April in Paris and Bonn

January 20, 2013

April 14, 1958

Dear Dad and Russ,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RUSS!! Hope it’s been a good one.

I’ve really been too busy to write much lately as I’ve been replacing Marcel Belanger in the Registry for over two weeks now. Marcel was supposed to be back from leave today but as he has just moved into a new house here, he decided to take a few more days off in order to get settled in. I was over at his place all day yesterday helping unpack dishes, etc., and though it was a lot of work, Marcel and his wife and myself really enjoyed ourselves quite a lot. However, I will be glad when he’s back at work as that Registry is quite the busy place to try to run by one’s self!

New arrival in our Embassy is Betty Gravelle who used to work in Passport Office in Ottawa along with Bob and Joan and Bill Jenkins. Betty’s a very sweet person and I’m sure will fit right in with the gang here. Betty, by the way, is the girl who issued you guys with passports when you came over here last fall. She remembers you very well Dad and says that you used to drop in occasionally with news of the Rivoires.

Well, Paris was just wonderful! We had absolutely lousy weather as it rained most of the time and on Easter Friday we had snow, but that didn’t dampen our spirits one little bit! Dorothy and I met Bob and Joan right on schedule at our hotel on Thursday night and then we went out for a few hours to “explore” the town. The hotel was quite nice by the way – just one block from the Arc and I could see the Eiffel Tower from my window. Both Dot and I have been to Paris before, so naturally we saw many things that we had already seen but it was loads of fun to be with Bob and Joan and watch their reactions at seeing things for the first time. A “first” for me was a visit to the Louvre Museum where we saw the “Mona Lisa”, the “winged Victory” and the “Venus de Milo”. All very lovely but somehow we all got the impression that we have seen them before! And did we ever eat in Paris!! One evening we devoted 2½ hours to consuming an eight-course meal complete with an aperitif, snails, fish, steak, potatoes, vegetables, salad, cheese, dessert, coffee and liqueur. All this food was washed down with three magnums of wine (white, rose, and red) with a bottle of champagne served with dessert and a special wine served with the cheese. I am sure Russ would have enjoyed watching the wine steward as he came equipped with a little bronze cup around his neck for tasting purposes! The total cost of this banquet was about five dollars per person! Another day we stopped in for lunch at a little place called “Chez Anna” very near the Eiffel Tower (we had just come down from the tower at the time – no pictures this time!). Chez Anna was quite the place! On the bar sat a poodle; on one of the tables sat a great German Shepherd dog; Charlotte (a hen) was eating radishes at another table and Sophie (a turtle) was munching away on lettuce on the floor. To complete the “zoo” effect there were a dozen or more cats scampering around in addition to two other little dogs who were just visiting (we figured). Other guests for lunch that day at Chez Anna (besides ourselves and the animals) included France’s top movie actress Brigitte Bardot and a Japanese actress named  Miiko Taka who was in a film called “Sayonara” (we discovered later that Chez Anna was a favorite hangout for famous-type people).

In spite of our rather short stay (four days) we also managed to squeeze in a night at the Folies Bergeres and also a night at the Paris Opera where we saw “Les Indes Galantes” (quite spectacular!). And, as I said before, when we were not sightseeing, we were eating!

One night (I think it was the night of the Folies) we all charged down to the Paris Market (les Halles) for real French onion soup! A meal in itself!

Well, not too much news about Bonn. The Arbuckles leave for home next Monday and I’m having a few folks in on Saturday night for a small farewell party for them.

Well, it’s going on 11 o’clock now so think I’ll just take quick bath and get an early night. It’s getting much warmer around here now (March was ghastly!) For the past three days it hasn’t even rained once! So, maybe Spring has sprung at long, long last.

Lots of love, Dave

April 24, 1958

Dear Dad and Russ,

This will just be a “quicky” to let you know that all goes well here in Germany but there really isn’t a darn thing to write about these days – pretty quiet all around.

The Arbuckles left for home last Monday and have promised to get in touch with you when they arrive in Ottawa. We surely miss Buck and Norma – they were a swell couple. I gave a small (20 guests) going away party for them here at “Chez Nixon” last Saturday night.

