My Travels Abroad; War on the Horizon (1939)

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

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

Paris- 1918 (Kerr on right)

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 13th, Thu.    Marlotte


“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.

KA, Fernand Chapeau, MFleury/ HA, WA, MmeC?, MmeFC, MmeF?/ PierreC, SisterC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 25th, Tue.    Marlotte

The gate at Moret

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

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

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

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

      Polly and her mother we had met on the Georgic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poilu with blue paint

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Aunt Liz

By Matthew Atkinson:

In my childhood my family used to visit my Grandfather’s place in northwestern Connecticut for a week or a weekend here and there. Usually we would stay nearby in an antique farmhouse with my aunts, uncles and slightly older cousins and later in a large boarding house bought by my uncle Bill as a vacation place. Mostly we just hung out there and marched around playing army games arranged by my cousin Web or played kick the can or a nighttime variation called German Spotlight.

Author at Doolittle Lake 1973

Sometimes in the summer my cousin David and I were rousted out of bed at 4:30 in the morning by my aunt Liz to go fishing on Benedict Pond nearby. We got in the station wagon with various rods and spinning reels and tackle boxes. We had an old, wooden grey rowboat that probably belonged to my grandfather stashed by the pond and we loaded up our fishing poles and shoved off. Aunt Liz rowed while Dave and I trolled our lines from the stern. We mostly turned up Perch and nasty Pickerel, a spiny, spiky, slippery thing that was difficult to get off the hook. Back they went into the pond worse for the wear to look for a bug or another shiny spinner flashing by. These were warm, early summer days. The pond was peaceful as the sun came up and the fish started to eat bugs off the surface of the pond. The only sounds were our hushed voices, the creak of wooden oars, and David peeing off the stern. Often, we snagged a lily pad and had to work to get the hook and line back in the boat.

I remember only once (?) one of us hooked a good-sized bass, the prize we were apparently after. I think we had a rubber worm on the hook. Aunt Liz was thrilled and coached us through the struggle with the fish, alternately giving it some line and reeling it closer to the boat. Then she was out with the net and giving it a clubbing with the end of an oar. Six pounds of pure joy for Aunt Liz. It might have been three pounds or ten, but this is a fish story. We trolled for a little longer, but we had what we were after. On shore Aunt Liz cut the fish down its belly, cleaned out the guts and wrapped it up in wet grass.

Then back in the car and a short ride home as the sun came up. Bass for breakfast. Maybe a trip to Doolittle Lake for a swim later. We could always count on Aunt Liz to advocate for ice cream on the way home.

Matthew W. Atkinson, 2020

Note: Aunt Liz is my late sister-in-law. Matthew is my son.

Covid-19: A View From Assisted Living

When it became obvious that the Covid-19 corona virus would become a national disaster I began this Post as a periodic email to my children and grandchildren. When informed by my elder daughter that nobody—especially grandchildren—reads emails anymore, this is what has emerged.

The most recent update is here at the top. (If you’d like to start at the beginning, click here for the March 17 update.)

I’d love to hear from you in the Comments (scroll to the bottom of the post).

Update 17: Tuesday, September 1, 2020
Hi All:

Youville has made no addition to its update of July 20.

I believe there are no current Covid-19 cases among inmates or staff.

Here are links to Covid-19 updates at neighboring assisted living facilities at North Hill and Brookhaven where I know some people.

Brookhaven has had no update since June 22nd.
North Hill, I may say, seems not to be doing as well as we here at Youville. Kudos! They are in control(?) but have had many infections and deaths. Note again that they are a much larger facility than we and may therefore be more representative of the U.S. in microcosm.

Our isolation moves us to reflect upon friendships and regrets of the past: Ozerki

I went down for lunch last week to the “socially distanced” dining room. It was so efficiently distanced that I might as well have dined alone.
With nearly one-hundred meals to be served—take-out style to your door—three times a day we wonder how the staff can keep up. We have our own little frustrations (the orders are never quite right), but this must be nothing compared to the difficulties of staff trying to do the best they can.

We have a true gem in Connie who drives the Youville truck and keeps us in cat food, kitty litter, and beer.

Zoom! Yay! Holley fixed the microphone problem!
No new pic of kitty. Hoping for a Recumbent and an Odalisque.

Paul Krugman has an encouraging view from New York: tells us today that Massachusetts is holding its place in the transmission coefficient (R0) game among the states. We (MA) are now still negative—meaning that, on average, each infected individual is passing his infection on to very few others. At least in Cambridge, mask use in the streets seems almost universal. Paul Krugman has a sanguine view of his surroundings in NYC.

Here again the current graph from Our World in Data. It shows that the number of new cases per day (43,700, still highest in the World!) is slightly improved from my last post but with no sign of levelling off:
OWD 9-1

It’s perfectly clear that the U.S., owing to its faux culture of exceptionalism and its fostering of a broad cult of willful ignorance, will not be out of this for years. Now Trump wants to sacrifice two million on the altar of his cult. Sorry.

And here, again, is a link from USAFacts to similar information for all fifty states.
Click around in this link to see how Massachusetts and the rest of the U.S. are doing.

Dad (aka Bill, and Châtelaine)

Update 16: Sunday, August 15, 2020
Hi All:

Youville has made no addition to its update of July 20.

I believe there are no current Covid-19 cases among inmates or staff.
I have not as yet taken part in the optional and partial opening of the dining facilities newly in effect.

Here are links to Covid-19 updates at neighboring assisted living facilities at North Hill and Brookhaven where I know some people.

North Hill is not doing as well as we are here at our Youville. What’s interesting is the presence of “scofflaws.” Of course they are a much larger facility than we and maybe more representative of the U.S. in microcosm.
The Brookhaven update is not current.

I’m happy to be back on the exercise machine!
I gasp for breath as I watch Stephanie Ruhle and Ali Velshi “bringing me news of fresh disaster.” [“But never you mind, my dear. Put on the kettle; we’ll have a nice cup o’ boilin’ ‘ot water.” Do any of you remember the “Beyond the Fringe” sketch of the sixties?]

And now the clothes washer on my floor has croaked.

Chatelaine Ascendant

Good news at the dentist! Where she had threatened a crown was merely a coronet—the tooth was saved to fulfill its manifest dentistry.  RIP Alfred E. Neuman.

Amazingly tells us again that Massachusetts has moved back to the head of the line in transmission coefficient (R0) among the states. We (MA) are now very negative again—meaning that, on average, each infected individual is passing his infection on to very few others. Again, I’m not sure why, but the Covid Gods seem to be with us.

Below is the current graph from Our World in Data. It now shows that the number of new cases per day (50,000, still highest in the World!) has remained fairly constant (a straight line), but with no sign of levelling off.
It got better through June and then worse again in July and is back now to where it was in mid July.

It’s perfectly clear that the U.S., owing to its faux culture of exceptionalism and its fostering of a broad cult of willful ignorance, will not be out of this for years. Sorry.

OWD 8-15

And here, again, is a link from USAFacts to similar information for all fifty states.
Click around in this link to see how Massachusetts and the rest of the U.S. are doing.

Hi Meg and Patrick. Looking forward to sitting at distance with you on the Youville patio on Monday.

Dad (aka Bill, and Châtelaine)

Update 15: Saturday, August 1, 2020
Hi All:

Here is a link to Youville’s July 20 update.
I have added a paragraph describing the rules for outside (patio) visiting. Its one Draconian measure is that only two guests are permitted at a time.

The fancy dinnerware upgrade has happened. In its first manifestation—today at lunch—I received two entrees: An egg salad sandwich on white and a hamburger. I don’t remember which I had ordered, but one had to go. It’s too bad that the orders are almost never quite “right”. It leads to shameful food waste.  But the staff works so hard to accommodate us that it seems petty to complain. It’s good though that we’ve now eliminated a fair amount of single use plastic and bags.

The optional and partial opening of the dining facilities is also newly in effect. People take turns so that social distancing can be observed.
I think I’ll stick with in-house meals for a while.

I believe there are no current covid-19 cases among inmates or staff. I have a good feeling that we’re safer here than in the big suburban prisons.

Here are links to covid-19 updates at neighboring suburban assisted living facilities at North Hill and Brookhaven where I know some people.
Current Massachusetts statistics.

And here is a link to her new piece, God’sWaitingRoom by Ruth Daniloff, a fellow Youville inmate.

The exercise machine is fixed! I was afraid I might be losing some muscle tone and deep breathing capability.

The tooth pulling was trivial and painless, but she’s discovered that I will probably lose one of my incisors. Bummer. Anticipate my new Alfred E. Neuman smile.
You’ll be glad to hear that I have a renewed appointment with the urologist.

Châtelaine is not very nice to me but I try to be nice to her. How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless kitty. tells us that Massachusetts has further fallen in transmission coefficient (R0) among the states. we (MA) are now very positive—meaning that, on average, an infected individual is passing his infection on to more than one other person, thus promoting growth rather than fostering gradual remission. I’m not sure why, but some are blaming unsafe July Fourth gatherings. It takes about three weeks to see the results of idiocy.

