March 10, 1959
Dear Dad and Russ,
My letter writing, of late, has been frustrated by two things: 1) not enough time and, 2) when I do get a minute to write a letter, sure as shooting I get a letter the very next day from a person I just wrote to! I’m sure a lot of people must think that their mail isn’t getting through, or something, because of my lack of comments on their letters. However, as I felt sure that a letter would be forthcoming from you soon, I deliberately held off writing for a few days longer, and sure enough, your very newsy and informative letter of March 4th arrived today.
Your grand tour of Canada sounded terrific, Dad, and I just might try to do the same thing myself one of these years in order to re-acquaint myself with my native land – I’m sure going to feel like a foreigner after 3 1/2 years on this side of the Atlantic.
Thanks for the advice on typewriters and tires – very good idea – I had forgotten that there were such things as guarantees and how important they can be. I’ll hold off on these purchases until I get home. And thanks for the suggestion about picking up Johnny’s and my VW in Montreal prior to our arrival. Sure sounds like a good idea to me – didn’t realize that they would hold them for a couple of days in Montreal, even though I did know about the greasy chrome and all that. Johnny is at present on leave but still in Bad Godesberg so I’ll try to get in touch with him soon and get his views on the matter. I know he would appreciate anything you could do along these lines as the Yorks are counting very much on having their little car ready for the road as soon as they set foot in Montreal. Just last night, as a matter of fact, I was over at their place playing canasta (I won) and Yvonne was saying how much she was looking forward to driving from Montreal to Ottawa and stopping someplace along the way for lunch. She said that she was going to eat about 12 hot dogs and buy 5 pounds of chocolate coated marshmallow biscuits! However, as we still don’t know the definite sailing date for our cars, there’s no big rush on this matter at the moment. I’ll be sure to let you know Johnny’s abuse and further developments as they occur.
Thanks for the info re: Carlton U. As a matter of fact, Helen Small (my ex-tutor) knows a few people at the university and is going to write to them “warning them” (as she puts it) of my intentions. So I shall feel like an old friend, I am sure, when I first set foot on campus!
About my home leave plans – have noted your premonitions about Haliburton in late May but, as a matter of fact, this won’t be concerning me after all! I received a letter from George last week and he tells me that he’s been posted to Washington DC for three years effective May 16th – he’ll be secretary to the commander of Canadian Army staff or something like that. In the same letter, after regretting that our Haliburton plans would naturally have to be shelved, he asked if perhaps I would like to visit him in Washington and help him set up his apartment. This appears to be a rather good idea and appeals to me for two reasons: (1) I’ve never been to Washington and would indeed like to visit that city and (2) the weather is bound to be warm and spring-like that far south. So – what I think I’ll do is head south around the first week in June and visit with George for a while – perhaps two or three weeks. Which, of course, brings up another bit of a problem about driving permits. If, as you say, I am carrying “External Affairs documents” (I assume my passport will do the trick) I can obtain a 60-day driver’s permit for Canada, would this by any chance also apply going to the USA? Perhaps your friend George Sloan could clear this little mystery up for me.
I don’t have the vaguest idea where we are going to put them, but I am bringing back a beautiful, pure white, “Form 2000” Rosenthal dinner setting for 12 persons, plus 60 pieces of very lovely and most unconventional crystal glasses! These 60 glasses consist of: one dozen liqueur/martini glasses; one dozen cocktail glasses; one dozen red wine glasses; one dozen white wine/beer/water goblets; and one dozen champagne/sherbet/ice cream shells. I chose these glasses with great care and, as you will see, each glass can be used for one or two different purposes. These are the five basic shapes essential for proper table settings. Of course, there are masses of other shapes designed just for one specific purpose, but as we are not a running a bar or hotel in Ottawa, the ones I have purchased should suffice. I was delighted to read that you are now using coloured tablecloths in place of placemats! The pure white china must be set, of course, on a coloured tablecloth, preferably, a rosy peach colour, a pale pastel green, or even Wedgewood blue. All solid colours, of course. With such a setting, laced throughout with liberal quantities of sparkling crystal, flowers in mid-table, lit by candles in pure white candle holders (I have them too), you have a table fit for a king! We should have all sorts of fun entertaining people that Sunday dinners I love you Ropa! And those new pots and pans sounds terrific too!
At this point, I see no hope of me ever getting organized enough in time to leave Germany on May 20th! But, naturally, things will fall into place, one by one. Every Canadian goes through the same thing before leaving here after 3 ½ years. I am right now going through the throes of deciding what to take home, what to throw out, what to give away, what to sell, etc., etc. However, I’m sure that, eventually, I’ll get things straightened away. I think I mentioned before that I’m taking most of April and May off in overtime leave so that should help me out of my packing-up dilemma!
