[ The following pages are a combination of my letters home and journal entries I made in 1961 while following my own impulsive suggestion in French Class to “Go to France and learn to speak French.” The words in brackets [ Such as this ] are not part of the original writing from 1961. [ During my senior year at Oak Harbor High School I joined the Army Reserves. My brother was a reservist and it seemed like a good idea at the time. This was at the end of the Korean conflict and before Vietnam became a real war. Upon graduating from high school at Oak Harbor High School on Whidbey Island in Washington State, I went immediately into my six months of active duty in the Army. I did basic training at Fort Ord in California and my advanced basic and combat engineer training at Fort Leonard Wood Missouri. When we were released from active duty in December in Missouri I had the opportunity of riding home with a classmate from Oak Harbor in his car, but for some reason I chose to hitchhike home on my own. I didn’t yet know I had a travel bug or an adventure bug which would continue to grow.
The next year I signed up for classes at Everett Junior College about 60 miles from Oak Harbor. I took general courses and during the second year I took Philosophy and French. The instructors in these two classes were the two instructors I remember the most of all the instructors I had in my four years of college. Dr. John Broussard, who held a PhD in Anthropology was the “out-of-the-box” philosophy teacher. I remember the great feeling of discovery I had in philosophy class from finding out I was not the first person to have all the questions that lurked in my mind. James Scott a bachelor and devoted teacher was the French instructor. Learning French was not particularly easy but he made it fun.
One day in French class we were conjugating verbs; Je suis, to es, vous êtes, etc. Having never thought about it before and probably just to try to get a reaction out of whoever was next to me in class, I said to no one in particular, “This is too much work. I’m going to go to France and learn how to speak French.” After I said it, I wondered what one had to do to go to a country outside the United States. I learned all I needed was a passport. To get a passport, required only to be able to prove I was born, a picture, and $10. Without hesitation I set about acquiring those three things and by the end of that school year I had a passport. During the summer I worked both as a swamper, loading and unloading trucks at Oak Harbor Freight Lines and in my brother’s machine shop. Since I didn’t need the money for anything, I let my brother Buzz, keep my earnings in his operating account to pay me later when I needed it. I didn’t make any particular travel plans but I had said I was going to France and figured I would cross the bridges as I came to them. When my classmates in Oak Harbor all went off to college the next fall I realized I needed to start making plans. When I first went to Everett to enter Everett Jr. College, I had gone to the Everett office of Oak Harbor Freight Lines and gotten hired 20 hours a week as a local delivery driver. Through them, I made contact with a Lyon’s Van Line truck driver who traveled back and forth across the United States moving people’s household property. He agreed to let me ride from Seattle to New York with him in exchange for me helping him load and unload as he dropped off and picked up loads across the country. In December 1960 I stepped down out of the cab of the moving van onto East 32nd Street in Manhattan with my small suitcase. As the truck pulled away I remember looking up at the tall buildings all around me. That was the first of the many times that year I looked around in awe and said to myself:” Wow! How did I get here?”
I had heard about people working their way across the ocean on a ship, but I soon found in New York you had to know a lot more than I did as a country boy about the way things work to even get on the docks where ships departed from. I stayed at the YMCA and was able to talk to other travelers also staying there. I learned an airline called Icelandic Airlines flew from New York to Scotland by way of Iceland for an airfare much less than it would cost to get a ticket on an ocean liner.
My recollection is I had about $1000 saved and owed to me by my brother and I had probably brought two or three hundred dollars with me to New York. I spent some portion of that, the amount I don’t remember, on a one-way ticket to Glasgow Scotland with a one-week layover in Reykjavik, Iceland. Why did I decide to spend a week in Iceland in January when I didn’t even know what language they spoke or what the weather would be like? The airplane I would be on had to stop in Iceland to refuel and my ticket allowed me to layover until the next flight a week later without it costing me anymore, so why not?
I was the only passenger on the plane to disembark in Iceland at the terminal which consisted of a one room building with the stove and some fuel tanks. After the plane was fueled up everyone else got back on and took off, leaving me standing there in the darkness by myself. There were no cars, no traffic and no noise. I could see the lights of Reykjavik. I picked up my suitcase and walked until I reached the town.
The first thing I did when I arrived in Reykjavik was what, I now know, most Americans and other travelers do when they travel. I sought out somebody I had something in common with. I went to the American consulate and struck up a conversation with the Marine guard at the door. He offered to let me sleep in one of the unused bunks at the billets where he and the other Marine guards stayed. After two days they realized they were probably breaking rules since they had no idea who I was or if I was a criminal or terrorist. I rented the cheapest hotel room in town. Doing “the easy thing”, almost caused me to miss one of the most meaningful experiences of my travels. During those days when I slept at the Marine headquarters and in a hotel as a customer, I didn’t have meaningful one-on-one contacts with any Icelandic people. I didn’t get to know anyone or learn much about living there. Realizing this on the last day before my plane was to leave the next morning, I decided I would walk the streets of Reykjavik all night to increase the chance of meeting someone.
I went into a café and ordered a cup of hot milk, a common beverage in Iceland. I asked the man who sat down near me if he spoke English and, not only did he speak English he mentioned he was on his way to a chess tournament. We talked about chess and he invited me to come watch the tournament and then sleep on the couch at his house until time to catch my 4 a.m. flight in the morning. Talking with that gentleman after the chess tournament for several hours was my first real wake-up call about how ignorant I was about my own country. He knew more about the politics and economics of the United States than I did, and I had lived there for 21 years and had attended two years of college.
The plane could not land at Reykjavik because of icy conditions so I got a bus ride from Reykjavik to the Keflavík Air Base. I had exchanged some US dollars for the local currency and when it was time to leave I still had some local unspent currency. That was my first introduction to what the gold standard is all about. The U.S. was on the gold standard but Iceland was not. Icelandic money could not be exchanged anywhere else in the world for any other currency because there was no common basis for its value. Rather than leave with some useless paper, I bought a sheepskin hat. It was a great souvenir for years, especially in Alaska.
Landing at Glasgow Scotland and hitchhiking to the youth hostel at Loch Lomond Castle was my next adventure. Although the Scottish people technically speak English and I could hear them talking to me, I had no clue what they were saying most of the time. I didn’t know adventure or drama when I experienced it. I thought each day was just another day in my life. ]
[May 15, 1956, I passed my physical exam at NAS Whidbey to join the Army Reserves. This obligated me to serve six months of active duty in the Army. I also had to attend monthly meetings and two weeks of summer camp for two years and be on call for possible active duty for another two years. This meant I wouldn’t be able to leave the country until the end of 1960 but at that time, I had never thought about leaving the country.] ]
[ October 1960 Article from Oak Harbor Newspaper, The Whidbey Times. ]
Leroy Cook to tour Europe
Leroy Cook, son of Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Cook, plans to leave Whidbey after Christmas for the East Coast and a plane trip to Europe. Cook is interested in finding a ride east with someone who would help with driving. He has his passport as a student. He graduated from two years at Everett Junior College and has been saving his pay from the Oak Harbor freight lines and the Oak Harbor machine shop for this “on the spot” education. He has tentative plans to remain away from 6 to 8 months and has contacts in France and Belgium through a French club at Everett JC.
He will return to college after his European jaunt. He has been a liberal arts major. Incidentally, he is buying a round-trip plane ticket.
[The round-trip plane ticket was an incorrect guess by whoever wrote the article. When the article was written I had no idea how I would get to the East Coast or to Europe from the East Coast. ]
I prepared a power of attorney for my 1951 Lincoln Lido and left it at my parent’s house in Oak Harbor. A Lyon’s Van Lines moving van driver agreed to take me as far a New York in exchange for me helping him unload and load three or four times on the way across country from Seattle.
[ The following was assembled in 2018 from my letters home and journal entries ]
January 5, 1961 8 PM, Livingston Montana journal entry.
I’m in the cab of a Lyon Van Lines truck owned by Robert Elmore of Seattle. We are in route to New York, New York. We left Seattle at 4 PM January 4 after loading the moving van all day.
January 8, 1961 Marshalltown Iowa Journal entry.
Have had beautiful weather. Temperature last night was +2° and the propane heater in the truck ran out of gas.
January 13, 1961 Brooklyn New York journal entry.
After unloading the last truckload on Long Island, I stepped out of the truck in Mid-town Manhattan and watched the truck pull away. I was on my own. Stayed at the Navy YMCA last night. Walked all over Manhattan and road a lot on the subways. My impression: no one pays any heed to the traffic cops or lights.
January 14, 1961 New York subway under Brooklyn. Journal entry.
Iceland-next stop. I got itchy feet and decided to get going. [With no knowledge of how to even get onto the docks or an ocean liner, I decided working my way to Europe on a ship would take more preparation time than it was worth. While spending nights at the YMCA, I asked questions and decided flying to Europe on an Icelandic airlines prop jet bound for Glasgow Scotland with a stop in Iceland would be my cheapest option.]
January 15, 1961, Reykjavik Iceland.
Journal entry the coldest part of this country is its name. I am presently staying with the American embassy guards, four Marines who really have it made. Icelandic living seems to be very expensive. I was lucky to run into a marine from Portland Oregon who was very helpful. If I can get cleared by the American Embassy, I will be all right.
January 18, 1961 Hotel Vik, Reykjavik Iceland journal entry.
A couple of the embassy guards didn’t like the idea of me getting something for nothing so rather than cause any trouble for Bruce, the guy from Portland, I am staying at the hotel Vic. I slept on a terrible bed and am directly under some kind of pump or something on the roof that is very noisy. It is costing me 62 kroner a night or about $1.62 bacon and eggs cost me 25 kroner this morning or $.65. Hot milk is only three kroner (eight cents) for practically a pint. I wash my clothes in a tiny washbasin today and am drying them on the heat register. This is a smokeless city. All of the heating is done by water from natural hot springs.
January 19 1961: Glasgow Scotland
I spent my first night on a cot in a very large unheated room in Loch Lomond Castle. I was the only registered guest in the Loch Lomond Youth Hostel. It was winter in Scotland; very cold.
January 21, 1961 Bradford England journal entry.
My last night in Iceland I met an English-speaking gent who invited me to a chess tournament and then to his house for the night. We had a very interesting chat and he had a very nice home and family. The next morning I had a wild ride to catch the plane at Keflavík US Air Force Base because of icy conditions at Reykjavík. I stayed my first night in Scotland in a castle overlooking Loch Lomond. It took one and a half days to reach here hitchhiking and I am heading for London tomorrow. I’m staying at the house of Ann Milikan’s parents tonight.
[I was a regular blood donor in Everett and apparently mentioned my upcoming trip to Ann, who was a nurse at the Snohomish County Blood Bank. She gave me her parent’s address and suggested I contact them when in the area.]
January 21 1961: Air letter from Bradford England to Oak Harbor.
Hi you Yankees. This is old limey Cook a speaking. It has been snowing here most of the day. How is the weather there? I am jolly. How are all there? I landed in Glasgow Scotland Thursday afternoon and got a ride from the airport to a hostel at Loch Lomond where I stayed the night. I started South Friday morning and by 10 PM I was at Darlington, England where I got a bed at a “transport house” (truck stop). I had two sandwiches and tea when I got there, a bed to sleep in, and breakfast this morning, all for 12 shillings. ($1.68) That’s not too bad. From Darlington this morning I got here to Bradford about 2:30 PM. I am staying the night with the parents of a woman in Everett who is a nurse at the Snohomish County blood bank. Tomorrow I will carry on to London and then probably to Belgium Tuesday morning.
When I left Iceland, I had about five dollars worth of Icelandic Kroner left. I had only spent five dollars the four days I was there. Anyway, Kroner are not worth anything anywhere except in Iceland because there is no gold reserve backing them. At the airport no one would exchange them for me so I either had to spend them or be stuck with them. My new sheepskin Russian style fur hat and my beard go quite well together. I have to struggle to keep a straight face when I am walking through a town. If I can just perfect “me Scottish brogue” now I will really confuse people. I don’t worry about getting run over here. If a car comes at me when I am crossing the street I just stomp on it. I was riding in a Morris Minor today when it was snowing and the chap what was driving lost control and went into a bloody skid. We jolted clean off the carriageway. I got out and bodily carried the machine back onto the pavement and we continued on into Wakefield. [Who me, exaggerate?] Cheerio for now. I will write more before posting.
