Autobiography of One Old Ford


John N. Lewis


Part One

1. North to Alaska
2. University of Alaska, Fairbanks
3. Mississippi State
4. Home for Christmas--by Canoe
5. Adventures In North Mississippi
6. Getting Involved
7. Back to Alaska--and Back
8. Thanksgiving Bride
9. Married Student Days

Part Two

10. California Honeymoon
11. Icelandic Interlude
12. Return to England
13. Continental Holiday
14. Farewell to England
15. California Here I Come--Again
16. Michigan Meander

Part Three

17. Home at Last
18. Journeys Missed by Being Second
19. Texas Tour

Part Four

20. Wyoming Via North Carolina
21. Return of the Vagabonds
22. From King Tut to Kansas City

13. Continental Holiday

John had never taken a day of leave since going to work for Gilfillan. In fact, the only time he had been sick enough to miss work was at Thanksgiving Day, in Iceland. He was in bed Thanksgiving Day and the Friday following, both of which were base holidays. Now with gasoline available again, he began planning a real vacation.

Rita was due a chance to see continental Europe at more leisure than running pregnant, freezing, through the snow. June was selected as the ideal month for touring in spite of the throngs of other tourists which pour over Europe at that time. The days are longer then for one thing, but more important, both John's and Rita's mothers were school teachers, and the couple planned to bring them from America for a visit and the tour. Arrangements were made with the AACS squadron and Gilfillan for a month's leave of absence. The Keplers had offered to keep Don while their parents were on vacation. Their daughter, Dorinda, about six years old, was a very attentive "nanny" and cared for the baby as if he were her little brother. In mid May John went to an American Express office and had two airline tickets for round trips from Jackson, Mississippi to London sent to the excited mothers in Delhi, Louisiana. They were to travel 4500 miles before starting their vacation.

In late May John and Rita met their mothers at London Airport. In passing back through the city in the Consul, John tried to show them all the famous landmarks which the tourist must not miss. However, the ladies were so jaded from the long trip that they could hardly have cared less. What they really wanted to see was a bed. Mrs. Barnard had graciously consented to spend the month with her daughter in the country nearby and give her large, airy bedroom to the visitors. They were mighty glad to see it.

On May 31, with Don's bed, playpen, and stroller tied on top, the Consul, loaded with four adults, the baby, and a month's clothing for each, pulled away from "Averyhill" towards the Keplers' home. The family visited with Alpha most of the afternoon while Dorinda helped Don adjust to his new surroundings, stayed long enough for the grandmothers to meet Eugene when he came home from work, then drove into Oxford for the night in order to get an early start the following morning. Don was not the only member of the family that required some adjusting to separation.

After an early, English breakfast June 1, John hurried the ladies aboard, drove down Oxford's High Street and along A-40 to London. As planned, he reached London before the rush hour and crossed the huge city in just forty minutes. The immediate destination was Dover, where passage for the sixty-one mile Dover-Ostend ferry ride was reserved. The Consul was swung aboard the Princess Josephine Charlotte, the same vessel which had carried John and his Royal Enfield to the continent in 1949. As the touring party enjoyed a late lunch in the dining lounge, by windows just above the water line, they felt that their vacation was really underway at last.

The Automobile Association, Fanum House, New Coventry Street, London, performs so many services for its members that a motoring trip abroad without its assistance (or that of the Royal Auto Club) would be unthinkable. The AA provides the international driver's license, the carnet and international registry for the vehicle; prepares a very detailed itinerary for any length journey; makes and confirms reservations; and provides agents at all major ports to assist members with customs clearances. Their motorcycle patrols cover the major routes, lending aid to members in distress and, through reciprocal agreements with other European motor clubs, providing emergency service to members all over the continent. With membership in the Automobile Association comes a key to phone booths placed strategically all over the country. The operator can be reached with this key only, no coin being necessary. John had been served so well by one particular clerk who prepared his documents in '49 that he went back to see him when completing the arrangements for the 1957 trip.

Soon after the ferry docked in Belgium, the AA agent handed John his processed documents and the Consul was off on a 4,000 mile swing through Western Europe. Although the no-speed-limit autostrade led straight towards Brussels, John soon left this superhighway to visit the ancient city of Bruges. His schedule was planned to see as much as possible, not to go as fast as possible. Although the following morning was Sunday, the Brussels market square was teeming with people doing a brisk trade in flowers and thousands of tiny birds. The ladies were, of course, drawn to the shops selling lovely, handwoven lace. It was with reluctance that they departed this ancient city for Holland. The route out of town was via a shaded avenue lined with beautiful, modern, thatched-roofed homes set in large, manicured lawns.