Here is the current graph from Our World in Data. It now shows that the number of new cases per day (52,000, highest in the World!) remains fairly constant (a straight line), with no sign of leveling off:
OWD 8-1

In my Update 8 of May 1 I mused about a national total infection count of four million by July. I am going to muse again—today it is 4.56 million—and say that by Election Day it will be near ten million—about three in every one-hundred Americans! This because it is by now obvious that the Trump administration has no plan to mitigate the disaster—and it never will.

Just tonight I’m hearing of a virus “catch” party of seven-hundred young MAGAt covidiots in New Jersey.

Here, again, is a link from USAFacts to similar information for all fifty states.
Click around in this link to see how Massachusetts and the rest of the U.S. are doing.

Hope we can resolve the camera/mic problem for some better Zooming,
Dad (aka Bill and Châtelaine)

Update 14: Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Hi All:

Here is a link to Youville’s July 10 update.
They plan an optional and partial opening of the dining facilities.
And to make an upgrade to the room service, i.e., thermal containers and nicer tableware to replace the plastic. For me this is not much of a change because I already transfer everything to my own washed tableware and microwave as necessary. This way I can eat at my leisure—not worrying the food will be cold.
The dining room schedule will be such that occupancy is limited to promote distancing.

I believe there are no covid-19 cases among Youville inmates or staff.

Here are links to covid-19 updates at neighboring assisted living facilities at North Hill and Brookhaven where I have friends.

Alas, my favorite exercise machine has failed, but I’m assured that new parts are on the way.

I went to my every six-month eye exam and am told that everything is OK.
But now I have to have a tooth pulled, and must suffer the ministrations of the podiatrist for my painful toenails.

A bright naked-eye comet, Neowise, is in the sky and just now (July 15) has become visible in the evening after sunset. The west facing windows on the 7th floor at Youville should be a good place to try to see it. In recent weeks it has been a before-sunrise object but now, having passed perihelion, it is in the evening sky. Seven-hundred years ago the appearance of comets portended disaster and plague—can that be still the case?

In my astronomy days I took a few comet pix myself.

Img_1761I’m waiting for an e-camera Match has sent me to make Zoom-ing less stressful. tells us that Massachusetts has lost its position as having the lowest transmission coefficient (R0) of all the states. I’m not sure why, but we (MA) are now positive—meaning that, on average, an infected individual is passing his infection on to more than one other person, thus promoting growth rather than fostering gradual remission.

Here is an interesting new metric I just stumbled upon at Twitter. Given any random crowd size from ten to ten-thousand—Georgia Tech predicts (by U.S. county) what the chances are that at least one infected person will be in that group.  Poke around in it—it’s frightening. In Arizona it’s 88% for a group of 25. In Massachusetts (Middlesex County) it’s 9%. Wear your masks when outside!

I continue to notice that in Cambridge just about everyone on the street is masked. And inside offices and stores it is universal.

From now on I plan to post twice monthly.

Again, my fears of June 10th continue to be realized. The early and ill-advised (mostly red state) maskless and crowded “openings” in the South and the West have proved disastrous—nationally overwhelming the modest gains made in the Northeast. This failing is owing (let’s admit it) to the Trump administration’s having instituted no national coronavirus policy. The daily increase in the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. [highest in the World!] has ballooned from about 45,000 cases per day (June 30th) to 66,000 cases per day (July 15th) with no end in sight.

Here is the current graph from Our World in Data. It now shows that the number of new cases per day has become constant (a straight line, no longer increasing):
OWD 7-15It’s that bending back upward that we knew was coming in Update 10 on May 21 when the southern governors first announced their “reopenings.”
This is a long, long way from leveling off to zero.

In my Update 8 of May 1, I mused about a national total infection count of four million by July. There were those then who thought this preposterous. Now July has come and it is 3.43 million—about one in every one-hundred Americans!
Update 7/23/20: So, I missed it by a week.

And here is a link from USAFacts to similar information for all fifty states.
Click around in this link to see how Massachusetts and the rest of the U.S. are doing.

I will say it again: The “first” wave is still building and is long from washing over us.
We will be submerged in this national administrative catastrophe for many, many months.

Dad (aka Bill and Châtelaine)

Update 13: Tuesday, June 30, 2020
Hi All:

Youville House has posted no update during this twenty day period.
I believe there are no covid-19 cases among inmates or staff.
This is owing to the dedication of our essential workers who, themselves, must find it much more daunting to follow the “rules” than for us for the most part safely hidden in our dens.

Here are links to covid-19 updates at neighboring assisted living facilities at North Hill and Brookhaven.

I did go through the car wash. 🙂

And I went elsewhere as well—to the Subaru shop in Belmont, to my old shop in Auburndale for a new inspection sticker, and to Needham for an annual hearing evaluation. I was hugely impressed by the coronavirus response at these places. Masks and distancing universally and cheerfully observed—no Karens in sight. Waiting rooms closed, hand sanitizer on the counters, seating only outside, door handles and steering wheels wiped. Too, masks on the street are almost universal. Cambridge has new lighted traffic signs saying “Face covering required in Cambridge;” in Needham—not so much.

It should be noted that today Massachusetts has almost the lowest transmission coefficient (R0) of all the states, and that its curve of confirmed infections is noticeably flattening. Massachusetts rocks!

My previous posts have been at ten day intervals, but I delayed this one another ten days so that the unfortunate national trend would stand out more starkly.

My fears of June 10th have been realized. The early and ill-advised (mostly red state) maskless and crowded “openings” in the South and the West have proved disastrous—nationally overwhelming the modest gains made in the Northeast. This failing is owing to the Administration’s having instituted no national coronavirus policy. The daily increase in the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. [highest in the world] has ballooned from about 22,000 cases per day (June 10th) to 45,000 today (June 30th) with no end in sight:

Here is the graph showing the upward curving national infection rate between June 10th and June 30th:
OWD 6-30

And here is a link to data for all fifty states.
Click around in this link to see how Massachusetts and its counties and the rest of the U.S. are doing.

The “first” wave is still building and is long from crashing over us.
We will be submerged in this disaster for many, many months.

Sorry—no cat pic.

Dad (aka Bill)

Update 12: Wednesday, June 10, 2020
Hi All:

Here is a link to Youville’s June 1 update.
It’s mostly new complicated and cumbersome visiting requirements—certainly justified in the current Covid-19 climate.

Links to Covid-19 updates at neighboring assisted living facilities at North Hill and Brookhaven.

Again, as for me, there is really nothing new.
As usual, surfing the Twitterverse (with @EricBoehlert and his trying to hold the feet of the Trump-enabling Press to the fire.

Now that it has arrived it is hard to take advantage of the nice weather—unless you’re resigned to enjoying it alone or, at most, with masked and muffled beings six feet away. My hearing being what it is I don’t much take to it. (I’m thinking of having another hearing exam and aids update.)

As entertainment I’m thinking of taking the car through the local car wash. Any takers?

I continue in my personal view of these current nation-wide “openings” in that they will prove to have been a mistake—if not a disaster—the results of which will be still hidden for another few weeks. The U.S. total infection rate arc continues upward, now just noticeably more steeply than ten days ago. The “first” wave is increasing in size and long from over.

Here is link to a broad assessment from The Atlantic.
And here (6/11) is a new confirmation of my fears.

Dad (aka Bill)

Update 11: Sunday, May 31, 2020
Hi All:

Here is a link to Youville’s May 29 update.
They are announcing that if we should leave Youville for “an extended stay” we will be subject to fourteen days of quarantine upon our return. I’m assuming that this definition does not include local medical appointments; but I think it needs some clarification.

Here are links to Covid-19 updates at neighboring assisted living facilities at North Hill and Brookhaven.

And here is a link to a timely piece, “The Virus,” by Ruth Daniloff, a fellow Youville inmate.

Again, as for me, there is really nothing new.
“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps on this petty pace from day to day.”

I do wonder about my own vulnerability to the virus, not so much as to who I’m with and where I am, but more as to what I am—a product of good fortune and chance. I suppose that reaching age 95 says something good about general health, but it definitely speaks ill of the statistical chances in regard to surviving the infection.

Does it mean anything that I haven’t had a chest or head cold in ten years? Have I had them all? So, that I’m now immune to all of them? Will the new virus respectfully take heed?

They say that a vitamin D deficiency plays a role. I was discovered to have such a deficiency 50 years ago and have been taking pills ever since.

They say that maintaining lung capacity is important; the reason that, every day, I exercise to breathlessness; hoping that in the ICU with “proning”—if it comes to that—I might make it. Sometimes I try to review in my imagination what days and nights of struggling would be like and how I might be able to respond.

I continue my personal view of these current nation-wide “openings” that they will prove to have been a mistake—if not a disaster—the results of which will be hidden for another few weeks. The U.S. total infection arc continues upward, only barely less steeply than ten days ago.

In the states—especially those in the south and central U.S.—many of the total case trajectories are yet becoming steeper: more and more cases per unit of time as time passes. Their peaks may be months in the future.