Howdy again: I am at a hostel in London and I must finish this and go get it mailed. I haven’t checked the mail here in London yet. I hope there is some. I have a new address for you to send to that will work well. If anyone else can spare a line or so, please give it to them. American Express will forward mail to wherever I happen to be. My address is Leroy Cook care of American Express office Brussels Belgium. I will sign off now. Love you all, Leroy
January 26, 1961 Wezembeek-Oppem, Belgium, Journal entry:
I am at the home of Helen Luypaert in Wizembeek-Oppem, Belgium. I stayed at the Henry Brown (Ann’s parents) residence the night of January twenty-first and on the 22nd I left there for London. I arrived in London that night and stayed at the Highgate youth hostel. The 23rd I wandered about London on foot all day and returned to the hostel that night. The next morning on my way to Dover I bought a pair of trousers in London for 4 pounds or $11.76. I hope they will prove worth it. By luck I arrived at Dover in time to catch the afternoon boat to Ostend, Belgium. On the boat I met two girls from South Africa who are also hitchhiking. Jennifer Peel and Colleen. They were going to stay in Ostend and since it was getting quite late I decided to join them. We found the Youth Hostel open and were able to secure lodging. These girls were pulling their luggage on little carts, one of which broke an axle, so in the morning we looked for a welding shop. Colleen finally found one and got her cart braised for 35 Belgian francs or $.70. We had a continental breakfast together which consisted of bread, jam, and tea or coffee for Fr.30 each. We were in an expensive place. We left for Brussels together and stood 100 yards apart on the highway to hitchhike. Both rides we got picked me up first and then made room for the girls when they saw them. Number one was a Belgian Navy man and then a Belgian Army reserve officer picked us up. He took the girls right to where they were going and then left me on the road to Louvain and Wezembeek-Oppem. I caught a train to Wezembeek but got off at the wrong stop so I had to walk for an hour to find Helen’s house. Helen is engaged to a fellow, but I am staying with the family anyway. They are all very nice.
January 26, 1961 Wezembeek-Oppem, Belgium, letter home.
Bonjour mes amis: I must write small because here they count airmail by the 1/4 ounce. I am staying with the family of the girl that I was writing too. She has recently gotten engaged but that is typical of my luck. She is giving me lessons in French and I hope to master the speaking of it quite well before continuing on into France. It has been freezing since I got here Wednesday but at least it isn’t raining. They have a very nice house in the suburbs of Brussels.
Next morning-I will hurry and finish this so I can hop on a bike and go buy some stamps before noon, “midi”. The Mr. [Helen’s father] just came in from outside and he spent a few minutes making me understand what he was doing. He put a new clutch plate in his motorcycle. For breakfast here, one has coffee and bread and jam. That is it. Known as a continental breakfast. When they cook meat here they just pass it over the fire and put it on the table. The only thing they don’t have in most places here that is common at home (besides a car for everyone) is central heating for the whole house. They all have a built-in fireplace but instead of an open fire there is a coal stove in it. Well goodbye for now. This picture was taken in a booth in the subway in London. It’s not too good and my beard is much better now but you can see my hat. Love, Leroy.
January 28, 1961 Wezembeek-Oppem, Belgium, Journal entry:
I went to a dance last night with Helen and her fiancé. It was a university dance held in Brussels. The dance was very crowded, quite rowdy, very good music, and had the usual variety of types of people. I danced with several girls that didn’t speak English and one especially who spoke a little English. I might have a date for next Saturday with her. After the dance we went to another place looking for a friend of John Pierre’s then we had some spaghetti and wine and went home. The three of us all road on a little motorcycle-some fun.
Today we had a big dinner to celebrate the birthdays of Roger (Helen’s little brother) and his uncle (son uncle). The dinner began with martinis and hors d’oeuvres. Then we had fried snails or “escargot” and bread and Moselle wine. After quite a while we had the main course which consisted of “croquettes” (mashed potatoes rolled in breadcrumbs and deep-fried), applesauce, fried chicken and more wine. After a few minutes we had dessert, a cake like thing with jellied fruit and whipped cream on it. The family went to the circus with Helen’s aunt and a brother-in-law. (Soeur et beau frere}. I am to meet them at the uncle’s home at 630 P. M.
January 30, 1961 Wezembeek-Oppem, Belgium, Journal entry:
I am still working all day on my French. Yesterday I changed the way I comb my hair. I am now combing it forward like the students here.
February 1, 1961, Wezembeek-Oppem Belgium, letter home.
Allo, ma chere famille. (You all) well, so far today I walked about 4 miles in the rain because I must have pronounced “planche” wrong when I asked where to find a lumber yard. I finally found a huge nursery but all the trees were too young to make my own boards. On the way back I about got run over by a priest on a bicycle. One is safer here walking in the street than on the sidewalk. It has warmed up and the weather is like Washington now. It is raining.
Last Saturday night we went to a university dance in Brussels; Helen, her fiancé and I. Helen and I went on a bus and met John Pierre at the dance. When the dance was over we returned to Wezembeek, about 7 miles, with the three of us on John Pierre’s motorcycle; a very small motorcycle. I did all right at the dance. I have a date for tomorrow night with the girl in Brussels for a game of chess. Fun? This is especially interesting because her English isn’t quite as good as my French and as you might guess my French leaves quite a lot that doesn’t get said. Every day I get so I can understand everybody’s gibberish a little better.
I received your letters Wednesday in Brussels and it was very fine to hear that everyone is doing okay. Thank you for the Christmas card but of course I already knew what was in it. If a letter comes from Nice France, it would be nice to know what is in it, but any others probably will be outdated. Anything that comes for me just open it and then if it is important you can tell me about it.
Next time I try to use my passport I will probably have trouble. Since I am combing my hair forward and my beard is getting quite nice, I don’t resemble that picture much. The people I am living with are very nice. I spend practically all day every day studying French.
When I go to town I can communicate quite well now but I am still planning on improving a lot. The only big difference in life here and there is the price of gasoline. For a guy 17 to 25 here to have a motorbike or a little tiny cycle is as much as having a Chevrolet or Ford at home. Both in England and here, gas costs about $.60 a gallon and the people as a rule get less than half the wages we are used too. $160 a month is quite good wages. Outside of transportation, people live very well on that much money. There is good bus service everywhere. Goodbye for now. Love to all. Leroy
February 8 1961 Wezembeek-Oppem, Belgium, Journal entry:
I am leaving the home of Helen Luypaert. I think I will go into a youth hostel in Brussels. I have spent exactly 2 weeks here. My biggest expenses have been bus fare to Brussels (nine francs and stamps to home Fr.8.5) I have eaten very well here and the family is real nice. I hope to return when I can talk to everyone in their own language better. I came to see Helen but except for last Wednesday when she didn’t have to work in the afternoon, I have hardly seen her. I have learned my way around Brussels quite well. I know some good places to dance and have met several people in town. I have met two girls on my own. The last one Sunday night, seems quite nice. Her name is Christian Flament. I kissed my first European girl Sunday. When I said good night I kissed her hand-big deal.
February 10, 1961, Brussels Belgium, letter home.
Dear mom and all. I am just going to write a couple of lines and then do a French lesson. I am now to lesson 11, one third of the way through the book I started three days ago. I have studied more this week than I ever did in two months for school. It is paying off though. Today on my way back here from American Express I started talking to a Belgian soldier who was also walking across town. We talked quite fluently for 15 or 20 minutes and he didn’t know a word of English. I will return after one lesson. Sille vous plait. Later, 3 PM here equals 6 AM there:. I just reread your letters, so I will write this now before doing my lesson first, Iceland is an independent country. Second, in Iceland I stayed with the Marines two nights then spent one night in a hotel in Reykjavík; then on the last night I got acquainted with a man who spoke English and spent the night at his house. I am getting along very well with my clothes. I bought a pair of dark pants in London for about $13. They were about the most expensive (Terrylynn ). They don’t wrinkle bad. Here in Brussels I bought a sport coat. It was on sale. I paid $12 for it. The only other article I might need is a topcoat of sorts. The style here is a close-fitting dark trench coat type thing. I think I will be all right with mine since spring is so close. With my dark sport coat, dark slacks, my hair combed forward and my beard, no one guesses I’m American anymore. Of course, my accent gives me away as being an English-speaking foreigner, but it is real pleasant to be chatting with someone and then tell them I’m an American and seeing them look surprised. I don’t fit the stereotype. I have no camera, loud clothing, money or dark glasses. As for the camera I will run it down myself and if it is still in New York I will probably have it sent home because of customs etc. Along with your letter today, I got a letter from Carol Cogdill (Rich Kreig). They are in France at a US Air Force Base. I wrote to them and told them I was in the area. They are at a town called Phalsbourg which is right on the border of France and Germany. I have a feeling Rich will know where I should get a camera.
Now I am staying at an international youth home in Brussels. I was referred here by the University of Brussels. I didn’t go to a youth hostel because I wanted to be sure of a warm place to study during the day. The hostels, not being too active this time of year, are sometimes not too nice. (Colder than H.) I think I will stay here until Monday when I will go to probably a youth hostel for a couple of days before leaving for France. By constantly moving around I am being exposed to different environments and people. Here I am getting acquainted with a bunch of students from Argentina, the Congo (there is a good looking chick from the Congo who is white) Italy, Belgium and I don’t know where else yet. They are all real swell. We went to a local student pub last night and danced until 12 PM. There were about five or six different languages flying around.
It is costing me Fr.60 ($1.20) for bed and breakfast. I purchased some bread and cheese and yogurt, have a late lunch in my room and then I just skip supper. That makes my living cost about $1.65 a day. Today I was extravagant and spent $.40 riding on trams. Postage stamps are a comparatively large expense at $.17 each. With the clothes I have bought, considering everything except my plane ticket, I am still staying under $100 a month. It is possible I might come home via South Africa and South America but that is still a long time off.
After I learn French very well (about two months) [That was wishful thinking], I possibly will go live in Germany and learn German the same way. I am going to quit now I will send you some more pictures of myself pretty soon so if you see me on TV you will recognize me. Please send me a picture of my car. I am still looking for the kind of goodies I want to send home. I would like to send you one of these damn fire engines. Instead of a siren they have about four big loud horns that go together like purple and green. Yow! Love to all, Leroy.
February 11, 1961, Brussels, Belgium, Journal entry:
I am staying in a youth home in downtown Brussels. I have met people from all over here. I bunk with a guy from Argentina, “Nicolo”. It is costing me Fr.60 ( $1.20) here for bed and breakfast. I have been to several student type hangouts in town and have danced quite a bit.
February 12, 1961, Brussels, Belgium, 6:40 AM Journal entry:
I have just returned from a first-class night on the town in Brussels for the whole sum of Fr 50. I was in the “Maison de la Juene Europe” and got together with another guy and two girls. The four of us went to a place called “Les Ange Noir” [Black Angels]. (one dollar a drink) and danced there until after 3 AM. We then went to another place and had spaghetti and then walked a long way before the other three took a taxi and I returned here on foot (a pied). I waited in a parked car for a half hour for the bread man to come and the door to be opened.
February 14, 1961, Brussels, Belgium, Journal entry:
Today I spent at the famous Carnival of Binche. I danced wildly in the streets and kissed beaucoup de girls. Actually though, the most enjoyable part of the day was the fact I was the guest of a bunch of students from Brazil. We have all become quite good friends here in a week. Nicolo, Deano Joa, Joan and Paulo. Tomorrow I go to Verdun
February 16, 1961, Verdun, France, letter home.
Hello all. Please excuse the wrinkles but I just received a potato wrapped in this paper as a present. I am right now in one of the newer apartment houses here. I am freezing my—off.
I left Brussels yesterday about noon and arrived here in Verdun at 9 PM. The picture I had of the girl here [Bernadette Bioli] was two years old. The family is actually of Italian descent like the picture looked. The standard of living is quite a bit lower here than in Belgium. Many of the homes don’t have toilets.
Last night when I arrived we all sat and drank wine and talked for a couple of hours the family of the girl I was writing to here lives in an old apartment house. There is a bullet hole in the ceiling of the kitchen from when the Germans occupied this area. I slept there last night and today I am at the home of Bernadette’s sister and brother-in-law. There is the Mrs. (the sister) and her two “little monsters” +2 more little monsters. What a madhouse. Bernadette and the rest of the family are working. I am not very sure of anything that is going on because I am the only one here that speaks much English.
It is real interesting going through the small towns here in this part of France. It is like a big barnyard with a street through it. The cows live downstairs and the people upstairs. Last night I traveled the last 72 km (45 miles) after dark between Douzy, France and Verdun with no towns to speak of in between. I had three rides; the first one was about 2 km (1.2 miles) on a “motor” aka motor scooter. I then walked three or 4 miles and got another ride, about 3 km on another motor scooter. I then stood in a good spot about a half hour until I got a ride all the way into Verdun in a car. I will probably be here for a week and then I am going to Phalsbourg, France (A U.S. Airbase) to see Rich and Carol Craig. I am sending, in a separate package, some maps and etc. I have been using, but am now finished with.
Sometime in the near future, you and Geraldine should receive a couple of packages. Things like the letter opener are not very expensive. I hope everything gets there okay. The television here is on.
I was at a carnival like the Mardi Gras the day before yesterday. I was invited to go with a bunch of students from Brazil and Argentina. We went in a bus supplied by the Belgian government and had reserved seats with all the wheels. You will see in the pictures I send, the guys with the big hats are carrying baskets full of oranges which are thrown all over hell. I was standing up on the rail of the grandstand when I made the mistake of bopping one of the big shots wearing a hat with an orange I had caught. Immediately there followed a small war between me and some joker with a basket full of oranges. I finally climbed down because people all around me were getting drowned in orange juice from the oranges smashing against the wall behind me. I made more direct hits than the other guy and I only had the oranges I could catch. I will write some more later before I mail this.