The detailed foreign route guide furnished by the AA not only gave explicit directions for the driver, but enough information about the major attractions of each city so that Rita could brief the party on the sights ahead as they traveled along. This enabled the tourists to select the particular points of interest to which they wished to devote their limited time, and also avoided the waste of time which is usually spent in a strange city locating the most interesting features. Such concentrated, efficient sightseeing made it possible to visit Antwerp, Delft, and the Hague and still be in Amsterdam for an early dinner that evening. John had reservations at the same hotel in which he stayed in 1949, and at dinner was served by the same waiter, who with droll, Dutch humor addressed John with, "Well, I see you have a different young lady this time".

After a day in Amsterdam touring mostly by motor launch on the extensive waterways, the family headed northeast across the polders through Alkmaar to the great dike which cuts the Zuider Zee off from the North Sea. This nineteen-mile levee, begun in 1918 and opened to traffic in 1932, enabled Holland to add over half a million acres of new, cultivable land to their economy. On this long sliver of road, out of sight of land, the Consul had its only bit of trouble of the whole trip. John knew what the trouble was but did not have his tools along to cure the ailment. However, the little car managed to sputter along to a handy garage on the northern shore. A piece of rust had made its way from the gas tank through the fuel system to lodge on the carburetor needle valve. This had been a common occurrence in Iceland, but rare in England. What was frustrating for John was watching the Dutch mechanic working on his car without being able to tell him precisely what needed to be done. The delay was not very long, however, and it afforded the tourists an opportunity to watch the little, blond Frisian boys fishing and riding scooters in their gaily painted wooden shoes. This traditional Dutch footware is rather rare in southern Holland, but in the polders and flat, dairying district of Friesland wooden shoes are the common apparel of young and old alike.

The trip back south through central Holland was reminiscent of John's previous trip: particularly Arnhem. It was in this city on a misty morning in 1949 that an elderly lady pushed her vegetable-laden bicycle out onto the cobblestone street directly in the path of John's motorcycle. As it was impossible to brake to a stop on the smooth, wet cobbles, he had no choice but to lay the machine down in the street to avoid hitting the housewife and scattering her shopping all over the thoroughfare. Bouncing down a stone street on elbows and knees is a rough way to start a long day. John was quickly surrounded by a throng of people: almost everyone except the one who caused the wreck, who went calmly on her way. Seeing that he was somewhat bruised and shaken, a kind lady with a smattering of English invited the soldier into her home. Over coffee she told her unexpected guest of the occupation of Arnhem during the war and of the bitter struggle in 1944 that wreaked such devastation on a once beautiful city. The only token John carried that he could give as an expression of his appreciation was a quantity of chewing gum, which proved to be a particular delight to his hostess.

From Arnhem, John turned the Consul towards Germany to join the Rhine Valley at Emmerich. The route followed the historic Rhine to Mainz, through the ultra-modern, rebuilt financial center, Dusseldorf, to Cologne, Bonn and Koblenz. Part of the Rhine Valley might more aptly be termed the Rhine Gulch. The river cuts through very steep, castle-topped hills with the entire valley devoted to one giant artery of transportation. In addition to the double stream of river barges, there is a busy rail line plus a highway on each bank. From Koblenz to Frankfurt John and Rita were retracing the trip they had made by train a year and a half previous.

The stay in Frankfurt was prolonged a day unexpectedly. John got very ill during the night and was not able to travel the next day. He had to remain in bed, under medication, before he was able to continue his tour guiding. This layover gave Rita her opportunity to buy and ship home a pair of large Hummel figurines (Umbrella Boy and Girl) which are among her most cherished mementoes.

One of the bitter disappointments of an extended trip is having to rush through such places as Heidelberg, Stuttgart, and Tübingen without sufficient time to absorb the flavor of the places or visit with the lifelong inhabitants. From a bookstore owner in Tübingen, John obtained directions to Burg Hohenzollern, the home of the German royal family and one of the most impressive castles anywhere. After visiting this magnificent royal residence, he doubled back through Tübingen and found the way to Burg Lichtenstein, a tiny castle by comparison, but a treasure in its own way situated atop a sheer bluff of rock with a view that sweeps all the way to Stuttgart. While trying to ask for directions in Reutlinger, John was led to a woman in the village who could speak English--although she had had no opportunity to do so in years. She was an English girl who had married a German prisoner after World War One and had been forced to leave England when he returned to his homeland. She was so eager for news from England that John invited her to visit the castle with them so she could visit in English throughout the afternoon. Needless to say, the Americans learned more of that area of Germany than they would have otherwise.