The national rate of increase has eased slightly from around 20,000 cases per day, but I expect that, owing to reckless national gatherings having become common again, it will strengthen substantially. It’s not that there will be a “second wave,” it’s that the first and only wave will be bigger.

By mid-June or July we will know whether the “reopening” will be sustainable.

I sure hope that something will allow us to be social beings again.

Dad (aka Bill)

Update 10: Thursday, May 21, 2020
Hi All:

Massachusetts cautiously “opens” but there is to be no significant change here at Youville.

Here is a link to Youville’s May 21 update.
Anything I could tell you about what’s new at Youville is included in this update.

And again links to Covid-19 updates at neighboring assisted living facilities at North Hill and Brookhaven.

As for me, there is really nothing new. After a few weeks, which will give us time to see what’s going to happen, I will again look into reinstating medical appointments.

We try to sit in the sun for a while but others are so far away that conversation is impractical, especially with hearing aids.

20052001_ChatelaineThe quality of the food has remained good all along, although sitting down to dinner—alone in ones apartment—is fraught with minor inconveniences like no syrup for the pancakes, no butter for the mashed potatoes, and the impertinent expectations of a kitty-cat.

My personal view of these current nation-wide “openings” is that they will prove to have been a mistake, the results of which will be hidden for another few weeks. Already today news out of Florida suggests that after having opened last week they may be forced to close again.

It no longer makes sense to characterize the change in the infection rate by its doubling time, which has lengthened to a month, because now—owing to sequestering—the case rate of increase appears to be more nearly linear than exponential.
OWD 5-21The national rate of increase is now around 20,000 cases per day, and will stay that way until it increases again as reckless “reopenings” become common.
I expect that by mid-June we will be able to see whether the reopening is sustainable.

Here are two interactive websites that show national and state-by-state data:
1. Our World In Data—The one I have been using for the past several updates.
2. USAFacts—A new one showing state-by-state data that I just found this morning (5/22). Louisiana is interesting because it hints at the up-tick I expect for the rest of the country.

Dad (aka Bill)

Update 9: Monday, May 11, 2020
Hi All:

The City of Cambridge has tested us, yet again–for the third time! Go Cambridge!
My result was negative. Also they tested us for coronas antibodies but we’ve not heard back on that.

Here is a link to Youville’s May 8 update.

And again links to Covid-19 updates at neighboring assisted living facilities North Hill and Brookhaven.

Well it’s really a super serving of the “Same old, same old.” What can I say?
Some people have been lifted from fourteen-day quarantines and others have returned from surviving the infection itself. There seems to be a bit more distancing sociability going on, but following speech filtered through masks is tough—you don’t realize how much of speech interpretation is visual, especially with hearing aids.

The weather continues cool and inhospitable and so no one is yet out on the patio.

Here is an example of the current tonsorial state:


The doubling time continues to increase having now reached thirty-one days.  At last post it seemed to me that the total infections might reach four-million by July. If the current count doubles two more times from now—each in thirty-days: to July 11th—it will indeed have exceeded four-million by then.
It is hard to know which course of action will win out. The country in general seems to favor social distancing, but Trump’s “open the economy now” scenario may gain enough strength to cancel the effects of general distancing. We will know the answer by the end of June; watch the doubling time.
OWD 5-11

Here is the logarithmic plot:
OWD 5-11L

Dad (aka Bill)

Update 8: Friday, May 1, 2020
Hi All:

Yet again the City of Cambridge has come through with continuing concern for its citizens. As of Wednesday (4/29) all Cantabrigians are required to be masked when on the street. What an opportunity for lovers of intrigue!

Here is a link to Youville’s April 27 update.

And again links to neighboring facilities North Hill and Brookhaven.

Au Cordon Bleu in my kitchenette

At mealtime a knock on the door precedes the appearance–in the kitchenette–of a plastic shopping bag:

Gloves on!

Soup: In paper container; pour into coffee cup; microwave (30sec on high); container back in bag.
Entree: In plastic doggie-box; transfer to dinner plate; nuke as required; container back in bag.
Coffee: In paper cup; transfer to coffee mug; paper cup to trash.
Shopping bag: Finis! Out the door.

Gloves off!

Banana: Wash with soap.
Milk carton: Wash with soap.

Bon appétit! (keeping Châtelaine at bay the while!)

Sewed two more masks to pass some time. Always hoping not to break the thread. Threading the needle is an exercise–almost–of geezer impossibility. And invokes speaking sternly to the machine.

The family has made two forays into Zoom world with mixed results, owing to having to patch video and audio in from my cell phone–my PC/monitor (for the purposes of viewing the Gallery) having no camera or microphone. Lots of talk-over and frantic waving.

I spend time on Twitter watching the cats and baby elephants go by; marveling at the examples of Why Women Live Longer Than Men–it’s akin to the Darwin Award; and pleading with the @NYTimes to give up its sloppy, Trumpy ways. If you’re on Twitter you should be following @EricBoehlert’s new presence at, as he holds the feet of the wayward Press to the fire.

For history buffs here is an excellent timeline of the pandemic of 1918-1919–the similarities are sobering.

What’s worrisome now is the occurrence then of three infection peaks of which the second was the worst. The end of World War I enabled a resurgence of influenza as people celebrated Armistice Day on November 11 and soldiers begin to demobilize.

In 1918-19 my father was stationed in France with the AEF. But on November 14, 1918 his father (my grandfather)—botanist and mycologist George Francis Atkinson—died of that second peak of flu while on a mushroom specimen gathering expedition near Mt. Rainier. (It is my impression that my father was given leave to attend the funeral in Raisinville, Michigan—which would have meant at least a month’s absence from his unit in France.)

Also near the second peak in New York City, on November 16, 1918 my mother boarded a steamer for France to spend a year working with the YMCA running a soldier’s canteen, and then with the Red Cross in reconstruction in the war-torn Champagne region.

Fortunately both Elsie Church and Kerr Atkinson spent the winter of 1919 in different rural regions of France where the virus never penetrated.

What to say about the current Covid-19 crisis? The national doubling time is now about 25 days and increasing 😃. But out in Trumpworld the dynamics may turn out be dramatically different. On that path, I’m reluctant to think, the doubling time could decrease again; the national case total then approaching four million by July. We’ll see.

“Be well, do good work, and stay in touch.”–Keillor
Dad (aka Bill)

Update 7: Tuesday, April 21, 2020
Hi All:

The City of Cambridge has tested all of us a second time, this time including an antibody test. I have tested negative.

Today Youville House has issued its latest official update of April 21.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow had a segment on the independence–from Trump–of some savvy smaller U.S. cities. I’m trying to encourage her to do one on our own super Cambridge.

Youville has built a transparent barrier around the welcome desk to protect the receptionist.

Our isolation from one another is virtually complete. We are encouraged not to visit.
The meals staff has changed from rigid trays to plastic bags; perhaps considered safer because disposable.

If I may dabble in simile I can say that the efforts of our staff are Herculean. Day in, day out–while the rest of us loaf (ha, ha) in our rooms.

April has been unusually cold and wet (snow recently) so we’re looking forward to the first seventy degree day for sitting outside.

I’m reading that practicing strong breathing, through breathing exercise, may have a positive influence on covid-19 outcomes. April is my third anniversary here at Youville and I am blessed to have an apartment on the same floor as the exercise machines, one of which is easy to use for arms and legs. The Internet lately (for a couple of years maybe) has promoted the idea that short, intensive workouts may, in the long run, be more generally beneficial than longer, less strenuous ones. And, since I dislike exercising as much as the next guy, this seemed worth trying. I set the machines’s stiffness to the maximum (15), maintaining a pace of more than seventy strokes-per-minute for seven minutes*–I do the last ten seconds at 80spm. This is enough completely to exhaust me, breathing so hard I can’t talk, but I feel that it has had a salutary effect on my lung capacity. I’ve been doing this every day now for three years.
*Once around the machine’s “quarter-mile” track.

But not everyone here is as fortunate as I am. Those already with heart conditions and compromised lungs can’t take advantage of this idea.

I have friends in retirement communities in Needham, at North Hill and in Lexington, at Brookhaven, each of who are reporting covid-19 cases.

OWD 4-21
The doubling time has increased significantly from six to eleven days, but bear in mind that the testing under Trump as been an abysmal failure and that the unknown number of actual cases is many times the published figure. And that, owing to the recalcitrance of some GOP state governors, the doubling time may shorten again as their new cases flood the record.

And so–hang in there.
Dad (aka Bill)

Update 6: Saturday, April 11, 2020
Hi All:
Big news! The City of Cambridge has arranged for every inmate of a nursing home or a retirement community to be tested for covid-19. In fact, two burly fellows in full PPE have just left me after having stuck a long thin swab up my nose.
There is no information yet as to the availability of the results.
Note (4/11): I have since found out that there were not enough test kits to include the Youville staff; and that these additional tests are expected to be available on Monday.

Now everyone here is masked. It began with staff and, just a day or so ago, expanded to everybody.

