Dief the Chief, Elmer and “Others”

October 14, 1958

Dear Dad and Russ,

This will just be a quicky as I am typing it during my lunch hour and really don’t have too much time to spare as of late what with preparations for Mr. Diefenbaker’s visit next month and all that sort of thing going on around here these days.

First of all, I received your letter of October 7th this morning with the enclosed clippings. I was absolutely delighted to hear about Sylvia’s good luck, even more so because I will be spending Christmas in London with Bob and Joan and undoubtedly we will all be together at that time. It will be like “Ottawa Week” in London. I sent one of the clippings onto the Rivoires as you suggested and asked them to try to get tickets for us all to see the show sometime around Christmas. Should be terrific.

I hate to ask you this, but could you do me a favour? Would you mind very much just sort of keeping an eye on my bank balance for me just in case I might have overdrawn it by a few dollars? I cashed a cheque here last week and I must confess I don’t think I took into consideration onto that $15.00 cheque I gave Russ or my $10.00 life insurance premium! I couldn’t swear to this, but I thought it might be a good idea to have you check with the bank just to avoid any embarrassment. It’s probably is all okay, but should there be any chance of an overdraft of a few dollars, could you cover it for me and let me know next letter?

Winter is beginning to set in here in Bonn now and with it dull days of almost continuous drizzle. Very depressing – makes me wish I had stayed in Ibiza.

And speaking of Ibiza, I received my coloured slides yesterday and they are indeed beautiful. After I label them and have a couple of showings on this side of the Atlantic, I’ll send them Ottawa-wards.

Well, must dash now, so please excuse shortness of this letter.

Lots of love, Dave

PS: I’m still very anxious to hear all about Russ and Pete’s trip. How about dropping me an “illustrated” letter, Russ, telling me all about it?

November 16, 1958

Dear Dad and Russ,

Well, about one visit from a Prime Minister in a lifetime is about all a person should be exposed to I feel, after last weekend’s whirlwind! Fortunately, Mr. Diefenbaker’s visit to Bonn went off without a hitch (in spite of the fact that his plane arrived an hour late) but not without much sweat, strain and toil by the Embassy staff here. We had set up our Communications Office on a 24-hour basis for five full days, being assisted by Frank Poulin from our Embassy in Brussels. And it was very fortunate for me that Frank was here because the chap I work with here, Albert Sauve, became ill on the Saturday morning of the PM’s visit and could not (and has not yet) come into work at all. Which meant that Frank and I had to cover off 24 hours a day between the two of us! A bit hectic, to say the least. But the real fun began after Frank returned to Brussels last Tuesday morning. Then the telegrams started pouring out of Bonn concerning Mr. Diefenbaker’s visit here and also about this latest Berlin tiff* which is making headline news these days in which, naturally, falls under our jurisdiction. As a matter of fact, come to think of it, today is absolutely the very first day I have not been in the Embassy for two solid weeks. Thus, the long delay in getting a letter off to you.

Mr. Diefenbaker’s tight schedule in Bonn did not permit him time to pay a call to the Embassy itself but I was fortunate enough to meet him privately in the hotel he was staying at in Bonn. That was last Sunday morning and I had gone into the hotel to help out a bit in the wee office we had set up in a room on the same floor as the Prime Minister’s party. A couple of the kids and I were just sitting around at the time, drinking coffee and waiting for something to happen when Mr. Diefenbaker came hustling in from church and greeted us all with: “Well, well, well, nice to see you all up so bright and early this Sunday morning!” (He didn’t know it, of course, but the truth of the matter was that I had also been up all night long doing his telegrams!) He stayed with us for a few minutes, exchanging pleasantries, etc., then breezed off to his next appointment. In spite of all the work involved, it was extremely interesting to be “behind the scenes” of a Prime Minister’s tour and to see all the things that have to be done in order to ensure a smooth-running itinerary. It was particularly interesting to talk with members of the Prime Minister’s party, from his private secretary right down to his valet, and to learn about all the funny things that have been happening so far at hotels, airports, etc. One person I particularly enjoyed meeting was Mr. Diefenbaker’s brother, Elmer, who is a truly “Will Rogers” type of character and is very much liked and admired by all the people involved in the tour.

John & Olive Diefenbaker with Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, Bonn, November 1958

John & Olive Diefenbaker with Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, Bonn, November 1958

John & Olive Diefenbaker with Ambassador Escott M. Reid and his wife, Ruth, Bonn, November 1958

John & Olive Diefenbaker with Ambassador Escott M. Reid and his wife, Ruth, Bonn, November 1958

Elmer Diefenbaker, the PM's older brother and advisor

Elmer Diefenbaker, the PM’s older brother and advisor

I was glad to get your note of November 5th, Dad, enclosing my bank balance, and also glad to hear that the bank “carried” me for a few moments on October 28th. That amount of $267.85 had me puzzled for a while too. A pleasant surprise when I found out that the Posting Loan that I had taken out before coming to Bonn, in order to buy my car, etc., has now been paid up in full and I shall now be getting just that much more money each month!

I shall be eagerly awaiting your account of the trip, Russ, and Pete has written to me a couple of times about his slides and he says that you’re doing the trip in installments. Good idea – however, don’t go to a lot of trouble, now. Just whenever you get the time.