Bonn is at long, long last blossoming forth in all its spring loveliness. We’ve had a WHOLE WEEK of warm, DRY days and everything is turning green and flowers and blossoms are beginning to put in an appearance. Yesterday afternoon, I just sat out on my balcony here and soaked up the sunshine! I’m thinking of indulging in the same activity over the forthcoming weekend too.

Did I say there isn’t a darn thing to write about? Well, pardon me – I was forgetting a rather important little item you might be interested in hearing about (I sure was!). I have been recommended for Clerk Grade 4!! Yup, a promotion!! Of course, nothing final as yet as these things to take some time to go through but when it does become final it’s effective as of April 1. Don’t know as yet what the monetary advantages are in being a Grade 4 but I don’t think it will be too starting once the income tax people get their share of it. However, it is a step up the proverbial ladder. Besides, when I get back to Ottawa, being a Clerk 4 (Communications) also means I’m a supervisor!!! Boy, was I ever surprised when I heard about this!

Well, write soon and give my best to all,

Lots of love, Dave


Fun in The Dolomites

January 19, 2013

March 8, 1958

Dear Dad and Russ,

Just after sending you a postcard yesterday afternoon, I received your most welcome letter of March 2, so decided to make a real effort to get this letter written this weekend.

Was glad to hear the news about your new job at the “Y”, Dad and congratulations! Also glad to hear that the coloured slides arrived alright and that you both are enjoying them. Please don’t worry about the cost of the slides as I’m only too glad to send them along to you. Besides, coloured film over here doesn’t cost anywhere near what it costs in Ottawa, so it’s a not too expensive hobby. Tell you what you might do though – how about buying a screen to show the pictures on? Really makes a tremendous difference in the colour of the pictures.

Well, my Italian venture couldn’t have been more wonderful! Left Bonn on Friday night, February 7 via the night train to Munich, arriving in Munich early (7:30) Saturday morning. The two chaps that were going with me from Berlin – Barry Leahy (Canadian) and Jack Ryder (British) – arrived at the Munich train station about noon and we caught a train about 15 minutes later bound for Innsbruck. This train was called the “Alpine Express” and took us through that lovely Austrian scenery that we three saw last September. We stayed in Innsbruck Saturday night and left at 11 Sunday morning. This portion of the trip took us through the Brenner Pass where we stopped for about half an hour for customs etc. While we were stopped at the Brenner an Italian passed by our window with little shopping bags yelling “in cestino”. Being curious we opened our window and asked him what it was he was selling. Well, it’s turned out “in cestino” was Italian for “box lunch” and what a lunch that was! Each bag contained: an entrée of macaroni with cheese and tomato sauce (serve HOT in little metal dishes), half a roast chicken, rolls, cheese, an orange, potato chips and a small bottle of Chianti wine. Total cost: one dollar!! From the Brenner Pass we went on to a place called Fortezza where we had to change trains. This train took us to another place called Dobbiaco where we were met by a VW bus labeled “Grand Hotel Misurina“. Twenty-two hair-raising (but breathtakingly beautiful) kilometers later we arrived at our hotel.

Grand Hotel Misurina (David's photo)

Misurina (David’s photo)

I’m sending you (by surface mail) a brochure from the hotel which will give much to help you imagine just how beautiful the hotel and its surroundings word. Misurina is a wee bit of a town (population: 23) situated around the lake about 15 km UP from Cortina. It was in Misurina that they held the 1956 Olympic skating competitions. The lake, of course, was completely frozen over this time of the year and they had cleared the end nearest our hotel for skating purposes. Well, anyways, we were given an enormous room for the three of us complete with full bathroom, the whole thing being extremely modern and comfortable. It would, of course, be impossible to recount in a letter all that happened during the following two weeks, but just let me say I don’t know when I felt so completely rested and just bursting with health, vim and vigour as I did when I returned to Bonn! We had beautiful weather with the temperatures going up as high as 80 and one day when we were up on top of one of the mountains (3000 metres) the temperature even soared as high as 120! All this I found most disconcerting when we were surrounded with tons of beautiful white snow! Each morning usually we would just loaf on a deck chair on the sun terrace drinking gallons of fresh Italian orange juice. Then after lunch we would sometimes go skating or just go for long walks in the mountains. And when I say “long” walks I really mean it. One day for instance we walked 10 miles after lunch! I even got on Barry’s skis once – my only mistake was trying to go down a little hill on them. The result was highly hilarious – after speeding down the hill for about three inches I just sat down in about six feet of soft snow!! Now if you ever tried to get yourself up again after falling into six feet of soft snow with skis on your feet you’ll know just how funny that can be. We were all laughing so much that I am sure it must have taken a good fifteen minutes to get me on my feet again!