One late afternoon in Ulm on the Danube is unforgettable. This old imperial free town has the tallest spire (528 feet) in Germany gracing its 14th century cathedral. Next to the cathedral is the very picturesque 14th century town hall. A kind lady, noting the visitors' interest in the paintings on the town hall, took time to explain the history and meanings of the mural, explaining that what is there today is really restoration subsequent to tremendous war damage. As she began to relate the first-person experience of those nightly raids, night after night with their terrible destruction, time slipped backwards until her listeners could almost hear the droning of the high altitude bombers and the shriek and thunder of bombs as they rained down from the sky on the blacked out city.

The overriding concern of the people of Ulm had been for the survival of their cathedral. The choice had to be made between total blackout and the chance that the cathedral would be hit accidentally, or lighting the cathedral in the hopes that it would be spared at the certain cost of pinpointing Ulm for the attacking squadrons. The citizens of Ulm chose the latter course at a terrible price. It is a credit to the skill of the men in the bomber commands that this magnificent edifice remained standing, an island in a sea of almost total devastation; but there must be something lacking yet when people with no personal animosity towards each other must suffer such experiences before their governments can communicate constructively. The tears in the eyes of the lady of Ulm were not the only ones in the quintet gathered in the town hall square that late summer evening.

By driving through Ravensburg at night and staying at Friedrichshafen, John was able to catch the first ferry of the morning to cross the Boden Sea (Lake Constance) to Romanshorn, Switzerland. There is no place in Switzerland that is not part of a scenic mountain wonderland. By some magic the Swiss have managed to accommodate thousands of tourists while still preserving what they come to see. When John's party arrived in Luzern at the very height of the tourist season, he discovered that the hotel reservation card from American Express had somehow gotten lost, and no one could recall the name of the hotel. After trying to locate it hit-or-miss with no success, they were referred by a helpful desk clerk to the Hotel Diana, a small, family hotel across the Ruess from the main business district. The walk from the hotel to the tourist center was by the famous wooden, covered, Kapell Bridge on which construction began in 1333. Since the evening meal was over by the time John checked into the hotel, the proprietor had a special meal prepared for the group. As they were dining, he came to the table and told his guests that there was a folk festival that night at the casino that must not be missed. He would make all arrangements. He did. John asked him about an early morning trip the next morning to the top of Mt. Pilatus. The innkeeper assured him that, although the mountain had been shrouded in clouds that evening, the peak would be clear the next morning, and he would make all arrangements. It was; and he did.

That night in Luzern, John, Rita, and their mothers attended a most enjoyable folk festival of singers, dancers, horn blowers, yodelers, and flag throwers. After breakfast next morning, the foursome took a short train ride to the foot of Mt. Pilatus where they transferred to one of the cog railways for the ride up to the mountain peak. In the seat behind the Americans on the cog train was a wiry, little man carrying a dismantled Alp horn. He spoke no English so John was unable to engage him in conversation. As the train passed out of the timber and onto the steep, grassy Alp, badgers could be seen sunning on the rocks or scurrying along in the short grass.

As soon as the passengers were discharged at the top of the mountain, John asked a gentleman who could speak English to request the old gentleman with the Alp horn to assemble the instrument and give a demonstration and an opportunity for the tourists to take some pictures. Both obliged. The beautifully crafted, wooden horn had been handed down through succeeding generations for over three hundred years. It was about eight feet long when in use, but pulled apart in the middle for easy carrying. After blowing a few deep blasts that echoed across the snow-capped Alps, the wizened mountaineer slung the ancient instrument across his pack and disappeared along a narrow trail into the mists.

Soon the transient clouds released the lofty peaks to the dazzling sunlight, and the travelers were treated to the inspiring views which draw admirers from around the world. The funicular on the other side of the mountain carried the party in silent comfort down from the rocky crags through the forests to the valley below. A tram ride from the base of the funicular back to Luzern completed the trip in time for lunch. The total cost for four adults for the lodging, meals, folk festival, and the round trip to Mt. Pilatus was only $40.00.

