My Travels Abroad; War on the Horizon (1939)

A reminiscence based on the personal diary of a 14-year old in the last gorgeous summer of 1939 in France

(2)
La Cour aux Glycines: L’Hôtel de la Renaissance, Rue Murger, Bourron-Marlotte, Seine et Marne, France

Prologue 

In the spring of 1939 my father could see the War coming and realized that the coming summer would be the last opportunity for him and my mother to see their European friends—of twenty years—before the end of peace. He had not taken a real vacation for ten years or so and arranged for an entire summer of vacation.

My father had served with the AEF in France in the summer and fall of 1918 as a Lieutenant of engineers (303rd Engineer Train, 78th Division) where he commanded a corps of one-hundred mules and fifty motor trucks seeing action near St. Menehould in the Argonne Forest building pontoon bridges under fire at night to permit river crossings by the AEF.

1919_H_L_FkaParis
Paris- 1918 (Kerr on right)

Following the November 11th Armistice he was billeted for the fall, winter, and spring months of 1919 in the house of a family named Chapeau (also Fleureau) in the village of Vénary-les-Laumes—a billet he shared with two fellow officers Herring and Lokensgaard (see framed sepia-tone of trio taken in Paris).  My father became attached to the family and especially to the small boy Fernand Chapeau to whom he later sent assistance for his schooling.  The old uncle (Fleureau) in residence had lived through two Prussian invasions of France (and as yet unforeseen, was to witness and to survive a third).

Leandre et Mme. Legal 22 Rue St. Martin, Hautvillers
Leandre et Mme. Legal 22 Rue St. Martin, Hautvillers

My mother had gone, in December of 1918, under the auspices of the YMCA, to do canteen work in France at Bay-sur-Aube for the soldiers who remained in France long after the Armistice—for lack of available shipping.  There she came to know another Y-girl, Juliet Whiton. Later, in June 1919 when that assignment ended, in order to remain in France over the summer, she joined an American Red Cross group, locally administered by British (Quaker) Friends, where she met “Jock” (Lady Chalmers) and “Benjamin” (Grace Lindley); British women, who took men’s names for a lark (my Mother became “Rufus” owing to her auburn hair) and who became lifelong friends.  With them in Nanteuille-la-Fosse (now-la-Forêt) and Hautvillers near Epernay she helped in the rural reconstruction, worked in the vineyards, and came to know the widow Legal—later Minoggio—and her son Léandre, to whom she became “marraine” or godmother.

In 1921 my mother and father (who had grown up together in Ithaca, NY) met again by chance in the New York subway and were married in Ithaca on August 18th, 1921.  They spent the rest of that summer on their honeymoon in France during which time they visited the friends they had come to know in 1919.

This summer of 1939 would be their last foreseeable opportunity to revisit them.  I was fourteen (just leaving eighth grade) and my sister Holley was thirteen.  We lived at 85 Ledgeways, Wellesley Hills, MA.

Much of this account is pretty mundane. Pay more attention to the annotations in italics and later parts as the War clouds gathered.


Diary
Diary

June 6th, Tue.   Wellesley Hills, New York (by car: a new ’39 Pontiac)
“We started from Wellesley Hills about 8:00a with a farewell party in the driveway.  Had lunch in Westbourough [sic] then went by the Merritt Highway into the Whitestone Bridge.  Found our lodgings and went to the Fair.  We saw the Federal Bldg., Railroads, and the Trylon and Perisphere.  Tomorrow will see all the countries.  We wore our feet out walking and went to bed.

So worried had been my father about getting away on this trip that for several days in the preceding weeks he had forbidden us to go to school where mumps were for a while prevalent, and forbade us to go to at least one party or social function which seemed to us at the time as desperately unfair. Tears of anger and frustration!
      In the driveway at 85 Ledgeways the neighborhood kids came over on their bikes to hang out and to say goodbye. The Merritt Parkway had just opened that spring and was considered a marvel of modern highway engineering. The Fair, of course, was the New York World’s Fair of 1939.

TrylonPerisphere
Trylon & Perisphere (NYDailyNews)June 7th, Wed.  Flushing Meadows, Long Island

“Got up early.  Ate breakfast at Blue Bird Inn.  Daddy went in to New York City and left Holley and [me] at the Foreign section.  Had lunch at Childs then saw Chrysler, Ford, aviation, maritime, US Steel, Italy and USSR.  We were so tired that we ate at the Blue Bird Inn and went to bed. PS we saw the smallest [electric] motor in the world.  It was about the size of a kernel of corn.

      At US Steel a full-sized automobile was suspended above the floor by a steel wire so thin it could hardly be seen and somewhere else a bicycle rolled continuously on rollers in wavering balance without a rider, controlled by some sort of rudimentary feedback computer.

June 8th, Thu.    Long Island
“Up at 7:30 and had breakfast at the Blue Bird Inn.  Then we went to the Fair.  We were at the Fair all day and saw Petroleum, Westinghouse, Amer. T&T, Communications, France, DuPont, Carrier Corp., Metals, Cons. Edison, Kodak, Sweden, [Missourie] and the fireworks on the Lagoon of Nations.  When we came home we met mother.  Coming home we went right to bed.

      Holley and I wanted desperately to go on at least one of the seemingly spectacular rides (Parachutes, roller coaster, etc.) but my parents wouldn’t allow it; too frivolous a waste of time otherwise to be spent in educational pursuit!

 June 9th, Fri.    Long Island
“Up at 7:30.  Went right to Fair and saw General Motors.  Also we saw Glass, and again Kodak and General Electric.  In afternoon we met Randolph Cautley for supper.  Saw French and Coronation Scott [?] exhibits.  In morning Daddy smashed up the car and we had to have it fixed.  We leave for the boat tomorrow, oh! boy! 

June 10th, Sat.    Long Island, New York City, MV Georgic
“We left Flushing and went to Pennsylvania Station by the subway.  From there we went to the Cunard dock and had breakfast.  Then we got on the boat.  We sailed at noon and passed the Statue of Liberty.  After dinner we looked around the boat and had tea.  After supper we went to bed.  I have an upper berth.

MVGeorgic
MV Georgic [GracesGuide.co.uk]
     The ship, the Cunarder MV Georgic was, I believe, later lost during the War after having been converted to a troop ship.  In 1939 ordinary people were unable to fly across the Atlantic as regular commercial air service became common only after the War.

June 11th, Sun.    MV Georgic
“Had breakfast and made some new friends.  Then we went to church.  After that we had some fun at deck tennis and the gym.  In the afternoon we went swimming and had tea.  In the evening we saw “Gunga Din” in the lounge also we set our clocks back one hour.

      To this day I remember scenes from that film—vultures taking to the air from desolate desert telegraph wires and, at the end, as the unsuspecting British Gurkhas approach the rebel ambush, prisoner Gunga Din, wounded but determined, struggles to the top of the fortress dome with his bugle to sound the alarm.  Not quite what Kipling had in mind but a stirring story nonetheless.
     ECA [my mother]: Holley fell out of the upper berth so we put her in the lower.

June 12th, Mon.    MV Georgic
“Holley and I played deck tennis all morning.  In the afternoon we had a swim and played ping-pong.  Later there were some “horse races” but we did not bet.  After supper we played some more ping-pong and went to bed.