Near Misurina (David's photo)

Near Misurina (David’s photo)

We made all sorts of nice acquaintances at the hotel but I think our favorites were two Belgian couples who were there the full time we were. These people were just a barrel of fun. As a matter of fact the way we met and was during one of our walks when they ambushed us from behind some trees and started pelting snowballs at us. A rollicking snow-fight ensued and then we all went to a little ski “refuge” where we became better acquainted over steaming mugs of rum punch. These people took us into Cortina a couple of times in their car. I think, however, that we were all of one opinion concerning Cortina – that is, none of us would have stayed there if we were paid to! For one thing it is terribly, terribly posh and expensive with the main street just like a fashion show with pink, purple, orange, etc. ski slacks, mink parkas and Cadillacs a dime a dozen! And it is fast becoming THE place for European celebrities to spend their winter holidays. Ingrid Bergman and Brigitte Bardot were visiting while we were there. However, not to be outdone by Bergman or Bardot, yours truly had a whole column devoted to him in the Cortina publication “Notiziario di Cortina“. It was all in Italian but I had one of the hotel clerks tell me what it said in English – I was most amused to say the least. The column was entitled “Between Our Guests” and said something to the effect that “Nixon David Glenson of the Canadian Ministry for Foreign Affairs was spending a long sojourn at the Grand Hotel in nearby Misurina”. The hotel clerk also explained that the social editors in Cortina phone Misurina daily to ascertain if there are any IMPORTANT guests staying at the Grand Hotel. That probably explains how come my name came out slightly backwards!

Whether or not it was because I was an “important guest” or just usual procedure I do not know, but the service in the hotel was really completely superb. And the food!! Being on “full pension” I was quite prepared to accept what was put in front of me. However, much to my surprise I found that if I didn’t like what was on the menu I could have anything I wanted and also just as much as I wanted! The cooking was a clever blend of Italian and German and most tasty and satisfying. On most occasions I had second helpings and very often even third and fourth helpings (after 10 mile walks especially!).

In the basement of the hotel they have a beautiful little nightclub complete with five-piece orchestra that also played upstairs at tea time. We spent several pleasant evenings in the club and as so many people go “stag” to ski resorts, there was no shortage of dancing partners. We had one wonderful evening when they had a “Mardi Gras” party and a great time was had by all.

One time that our Belgian friends drove us into Cortina we were fortunate enough to see some international ski-jumping competitions. It was the first time I had ever seen ski-jumping and I must say I was most thrilled with the whole thing, more so because they were using the ski jump built especially for the Olympic Games in 1956. Barry and I were especially pleased with the afternoon’s events because one of the Canadian chaps finished third out of the 27 entrants!

Arrived back here in Bonn late at night on the 23rd and only then, on seeing the pale-faces of Bonn, did I realize what a glorious suntan I had acquired in Misurina. Was all covered with freckles too. Then, on Wednesday something happened here to make me wish I had stayed in Italy. The romantic old Rhine overflowed its banks and part of it was gurgling right through my basement and garage! Well, what a mess! It came up so quickly that none of us here in this apartment had really any time at all to get anything moved out of the basement. All my coal was, of course, underwater and there was a continuous procession of empty beer bottles floating out of my part of the basement (must take them back to the store one of these days!). I quickly phoned my coal man and had a few sacks deposited in my spare room. However, in spite of the furnace going full blast it soon became unbearably damp here and I finally moved in with the Arbuckles for a few days. The flood has gone now but it will take weeks for the basement to really dry out again. Oh well, I suppose that’s what I get for choosing a pleasant location CLOSE to the Rhine!

Was talking to Bob and Joan on the phone last night. We are forever phoning one another with the result that both of us usually have quite high phone bills at the end of the month. And you know how Bob likes to talk! However, it was the Rivoires who phoned me last night so that call was on them. They are both getting terribly excited about Easter. Did I tell you about Easter? Bob and Joan and Dorothy Gross and I are all going to visit Paris. Dot and I can only take the four-day weekend but Bob and Joan are planning to stay on for a few more days. Should be lots of fun.

