For every unit of heat removed by air-conditioning from an interior space, roughly 1.1 units of heat are added to the exterior atmosphere*, 0.1 of which must be supported by the electrical grid. Electrical grid overloads and failures will become common, and may even become permanent over many weeks at a time (cf. Texas, winter 2021). *cf. The Second Law of Thermodynamics.
The Paris Canicule, August, 2003
Without air-conditioning thousands of the elderly, who had been “abandoned” in apartments during the traditional August escape, died alone of dehydration and heat stroke. This came to the attention of–the woefully unprepared–authorities only after the morgues overflowed.
In northern Europe air conditioning is common only in large venus like movie theatres and super-markets.
The Vaunted Nukes
Many nuclear waste-heat condensers are cooled by inland fresh water on rivers or huge lakes. However, in France this summer (2022) river water temperatures rose to the point where at least one nuke had to have its electrical output severely curtailed.
Seaside nukes are less prone to this failing, but, without replacement, the ineluctable rise of the sea will eventually overwhelm their original cooling water intake structures, regardless of whether the reactor itself is protected.
An Aging Electrical Distribution Grid
During periods of exceptional demand (unless adequately backed up or subjected to dangerous “rolling” blackouts), any electrical grid is susceptible to catastrophic, cascading failure. The local explosion of an overloaded transformer passes its load on to the next, and the next, leading sometimes to total collapse, from which full recovery can take days.
For too long, the climate solutions conversation has been dominated by the supply-side view of the energy system: What will replace coal plants? Will natural gas be a bridge fuel? Can hydrogen power industry? These are all important questions, but, crucially, they miss half the equation. We must bring the demand side of our energy system to the heart of our climate debate.
The oil industry is increasingly eating itself to stay alive. The oil and gas industries are consuming more and more energy exponentially to keep extracting oil and gas. That’s why they’ve entered a downwards spiral of increasing production costs, diminishing profits, rising debt, and irreversible economic decline.
Dr. Michael E. Mann is Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State, with joint appointments in the Department of Geosciences and the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI). He is also director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center (ESSC).
Mann is the author of several books including his most recent work, The New Climate War, which shows how fossil fuel companies have waged a thirty-year campaign to deflect blame and responsibility and delay action on climate change, and offers a battle plan for how we can save the planet.To learn more about the book, click here.
In July, from Philly we crossed Canada on the Trans-Canada Highway in Sam Tatnall’s boxy van. With Peter Herbine, Peter Helmetag and his wife Julie we were five.
We took in the obligatory Niagara Falls.
Sam’s van had a surface area somewhere near 50,000 square inches. At our first campsite, west of Toronto, we parked and got out. In the darkness the air hummed faintly, ominously; we estimated that one-million mosquitos darkened its white surface.
We swam in Lake Superior.
Farther west we encountered an Airstream caravan many miles long containing hundreds of shiny trailers, requiring hours completely to pass on the two-lane highway. After that we dared not tarry long for fear of being re-overtaken.
Each night we had stopped to camp until I, who had less vacation time, convinced the group to begin moving continuously—taking turns with the driving and crashing amid the sleeping bags on the deck in back.
At a state park near in Saskatchewan parents launched suddenly into frantic action, grabbing kids and running for their cars. Strange, bulbous clouds had covered the sky—cumulus mammatus; tornado predictors, I later learned. On the road again we saw a distant tornado to our north. And on the radio, reports of damage in Regina.
We stopped at Mt. Yamnuska where we fought the steep, ever-descending limestone scree, made various ascents, and hiked in the evening into CMC Valley where the classic climbing route names are taken from Winnie the Pooh. We shared the Simpson Hut with legions of mice. Eager to do battle I fashioned a figure-four trigger to support a heavy iron frying pan as deadfall, but its clanging clamor each time it tripped threatened sleep. Disclaimer: No mice were harmed in this production.
And finally, to Rogers Pass where Peter had secured a stint as caretaker for five weeks at the Alpine Club of Canada’s Wheeler Hut (4,100ft.).
First we hiked the steep névé to Perley Rock for views of Uto, Sir Donald (10,774), Terminal Peak, and the huge (and ever receding) Illecillewaet Glacier and its vast snow field to the west. The Canadian National Railway’s grand nineteenth century Glacier House, built for alpine tourism, is long gone, having been gradually abandoned by the glacier itself. Today (2021), owing to the Earth’s warming, this region, famous for its glaciers, has greatly reduced permanent ice or snow. Except in the spring, the streams rage only when it rains.