The morning of Whitsunday was spent among the beautiful fountains of Bern; noon, at a fondue luncheon in Lausanne; and the night, below lofty Mt. Blanc, at Chamonix, France. During the afternoon John led the ladies through the ancient fortress castle of Chillon. The origin of this splendid example of medieval architecture is lost in antiquity, but much of its present form emerged from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries. It was in the vaulted storehouse beneath this great stone edifice that Bonivard, Prior of St. Victor's, was chained to a pillar for four years for his part in the Reformation. He was released March 29, 1536, and later immortalized by the poet Byron as "The Prisoner of Chillon." Aside from its romantic, historic past and its picturesque setting, Chillon affords perhaps the best opportunity for viewing the details of castle life as it was centuries ago.

Arriving in Chamonix one day earlier than planned on the busiest holiday in Europe, John found the hotel at which he held reservations (for the following night) crammed to capacity. He was not without a hole card, however. When traveling through this resort area on his previous trip, John had been referred to a small family hotel operated by a former member of the French underground resistance fighters. Having been kindly received and comfortably lodged before, John turned again to Pierre and explained his plight. All the rooms in Chamonix were taken, but this gracious man invited the Americans into the dining room and, while they enjoyed a hearty meal, made a room available by shifting some other guests.

Chamonix is one of the premier resorts of Europe--or the world, for that matter. The village is dominated by 15,800-foot Mont Blanc rising 12,420 feet above the narrow valley in which nestles this host of the 1924 winter Olympic Games. Cable cars carry visitors to altitudes of 12,482 feet up the slopes, while others, their gondolas swinging across the voids, glide from pinnacle to pinnacle, sometimes passing right through the clouds to emerge into a brilliant world of snow-covered Alps that seem to float on a sea of down. The snowfields on the higher slopes have been known to swallow mountaineers and deposit their preserved bodies at the foot of the glaciers many years later.

From Chamonix John headed the little Consul up the valley where the Forclaz Pass crosses back into Switzerland. Hours later it was climbing the scenic Furka Pass which zig-zags by the foot of Rhône Glacier. From this narrow, winding route can be seen the first trickles of melting snow which eventually become France's mighty Rhône River. On one of the many climbing hairpin curves, John was a little late dropping from second to low gear and the car, lacking sufficient momentum for the grade, began to kick rocks from first one rear wheel then the other. Forward progress ceased. Rita opened her door to jump ship, but John persuaded her to stay aboard while he slowly--very slowly--backed down the narrow incline far enough to gain adequate speed coming back up to spin around the steeply pitched turn on the second attempt.

Only once before, in Iceland, had John challenged a rocky hill that was beyond the little car's capability. On that occasion, the other three passengers had been required to get out and help push to the top of the hill; but the Swiss passes, although much longer and more twisting, were not that steep. In one day, negotiating three major passes (Forclaz, Furka, and St. Gotthard) totaling sixty-two miles of Alpine grades, the sturdy little vehicle never overheated nor faltered in any way other than the stall at Rhône Glacier. By nightfall John was passing through Bellinzona (for which his old hometown in Mississippi was named), pressing on to Lugano in the Italian-speaking, tropical canton of Ticino where he had hotel reservations. That night while the family dined they could look down on beautiful Lake Lugano.

The drive to Milan and across the Lombardia plain through Verona to Venice is an easy one. But once the motorist reaches the outskirts of this venerable city he must give up his vehicle. Transportation within Venice is by two means only: afoot or afloat. The busses are motor launches, and the taxis are gondolas. Every place in the sinking city can be reached by gondola, but St. Marks is worth visiting even if one had to swim. It is almost beyond American comprehension that such a magnificence could have been conceived, much less constructed, 450 years before Columbus landed in the West Indies. The highlight of the stay in Venice was the floating concert on the Grand Canal at night. The dark, rippling waters of the canal reflected the flickering torchlight as the large gondolas dipped in rhythm to the music of the mandolins. The serenade of the gondoliers drifted over the armada of honeymooners of all ages. Venice seemed remote, detached, both physically and spiritually, from Italy and the rest of Europe. Returning to the mainland and motoring once more was like awakening from a dream and finding reality unchanged.

After passing across the Po River and its broad valley, John stopped alongside the curb in the outskirts of Bologna to check his map. It was late afternoon during the the lull in traffic immediately after the rush hour. Suddenly, the Consul was jolted. An instinctive glance in the rear-view mirror showed an obstructed rear window. John jumped out to find a man in a top coat draped across the back glass. He was a cyclist making his way home from work as usual (with his dead down), but he had ridden squarely into the parked vehicle and been flung abruptly across the trunk. John could not understand Italian, but he could discern that the man's remarks, as he picked up his bike and rode away, were not, "Welcome to our fair city."