I was visiting with the Jenkins yesterday evening and will be having dinner with them tomorrow night. Both Bill and Joy send their best.

I had a houseguest for a few days just before I went to Italy. His name was Graham Creelman from Ottawa. Graham has just finished up at Carleton and was hitchhiking through Europe for a holiday. When he was in London he was talking to Gord Happy who told him to look me up when and if he was ever in Bonn. I think Graham appreciated a slight pause in his travels and a chance to do a washing, ironing, etc. He was also a good cook so we had some pretty tremendous meals while he was here. My cleaning woman is still talking about the day she came in to find Graham in the kitchen, singing away like mad, mixing up a chocolate cake and making some ice cream in the fridge! Although Graham and I were complete strangers we found, on comparing notes, that we knew a lot of each other’s friends in Ottawa. Graham, especially, knew quite a few of the gang from Commerce.

Well, really must get cracking on some more letters tonight if at all possible so will close off now with

Lots of love, Dave

1958 and More Travel, Taken and Planned

January 19, 2013

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!

To the South, the East and More Travel Plans

January 18, 2013

July 22, 1957

Dear Dad and Russ,

I meant to get a line or two off to you folks directly the Rivoires and I completed our “grand tour” of Germany and the only reason I can give you for not doing so – too darn hot to even write a letter! We are well out of the heatwave now but I can tell you for a while there it was pretty unbearable over here in Europe.

However, we did enjoy our week together so very, very much and I hope you took real good notice of that castle on the postcard we sent you – Neuschwanstein – when I saw it I then and there marked it down as a “must” for inclusion on our September itinerary. Before getting to Neuschwanstein Castle, we “did” the Rhine and Neckar valleys which are both very, very beautiful and although I was covering old ground from my trip with Sylvia last year, I enjoyed it even more this time and I’m really looking forward to showing you folks the same scenery. We stopped off at Heidelberg the first night and, among other things, paid a visit to “the Red Ox” which is the historic students’ bierhaus (pardon my German – I can’t even spell “house” anymore!) the Student Prince was supposed to have patronized. The next night we were in Munich and there we met Pam McDougall’s sister Lorna again – she’s attending university in Munich. Lorna took us on a whirlwind tour of Munich including the famous “Hofbräuhaus” which is without a doubt a “mecca” for all beer-loving souls. I must certainly introduce Russ to this shrine when we are in Munich. From Munich we drove leisurely through Bavaria (fantastically lovely!) down to Neuschwanstein, cut across a corner of Austria through the Alps, then back into Germany to the Boden See where we spent the night. The next morning when we awoke in Germany we had breakfast on the lake-front and directly across the lake was Switzerland to our left, Austria! We spent the day driving through the beautiful Black Forest, stopping for a night at Baden Baden. Then back to Bonn the next day.


Stalinallee, East Berlin

Berlin (East German) State Opera, 1957

Berlin (East German) State Opera, 1957

Bob and Joan are still raving about the trip I can’t say I blame them – I am thoroughly sold on Germany. I think it is definitely THE country to see in Europe. And just last Wednesday I returned from a 12 day visit to another part of Germany – Berlin. I was only planning to stay a week but I loved Berlin much I stayed on three extra days! Berlin, as you probably know, is just an island in Russia so we have to fly to and from Berlin to avoid going through the East Zone of Germany. West Berlin is just fantastic to see you today. Of course, there is still much war damage still in evidence but to offset this there are what must surely be the most modern buildings in the world sprouting up all over the city. In the very heart of West Berlin, very near the Tiergarten, there is what is known as “the city of tomorrow” and it’s the last word in modernity. But once you pass through the Brandenburg gate it is another story altogether. I made three trips into the Russian sector and by the looks of things there you’d swear the last bomb was dropped yesterday with one rather glaring exception – Stalinallee – a street as Russian in appearance as Moscow itself! There is one good thing, however, that the “state” has done for East Berlin – that is revive the East Berlin Opera. Never in my life have I seen such a spectacle as their performance of “Aida”. It was flawless and superb. Well, I could go on and on but I will tell you lots more when you get here in person.

So glad to hear what you were able to do for the Toughs. They were so darn wonderful to me here in Bonn and I appreciate all your doing for them as much as they do. Please give them my love the next time you see them. We lost another member of our staff – Pam McDougall. And Harry Stewart is away on August 5. One by one they go.