Of interest to us was the North West ridge of Mt. Sir Donald—one of Steck and Roper’s Fifty Classic Climbs of North America.
And so, the next day—after a late start and a turbulent stream crossing—we packed steadily up the Vaux Glacier to the Uto Col, stamped out platforms in the snow, and pitched two tents at 8,300 feet.
In the morning we attacked the ridge—a massive and steep assemblage of huge tilted blocks over and around which we scrambled. Considerable snow filled the gaps between the blocks. Owing to our party’s suddenly evident conservatism we roped-up and belayed many of the pitches. This slowed us to the point that I could see we would never reach the summit with time to return. And so, in the early afternoon, we finished our snacks and headed down making a few rappels along the way, struck the tents, and returned to the hut.
One evening while checking the weather forecast at the ranger station deux mecs showed up, headed for the hut, and—as it turned out—the NW Ridge. When they discovered that we had been part way up we were pressed for information. I engaged them in some fractured French and immediately sensed that they wanted me to join them. Despite the fact that I felt it might be a bit unfair to my own group, I agreed and we planned a four o’clock start the next morning.
They were René Boisselle and Bernard Fauré, aspiring Association of Canadian Mountain Guides members who, I discovered later, viewed me as their practice client.
During the evening’s preparations I was amused to see what counted as snacks for the climb; a huge sausage that must have weighed three pounds, a pound of cheese, and a long baguette protruding from a knapsack. Trop d’alimentation ? I inquired. Ne jamais!L’alimentation ne pèse rien! they replied.
What worried me more, though, was the length of their proposed rope—lightweight, but only one-hundred feet long, meaning that we were limited to fifty-foot rappels. I couldn’t convince them to take my one-hundred-sixty-footer.
We were up before four and by the time it was light we had reached the major stream crossing, still flush and dangerous with the previous afternoon’s snow melt. Stepping in balance and hopping rock-to-rock was scary but we managed to cross safely, and reached the Uto col hours earlier that we had the day before.
We “fourth-classed” the ridge, meaning that—while roped—we moved more or less continuously stopping to belay wherever it seemed prudent. Because I was their client I was tied in to the middle of the rope. The ridge was steep but smooth going; huge blocks of granite half buried in snow with airy drop-offs on either side.
At noon we were on the summit—10,774 feet—where we barely made a dent in the alimentation.
The traditional (guide-book) descent follows a ridge to the south to gain Terminal Peak, followed by scrambling to the Vaux Glacier below.
René and Bernard had other plans.
We would descend by the precipitous direct West Face. I objected but was overruled: “Beaucoup plus courte, n’est ce pas ?”.
It proved dreadful! Steep and scary! The geology was such that the potential hand and footholds—the ledges big and small—were upside down. It was everywhere wet with patches of snow and running with meltwater. There were few places to set up anchors for protection or belay.
We came eventually to a narrow couloir down which, once or twice, we were able to rappel with our short, wet rope finally to reach a point on the face above the Bergschrund of the glacier below. This cliff looked as though it might be less than fifty feet high. I hate to think of its having been more. But where to anchor? Fortunately, we had with us a few pitons and a hammer; finding suitable cracks took forever. Our breaths and the pitons held as we rappelled to the snow.
My guides were more than happy to share with me from a flask of Scotch I had hidden in my pack. Salut! all ‘round. It had been a long day: sixteen hours door-to-door.
In the ensuing days we spent a night at the Hermit hut, and hiked to the top of Afton (8,350) and Tupper (9,239)—a world of flowers and silvery cascades everywhere—before heading to the Selkirks to beard the Bugaboos.
Hans Gmoser’s ski lodge, the trailhead for the Bugs, terminates a rough thirty-mile logging road, much improved since the ‘Gunks Vulgarians first navigated it in 1959. The parking lot is famous for its porcupines who dine at night upon automotive rubber—tires, water hoses, and electric cables. The lodge furnishes, free of charge, barriers of chicken wire with which to wrap the car.
Our proximate objective was the Alpine Club of Canada’s Conrad Kaine hut (9,500)—formerly Boulder Camp—set among towering granite spires rising out of the glacier above. Today (2021) this region retains much of its spectacular glaciation although now noticeably reduced from the time of our visit.
No need here for tents or air mattresses—the hut’s vast, open upper floor being strewn with “foamies.” We cooked on propane stoves in the light of lamps powered by a turbine in the glacial stream above the hut.
The next day after a snow slog up the glacier Peter Herbine and I climbed the south ridge of Bugaboo Spire (10,450); the Kain route. Somehow, we missed the famous “airy friction traverse” which led to Peter’s leading what I thought a desperate vertical section below the top.