Prior to the incident with the cyclist, John had been contemplating dining in Bologna, but he decided to continue on another sixty-six miles to Florence instead. The entrance into Florence was different to say the least. It was long after dark and still a few miles north of the city when a Vespa carrying a young man and a young lady pulled alongside. The couple were making such frantic motions with their hands that John thought there must surely be a dire emergency, so he stopped. The only emergency was that the young lady was afraid all her rooms would not be rented for the night, and she had enlisted her boyfriend to help prevent such a catastrophe. The Italians are not totally conventional, nor are they unduly inhibited.

Well, the young man spoke excellent English, and John did need rooms for the night, so he followed the fleet little scooter through the winding streets of Florence. The women were all scared, of course, but lacked any positive, alternative suggestions. Far from being abducted, or even robbed, as they feared, the ladies were served a simple, home-cooked meal that night and the following morning in addition to having an adequate place to sleep. The hostess was always referred to by her boyfriend as, "the mistress of this boarding house." The phrase sounded so oddly formal to John and Rita that it became sort of a family joke. Many times in the years since, he has playfully called her "the mistress of this boarding house."

The boyfriend worked for a shoe buyer for a large United States department store chain, and he was a wealth of information about his country and city. He stayed and visited, and interpreted until late in the night. It is certain that without his interesting introduction John's party would not have seen as much of Florence as they did. It is impossible to properly appreciate the treasures of Europe on a limited time schedule anyway, and one of the great regrets of the trip was having to leave Florence having seen so little of that artistically rich city.

Between the medieval hill city of Siena and Rome the winding hilly road passed through varied, picturesque countryside including some notably poor agriculture. One scene of human drudgery that remains stamped on John's memory to return, hauntingly, from time to time was that of a family attacking the hard, brown ground with eye hoes. They were not cultivating a growing crop, but flat breaking a dry, fallow field: a tedious task even with a mule and plow. On one hillside John took a picture of a family loading unthrashed grain on a cart with pitchforks. Pulling the cart were two enormous oxen, each with a horn span of more than six feet.

By mid June the four travelers had reached Rome. For some reason John had never felt the urge to visit this particular city. He once turned down a free, week end trip to Rome because he thought St. Peter's was just another church. So much for the ignorance of youth. Far from being just another church, St. Peter's is a unique experience. Other than the bronze baldacchino of Bernini towering ninety feet above the alter, the only materials visible in the nave of this largest church in Christendom are marble and gold. What about the giant murals? Marble mosaics. What about the huge lettering at the top of the walls? Pure gold. No matter how much one has read about St. Peter's, he is still unprepared for the awe-inspiring sight that awaits the visitor stepping into the enormous sanctuary for the first time.

John had learned that His Holiness, Pope Pius XII, would be making an appearance at a certain time. He arranged to be in Vatican Square for this appearance. The piazza was thronged with thousands abuzz with conversations that are normal to any expectant crowd. But when the window of the palace opened and the Pope stepped forward and raised his arms, the hush that immediately fell over the gathering was chilling. The respect and reverence for this man and his high office pervaded the entire audience. Somehow the visit to the Vatican seemed more complete for having been a part of this experience.

Rome does not require the visitor to seek its art and antiquities; he is engulfed in them. John led his group through the Pantheon (2nd century B.C.), Colosseum (72-80 A.D.), and other vestiges of ancient Rome as well as some of the later monuments, such as the Borghese Museum. The Borghese contains works in marble, by Bernini, that appear as soft as satin. This great Baroque artist left his legacy in monuments and fountains all over Rome.

Where will the soft nights of June invoke romance if not in Rome? John rented a cabriolet, and he and his little wife rode all over the heart of the "Eternal City." They visited the most famous of the fountains, Nicolo Salvi's Fountain of Trevi (1762), and the center of ancient Rome, the Forum. Their driver stopped his horse beneath the magnolias overhanging the street from the Villa Borghese, reached up with a flick of his whip, pulled down a large, fragrant blossom and presented it to Rita saying, "a beautiful flower for a beautiful lady." John thought he was right and hoped that the night was some compensation for Rita not having a proper honeymoon when they were first married.