I had a long, long letter from Bob and Joan last week and they’ve got all sorts of plans for the Christmas – New Year’s period when I’m in London. I shall be going to London on the night of December 23rd, arriving early next morning and staying right through until the night of January 4th. Really looking forward to it, I can tell you. The Rivoires have already got tickets for several good shows and gave me a list of suggested other shows that we might all try to see together.

Next April, I hope to take a wee jaunt down to Turkey for a month or so. One of our stenos here, Dorothy Gross, has been posted to Ankara effective next month, and naturally, there has been great interest in Turkey around the office as of late. Sounds like a terrific country to visit and as one of my best friends here is with the Turkish Embassy, I feel as if I know enough about the country to whet my tourist appetite! Tentatively, my plans are to take a train down to Vienna where I shall visit some Australian and American friends of mine for a few days around Easter, then take a bus from Vienna to Athens, stopping overnight at Belgrade, Yugoslavia and Salonika, Macedonia (northern Greece). I would then probably meet Dot in Athens and we would take a boat to Istanbul then on to Ankara by train. However, time will tell. The Rivoires are also interested in an Italian holiday with me around April.

The following information is strictly for Nixon Eyes Only: the Yorks and I are now starting negotiations here to get us all aboard the SS Homeric which departs from Le Havre on May 20, 1959 and arrives in Montreal on May 28th! We may, however, leave from Southhampton on May 21st instead (the Homeric goes from Le Havre to Southhampton before heading for Canada) as the Yorks are rather anxious to see London again before going home. The reason I mention that this is for Nixon Eyes Only is that May 20th is slightly before we are actually due to go home, but for personal reasons, both Johnny and I are slightly fed up with certain things (and people) at the Embassy here and are most anxious to leave here as soon as possible. External affairs doesn’t know about this, of course, but we shall be advising them possibly early in January. The reasons for Johnny and I both being fed up, by the way, are a bit difficult to explain in a letter but I’ll just say that our once “happy home away from home” has undergone some rather drastic changes in the past few months and the arrival of some particularly objectionable types from Ottawa haven’t helped things very much.** Like the old saying goes, it only takes a couple of bad apples to spoil the barrel!! However, it won’t be long now to go so we are trying not to give the matter too much serious thought.

My little stove here in the apartment is still on the fritz and I spend most of my time lately huddled up against a wonderful little electric heater I borrowed from the Embassy. I reported my broken stove well over a month ago, but in true European fashion, nothing has been done about it as yet. The weather lately, incidentally, is ghastly – rains continuously and is foggy all day long. Grey skies all the time.

Must take a bath now and get a fairly early night.

Lots of love, Dave

* Premier Khrushchev had just announced that the USSR wished to terminate the Four-Power Agreement on the status of Berlin. The Plan was rejected by the Western Powers on December 3.

** The new Ambassador, Escott Meredith Reid, was apparently much, MUCH stuffier than Charles Ritchie. David’s later description of Ambassador Reid was that of “the stuffed shirt’s stuffed shirt”.

November 20, 1958

Dear Dad and Russ,

Just a wee note to answer your letter of November 16 which I received this morning.

I was vastly amused by the CBC report of my having met the Queen – however, I assure you that it was another David Nixon who actually had that honour! David Nixon (the other one) is a very famous British TV star and every time I go to London I always run up against the odd skeptic who doesn’t believe that I am David Nixon too! Even outside of London, I am always being introduced to English people who invariably say something like: “Not THE David Nixon” or “My word!” or “Jolly good – but what is your name, really?” So you can see that this is not the first time I’ve had identity trouble on the side of the Atlantic.

I shall look forward to receiving the final version of your short story cum essay, Russ, when you get time to finish it.

This morning was a good day for mail for me! I received an enormous five-page letter from (believe it or not) Bill Glenn!! Good old Bill. A good deal of his letter was devoted to thanking me for the nice time he had over here in 1956 – oh well – better late than never, I suppose. Bill is quite excited about his new venture and his letter was written on very attractive letterhead embossed with “Bill Glenn’s School of Drama” and all that sort of thing. Bill and I have often had our little differences of opinion over the past 12 years or so, but as you once said Dad, I guess old friends are the best friends after all.

Another great fat envelope received this morning had, as the return address: “S. Tysick, C/O West Side Story Co., the Opera House, Manchester, Eng.” Sylvia had enclosed three voluminous letters dating from last April 15 up to November last week. It was terrific hearing from her again, you can well imagine. Her show moves to London on December 12th and, as I think I told you, Bob and Joan and I have tickets to see it around Christmas time. Sylvia is absolutely thrilled with her part and the newspaper reports know no bounds of praise for the show. She enclosed a clipping with her letter and it was from a Manchester newspaper which said: “Nothing like it has been seen in Manchester since ‘Oklahoma’ opened at the same theatre 11 years ago.” The article also says in one paragraph: “A tiny Canadian redhead, 23-year-old Sylvia Tysick as the little girl who wants to be ‘in on the act’ often comes near to stealing the show.” When you consider that there are about 35 or so in the cast and Sylvia was one of about four people mentioned in the whole write-up, this praise is really tops!

Well, must dash now and get back to work.

Lots of love, Dave

Sylvia Tysick in her role of "Anybody's", West Side Story, Manchester, 1958

Sylvia Tysick in her role of “Anybody’s”, West Side Story, Manchester, 1958


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