The next day: The sun is out, and I am at the same place again. I’m going out to find a post office and try to get some French money and a stamp for this letter. Bye. Love, Leroy.
February 18, 1961, Verdun, France, Journal entry:
I am living with the family of Bernadette Bioli, Italian French. They live in a house that is older than I am by far and has four levels of c
ellers (tunnels) under it dating back past the French Revolution. I am getting a good look at the way the poor people of France live.
February ? 1961. Letter to the editor of Oak Harbor newspaper. [Whidbey News Times]
Below is a letter from Leroy Cook, son of Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Cook of Oak Harbor. Leroy is “seeing the world” following his graduation from Everett Junior College. He worked for a freight line while going to college and saved his money for a trip to Europe. He graduated from Oak Harbor high school in 1957.
Dear Dorothy Neil: My mother sent me a clipping of Cheryl Hazard entering the order of St. Mary. I happen to turn it over and read part of the article there stating: “the only time a school board member is important enough to get into print is when he is up for recall because he upholds a teacher who whacked some wheel’s kid” This is interesting to me because it is just the kind of thing that brought me to Europe. Mine is the same old story: I could have learned a lot in school, but it was always more fun to make faces at someone on the other side of the room. When I got to college I decided that our whole school system is too easy to get through.
I heard much talk about the school systems of other countries and I am now in the process of getting an opinion from the side of the fence where the grass used to look greener. I haven’t had much opportunity to hear opinions in France or Belgium because I have been cramming new words into my French vocabulary.
In Scotland the government pays for one’s education as long as that person can meet the requirements, but a couple of Scottish fellows told me that the U S system is better because one gets “educated for life” better. When one is obliged to either study or leave school, there is more reason to study than I ever felt while in school. I was made to understand the majority of students who come out of universities in Scotland after having their noses to the grindstone for many years, are educated scholastically but had made no adjustment for life. Whereas the US student learned to be diplomatic by being on the bottom of a dog pile a few times, the Scot student found he had only bigger problems to contend with.
I am presently staying with the family of a girl with whom I corresponded through the French club while I was at home. I am sitting writing at the kitchen table while the whole family is at work. I can look up and see bullet holes in the ceiling from the war. I can also step out into the other room and by moving a couple of rugs on some boards I can descend into a cavern which still has wrist shackles hanging from the ceiling. Under the cavern there are three more straight down. All four used to extend under all the town. I am not sure how old the tunnels are, but I have learned with my limited French they were dug sometime before the French Revolution in the 15th or 16th century.
I will return to Brussels in a couple of weeks after I go to Phalsbourg and see Rich and Carol Krieg. In Brussels I will work for my room and board in a young people’s home occupied by students from all over the world. I am happy over this prospect because the evenings are spent discussing our homes and languages.
I would like to hear from anyone there and if there’s anything you want me to find out for you I will try. If you see Denny Andrews I would like to hear from him too. YouR wandering friend, Leroy Cook, American Express, Bruxelles, Belgique. Dear Leroy: Thank for your nice letter. What a wonderful opportunity you have now to learn and observe. “Goofing off” in school may have resulted in a double effort on your part to get an education. Good luck. The editor
February 23, 1961, Verdun, France, Journal entry:
I am leaving Verdun today and heading for Phalsbourg, France to see Rich and Carol Craig. I have said that I would come back here but I am not sure when. These people have tried to give me every comfort possible and we have all been one big happy family. I have heard nothing but bad reports about the French people and government. This family is Italian and Polish.
February Verdun, France. Note from memory.
As I recall, the Bioli family lived in a small apartment one flight of steps up with two bedrooms, a small kitchen, and a dining room. They had running water in the sink but there was no indoor toilet or place for a shower or bath. Because of my limited French and the fact none of them spoke any English, I never did find out for sure where everybody went to the bathroom. There was a small enclosed courtyard out the back door which was sort of like going out into the woods at home. For more substantial bathroom needs I had to go down the street until I found some type of public facility. When the mother and father were home from work and Bernadette was home from school, we all spent our time in the kitchen where there was a stove. The dining room and the rest of the apartment was not heated. Rather than refer to them as poor, I expect they were “working class”. When the father was at home he generally had a glass of red wine on the table in front of him.
February 23, 1961 Phalsbourg, France: Letter home.
Howdy and all that BS. Well you will be getting a camera in the mail from New York shortly I got word that it is on his way I have $13 actually invested in the outfit so you can do what you want with it. It has been worked over at the factory, so it is in good shape and camera rating book that I saw it is rated as a good camera. The camera alone sells for $29.95 and the flash attachment and shade would cost another eight dollars. If someone in the family wants it, I will take $13 for it. If not sell it for at least $20.
Today I bought me a camera. I will add the name when we get back to the house, so you can find out the price of one there for kicks. Actually, I can use that flash attachment on this camera, but I probably will buy one here anyway. I bought this one in the Air Force Base exchange here, or rather Rich bought it for me. $35. I am staying with Rich and Carol Krieg for a few days, then I think I will go into Germany a few days before going back to Brussels. Rich and I went to another Air Force Base today and got the camera and Rich went before a board to get professional pay for his job he passed. (More later about this) Right now I am sitting in a gym watching a basketball game. Rich is playing in an inter squadron game. The score is tied right now.
I made an exchange the other day. I let the dog lean on my leg and he shared his fleas with me. I got attacked by a whole squadron of the damned things.
I hope you guys have received my goodies in the mail by now. Save all the papers and junk that I send, and I will make a scrapbook or something with the pictures. I think when I have pictures developed I will have the slides sent directly to you and you can send to me the pictures that I want. (Next day) I am at Rich and Carol’s house. My camera is an Agfa Optima I, 35mm. It has an automatic F-stop and shutter speed with leather case. I paid $34.75 for it also; how about doing something else for kicks? Call the newspaper and give them the story on Rich’s pay increase that he passed the test for yesterday. If you get it in right away Rich’s mom will maybe read it in the paper before she gets a letter about it.
Here is the story for the paper: Airman First Class Richard H Kreig of Oak Harbor stationed at Phalsbourg, France went before a “pro board” Thursday, February 24 and passed with flying colors. By passing the pro board, Rich receives a substantial increase in pay ($30 a month). Rich has specialized in teletype and cryptographic maintenance and the pro board was to decide whether he knew his job well enough to receive professional pay.
(Later) Hello again. I have finally gotten all the figuring done on this camera so I’m going to load it and take some pictures. This is quite a change here from last week. The place I lived last week was very typically low standard of living French. This place that Rich and Carol live in is not high-class according to standards at home but here this place is a mansion. There is a toilet, bathtub and a hot water heater Rich and Carol have a real cute little girl two years and two months old. Well I’m going to quit now. I hope some letters catch up with me here. The only letter I have received since I left Brussels was the one from New York telling me that my camera was on its way to Washington. I always forget what I want to say when I am writing. Love to all, Leroy [the mention of Rich’s promotion did make it into the Oak Harbor paper promptly.]
February 27,- Phalsbourg, France. Journal Entry.
I am staying with Rich and Carol Craig. They live like Americans here and it is really quite nice for a change having all the conveniences of home. I got here last Wednesday evening from Verdun. I am going to leave for Switzerland tomorrow.
I got a German camera here, with Rich’s help. They live behind a guesthouse (German Gasthuuse) so consequently there is quite a bit of time spent there drinking beer and playing cards. I have danced quite a bit with the gals down there.
February 27,-March 3 1961, Phalsbourg, France:
How do, you all. (Yeah, you too)
I got your letter of Sunday, February 19 today. I think my mail is having a little trouble catching up with me. I just wrote you a couple of days ago, so I will start this and then finish it later when I get another letter. Thank you for the pictures but, what did you mean? You said, “you found this picture of Geraldine and tablet-what tablet?”
I am leaving here in the morning and I have decided to go to Switzerland for a week. I have done nothing very exciting here, but it has been nice being around someone where I can talk without straining my brain. Well, you asked about my suitcase. Between New York and Iceland, the one strap pulled loose and after that I filled it too full one time and pulled some stitches loose. I bought a little satchel at Brussels for my small stuff. I can still carry everything in one hand, so all is well. I think the suitcase will last quite a while. I’ll write more later.
(7:15 PM) I’ll finish this now, so I can send it for seven cents when I go to the base with Rich in the morning to check my mail. I am sending a couple of letters to Brussels tomorrow to get the ball rolling for a job. I hope something lucrative turns up. We’re going to go down to the guesthouse shortly and I am going to do a bit of dancing before I come back and retire.
I am heading for Switzerland the back way tomorrow, down through the mountains. I realize there isn’t much traffic that way but since I am in no hurry to get anywhere I don’t care. There are lots of youth hostels all through the mountains, so I don’t think I will have to sleep in a cave. I think this is all for now. Possibly more later. Love to all, Leroy. (A. M. We’re on our way to the base now where I will leave from. It is raining this morning. Sh–T! }
March 1, Bern Switzerland. Journal Entry.
I am staying in a youth hostel tonight. It is quite elaborate. I am really impressed by Switzerland. The country is beautiful, and the people are nice. I think I will try to come back and spend more time here later.
March 4, Gerardmer, France (I thought I was in Switzerland at the time. Journal Entry.
I skied all afternoon at Schulecht. I am in some mountains in France near Switzerland. It was very nice here. I’ve made several friends here from Paris. They are helping me learn more French.
March 5, 1961 Xonrupt, France. A letter home
Dear Mom and all. I won’t write much now because I am not going to send this until I get back to Phalsbourg and pick up my mail. I left there, Phalsbourg, last Tuesday morning and headed toward Switzerland. I stayed at Mulhouse, France that night and went on into Switzerland Wednesday. The contrast between France and Switzerland is quite striking. Until that time I had only seen the worst part of France which is pretty bad. The little towns are like a big barnyard and the big towns are like a big slum section.
Switzerland is beautiful. There are of course, many beautiful mountains and the cities are very clean and picturesque. I stayed in the youth hostel at Bern, Switzerland Wednesday night and went north again the next day. I crossed back into France and tried to make it over some mountains to Besancon, France where there is another youth hostel. I didn’t make it. I ended up taking a room in a little village way up in the boondocks. The next day I had more trouble than usual hitchhiking. The longest ride I got before noon was four kilometers. After I reached Besancon and turned north again. My luck got pretty good and I made it to Gerardmer. (Xonrupt).
Bonjour encore. Same letter now from Brussels on March 12, 1961. I got back to Phalsbourg and there was only one letter for the week, so I hope there will be something here tomorrow. I am going to start looking for a job tomorrow and if I find one I will be staying in Brussels quite a while.
I am thinking very seriously of buying a car here before I come home. If anyone wants to buy a foreign car cheap, if they sent me the money and I brought it all the way home it would still be a steal. Actually, there is a real wild body style here I like, and they are not expensive at all. For $300 I can get a 1955 Citroen Traction.
They are the same rigs that Al Capone used in Chicago. 1955 is the last year they made the body style that I like. More tomorrow, I hope.
Howdy on March 14, same letter. I got your letter with the pictures and clippings today, so I will finish this and send it. I am sitting in the main post office in Brussels.
It sure sounds funny to hear you talk about snow. Except for about three days, the last month has been all sunny here. It is bright and sunny out now. I regret to say I am not so bright right now. Like always, killing time puts me in about the lowest mood possible and unless I get a job, that’s all I will be doing. If I don’t turn up something here by next week I’m going to make tracks for southern France via Paris. There are a lot of places I want to go but I want to stay where the people speak French for a while until I get so I understand it better. P. S. Tell someone else to write if they can spare a minute. That’s all for now. A la prochain, [French for “ See you later] Leroy
March 7, 1961 Phalsbourg, France, Journal Entry.
I am back at Rich and Carol’s place. I will leave here for Verdun and Brussels again. There is a gal here named Monique Pasca, who is very interesting. She is a maid at the Gasthaus.
March 10, 1961 Phalsbourg, to Verdun to Brussels, Journal Entry
I’m on the road leaving Verdun heading for Brussels again, roundabout. Next to the little villages with big piles of fertilizer for yards, this is the worst section of country I have seen. It started getting bad again. Nancy and Ligny were quite bad and Verdun is also very ramshackle. All the buildings are filthy and broken and the people have to scrounge for wood and food. Gerardmer was completely demolished by the war and now there are new buildings there. This part of the country was just all shot up.
March 11, 1961 Brussels, Belgium, Journal entry. Well! After spending four hours yesterday to make the first few miles I had good luck and got here to Brussels. I wandered around town today and just made a point to meet strangers. I had a good time and met several people. There aren’t many people here at the home right now, so things are pretty dull.
March 14, 1961 Brussels Belgium, Journal entry. The last two days have been very bad. I have been quite blue, maybe lonesome. I decided to look for a job here and that is probably the reason. It is discouraging looking for a job anywhere, much less someplace where you can’t understand everyone.
March 22, 1961 Brussels – Brugge, Belgium. Journal entry.
I just returned today from a couple of days in Brugge. There is a very nice hostel there and the town is picturesque with many canals and old buildings. The more I am exposed to the system of paying for service here the more revolting it becomes. I am going to start preparing all of my meals except the ones that I can get in hostels. I have met very many new friends in the last week. I have three new friends from Germany, one from England and another girl in Brussels. Things are definitely looking up.