From Rome the journey led south into the dry plains to Naples. There was a noticeable change in the character of the people and the land. Small donkeys as beasts of burden were evident and, most surprising to John, there were herds of buffalo in the brown, dusty pastures instead of more conventional cattle. A modern toll road south from Naples provided easy access to the remarkable city of Pompeii at the foot of Mt. Vesuvius. An eruption of this still-active volcano in 79 A.D. buried the city so suddenly that some people were caught engaged in their everyday activities. The modern day visitor can see in the excavated ruins a splendid example of the elegance that existed two thousand years ago. After visiting the museum and the dead city, John and the ladies rode the funicular to the top of the cone where they were able to peer into the smoking crater which had belched destruction upon 20,000 people: 16,000 in 79 A.D.; 4,000 more in 1631.

After descending the black slope of Vesuvius, the group visited the cameo shop where skilled artists transformed common sea shells into beautiful broaches, pins, and cuff links. This was as far from England as time would permit John to venture; but the manners he had encountered around Naples were also as far removed from the polite British as he cared to get. So it was with no reluctance that he turned back towards home. He had stopped at a nice restaurant overlooking the blue Mediterranean Sea at Terracina on the trip south, so there was a slightly comfortable feeling that comes with familiarity as he stopped at the same place for the noon meal on the way back to Rome.

When the party checked into the hotel in Rome, John was pleased to find that the clothes he had left behind in Venice, because they were late being returned from the cleaners, had been forwarded from the Venetian hotel. But there was news from England also, and this caused some anxiety and change of plans. The Keplers had been suddenly transferred back to the United States. They had carried Don and his paraphernalia back near Molesworth and left him with Jerry and Helen Moore. Helen assured Rita in her letter that the boy was fine and that she was glad to keep him; but Helen had also given birth to a son shortly after Don was born, and now she had two to care for. John had planned to cover northern Spain and southwestern France on the trip, but decided to cut short the itinerary, yet see as much as possible on a more direct route home.

From Rome he took highway N 1 which follows the long Mediterranean coast line all the way to France. The trip took two days of almost constant driving. The occasional glimpses of the blue sea were so compelling that it was easy to miss the interesting sights on the landward side of the road. One spot of interest was a must stop for the school teachers: The Tower of Pisa. As with so many places in Italy that are more beautiful and impressive than their mere description, so it is with Pisa. The famous leaning tower is the bell tower for a more beautiful cathedral which, standing straight and true, must yield it seems for publicity to its ill-constructed campanile. The large cathedral square of Pisa also contains a notable baptistry dating from 1260. The while marble of all the monuments was dazzling in the bright, summer afternoon sunlight.

At noon the second day out from Rome the tourists dined in a very modern restaurant overlooking the tiny harbor of Genoa. Hostesses pushed carts past the diners from which they could select an unbelievable variety of sea food including cockles, octopus, tiny squid, and other exotic delicacies. The dessert cart was also a colorful array of unfamiliar but tantalizing dishes. As the Americans looked out over this old trading port, they thought of one of its native sons who had discovered their own country 465 years earlier.

By mid afternoon the Consul had traveled the long curve of the Gulf of Genoa where the highway clinging to the beachless coast sometimes climbs high above the water to afford magnificent views through the pines of the Riviera. Soon after crossing the French border, there was the inevitable detour through the tiny Principality of Monaco before pulling in to the Hotel Luxembourg in Nice. This old hotel was on the English promenade in the center of Nice's beach front. John and Rita hurried into their bathing suits to take a quick dip in the Mediterranean before sundown.

The beach was composed of large pebbles which made walking barefoot next to impossible, and the water that looked so inviting from the shore was torturingly cold. Once in Molesworth the chaplain, carried away by the fervor of his sermon about the apostle, Paul, being shipwrecked, had said that "he was thrown into the icy waters of the Mediterranean." John nearly laughed aloud. The idea of the waters of the Mediterranean being "icy" seemed completely ludicrous at the time. Not after having dived into it, however. John's first thought was that he owed that chaplain, wherever he was, an apology.

Between Nice and Cannes the ladies were treated to a side trip up the mountainous road to Grasse for a visit to one of the French perfume factories. While they toured the perfumerie, John was at the Bank of France trying to purchase gasoline coupons which enabled tourists to avoid part of the cost of the highest priced gasoline in western Europe. Descending from Grasse to Cannes, the richest yacht harbor of the Riviera came into view. The beach at Cannes is sandy, as a beach should be, and is the rich Europeans' playground. One of the large ships standing well off shore was an American aircraft carrier. Those poor sailors, forced to take shore leave on the French Riviera.