Later with Peter Helmetag I crossed the crevassed Vowel Glacier to reach the east ridge of Pigeon Spire (10,250). The descent along the “roof tops” affords a spectacular view of the Howser Towers (11,500); and of an endless realm of snow-covered peaks as far as the eye can see.
My vacation time was up. I had the good fortune to meet a guy at the hut who was driving to Calgary. I spent a night on a bench at the airport and caught a flight east the next day.
Twice to the Moon and Back: A Reminiscence Upon Having Given Up Driving
Sometime in the early seventies, on the long way back from somewhere; during a child-crushing passage of boredom, the children asked: “Daddy, how far have you driven?” After some mental deliberation involving imperfect memory and some suspect arithmetic I announced: “Well, I’m about halfway back from the moon.”
It has been said of the Allied Victory in World War II that credit was due the mechanical skill and know-how of men who had grown up in close proximity to the farm contraptions and the jalopies of their boyhoods. They seemed to have an edge over enemy troops in the business of keeping the engines and wheels of their heroic efforts in motion.
How then could we imagine that our grandchildren—in two generations—would never know the joy, the pain, the frustration, and the grimy knuckle-busting satisfactions of working on cars? I think that the success and the pervasiveness of the age of technology and of social media has robbed them of something essential. To be fair, though—the modern car is virtually impossible to comprehend. Unless one is a professional mechanic, trained in technical school, or in a modern shop, today’s kid has scant possibility, or even an interest in, an activity as remote from today’s skittering thumbs as can be imagined: the delights and miseries of futzing about with cars.
In 1947 I paid ninety-five dollars for a 1925 Nash four-door straight-eight sedan, best described as the typical gangster car of Al Capone’s Chicago. It was my age (22) and might have seen 150,000 miles. It had a spare tire on each running board, a luggage rack in back, dual ignition (sixteen spark-plugs!), and, having no starter motor: crank to start.
I parked it in a small space near the house. I was shy about discussing cars with my father knowing that a serious lecture on responsibility would have to be endured. Better just to buy one. Several days later he asked me, “Do you know whose car that is out there in front?”
Cranking required a throttle lever on the steering column and another to advance and retard the ignition (spark) timing. Throttle advancement ensured that the engine, once started, would be “revved” up a bit, and retarded timing—delaying the spark from its running position before cylinder top-dead-center—prevented early firing from unexpectedly snapping the crank backwards. Many a thumb or forearm had thus been broken. The Nash ran reliably but poorly, generating clouds of blue smoke indicating the excessive burning of oil.
And, so, my adventure began—with a ring and valve job. I was handy with tools; knew something in principle about engines, had flown B29 combat missions as a radar navigator in the Pacific in 1945; but little in detail about cars. Access to the valves required the removal of the engine’s cast iron “head,” but new piston rings were more of a challenge—requiring oil pan removal, dissembling the rod bearings from the crank-shaft, and pushing the pistons up and out of the cylinders. I found that I needed mysterious special tools of which I had never heard—valve-spring lifters, ring compressors, torque and tappet wrenches, and ridge reamers.
Our schoolroom was the local auto parts store and our teachers the intimidating men behind the counter who treated us, at first, as though our trade was hardly worth the instructional hassle required. We found obtaining special tools especially daunting owing to the embarrassment of having to reveal not only our ignorance, but that, in our penury, we couldn’t afford them. But gradually rapport was forged allowing us occasionally to borrow what we needed, provided we guaranteed—by bicycle—a timely return. Gradually we became more and more the beneficiaries of useful and friendly advice.
My job was straightforward with one exception: an exhaust valve so badly burned that simple regrinding could not save it. A wide tour of the auto junk yards of Greater Boston proved fruitless and so I was stuck unless… unless I could make one of my own. That summer I had a job at Northeastern University as an assistant in the mechanical engineering laboratory running the various engines and test equipment for the students. One job was the making of steel tensile test specimens, and so I learned how operate a metal turning lathe.
Exhaust valves must be of high-temperature resistant steel. Figuring that truck valves might, in general, be bigger than car valves I went to the parts desk at the Reo dealership, put my valve on the counter, and asked whether an exhaust valve could be found with my valve “inside” it. Once the counter man got the idea he produced several and with my ruler and micrometer we soon found one. On the lathe I turned down the shaft and head, cut the required grooves and bevels, and “ground it in” with the others where it served for the rest of the life of the car.