March 24, 1961, Brussels Belgium. Letter home.
Bonjour and all that rot. Well, I received your letter yesterday and unless something exciting commences shortly I think I will get it answered this evening. I have been very busy this last week only walking and talking but nevertheless busy. From last week this is what I have done. I spent two days running around with an Italian student and a German. I then spent two days and evenings walking around town with a guy from England. He is a student at Oxford. Then last Saturday night, I met another Belgian girl and so Sunday she showed me around where they held the world’s fair here in 1958. Sunday morning, I made the acquaintance of two fellows from Germany and we proceeded to pass two days goofing around. Tuesday morning one of them went back to Germany and Klaus and I went to Brugge, a very old city here in Belgium. We spent two days there and then he went back to Germany and I returned here to “La maison”. (The house). When I took my room again I found I was sharing it with a medical student from Italy. What a character. The second night he was here he proceeded to make one of the girls who lives here [according to him??] and then he spent the next day dodging her because she was too serious. He left today for Rotterdam and I met my Belgian friend when she got off work at 5:30 PM.
I accompanied her to her bus stop and made a date for Sunday night to go dancing. So goes it here. Now you know how my time is spent. I am going to leave here, I think Tuesday, and go up into Holland to buy a box of bulbs. If it doesn’t cost too big a fortune I am going to send some home.
My how time flies. It is 10:30 PM. I got interrupted in my letter writing by a French girl coming in. I spent the last two hours teaching her English. Don’t mind the writing. I think my hand is shaking a little. Anyway, I am going to Holland to see if I can get you some bulbs and then into Germany to see one of my new friends and then back to Rich and Carol’s place to see my slides on their projector and then send them home by mail through Uncle Sam’s system. After Phalsbourg I am going into Switzerland again where I think I am going to meet the girl I saw in town here tonight. She is going there to work in a couple of weeks. After Switzerland I plan on going on south to the Mediterranean and the Midi, (Nice and Marseille). After that I have no plans. Actually, this gal that I was teaching English to this evening could sure foul up a wonderful schedule. Man, she is a dish that makes me grit my teeth from across the room. Well with that, I quit. Bonne nuit. [French for “Good night] Love to all, Leroy
Here I am again. It is March 25 and this letter didn’t get sent yesterday. That’s good because I forgot to say several things, like always. First: you should receive in the mail before too long, the following items: a letter opener for Geraldine, the coasters for Geraldine, the vases for mom, a wooden bottle for mom, a cuckoo clock for mom, a box with my hat and some crystal for mom.
Now mother dear. This is for you to read. If everything gets there all right this is what I would like to do. The cuckoo clock is a sample. One like that cost around six dollars and a dollar for shipping it. For around $20 I can get one with all kinds of intricate carvings on it. When you have your annual get together for all the birthdays in April, the crystal and the wooden bottle are for Buzz and Geraldine. I don’t know which one is best for who, so you can decide who needs what. I bought the crystal in a street market for $5.50 and to send the box it was another three dollars. The wooden bottle cost me about three dollars for sending in all. With this information you can decide if this an especially good deal, who wants more of what and what I should send more of.
You can show the cuckoo to Sylvia and see what she wants. If she wants it fine. If you want it, fine. If everyone wants a $15 one just let me know. One other thing. It would be very foolish if I were to spend a year over here and pass up the potential possibility of saving (or making) one small fortune. For example. I am allowed (if they don’t change the law) $500 worth of import before I have to pay any duty. If Buzz is going to need any small instruments like micrometers or anything for his new shop it is quite certain for $500 in Germany I could buy the same tools he will pay $2000 for in the states. It is at least something that we should look into. If Buzz would send me some brand names or something so we can compare things of the same quality I will be glad to spend a few days or a few weeks making some contacts in Germany where they make the silly things. Also; are you interested in handmade lace? Belgium is famous for its lace makers. One can buy anything from handkerchiefs four $.30 to huge tablecloths for fortunes. I think the best thing in this line I have seen is just a handmade lace fringe. It is 4 inches wide and they sell it by the yard. Since this isn’t a tourist type thing it isn’t so damned expensive. If you want some just let me know. I quit again. Love, Leroy
March 27, 1961 Brussels Belgium. A letter home (In same envelope as previous)
Well, here I go again. When I started this letter last week I said something about finishing it in one day; ha ha. Saturday afternoon I didn’t get any stamps and you can’t buy stamps on Sunday, so I will send it this afternoon. I received your letter with the news of Mr. Embleton this morning when I went to town, so I decided I would answer in this letter. I will try to send a letter or card to Mrs. E. and Sylvia.
Now I will try to give you some answers. As for the interesting things being off the highway, you are right. As a matter of fact, I am usually off the highway myself. Secondly, I make it a point to not look for anything in particular. I came over here to form an impression and make a comparison between our way of life and the way of life here. I don’t spend my time at home running around looking at tourist attractions so if I’m going to make a fair comparison there is no reason I should do anything but meet people, go out occasionally, and look at the things that pass in front of my eyes. Speaking of seeing things, after five weeks in this city I know it better than most of the people who live here. Three times in the last week I have been asked directions by French-speaking people. All three times I was able to tell them exactly what they wanted to know.
The roads. The quality and size of the roads here are about on par with the Deception Pass Road. Of course, since Belgium and most of France are quite flat, there are not so many sharp curves. In France I was riding in a big Peugeot and the guy commented on what a terrifically good road it was. I would have compared it with the road that follows along West Beach. There are also some big divided highways, but they are few and far between. I haven’t yet, in Europe been on a road that would compare with the highway between Mount Vernon and Everett. I hear they have big highways around Paris, but I won’t know yet for a couple of weeks.
Sorry to hear about your weather. I’ll send you an envelope full of sunshine when I get to the Riviera. I don’t know about Black Forest cuckoo clocks. I will be in Switzerland again next week. I will ask around. Yes, I got the letter concerning nurseries. They are not very elaborate here. They have little flower and plant shops in the Grand Place in the center of Brussels. When you get the photos, you will see them and also the typical streets in all the cities here. (Cobblestone). When I have been through Holland I will report on the nurseries there.
I will send you the prices on the Mercedes when I get to Germany but from what I hear there is a waiting list longer than my stay in Europe. Say hi to Bruce, Ken and all those. You misunderstood about the car. If I bought a Citroen it would be for me because I like the radical style. If I buy something for an investment it would be a Volkswagen or something like that. The Citroen that I like would cost me around $100 here and the shipping to the East Coast or to San Francisco is between $160 and $200. The bigger the car the more it costs.
As for me having transportation, I think possibly I would like to have a car here for about the last month. By then I will know my way around and have many connections. Do you remember Roger Gregory from Vancouver? I ran into him on an Air Force Base at Tulle, France.
Well I hope I answered all of your questions. This letter is going to cost a fortune. They weigh mail by the half grams here. I will go out to mail this shortly and am going to take my camera and take some pictures of just plain old people and places, just the things that I see every day walking around. Love and stuff to everyone, Leroy
March 29, 1961, Rotterdam Holland, Journal entry.
Two nights ago, I got quite drunk on Spanish wine from a Spanish goatskin. Rotterdam is a very beautiful and modern city. What I have seen of Holland until now has been very good. Wonderful highways, buildings etc.
March 31, 1961 Heiligenhaus, Germany, Journal entry
I have been here two days and it is very nice being with this German family. They are very nice and intelligent. I have spent much time in discussing things about America and Germany. This is a nice house on the edge of town which cost about $15,000. The houses are generally nice here but because they are nearly all stone or cement, it still seems a bit colorless to me. Hitler started a program here of building little houses for the workmen because he said if everyone owns a little property he will be anti-Bolshevik.
April 2 (Possibly) Hitch hiking in Germany. Note titled: “WHY I HITCHHIKE” on loose leaf in Journal with no date.
I left Brussels at about 9 AM Thursday morning. I was picked up in about 10 minutes by a fellow in a VW Carmen Ghia. We discussed cars and driving in French. He was a salesman for Volkswagen. He took me past Louvain where I waited only a few minutes and was picked up by a brand-new Peugeot diesel (En rodage = Being broken in) The driver was going a little past Liège after registering his new address.
I only waited a few minutes till I was picked up by a doctor in a 1948 Chevrolet. The doctor took me only a few kilometers and then I was picked up by a deep-freeze salesman with his 14-year-old son. I think his main interest was getting me to send him some stamps. He left me at what seemed to be a very deserted place where I waited about a half an hour. My next ride was with a church man of some kind wearing a black robe. It smelled like it hadn’t seen water in months. He was taking three juveniles to a week’s camp in Germany. I sat in front and the way he kept poking me, I started thinking he might have been queer. I think though, he was just enthusiastic. He might even have been an enthusiastic queer. I rode with these weirdos as far as Koln where I waited 15 minutes before getting a ride with a German fellow who didn’t speak English or French. I only rode a few kilometers in that panel to another einfahrt (Highway entrance) which I found to be worse than the first.
After 15 minutes or so I got a lift in another panel with a steam fitter who had been in the states two years. He let me off at the crossing of two autobahns which means there was no legal place to hitchhike. I tried anyway for about 15 minutes until I got chewed out by two quite nice cops who made me go over to a little dinky road. On this little road, I was picked up and taken to the next town by a Dutch couple. I then walked across a bridge over the Rhine River
April 7, 1961, Phalsbourg, France. A letter home
Dear you all: Well, I guess I better send a word or two. When I am on the road it takes ages for my mail to catch up with me. I am at Rich and Carol’s again and I have come up with a brilliant idea (maybe). As you will see in the pictures, Rich has a pretty good little car. It is a 1957 Renault four C.V. He doesn’t want to take it home with him because he wouldn’t want to drive it across the U.S., but the Air Force will ship it to New York for nothing for him. This is still just a thought but if it will work out, he will sell it to me for $200 in New York. That’s what he would sell it for here and we may as well let Uncle Sam ship it. They’re going home in July, so it would have to be stored around New York somewhere until I come back in that direction. You might find out what it is worth there. It gets about 45 miles to the gallon. It really wouldn’t be a bad car for driving to school. It costs $50 to ship a little car like that to New York. Enough of that.
As for your flower bulbs, I did go to Holland and was told at Rotterdam I should come back August first to put in my order for what you want. For shipping and everything it would cost around nine dollars for 100 bulbs of any assortment. Let me know if that is worth it and if it is, tell me what you want.
In the package of film I sent yesterday, you found, I hope, some little wooden shoes. There is a pair for Geraldine, Sylvia and mom. I hope you have received all the things I mentioned in the other letter. Tell Buzz and Geraldine if they want to know what the “Bon Anniversaire”” cards say, they will have to use a French dictionary.
When I left Brussels last time, I went to Rotterdam, Holland, Düsseldorf Germany and then south to Nagold near Stuttgart, Germany. I stayed two days with a German friend near Düsseldorf then one night near Frankfurt in a youth hostel and then one night in the middle of the Black Forest at another youth hostel. About the most exquisitely carved Black Forest cuckoo I saw through the windows (it was Easter holiday) was around $20. They are, I think, less expensive in Germany than in Switzerland.
In case you think the Oak Harbor scoop sheet doesn’t have a wide circulation, I’ve got news for you. I got a letter from Mrs. Frost in California who had seen the letter to the editor I wrote some time ago. You remember Bev and Jan Frost who I met about three years ago. Well their aunt and uncle from Seattle bought a place up near Oak Harbor somewhere and they happened to buy a paper while they were there. The aunt remembered my name and sent the article to Bev’s family in Walnut Creek. Small world.
I think I’ll sign off for now. I am going to ride into the base pretty soon on a borrowed bicycle and check my mail. One can see a lot of beautiful country on a bicycle so if it does work out to buy Rich’s car I could use a bicycle here and see the states with a car on my way home. I will start finding out what international insurance and so on would cost me over here. It’s pretty damned high I think. If I get a letter today I will write more. If not, I will send this. Love to all, Leroy.
April 11, 1961, Phalsbourg, France. Journal entry.
Hitchhiking down here was a bit difficult because it was Easter weekend. I saw some beautiful country in the Black Forest. I have really enjoyed myself here at Rich and Carol’s. I must be sure to take Rich and Carol out to dinner in the states. I have told Rich I will take his car off his hands when he leaves July first. I am leaving tomorrow morning for the Midi. I must come back here though because of a broken glass in the officer’s club. I might get me a job. [I do not recall what the broken glass entry referred to.]
April 13, 1961, Fontaine France. Journal entry. I stayed in a hotel room here tonight. By midnight I had arrived in Tours, France [Not sure this is correct] so I continued on to Fontaine, France.
April 14, 1961, Grenoble France. Journal entry.
I went way out of my way yesterday to get over here in the boondocks and I picked up a ride straight to Marseille. I am with the fellow who was born in China, has lived in the US Denmark, Morocco, and France. He is French. We spent the night at a real nice place way up in the mountains. It is called “Le Bon AbriI. I may ride back to Phalsbourg with the same guy.