Due to the urgency of returning to England, John began to bypass much that he had planned to see and swung inland through Aix-en-Provence and Avignon straight up the Rhône valley to Lyon. Crossing the low range of mountains, he joined the Loire at Roanne and followed this river northwesterly to its valley, near Blois, that is generously dotted with famous chateaux. To visit them all would require weeks. Since he did not have that much time, John chose the visit Cheverny as an example of a family chateau with the owners in residence and Chambord as an example of a Royal chateau (though, of course, there is no more royal family).

The visitors arrived at Cheverny early in the morning before the chateau was open, but this afforded an opportunity to stroll about the estate and prowl through a stable that had long ago been converted to a hunting lodge where the rafters and walls were almost covered with antlers--trophies of countless hunts. While the guests were still waiting for the residents to finish their breakfast, the keeper of the hounds returned with the pack from an early morning exercise. John had never seen such a pack of hounds. While trying to take a picture of the milling mass of canines, he asked the keeper how many dogs there were in the pack and was told there were sixty-six. How would anyone know?

Cheverny is a rather small, classically simple 17th century dwelling, elegantly furnished with many original pieces, and is a showcase of gracious country living. By startling contrast, 16th century Chambord with its 440 rooms and 365 chimneys is the opulent masterpiece of King Francois I. Sadly, the furnishings have all been stripped away, the once beautiful floors were grimy with dirt, and a good deal of imagination was necessary to visualize the splendor that once was, but is no more.

From Chambord a short trip up the Loire brought the pilgrims to Orleans. They ate lunch on the town square dominated by a huge statue in its center of a maiden on horseback. This was in memory, of course, of Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans who freed the city from the British in 1429. After lunch they hurried on to Fontainebleau just in time to join a guided tour through that magnificent royal castle with its many reminders of Marie Antoinette and Napoleon.

Emerging from the forest of Fontainebleau, John sensed the tranquility of the peaceful French countryside being overwhelmed by the hectic pace of crowds rushing madly into Paris. He merged with the traffic pouring out of Orly Field, and by late afternoon had his charges comfortably settled in a hotel on the Avenue de la Grande Armee in sight of the Arch of Triumph, but not for long. With so much to see in Paris and only two days to spend there, sightseeing had to begin at once. Before dark, with the ladies trailing behind, their guide had hiked to the Eiffel Tower across the Seine from the beautiful Palais de Chaillot.

After escorting their mothers back to the hotel for some much needed rest, Rita and John went out to see the "City of Lights." Strolling down the Champs-Elysees, window shopping between the sidewalk cafes, Rita decided that she would like to see a movie. The couple had not seen one on the trip. Ariane (Love In the Afternoon, in America), starring Gary Cooper, Audrey Hepburn, and Maurice Chevalier was playing in one of the many theatres. Since the setting for the film was Paris, the picture seemed an appropriate choice for remembering a pleasant visit to that colorful, exciting city.

The next day John guided his small group to some of the famous sights of Paris including Notre Dame (1163), the Louvre, Sacre-Cour, and the tomb of Napoleon; but for the visit to Versailles he deviated from his usual pattern of sightseeing and joined a guided bus tour. The beautiful palace of Versailles was the favorite residence of France's royal family until 1789. Its giant Hall of Mirrors was the setting for the 1919 signing of the Treaty of Versailles. But this national treasure was sinking into a bad state of neglect until rescued by huge grants from the Ford Foundation. As in so many cases where governments, for whatever reasons, have failed to preserve historic landmarks, private individuals or foundations have stepped in to do the job to the ultimate enrichment of all.

On the way from Paris to the port city of Calais there was one more stop that John could not resist: Chantilly. This magnificent Renaissance chateau, isolated within the vast park-like estate by a classic moat, is a treasure of reminders of an age of elegance that will probably never be again. The great banquet table was the longest single piece of furniture John ever saw; and the library of rare, beautiful books could be appreciated even without the coveted opportunity to read them. Parting from Chantilly was both sad and happy: sad for having to miss so many interesting sights in Europe, but happy because the journey now headed directly home to England and to little Don.

