I HOPE IT CAME OFF OKAY. OF COURSE, TO BE AN AUTHENTIC “BONN PICNIC” YOU MUST HAVE HAD RAIN – DID YOU? ALSO, THANKS FOR LOOKING AFTER THOSE “UNOBTAINABLES” FOR ME.

HAD A VERY HECTIC TIME LAST SATURDAY. FIRST OF ALL I ATTENDED THE CHRISTENING OF THE SMALL’S BABY BOY. HELEN’S MOTHER, AS I THINK I TOLD YOU, IS VISITING WITH THEM. THEN FOLLOWING THAT A VISIT TO THE JENKINS, THEN SUPPER WITH THE BLACKBURNS AND FINALLY A HOUSEWARMING PARTY AT THE ELLIOTTS (BUCK’S REPLACEMENT). SO AS YOU CAN SEE, NO LACK OF SOCIAL LIFE IN THESE PARTS.

MUST CLOSE FOR NOW AND TRY TO GET A LETTER OFF TO GEORGE TO TRY TO CLEAR UP OUR TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS FOR THE COMING FALL.

LOTS OF LOVE, DAVE

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One Response to Cars & More Travel Plans

  1. ironybynori says:

    At the same time I was reading this series of letters written during David’s diplomatic postings in the late ’50s and early ’60s, I was also reading “A Journey With No Maps”, the authorized biography of poet/artist P.K. Page, wherein the story of her days as an ambassador’s wife in Australia, Brazil, and Mexico somewhat overlap David’s time in Germany and the Congo. Lovely to have two completely different perspectives of the time and milieu from two people I have known and loved. — Nori

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