June 13th, Tue.    MV Georgic
“Got up and played deck tennis with Holley.  After dinner we played ping-pong.  Later we went on a trip through the engine room of the ship.  I had a slight headache all afternoon.  After tea we played chess and watched the horse races.  In the evening there was a movie “The Cowboy and the Lady” which was lousy.  Went right to bed.

      I remember some popular tunes of the time which I always associate with this ocean trip: “Bei Mir Bist du Schoen”, “The Three Little Fishies” (They swam, and they swam, right over the dam), “Deep Purple”, and “My Heart Belongs to Daddy”.

June 14th, Wed.    MV Georgic
“Slept very late in the morning.  Wrote four letters in the writing room.  Holley and I played deck tennis all afternoon.  The sea is pretty rough and the ship is rolling a little.  Played ping-pong and went to bed late.

39061201_GeorgicJune 15th, Thu.    MV Georgic
“Got up at 7:30 had breakfast.  Played around with the elevator boy for about an hour.  Holley and I played deck tennis all morning.  At 11:00 we went on a tour of the ship.  In the afternoon we played deck tennis and skipped a kiddie’s party.  At supper there were balloons again.  Broke several.  Went to a concert and saw the “Little Princess” [Shirley Temple].  Bed late.

      The concert was a string quartet.  My mother was continually annoyed at not having been able to place one of the passengers whom, she was convinced, she knew personally or, at least, had seen before somewhere. It was revealed at the concert; for the man she “knew” was playing first violin. She had observed him closely, she finally remembered, at a concert in Boston in the spring. They were the Pro Arte String Quartet [the first violinist was Alphonse Onnou, who died of leukemia at age 46 in late 1940].

June 16th, Fri.    MV Georgic
“Got some guys and played Michigan in the morning and afternoon.  Also watched them hauling cars out of the hold.  Someone said we would see land in the morning.  Bed early.

June 17th, Sat.    MV Georgic
“Got up at 6:30 and saw first glimpse of Ireland.  Came in to Queenstown [sic; it was Cork] harbor and the tender came to meet us.  Watched the passengers and cars go overboard to the other boat.  Also saw the pilot come aboard.  Left Queenstown and headed for South Hampton, England.  Saw “The Wings of the Navy” then went to bed.

June 18th, Sun.    MV Georgic, Rouen
“Got up early and watched the boat come in to South Hampton.  Cars and [ship’s] laundry were unloaded.  Had lunch and headed for Europe across the English Channel.  Played Michigan and lost.  Arrived at Le Havre, France.  Started driving to Paris and stopped at a hotel in Rouen.  Went to bed.

June 19th, Mon.    Rouen, Les Petites Andelys
“Had a lousy breakfast.  Went out and saw the Cathedral, the market place and the tower where Joan of Arc was a prisoner.  After lunch we started for Paris but stopped at Les Andelys on the Seine to see a lady [Mme. Champsaur].  We had to wait so long that we stayed for the night.  While there we saw the Chateau Gaillard built by Richard the Lionheart—all in ruins.  Stayed at the hotel Chain d’Or.

June 20th, Tue.    Les Andelys, Paris
“Got up early.  Took the [guide] book back to Mme. Champsaur.  Started driving for Paris.  Arrived in Paris and found the Hotel [Universitie].  Went to the Amer. Express Co. and got mail.  Holley and mother to a hairdresser.  Daddy and I saw the Luxembourg Gardens.  After supper [Rallye] we saw the Tuileries Gardens and the Arc de [Triumph].  Drove in the car and saw the [Eiffle] Tower.  Back to the Hotel and bed.

June 21st, Wed.    Paris, Fontainebleau
“Had breakfast in Paris. After this we started driving for [Fontainbleau]. Saw a palace that Napoleon built and found a place to stay.  After dinner we went on a tour through the Chateau of Napoleon then walked around the garden. We went to look for hotels for the summer. Had supper and stayed over night at the Hotel Angelus “lousy”.

June 22nd, Thu.    Fontainebleau
“Went back to Fontainbleau to the “Cascade”.  Played ping-pong and wrote letters.  Daddy at Chateau for music. All afternoon looked at hotels and at last found one [La Renaissance] that we [all] liked. Had supper at the Cascade and played ping-pong. Bed and bath.

39062301_Cascades      Les Cascades was in Avon just south of the Palace.  We had great arguments about hotels for the summer.  Mom and Dad would like what Holley and I hated and vice versa.  Holley and I sort of liked the Cascade. Nice graveled yard and garden, games, etc. In the dining room of the Cascade was a painting of the head of an American Indian carrying a grim expression on his face; mother commented that it seemed to her that he had just had an “arrow escape”. Groans all around.

June 23rd, Fri.    Paris, Fontainebleau
“Played ping-pong for awhile.  Daddy and Mother walked to Fontainbleau while Holley and I played at the Cascade.  In the afternoon we went back to the Hôtel [de la] Renaissance and took a walk in the forest.  We drove to the firing range [champ de tir] of the artillery school and back to the hotel.  When we finished our business there we watched an old painter at work [in the street].  Had supper and played tennis.  Bed.

      At the champ de tir the guns [French 75s?] were firing directly away from us toward a distant hillside.  My father claimed that, at the height of its arc, he could discern a fleeting shadow of the shell itself in flight directly away from us.  I looked, and looked, and could never see what he saw.

June 24th, Sat.    Fontainebleau, Paris
“After P.D. [petit déjuner] we started driving for Paris.  On the way we played a new game.  We went to the Amer. Exp. Co. and to the Louvre and saw some artists.  After dinner we went to Notre Dame and saw the 3 rose windows.  Then we climbed to the top and saw the grotesque gargoyles.  We stayed for supper at a hotel [Victoria Palace] took a walk [Luxembourg Gardens] and went to bed.  P.S. bought a map of New England, 1580 A.D.

June 25th, Sun.    Paris, Fontainebleau
“Got up early at the Hotel Victoria Palace and went to Napoleon’s Tomb.  Then we went to Versailles and went through the palace with an old man.  After that we had lunch and walked around the gardens.  We watched the fountains for a while and went to Fontainbleau had supper and went to bed.

      In Paris in late June and early July dark does not come until almost eleven at night so that the days can be long filled with activity.

June 26th, Mon.    Fontainebleau
“Daddy took us to see them firing on the champ de tir.  On the way home we got caught in a rain storm.  Had lunch.  Went and played in the sand pile while Daddy and Mother went to Fontainbleau.  Holley and I ran to the champ de tir saw them fire and walked back [to the Cascade].  Holley walked with Mother and Daddy then supper.

June 27th, Tue.    Fontainbleau, Bourron-Marlotte
“We played ping-pong all morning while Mother and Daddy packed.  After lunch we packed our bags and played ping-pong.  Then we took the bags down to [La Renaissance in] Marlotte and on the way we watched the firing.  We watched the old painter finishing his picture and then went home.  After supper Holley and I tried to see how far we could get in ping-pong, we made 120 times.