My mask effort

Earlier I had made a mask on a corrugated pattern but it was awkward to make on my sewing machine and was made of some old napkins I had which are too “see light thru” to be of much use.I found a simple mask pattern on-line which used two layers: tight weave cotton bandana outside and cut up fleecy long johns inside. No light see-through the two layers. They look good but are only OK as the fit is not the best and I couldn’t find anything good for the ear loops.

Well, it killed a couple of days anyway.

All Youville all social programs have been cancelled. Staff roams the halls wiping door handles, delivering meals, and checking in on us. They work hard and I hope they will be safe.

My friends at North Hill, a retirement community in Needham, MA, tell me of similar restrictions.

Occasionally the Internet has slowed into uselessness. This was true on Sunday.  At first I accused my browser but it was confirmed by my granddaughter in SF. Everybody is WFH, watching YouTube, Zooming, and taking university classes on-line.
It’s been much better since Monday.

I don’t walk well enough to take advantage of the coming nice weather outdoors.

On a political note everyone seems to be blaming Trump for this. This is all very well as a proximate stance, but misses the main point: The true failure is that of our Senate who have the power, if not the will, overnight to alter our calamitous course.

It is time to see what my eight doublings (since March 20) have wrought.

OWD 4-11
Instead of  64 million we have only 0.5 million.
This is because the case doubling time has increased significantly–a very good thing–and indicative of the efficacy of  social distancing which in no way should be relaxed or ended for many, many weeks.

Dad (aka Bill)

Update 5: Wednesday, April 1, 2020
Hi All:
The only significant change here at Youville is that our kitchen staff is now fully masked and gloved when in the common spaces distributing and retrieving trays.
The onus on gathering menu preferences has been transferred from staff to us; a huge relief for them I am sure.People seem pretty upbeat and are putting a brave face on things, although I see so few to talk to day-to-day that this may be a misconception.
While keeping our distance we are free to move about in the building and to step outside for “air” or to walk.However dire the prospect overall there are this week some inchoate signs of change.OWD 4-1
My guess for April 1, Wednesday (250,000 U.S. cases) was too high; we’ll have to wait all the way to Saturday for that.

Obligatory cat pic: Châtelaine

Since March 21 the case doubling time has increased (a good thing) from two days to almost five but there is nothing strong to indicate that this trend will continue.

Since, in fact, the total number of cases in the U.S. is much, much larger than this, and is essentially unknowable owing to the national failure in testing ability, we may actually know almost nothing about the future actual doubling times.

Dad (aka Bill)

Update 4: Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Hi All:

As you see I have transferred this post from email to my website.

Youville has closed its hair salon, a good move, so that all the men now can look like Einstein, and the women like Raquel Welch.

The food stays really good; last night: kudos to the Chef for his medallions of pork.
New plastic dinner trays have replaced the papier mâché. I think this is a good plan; much easier to wash, wipe, and to keep clean.

And they’ve just marked the floor at Reception so that we can’t lean in too closely to the person at the desk.
Meds are still available from Skendarian, the local connection, and we have hard working Connie who is our driver and does our shopping–stuff we need as for pets and the outer man.

We see almost nothing of one another these days, except maybe in the exercise room where some gravitate to the machines–which are now provided with alcohol wipes.

I’m fortunate in having access to the world through my computer; I can’t imagine such solitary confinement without it. Many here were born too soon to become part of the computer age and must be content without it.

We seem largely to be hopeful here inside although outside things are not looking much better:

My 64,000* U.S. infections guess of the last post for the 25th was not met so that there is, as yet, faint hope that the country’s case load has begun to slow, in spite of the fact that the nation has not yet done as much as it should to slow the rise. It is painful to accept that there are, in fact, hugely more U.S. infections than today’s published number indicates owing to the lack of testing and the irresponsibly slow response of our Government.

*By the evening of the 25th the number was 64,000.

QWD 3-25

You can see that the doubling time has slowed from two to three days and, if this trend continues, that in six days there will be two more doublings to 110,000 cases. We can hope by then that the doubling time has lengthened still further, a good thing.

For the more scientific of you here is the semi-log(arithm) plot in which equal doubling intevals plot as a straight line, the slope (steepness) of which indicates the doubling time. My own feeling is that this conveys less well to the layman the truly alarming nature of the growth rate.
QWD 3-25 Log

“Be well, do good work, and stay in touch”

Dad (aka Bill)

Update 3: Friday, March 20, 2020

Hi All:
Things are stabilizing here at my assisted living facility in Cambridge, Mass. People are getting used to the draconian lockdown derangements. We are already pretty much restricted to our digs. Outside visitor ban; even the U.S. mailman is denied entry. All staff and aides are queried and have their temperature taken at the door. Compulsive hand washing [wringing?] abounds.

Social programs have been cancelled and the dining facilities closed. A system of delivering meals to the apartments—initially a bit chaotic— is smoothing out.

Very few of us now are out and about in the public spaces. We miss talking to people. Only one person at a time is permitted in the elevators. Basically I’m just plunked here at my computer.
The staff is knocking itself out to help us and to ease the following of the rules. For them this is a dedicated and dangerous business because they themselves have no way properly to do in-house self-isolation.
Theoretically we seem pretty safe here, but it’s early days and the prognosis for us and the U.S. is not good.
I think many have not really grasped the vastness of this crisis. Few seem to understand the exponential growth function. Especially not the psychopath Trump, his feckless enablers in the GOP, or the Nation at large.
The latest yesterday from Rachel Maddow at MSNBC:
Covid-19 Update 3
With a bit of extrapolation: Today 14,000 cases. The case doubling time seems now to be about 2.2 days. Probably owing to the hordes of the unidentified infected among us.

This is much faster than estimated as recently as a week ago. Originally 9 days.

By April 1 (10 days) four doublings, 250,000 cases.
By April 11, four more doublings: 4 million cases (1% of US population).
By April 21: four more doublings: 64 million (18% of US population). If at 3%, 200,000 dead. Four times the US 50,000 of the 1918 pandemic [in which my grandfather George Francis Atkinson–a prominent mycologist and botanist–died at age 64].
You don’t want even to think about May.
We are still essentially without testing and will be for many weeks; flying blind. Hard to imagine a more colossal (Presidential cum GOP) failure, but there it is.
Let’s see what the case number is on March 25th, five days from now.
Two doublings, to 64,000, would confirm this particular prediction. We may then be able to see whether our one week old (and only partial) national isolation mandate is having an effect.
At least I don’t have to worry about my taxes.
I can’t tell you how weird and unsettling this all seems.
Call me alarmist. I don’t mind.
Dad (Bill)


Update 2: Thursday, March 19, 2020

Hi All:
OK. yesterday, the house instituted a new rule: Only one in an elevator at one time. I thought it would be chaos, but no, our lockdown has sufficiently reduced local circulation so it’s not a problem. The Feds have banned postal personnel from entering the building so staff is now laboriously sorting mail into our cubbies.
Chatelaine: mistress of the castle (foreground) Irving Porter Church: my grandfather (background)

Cat company is good, but with its hazards. Food delivery to the apt. has proved a boon to Châtelaine and a problem for me. She is aggressively into everything that arrives through the door; I have to fight her off.

On leaving a recent long-scheduled Doctor appointment at Tufts Boston, the receptionist said that I needed another appointment.
  “In six weeks.
      “In six weeks? Are you kidding?
  “No. A bone scan in six weeks.
The woman at the next station caught my eye; she was appalled. She knew.
  “Don’t you realize,” I said, “that in six weeks the US medical system will be on the verge of collapse?”
Blank stare.
I wished them both well and shuffled on home.
Covid-19 Update 2
I can spend the next few days doing taxes. At least something to do.
Love to all,


Update 1: Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Hi All:

I’m surprised and impressed with my assisted living facility. Now for the past week no visitors to residents from outside; staff and outside support personnel temperatures taken on arrival.

Today they eliminated all group activity and closed the common dining facility. All meals to be ordered in writing and delivered to individual apts. Worrisome only if paper plates, utensils, cups are not handled carefully. They’re starting out with the usual hot meals.

But I imagine it will morph gradually into cold and packaged food only (cereal, canned stuff, milk, juice, etc.). We all have small fridges and microwave ovens.  It seems a bit ad hoc and chaotic today but I think they’ll get the hang of it soon.

It will be interesting to see how the “one person in the elevator at a time” rule works out. I’m still able to negotiate my two flights of stairs–but slowly.

I have a new and friendly shelter kitty cat (Châtelaine by name–the mistress of the castle).

We’re all looking forward to its being warm enough to use the patio.

Alas, it will be unseasonably soon; a harbinger of our other existential crisis.

As Garrison Keillor was wont to say: “Be well. Do good work. And stay in touch.”


Dad (GPBill, Bill)


A Climate Query for Skeptics

Banner image above: The “Hockey Stick” [Mann, Bradley, & Hughes, 1999]

Global temperature anomalies averaged and adjusted to early industrial baseline (1881-1910) NASA GISS, NOAA NCEL, ESRL

    Above is a combined plot of overall global temperature change and atmospheric CO2 concentration over the past 137 years—since coal and oil burning began.

