David’s Obituary

February 9, 2017
David at Age 20

David at Age 20

The following is set to appear in the Victoria Times-Colonist on February 11, 2017:

After the long goodbye of progressive dementia first diagnosed in 2000, David Nixon set off on his next adventure on February 9th at the age of 82. A resident of Victoria since 1977, David loved the city and often said it was the very best place in the world to be, and he lived in many places!

Predeceased by his parents, Glen & Ethel, and brother Russell, David will always be remembered by friends and loved ones, especially Sylvia van der Stegen and her brother, Rev. Al Tysick; Suzanne Olson; Laura Wright; Robert Rivoire; and his former partner, Ken Sudhues.

David lived a colourful life, starting at age 19: he was a clerk with the International Supervisory Commission in Indochina; a cryptographer at the Canadian Embassies in Bonn and Leopoldville; 2nd electrician at Wyndham’s Theatre in London; casting director for the Constance Brown Modeling & Talent Agency in Montreal during Expo 67; he framed Ted Harrison’s first show at Robertson Galleries and processed OFY grants in Ottawa; and, after moving west, he became “Our Mister Nixon” – the beloved china & crystal manager at Birks in Victoria. His final working years were spent having fun (yes!) with the BC public service. David’s last working day was Friday, December 31, 1999, which he thought quite auspicious.

David at age 65, with his Peacekeepers' Medal

David at age 65, with his Peacekeepers’ Medal

There were dark times as well. David was purged from the federal service in 1961 on suspicion of being homosexual and therefore a security risk. This eventually led to his being hospitalized for depression and being further victimized as part of Operation MK Ultra through the tender mercies of Dr. Ewan Cameron in Montreal.

Through it all, David remained upbeat and treasured his friends. His participation in the ISC in Indochina led to David sharing the 1988 Nobel Peace Prize with other peacekeepers and he received his Peacekeepers’ Medal in late 2000.

No service by David’s request. A private gathering will be held later this year. Please raise a mug of strong coffee, a glass of good red wine, port, or cognac, or savour some quality dark chocolate, and think fondly of “Our Mister Nixon”. Many thanks to the staff of 3 Dogwood at Oak Bay Lodge for everything they’ve done for David. Arrangements through CARE Funeral Services.


Expo 67, David and his “Muddles”

April 7, 2013

Shortly after he got back from Greece, David was at a party and was introduced to a woman named Connie Brown. After finding out that he was “between engagements”, she told him she had something in mind for him and could he please come ’round Monday morning at 9:00. So, promptly at 9:00 on Monday morning, he presented himself at #21-3465 Côte des Neiges. It was the Constance Brown Modelling and Talent Agency. Walking into the front office, David found it empty. Not unfurnished, just un-staffed. On the desk near the door was a multi-line phone… and all the lights on it were flashing. David knew at once that one of those lights was probably Connie, calling to tell him she was running late. So, he started answering the phone, flashing light by flashing light. The first one wasn’t Connie, but somebody urgently needed a model next week, so David grabbed the pen and pad that were on the desk and took down the information. The next line wasn’t Connie either, and the first line was flashing again…

At about half-past 10, Connie came in to find David, going flat out, answering phones, taking messages (in Pittman shorthand) and doing just fine, thank you. And so began what David (mostly) fondly recalled as his “Three Years Before the Phones”. With at least 10 incoming lines, a pair of large Rolodexes, and a stable of talent that ran the gamut from Veruschka to a trained squirrel, David was The Man at the agency.

David and his phone at Constance Brown

David and his phone at Constance Brown

David’s start with the Constance Brown Agency (Canada’s largest at the time) coincided with the lead-up to Expo 67, and Connie landed the contract to provide all the talent for the Canadian pavilion there. This gave Our Mister Nixon lots of opportunity to visit Expo, both for business and for pleasure. His Expo passport is crammed with the stamps and insignia of virtually every pavilion at the fair. The agency was only a few Metro stations away from the Expo site, and David was there a lot throughout the six months’ run.

The Expo Passport

David’s Expo Passport (note the price for the entire fair: $35!)

Even when David wasn’t physically present at the fair, his image was. Before Expo opened, the agency was approached by representatives from the Quebec government, looking for models for photographs to be used in their pavilion. One “type” they needed was a naval officer. David sent out all kinds of male models but none was quite right. Finally, the Quebec rep came into the office again and told David that what they were really looking for was… him! They needed a man with a beard – a REAL beard – and David was their man. And so, clad in naval gear and peering into a radar screen without his glasses on, David’s image was enlarged many hundreds of times and used as part of a photo montage of life on the St. Lawrence high on the walls of the Quebec pavilion.