Coincidentally, the very same day I received your latest letter inquiring about hotel accommodations in London, I was talking to Gordon Happy on our London line and he was asking when you two would be arriving in London and if you had any place to stay. Well, according to Hap, both he and Pat would be furious if you stayed at a hotel in London as they have lots of room at their place and would really like you to “bunk in” with them while in the big city. I didn’t give Hap any definite answer , Dad, but told him I would certainly mention this to you next letter and that, perhaps you could either write him direct c/o Canada House or else let me know what you decide and I could pass the news on to him. So just let me know next letter what you desire and I’ll act accordingly.

Now about September. I really don’t see too much point in trying to plan a detailed itinerary while you are there and I am here. However, perhaps we could stay in Bonn until, say, the Monday after you arrive, then strike out on a long drive through Europe. I was thinking today that maybe a full week in Austria might be rather nice. It’s awfully pretty and very restful. Then from there we might go to Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples, and back up through Geneva, then along the south of France. However, let’s just wait until you to get this far anyways then we can sit down with the map and figure it out. Okay?

Well, now that the heat wave has subsided, I really must get cracking on overdue correspondence. So until next letter, bye-bye for now.

Lots of love, Dave

August 4, 1957

Dear Dad and Russ,

Happy birthday Dad!

Really not too much to report on at the moment except that we are now having our second spell this summer of really beautiful sunny warm weather. Let’s hope that it keeps up for September!

There are a couple of things I would like to mention before you to “go abroad”. One is – don’t worry about running out of cigarettes, Russ, as I have ample for the both of us. Just thought I’d let you know so you wouldn’t have to pack a whole lot of cigarettes to bring with you. Another thing – I wonder if you two could bring me over a couple of “unobtainable items”. If you could possibly manage to each bring along a plastic bottle of other “Old Spice” or “Mennen’s” spray deodorant and also some “Old Spice” aftershave lotion it would be most appreciated. Another thing I need very badly are some white dress shirts. All the German shirts are cut so long that they can double as nightshirts and besides it is very difficult for me to get my sleeve size over here. Perhaps you could mail me a couple of shirts so as not to take up too much room in your luggage and I could pay you for them when you get here. I would like “Arrow” shirts with a fairly short, wide collar size 15 1/2 – 32 (sleeve). However, don’t go to any unnecessary trouble over these items.

The Harry Stewarts left Bonn for home last Friday. Another of the “old guard” gone. However, we were very fortunate to get a really swell replacement for Harry – Bill Jenkins by name. I don’t know what there is about Bonn, but we sure do seem to get the pick of the crop in personnel!

Johnny York is going on leave from next Wednesday till September 3 so I’ll be doing his work in Registry which should be a change from communications for a while. I’m getting terribly excited about September 4 already can hardly wait until you to get over here.

Well, that’s about all for now.

Lots of love, Dave

August 5, 1957

Dear Dad & Russ,

This will just be a note to supplement yesterday’s letter. Received your most welcome letter of August 1 this morning and would like to answer a few of your questions right away.

I wrote Hap a letter today telling him of your acceptance of his offer to stay at his place while in London. However, as London airport was way out of the city towards Eton and Windsor Castle and because Hap does not have a car to my knowledge, I told him in my letter perhaps it would be best if you took the Airline Bus into London and then a taxi out to their place. The London taxis are very, very cheap and about the most honest in the world. Home address is:

Mr. G. A. Happy, 12 Northfolk House, Courtlands Sheen Road, Surrey, Richmond. Phone: Richmond 6586

Richmond is just southwest of London and is really one of the most beautiful parts of the city. It’s not very far from Hampton Court.

By the way, do you know anything about English currency? If not, you’re in for a lot of fun I can tell you. Just as a matter of interest there are 12 pennies to each shilling and 20 shillings to each pound. One shilling is worth approximately 15 cents. But the English currency comes in such odd denominations that I couldn’t possibly even start to describe them to you in a letter. However, I’m sure both the Happys and the Rivoires will be able to explain it to you when you get there.