The Nash “threw a rod” and died on the famous hills of the Cornell University campus; succeeded by a 1934 Pontiac business coupe bought from a fraternity brother. I brush-painted it blue. It had four-on-the-floor—on a trip to New York City spattering dark transmission oil on the nylon hose of my unhappy passenger. At the fraternity house one night that spring I had a visit from the Campus Police who wanted an explanation for its having been found upside down in a major campus intersection. Two men and a woman had been seen leaving the scene. I never found the culprits though they were undoubtedly among my “brothers.”
Ithaca winters were snowy. Before snow tires we had chains, a lattice of links draped over the rear tires and fastened—with freezing fingers—by awkward hooks, all the while on your back in the snow. Inevitably they developed loose ends to flail against the inside of the fender. The bang, bang, bang of loose chain ends in the cold air is one of the lost sounds of winter.
Upon leaving Cornell at graduation I gave up the Pontiac for a 1939 Studebaker Champion business coupe—gradually the model years were approaching the present. I had this nice car for several of my early years in New York City. It was the same age as the Pontiac we had in France in 1939. I have a memory of “doing” the brakes—or maybe it was the universal joints—while parked on a side street on Manhattan’s upper West Side.
In the winter of 1952 I quit my job at Kearfott in Newark and, to my father’s alarm, became a ski-bum at Stowe, Vermont for three months. My job at the Stowaway Inn kept me in shelter and food; as an auxiliary on the ski patrol my lift tickets were free; my only expenses being cigarettes and gas for the Studebaker.
I have forgotten to what malaise it ultimately succumbed.
I had always a yen for an antique car. An urge finally satisfied by getting a 1929 Model-A Ford from an old guy in the Bronx. It was a convertible roadster with a rumble seat and, yes, crank to start.
It needed a new clutch. Serendipity had it that where I had lived on Barrow Street at 6th Avenue was a tiny gas station where I sort of knew the proprietor from having parked the Studebaker there. He let me do the clutch job practically on the sidewalk.
Later I was lived on Waverly Place. A subsequent valve and rig job took several days with two wheels on the sidewalk in the midst of an al fresco art exhibit.
I drove to Boston that summer with a girlfriend. Coming back down a long hill on the Wilbur Cross Parkway in Wallingford, Conn. the timing belt broke. We had to be towed and took the bus to New York. I always note that spot whenever driving between Boston and New York City.
Late that fall I drove it to Toms River, New Jersey to winter over at my sister Holley’s.
Sadly, in the spring I was T-boned by a couple running a red light on Second Avenue. They fled the scene with a leaking radiator; nobody had taken their number so I followed the water trail as far as I could until I lost it. The frame was bent beyond reasonable repair and I had to junk it.
To this day I have a recurring dream that I’m in my Model-A driving merrily along.
By now I was working on the Plaza at 58th Street in Henry Dreyfuss’ famous industrial design office. I became friends with an interesting man, Roland Stickney, who made beautiful and detailed renderings with colored pencils and tempera for presentation to clients of the various products that we were working on. In a previous life he was famous for renderings of the body designs of classic cars for the clients of custom carriage work designers. We had a mutual interest in cars and wasted lots of time talking about them. To replace the Model-A he suggested that I look into getting a small Canadian 1950 model called the Morris Oxford. I did and it became known among my friends as “Morrie the Ox”.
With a homemade rack on top Morrie made many winter trips to the ski country in Vermont, often as far as Stowe where I had been a ski-bum in the winter of 1952. And it made summer weekend camping trips to nearby State Parks.
Note the slot between the doors. Before hand gestures and blinking turn signals cars—especially foreign ones—had lighted “idiot sticks” that flicked out like finger posts.
Morrie gradually sickened and reached a point where a broken tooth gap in the flywheel too often stopped just at the point where it was needed next to engage the starter pinion. That meant to start you had to push it in gear to reposition the flywheel. It was by pure luck that it started for the buyer to whom I sold it—I yet feel a small pang of guilt when I recall this episode.
Enter my first brand new car: a 1957 VW Beetle. Roland had convinced me that the best thing I could do was to buy a Beetle. It was in this car that I first set eyes on the cliffs at New Paltz in September 1956, and two years later that Crissy and I set off on a trip to Maine.
Beetles then were still sufficiently rare that one honked and blinked at passing brethren. Its one odd failing was occasional fatal carburetor icing—a problem unique to airplanes—on cold damp days.
While slowing down it had to be double-clutched into first, although brave aficionados claimed that this was not really necessary. It was a sprightly beast and I loved it.