      We spent the summer at the Hôtel de la Renaissance on the Rue Murger in Bourron-Marlotte.  It was owned by the family Perronet (Madame, M’seur, and their two boys Jacques, the elder, and Michel who were just a year or so older than we).
One entered from the narrow street through an iron gate which opened onto a spacious gravelled court—itself widely open beyond to a wooded wilderness after crossing hedged and gravelled garden paths.  Buildings enclosed the court on three sides, a two story   connecting structure forming the façade on the street and the roof of the gate; all of it old and stuccoed.  Overhead garlands of hanging wisteria draped the court in the center of which was a small stone “well”.
      The section on the right housed a dining room—used only in bad weather—and farther back, under more wisteria and flanked by a kiosk, an open gravelled space served as the al fresco dining patio; tables all around under parasols.  The kitchen was nearby and beyond somewhere was the kitchen garden.  On the right over the dining room and other ground floor rooms were other guest rooms and the residence rooms of the Perronet family.
      We were assigned rooms on the left over some public spaces containing a billiard and a ping-pong table and another (with a piano) large enough for fencing matches.
      There are three surviving color stereopticon photo’s of the courtyard area two of which have Holley, Jacques, and me in the middle ground. There is as well a sepia tone postcard probably of the thirties.  Thereon the yard is grandly called La Cour aux Glycines.
      Renoir’s house is across the rue Murger, occupied then by his son.
      Anyone who has stayed here and at the same time has read Rumer Godden’s novel The Greengage Summer would be convinced that the two venues must have been one and the same.

June 28th, Wed.    Marlotte, Loire valley
“Got up very early in order to get an early start for the [Chateaux] Country.  We started at 9:00 and drove to Blois where “Ze Duc de Guise vas here kill-ed right in ze middle of ze room”.  We had lunch and drove through Tours to Chinon and the Castle.  Here we had tea and saw the ruins of Chinon.  There were towers and dungeons all around.  When we got to the car we [had] lost the keys but [I] found them again [in the grass].  We drove to Tours, had supper and went to bed.

      When my parents were at Blois in 1921 their guide had so described the demise of the Duc and my Mother delighted in repeating the phrase whenever it seemed vaguely appropriate.

June 29th, Wed.    Loire valley, Marlotte
“Had breakfast in the girls bedroom then drove to Loches and saw all the awful dungeons and tortures.  We had our picture taken at a stone dog.  Then we went to Chenonceaux and its Chateau.  After lunch we drove to Amboise and saw a spiral ramp where horses could climb up.  Then we drove to Marlotte and had supper and bed.

39062900_LochesDog     The picture by the stone dog(s) is among the stereopticon photos that we took with my father’s two-lens camera.
      At Loches my parents were sure that they had the same man as a guide that they had had in 1921.  They remembered him as a master at rattling the keys, locks, and chains in the dimly lit dungeons.  He gave me a rose blossom which I saved and dried and put in a little screw-top bottle; sill among my things.  It smells as rich now as it did then.
      At Loches in 1999 I asked the guides about this man and they remembered him well-—he had died sometime in the seventies at a great age.  I took a picture, again, of the stone dogs.

June 30th, Fri.    Marlotte
“Bought a ping-pong ball and played, (it was lousy).  Holley smashed the ball so we played billiards.  Then after lunch we played more billiards, put another dent in the ball and played more billiards. After supper Mother read to us.

July 1st, Sat.    Marlotte
“Stayed in bed all morning, wrote a letter and two postcards.  Mother read to us.  Had some soup in bed.  Played some games, told some jokes then had an orange.  Mother and Holley drew me in bed and Mother drew Holley.  Daddy came home and went to sleep had supper and went to bed.

July 2nd, Sun.    Marlotte
“Had breakfast in the girl’s room.  After breakfast Mother read to us from Holley’s book.  Then I got up for lunch.  After lunch we played billiards and then studied the verb donner.  Then played more billiards.  After supper Mother read to us then we went to bed.

July 3rd, Mon.    Marlotte
“Played billiards with Holley.  Mother and Daddy went to Fontainbleau after lunch and we played chess.  Holley won twice and I won once.  Then we played billiards with Jack  Perronet.  After supper we went to see about French lessons.  Then came back and talked with M. Perronet.  Bed.

      My parents had enrolled in the American Summer School at Fontainebleau for the summer; my mother in French and the history of music and theater, and my father in violin—which he played moderately well but which he enjoyed immensely.   With our parents at school part of most weekdays Holley and I were left to ourselves and to play with Jaques Perronet.   Michel must have been elsewhere; I have almost no recollection of him.

July 4th, Tue.    Marlotte
“Holley and I played billiards then went with Mother to rent bicycles.  We rode around Marlotte in the morning.  Mother and Daddy went to Fontainbleau for lunch.  We had lunch alone then rode almost to Grez [-sur-Loing].  When we came back we played a tie game of chess.  Then we rode our bicycles with Jack and he showed us his room.  After supper Jack showed us a new game of cards.  Bed late.

July 5th, Wed.    Marlotte
“Had a French lesson with Mlle. Coquard.  It was lousy, rode around the garden and then had lunch.  In the afternoon Jack took us up to the “Gorge au Loups” and we sailed boats.  Then he gave us some good tea.  After supper we played cards with Jack in our room then went to bed.

July 6th, Thu.    Marlotte
“Had a French lesson.  Then went down and played chess and rode bicycles.  After lunch played chess and rode bicycles.  After supper read and went to bed.
P.S. Went and saw a much better lady about French lessons.

July 7th, Fri.    Marlotte
“Had a French lesson. Rode our bikes then had lunch.  Daddy took Mother to Fontainbleau for her French lesson.  Holley and I played chess then went to a violin quartet in Fontainbleau.  After supper we read in our room.  Bed.

      At lunch and dinner there was always fresh garden salad available.  Without fail, a minute or two after salad had been ordered, we would see the tall blond waiter fly from the kitchen to the garden and back, long curly hair streaming behind him like wings on a casque.  My mother called him Hermes.

July 8th, Sat.    Marlotte
“After breakfast we had our last French lesson with Mlle. Coquard.  After the lesson we rode around the garden.  We had lunch and then did some sketching on the street.  Then Holley and I rode our bicycles into the forêt.  After supper we rode around the garden with the French family.  Bed 10:00.

July 9th, Sun.    The Argonne
“Started for the Argonne forest.  Had lunch at St. Menehould then went to the forest.  We saw the front line, the old German machine gun nests and trenches.  Daddy took us over the same route that he and his mules went over in the war.  Also we saw the big American cemetery and monument [at Romagne].  We saw the German dugouts also.  Got home at 12:00 very tired.  Bed!!
P.S. Daddy got stopped for having white headlights on our car.  The French ones are yellow.

ECA: “Started for the battlefields. A day of showers, sun, and cloud shadows.  The countryside was beautiful.  Drove to Grand Pré where K. showed us all his hangouts during the War. Swung around by Varennes and the Argonne Forest.  Saw Joy’s and my dugout salle de bains and the Kron Prinz dugout.  Then to Romagne to see the American cemetery.  Home by way of Montfaucon where we climbed the high war monument.  Everything is green and the scars of the War are practically gone.”

July 10th, Mon.    Marlotte
“Got up very late and had breakfast.  We rode around on our bicycles around the garden.  After lunch Mother and Daddy went to Fontainbleau.  Jack, Holley and I rode to Fontainbleau and saw the champ de tir, the Palace, and his school. I painted a stained glass window then we had supper and read.  Bed.

July 11th, Tue.    Paris, Vincennes
“We rode around all morning.  Then we and Jack drove to Paris and the Bois de Vincennes [a zoo].  We had lunch at the bois then saw the animals.  They are all in pits surrounded by cement like stone.  I liked the bears and the seals the best.  We climbed the big rock and then went home.  After supper we played ping-pong and went to bed.

July 12th, Wed.    Marlotte
“Wrote letters in the morning then had a drawing lesson with Madam Bourgose.  We drew a hand.  After lunch Jacques took us to a big sand pile in the forest.  He had some firecrackers and almost killed himself (oh yeah).  Played ping-pong after supper and had a [bike] crash.  I got a flat tire.  Bed.