David as Naval Officer, Quebec pavilion, Expo 67

David as Naval Officer, Quebec pavilion, Expo 67

David loved to tell “muddling” stories. The term “muddle” came from the usual pronunciation of the word “model” used by Eastern European immigrants, along the lines of “I vunt a muddle for my drasses.” David often said that if you were looking for a muddle, you’d come to the right place! Our Mister Nixon got on famously with all the models, even those who didn’t officially work for Connie Brown, and they all loved him. His models would send him postcards from all over the world when they were either on a photo shoot or on vacation. However, they were apparently not always the best-behaved lot while at the office:

A model-proof cage, eh?

A model-proof cage, eh?

Rules… at least for a day

Rules… at least for a day (click for a larger view)

The one part of the modelling biz David didn’t like much was the child models. Not because of the children themselves, but because of their mothers! David said that the days when he had to do auditions or a photo shoot with kids were the worst. A few of them had their heads on straight and were good folks, but a majority were archetypal stage mothers who wanted nothing but the best for their little stars, and would stop at nothing to get it. Oddly enough, the only photos David saved from his modelling days were of a few kids. And where are they all now?

Among David’s cast of models were those who were demonstrators or “parts models”, who specialized in modelling shoes, gloves, hats, and so on. One parts model who was also a demonstrator was familiar to anyone who saw Kraft commercials in the 60’s. Lois Fleming was the hands of the Kraft Kitchen, always whipping up some culinary nightmare that included Miracle Whip, sandwich spread, and/or miniature marshmallows, accompanied by the mellifluous deep voice of Bruce Marsh, who made it all sound so yummy.

Veruschka

One of the big single-name models of the 60s, along with Sabrina and Twiggy, was Veruschka. A clothing manufacturer called David and said they wanted Veruschka to model their new line and no one else would do. David said of course he could get her. After getting off the phone, he dashed to Connie’s office and asked “Who’s Veruschka?” Connie knew of her and said she worked for Eileen Ford in New York, so David scurried off to call the Ford agency and a deal was struck. Veruschka’s fee was a whopping (for 1967) $1000. Per day!

On the day of the photo shoot, David recalled, the sponsors and various agency reps joined the camera crew at the studio bright and early to see the legendary German model at work. Not too long after the appointed time, Veruschka arrived with her entourage of SEVEN people. She didn’t look like much of a model at that time of the day, apparently, slouching over to a chaise longue on the set and flopping down on it. Three members of the entourage set about preparing makeup, hairstyling equipment, reviewing the garments the model was to wear, and pouring Veruschka champagne from an ice bucket they had brought. The other four members of the party turned out to be a string quartet, who promptly sat down to play. The sponsors and agency folks, including David, were quite impressed. They were obviously dealing with an artiste.

After what seemed like hours of the thousand-dollar-a-day model lying still, drinking champagne and listening to her quartet, the sponsors were getting somewhat antsy, wondering just when she was going to start doing something that looked like modelling. David was dispatched to enquire when she might be ready. He was told in icy Germanic tones that, “When Veruschka is ready, Veruschka will tell you.” This message was then relayed, verbatim, to the sponsors. “Oh,” they said.

After another hour (or so it seemed), Veruschka rose from her chaise, snapped her fingers and began her transformation into Veruschka, the model. David said that, once the lights were on and the cameras snapping, there wasn’t a bad photo in the lot. The sponsors were thrilled, although David said he had to go out for several drinks afterward “to decompress”.

An Expo Mystery

The theme of Expo 67 was “Man and His World” and its symbol was a circle of stick figures, ancient symbols of people, with their arms upraised. An animated version showed people of different nationalities in their native costumes instead of stick figures. At one point, it was decided to shoot a photo from above using live people in the same positions as in the animation and Constance Brown was to provide the talent.

expo-67-logo-square

Expo poster

The original Expo symbol and the animated version that David helped bring to life for a photo shoot.