In the summer of 1958, driving home somewhere north of Ellsworth, Maine, Crissy and I had a near fatal single-car crash wherein the right front wheel dug in to a soft shoulder and catapulted us into the air. We landed on the left rear roof and miraculously rolled back onto the wheels. When the dust had settled I found myself in the back seat with a broken tooth, and Crissy sitting on the pavement, her arms reaching up to and still clutching the steering wheel. We were totally shaken but essentially uninjured.
No police showed up. Gradually the curious onlookers dissipated leaving us alone.
The car needed attention. The right front wheel was bent both inwardly canted and pigeon-toed. The windshield was crazed, the roof bashed in, and the rear window popped halfway out—like the bow-tie askew on a dissolute reveler. There was a gas station within considerable walking distance so it wasn’t long before I had the flat fixed and the wonky wheel remounted.
It seemed that with some futzing around we might be able to drive it. It proved a tedious process: jack up the wheel, turn the adjustment nut extending the length of the steering tie-rod, jack back down, test drive a few feet, repeat. Eventually we got it—no-hands—to track straight, though seriously knock-kneed, and cautiously struck off for New York. The driver’s side door had to be tied shut and the pressure on the crazed windshield bowed it in alarmingly so we wedged a stick inside for support.
We limped along to spend that night in Wellesley, concealing the bashed side of the car from fatherly view. At the VW place once safely back in the city the service manager, clipboard in hand, took one look and shouted, “Hey fellas, come take a look at this one!” Amazingly, it was repaired. I kept it that year but it was clear that all was not well and the time had come for change.
The new Bug, a 1959, was black, had a bigger rear-view window, and a fuel gauge—this last, a sign of the smug American dismissal of practical German asceticism.
Of course, immediately I bought lap-belt kits and installed them in the front seats. [For sixty-two years since then I have never driven an un-belted mile.] Three-point belts—too hard to install from kits—arrived after 1959, and were not mandatory until 1966. In later years I was amazed to pass jacked-up pickup trucks, equipped with ostentatious roll-bars, and driven by un-belted jocks expressing their American Exceptionalism. Freedumb!
By then we had our daughter Holley who, with her paraphernalia, took over the back seat on vacation trips and to the family’s summer retreat in Connecticut.
As yet, unforeseen, this car’s demise was already written in the stars.
We had twins!
We bought a new black 1960 Ford Econoline van. In 1963 it saw us through our big move from New York City to Line Street in Somerville, my trip to the eclipse of 1963 in Maine, and then to the new old house in Weston, Mass.
Years later one morning after much cranking and choking the car failed to start. The fuel pump had died. So how was I to get to the service place? Towing was expensive so the miser in me came to the fore. I found an orange juice can and a short stub of copper tube which I soldered to a hole punched in its bottom. A length of rubber tubing with an adjustable lab clamp completed the assembly. With the air cleaner off I supported my fuel filled gadget over the open carburetor air intake and by fine tuning the drip I could get the engine to run in fits and starts and made it haltingly to the garage.
It was in this van that, on my fortieth birthday in January 1965, we ran out of gas on the thruway in New Hampshire on the way back from a diversionary ski trip in support of a surprise party planned by Crissy and the children—before cellphones! Ponder that, ye moderns.
Next a new, green 1970 Dodge Tradesman van. I have no recollection as to why we switched from Ford to Dodge. It had what became, in the car world, a famous engine—the “Slant Six.”
Over the years this car made many trips to climbing at the ‘Gunks, to the family’s Windrush, and to the North Country in summer and winter. It wasn’t set up for camping but by laying cupboard doors across the tops of the reversed middle and rear seat we could uncomfortably sleep four with sleeping bags on air mattresses. We passed one miserable, well below zero night in a parking lot at Stowe that the children have not forgotten.
No one anymore worries about not starting in below zero weather. No one anymore puts the battery in the kitchen sink in warm water overnight. No one’s radiator freezes. No one anymore carries a spray can of starting ether—with the air cleaner off, squirting into the carburetor—a good way to start an engine fire.
I spent endless hours over its nine-year life replacing the driveshaft universal joints, doing the brakes, and replacing spark plugs and fan belts. On at least four occasions we had to replace the alternator on the road—so often that I learned never to travel without a spare under the passenger seat.
Later the throttle butterfly would stick closed preventing starting. The engine cover and the air cleaner had to be laboriously removed in order to tap it free. Eventually I drilled a hole all the way through both cover and cleaner to accommodate a stiff wire that could reach the butterfly. [See Comments below for a remembrance of this stick by my old friend Steve Angelini.]