July 13th, Thu.    Marlotte

81052005005
Window

“After breakfast we wrote some postal cards and letters.  Then had our French lesson.  I drew Mme. de l’Epinois’ bathroom window then had my lesson.  After lunch fooled around the garden and then went and watched the artist [M. Vaillant] sketch the street.  Started one myself.  After supper did some more and went to bed.

      Madame de L’Epinois (our “new” French teacher?) was a middle aged lady whom my parents more or less befriended.  She had an old house directly across from La Renaissance with an ornate bathroom window that overlooked the street.

July 14th, Fri.    Marlotte, Riom, La Bourboule
“Got up at 7:00 and had breakfast in the room.  Then started driving to Clermont-Ferrand.  Had lunch at St. Pierre and went on.  At Riom we turned off for La Bourboule through some beautiful mountain country.  When we got to Bourboule we found a hotel  and then went up a funicular railway and got a good view.  Then we went into a church and saw some [Bastille Day] fireworks.  Bed.

July 15th, Sat.    La Bourboule, Clermont-Ferrand,
“Started driving for Clrmt. Ferrand.  On the way we stopped at a Chateau and saw it.  It is in Murols.  Had lunch at Champaix.  Got to Clrmt.  Ferrand and found Daddy’s friend [Paul DeBrion].  They took us to their summer place.  There we saw their baby.  On the way back we saw a rainbow that was very beautiful. Stayed for the night at La Palisse.  Bed Very tired.

      The rainbow was memorable for its having been projected well below us against a dark, forested background as we traversed a high mountain road above a deep valley.  It was double.  I have seen few like it since—one from halfway up 1,200 foot Cannon Cliff in Franconia Notch, NH as I retreated by rappel to the talus after a soaking hail storm.

July 16th, Sun.    Clermont-Ferrand, Venary-les-Laumes, Marlotte
“Started driving for Venary.  Arrived there at dinner time.  We stayed for lunch at Fernand Chapeau’s house.  After lunch he took us to see a statue of Vercingetorix.  Saw some Phenoecian ruins.  After this started driving for Sens and Marlotte.  Had supper at La Renaissance.  Very tired so went to bed.

39071602_FamChapeau(2)
KA, Fernand Chapeau, MFleury/ HA, WA, MmeC?, MmeFC, MmeF?/ PierreC, SisterC

    The ruins are actually Roman—The ancient site of Alesia.
Vercingetorix is, I believe, the inspiration for the French cartoon character Asterix.
Whom we visited was young, thirtyish Fernand Chapeau of Venary. The village is Venary-les-Laumes near Montbard between Auxerre and Dijon. After a long search ca 1999 I found Fernand’s son Pierre at the same house. He was smitten, and he later told me that his sister refused to believe my visit. He was
maçon and described his father, who had died several yeras earlier, simply as écrivan without elaboration. I have wondered since about this reticence. The Vichy period during the War was a divided and dangerous place.

July 17th, Mon.    Marlotte
“After breakfast we wrote some letters and then went to our French lesson.  Then we had lunch.  Mother went to Fontainbleau and we fooled around and then we had tea with Jaques Perronet.  Went sketching with Mother.  Started a street scene.  Read after supper out of “Land For My Sons”.  Bed

July 18th, Tue.    Marlotte
39072001_MarlotteMurgerE2“Played around with Jacques then took our bikes to be fixed.  After dinner we sketched awhile and I finished a very good one of the street.  Got our bicycles and had supper.  Then we read while it rained.  Bed.

July 19th, Wed.    Marlotte
“Had to write a letter to Mr. Mackey in picture writing.  Went to our sketching lesson with Madame Bourghus.  Had lunch.  Rode our bikes then went to Moret to sketch.  I did a shield.  After supper we walked and then read.  Bed.

      Mr. Mackey was the “hired man” at the Booth farm in Locke, NY where Holley and I were boarded out for several summers in the mid-thirties.
     He was memorable for having taken a more or less educational interest in us.  Showing us unusual things in the woods, how to make pokeberry ink, making for us a board with mounted and labeled samples from a dozen kinds of tree, building a little water wheel mill in the stream behind the barn, etc.  We considered him somewhat mysterious as he would come and go for extended periods without ever telling us children where he went.
      I still have the watercolor of the shield and the other “drawings” mentioned in this account.

July 20th, Thu.    Marlotte
“As in all others.  Wrote letters and then had our French lesson.  She showed us her dog’s medals from Paris.  Had lunch and then sketched the Rue Murger from where the artist first sat.  Had supper then read “Land For My Sons”.

July 21st, Fri.    Marlotte, Paris
“Had breakfast in the room!!!  Then Daddy drove us to the train at Montigny and we went to Paris.  We shopped all morning then had lunch. Got on the train and went to Montigny where Daddy met us.  Rode our bikes then finished “Land For My Sons”.  Bed.

July 22nd, Sat.    Marlotte, Moret
39072201_MoretWindow2“Went to Moret and started to sketch the old gates but it poured rain and we went into the church.  I did a stained glass window.  After lunch we went for a walk and I lost the party and came home.  After supper we started “Quentin Durward” by Sir Walter Scott.  Bed.

      Louis XI figured prominently in Scott’s Quentin Durward and Loches was one of his venues.  It was Louis Onze who invented the cages and many of the tortures there.  He wore a soft cap with cast leaden ornaments.  His massive wooden cages—too small either to stand in or to lie full length—can still (1999) be seen at Loches.

July 23rd, Sun.    Marlotte, Chateau Thierry, Reims
“Started for Reims to see the Cathedral.  On the way we stopped at Chateau Thierry and saw two monuments.  Here is where the heaviest fighting on the American side was done during the war.  Also we saw Epernay where mother was after the war and saw Hautvillers and the house where she stayed [at Nanteuille-la-Fosse, 110 rue de Bré].  At Reims we had lunch and saw the Cathedral.  Then came home and then went to bed.

July 24th, Mon.    Marlotte
“Wrote some letters then watched the gym teacher do some junk.  Went to our French lesson and had lunch.  Mother et Daddy went to Fontainbleau and we fooled around.  Went to the big sand pile and made a ball shoot.  Started home and got caught in a hail and rain storm.  Got soaked.  Came home and dried off.  Read, supper, read and then Bed.

July 25th, Tue.    Marlotte

39072501_MoretGate2
The gate at Moret

“Wrote a postcard and then went to Moret with Mother and Holley.  I drew one of the ancient gates and Holley drew nothing.  Had a late lunch.  Played ping-pong with a man.  Daddy met him and he is a Baron.  After supper we played billiards and went to bed.

     This man was Danish Baron Peter von Soren a member, we later learned, of the British Intelligence Service.  After communicating with him for a year or so we lost touch and presume that he was lost in the War.  Peter had a goatee and somewhat resembled likenesses of Shakespeare.

July 26th, Wed.    Marlotte
“Wrote a postcard then went to our drawing lesson.  It was lousy.  Had dinner then fooled around.  Later we went to meet Baron Peter Soren for tea.  Then he took us canoeing.  Had supper then read and to Bed.

July 27th, Thu.    Marlotte
“Did jobs and went to our French lesson.  After lunch we went to Fontainbleau and met Polly Applewhite and her friend.  Then went to the movies.  The first one was lousy but the second Marco Polo was swell.  Afterward we went home had supper and read Quentin Durward.  Bed.