I’m so glad the idea of Austria appeals to you. It’s really the most beautiful country – just like Banff! As far as money is concerned I should certainly think that about $10 per day per person example for living and eating in Europe. I spent Easter weekend with the Toughs in Holland and the whole thing only cost me $15! And car expenditures will be rock-bottom low thanks to the little VW – I get somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 miles per gallon and it uses very, very little oil – and, of course, no water!

Well, must away now.

Lots of love, Dave

[This was the last letter of 1957. Glen and Russ Nixon arrived in Europe in early September – Russ for three weeks and Glen for six.]

Comings, Goings and Tootling About

January 17, 2013

May 6, 1957

Dear Dad and Russ,

Well, how we did it I’ll never know, but we managed to get the NATO Ministerial Meeting over and done with! What a panic! Today everybody at the Embassy is staggering around in a daze – we can hardly hardly believe that it’s finished.

L. B. "Mike" Pearson

L. B. “Mike” Pearson

Last Wednesday I had a visitor to my little office in the person of our Minister of External Affairs, Mister Lester Pearson. Mr. Ritchie was taking him on a grand tour of the Embassy and Mr. Pearson’s first words on entering my office were, “So this is where all the work is done,” (how right he was!). He’s a very pleasant person to meet and we chatted for about five minutes. Mr. Ritchie was telling me later that the most embarrassing thing happened when he brought the Minister down to the basement to meet Johnny and me. He opened the door of the furnace room and said to Mr. Pearson, “And this is our registry”. To which Mr. Pearson replied, “Well that just shows how well you know your own basement, Charles!”

Well, at Easter, Pam, Art, Susan, and Peter Tough, their dog and I made off for Holland. We had excellent weather all the time and were able to have a picnic lunch every day. On Good Friday we visited the Canadian War Cemetery near Arnhem and on the Saturday we drove completely around Holland! We headed north from a place called Apeldoorn and drove clear up to the North Sea, then crossed over the great big dike that divides the North Sea from the Zuider Zee and to the West Coast of Holland. This dike was really something tremendous. It’s about 30 km long with a wonderful two-lane highway right on top! We then drove down to Haarlem, passing through the tulip fields (which have to be seen to be believed!), then across to Amsterdam for a boat trip on the canals and supper then back to Apeldoorn. On Easter Sunday we drove to The Hague then home via Delft, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Eindhoven, and Cologne. The VW behaved beautifully and only required three fillings of gas for the whole trip including the one before leaving Bonn!


Tulips fields in Holland, late 1950s

A week ago yesterday we all drove down to Münster Eiffel for the day and yesterday we attempted a trip to Heidelberg. We only got as far as Limburg, however, when we had to turn back. The reason: blinding snow blizzards!!! Snow in May. What next!?! We hope to complete our trip to Heidelberg next Sunday however.

I wonder if you could do me a little favour, Dad, on behalf of the Toughs. They will be returning to Ottawa next month and as yet have no leads on accommodation. So I was just wondering if you might keep your eyes open for a place for them to live. They would require two bedrooms if possible and something not too expensive (around $80-$90 per month). I realize that might be a little difficult to find but just in case you might hear of something would you please keep the Toughs in mind? Oh yes, and another little thing. They have a little dog with them and they just learned that he will have to be put into quarantine for three months or else on private premises. They would rather not put the dog into quarantine if at all possible so if you could if you should hear of anyone with a back yard and is fond of dogs you might just mention this to them. I was wondering about the Rivoires – Bob tells me that they lost their dog – maybe you could give them a call one of these days and just see if they would be interested. The dog by the way is a Pekinese.

Well, really not much more news for the time being. I am looking forward to seeing Bob and Joan here on June 8 and we are planning on taking off for Munich and perhaps the Black Forest and Bavaria. So I’ll close for now with,

Lots of love, Dave

May 14, 1957

Dear Dad and Russ,

I hope my little telegram didn’t cause undue concern with you folks as it is really nothing too serious.

Last Sunday we (the Toughs and I) drove down to Heidelberg for the day and on the way home the car just stopped on the Autobahn about 60 km south of Frankfurt. To make a long and very amusing story short we were towed in to a garage in Frankfurt where we were advised that it would take a couple of days to repair a broken camshaft or something.

From the garage we were fortunate enough to get a lift to the railway station in downtown Frankfurt where we caught a train back to Bonn (arrived around 3 AM!).