It was in this car that we were driving home from Connecticut on the Mass Pike on the day of the moon landing in July 1969. During the final crucial seconds every car, almost in unison, pulled onto the shoulder to await the fateful words: “Houston, the Eagle has landed.” In bitter retrospect, that was when America was great.
And in 1970 the twins and I went to Nantucket Airport to photograph the flash spectrum of the solar chromosphere at the total eclipse of 1970.
By 1977—separated from my family—I lived on Soden Street in Cambridge near Central Square.
During the second oil crisis of 1977 I installed an auxiliary gas tank. That winter twice, twice! while sleeping peacefully in rural New Hampshire I was awakened by a slight rocking and by gurgling sounds. Realizing someone was siphoning gas I arose stealthily, slipped into my shoes, and smartly smote the metal side of the interior. BAM! Amid clattering sounds they fled in panic.
They sought gas for their snowmobiles. In one case it was the kids next door, reprimanded and provided with a lifelong “remember the time when” story. In the other, some kid had to explain to his father: “What happened to our gas can?”
Eventually, again, I was T-boned at a snowy intersection in Allston, and this time it was my fault—sort of. The RMV wanted to penalize me, in a way that I have now forgotten, but I was allowed to make a case at an official hearing. I had a photo of the site showing snow partially obliterating the stop sign. It was enough to get me off.
After months of plotting advertised used van prices vs. mileage on an Excel spreadsheet I suddenly found an obvious outlier. I jumped on it, rushed to see it, and a few days later rode my bike the 25 miles to Salem to pick it up. On the way back to Cambridge a mouse emerged from the air vent and clung desperately to a windshield wiper before being swept away.
It was a maroon 1974 Dodge Tradesman needing DIY work for camping: side door windows, roof vent, rear seat belts, sleeping deck cum rear seat conversion, curtains, bug netting, etc. Almost immediately someone stole the battery from the Soden Street parking lot but after that it made uncountable trips to the ‘Gunks, to the rivers of New Hampshire and Maine, climbing in West Virginia, and beyond—all the while we listened endlessly to the McGarrigle Sisters, The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Beatles, and my burgeoning collection of classical tapes.
In 1980 I moved again for two years to Concord, and eventually back to the old house in Weston.
Seven years later the first of two disasters struck. A broken timing chain stranded me on Route 9 at a ramp causing an embarrassing tie-up. Adding insult to injury a passing truck tore off my side-view mirror.
Then in 1988 I parked it one night in front of my daughter Holley’s apartment on Clinton Street in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. I had removed most items of value, including my bike and, as a precaution, the distributor rotor. In the morning the van was gone! The thieves had towed it! I lost all my tools. The real bummer, though, was the loss of my music tapes—I never replaced them; I miss them to this day.
Just then, as luck would have it, some friends of friends were selling a Dodge 1980 Aspen wagon. It had the famous Slant Six engine with which I was familiar and so I bought it almost sight unseen. Two could comfortably crash in the back; it would do until something better came along. It was my first with automatic transmission and power steering.
I gave it up three years later when that same automatic transmission went south.
After hours of study and measurement in the dealer’s lot I decided on a new 1990 Dodge Caravan. It was to serve as a camper as well as a passenger car so I had to be sure I could engineer a conversion without removing the rear seat. In order to sleep two and to provide for cargo I needed a removable deck in back integrated with the folded seat. The result was a pretty good kludge that often drew admiration.
A roof vent, curtains, mosquito netting, etc. completed the work. The foam pads could be folded away. The deck had two leaves; the rear most, when turned over, became a table for cooking. With a new 2×3 pine rack I could secure two canoes, kayaks, or bicycles on top. It was not as commodious as the wide old Tradesman, wherein one could stretch out crosswise, but it was good enough.
After many miles the alternator failed on a Sunday in Milford Mills, New Hampshire, requiring a bus trip to Boston. It was towed to the apron of a closed garage. The next day a faithful housemate drove me all the way back so I could install a new alternator.
Early in the morning twilight at the ‘Gunks we hit a deer causing significant damage to the right front. It was weeks of relying, again, on the recumbent bike.
In the end, after fourteen years, it died, not surprisingly, of cancer of the frame.
I found my next Caravan at a tiny used car dealership in Somerville—a 2000 I think. It was less boxy and more curvaceous than the its predecessor, rendering the space inside less useful—an unfortunate trend that I see all around me these days. A kind of mindless dumbing-down of utility.