      Polly and her mother we had met on the Georgic.

July 28th, Fri.    Marlotte, Melun
“Played around until dinner.  After dinner we went to Melun on some tourist business.  After that we saw a beautiful chateau called Veaux le Vicompt.  Afterward we passed some plages and I walked home from Montigny.  After supper we read.  Bed.

      The French government had issued a requirement that all aliens must register for “Cartes de Tourismes” at the nearest departmental seat—for us, Melun.  There was a huge line for the caisses—one had to wait in one line for one part of the process and then go to the end of the other line for the second part.  It took forever.  When my father finally reached the first window the fonctionaire began to review his papers.  Upon being asked in what capacity he was last in France (as my father had noted on his form) my father answered, “Comme soldat“.  The man exploded “Comme soldat, comme soldat!” and passed him instantly to the head of the second line and we were out of there in moments.
      Vaux le Vicompt was designed by the builder of Versailles; André le Nôtre

July 29th, Sat.    Marlotte
“Looked at the maps of Brittany for mileage.  Played around and had dinner.  After dinner we went to Fontainebleau and played a new game of billiards there.  Got some ice cream and came home.  After supper Daddy and I played billiards then went to bed.

July 30th, Sun.    Marlotte
“Went to Montigny to get Peter Soren.  Mother and Daddy went with him to church while we went to the restaurant.  It was closed but we got in later.  After lunch we went canoeing with Peter and went swimming it was cold.  Came back and had supper.  Read and went to bed.

     The restaurant was in Montigny-sur-Loing called La Vanne Rouge and its terrace was right on the river dotted with tables and parasols and with a boat ramp and canoes.
ECA: “[for dinner] they served chicked and veg., fresh melon, salad, cheese, fruit, tarts, coffee.  Peter is a conoisseur on wines so we had him choose.  He took Grande Cru Croton, 1910, a red wine, very nice.”
     La Vanne Rouge is still there (1999) as I went out of my way to find it.  It was late afternoon and closed; the patron wouldn’t let me in for a beer so I had only to peer through the cracks in the gate to get a glimpse.  I tried to walk from there to Marlotte but found the distance (3 km) far greater than I had remembered, so great in fact that I had to return to get my car. In 1939 we thought nothing of walking to Montigny and back of a summer evening.

July 31st, Mon.    Marlotte
“Did jobs and went to Fontainbleau and picked up Polly and her mother.  Then came to the hotel an got a pick-nick lunch.  Went to the Loing river got a big rowboat and went up the river.  Had our supper and boy what sandwiches.  Had a swell time coming back.  Took them to Fontainbleau and then went to bed.
ECA: “In Fontainbleau we saw whole lines of artillery soldiers file by on horseback in the moonlight.”

August 1st, Tue.    Marlotte
“I got out the maps and planned the mileage for our Brittany trip.  After lunch rode to Fontainbleau and met Polly at the Palace then we went to the restaurant and played all afternoon.  Came home and had supper then went to bed.

August 2nd, Wed.    Marlotte
“Went to our drawing lesson.  Holley started an oil painting.  After lunch we went to Peter’s hotel and then he took us to a little weekend house and we played ping-pong.  Mother and Daddy came and we had tea and played chess. Read out of Quentin Durward.

August 3rd, Thu.    Marlotte
“Went down to breakfast then went to our French lesson.  I drew and started some oils and Holley some palette knife.  After dinner it rained so we went over and finished painting.  Rained all afternoon then we had supper and went to bed.

August 4th, Fri.    Marlotte, Nemours
“Had breakfast and then got Peter and went to Nemours and saw the church and an old museum with some guns and old locks in it.  After lunch we went to Fontainbleau on our bikes and met Polly and two others with red hair Billy and Joan.  Had tea under the arch with Simon Pigley.  Glad to get rid of Joan.  Had supper with the Applewhites and heard the concert.  Bed.

August 5th, Sat.    Marlotte, Paris, Libourne
“Got up and packed for Libourne near Bordeaux.  Had an early lunch then took the bus to Paris.  Saw the museum of Arts et Metiers then saw the Wax Works [Musee Grevin].  Had supper then went to the station [Gare Quai d’Orsay] and got on the wagon-lit.  Went to bed in the upper berth.

     The Gare Quai d’Orsay  is now the Musée d’Orsay since 1986.

August     6th, Sun.    Libourne, Ste. Foy la Grande (Gironde)
“Got up at 5:00 and got off the train at Libourne.  Then took a small train to Ste. Foy la Grande.  Here we met the Minoggios and went to their house [Villa Anfa, Rosière] and had breakfast.  Took a walk [along the Dordogne] until lunch.  After lunch we took another walk to town and the park.  Came home and had supper.  Played with the cats then went to bed in the cellar.

      Mme. Minoggio (Mme. Legal) was the woman that my mother knew from Hautvillers (Epernay) in 1919 and to whose son, Léandre, she became marraine (see prologue).  At this time he was in the French airforce in Morocco.  He survived the war;  I met his son Jean Pierre Legal in Paris in 2003 on one of the days of the infamous weeklong canicule in which thousands of Parisians died.
I found Léandre’s son Jean Pierre in Paris after a laborious and months long search by mail through the
mairies of  France and Luxembourg where resident records are kept. Sadly, as a teenager, he had had a moto accident that put him in a wheelchair for life. In spite of this disability he drove a car and showed me around Ile de France in several subsequent years. He died in 2016.
ECA: “They   showed us photo’s of Léandre and Janny(?) in Morocco where they live.   Also showed us the pictures of ourseves that they had framed, and the oil portrait of Leandre which Papa [Irving Porter Church] had painted.”

August 7th, Mon.    Ste. Foy la Grande, Libourne
“Played with the cats in bed.  Had breakfast then took a walk to the Gare to find my hat.  Saw the church and the river.  After lunch we made tents for the cats then had tea.  Went to the train and went to Libourne.  Went in the church and waited at the Gare for the train to Paris.  Went to bed on the train and went to sleep.

August 8th, Tue.    Paris, Marlotte
“Got up at Austerlitz Gare and had breakfast.  Took the Metro to Opera and left Daddy at the American Exp. Co.  We shopped all morning and I got a French railway car.  Went to the Bastille to see about the bus then had lunch.  Took the bus to Marlotte and played around until supper.  Read then went to bed.

August 9th, Wed.    Marlotte
“Rode to Fontainebleau with Mother and found Polly.  We all rode to Marlotte and fooled around.  Had lunch and then went to the sand pile and just sat and talked all afternoon.  Rode to Fontainebleau and had tea.  Played in the restaurant then came back for supper and saw a fencing match.

August 10th, Thu.    Marlotte
“Went to our French lesson.  Then had lunch.  After lunch we rode to Fontainebleau and met Polly for an hour then went to the Spicer-Simpson’s for tea.  Played deck tennis then came home and had supper.  Later we went to say goodbye to Peter.  He also gave us tea and we talked then came home and went to bed.

Autographs
Autographs: Peter Soren, Spicer-Simpson (Ship personnel)

      Mr. Spicer-Simpson was a well known sculptor and medalist.  He lived in the Bourron part of Bourron-Marlotte.

August 11th, Fri.    Marlotte
“I went to the sand pile with Holley while she collected colored sands.  After dinner we went to Fontainebleau and found Polly and Rowena LaCoste then went to Samoise plage to swim.  Came home and played ping-pong at the restaurant.  On the way home we got soaked in the pouring rain.  Had supper then read and went to bed.