As David told it, he set about rounding up various types from the agency’s roster and staff from the various national pavilions at the fair. He finally had everyone he needed… except an Eskimo (as they were called then). He said, “Where the hell was I supposed to find an Eskimo in Montreal in August?” A couple of days later, he was walking past the main downtown Birks store and there in the window was an Eskimo, in his furs, carving soapstone. AN ESKIMO?!?! David zipped into the store, asked for the manager and said, “How much is that Eskimo in the window?” It seems that Birks had brought the artist down from the Arctic to demonstrate the art of soapstone carving and had provided him with a refrigerated booth in the front window for his demonstrations, hence the furs. The man was delighted to be asked to participate in the photo shoot and everything fell into place.

David said that the day of the shoot was clear and hot, as Montreal can be in the summer. The dozens of models all showed up and got into their costumes. The camera boom was ready, high overhead to take photos looking down at the performers, who were to join hands above their heads, looking up at the camera, in a living representation of the Expo theme. Well, it turned out that some nationalities didn’t want to stand next to other nationalities. Fine. That was sorted out. Then a cloud came by and the light wasn’t as good, so they waited a bit, with everyone in costume. When the cloud moved on, it was even hotter and not everyone was looking or feeling as fresh as they might. The male flamenco dancer who was next to the Eskimo then had an attack of what David called “the vapours” because of the increasing aroma of fish coming from the man’s furs. Meanwhile, the poor man in the furs was almost perishing from the heat. Finally everyone was in position and photos taken. Success!

A smaller, studio version of David's outdoor shoot has surfaced (thank you Gabriel Jacob!)

The actual studio shot has surfaced (thank you Gabriel Jacob)!

Postscript

It could well be that David’s memories of the photo shoot as described were a bit muddled and that the studio version above was indeed THE live photo of the Expo logo. There is no mention and no trace of an image as he described to be found on “the interwebs”. But it was a very good story… especially the Eskimo.

The NFB Connection

Montreal is home to the National Film Board. Through his contacts at Connie Brown’s, David met several of the leading lights of the NFB, including the filmmakers who had come ’round while he was in Phnom Penh in 1955. Among the people David met at the NFB were Norman McLaren, Guy Glover, his life-partner and NFB narrator/director, and an animator/actor, Grant Munro. David and Grant became good friends, and Grant made it a point to introduce David to what he considered “the right people”. David often described those “right people”, his friends at the Film Board as “creative lunatics”. Connie Brown provided many film extras and bit players for movies being shot around Montreal, including those of the NFB. David made a point of always sending  what he called his more “interesting-looking” models to NFB shoots.

Grant Munro was an avid world traveler, sending postcards to David, sometimes only vaguely addressed, that were always colourful, if somewhat illegible.

Grant Munro in a photo booth, late 60's

Grant Munro in a photo booth, late 60’s


Off to Greece!

March 30, 2013

In April 1965, David flew from Montreal to Athens via Zurich. He spent a few days in Athens, then took local buses and walked to Corinth, Delphi and Olympia. David said many times that he had often been in the wrong place at the right time. His visit to Greece would definitely qualify, as the country suffered a series of moderate to serious earthquakes, starting on the 9th and 31st of March 1965 and continuing through July 1966. One hotel he stayed in, though damaged, was open, but without a kitchen. All meal orders from the hotel dining room were sprinted away to the restaurant across the street!

David enjoyed telling the tale of a bus trip, likely from Corinth to Delphi (he wasn’t sure – his mind was still very fuzzy from his treatments at the Allan) that involved a great deal of uphill and downhill travel on steep, winding and narrow roads. On one leg of the journey, the driver gave him the seat of honour, in front of the door, with a clear view forward, to the side and DOWN. The bus, on encountering a hairpin bend, would have to be manoeuvred so that the right front wheel was JUST at the edge of the road before being cranked around to make the turn. David’s seat was directly above the right front wheel, and he often described the view downward as “clenching”. Another time, sitting farther back in the bus, a tiny crone of an old woman, dressed all in black, mounted the bus with a huge bag of lemons on her back. Before she was able to sit down, the bus took off and she dropped the lemons, which all rolled to the back of the bus. Everyone on the bus howled with laughter while the old lady shouted curses at the driver and the other passengers. After a minute or so, she started to laugh as well, and then everyone helped gather up the lemons and put them back in their sack.