Later the same day in Marseille. I spent this evening roaming the streets. I met a guy 24 years old, who might be a good contact. (Rene). It rained here today for the first time in over two months. When it rains here it really rains. I have a ride to Ciotat tomorrow morning with the same fellow I came here with
April 14, 1961, Marseille France, letter home.
Dear Mom and Dad. How are you? I am fine. Please send money. That is a typical son to family letter. Seriously though, by the time you get this I am going to be flat broke. I am going to have to spend three or four dollars for a swimming suit, so I can get a tan. Naturally, since I got here today it rained for the first time in over two months. I hope it will be nice tomorrow.
I am tired now, so I will write just the bare facts and try to write more in the morning. Would you please call the bank at your first opportunity and have them send me $200 either by wire or by day letter, whichever is best. Have them send it to me care of American Express Marseille France. I am going to go to bed now and try to write a bit more in the morning. Good night. Leroy
Good morning. Man! I couldn’t believe it, but it’s true. Yesterday it was pouring buckets full all day and everyone said, “oh it will be nice tomorrow”. At midnight there were still buckets falling and now at 7 AM it’s like Florida outside. There isn’t a cloud in the sky.
It took me just a few hours over two days to get here from Phalsbourg, (Just west of Strasbourg). It is somewhere around 1100 km or 700 miles. As usual, I took a real crazy zigzag route. Just north +*3-`1+of Grenoble I got a ride with a guy who was coming all the way to Marseille. I had stayed near Grenoble that night and very luckily, because it rained like hell, I rode right into downtown Marseille yesterday afternoon. Today I am going to meet this same guy and he is going to give me a ride to La Ciotat, where I am going to stay at the youth hostel. It is very possible I might ride all the way back up to Strasburg with him after a couple of weeks. He is a traveling representative for a company. I am going to walk around and see if I can find the post office now.
As for Rich’s car, I think it will be a real good deal. It gets around 45 miles to the gallon of gas and it seems to run pretty good. With a car I will be able to cut my expenses for eating and sleeping. I can carry some food with me and I will get some type of sleeping bag and presto, no more living expenses. [This is evidence in 1961 I had already developed good rationalizing skills.] He will sign the car to me here and if it’s possible I would like the money given to his folks there, so he will have it when he gets home. That’s all for now. I will let you know. Love to all, Leroy
April 15, 1961 La Ciotat, France. Journal entry.
Peter took me to the road toward La Ciotat this morning and I caught a ride immediately right to the hostel here. It was very nice today. I think it will be even warmer tomorrow. I have a ride arranged to Strasburg May first or second with Pierre. I’m going to spend about two weeks here and just lay in the sun.
The southern part of France is very much nicer than the North, but I still don’t think the ordinary people live very well. The streets through the apartment house section still look pretty sad compared to our individual houses at home.
April 19, 1961 Frejus, France, a letter home.
“How” to you too. Well, I am laying here on the grass among the daisies, next to a little cove on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. I just came out of the water a little while ago and I am still shaking. It is not because I’m cold, it’s because I am scared. I was wearing a facemask and a snorkel that I borrowed from a German friend. The bottom of the ocean is very frightening [To a land lubber like me] as well as being very beautiful.
The temperature is about 75° and the wind is blowing. It would be quite hot if it wasn’t for the wind. This country here is beautiful along the southern coast of France. It is mountainous right to the water’s edge.
I am now heading for one of the smallest countries in the world, Andorra. Yesterday I left La Ciotat, near Marseille with the idea of going to Nice.I caught a ride with a car coming about 350 miles west so I came to Toulous, France instead. I am practically to Spain. I’m going to head back toward Marseille and hopefully pick up my mail in a few days. I am down to my last $20.
I have a ride arranged back to Strasburg with a salesman in Marseille. When I came down last time I rode the last 200 miles with him and he offered me a ride back north on 1 May. The driver is coming back so I will write more later. Bye. (Don’t mind the sad shape of this paper. It has traveled far.)
April 25, 1961 Frejus, France, Journal entry.
Happy birthday to me. Well I have covered many K’s since my last entry. I left La Ciotat on the 21st and headed for Nice. Due to a ride that sounded tempting, I ended up at Toulouse France. There is quite a nice hostel there. I went right past Andorra but due to a lack of cars I carried on to Spain. [Andorra is the sixth-smallest nation in Europe (181 sq mi) and a population of approximately 77,281. It is the 16th-smallest country in the world. I stayed there about an hour and then returned to Perpignan France where I spent the next night.
At Perpignan I ran into an English girl who wanted company hitchhiking across France. I figured it would be a good experiment, so I left for Italy with her the next day. I don’t think being with the girl made much difference in my luck hitchhiking. The first day we made it to Marseille by a roundabout way through Aubange. The next day we carried on here to Frejus. On the way here, we were picked up by a gentleman from Toulouse I intend to see again. His name is Charles Espeut. He was very interesting to talk to. We were picked up by a man named Mr. Motte for whom I will be able to work this summer. I have already worked one day at his villa and I’m going back tomorrow. The hostel here at Frejus is very nice; quite busy but not too crowded.
April 25, 1961 Ax Les Thermes, France, a letter home.
I am writing this on a stone wall alongside the road just outside of Ax les Thermes France in the Pyrenees Mountains about 30 miles from Andorra and Spain. Well, the first car just went past. It was a Cadillac convertible with a baldheaded guy driving. The people who own American cars are usually too snobby to give anyone a ride. I have only ridden in, I think, one American car since I got to Europe. A Renaud Dauphine just went by. The sun is very nice today. It rained all day yesterday. A Citroen two CV just went by. They are very funny and cheap. They look like a cigarette roller. I took a picture of one when I was going skiing. A panel truck just went by. The fifth and sixth cars to go by were both full.
I am deciding this traveling is a good way to live. When I get home from this practice trip I’m going to start making plans for another trip. There is a fellow standing on a bridge about 30 feet away fishing. It is really kind of funny because the creek is about 100 feet below the bridge. I guess he has a lot of line. Cars seven and eight went by.
When I go back to Strasburg next week I could get a cuckoo like Sylvia wants. I got a ride in car number nine, a Peugeot 203. I am now about 10 miles further and 2 miles higher. I am at the edge of a village that consists of only two edges. There are two hotels both containing bars and a hydroelectric plant. There are three more buildings in sight. There are patches of snow here and there, so I put my jacket back on. What I want to know is, whose silly ass idea was it to go to Andorra? Being such a huge country with the sum total of one road going through it, there aren’t very many cars. I stood out here for two hours and then came into a hotel to eat. Excuse me. Something needs eating. Whew! You have heard of French meals. First, she brought a plate of French bread and a bottle of red wine. This was followed by a plate of sausage, salami, head cheese and a halfboiled egg. Next came a fried trout which no one had wasted any time cleaning. I just looked him right in the eye and ate him. Next came some spaghetti and a half (Canary?), Probably a quail, not under glass, and a salad of lettuce and oil. I have just had set before me an orange which I presume is my dessert. I told her all the money I have is Fr 800 ($1.60) so I presume that is what I will owe. That is the truth. I have one more traveler’s check, but I won’t be able to cash it until the day after tomorrow. I shall eat more orange and write more later. I won’t have any money for postage anyway.
Hi again. It’s 10 PM. I paid my Fr 800 and started walking up the mountain. I decided I would walk to Andorra. After about 1 1/2 miles straight up, Andorra didn’t seem so important so when I got a ride I stayed in the car as far as Spain, thereby missing Andorra. I went into Spain and walked about and then came back out. I came back out to the coast town of Perpignan where I am now at the youth hostel.
April 24, 1961 10:15 PM. Continuation of previous letter. Howdy again. I didn’t get this mailed the other day. I am now at Frejus, France. Just a bit north of Cannes and Nice. The other day in the mountains I walked about 2 miles after I ate the 800 Franc meal and then got a ride. Since there was so little traffic I went right on by Andorra and went into Spain for an hour. I came back out of Spain at Bourg Madam. I went on to Perpignan that night. The next morning, yesterday, I left there with an English girl who wanted company hitchhiking across France. We made it to Marseille last night where we stayed. This morning I picked up my mail and we headed south. Hitchhiking was terrible, but we got here to this real nice hostel. After a bad day we had maybe a stroke of luck. We got a ride with a fellow who just might have work for me. He is going to come by tomorrow. I think he is putting in a yard. I wouldn’t mind working down here at all.
This is by far the most beautiful part of France and perhaps of all Europe. There are palm trees and everything is very nice and green. The Mediterranean is a fabulous deep blue except where there is white sand on the bottom and the water is a translucent turquoise green. We are all sitting here now listening to this colored guy singing in French and play guitar. It is really quite good. Due to the job offer I may be here for a while. Will try to get this sent tomorrow finally
April 26, continuation of same letter. I’m going to go to town and mail this right now. I worked for that guy yesterday, digging crabgrass out of his vineyard. We went down to the beach by his place and went swimming. We swam right alongside of Bridget Bardot’s Villa. Big deal! I will be able to work for him whenever I want to do gardening. Goodbye again. Love to all. Leroy.
April 29, 1961 Frejus, France, Journal entry.
Yesterday I hitchhiked to Nice with Ann and came back alone. Nice seem to be a very big city to me. It is really spread out. I met a Frenchwoman at the hostel who I am sure will be a very good contact. She told me first of a place near Nice where one can stay free. It is a little north of Vence toward La Gorge du Loup (Wolf Canyon). It is near an old chapel. The lady’s name is Mme. Jill Faure. She works at the Borley Museum in Marseille, which is an architectural Museum. She also gave me the address of a place to stay at Avignon and of a place to find work in Cannes. She gave me the address of some friends in Seattle who do a lot of sailing. I am now on my way to spend another day working for Mr. Motte.
April 30, 1961 Marseille France. Journal entry.
Well, I left St. Tropez about 6:30 last evening and I was here in Marseille at 11 PM. I got picked up by one of the “fellows” [aka homosexual] but he was very easy to discourage. I have spent what could be called “a bad day in Marseille”. Nothing to do but wander around and spend money. I find I get much more lonesome in a big city than I do out in the country.
May 2, 1961, Grenoble, France. Journal entry.
Well, I missed my ride back to Strasbourg. I’ll probably never know why. I was quite lucky then and got a car heading for Paris. I’m going to go north some ways with him tomorrow, but I don’t know if I should go all the way to Paris. I am staying in one of the poorer hostels here at Grenoble. It smells.
May 2, 1961, Marseille, Letter home. I am going to write a note now and get it sent tomorrow. I picked up a whole slug of cards and letters in Marseille this morning. I am glad you didn’t bother to wire money because I wouldn’t have gotten it until now anyway.
I pretty well did the Côte d’Azur (southern coast of France). I traveled between Toulouse and Perpignan at the West to Nice at the East. I found a place where I can work when I want at the most exclusive spot in France. I worked four days there at St. Tropez last week. All the movie stars have their villas there. I’m going back this summer and work some more. I missed the ride I had back to Strasburg but today I got a ride with a guy going to Paris. I haven’t decided yet whether I will go on to Paris with him tomorrow or go on back to Rich’s place.
May 3 & 4, 1961, Paris, France, Journal entry.
This rendezvous turned out much better. I met him at 3 PM in Grenoble and we arrived here at Paris at about 11:30 PM. He was breaking in a brand-new car, so he had to drive quite slow. I am staying in his folks flat in Paris. I get the impression they are pretty loaded with loot. It has been a very nice acquaintance, until now anyway. I have learned much French today. [This wording seems to indicate I was pretty guarded when accepting help from people. Maybe I wasn’t as naïve and “innocent” as it seems to me now.]
The next day, still in Paris. I spent a day walking the streets of the big city today. Paris is quite a nice clean city. I learned the USO and other military services seem quite happy to help me out. I was surprised. I found quite friendly people in this city. I found a good cheap snack bar at 5 rue Washington. I met a woman who gave me an address and also invited me to come visit her family. Her name is Mme. Cassaigne, seven rue Dante Paris 5. Her friend who is an English teacher is Mlle. L. Dietz of 3 square du Graisi Vaudon, Paris 17. The other day as I was leaving Marseille, I met a girl named Paulette Marras whom I must see again sometime.
Wednesday, May 3, the next morning. I am to meet the fellow going to Paris this afternoon. I believe I will go on to Paris with him and then go straight from Paris over to Rich’s place. I’m going to finish this and run into the center of town to mail it. I’m glad to tell you I didn’t starve before the money got here but it is still possible that I will. My only problem now is finding someone who will cash the checks. I think I will be able to in Paris and if not, I am quite sure the American Express in Brussels will because they know me. By the way, don’t think my address is Marseille now. I just happen to be there last week.
I’ll have you know that I was almost sober when I sent those films. I put Geraldine’s name and your address because I didn’t remember hers and Buzz’s card was handy. That price that was on the wooden shoes meant one guilder [which was the name of Holland’s money then, before the Euro]. A Guilder is worth somewhere between 25 and $.30.
I won’t get Rich’s car until they go home July 1. I am now in the process of making lots of connections for after I get it. My German friend whom I went and visited last month is now working up at Travemunde, Germany. It is a very chic beach resort in northern Germany. I also made the acquaintance of three Canadian girls who will be living down in Spain. They invited me to come down and stay at their place this summer or fall.