By chopping and bending here and there I got the previous camping amenities shoe-horned into the new volume. I never got around to adding a roof vent—open windows and insect netting would have to suffice.
There is little as exciting as—parked at a ‘Gunks scenic overlook, snug in a sleeping bag—having a raging tempest of thunder and lightning rocking you awake to the roar of rain on the roof.
Finally, sharing the genes of its predecessor, it too, succumbed to the cancer. A cancer so pervasive that there remained no solid means even of jacking the car to change a tire. No longer could it pass a State Inspection.
It was instantly and shockingly obvious that I would have to replace it.
My service shop of fifty years, Regan’s Service of Auburndale, had recently begun to dabble in used cars and Pat was quick to beckon me to view his collection. He had a 2007 Subaru Outback and without hesitation flung forward half the rear seat to show me how one could sleep full length. The irony, of course, was that I knew in my secret heart that I would never again sleep in a car at any length. And I never did.
After a useful modification to the roof rack and the addition of a deck in back I added some prosthetics to make easier my finger access to the steering column [a wrist support/hand lever] and dash controls [golf tee glued to the windshield wiper stick]—dictated by the recurrence of an old shoulder injury.
You can’t really work on cars anymore and the Subaru was no exception. You can’t even change the spark plugs, let alone see them. On some new car models the parts under the hood are packed so tightly that you could roll a golf ball across the array without losing it into a crevice somewhere.
For five years all went well until a moment’s inattention steered me into a waiting telephone pole which was severed cleanly at its base while, for its part, maliciously destroying the right front suspension.
I replaced it with a nearly identical 2008 Outback.
One million miles. Fifteen cars in seventy-five years. That’s about five years, and sixty-seven thousand miles per car.
Ineluctably, the time had come. My son has driven it away forever. 😦
Twice to the moon and back—a journey of nearly a million miles filled with fun, adventure, misadventure, and the joy of freedom on wheels.
Header image at top of post: My aunt Edith H. Church in her 1923 Dodge touring car, with Edith Horton and Becky Harris.
I’d love to hear your own reminiscences of cars past, in the Comments below ⬇
Climate change in social media: one man’s pursuit of truth (here).
Each crisis of our 21st century world gives birth to new “warriors” who use truth and science to help us safely navigate calamities. Our ongoing pandemic is a prime example. Out of the chaos of a muddled anti-science leadership effort in 2020 emerged dedicated scientists, researchers, and companies who swiftly developed vaccines that are saving millions of lives and slowing COVID-19’s spread. And of course, there are our doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers who fought valiantly against the rising tide of infections. Where would we be without them?
As the pandemic wanes, at least in those states and countries with high vaccination rates, the recent deadly eruption of heat waves, wildfires, droughts, vicious storms, and other unusual weather phenomena has forced us to worry anew about an older crisis that represents an existential threat. Climate change is the proverbial bull in our delicate environmental china shop. As many scientists—who have spent lifetimes studying atmospheric and other associated sciences—have been saying for decades, human-driven warming of our atmosphere is to blame for widespread disruption of our natural climate patterns. And it’s only getting worse.
There are new warriors aplenty on the climate change front. Two who have have drawn much of the attention are distinguished Penn State atmospheric science professor Michael Mann and the passionate young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. (I wrote about Mann’s latest book here.)
Enter Canadian Gerald Kutney. A noted author on the politics of the climate crisis and holder of a Ph.D. in chemistry, Kutney has over the last five years established himself as a fierce social media influencer and combatant against those who peddle misinformation about climate change. Kutney and others call the disinformation players “climate change deniers.”
On a cold night in January 1941 my mother drove with my sister Holley and me down to the Wellesley Farms station to meet Daddy, arriving on a train from New York City. I don’t remember what we had been told to expect, but I guess we knew that he had met a ship from Lisbon and was arriving with two refugee sisters from occupied France—Catherine (“Katya”) and Anna Vakar. Of the train trip itself I remember only that Daddy said he was asked by Anna, “Is there a dog?” Upon his response in the affirmative she slept for the rest of the trip.
At first the two girls shared the small guest room, but once established in school they needed expanded study space. For adventurous Anna we fixed up an otherwise unfinished space in the attic, and Katya had a desk in the upstairs hall. I remember only that their integration into our family was virtually seamless. Holley and I started out with fractured French but it wasn’t long before English took over completely. Mother and Daddy became Madame and M’sieur.
That spring Katya and Anna attended the local schools at a grade level below their natural abilities until English was no longer a serious impediment. For their age levels they were clearly ahead of us in arithmetic and language, and in September moved up into their natural public school grades. I was 16, Holley 15, Katya 14, and Anna 13.