August 12th, Sat.    Marlotte, Chartres, LeHavre
“Packed our bags and started driving for Chartres.  Saw the cathedral then had lunch.  After lunch drove all afternoon to Le Havre and got supper there.  After supper we walked down by the docks then went to bed.

August 13th, Sun.    Le Havre, Avranches, Rennes
“Got up and in the middle of breakfast Benjamin [see preface] came in and Mother and she renewed acquaintances.  We drove to the river side in the fog to get a bac or ferry but waited 3 hrs for it.  Went to Honfleur and met Jock then had lunch in a little town.  Drove all afternoon to Brittany.  Stopped at Avranches and saw le Mont St. Michel across the water.  Drove to Rennes in the dark where we spent the night.
P.S. stopped at Bayeux and saw the famouse tapestry there.  Made by the wife [Queen Mathilde] of Wm. the Conquerer.  [Got a folding reproduction of the entire tapestry.]

August 14th, Mon.    Rennes, Quimper
“Drove to Quimperlé where we had dinner.  Walked around and saw the church then went on to Quimper. Found a hotel and settled there.  Drove to Concarneau to see the fishing boats then came back to Quimper.  Holley got her coifs and Daddy left for Paris on the train.  Bed.

August 15th, Tue.    Quimper, Vannes
“Walked around Quimper and saw the fair.  Drove to Quimperle and had lunch.  Then went to Carnac and saw the old Druid tombs.  Had ice cream then went to a museum.  Took a drive around the coast then went to Vannes for the night.

August 16th, Wed.    Vannes, Sillé-le-Guillaume, Marlotte
“Said goodbye to Jock and Benjamin and drove all morning.  Had lunch at Sillé then drove all afternoon to Marlotte.  Had supper and went to bed.  Dead tired.

 August 17th, Thu.    Marlotte
“Did jobs and then had lunch.  Afterwards we rode to Fontainbleau on our bicycles to see Polly.  Rowena was there and we ducked Isabella.  We went to see the rocks in the woods but did not find the cave.  Played in the restaurant then came home.  Had supper and went to bed.

      These rocks are undoubtedly among those which became popular and  world renowned rock climbing (bouldering) venues after the War.

August 18th, Fri.    Marlotte
“Packed all the bags and trunks for Switzerland.  After dinner Mother drove us to Fontainbleau to see Polly.  We just sat and talked then went to Polly’s lesson.  Daddy got us and we said goodbye and went home to bed.
P.S, This was Mother’s wedding anniversary but Daddy and Mother both forgot it.

August 19th, Sat.    Marlotte, Grenoble
“Got up early and had breakfast in the room.  Packed and started for Grenoble in the alps.  Drove all morning and had lunch at Chalons and drove on to Lyon.  South of Lyon we saw our first “alp”.  We drove to Grenoble and found a hotel.  This hotel [Lesdiguires] had super elevators and swell surroundings.  Had supper and went to bed.  We were amused to see telephone booths labeled “Allo-1” and “Allo-2”.

August 20th, Sun.    Grenoble, Annecy, Chamonix
“We went [to] the Syndicat d’Initiative [local chamber of commerce] and found out about the alps.  Drove to Annecy and had lunch at the top of an aerial tramway and had a swell view of the lac.  Drove through the Col des Aravis which was 1,400 meters high.  In the mountains the cows have bells.  We came out of the pass and came to Chamonix to spend the night [at the Beau Rivage].

      In 1997 I took a detour through the Col des Aravis and found it exactly as I had remembered it almost sixty years before.  It was here that I remember looking from the car window up the grassy alps and to the rocky towers above thinking, “Wow, wouldn’t it be swell to be able to climb to their tops”.

August 21st, Mon.    Chamonix
“Went to the teleferique du Aiguille de Midi and went halfway up Mt.  Blanc in the little cable car.  Took a short walk to the snow line and threw a snowball.  Had lunch at the top of the teleferique.  Then took a long walk over a glacier [Glacier des Pelerins] and saw some huge cracks.  And a natural bubbler.  The avalanches of snow and rock sounded like the crashing of distant thunder.  Came down had supper and went to bed.
P.S. I had no supper because of a bad headache.

   The top in 1939 is now only “halfway” up and is now called Plan de l’Aiguille.

August 22nd, Tue.    Chamonix, Annemasse
“Went to another teleferique [du Brevent] with two stages.  Stayed at the top and got a few views.  After lunch we came down and finished packing.  Started out for Geneve.  Got halfway and Daddy found he had lost the passports.  We looked all over car but in vain, turned around and looked in the hotel—but in vain!  Then, after searching the baggage again Daddy found them in the bottom of his bag.  Whew!  Drove to Annemasse and spent the night.  The hotel was dingy.

August 23rd, Wed.    Annemasse, Lausanne
“Got up in Annemasse and packed the bags then took an hour going through the customs at the border.  Drove to the Amer. Exp. Co. and did some business in Geneve.  Had lunch [Coq d’Or] then took a bus trip around the city.  Saw the League of Nations buildings.  Then drove to Lausanne and found a hotel [Mont Fleury].  Had supper, wrote in this book and went to bed.

      In Geneva I remember that my father took me especially to see the confluence of the Rhone (clear water from Lac Leman) and the Arve (glacial rockflour filled water from Chamonix).  The two streams run parallel in the same bed essentially unmixed for miles.

August 24th, Thu.    Lausanne, Interlaken
“Packed and went to see the church.  Went up in the steeple and saw the town.  Drove to Aigles and on the way saw Chateau Chillon on Lac LeMan—Lord Byron was there.  Had lunch and drove through a high pass to Interlaken.  Here we found a hotel and had supper.  Went and looked at the stores then went to bed.

      At the hotel in Interlaken we slept for the first time under huge, white down featherbeds, something we had seen heretofore only in movies like Heidi.

August 25th, Fri.    Interlaken, Altdorf
“Drove to Grindelwald and took a long walk around the cliffs.  I saw a mountain goat.  We watched some boys and girls scale a cliff with mountain climbing equipment.  A fall meant death.  We came home and had lunch [Parc des Alpes] then drove to Altdorf and went to bed.
ECA: “When we came down we saw a real mountain climber giving a demonstration of the use of spikes and rope.  It was quite thrilling”.

August 26th, Sat.    Altdorf, Luzern, Zurich
“Went and saw the church and the monument to Wilhelm Tell.  Also saw the chapel by the lake.  Drove to Luzern and the Amer.  Exp. Co. Had lunch then went on a tour of the city; we saw an ancient wooden bridge with paintings of death in the tympani.  I got a Swiss chalet.  Drove to Zurich and had supper.  Walked around outside the Fair grounds and went to bed.

August  27th, Sun.    Zurich
“Went to the [Industrial] Fair and spent all morning there.  Had lunch and stayed there all afternoon.  It is very interesting.  I liked it better than the World’s Fair.  Had supper, took a walk and went to bed.

August  28th, Mon.    Zurich, Bern
“Went to the Exposition and stayed there all morning.  Had lunch then packed to go on.  Drove to Bern where we found a hotel.  Had supper by the riverside at a place under a bridge.  Read Quentin Durward.  Bed.