Another of David’s stories about this trip centred on the theatre in Delphi. He was sitting near the top of the seating area, looking down over the valley below the townsite. An older couple wandered into the theatre from below, the woman taking a seat and the man taking a position on the old stage area. He then began to recite the history of Delphi from a guidebook in a very pleasant and professional-sounding voice. When the man was done, David strolled down to introduce himself. It turned out that this couple were on their way from Dublin, where the man had recently retired as a professor of history at Trinity, to India. On foot. They had no fixed agenda and were making their way by local transport when necessary, and walking the rest of the time.

The one tale David told of his time in Greece has a certain mythical quality to it: When not taking local buses, David walked, picking oranges and lemons from roadside trees for refreshment. When he got tired, he’d hitch a ride to his next destination. On one such occasion, he was befriended by one of the locals and invited to a local taverna for a midday meal. This local chap spoke some English and was very interested to know that David was not an American and not part of a tour. The lunch progressed to coffee and ouzo, by which time the taverna owner had joined the table and wanted to know if David knew his cousin in Chicago.

It turned out that the young man who had asked David to lunch was with a national theatre troupe that was in town for a performance, and of course David simply HAD to attend the performance that evening. On protesting that he knew no Greek, he was told not to worry, that a translator would be provided. On making his way to the theatre, where he was given free admission, David found that the place was packed, but he was escorted to the front of house to find the two centre seats in the front row were marked “reserved”. His young friend dashed out from backstage with one of the actresses and told David that his translator would change throughout the performance, as he or she would have to be on stage. With that, the curtain rose and a five-act play ensued, apparently one beloved by the audience and completely impenetrable to Our Mister Nixon, despite the series of actor/translators taking the seat next to him to explain it.

After the play, David, who really wanted only to sleep, was gathered up by the cast and swept along to a party that carried on until dawn. David asked why they were treating him so well when he was just a tourist. The answer was, “But you are not a tourist! You are not an American in an air-conditioned bus, you are here among us, living as we live. And for that we honour you!”

The following day, after waking to find himself in the arms of one of the actors, David prepared to continue his journey. He shouldered his pack and walked up out of the town toward the hills and the next town. On a rise in the road a good distance from the town, David looked back for a last glimpse and was amazed to see most of the town gathered to see him off. He waved and they all waved back. David said that there was nothing he could do then but sit for a moment and cry.

When not being taken up by theatre troupes, David usually stayed in youth hostels, after being assured it was alright to do so even if he was 30! He soon discovered that one didn’t rent a room at these hostels, one rented a bed (usually one of two) in a room. If others checked in, he might awaken to someone in the other bed. If not, he had the room to himself. His favourite was on Mykonos, a plain , modern building above the sea and the sailors’ chapel pictured in the slide above.

After a month away, living out of his pack and enjoying a carefree time in a country where he couldn’t speak or read the language, it was time for David to return to Canada and commence his next career… in the modelling business.


Montreal 1963-64: The Dark Time

March 29, 2013

David’s return to Canada in early 1962, via Boston on the “Wienertor”, was at the urging of Sylvia. He had arrived on her doorstep in London seeking employment and a way to try to understand what had been done to him the year before, when he had been ordered home from a posting in Leopoldville, summoned to an “interview” with the RCMP, and confronted with the accusation of being a homosexual and a security risk, unfit to continue working for the federal civil service. He was one of thousands purged from government, RCMP and armed forces from the early 1950s until the 1970s simply for being a suspected homosexual.

[This purge was covert, despite having support from Parliament. Its roots can traced to the defection of Igor Guzenko in 1945, which prompted the government to be ever more vigilant against security risks within its ranks – possible Soviet agents, communists, etc. – but it eventually expanded to include others who could be considered risks. Homosexuals were suspect because of their “character defect” and assumed susceptibility to blackmail.]

Unable to find meaningful work without references from External Affairs and unable to discuss the reasons for his sudden departure from the civil service, David moved to Montreal in the hope that a change of scene and culture could help him start over. Already in a deep depression (according to Sylvia – one of the reasons she urged him to go home), David’s mood did not lift after his move. He finally decided to seek medical attention and was referred to a psychiatrist. That psychiatrist, in turn, referred David to a clinic at the Allan Memorial Institute, part of McGill University.

"Ravenscrag" the Allan - today

“Ravenscrag” – the Allan – today

Sometime after being admitted to “the Allan”, David came to the attention of its director, Dr. D. Ewen Cameron. Dr. Cameron was doing experimental work for the RCMP and the American CIA, using combinations of drugs and other treatment in order to effect behavioural changes in patients. Once under Cameron’s “care”, David underwent at least 36 grand-mal electroconvulsive (shock) treatments in quick succession, was prescribed doses of drugs including Seconal that were far beyond the doses normally associated with treatment of depression, and possibly other treatments.