In the spring of 1942 their parents, Nicholas Vakarand his wife Gertrude, arrived safely and it wasn’t many months before they became well enough established to take their girls back to a new home in the Jamaica Plain suburb of Boston. Their education hence forth was at Boston Latin. Over the years my mother and father maintained a close friendship with the Vakar family and we visited with them often.
Katya attended Radcliffe from 1946-48; later graduated PHD from Harvard in 1970, and became a professor at MIT. Anna became a well-known Canadian haiku poet residing in Oliver, BC.
One year I came home from Cornell to the news from my father that Katya was to be married—“She’s marrying a man with a Chvany name.” he said.
Ken Burns’ documentary film “Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War“—directed by Artemis Joukowsky III—tells the story of the Vakars and the other refugee children who were placed with American families like mine. Catherine Chvany (“Katya” Vakar) features prominently in on-camera interviews.
Cover photo (L-R: Nicholas Vakar, Anna Vakar, my mother Elsie Church Atkinson, Gertrude Vakar, my father Kerr Atkinson, Catherine Vakar): Picture taken on the occasion of the arrival of Katya and Anna’s parents to visit us in Massachusetts in 1942.
At GE in Schenectady, in an armored vacuum tank, a steel blank for a gas turbine wheel weighing three and a half tons, heated almost to 1,000 degrees, and spinning at six-hundred radians per second (5,700 rpm) was under routine plastic stress relief— by means of centrifugal forces—to redistribute stress left over from cooling after the casting process.
In order to eliminate vibration from small rotational imbalances it was suspended from an eighteen inch long, three-quarter inch diameter steel spindle sufficiently strong to support the weight and flexible enough to allow the wheel to rotate about is center-of-mass rather than about its geometrical center—thus eliminating vibration. Depending upon differences the spindle was, therefore, urged into a slight “S” shape in relation to the vertical.
Unexpectedly, after an hour or so, the spindle broke—releasing more than one trillion Joules of kinetic energy.
The result was catastrophic. Massive wheel fragments tore through the sides of the containment tank and concrete pit burying themselves somewhere in the surrounding earth. Furthermore, it was not the first time this had happened even though no fault could be found in the design of the failed suspension rod.
Jackson and Moreland had been hired to redesign the pit, the tank, and the method of wheel support. I was assigned to the mechanical work.
Gas turbine wheel blanks are spun hot and at speeds high enough to allow inevitable and unwanted internal stresses from the casting and cooling process to “relax”. The temperature is enough slightly to plasticize the steel, and the speed is sufficient to produce the necessary centrifugal forces.
Without further study GE had given up on the failed spindle configuration and opted for a new thrust bearing type of support which was the path that we were directed to pursue. Nevertheless I was curious to know the answer to the spindle failures and set aside some time to investigate.
While thinking about the problem it occurred to me to consider something others had overlooked—the diurnal rotation of the Earth. The massive wheel is, after all, a gyroscope and if its axis of rotation is disturbed in some way resisting forces come into play. And some further calculation showed that such was the case. 
It turned out that at 42.5 degrees north latitude (Schenectady) the wheel’s axis of rotation is, itself, constrained to shift at about ten degrees per hour , sufficient to produce a gyroscopic moment (twisting of the plane of its rotation) to force a steady state bend in the spindle of almost two degrees. Any bend produces stresses which, owing to the rotation are reversed, in this case, at a frequency of 95 cycles per second. Steel samples in rod form are routinely tested for the so-called fatigue strength in specialized machines that load and stress the sample in exactly the same way as in the case of the tilted turbine wheel. The so-called endurance limit of a material is measured in total cycles undergone to failure under a known stress.
The endurance time of the steel used—loaded as in the suspension—was about two hours under the action of the Earth’s rotation alone; including neither the weight of the wheel, nor the vibration accommodating “S” bends.
In this light the failures were not surprising and probably could have been avoided.
 There is no additional effect owing to the Earth’s revolution about the Sun because the direction of this axis is fixed in space—pointing always to the North Star.
 A vertical reference on the earth tilts at a rate of 360°/24hr times the cosine of its latitude. Thus:
15°/hr x cos(42.5) = 11.1 degrees per hour.
A reminiscence based on the personal diary of a 14-year old in the last gorgeous summer of 1939 in France
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.
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).
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.
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.
“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.
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.
June 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.
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.
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
“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.
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
“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
“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
“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.
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.
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
“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!
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