Tell Sylvia not to worry about my insides and liquor. When I am at the base we drink nothing but the best rotgut. Tell Buzz and Bud the reason there wasn’t much female scenery in those pictures was because I was trying out the camera on inanimate objects. I am sure the next two roles will suit them better. I hope you find a good market for the old roan cow. Instead of selling her why don’t you just send her, so I can get the milk. Everyone here lives on cheese anyway. [I suspect they had told me in a letter they were going to have to sell the old roan cow in order to get money to send me. They did not really have any cows when they lived in Oak Harbor.] This bit about the foreign car market is okay. I think that if I can bring a car home, it will be a Citroen Traction. The newspapers in that box weren’t typical newspapers. As I remember it, they were a shipping and dock report or some industrial paper like that. The next time I send a box I will try to remember to send you some interesting reading also.
I can’t understand you having snow and ice., I got a pretty good suntan already. I’m coming back down here this summer and get a really good one. Good gosh! How do you get in the house if the rest of the plant is in proportion with that picture of a leaf you drew? Well I’m going to quit writing and get this mailed. Have you got a map, so you know what I’m talking about when I tell you my route? Love to all and thanks for the cards and very useful gift. Leroy.
May 7, 1961 Phalsbourg, France, Letter home.
Dear you all: I am just going to write you a note now and maybe add to it later. I am at Rich’s place now. I may have a job here at the base for the next month or so. I will find out for sure tomorrow (Monday). I would like you to do something for me if it is possible. Enclosed you will find my expired driver’s license. If you can, get it renewed and send it back to me as soon as possible. I have been told this can be done. If not, I can get a French license without too much difficulty. The other thing is, please call Mike Teel’s folks and get Mike’s address for me. Oh yes. There is one other thing I would appreciate very much. Would you put an ad in the paper or spread the word among the younger crowd and try to sell my car. I definitely want it sold. I will give you a few reasons why. I will be just as well-off without a car when I get home as with that one. First of all, at least $100 for tires first thing. Secondly is the couple of hundred bucks that insurance would cost me. Thirdly is the fact my values as far as what is necessary are rapidly changing. When I get home, I will be quite content to drive something that gets about 35 miles to the gallon.
We have been talking and perhaps came up with a good solution. Don’t sell my car until Rich gets home. He is quite sure he wants it. I will trade him my car for his and $50 worth of gas coupons and stuff from the base. Here is why. He was going to give me a pretty good deal on his car so I’m willing to do the same for him. I am not sure he will take it, but he seems to think that he wants it. If he can get a hold of 800 liters of gas coupons they will cost him $37. That is the same as about 230 gallons. If I was to buy that much gas here in France it would cost about $160.00. This means I would be getting over $360 for my car. So please, please try and keep it presentable. I told him it will probably need a bit of rehabilitating after not being used much. It might be a good idea if anyone has a minute to give it a good going over inside with a vacuum cleaner to make the rug pretty. They will be home around the first week of July. The deal is, if he wants a car he will take it and all will be square. If he doesn’t want it, he will have $250 coming which I hope can be scraped up around there. I realize I am going to be going into the hole pretty soon, but I am not sure exactly how much loot I am still worth. You might ask Buzz if he has any idea what I still have coming from the shop. I figure someone has put around $350 in my account.
Enough of this. Since I wrote to you last, I have been to Paris. I missed my ride from Marseille to Strassburg so I started hitching. The first car to pick me up was a guy headed for Paris who had just got out of the Army in Algeria. I went to Paris and stayed two nights in his parents flat there. Very nice right in the center of Paris, with a courtyard and all. They just keep it for when they make a trip to Paris from Geneva where they live. That’s all. Love to all. Leroy.
May 9, 1961 Phalsbourg, France, Letter home
Dear mom: Happy Mother’s Day. Wish you were here. Just a note to fill in what I wrote yesterday. First of all, I don’t think I will get the job on the base. The wheel says that he must cut down on help because of the decrease in troops here. Oh, C’est la vie. Now that my French is quite passable I think I can find work without much trouble when and if I need it.
I was wondering about a couple of things that came to mind. 1. What has developed with the plans for a new shop? 2. Whatever developed with the deal about the marina being poorly guarded? 3. Has anything been done to the boat? 4. Have Bud and Geraldine made any more progress on their yard and house? 5. How are daddy’s political aspirations looking? 6. Has there been any more political shakeups in Oak Harbor? And 7. Are you raising anymore beef cattle? That’s all. I quit. Love and stuff, Leroy. P. S. Enclosed is my driver’s license which I forgot the other day. If you get another one just send it to Rich’s address. I’ll get it. In case you wonder, they are egg cups for your hard-boiled eggs. Very popular in Germany and other parts of Europe. [This apparently refers to some egg cups I sent separately].’’
May 14, 1961, Phalsbourg, France. Journal Entry.
I spent a little over a week here at Rich’s this time and we stayed home every night and played games. It proved to be just as much fun as it was before when we spent lots of dough running around. I worked three days for Ernie so that should help my bankroll for a few days. I am going to leave for Brussels in the morning and after I get my mail there I will decide what to do next.
May 18, 1961, Brussels, Journal entry.
Well, I have decided to go to England next week. Paul Lenders offered me some very tempting offers for this summer. He said I can travel on a touring bus for nothing except my food. It sounds pretty good. I seem to have prospects of so many things to do I don’t know which way to turn.
May 21 & 23, 1961, Brussels Belgium, letter home.
Dear mom and all. It sounds like you are all busy as hell as usual. I feel kind of like a heel being on what you might call a year-long vacation. I am killing a bit of time very inexpensively here at Brussels until Wednesday when I am going to go to England for a few days to visit a family at Chard, a town in Somerset. By the way, if you will write a letter to the Esso gasoline company there in the states somewhere and tell them you are planning a trip they will send you maps of all the countries in Europe and a general one besides, all free of charge. If it is simpler I can send them to you when I go back to Phalsbourg in June. I can pick them up by the dozen in any big city at the Esso tutoring service.
Oh boy. Two Scottish girls just came in. Maybe I will have something to do this afternoon after all. I have been around Brussels long enough I am starting to get some pretty good contacts. One guy who I know is going to work on tourist buses this summer that go into Italy and Austria. They are for English people, very expensive. He told me that whenever I want I can come along just for the ride and it will cost me only for my food. He also has connections to buy about anything at a good cut price. Kind of like I was getting set up in Everett.
Tuesday, May 23. Same letter. I had to wait until today to mail this anyway, so I will finish it now and head for town. I spent the other afternoon showing those two Scottish girls around Brussels. Yesterday I spent the whole day walking with a gal from Finland. She is working in a German company here at Brussels in the capacity of a spy. She was sent by the main office in Germany to find out a few things about the workings of this branch office. She is quite interesting to say the least.
I am going to find an English library shortly, so I can look up a few things and then I shall go on up town and check my mail. I will send you some more films next time I get back to Phalsbourg. I am not taking very many pictures now because I feel I will have a better selection with the car. I can’t really think of anything to talk about, so I guess I had better quit. My brain quit working until the next letter. Love to all. Leroy — By the way, The enclosed tickets are just of assorted types. I figure they might be good in a scrapbook or something someday.
May 22, 1961, Brussels, Journal entry. Well, here I am killing time again in Brussels. I had planned to spend this week traveling but I always find something to keep me busy in Brussels. This morning I walked up town with a gal from Finland. I have paid my rent here until Wednesday, so I guess I will amuse myself until then in Brussels.
11 PM, still May 22. Life is very funny. I spent quite a long day today but managed to get through the day without letting my solitude get to me too much. The Finnish contact may turn out to be very interesting.
May 24, 1961 Brussels, Journal entry.
Went dancing with Anne at “Les Enfents Terrible”. I found out some very interesting things from Madam Monmarte. [My Landlady].
May 27, 1961, Chard, Somerset, England. Journal entry.
I am at the home of Jane Henley. I missed the ferry from Ostend Thursday afternoon, so I stayed there at the youth hostel. I met a couple of gals from London who might prove to be good contacts. I had good luck from Dover to London and then after only one faux pas” on the underground, I reached the highway to the west. My impression of Englishmen got off to a bad start. A jerk dropped me off about 10 miles from the highway, but I made it back okay. My impression has been altered quite a bit now. I found hitchhiking superb here in England. I got picked up by several guys and oddly enough they were nearly all unmarried. [None of them hit on me or maybe I was just naive enough I didn’t know it when they did.] I spent the night last night in a 200-year-old house with a thatched roof owned by Mr. Robert Gardner. He is an insurance man and seems to do quite well. This cottage was between Salisbury and Shaftesbury. [In retrospect, I think he might have been an insurance adjuster, which was the job I took after returning from my around the world trip in 1963. When I met him in 1961, I didn’t even know what an insurance adjuster was].
May 28, 1961, charred, England. Journal entry.
Just finished dinner. The plates are filled and put on the table: roast, boiled little new potatoes, broccoli, boiled peas and water to drink. Then there was a gooseberry pie with very thick cream (like butter) and then tea. We are going to go somewhere this afternoon for a drive or picnic or something. We spent a very fine afternoon driving around. I saw Wells Cathedral and the Caves at Wookey Hole. [This was way before Wookies were introduced in Star Trek.]
May 30, 1961, Oxford England. Journal entry.
I had good luck getting here from Chard yesterday. The life here at Oxford seems to be more of a farce than it is in our colleges. England has two main university towns, Oxford and Cambridge. In these towns universities are divided into living sections called colleges. I am staying at Brasenose College. Last night, Richard Phillips, his date, Colin Campbell and myself went for a big long drive. We went through Lower and Upper Slaughter and tried out a couple of pubs. I then showed the others we Americans believe in doing what needs to be done. Someone had brought a bottle of wine, but we didn’t have a corkscrew. I had them pull into the driveway of a farm where the lights were still on and I knocked on the door at 10:45 PM. I asked if we could borrow a corkscrew and they loaned us one. My friends seem to be quite impressed with this act on my part.
May 31, 1961, Oxford England. Letter home.
Dear Mom: I hope you don’t mind my offering your services but if the town gossip sheet puts in what I sent, you might get some phone calls. I mentioned to them I would like to find jobs and places to live for a couple of guys from Oxford and if anyone knew of any to please call you. I will tell you what I have in mind. These two guys are coming over this summer and they asked me if I had any ideas where they might be able to work. I thought possibly that you might be able to use their help a bit at home or something. I know everyone would get a kick out of having them around for a bit. The idea of putting a bit in the paper was sort of an experiment. From time to time I have fellows and some gals also, pose a question about work so I am curious to know if I can do anyone else any good. The one of these fellows that I know the best is certainly a real nice guy. He is a member of the “Old English aristocracy”. That doesn’t mean he has lots of money particularly. You see, they are still quite aware of what class one is born into here. About the only real difference is the accent with which they speak and the friends they associate with. Actually, I find it a real education just observing this bunch of characters. They are coming over in the first week of July and will have three months away from England. Also, I mentioned to the paper this deal can work two ways. John tells me he is certain he could line up a job for someone through his parents here in England. If anyone calls and says they would like to put up someone from over here just tell them you will call them back when you hear from me. Find out if they have any work or would like to learn something or whether they just think it sounds like an interesting idea. If daddy thinks anything of my idea I would appreciate any advice or aid he might offer. Also, if he feels he can gain any ground politically or any other way I would like the idea of him handling that end of anything that develops. So much for that.
I am going to hike into London tomorrow and pick up my mail. I’ll spend Friday there and then come back here for a party Saturday night. I can’t think of much else to say. I have found the English people very congenial. Hitchhiking is wonderful here. Because everything is close together the rides are short, but I never wait long. Love and stuff, Leroy – by the way. That Navy sweater is a terrific piece of clothing. I wear it continually. Also, the nylon sleeping sack is worth its weight in uranium. I lucked out and came away from home equipped pretty well. I’ll probably owe you another letter when I get my mail in London tomorrow. Good night. I am going down and take a bath. I have a private room tonight. The fellow who is coming over in July is away for a cricket match, so I am sleeping in his room tonight.
June 4, 1961, Oxford England. Journal entry.
I spent a couple of days in London and then came back here to Oxford for a party last night. It was quite a blast. I took a bottle of gin and never even got a taste of it. Oh well. C’est la vie. I am going to part for London shortly. I have had possibilities of several interesting things to do this week, but they will probably all fall through. Oh well. I look forward to a good time back in Brussels
June 6, 1961, Brussels, Belgium. Letter home.
Dear family: I don’t know what I shall write but I’ll try to think. At the moment I am at Holland Park youth hostel in London. It is really a terrific place. They have 193 beds, and everything is nice and modern. Laundry rooms, baths, good hot water and all that. It cost more than most hostels, (five shillings or $.70) but it is well worth it. Naturally, I got to know the people that run it quite well and times like today when they are completely full and turn people away, the woman had a place for me. That isn’t brown nosing. It’s just being smart.