This particular phase of David’s life, even the timing of his admission and treatment, was indistinct for him for many years. The only things he was sure about was that he had checked himself in sometime in 1963 and checked himself out – against the wishes of those running the clinic – sometime in late 1964. David recalled that he left the Allan feeling “blank”. He had little recollection of where he had been, who his friends were, where he had worked – it was all pretty much gone. Through talking to his brother, his father, and the friends he could remember, reading his letters from overseas, and looking through his photos and slides, David was able to reassemble some memory of his past life. Whatever treatment he’d received at the Allan achieved some level of security for the government: David said that every time he tried to visualize the cipher machines or codebooks he’d used in his time with External Affairs, it was as if a hand pushed him away and he could never picture them for more than a fraction of a second before being “redirected”.

[In the late 1980’s, the Conservative government under Brian Mulroney offered a compensation package to those who had been affected by Dr. Cameron’s treatments. David obtained the application and wrote to the Allan for a copy of his file. Several hundred pages of photocopies arrived not long after with a note saying that these were just David’s clinic records. All records belonging to Dr. Cameron had been destroyed – by him – shortly before his death. David’s doctor read through the file and noted the numbers and strength of the drugs given. He then shook David’s hand and congratulated him on still being alive. As it turned out, David didn’t qualify for the compensation package – he wasn’t damaged badly enough. Obtaining his file from the Allan at least gave David firm dates about his admission and release, allowing him to put a few more pieces in the puzzle of his earlier life.]

Our Mister Nixon was made of stern stuff. Not long after getting out of the Allan in late 1964 and piecing his life back together, David was once again in the job market and had his usual amazing luck at finding something extraordinary. But not before taking himself on a journey to celebrate not only the end of his ordeal, but of turning 30 – officially “old” – in December that year. He’d already been to Asia, Africa and a good chunk of Europe. Where would this survivor choose to celebrate the start of his new life as a 30-year old?


Passport as Travelogue

March 29, 2013

Back in the good old days, travelling meant accumulating interesting stamps in your passport. Crossing borders between countries (by air, sea, rail or car), meant going through a checkpoint and changing money – things that are generally no longer required, especially in Europe.

Here is David’s passport – a special one with a green cover – issued in 1954 when he went to Indochina. It continues through 1959, when he returned to Canada from Germany. Viewing its pages, one can track David’s travels to his assignments as well as his holidays during and in between. This passport, on its own, is essentially a condensed travelogue, with bureaucratic illustrations in varying levels of complexity. Some are just small, basic stamps, but others are much more forceful in their statement of “officialness”.


Letters from London Pt. 2

February 17, 2013

January 28, 1962

Dear Dad and Russ,

I’m seriously handicapped by the fact my typewriter is not working – skipping terribly and something amiss with the ribbon mechanism as well – and have about a dozen notes to write today.

Lots of news – finished at Wyndham’s last night and going to Geneva to visit the Toughs, probably around February 6th, then returning to London about February 27th or 28th. I have decided to return to Canada to make some MONEY and I have a booking on the ship “St. John” which sails from London around March 1 or 2 and should arrive in St. John N.B. or Halifax about 9 or 10 days later. It’s a freighter (carrying automobiles only) with accommodation for 12 passengers and the fare is only about $163.00. I’ll send you a telegram when I arrive in St. John and then take the train to Ottawa. Well-paying jobs are few and far between here in London and, strangely enough, the only interesting job I’ve heard about was one with the American Cultural Exchange people in the Congo! No thank you!

I’ll not be in Ottawa for very long – I thought I would try my luck in Toronto. But we’ll see what happens when I get home. Please don’t write to this address anymore as neither Sylvia nor I will be here after next week. In case of an emergency, the Toughs Geneva address is: 53 Route de Malagnou, but I wouldn’t write there unless absolutely necessary as my length of stay is indefinite and mail might miss me.

Dad, could you possibly hold off my insurance premiums until I get home in March as I have had to drop most of my Ottawa bank balance to pay for my passage home.

Really must get on with the other letters now. I’ll try to drop you another note either from Geneva or before I leave London.

Sylvia sends her love.