Say, it just occurred to me that I think I’ve been to London again since last writing you! Had the usual wonderful time and hated to leave – as a matter of fact I just went up for the weekend and ended up staying a week as Sylvia had understood that I would be staying a full week and had made all sorts of arrangements for free tickets to shows, various parties and a couple of dinners. Joan was in the hospital for the first three days, but was able to join us for the latter three, being just as fit as a fiddle again. Bob and Joan are spending Easter with me here in Bonn (figured it was about time they visited me for a change!) so we should have lots of fun. I just might make one more farewell trip to London next month, as I know not going to Turkey as originally planned, and also a week or two someplace in Bavaria. However, we shall see.
You’ll never believe it, but I am now in the process of being de-wormed again, practically four years to the day from my Indochinese worm session! These worms are far less serious, of course, being a European variety and have not lost the weight I lost Phnom Penh. They have wonderful little worm pills here (recommended by other Canadians who have had worms recently) – you take 25 a day for three days and that constitutes one “worm cure”. This seems to be a thing with me – getting worms shortly before the end of the posting!
Well, I think that’s about all the news for now. Busy as ever, both in and out of the office – at present going through a round of “farewell to Phil Weishar” events. I’ll try to write sooner next time.
Lots of love, David
April 1, 1959
Dear Dad and Russ,
I’m afraid that, as the time goes on (and gets shorter) my letters are also going to get shorter and fewer and further between! It just occurred to me this morning that now I can say “next next month I’ll be home!”
Johnny York is most grateful for your offer and would like to take advantage of it. He says (and this goes for me too) that if you’ll just let us know any costs involved we can send you cheques right away.
I spent a lovely Easter with Bob and Joan – beautiful warm spring weather – drove via the back roads to Heidelberg and back – also visited Düsseldorf and Cologne. It was wonderful to see them again.
Closing time, must dash,
April 22, 1959
Dear Dad and Russ,
Returned Monday after a glorious time doing nothing in the Austrian Alps. Have subsequently just about gone “round the bend” trying to figure out where to start my home-coming (or should I say home-going) preparations. As a result, time is scarcer than hens’ teeth these days so will not bother telling you about my recent trip at the moment but shall save it for next month when I can tell you in person.
I have two of your letters – one of April 5th and one of April 15th. Sorry to hear about your income tax problems, Dad – I only had to shell out $2.22 this year!
Before I forget – my two airpacks were waiting for me when I returned to Bonn last Monday. Arrived in perfect condition – many thanks.
Re: car insurance – as requested, Johnny and I are herewith enclosing two letters for McFarlane and Charboneau. As you’ll see from the letters, unfortunately, the cars will not now be arriving until about June 1, as May 19 is the first date Poseidon Linien Hamburg can accommodate us. However, that’s only a day or two after I get home so shouldn’t be too bad. The car, by the way, acted like a dream on this last trip – went over some alpine roads even worse than the ones we drove when you people were here!
I must really dash now as one of the Embassy drivers is going to be out of my apartment in a few minutes to pick up my trunk for repairs. Still haven’t done my inventory but that comes next. Millions and millions of things to do these days – plus “to say farewell to Mr. and Mrs. York and Mr. Nixon” parties are already starting!
April 23, 1959
Just a very quick note to ask you to please keep an eye on my bank balance for me during the month of May? I don’t expect anything drastic to happen, but just in case there should be a slight overdraft, could you please make amends for me accordingly and I shall straighten up with you on May 28!
Sorry to bother you with this but it’s so terribly difficult to keep track of one’s financial status of the distance of three or four thousand miles!
April 28, 1959
I’m afraid this is going to be another one of those “please deposit” requests.
Do you think you could possibly spare $50 until this time next month? If so, I would be most appreciated.
I saw my car yesterday – coming along very well and looks three years younger.
Masses of things to do now, so must dash.
Love, and thanks, Dave
PS: a very belated “Happy Birthday” to Russ. I remembered it on the 14th, but was too late to do anything more than toast the occasion with a glass of Austrian wine!
This marks the end of David’s letters from Germany. He indeed sailed home on the Homeric and retrieved his 1953 VW from the docks in Montreal. He attended Carleton University at its then-new campus at Dow’s Lake in Ottawa from September 1959 to April 1960 and returned to a summer job with External Affairs. That summer job developed into another exotic posting to a nascent republic: the
Belgian Congo (which is to say, Congo without the Belgians).
And Sylvia, while in London as “Anybody’s” in West Side Story, had a knock on her dressing-room door one night after a performance. There she found Patrick Larking, an artist. Mr. Larking, accompanied by Mrs. Larking, so Sylvia could be assured that he was on the up-and-up, invited her to pose for him – in character. She did. Larking’s works were published in “The Artist” magazine of August 1959 (price 3/6). In the accompanying article, Larking describes the difficulty of finishing his portrait after seeing Sylvia both in and out of character and trying to reconcile two very different personalities in one image.