The temperature scale (left) is the anomaly (the change or difference) from the long term average temperature (1881-1910) in degrees C. [δ1.0C = δ1.8F]

The CO2 scale (right) is the atmospheric concentration in parts-per-million (air), but has been scaled for comparison to plot on the same ordinate as the temperature anomaly.

These plots are referred to as the “hockey stick” owing to the long level “handle” on the left (extending back centuries) and the steep rise on the right which began suddenly around 1950.

    If, as a skeptic, you do not accept that the globe is warming or that CO2 is increasing—the basic science shown by the hockey stick—I do not know what course to offer you.
    If, as a skeptic, you identify with a strong core group of the opposition I fully understand and sympathize—that with a change in your position you could risk the loss of long-time and trusted friends and, perhaps, even of your job.
    But if, while still skeptical, you are free to accept the warming and the CO2 change, I ask:
    Which seems the more likely?

1. An increase in global temperature from some unknown or as yet “unproven” cause somehow—through an unknown or “unproven” mechanism—gradually increases CO2.

    Or that
2. An increase in CO2 from a known cause—fossil fuel burning—increases global temperature through a known mechanism—the greenhouse gas effect [1].

[1] Discovered by the Swedish chemist and Nobel Prize winner Svante Arrehnius in 1896.]

James Hansen, Climate Change in a Nutshell, 2018


The Psychrometrics of Existential Heat

Image: Australian Bureau of Meteorology (12/2019)

It is time for meteorologists—when reporting on extreme world high temperatures—to publish the concurrent data on relative humidity.

The core temperature of the human body is well known to be about 99F (37C) and to be carefully stabilized in maintaining a balance between the heat produced by internal metabolism and that lost to the environment through conduction, radiation, and transpiration.  The production of internal heat is essentially constant—unless increased by exercise—and must therefore be continually dissipated, even under ordinary circumstances, to prevent body temperature rise.

Without clothing, in 75 degree air, the skin temperature is about 90F (32C). We perceive an air temperature in the range of 75F as neutral or benign because that fifteen degree difference is enough to allow the body—through conduction, radiation, and transpiration—continually to lose the appropriate amount of heat to retain its balance.

As the ambient air temperature rises emergency measures must come into play. If possible we can limit the internal heat production through resting. If that is insufficient we begin to sweat and perhaps to seek breezes to enhance their evaporative cooling effect. This works well, especially if the air is dry, but not so well in already wet and humid air.  And, ominously, it works not at all if the air is already as humid as it can get.

Let me explain:

Behold the Psychrometric Chart:
This diagram (augmented for relevance) shows various physical relationships between air and the amount of moisture it holds under various temperature conditions.
1. The vertical lines are lines of constant ambient air temperature; for example everywhere equal to 80F on the vertical 80F line.

2. The horizontal lines are lines of equal moisture content; for example everywhere equal to 0.016 pounds of water vapor per pound of dry air on the horizontal 0.016 line.

3. The sweeping curves are the loci of equal per-cent relative humidity, i.e., the ratio of the vapor in the air at a point to the most vapor it could possibly hold at 100% relative humidity. At 100% RH we call the air saturated with moisture—it cannot take on any more. Evaporative cooling ceases.

4. The straight sloping lines are more mysterious; they represent the temperature a wet rag would cool down to if held up in the ambient wind as it dried—your wet swim suit in a gale. The interesting—and crucial—thing about this is that from any air temperature starting point on a sloping line—say 80F/60%RH—the evaporative cool-down end-point is always the same, 70F! Check out: 100F/20%RH. This end point is called the wet-bulb temperature because it is measured with a thermometer whose bulb, cooled in the wind, is covered with a wet sock.

When water evaporates it cools, and keeps cooling until the wet-bulb temperature is reached. Thus, the human body can cool itself by sweating only as long as the ambient wet-bulb temperature is cooler than the skin temperature. Once the ambient wet bulb temperature hits 90F evaporative cooling ceases and the skin can no longer be cooled by sweating. In the absence of artificial cooling, the body temperature will then inexorably rise until death ensues—naked, in the shade, with plenty to drink.

For example, referring to the Chart:
When the air temperature reaches 110F/43C—as it has already in parts of the world—and the relative humidity is what we might think of as a modest 46%, the wet-bulb temperature is 90F/32C and an outdoor population faces death by heat stroke, e.g., body temperature over 104F/47C.

The thing is that it’s not strictly the ambient air temperature that counts; it’s your proximity to the sloping 90F wet-bulb line that determines your danger. See [2].

In terms of the climate crisis existential heat is no joke. Severe temperature events will become more and more common as the world heats. As I write* [01/01/20], today’s record high temperature in Australia is 121.8F/49.9C! (I can find no concurrent %RH data.)

Therefore I think it important in extreme temperature conditions for world weather services routinely to publish concurrent humidity/wet bulb data so that danger can be properly evaluated by the general populace. Therefore, too, I think it important for the general public to have a rudimentary understanding of the psychrometrics of existential heat.
*Today (8/4/20) 53.0C/127.4F in Basra!

An interactive Psychrometric Chart by
See [4] Record wet-bulb: 92F/33C.
See [5] Cooking: @131F/55C.
See [6] A good article on this subject.

But wait, there’s more:

In addition to the wet bulb temperature there is another psychrometric entity used by weather services to find the relative humidity—the dew point temperature. It is a more accurate means of determining %RH than by using the wet bulb temperature, but its accurate determination is out of reach for those without special equipment.

It’s as if one sets out a glass of pure water—at the prevailing air temperature—and adds ice cubes (cooling it down) until vapor condensation first appears on the outside—your cold wet glass of beer. The temperature of the water (beer) at that precise point is called the dew point.

On the chart horizontal lines of equal moisture content are parallel to—the “same” as— lines of constant dew point. And at 100.0 %RH (and only then) the air, the dew point, and the wet bulb temperatures are nearly the same.

Now, for example, if it’s 90F/32C out and the weather service says the dew point is 75F/24C then following the 75F horizontal line rightward to its intersection with 90F vertical line shows a %RH of 60.0% (and—going leftward up the sloping line—a wet bulb of about 78F).

It is more common for weather services to cite the dew point than to publish the wet bulb or the %RH, especially in weather record keeping.

And yet more:

In order to popularize an understanding of the relative danger the “Heat Index” has been invented. Its physical basis is arcane, but it purports to hold that for a given index value a given level of danger is present. My beef with it is that it muddles the physics involved. It muddles the concept of degrees Fahrenheit: degrees F temperature or degrees F index? It muddles its interpretation on the psychrometric chart: an “index”, for example, of 100F could be a temperature of 84F and RH of 95%, or a temperature of 96F and  RH of 40%— totally different psychrometrics. In its worst interpretation it is an example of the “popularization” of weather information—the ultimate “dumbing down” of science.


[1] Psychrometrics- Wikipedia
[2] A new publication of the human effects of enormal temperatures: Thermal comfort indices derived from ERA5 reanalysis.
[3] Human Survivability Threshold
[4] Highest wet-bulb temperature ever recorded.
[5] On a macabre note: Sous-vide cooking 131F/55C. It is not possible to hold your hand, for more than a moment, on a surface at 130F.
[6] A good general article.


Deep Adaptation- Jem Bendell

Excerpt from the paper “Deep Adaptation” by Jem Bendell:

The paper, published in July of 2018, concludes “…recent research suggests that human societies will experience disruptions to their basic functioning within less than ten years due to climate stress.  Such disruptions include increased levels of malnutrition, starvation, disease, civil conflict and war – and will not avoid affluent nations. This situation makes redundant the reformist approach to sustainable development and related fields of corporate sustainability. Instead, a new approach which explores how to reduce harm and not make matters worse is important to develop. In support of that challenging, and ultimately personal process, understanding a ‘deep adaptation agenda’ may be useful.”

June 15th, 2020: A Meta-Scientific Assessment:
“We cannot rule out catastrophic outcomes where human life as we know it is threatened… the Earth is on an unsustainable trajectory. Something will have to change at some point if the human race is going to survive.



The Uninhabitable Earth- D. Wallace-Wells

The opening passage from David Wallace-Wells new book, The Uninhabitable Earth.

The slowness of climate change is a fairy tale, perhaps as pernicious as the one that says it isn’t happening at all, and comes to us bundled with several others in an anthology of comforting delusions: that global warming is an Arctic saga, unfolding remotely; that it is strictly a matter of sea level and coastlines, not an enveloping crisis sparing no place and leaving no life un-deformed; that it is a crisis of the “natural” world, not the human one; that those two are distinct, and that we live today somehow outside or beyond or at the very least defended against nature, not inescapably within and literally overwhelmed by it; that wealth can be a shield against the ravages of warming; that the burning of fossil fuels is the price of continued economic growth; that growth, and the technology it produces, will allow us to engineer our way out of environmental disaster; that there is any analogue to the scale or scope of this threat, in the long span of human history, that might give us confidence in staring it down.