See you soon, David

Geneva 1962

David’s postcard from Geneva

February 26, 1962

Dear Dad and Russ,
Leave for London tonight after marvelous visit with the Toughs. Expect to sail for St. John on Thursday or Friday this week. Got your letter and not to worry as I think I have enough (just!) $$ to see me through to Ottawa. Have fun in Florida, Dad, and I will see you when you get back to Ottawa.
Love, David

February 28, 1962

Dear Dad and Russ,

Have just wired for $200.00 – sorry!

Awful mixup in ships – “St. John” now not sailing until March 16th and then to Boston, not N.B. or N.S. I might be able to get on a German freighter in Hamburg sailing March 6th for Baltimore. All this of course requires more money – thus the telegram.

Must dash as am writing in the Post Office and there is a queue!

Will try to advise when I have definite plans.

See you soon,

love, David

March 2, 1962

Dear Dad and Russ,

Well, I went to the bank today and they gave me $200.00 worth of £ after checking with Ottawa, so I guess you got my telegram alright. Many thanks.

My travel plans are now finalized (I think – and hope!) as follows:

I leave London by train next Monday, March 5th, arriving Hamburg in the afternoon of Tuesday, March 6th. My ship, the “Wienertor” is supposed to sail at noon that day but they have wired to say they will await the arrival of myself and three other passengers from London who were also put out by the postponement of the “St. John” sailing. As there will be absolutely no time in Hamburg to arrange for transportation of my trunk from the station to the docks, I have had to have it shipped to Ottawa independently at a cost of about $60.00. It should arrive in about a month’s time.

Now the ridiculous thing about this “Wienertor” sailing is that the shipping company here in London are unable to tell me where it is going! The only information they can guarantee is that it is bound for the east coast of the USA which might mean Boston or New York or possibly Baltimore. If it does turn out to be Baltimore, I might pop down to Washington to say hello to George, and if it turns out to be New York, I will probably spend a day or two with Bob and Joan. In any case I shall return to Ottawa by Greyhound bus from any of the above-mentioned cities. I have no idea of the exact date I shall arrive but rumor has it that the crossing will take about 10 days to begin with.

Did I mention in my hasty Post Office note that all the Toughs send their love to you two?

Well, I guess that’s all for now. Bon voyage, Dad, and I’ll try to get home before you do!

David

The Wienertor

The Wienertor

This is the end of David’s letters from overseas.

After returning to Canada in a very depressed state, he eventually moved to Montreal, where the story line becomes somewhat murky and then very unpleasant; however, David, being David, managed to pull through and find a new life for himself. 

*** This blog will now go on hiatus while photos and slides are assembled and transported so they can be scanned and cleaned to better illustrate and continue the amazing times of Our Mister Nixon. ***


Letters from London Pt. 1

February 16, 2013

November 12, 1961

Dear Dad and Russ,

I must confess that it was not until I received your most welcome letter of November 5th that I realized I have not written to you for over a month! Time certainly does fly, as you note, when you were getting settled into a new environment. However, rest assured that I am enjoying the best of health and that I have been receiving your mail and that I have heard from Dominion Life and have satisfied the income tax people here on that account.

Well, things have certainly been happening as far as my work at Wyndham’s is concerned. First of all, about a month ago, a new show called “Bonne Soupe” [starring Coral Browne] opened at the Comedy Theatre which is controlled by the same people as Wyndham’s. I worked all day Sunday helping set up the lights and, I must admit, I found it extremely interesting and not a little exhausting! And our show, “The Miracle Worker”, ended its nine-month run on October 28th and we worked all Saturday night getting those lights out and all day Sunday, Monday and Tuesday morning setting up the lights for the new show, George Bernard Shaw’s “Heartbreak House”. Again it was very interesting and lots of fun, actually, because the people I work with are terribly nice. And besides, what with all the overtime I earned over £26 for one week’s work! I like our new show very much but it is extremely long – nearly 3 hours. There is a rumor, however, that this show will be at Wyndham’s for a limited run only – that is, it may just run until Christmas or the new year and then another show will come in, perhaps a murder mystery! Beginning tomorrow, I shall be first dayman (electrics) at Wyndham’s which means that I shall just have to work from 9:15 until 1:00 in the mornings and then the show each night (7:45 – 10:45) which gives me every afternoon (except Wednesdays and Saturdays, when we have a matinee) free to enjoy and see all the many, many things this wonderful city has to offer. It will also give me more time to look for accommodation as so far I have had no luck. Good, centrally located flats are very difficult to find unless you are prepared to pay enormous rents for them. Sylvia and I are getting along just fine in the meantime but she only has this flat until January. Sylvia, incidentally, is suffering from a throat ulcer and must stay off her show for a week to give her voice a good rest – it’s quite a strain on her singing one of the leads in a show eight times a week!