I spent the day yesterday with a gal who is in nurses training here at London. In the course of wandering we ended up in the northeast corner of greater London (10 million people). About 9 PM we got on a bus and came to Piccadilly Circus in the center of the city. From the edge to the center of London took one hour. I was feeling very extravagant, so we went into a real high-class Chinese restaurant and I truly gorged myself on good Chinese food. We came out of there about 1130 and since it was too late for me to get into the hostel we just took our time getting back to where she lives. We walked from central London to S.W. 9 London and it only took three hours. Anyway, when we got to the nurse’s home it was 2:30 AM. Rather illegally I went in and had a cup of coffee and got an hour shut eye on her roommate’s bed, her roommate being away for a week. The gal stayed awake so there wouldn’t be any chance of my sleeping too long and giving the cleaning lady a surprise in the morning. At 4:30 AM I left quietly and found myself walking along Clapham Road with nowhere to go and nothing to do except find a place to stay warm and rest my throbbing feet.
Being on a truck route, I did the only logical thing and stuck my thumb out. The first truck along picked me up and I slept most of the way to Portsmouth (80 miles and 2 1/2 hours driving). Upon arriving at Portsmouth, I directed my thumb in the opposite direction. I presently got a truck going to the center of London. That saved me bus fare from Clapham Road. On the way back, I watched the scenery and was back in London at noon.
Thank you for the letter (book) and the check for my driver’s license. It sounds like you have been having one mad time around there. I have a suggestion. Next time you go to sit on a box make sure it has a bottom in it. I know what the “shook” feeling is. I have come within a half an inch of being flattened by a double-decker bus several times. I always look the wrong damn direction when I step off the curb. No. Those blue vases aren’t expensive. They have several sizes, yes. Also, I believe beer drinking mugs. Maybe $.50 each or possibly only $.30. Bye, love Leroy
June 8, 1961, London, Journal entry.
Spent just one night at Oxford and then came back here to London. Spent some time with Jennifer Butler and then went to Portsmouth and back one morning. I was going to leave this morning for Brussels, but I decided to stay and take a trip on the Thames River with an Australian friend.
June 16, 1961, Brussels, Journal entry.
Well, I went to work two days ago at La Rose Noir. I don’t know how long I will work there but at least it’s something different. I have seen more “queers” and beatniks in the last week than ever before in my life. [Note: This was written in 1961 and I was so naïve I didn’t know any more socially acceptable terms for homosexuals at that time] After getting off work after 3:00 a.m. I had to walk all the way across central Brussels. I determined the shape of the park and transit benches cause change to fall out of people’s pockets. I made it a point to walk through the parks and area with benches and found more money under the benches on the way home than I had earned in tips.
June 27,1961 Phalsbourg, France, Letter home.
Boy, am I having a hell of a time getting this letter written. I just can’t get inspired for letter writing. Rich and I went to Strasbourg today to try and get through all the red tape of registering a car. I guess we did all right.
About the (my) car. I have told Rich he could have it so we can’t very well sell it just before he gets there. They will be home about 9 June, so you will know shortly after that whether or not he will take it. If he doesn’t want the car we owe him $250. If he doesn’t take it, you can sell it for $300 or whatever you think best.
If this letter seems incoherent it’s only because it’s 2 AM. I’ve also got a box of film I’ll try to send tomorrow. By the way, I read in a letter from the Kreigs that Buzz’s truck burned with a load of hay. Was it insured, and which one was it?
Do I still have any money there or does anyone know? If the truck fire is going to cause a special money shortage just tell me. I can go to work anytime. If there is any money available, I could use some shortly. Paying the insurance and so on this car is going to leave me pretty flat but like I said, if there is a tight situation just tell me. You ought to know I never do a damn thing unless I have to and believe me, if it comes to work or go hungry, I can always find a job. I know lots of people over here now.
After spending a bit of time with a car I’m going to start looking for a cheap way to come home. I have several ideas but nothing solid yet.
Thanks for Harry’s address. I was wanting a military connection in Germany. Also, today I received all the little propaganda goodies you sent me for our country. I shall have much fun with them.
As for the English fellows, I sent them your address yesterday and told them to write you and see if anything might be arranged. I don’t know too much myself. I would like to know more about our family heritage in England. I’d like to walk up to some true snob and say, “Hi cousin”.
I shipped five or six little vases along with Rich’s household goods. They came to about seven dollars altogether. You should see them about the end of August. I’ll quit now. Good morning. Love, Leroy.
July 2, 1961, Brussels, Journal entry.
Well I didn’t work at La Rose Noir very long. I found out the boss, Louis, had died and then I discovered the joint was in the hole and operating at a loss. I decided I had other things to do other than letting them operate at my loss, so I quit.
Anna and I had started getting along pretty good and I took off and went to France to get the black beast. (The Renault). Rich and I got on each other’s nerves after a while, so I took off after spending almost a week at their place. There was a gal named Colette staying at the guesthouse who I might see at Paris this fall. I got back to Brussels with the beast okay with one flat tire. Today I went to Ostend with a couple of English fellows who were going to go on the train. It has been hotter than H. For several days. It looks as if I am going to have to find some work shortly as I am about broke.
July 14, 1961 Frankfurt Germany.
I have less than one dollar in my pocket. It has truly been a long and eventful two weeks since I wrote last. I made a date with Anna [The Finnish girl: Anna Gretta] for last Friday night and since she flew to Stuttgart I had to drive down to keep the date. We spent the weekend on the Bodensee (Lac de Konstanz). We had a wonderful time and didn’t spend much money. Last Friday night at Balingen, I slept in an old grubby jail cell. Anna Greta was in the city’s most expensive hotel. What a deal.
After a wonderful weekend I headed up through Germany with the idea of getting a job. I found a job as a waiter at Rhein-Main Air Force Base. I was supposed to return the next evening and start work. That was when the going started getting rough. I was heading for Brussels to get my things when the timing gear went out at Louvain, Belgium. The next day I had it towed to a garage and went back to Brussels to scrounge up $30. I spent three days chasing wild geese (like Jean Knopp’s). At the last minute on Thursday night as I was about to go to Louvain and try to sell my camera, I asked Willie, the German guy at the home. He gave me the money without batting an eye. I got 70 marks from him and seven dollars from Mme. Momart. The repairs and seven dollars for towing came to $26.90 which left me very broke. I left Louvain at 8:30 and got here to Frankfurt about 4:00 p.m. after throwing a generator belt and developing low oil pressure trouble.
I found a very cheap place to stay for students and I go out to get the job squared away tomorrow at 1 PM. If I can just hold out until I have worked a few days I will pull through all right. I picked up an English hitchhiker who was very good company today I hope to get down to see Anna before too long.
July 19, 1961 from Frankfurt Germany: letter home.
Dear Mom and Dad: You know, I think we lost contact with each other. I may be wrong, but I’ll bet you tried to use the address at Phalsbourg. I got the pamphlets and stuff you sent there but anything else sent there is either still there or has been sent back to the states.
As you probably know, I left Rich and Carol’s place a week before they left Germany. I went back to Brussels for a few days and then came over into Germany to look for a job. I found a job in a service club here at Rhein Main Air Force Base and then headed back for Brussels to get the stuff out of my apartment. Naturally, I made it as far as Louvain Belgian and the timing gear went out in the car. You can imagine how much money I had by this time. I had been nursing $20 for over two weeks and there wasn’t much left to nurse. Anyway, I hitchhiked to Brussels and started scratching for some though. It took me three days to find out who my friends were and borrow about $30. This got the car back in shape and back to Frankfurt. My address is an American Express office in Frankfurt Germany. I don’t know how long I will be here, but I hope not too long. I am starting to think about coming home so I can start school again in the fall.
Working like this among Americans is a waste of time. I’m not learning anything. Don’t pay any attention to the address on the envelope. I am sending the letter through the military postal system and I’m going to make one up. If a couple hundred bucks can be found around there I would sure like to get back on top. If I work here just three weeks I should be able to get gas coupons for Germany and a few connections. Then with some money, I can travel for a couple three weeks, sell the car, hop a boat and come home. I just thought of this just now and it sounds good. Well, I am going to quit writing. I am sitting in a snack bar now at 2 PM and at 4 PM I go to work waiting tables in the airman’s club. I work for $.50 an hour plus tips which make another $.50 an hour. So long for now. I hope everyone is fine. Love to all. Leroy
July? 1961, Phalsbourg, France (I think). Letter home.
Dear you all. I am going to kill two birds mit (German for “with”) one stone and hope you (Geraldine) will be going to Oak Harbor and will be able to show this to you (Mom). It was very nice getting the phone call yesterday even though we couldn’t think of anything important to say. I suppose you better put a tracer on that money order. I got the letter that Mom sent a week ago but I have seen nothing of the $50 she sent three weeks ago. I might be going back to Brussels next week, so I will check with the office there. I don’t know exactly when I’m coming home. These are the things I do know. I am going to try to fly back on a chartered flight from the US airbase, but I still have to find out the angles. After I get back to the states I want to stop by Wisconsin or Michigan to see Gladys, the gal I was taking out in Everett before I left.
I don’t know how I will get across the states yet. Possibly I will be able to drive a car out from Detroit. Well, I must go out and go to work. Sorry Geraldine, I didn’t answer your letter sooner but there for a while I couldn’t even afford postage stamps. Bye-bye, Love, Leroy.
July 20, 1961 Frankfurt, Journal entry.
I decided to start action on going home yesterday. I was writing a letter and I decided I wanted to go home. As long as I am working here I am just wasting valuable time. I am still living in the Studentherberge (a German hostel ) and working evenings.
July 29, 1961, Frankfurt, Journal entry.
The past week has gone fast. I went down to Balingen last Friday for just one day and then came back. I worked 11 days and earned $49 wages and about $40 in tips. I got a destitute German a job and he turned out to be a real nut. I met a couple of French guys who are riding to Heidelberg with me today.
August 8, 1961. Brussels Belgium. Letter home.
Hello. Well I’m just going to scratch a few lines before I start searching. I’m going to go to Antwerp and try to find a ship to work on and am also going to search another connection for a charter flight. I would have to wait another month to get one from Frankfurt.
By the way; I got fed up with Frankfurt or Germany and came back to Brussels. I am coming back to God’s country as soon as I arrange a good cheap way. I’m sorry my letters have gotten so scarce, but I just haven’t known which way I was going lately so I didn’t know what to write about.
There is one thing that has come to me lately. The thing I have missed all along in traveling is someone to share the things I have seen.
I have thought about making a jaunt across Canada on the way home and it would be really great if you (Mom and Dad or even just Mom) could get away from that rat race for a couple or three weeks and meet me somewhere away from home and see some things with me. Someplace like Detroit where it wouldn’t be a bad idea to pick up a car. If someone would be so kind as to take my shotgun and rifle out of mothballs and sell them they should be good for 100 bucks or so. I am serious about everything. First of all, I would sure like to have you come and take a bit of a leisure trip. A way to do it would be to get a car at Detroit and drive it home; then either sell it or keep it, either way at a profit. If this sounds feasible we could do it like so. You could send me some money after I get to the states and I could have the car and everything ready when you got to our rendezvous. If my address changes I’ll notify you. That’s all for now. Love, Leroy
August 13, 1961 London, Journal entry.
I am crazy for being here but c’est la vie. I am just killing time now before going home. I’m going as fast as I find a way. I went to France one day last week from Brussels and found a guy who said he would buy the car. I hope to hear from him soon and then I’ll be on the way. I came to London with Anna Greta. We drove to Ostend Friday night and left the car in a parking lot there. She is staying with a Finnish girlfriend, so I am just killing time.
August 28, 1961. Rotterdam Holland. Letter home.
Howdy, you all (yeah, you too). Sorry I haven’t written lately but I find it very difficult to write when I keep thinking “well maybe tomorrow I will know something definite”. I still don’t know anything definite, but I am a bit hopeful today anyway. I spent all last week fiddling around Antwerp trying to get a job on a boat. Yesterday I decided to kill a couple of days by hitchhiking up to Holland.
Today here at Rotterdam, I decided to canvas the docks a bit to see what I could find. Well I found one captain who for about $40 will let me on his ship. If I have found nothing better by next Friday I will be able to catch him at Antwerp. I also got a good idea and found out it might work. My problem until now has been no Seaman’s papers. In Antwerp they told me it would be impossible to get them here in Europe. I was chatting with an old sea dog watchman on a ship I had wandered onto. He said due to the labor shortage in Holland there are a lot of Italians and Spanish working on the ships. I asked him how they can get work if they aren’t already seamen. He said they get a regular work permit for aliens and then enter the Seamen’s trade. As you can guess, I am going to try to do that tomorrow. I asked about it at the police station today (Sunday) and they sounded encouraging.
If I do get a ship I will send a letter with an address for the port where I will land. It takes at least eight days to cross the pond, so you can hopefully have a letter there telling me where you will meet me. If I sail to the East Coast, possibly I can drive a car out from Detroit. If I sail on an oil tanker to Texas, there are several fabricating plants there, so the cars are very cheap there also. If I sailed to an eastern port I would like to buzz up into Michigan for a couple of days to see my friend, Gladys Rxxx. Outside of that I have no plans whatsoever.