California is Australia Now: David Wallace-Well’s new piece—August 2020.

The Quickdraw: A Climbing Vignette (1980)

Or How the Speed-clip Lost Its Mojo

The original quickdraw was the product of trad route desperation. And had nothing whatever to do with “sport” climbing—which hadn’t yet been introduced  (1983).

The next pitch looks gnarly. You see a pin up there—or a possible nut slot—but, jeez, no place to rest while clipping the piece and wrestling up a bight of rope for the final clip. Maybe there’s a quicker way—a lesson from the Old West—and so the “quickdraw” was born.

Thus, be prepared: In advance, before committing, clip one sling end to your gear loop and the other free end to the rope. Then, at the pin, it’s just one quick draw from your gear loop to the piece. No wrestling with the rope.

To illustrate how well this works I commend you to the following memory of my climbing partner of forty years—Wes Grace:

I’ve known Bill since 1970 at which time he was an icon to me. After a year or so he
deigned actually to climb with me. From that humble start our relationship grew from mentor and novice to camaraderie. It was now possible for me to make suggestions.

Some time around 1980 we walked down the carriage road. Bill was reflective and silent. Eventually he looked up and said, “You know, I’ve been thinking about leading High Exposure.  I don’t know if I am up to it, but if I wait any longer I certainly won’t do it.

Bill, I said, “You can do it.” Of course I had no idea whether he could do it or not. It
seemed the right thing to say.

The first two pitches aren’t hard. But then we were under a gigantic roof where you can see what you can’t see, the entire top pitch. You know it goes straight up and you know that once you get started you pretty much have to keep going but you can’t see. You back up to the edge, get your toes right on the edge of a 200 foot drop, reach around for a pin you can’t see, and then duck under the roof and swing out into the void holding on with your fingers jammed in the crack. Bill clipped that first pin, and then there was just Bill from the knees down—then he was gone.

The rope paid out. Then…
The rope started to come back in. It came in bits and jerks and then stopped. For a long time. Then it paid out again.

I had my turn, gasping as I swung out holding on with jammed fingers, later diving into the little depression where it goes from dead vertical to easy for a few feet.
Then the top.

I, breathlessly:
Bill, what happened? In his excitement he had clipped the wrong ‘biner on his quickdraw to the second piton thus connecting his harness to the pin. He had to climb down until he could reach it, clip it to the rope and then unclip from his harness.

It wasn’t too many years later going down the same carriage road that Bill said he knew what we were going to do. We’re going to do High Exposure and YOU are going to lead it.”

Bill was good at knowing what others were going to do. On our annual trip to the west in 1999 he knew what we were going to do. A classic climb every day. Dark Shadows at Red Rocks, Mental Physics, Sail Away and Walk on the Wild Side at Joshua Tree and Cat in the Hat back at Red Rocks. And he knew I was going to lead every one.

Bill, that was a week I won’t forget. Thanks.


A Slitless Spectrograph

Flash Spectrum
Flash spectrum of the solar chromosphere, Nantucket Airport, March 7th, 1970

Extracted from: May, 1970, Sky and Telescope, Page 318 & ff.

A Slitless Spectrograph for the Flash Spectrum

IN 1963, after reading S. A. Mitchell’s exciting book on solar eclipses [1], I became especially interested in his detailed descriptions of the flash spectrum of the sun’s chromosphere, which is observed for a few seconds at the beginning and ending of totality. I constructed a small concave-grating spectrograph and took it to that year’s eclipse at Stetson, Maine. But the equipment was never used, for the very thin crescent of the sun dissolved in clouds five seconds before the second contact.

Photo: A. W. Doolittle

This year [1970] I tried again, taking the spectrograph mounted on my 4-1/4-inch f/28 reflector to Nantucket Island. Spectra were obtained at second contact, at mid-totality, and at third contact, the last being shown in color, four-times enlarged, in the center of this issue. A good flash spectrum is not only colorful but very informative scientifically – an important means for studying the composition and physical properties at different levels in the sun’s atmosphere.

What I needed was a compact instrument that could be attached to a portable, clock-driven equatorial [4] and pointed directly at the sun, eliminating the need for the coelostat arrangement professionals use for their larger equipment (see, for example, pictures on pages 280 and 284 of this issue). At the same time I sought good spectral resolution and large plate scale, in order to record many lines in the flash spectrum instead of just the few brightest ones revealed by direct-vision spectroscopes.

In Amateur Telescope Making—Book Three, Strathmore [2] R. B. Cooke and Robert A. Wilson give a complete geometrical treatise on the Wadsworth mounting for a five-foot laboratory spectrograph. This compact arrangement includes a collimating paraboloidal mirror and slit, without which the light source would have to be an infinitely distant slit. However, at an eclipse this requirement is essentially met by the thin crescent of the solar chromosphere produced by the advancing moon.

Thus, my spectrograph has the great advantage of only one optical element, the concave (spherical) diffraction grating, which focuses monochromatic images of the chromosphere directly on the strip of 35-mm. film that is held at the parabolic focal surface. The instrument’s size, configuration, and performance are completely determined by the grating constants. Replica gratings are perfectly acceptable for most amateur and laboratory purposes, and are offered by Edmund Scientific Co., Central Scientific Co., and others for less than $100.

I chose Edmund’s “instrument-quality concave grating,” which is made of glass 3″ in diameter that has been optically figured and aluminum coated. Its radius of curvature is 1,000 millimeters, and an area 1-1/2 in square is ruled with 15,000 lines per inch. It forms a solar image about five millimeters (1/5 in) in diameter, which easily fits in the width of 35-mm. film and allows room for coronal images. When the grating arrived, I measured its radius of curvature, finding it 10 mm. longer than advertised; my final design was adjusted for the difference in focal length.

The Specifications

Attention was then turned to the geometry of the Wadsworth mounting. The formula
.                                                         nλ = s(sin i + sin θ)           (1)
gives the relation between i, the angle of incidence of the light on the grating, and θ, the angle of diffraction, both measured from the normal (perpendicular) to the grating, as shown in the diagram. Also, n is the order of the spectrum (always a whole number), λ the wavelength in centimeters, and s the spacing between the grating lines, in centimeters.

Because a compact instrument giving maximum image brightness was required, I was limited to the use of the first-order spectrum, so that n was fixed as unity.

The dispersion of the spectrum, expressed in angstroms per millimeter along the focal surface, is given by 107 s/nf, where f is the focal length of the grating (half the radius of curvature), or 505 millimeters for my grating. For s, I used 1/590 millimeter, corresponding closely to 1/15,000 inch, which gave the dispersion as 33.6 angstroms per millimeter.

The spectral range that I wanted to cover lay between 3000 angstroms in the ultraviolet and 8000 in the infrared. This would occupy about 150 millimeters or 6″, that is, 3″ on either side of a central wave length of 5500 angstroms in the green region.

To place this central wavelength of the spectrum upon the grating normal, we set θ = 0 in Equation 1, which becomes
.                                                     sin i = λ/s.            (2)
Expressing- both lengths in millimeters, λ is 5.5 X 10-4 and s is 1/590. We obtain sin i = 0.3245, and  i = 18° 56′.

Using this value of i in Equation 1, we can calculate the values of θ corresponding to 3000 and8000 angstroms. We find that these extremes are symmetrically placed 8° 29′ on either side of 5500 angstroms.

This last calculation is important to be sure that there is enough clearance between the incident rays and the red end of the spectrum to accommodate mechanical and structural elements, such as shutter, film spools and pockets, and the camera walls. For my spectrograph, the clearance is 18° 56′ – 8° 29′ = 10° 27′. Had this been insufficient, I would have set a longer wavelength on the grating normal, obtaining a larger angle of incidence.

The focal curve is not an arc of a circle (a parabola), but is defined by the relation
.                                             D=R cos2 θ/(cos i +cos θ),       (3)
where D is the focal distance at the diffraction angle θ, and R is the radius of curvature of the grating. We can lay out the focal curve by calculating D for selected values of θ, preferably employing logarithms for accuracy.

Mechanical Construction

  Completion of the calculations permitted me to design the spectrograph itself: a lightproof box with suitable covers, access openings, grating support, and film support. In addition, baffles, screens, and light traps were placed to eliminate spurious reflections and stray light. The entire assembly was painted flat black on the inside.

S+T Pg (2)The film was supported at its edges by two strips of Masonite 6″ long and 1/8” thick, filed accurately to fit the calculated parabolic curve. The top and bottom runners were cut and filed together, for a perfect match. Slotted holes in the film support brackets permit slight shifts for the focusing adjustment. A film transport arrangement was devised to fit standard 35-mm. cassettes for winding and rewinding with slotted cranks inserted from the outside. The shutter must be large enough to illuminate the grating area fully, with additional clearance for the field of view (2° in this case). Shutters of large aperture are hard to find, but I came across an old 2-1/2” bulb-operated Packard shutter which worked well after cleaning and oiling. The shortest exposure that I can manage with it is about 1/5 second.