August 29th, Tue.    Bern, Basle, Lausanne
“Went to tourist office and got a guide to show us the city.  We drove around all morning and saw a big clock strike.  The clock was really complicated.  Had lunch then drove to Basle and looked into Germany.  Drove all afternoon to Lausanne and spent the night at the same hotel as before in the same rooms.  On the way to Basle we realized that the Swiss were mobilizing [their army].  We had to get gas ration cards.  Tank traps were in the roads at Basle.
ECA: “Found that we could not get gas without a permit from the military”.

In 1949 with my roommate from Cornell we were picked up while hitch hiking to Bern by one Edith Roth, captain of the 1939 Swiss ski team. She drove alarmingly fast. The reason, it turned out, was so that we would arrive in Bern at noon, in time to see ths old clock go through its paces.

August 30th, Wed.    Lausanne, Bourg
Went to Geneve and got our laundry and went back to Nyon to cross into France [at La Cure in the high Juras] but the border was barred with barbed wire and wagons.  We went to the next place [Divonne?] and found it barred too.  We got scared so went to the American consul [in Geneva] and he told one that was open.  Drove to Annemasse got through the customs and had lunch at Annecy.  Drove all afternoon to Bourg where we spent the night.
P.S. Got a flat tire and changed it.  [First] blackout at Bourg.
ECA: “Tension seems to be growing.  Hitler has  replied to the note from Great Britain”.

    My recollection of Annemasse is one of barbed wire, tank traps, and visible machine guns.

August 31st, Thu.    Bourg, Marlotte
“Had breakfast early.  Drove all morning and had lunch at Marlotte.  Drove to Fontainebleau said goodbye to the [American] School and came back.  Played with Jaques Perronnet and had suppper.  Then played in the billiard room.  Bed.
ECA: “Partial mobilization [of French Army] taking place everywhere.”

September 1st, Fri.    Marlotte
“Washed and dried all morning.  Had lunch while Mother and Daddy went to see Peter while we played battleship and swatted flies.  Changed rooms and then had supper.  After supper finished Quentin Durward.
P.S.!  Hitler attacks Poland.  Refugees from Paris in all small towns.  General mobilization in France and England.  “Mobilisation général” was on every tongue!

September 2nd, Sat.    Marlotte
“Drove to Fontainebleau with Peter and got some papers and went to the bank.  Mother, Daddy, and Peter read the papers and we are not sure [now] about our sailing.  Had lunch then Holley and I played battleship all afternoon.  Had supper then Mother, Daddy, and Holley went to see Mr. Spicer-Simpson.  Bed.
P.S.!  Blackout in Marlotte.  Hitler still in Poland.  France and England are mobilized.  The Bremen is on its way across under the watch of the British cruiser Warrick.

      In the evening outside the Renaissance I remember “Hermes”, the hotel waiters that we knew, and other young men of the town all gathered in the street by the gate in their army uniforms and with their knapsacks and guns. They were saying goodbye to their friends and families.

September 3rd, Sun.    Marlotte, Paris, Marlotte
“Collected Peter and all went to Paris.  There we went to all the Consulate, Am. Exp. Co., and Cunard.  ‘Abris’ all over also blue lights and windows.  Had lunch at the Rallye then came back in the pouring rain.  Packed a little went to bed.
P.S. War declared!  Hitler still in Poland.  France and England declare war on Hitler as we were told by the doorman at the Consulate.

On this day the Cunarder Athenia was sunk by a German  submarine.

September 4th, Mon.    Marlotte, LeHavre
“Got up and had breakfast early in our rooms.  Said goodbye and drove all morning.  Had lunch in the car then came to Havre.  Looked for hotels and found a nice small one.  Went to the Consulate and Express Co.  Also the U.S. Lines.  Had supper at the Hotel Bordeaux.  Daddy met [ran into] Mrs. McBride of the Music School [in the steamship office line].
ECA: “American Consul advises only American boats. The ‘President  Harding’ and the ‘Washington’ are being sent over by the end of the  week.”

September 5th, Tue.    LeHavre
“Woke up to the tune of an awful air raid siren at 6:00.  Boy, what a noise!  Had breakfast.  Did some business then sat by the sea untill lunch at a small restaurant down the street.  After lunch went to the beach and swam untill 4:00.  Fooled around untill supper.  Had supper at a small restaurant then went to bed.

    The [Cunarder] Athenia having been sunk we cancelled the Mauritania passage. My father considered it by then too dangerous to sail on a British ship.

September  6th, Wed.    LeHavre
“The siren blew again twice.  Did some jobs around LeHavre then met Mrs. McBride for lunch.  Drove around the port then went swimming until supper.  Had supper.  Learned some bridge then went to bed.

September 7th, Thu.    LeHavre
“Did some business in Havre and Mother met some old war friends [Juliet Whiton] and we had lunch with them.  Sat around while Daddy wrote a lengthy document on efficiency then went swimming.  Had supper learned some more bridge then went to bed.  Boy are we bored!

      My father was incensed to distraction by the confusion and lack of efficiency exhibited by the steamship companies in handling the hordes of tourists, mostly American, trying desperately to arrange for safe passage home.  Queues at information and booking windows—in which one could stand in vain for more then half a day only to be denied in the end an answer to a simple question—contained hundreds of people, stretching outdoors into the weather and down the streets.  There were never any useful general announcements; no one had any idea of what was going on or how to manipulate the “system”.   

      Dad was going to remedy all this and spent days writing an efficiency manifesto to be given to all the steamship companies for their edification.  However, the exercise was rendered moot the next day as the port of Le Havre was summarily closed by the French government and the mobs of tourists were directed, thence, to Bordeaux, four hundred miles and two days travel away.  A real disaster for anyone having to take a train or bus.

September  8th, Fri.    Le Havre
“Did some washing and darning then went swimming.  Boy was it swell because the tide was out.  Had lunch then stayed in the room all afternoon waiting for Mother and Daddy.  Several British fighter planes were doing manoevers over the city.  Fooled around then has supper.  Played some bridge (not very well).  Bed.

September 9th, Sat.    Le Havre, Alencon
“Packed and put Mrs. McBride’s luggage on the fenders [of the car] and went into town.  Spent the morning in all the steamship offices then had lunch.  Mrs. McBride got passage on a freighter so we took her bags off.  Started driving for Bordeaux and stopped at Alencon at Hotel France.  Bed.  Many trucks and troops are passing [the other way] on their way to the front.  Roads jammed with southbound cars.  All of France in blackout.

September 10th, Sun.    Alencon, Bordeaux
“Started driving for Bordeaux.  On the way had sort of a hard time getting gasoline.  Met several long lines of old trucks being collected for the army.  Had lunch at Chatellerault then drove on.  We were stopped once to have our head]lights painted blue.  Awfully hot.  Gas rationing pretty serious.  Got to Bordeaux then found a stuffy and dingy hotel. Had supper and went to bed.

      At one point below LeMans we encountered an endless southbound tie-up.  As we neared the bottleneck it became clear that it was caused by a huge water-filled pothole in the road around which “les poilus” were struggling to direct traffic—cursing and swearing at drivers whose cars went in and then had to be muscled out.  When it became our turn the soldiers put up an anguished shout and covered their eyes as my father headed more or less straight for the hole, lumbered in, gunned the engine, and lurched clear on the far side.  Smiles of amazement on the faces of the soldiers; “Voiture du millionaire!” one shouted as we passed  on.