Well I will sign off shortly and see if I can get this sent first thing in the morning. I may find out something definite in the morning, but I have thought that every day for two weeks and haven’t written. Until you hear otherwise you can still write to Brussels. I will check my mail there before I leave. By the way. I was riding in a Volkswagen the other night and we missed a corner and rolled over. What fun. We shoved it back on its wheels and drove on. Oh yes, I sold that blankety-blank car. I had to buy the French government to do it but anyway I am free now. If I leave before too long I should have 100 bucks left when I reach the US. Bye for now. Love and stuff, Leroy
September 5, 1961, Sarrbrucken, Germany, Journal entry.
Last weekend I was innocently waiting at Brussels for some word about a boat going to the states and I encountered a girls’ choir from England. I offered to show them around a bit. I helped them find their way around Brussels and went with them on a trip to Namur. During the trip I picked out or maybe was picked out by one of the girls. We had a nice time on the drive and that night went dancing in Brussels. [She was one of the older girls and served as a chaperone.] The next day as I was talking to the leaders it was decided I would go with the group to Germany. I have now taken over the handling of the girls as a “manager”. I serve as navigator for Don, the chauffeur and anything else needed. The special girl I met, Gwen Axxxx, turned out to be very special. I shall wait to find out what will come of it.
September 6, 1961, Bei Voller, Germany. letter home.
Dear you all: Well, here goes. I am in a hotel in Bei Voller, Germany, near Sarrbrucken. The end of last week I was in Brussels waiting for some word about a ship. I was staying at the youth home as usual. A girls’ choir from England arrived and I got involved playing guide around Belgium the next day. Well, after that they left for Germany and in case you haven’t guessed, I am now traveling with about 40 girls. My title is “general manager of the Brighton Girls’ Choir.” I will be back at Brussels on the sixth and I hope to be able to get on a tanker on the ninth. If I don’t, I will have to have some more money and I will buy a ticket. I better get going. I’ve got to get the iron fixed and get the girls into town to meet the Berger Meister (Mayor). See you before long. Love, Leroy.
September 8, 1961, on a train in Belgium, Journal entry
I just finished a very interesting week with the 40 females. They gave me a program with all their autographs and a bottle of old spice. They tried to get me to come to England with the coach [English for “bus”] but since I have a boat lined up, I couldn’t. They were singing “For he’s a Jolly good fellow” when I walked away from the coach even though I had done a lot of yelling and chewed nearly all of them out about something at least once during the trip. I may still go to Brighton if I get a day or two free before the ship leaves.
I am on a train now from Ostend to Antwerp via Brussels. Yesterday, the last day with the girls’ choir, I served as interpreter for a reception by the mayor of Lille and then again for a tour of a soap factory. [My recollection of interpreting the Lille mayor’s speech from French to English for the girls is vivid. I understood almost nothing the mayor said. I knew the gist of what she would be saying so with whatever words I picked up, I made up the speech as I gave it to the girls in English.]
September 10, 1961, Brussels, letter home.
Howdy you all. Yesterday I was all set to send a telegram asking for enough money to get back to the states. Now I am committed to stay another three weeks. I will try to explain the last couple of weeks. A week and a half ago I was here at Brussels when a girls choir from England passed through in route to Germany and France. To make a long story short I went along as general manager and interpreter. I interpreted for reception by the mayor of Lille and for a tour through the biggest soap factory in Europe among other things. I left the group at Ostend, Belgium and I went to Antwerp only to discover the ship I was to sign on with had taken passengers and no longer had room for me.
I came by Brussels just to say goodbye and I was going to go to England and take the cheapest transportation I could find from there. When I got here the lady who runs the home told me she had a proposition for me. Needless to say, I accepted. A Belgian film company is going to shoot a color film about youth hostel life. It will be filmed in Luxembourg and should take 2 to 3 weeks. There isn’t much money in it, but it should be interesting. They pay all expenses plus 2 dollars a day with a minimum of $40. Actually that is good wages for here, now that I think about it. Anyway, if you could scrounge up about $200 and send it to me at Brussels, I would sure like to come home when this is over.
Sorry I didn’t write lately but can you imagine trying to keep 35 girls between the ages of 14 and 19 from getting themselves in positions they couldn’t get out of. One night I went out on the roof of our hotel chasing some Italians off and in Lille I offered to mop up the hall with two French guys if they would come out of the room. Luckily, they didn’t. Will write more later. Bye-bye for now. Love, Leroy. P. S. Nothing definite of course but I think everyone ought to start a special piggy bank for taking the long trip in a year or so. Hypothetically speaking, if I was to marry an English girl and then live in the states it would only be fair to get married in England. I would want everyone to come to my wedding. Don’t get all shook up. This is all still quite indefinite but nevertheless the piggy banks wouldn’t be a bad idea.
September 16, 1961 Luxembourg Grand Duchy. Letter home.
Dear All. I’ll scribble a fast note to send this morning. It is 6:45 and no one else is up yet. I am with a group of people from all over H and we are in the process of making a movie in the wild country of Luxembourg. The country is beautiful, about like the mountains at home. We are supposed to film a water scene today if the weather will be decent. I am swimming in a contest in the river by a waterfall against a colored fellow from Africa. We are all insured against anything that could happen and for all the scenes we take more precautions than necessary. Unfortunately, we had an accident yesterday but wasn’t on a set. I was with a guy on a motorcycle and we were behind some others in a little Citroen car. The Citroen went off the road on a corner and turned over dropping over an 8 foot wall. I think everyone is going to turn out pretty lucky. A couple from New Zealand each got a little cut on the head that didn’t keep them in the hospital. A fellow from Pakistan got something internal “maybe” but last night the hospital said they didn’t think it was serious. The driver, a guy from Brussels, we thought had a broken back but that also got a negative report from the hospital. It might be wrenched is all.
I must go get the others up. So long. Love, Leroy (more on the next page) the guy on the cycle just got back from the hospital and everything is okay. The car driver did not have a broken back and no internal injuries. Four or five days in the hospital and they’ll all be fine.
If you write right away, you can catch me at this address. After about 10 days I’ll be back at Brussels. After Brussels I want to go to England for a few days on my way home.
September 20, 1961 Luxembourg Grand Duchy. Letter home.
Dear Mom and you all. If I don’t die of something unexpected in the next two weeks, I’ll be a movie and TV actor. This film is being translated in at least 10 languages. It will be shown on the major TV systems and in theaters. Actually the way things are going, I’m not going to be able to believe it when it’s finished. Today the sky is closed in with high fog so we’re waiting for someone to make a decision as to what we’re going to do.
The last three days we were filming in an old castle at Beaufort and today we were supposed to film a mountain climbing scene here by Echternach. I still have a sore throat, the result of a swimming scene we made at Bigonville. In the course of three hours I had to swim the racing course about eight times because they couldn’t propel the raft fast enough to keep up with me. They finally took the shot from a stationary point on the bank.
I don’t know if I have any mail waiting for me at Brussels, but I hope you are all still living. As for the members of our group who had the accident, the two New Zealanders are back with us with a few stitches, Philip, the driver from Brussels will be flat for at least a couple of months with broken vertebra and the Pakistani has infected kidneys from a bad bruised back. Hello again. 11:55 PM the same day. The sky cleared, and I had to head for the woods with everyone else. We filmed a bunch of general scenes on some cliffs which will be used as background behind the introduction and all that.
I just got back from the hospital from visiting Philip, the one with the broken vertebra. He is feeling and looking much better. We couldn’t see the other one because he was sleeping. [Several of us had visited the Pakistani guy in the hospital and he was able to talk but a few days after the previous was written, we got the word he had died from a ruptured spleen.]
It must be getting late. I can’t think of anything else to say. This film should be finished by the end of this month and then I want to spend a short time in England. After that I hope to make a beeline toward some home cooking and a good old family get-together and brawl. It’s our afternoon around a loaded dinner table that I miss the most. Bye-bye. Love, Leroy.
September 25, 1961 Luxembourg grand Duchy. Letter home.
Dear mom: I received your letter today, so I will try to get this sent out in the morning. There isn’t much sense in me calling right now since I am stuck here for at least another week. We ran into more problems with this film than were anticipated so it is dragging out a bit. We are still supposed to be done by 1 October.
I don’t know how long you figured on visiting in the East, but I hope I can get there before you have to leave. I think that generally I can hope to be there by 10 October. When I leave here I would like to go straight to England for a few days before leaving. I think it would be best to figure on making a telephone call on the second, third or fourth of October or so after I have gotten to England.
As for the money, I know I have said before in a letter I got the money order and the check you sent. If I don’t come into some money through the mail when I get back to Brussels, I’ll just have to give up the idea of coming home this year. I will write the name and address where I will be in England. I am not sure when I’ll get there but I’ll try to let you know. My girl’s name is: Gwen Axxxx Hove, Sussex, England telephone Hove 38—. Bye for now. Love, Leroy
October 7, 1961. Heading for the English Chanel. Journal Entry.
Well, the past month will make good storytelling and memories but actually it was kind of a bitch. This moment finds me on a train heading for Ostend and Dover where Gwen is going to meet me. This next week is going to mean a lot in my life. I said goodbye to Brussels today with a mad spending spree and a hurry hurry taxi ride. I hope to come back to Brussels before long.
I have found a little of everything here in Europe and especially in Brussels. The future looks very bright at this time, so I hope I’ll make the best of it. I have met all kinds of people here and I truly believe I have come away from nearly all of them leaving a good impression of myself and of the people of my country who I represent.
I suppose I have come very close to serious injury or even death several times, but I am sure it doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing when my time is up. When my time comes, it will come and that’s all.
October 8, 1961 Hove England, a letter home.
Dear Mom: Well, I finally got away from Luxembourg and Belgium. I left Luxembourg Friday at 7 PM by train and went to Brussels where I spent the night. Saturday morning. I collected my mail and said goodbye to everyone I saw. I got Daddy’s check for $300 so I am in business. I was doing some last-minute shopping in Brussels and I ended up by hopping a taxi in order to catch my train for England. There are only two channel crossings a day now, so I would have been out of luck if I would have missed the 12:50 train from Brussels.
The boat sailed from Ostend Belgium at 3 PM and I arrived at Dover England at 6:30 PM. Gwen, my girl, was waiting for me on the dock and then we drove back here to Hove. It’s a resort town on the southern coast of England.
Anyway, I’ll be here about a week, more or less. I believe Tuesday we will go to London where I’ll see what kind of travel arrangements I can make through the international student organization. I’ll take your advice and come by boat unless I happen to stumble onto a charter flight at a very good price. It is 8:45 AM. I’m the only one up since it is Sunday morning. The weather is very typically English. It is drizzling and dreary. If you will have another address be sure to tell me. As soon as I find out anything about when I’ll get there I’ll let you know. I don’t think I want us to make any more phone calls unless it’s urgent. The last one cost me $21 (cough cough). It was practically worth it to see the people’s faces at the place I called from. It was a village in the hills about like Myrtle Creek Oregon. They kept saying over and over “talked right from this house to someone in the United States.” It didn’t hurt me too bad, financially. It just shot the hell out of my movie acting profit. I was getting paid two dollars a day plus room and board. There were only two or three of us who got paid. The others were just getting their expenses. I was one of the main characters. Well I shall sign off now. Hope you’re having a good time and I’ll see you shortly. P. S. Man am I getting razzed about your phone call at 5:30 AM last Sunday morning. Love Leroy. P. S. S. The town where Gladys Rxxx lives is Skanee, Michigan. I just happened to think of it.
October 16, 1961. Hove, England, A letter home.
Well, I gave up on trying to save pennies and found a way to come home. It’s a shame it is still the end of the summer season. If I waited another week it would be practically $30 cheaper but the other week waiting wouldn’t be worth $30. I sail from South Hampton Thursday morning on the Queen Mary. I’ll be arriving in New York on 24 October. I don’t know anything yet about the dates of sailing and arrival. I imagine you can find out where she will be docking and all that rot. Probably before I said I’ll send another letter, but I guess there really is no cause. There is only one Queen Mary. If there is no place specially designated to meet passengers at the depot, I will look for the Information Bureau and hope to find either you or a message there. Well, I shall get this sent and go pick up my ticket. Until the 24th. Love Leroy. P. S. If you are driving among those millions of idiots, take it easy.
December 4, 1961 letter from International Youth Hostel Federation.
Dear Mr. Cook,
I am writing to you on behalf of the International Youth Hostel Federation, representing youth hostel associations in 30 countries, to thank you very warmly for your cooperation in the production of our film under the direction of M. Paul Meyer.
It was indeed a testimony to the will for international understanding which exists among the use of the world that so many of you, from so many different countries, should have been able to work together as volunteers on this project. I am sure that the outcome will be a memorable film, reflecting the spirit of cooperation and goodwill which went into its making. If, as I hope, the film is shown in every part of the globe, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have contributed to spreading the youth hostel ideal of understanding and goodwill without “barriers of race, color, religion or class” to a world in which this ideal is still greatly needed Yours Sincerely, C. H. Bradley. President
July 10, 2018 [ This is the end of this chapter. ]