I phoned the garage in Frankfurt yesterday and they advised me the VW would be roadworthy tomorrow (Wednesday) and that it would cost approximately DM 300 ($75). But just to be on the safe side, I think I should take about $100 along – never can tell about estimates in this country! So I’m off to Frankfurt on the train around noon tomorrow to pick up VW and bring it back to Bonn.

I am enclosing a post-dated cheque to the tune of $100 for you on June 1. Thanks millions and once again I hope you weren’t too worried by the telegram.

Lots of love, Dave

June 10, 1957

Dear Dad and Russ,

Well, I have before me two of your most welcome letters – one of May 15 and one of June 5 – which I really must at least make an effort to answer.

I was glad that our little financial transaction came off OK and you’ll be glad to hear that my little VW is now running like a charm. I practically have a complete new engine – seems just about everything gave out at the same time. However, when you consider that wee engine had travelled over 75,000 km (about 47 500 miles) I rather think that I got my money’s worth!

A week ago tonight we managed to get Pam, Art, Susan, Peter, Lee-Bell (the Pekinese) and Tweety Pie (the canary) Tough on the train bound for Paris, Le Havre, and Montréal. It was quite a farewell scene to say the least as the trains only stop for exactly 2 minutes here in Bonn! We all surely miss them very, very much. Especially me because they were practically living at my place for their last two months in Bonn. Pam is a tremendous cook by the way, and I gained over 8 pounds from April 1 to June 1! They arrive in Montréal on the Ivernia either tomorrow or Wednesday but they will be staying with Art’s family in Montréal for about a month I think before going on to Ottawa. However, they have assured me that they will drop you a line in lots of time before their arrival in Ottawa. I’m sure you and Russ are going to be very fond of the Toughs – don’t be alarmed by Art though, he’s about the quietest person I’ve ever met, so if you get more than two words of old Art in an evening you’re doing good!

Really not too very much to report on here these days. I’m just eagerly awaiting next Saturday at this point when Bob and Joan arrive from London for a week. I think I told you that we really didn’t have any definite plans – we’ll probably stay around here for two or three days then take off in the VW all the way down the Rhine to Heidelberg then on to Munich and Bavaria, then probably home through the Black Forest part of Germany. All these places are truly too beautiful for words so I’m sure Bob and Joan will love the trip as I’m sure you and Russ will in a couple of months.

It sure would be nice if Russ could get the whole month of September off for the trip, but as I said before, it doesn’t matter too much if he can only get three weeks. You will both be absolutely amazed at the short distances here in Europe compared to Canada. If Russ does only have three weeks then we will just “condense” our tour slightly, staying just a little shorter time in each place but seeing everything we would normally be seeing in a month. Golly, when I think of all Sylvia and I saw in just two weeks! As for you Dad, you are more most welcome to stay over here with me just as long as you like – as a matter of fact I’ve even been thinking in terms of “Christmas with Dad” this year. It’s just an idea of course, but if you could possibly manage it I sure would love to have you here for Christmas this year. Christmas in Germany is wonderful and I’m sure you’d enjoy it very, very much. However, we’ll see.

The dinner invitations and canasta games continue at full swing around here in spite of the many changes in personnel at the Embassy. We had a great round of “farewell” parties for the Toughs, including one very delightful evening at the Ambassador’s residence in Cologne. One of the highlights of the evening was the showing of the film “Indochina” which I enjoyed very, very much. Mr. and Mrs. George Drew were among the guests at this party by the way.

I think I probably told you that Art was replaced by Jean Blackburn who was out in Indochina at the same time as me. Jean and his wife are a charming couple and a real good addition to our “family” here at the Embassy.

It’s been terribly busy here at the embassy work-wise lately. I chalked up another few days’ overtime in the past few weeks as a result. The weather here has been extraordinarily wonderful place – it usually rains most of the time here – however for the past two weeks – or rather for almost the past month – we’ve been having lovely sunny warm days but, like Ottawa, it still gets a little cool in the evenings. Let’s hope the good weather keeps up for the fall!

Well, that’s about “30” for today. The Rivoires and I will be dropping you folks the odd postcard next week to let you know of our travels.

Lots of love, Dave

PS: I can’t quite remember whether it was you or Bob and Joan I told, but just in case it wasn’t you please be sure to bring mostly casual clothes when you come over in September. The continental Europeans are “tres casual” when they travel and as far as I’m concerned that’s the only way to travel!