At an angle of reflection equal to the angle of incidence, the source produces a bright zero-order image. To absorb this, I made a black-velvet light trap, as shown in the diagram. But the trap can be opened to allow the strong direct image of the sun to fall on a target, thus providing a convenient means for aiming the spectrograph without opening the film plane access door. The grating holder should be rigidly mounted but adjustable, as in the design by Cooke and Wilson. All but the ruled area should be masked to reduce the intensity of the direct image. To preserve the grating surface, it is essential that the grating cell be fitted with an air- and dust-tight cover.

Provision must be made to set the film curve exactly in focus, not only at the center wavelength on the grating normal but at the other wavelengths along the spectrum. This requires, in the workshop, setting up a collimator and a bright, sharp source such as a slit illuminated by an arc. At the focus of a good 2-inch f/20 achromat I put an adjustable slit like one described by John Strong in ATM-3. To be sure the slit was exactly at the focus of the lens, I pointed the telescope at the star Sirius and moved the slit along the optical axis until the objective darkened uniformly as the star drifted past the optical
axis (as in a knife-edge test).

.                     Disassembled camera                                                    Collimator
Then the collimator was aimed at the grating and the slit illuminated by an arc, one carbon of which had been soaked in a mixed salt solution (NaCI, KNO3, or SrNO3). This produced a rash of bright lines all along the visible spectrum. Using a strip of frosted acetate as a ground glass, and setting the slit for best apparent parallelism with the grating rulings, I used a jeweler’s loupe to focus each section of the film curve. That is, I adjusted the film holder for best focus at each point along the spectrum; the sodium D line was easily resolved into its two components (0.2 mm. separation).

Not apparent when focusing with a slit is an astigmatism which is zero on the normal and increases to either side, becoming very noticeable in the zero-order image. It causes the crescent cusps and other eclipse features not essentially parallel with the rulings to appear somewhat out of focus at the ends of the spectrum. Physicists use cylindrical lenses and other means to overcome this astigmatism, but such a refinement is not necessary for the flash spectrum.

Observing the Eclipse

  I loaded two 20-exposure 35-mm. cassettes to permit trying out two kinds of film at the same eclipse. The leaders were taped together before loading; after loading and closing the camera the splice and a predetermined length of film were wound into one cassette to draw in an unexposed length of film from the other.

After this exposure the winding was reversed and the splice moved from the first cassette into the second for subsequent exposures on the film thus drawn from the first cassette. I did not use 36-exposure cassettes because these might make this operation difficult. I made sure to return the splice to the grating normal before opening the camera for removal of the cassettes.

I was unable to find a complete record of grating constants, exposure time, and film speed for some previous flash spectrum photograph. The speed of the grating is f/Ae, that is, the focal length divided by the equivalent aperture. The latter is Ae = (4As/π)1/2, where A is the actual grating aperture.

However, this calculation is confused by the fact that only part of the reflected light is concentrated into any given order. My grating has an advertised efficiency of 50 to 75 percent and a blaze wavelength of 4000 angstroms, meaning that 50 to 75 percent of the reflected light is concentrated in the first order and further concentrated locally in the 4000-angstrom region.

I decided to try about twice the exposure times recommended for use with a 40° objective prism [3], since substantially all of the light leaving a prism falls within its only spectrum. The exposures used this year on Nantucket Island were 1/5 second on Ektacolor-S (ASA 100) for the flash spectrum at second contact and 1/3 second on High Speed Ektachrome (ASA 160) at third contact (see center pages). Also, a 1-second exposure was made on Ektacolor-S at mid-eclipse, to record the coronal emission.

Before the eclipse the direction of the moon’s relative path was calculated, in order to orient the instrument so that the rulings would be tangent to the midpoint of the chromospheric crescent; this would produce crescents set vertically along the length of the spectrum. However, at Nantucket we were a substantial distance north of the eclipse’s central line, and the crescents could not be made to appear this way at both contacts.

[My assistant and friend Frank Dow manned the hour-angle and right ascension slow motion adjustments to be sure the sun’s image remained centered by cancelling accumulating errors in the motion of the weight-driven clock.]

Without practice from previous eclipses, and in the excitement of the moment, it is very hard to determine exactly when to operate the shutter. The flash lasts only the few seconds it takes the moon’s limb to traverse the solar chromosphere. I placed a small 5,000-line plane transmission grating (Wabash Instruments and Specialties, Wabash, Indiana) over one objective of a pair of binoculars, oriented so the rulings were perpendicular to the moon’s path.

With this, the Fraunhofer absorption lines (crescents) could be seen darkening and sharpening as the “slit” of the photosphere narrowed in the moments before totality. Fleetingly the crescent cusps gleamed and finally the chromosphere’s bright-line spectrum flashed into view as the bright arc of the photosphere was fully extinguished.

  At this moment, the stopwatch was started, to provide a countdown for the recurrence of the flash spectrum at third contact, two minutes later. Of course, with good time-signal reception and an accurate prediction of the duration of totality, second and third contacts could be timed without visual watching, but surely one would not want to trade the beautiful spectacle of the sudden appearance of the flash spectrum for the small cost of a plane transmission grating.

343 South Ave.
Weston, Mass. 02493

[1] Eclipses of the Sun, Samuel Alfred Mitchel, Columbia University Press,  New York, Fifth Edition, 1951, 445 pages.
[2] Amateur Telescope Making – Book Three, Edited by Albert G. Ingalls, Scientific American, Inc., 1953, 644 pages.
[3] Solar Eclipse Photography for the Amateur, Eastman Kodak Co., Rochester, New York, Pamphlet No. AM-10, 1968.
[4] In 2017 the spectrograph and equatorial mounting (tripod with clock drive) were donated to Cornell University’s Fuertes Observatory, in Ithaca, NY.


Elsie S. Church, 2000, Steps Retraced

Eglise St. Hippolyte, Bay-sur-Aube

A Weekend in Eastern France: 21-23 July, 2000
A revisit to the sites described by my mother Elsie S. Church in her journal and letters of 1918-1919: En Voyage, Bay-sur-Aube, Intervalle, and Nanteuille-la-Fosse

Friday, July 21, 2000

From Paris I set out for Bay-sur-Aube in the cool morning air early on a Friday in our small and “friendful” rented Peugeot accompanied by my new friend parisienne Catherine Lion-Meric, as navigateur.  After a hesitant start at the Pte. de Clignancourt we attained the peripherique interieur and rocketed east and south toward the exit for Dijon—the electronic panels overhead announcing the route ahead to be “toujours FLUIDE”.

I had written to Bay in June in the hope of having some advanced help in finding things there as I had no photos of Bay, my mother having not received a camera from home until June of 1919 in Paris.  The mayor had answered me (by e-mail) and Catherine had confirmed by phone that we were to meet in Bay at ten.

Through Langres, off the A-31, then turning north at Auberive we came into Bay and turned left over a small stone bridge to see a couple of boys.  We asked the way to the mairie.  They pointed ahead and there on the sidewalk in the dappled sunlight stood five men obviously in casual attendance upon our arrival.  We were greeted by M. le maire, Henri Lodiot, who introduced us to M. Edgar Cudel (Bay historian), M. Rene Rousselet (village doyen, 86), Mr. Sebastian Price (Englishman, owner of the Chateau), and M. Jean Royer (a local genealogist).  All were gracious and obviously delighted to meet us.  They ushered us into the one cavernous village schoolroom in the back of the mairie where we sat at a huge wooden table and talked for two hours.

00072108_BayGroupRousselet, a contemporary of Cécile Mongin, remembered her and the family with whom Elsie had beeen billeted; we were later shown the house where she had a room on the second floor and where the Orderly Room had been on the ground floor. He remembered the (Co. F) cook who was wont to chase the kids away when they gathered around looking hopefully for handouts.  M. Royer had sought out that Cécile had died a few years previously in Marseilles at the age of eighty-one.  When shown some of Elsie’s photos taken at Le Bourget M. Cudel revealed his interest in antique airplanes and so I gave him my copies of the pictures. He had been a navigator in the French air force.

We gave them, too, a copy of Elsie’s letters and journal whereupon the Englishman offered to translate it into French for use by M. Cudel in his plans for a Bay historical retrospective to be held in the summer of 2001— and to which he invited us.

At noon the mayor had to leave for another appointment but before he left glasses appeared, a bottle of champagne, and a basket of pink frosted champagne biscuits.  We toasted Elsie and the AEF and some others and stepped out into the sunlight for a round of photos in the courtyard.

00072111_BsA_CudelHouseAt once it became clear that we were to stay for déjuner at the home of M. Cudel.  His house sat above the now disused lavarie in the square on a steep open street with a view of the town amid terraces of plants and beautiful flowers.  His wife Janine had prepared a lovely gourmet lunch in the French style:  pineapple with homemade mayonnaise, red wine, a delicious pork dish with fruit and cheese, followed by a lemon sorbet scooped in the center to accommodate a small pool of triple-sec.