Once headed home in earnest, sightseeing was limited to only what could be glimpsed from the window of the speeding Consul. Not even at Amiens did John halt, even though he very much wanted to see the largest cathedral in France. The route north reached the English Channel coast in Boulonge then cut across Cape Gris-Nez to Calais where the car ferry once again carried the weary travelers to Dover. The sea on the return trip had just that combination of high, rolling waves and monotonous regularity that induces classical mal-de-mer in landlubbers. Before the white cliffs of Dover came into view the ladies were stretched out in deck chairs wishing they had missed the boat; and even John, whose system was less sensitive, was not at all sorry to finally reach the dock.

As soon as the car was unloaded and passport and customs clearances completed, the family climbed abord the little Consul for the last leg of the trip home. They got about three miles before John stopped again. For most of the 22-mile crossing of the Strait of Dover, the twelfth-century fortress castle of Henry II had been visible high atop the chalk cliffs. This imposing rock stronghold was built on the remains of an old Roman fort. It was strengthened and enlarged to become England's largest castle. Even though the construction extended over many years, the records remain to show every penny spent on the entire project. John could not resist driving up the steep hill and through the narrow gate in the thick wall of this imposing structure for a visit, albeit a very brief one.

Returning from the castle to the highway, John promised Rita that there would be no more stops. This promise was awfully hard to keep, especially when passing through Canterbury by that famous cathedral; but he pressed on, crossed the Greenwich meridian, rushed into the heart of London and out again, and in the late evening twilight, pulled into the haven of Averyhill.

Before leaving on the vacation nearly a month before, in anticipation of a weary return, John had stocked the refrigerator with bacon, cheese, frozen meats, and other food which would keep well and be easy for tired, hungry women to prepare. Well, so much for plans again. When he opened the fridge, instead of the friendly light, he was greeted by a stinking, green, moldy mess from top to bottom. Though there was no food left, four appetites were very effectively killed. Two days of scrubbing with Arm & Hammer were required to restore the little G.E. to service. When the landlady returned to welcome her boarders home, she very proudly proclaimed, "Oh, Mr. Lewis, you went off and left your fridge on. I didn't know how to turn it off so I had my son-in-law pop 'round and unplug if for you." Gee! thanks. How can you shoot anybody that thoughtful?

Of course, the first order of business after returning to Great Staughton was getting Don home. Helen and Jerry Moore had been doing fine caring for the two boys, but Rita was anxious to be a mother again. It didn't take long for John to get back on his job and start arranging for free time to show the visiting mothers some of England. There are no cities in the entire country without notable cathedrals, stately homes, or ancient castles; some are just better known than others. From his home there were many interesting places to take the ladies and return home at night whenever he was able to get days off. Bedford and Cambridge were local towns; but Norwich, Peterborough, Kings Lynn, and London were also within easy driving distances. John didn't want the school teachers to get the impression that the wonders of continental Europe were unmatched in England, so special outings were made to such differing places as Rockingham Castle in the tiny county of Rutland; the Duke of Bedford's fabulous estate, Woburn Abbey; Warwick Castle with its 14th-century exterior and magnificent 17th-century interior; Stratford on Avon, the town that has become a shrine to its most famous son, William Shakespeare; and the incomparable Royal Castle of Windsor. To cap a day of sightseeing in London, there was a dinner at an Indian restaurant, followed by the theatre that night. The play was the musical, Kismet.

The day eventually came when Don's two grandmothers had to go back to Louisiana. They had enjoyed a busy visit of almost two months, and staying longer would not have made the parting easier. Rita told her mother not to expect her to be home for Christmas, but perhaps the following year....

Two weeks after their mothers had gone home, John, Rita and another couple from the village attended an unusual dramatic pageant in the neighboring village of Kimbolton. Kimbolton Castle, which dominated the small town, had been one of the palaces in which Henry VIII had imprisoned his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. After World War II it had become a boys boarding school. The portico of the mansion formed the stage for a late evening, outdoor production, staged by 350 boys, dramatizing the long history of Kimbolton Castle.

A double line of large evergreens formed a lane leading from the gate of the estate towards the castle. During intermission, as the Americans strolled down the lane for a little exercise, John remarked that the trees resembled the sequoias of California. Soon they came to one of the trees with a brass plaque at its base explaining that the trees were indeed Sequoia Gigantia grown from seed sent from the United States some 200 years before. There they stood in regal rows with hardly any trees missing, maybe 10 feet above sea level. In their native home these trees only grow at the 7,000-foot elevation of the Sierra Navadas. Luckily, the one who planted the seeds in England didn't know they couldn't grow in low, wet areas.