On the Sunday I had off between “Bonne Soupe” and “Heartbreak House”, I visited Brighton on the south coast for the first time (only an hour by train from London). I had a lovely time and am now planning a similar day trip to Oxford next Sunday, all being well. It’s amazing how much of this country you can see in just one day! Well, Sylvia has dinner just about ready and I must go set the table. Please don’t worry about me and I’ll try to write more often in future whenever I can get a spare moment.

My regards to all, David

PS: Sylvia sends her love to you both!

David's shows at Wyndham's

David’s shows at Wyndham’s

December 5, 1961

Dear Dad and Russ,

Well, here it is another birthday already! And you’ll be glad to hear that your letter, cards and £5 money order we’re awaiting me in this morning’s post. Many, many thanks. This just happens to be my night off so I am meeting Sylvia after her show and we are going out to a very swanky club for dinner where, I expect, we shall have little difficulty in disposing of the £5! We’ll be thinking of you both tonight.

Since writing to you I have also received your letter of November 21st enclosing Bill’s cheque and that marvelous article on Angkor Wat which I enjoyed reading so very, very much – one of the best articles I have ever read on the subject. I was rather surprised to hear that Bill is due to leave for London next week. I knew he was coming, of course, but just naturally thought that he would drop us a line before taking off, letting us know his plans. Oh well, I guess that’s just Bill’s way of doing things. Nonetheless, both Sylvia and I are looking forward to his visit and hope that he plans to stay over the Christmas season.

You’ll be happy to hear that Sylvia is much better now but she has had a rather rough time of it as no sooner did her throat ulcer clear up than she developed a dandy case of laryngitis – neither of which is too pleasant for a person who depends on singing for a livelihood! However, she feels that she is singing better now than ever before so possibly the forced rest did her a lot of good.

“Heartbreak House” is doing very good business at Wyndham’s as well it should because it really is a magnificent play – Shaw himself said it was his best work. And a week ago Sunday we had a show called “Kathleen” at Wyndham’s – just for the day. This is evidently quite common in London theaters where a company will rent one of the big theaters for a Sunday to give a performance.

We’ve been getting a lot of cloudy and rainy weather lately but today has been beautiful with sunshine and clear blue sky. It is not so very cold over here, just damp!

If you are writing to Aunt Clara and Uncle Russell you might mention that I received their card and tell them that I shall be dropping them a line myself before Christmas. That’s all for now and thanks again for the birthday greetings.

David

January 9, 1962

Dear Dad and Russ,

Thanks for the very newsy Christmas letter, Dad – it brought memories to both of us of the Christmases we all spent at the “Y”. You’ll be glad to hear that we, too, entertained and fed some “homeless but not penniless” acquaintances of ours here in London on both Christmas and New Year’s days. The oven was not big enough so Lyon’s Corner House catered with a rather huge turkey, ready roasted, stuffed and garnished! While Christmas was green here, it was bitterly cold – one day, evidently, was the coldest in 90 years! On New Year’s Eve, it snowed all day long which suited us Canadians to a “T” but didn’t go down too well with the Londoners. The snow is all gone now and today was just “heavy sweater” weather.

Bill did not show up, but sent seven letters all at once – he sounds very depressed about his job and life in general, I’m afraid.

About snapshots – rather difficult because I only have 35 mm in my camera and Sylvia doesn’t own a camera but we’ll see what we can do. I’m sure you would change your mind about the beard if you could see it now. London barbers are all expert beard trimmers since about one out of every five men over here have beards now. It’s the style!

Sylvia’s show finishes on February 3rd and she is taking a well-deserved month’s holiday with people she knows in the south of France (Cannes). So far, nothing new has turned up for her so her future is a bit hazy at the moment.

“Heartbreak House” is still the show at Wyndham’s though there is a rumor to the effect that something else might replace it in about a month.

Except for a slight cold which everyone in London seems to have, I’m enjoying very good health. As is Sylvia, now that her throat trouble has cleared up.

Well, I guess that’s all for now.

Love from both of us, David


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