39091001_BlueLights
Poilu with blue paint

     As dusk fell, somewhere in the countryside south of Poitiers two poilus stepped into the road, bayonets crossed against us.  We stopped and a third scurried out of the bushes with a brush and a can of  paint; he painted our headlights blue.

September 11th, Mon.    Bordeaux
“Went around Bordeaux to the U.S. Lines and Consulate.  Found a better hotel then had lunch.  After lunch moved in to our new hotel then Holley and I played slapjack.  Daddy took us to an old church with the tower across the street [Tour Ste. Michele].  In the bottom [crypt] of the tower there are a whole mess of skeletons (some chemical in the ground preserved them) that were found when the tower was started.  We bought some soup then had some supper.  Bed.  I slept on the floor.

September 12th, Tue.    Bordeaux
“Played cards most of the morning then had lunch.  Played some more cards then had supper.  Played bridge.  Boredom terrific.  Bed.  Much chiseling and graft in the steamship lines.  No passage in view for several weeks.

September 13th, Wed.    Bordeaux
“Same as before.  Played cards and such things and walked in the park.
ECA: “They say the ‘Washington’ by a mixup of wires was almost entirely booked in London when it came to Le Havre and so a great many people there were disappointed. The U.S. Lines have certainly made a mess of things but I suppose it is not entirely their fault.  With 1000’s of people milling around Havre, Bordeaux, and Paris—what a proposition.    All we can do is wait and hope.”

September 14th, Thu.    Bordeaux
“Mother and Daddy went to the Consulate.  We played cards and had lunch then played some more cards.  Had supper then played some bridge.  Bed.

September 15th, Fri.    Bordeaux
“I started a paper airplane.  Had lunch and Isabella [Murray] walked in.  She treated us to a patisserie.  Had supper at the Becassine with the Murrays.  Bed.
P.S. Isabella showed us her gas mask.  They are building abris in the Allees de Tourneys.
ECA: “Stormed the Consulate and offices of U.S. Lines again but there was such a crowd everywhere that we didn’t accomplish a thing. …they say Toscanini is here and stands in line with the rest of us.”

September 16th, Sat.    Bordeaux
“I worked on my paper airplane and started a car.  Mother walked with Mrs. Fitzherbert and we talked until lunch.  Worked some more then had supper with Mrs.  Fitzherbert and the Murrays.  Bed.

      My parents had run into Mrs. Fitzherbert a close neighbor in Wellesley Hills.

September 17th, Sun.    Bordeaux
“Made some more things of paper.  Had lunch with Mrs. Fitzherbert. Fooled around until supper with the Murrays.  Bed.
ECA: “The children were so homesick today that they were making maps of Wellesley.”

September 18th, Mon.    Bordeaux
USS Manhattan“Daddy went out and I and Holley waited.  Daddy came back with passage on the ‘Manhattan‘, Sept. 22nd.  Had supper at the Dubern with Mrs. Fitzherbert.  Met Miss Boreson and she ate with us.  Bed.

September 19th, Tue.    Bordeaux
“Saw Mrs. Fitzherbert off with Daddy to the train [to le Verdon].  I worked some more then had lunch.  Worked after dinner then had supper at the Becassine with the Murrays.  Bed.

September 20th, Wed.    Bordeaux
“I worked some more [on my paper and mucilage models; by now a steamship and a steam locomotive].  Mother and Holley went shopping.  Had lunch and went to the movies.  Saw all about the Maginot Line and France’s defense.  Took a buggy around the town.  Ate at the Becassine.  Played in Isabella’s room.

September 21st, Thu.    Bordeaux
“Finished the paper stuff.  Got the Murrays and had dinner at the Capon Fin.  Wow!  Packed and fooled around until supper at the Richlieu.  Bed.

September 22nd, Fri.    Bordeaux, le Verdon, SS Manhattan
“Drove early to le Verdon and got the car on the dock.  Much red tape along the way.  Sat on baggage and finished book.  Got passport stamped and got on board ship!  Met the Albros.  Had supper then went to bed.  Our cabins connected by a bath.

September 23rd, Sat.    SS Manhattan
“Explored the boat all morning and found Alice Albro.  Had lunch and explored some more.  After supper Daddy and I stayed up and watched [as] the car [was] loaded until twelve o’clock on.  After the car got on we stayed up till 4:00a and saw the boat sail away from the dock.  Our boat was brightly lighted and painted with [huge] lighted American flags [on the sides].  There were 700 extra people sleeping on cots in the lounges.

September 24th, Sun.    SS Manhattan
“Played around with shuffleboard and deck tennis until lunch.  Met a boy and played around.  Had supper and went to bed.

September 25th, Mon.    SS Manhattan
“Played around the ship and had dinner.  Sea calm and pretty.  Met some more guys and played shuffleboard.  [Igor] Stravinsky tripped over my shuffleboard stick in rushing to ask a girl for a ginger ale with him in the bar.  Paderevsky was aboard also; he was melancholy all the trip.  In morning had a lifeboat drill.  Had supper and went to bed.

September 26th, Tue.    SS Manhattan
“Not feeling very well so went to bed again.  Sick untill about 5:00. Went to sleep.  Had some ginger ale.

September 27th, Wed.    SS Manhattan
“Went out on deck and played shuffleboard and deck tennis.  Had lunch and played around some more.  Got a haircut.  Had supper; took a bath.  Wrote in this book and went to bed.


Here ends my trip diary.  Several days later [the 30th] we arrived in New York and drove to Boston by way of the Havilands’ in Hartford where we spent the night.  The next day we were at great pains to complete the trip in daylight so that we could show our friends the blue painted headlights.  Returning was exciting and we were envied by our friends not least because we were three weeks late for the start of school!


Epilogue

On a several occasions I have returned to Marlotte.

Once, ten years later, in 1949 while on a European trip with my college roommate Bill Pistler.  We arrived, having given up hitchhiking from Lyon by boarding a train in Macon.  Mme. Perronet put us up in a back room somewhere at no cost.  The place seemed exactly as I had remembered it.  The War had been hard though.  The Germans had taken over the hotel for officer’s billets but the Perronets had been allowed to stay on.  M. Perronet had died (of a heart attack) either during or shortly after the War and Michel and Madame ran the hotel.  Jacques was following an engineering career in Paris.  We later visited with him there.  From this visit to La Renaissance I have a photo’ of Madame and my friend and of Jacques and me.

Then not until 1997 (and once more in 1999) was I able very briefly to return; really only for a few minutes each time.  In 1997 in an effort to re-contact Madame or Jacques I learned that all three of the remaining family members had died; Madame sometime. probably in the seventies. and both Jacques and Michel of heart attacks, like their father, within this decade.  However I arranged to meet Jacques widow, Janine, briefly in Paris to give her the photographs and was able to cajole some friends into taking me to Marlotte one evening to look around.  The “new” Madame Perronet has a son, also Jacques, and an apartment in part of the original hotel from which she commutes to Paris.

In Marlotte I found the Rue Murger and La Renaissance which has now been partially dismantled and converted to a cirque hippique.  Most of its former charm had vanished.


Bill Atkinson, January, 2000
ECA: additions, January 2002
Conversion to MSWord, May 2010


 

One thought on “My Travels Abroad; War on the Horizon (1939)

  1. This is wonderful — I was enthralled from the beginning, but sometimes needed more explanation — for example, before you got out of NYC “Dad smashed up the car?” Isn’t that usually a big deal?
    Great combination of 14-year old’s responses (“Boring! Great sandwiches”) and our much-later perspective on 1939.

    Like

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