Bonn, London, Bonn

January 17, 2013

March 27, 1957

Dear Dad & Russ,

Just a note to keep you in touch. Have spent four wonderful days just loafing around the apartment doing absolutely nothing but resting! I’m off this afternoon on the “Lorelei Express” to Hook of Holland, overnight across the channel then England and London tomorrow morning. Bob and Joan wrote to say I’ll be accommodated at their place and I’m very excited to be seeing these two kids. I am planning to spend most of the time in London but might take a couple of days to roam around the country a bit.

Weather is fine and Spring-like – sure is lovely here in Germany this time of year.

Really must dash now – have to go into Bonn to pick up my tickets. I’ll drop you a card from London.

Lots of love, Dave

April 14, 1957

Dear Dad & Russ,

First of all, Russ, a belated “happy birthday” to you. Sorry I didn’t get a card off but what with work and dashing off to England I haven’t been near a store for weeks. I do hope, however, that the beer mug arrived in good shape and that you’re getting good use out of it. The “HB” on the mug, by the way, stands for the famous “Hofbräuhaus” in Munich. I also enclosed in the parcel a selection of cardboard discs advertising a few of the brands of German beer. These discs are used as coasters here to blot up the foam (in case you’re interested).

Well now let’s see, where to start. Really not much happening outside of work here in Bonn to report. However, since last writing I did manage to get over to England for 10 days. I stayed with Bob and Joan in their most delightful little flat. They were really quite lucky to find such a nice place – and centrally heated too! It’s in a very lovely part of London just a few minutes walk from Regents Park. Joan is certainly a charmer and the two of them sure do make a wonderful pair. By the way Dad, maybe you could phone Mrs. Rivoire one of these days and let her know I’ve been to London and seen Bob and Joan. Tell her they’re very happy and have a wonderful flat. Well, London was terrific as usual. Lorna MacDougall (sister of Pam MacDougall, one of our officers at the embassy, and incidentally it was Pam and Lorna who were over here for dinner the night you phoned around Christmas) arrived in London the day after I did so we were able to make up a nice foursome with Bob and Joan. I saw two plays, two cinemas, and took in a Sir Thomas Beecham performance of the Royal Festival Hall. I also escorted Lorna to the British Museum, the National Art Gallery, and the Tower of London in the way of sightseeing. Lorna and I also took a day trip to Windsor Castle and, after Lorna left London for Cambridge and Oxford, I took two more day trips – one to Hampton Court and the other to Canterbury to see the cathedral. It was all wonderful and the weather could not have been nicer.

The trip back was a bit rough. I’m sure Elvis Presley was on board the ship when we cross the North Sea because that ship rocked ‘n rolled something terrific – did everything but stand on its end! And I meant to tell you that Bob and Joan are certainly looking forward to seeing you two in September – they even have the menu all planned for when you arrive!

Well, back to Bonn I came and then Johnny York took off for this week and next. Neither Johnny nor I had been able to take leave since last August, but with the new Communications chap in attendance now we’ve been able to manage it all right. It’s been quite hectic at the Embassy since my return from England because, as you no doubt know, the NATO ministerial meeting will be upon us in about two weeks. However, when that’s over and done with, things should get back to somewhat normal (I hope!).

The Toughs and I are driving up to Holland for Easter to tip-toe through the tulips. They should be lovely next weekend because here in Bonn they are just starting to come out in spite of rather chilly weather. By the way, I convinced Bob and Joan that Germany is the country to see in Europe and they are arriving in Bonn the second week of June, which should be lots of fun for all of us.

I was over to the Toughs the other day and Susan (age 8) met me at the door with the news that “we found your father on our kitchen floor”! It seems that Pam had washed the kitchen floor and then spread some old Ottawa newspapers down. She was making a stew when she happened to glance down and saw you looking up from the kitchen floor! The Toughs, by the way, continue to be wonderful to me and assure me they will certainly be looking you folks up when they arrive home in late June.

The Tough family: Peter, Pam, Susan, Art

The Tough family: Peter, Pam, Susan, Art… oh, and Lee Bell

Well, I’m afraid that is about the limit of my news from Europe for the time being. Must get busy and dash off a few more letters – I’m way behind in my correspondence.

Lots of love, Dave

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