We were then taken on an auto tour of the high ground above Bay with views toward Vitry across the valley of the Aube.  We saw the traces of a Roman road, the village of Germaines, and ended above Bay at the ancient Roman church.  Along the way Mr. Price revealed to us that above the town runs a straight “magnetic” line having tangible effects upon people in the region.  He cited as proof of the magnetic theory a “line” many miles long in England discovered when it was realized that all the churches lying on it were dedicated to St. Mark.  Catherine and I gradually came to the conclusion that Mr. Price was somewhat of an otherworldly visionary.

In the churchyard at Bay a majestic lime tree stands planted, they told us, along with others in churchyards all over France, to commemorate the Edict of Nantes.  Mr. Price expounded upon how, on a certain day of the year, the sun at its rising, shines through a narrow opening above the altar of the church casting a light exactly in the center of (or at least upon some spot of significance on) the opposite wall; the implication being that the church had been originally and mystically oriented toward this end.  Catherine and I accepted these revelations as colorful if somewhat fanciful.

1921_BayElsie'sHutM. Royer showed us the field immediately adjacent to the churchyard where Elsie’s “hut” had once stood [1]. The hut had been razed many decades earlier but we all convinced ourselves that we could find, in the churchyard wall, the spot where the doughboys had temporarily “liberated” stones for Elsie’s cheminée only to have had to replace them at the behest of an irate mayor.

Mr. Price took us on a brief tour of the Chateau.  His quick reading of the journal in the morning had led him to believe that Elsie had described an evening spent there but, in rereading her words, I think the chateau she described was not in Bay but in Germaines or in Aulnay nearby.

Promises were made to exchange photos and to stay in touch at least until the next summer.

M. Cudel drove us the three kilometers to Vitry. I wanted to walk back to Bay by the road that Elsie had so often taken after her visits to Juliette Whiton.  In Vitry Edgar made a few inquiries aimed at finding where Juliette had been stationed and billeted but there was no one old enough to make the eighty-one year connection.

France2000019Edgar left us.  We walked back to Bay along the side of the hill overlooking the valley of the Aube in the early evening sunlight— in France in July it stays light until eleven.  The valley was green and beautiful and of course I thought of my mother on this same walk so long ago.  We then came back into Bay and took our leave in the car; back through Auberive (literally, Aube riverbank) and on to Troyes where we had a Youth Hostel reservation.

Catherine had made a reservation at an andouillette specialty restaurant where we had a pleasant dinner.  Andouillette is akin to tripe and is, in fact, a tripe sausage famously favored in the Troyes region.  Catherine suggested that I might not like it and suggested I try something else, which I did.  I tasted hers and remained doubtful about whether it really could have been to my liking.

Outside the hostel we searched in vain for a comet that I had heard about.

Saturday, July 22, 2000

Catherine had not seen much of eastern France and we both remarked the “big-sky” flatness of the region we traversed between Troyes and the valley of the Marne.  We were on our way north to Hautvillers in the Champagne region armed this time with some photographs that Elsie had taken in the summer and fall of 1919 during her time in Nanteuille-la-Fosse with the Brits of the American Red Cross.

Catherine and Mme. Boquet

We had a picture of Mme. Legal and her son Leandre taken in front of an iron gate in Hautvillers, a town of about five-hundred houses; we hoped to find the gate.  After having drawn a blank at the tourist acceuil, although there were very few people out and about, we began accosting souls in the street to show them the photo.  A man said “Je ne sais pas, mais Mme. Boquet saura“.  The Mme. was called from her gate, threw open her casement above, and a minute later descended into her court— she is the sole and aging owner, we were told, of La Cave Dom Perignon.  “Ah. Je crois que c’est par la“, and we followed her around a corner.  “Voila“, she said.  But no; similar gate and details (a local founder undoubtedly made all the gates in the region and put upon them his mark) but not right.  “Alors, par ici” and we followed her around another corner but, again, not the one.  While the three puzzled in the street I found a young man, showed him the picture and he said, “Suivez moi“.  He led me down through steep back courts, pigs and geese scattering as we went, emerged on a lower street, walked down a couple of doors, pointed, and said, “C’est la“.  And he was right.

It was lots of fun.  We took photos. The lady of the house came out and now, of course, we had to send her a copy of the pictures too.

After déjuner at a nice restaurant we drove along the Marne through the vinyards and then north to the high ground of the Montagne de Reims and to the village of Nanteuille-la-Fosse (now la-Forêt) where Elsie had lived and worked during the summer and fall with the British Quaker ladies of the American Red Cross.

We wanted to find the house for which we had a picture of the courtyard containing a military truck and of a circular pool in the backyard as well as some others around the town.  After a disappointing hour or so of wandering around (the streets were empty) peering at the pictures we found a young man mowing his side yard.  He cut his mower and we showed him the photos one after another: “Pas a Nanteuille. Pas a Nanteuille. Pas…“.  We began to think we were in the wrong town.  Then:

Mais, Mme. Trinquart saura, parceque son marie ramasse les cartes postales anciennes de la ville.”  So, next door, the bell was pulled, Mme. came out into her court and let us in.  She looked at the picture, spread her gaze and her arms expansively and said, “Mais oui.  C’est ici!”  And sure enough, of hundreds of houses in the village, we happened by chance to be standing in the very courtyard we sought [2].

She led us through her house and there, in the back, was the little circular pool of Elsie’s photo, filled with grass and no longer “reflecting the mood of the sky above”.  We found the site of several of the other pictures, too, and one man (a M. Marcoup) asked me to send him a copy of the old photo of his street.

At Verzy that evening we visited Les Arbres Faux (a disappointment) and stayed at the hostel there.

Sunday, July 23, 2000

I had hoped to follow parts of Elsie’s battlefield tour but Catherine didn’t have much interest in that.  So we drove to Reims in the morning and got her a ticket to Paris and then spent the time until her train visiting the Cathedral.  I dropped her off at the station and headed off for the WWI front to the east, eventually reaching as far as Fort Douaumont at Verdun.

I had a couple of pictures.  One of the village of Forges— completely razed by battle.  And one of a wrecked house by the road.  There was one that I didn’t actually have with me but was pretty sure had been taken at Vauquois (Elsie’s “Split Hill”).

In the Argonne forest, after having visited a massive and sombre French monument and having revisited the Crown Prince’s Dugout [3], I parked by the side of the road more or less at random in an isolated stretch and walked into the forest.  All of the trees are the same size— eighty-two years old.  I hadn’t walked thirty meters before I came to a decaying battlefield trench deep over my head and zig-zagging off into the forest in each direction.  Ten or twenty meters farther on there was another one.  As far as the forest would permit a vista the “level” ground above the trenches was scalloped on a scale of three to six meters into an endless sea of huge “waves” each about one meter from trough to crest— the ancient shell holes now overgrown with low brush and trees.  My father, Kerr Atkinson, saw service in this region in 1918, but nearer to Grand Pré and Thiaucourt.

I passed through Varennes where Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were arrested and returned to Paris after their attempted escape during the Revolution.

1919 ForgesAt Vauquois I told the Mme. at the visitor center I had a picture taken in 1919.  She wanted me to send it (and I later did.  She says it’s on display there now).  At Forges I drove through town from the direction of the former Cumières and then turned around having passed a group of gay people sitting at tables. I asked if it was a restaurant and  they said no but beckoned me over anyhow.  I showed them the photo of Forges and they passed it all around amazed— for it showed not a brick or stone standing; nothing but a hand-painted road sign indicating the center of town.  They offered me a beer and I stayed for a while to chat.

I stopped for a minute at Le Mort Homme, finding trenches in the forest there as well, and then went on to Verdun and Fort Douaumont where the massive iron view-ports and gun turrets are slowly rusting away on the crest of the fortification.  I looked for my mother’s “queer little narrow-gauge railway” but didn’t have time really to search it out— if, indeed, it still exists.

From Verdun I went on to the A-4 to Verzy again where the hostel lady was upset that I was too late for dinner for which I had made a reservation.  The next morning I briefly revisited Nanteuille and Hautvillers  on my way back to Paris to meet Catherine for dinner at her bureau in the rue Le Courbe.

[1] Elsie revisited Bay on her honeymoon in August of 1921 and took a photograph of the church with her “hut” on the right in the foreground.  She noted at that time: “… my hut is still there, ivy and all.”

[2] I have to wonder about this “chance”.  Upon returning home to Weston I found later some further photographs taken by my mother when we were in France in 1939 as a family when I was fourteen.  I have a diary entry for July 23rd in which I note that we “saw… the house [in Hautvillers] where she stayed”.  However, one of the 1939 photo’s is of the same courtyard in Nanteuille leading me to know that I had actually seen the house myself sixty-one years ago.  I have no recollection whatever of this particular visit but I have to wonder whether something other than chance urged me to stop next door to that particular house to query a young man mowing his side yard.

[3] There is a photo of Holley and me taken at this dugout in 1939.

William C. Atkinson, Weston, MA, 10/23/00