60 Years Ago Today

Sunday, 29 June 1952:
I was up early at 6:30 a.m. Alice didn’t really think I would get up early, so she wasn’t ready. Around 8 a.m. we finally went straight up our street to Saint Magiore Cathedral and past Peter in Chains to the Coliseum. At the Coliseum I had to get up higher to get a better picture. I kept wandering inside the forum and the guard continued to kick me out again. However I begged him to let me take a picture and then I quickly took off, climbed the rocks, and got the picture while Alice tried to calm him down. I practically ran all the way back so he wouldn’t be upset.

As we drove out of town we passed the Coliseum again and then went through modern Rome. We kinda got lost and turned down a beautiful tree-lined boulevard. I really hated to leave Rome. It was so beautiful.

Next we journeyed past gorgeous greens at a golf course that had rough grass in between the greens. We continued near a railroad that was right next to the highway. The highway and railroad were as close as the two could get. Then there were many beautiful well kept vineyards and soon after an intersection with a road to Tegis.

The bus proceeded to Anzio and its beachhead. We went over a bridge to a city on a hill. A public watering place and a beautiful valley greeted us. What captivating sights: checkerboard fields, fairly new trees lining the streets, trees that curbed each side of the road and railroad, another small town, busy market place, and trees growing out of the pavement along the main street.

This part of the country seemed much more fertile here than coming into Rome from the north. There were ladies with big loads on their heads and modern irrigation of a big canal. It helped explain the greater fertility here in Italy. Then there were huge fields of wild poppies, mountains rising on the left, orchards, and villages and towns built part way up. The name of the highway was Via Appia.

The city of Terracina was next. As we entered the city the Mediterranean Sea was at the side of the street coming into town. Purple frustration flowers were everywhere with a high wall between us and the mountain. The beach tapered out to leave just enough room for the road between the mountain and the sea. Then the beach widened again for a beautiful vineyard and palm trees between the road and Mediterranean Sea. We sang church hymns. What a beautiful way to spend Sunday, soaking in this magnificent scenery and singing!

What’s up? Cars were lined up for over a quarter mile. Around the curve of the road, the men took off to get the scoop of what was happening. We proceeded to eat lunch with dry tuna on dry biscuits, pastries and oranges.

A boy with the scoop biked around the line of cars. He said a boy riding a bike was hit by a truck in a semi-phore or a four way intersection. Unfortunately he was killed. We drove past the little boy’s body. It was covered up, lying on the road with blood and gore spread around him. His family was huddled by the rail. I didn’t feel much like singing anymore.

There were mules and donkeys, reminiscent of Christ’s time. A whole family was in a cart behind one mule and a tiny girl was carrying a basket on her head. Oleanders, an evergreen shrub, were alternating with trees along side the road. Whatta picture!

There was a spectacular double row of trees. I wish I could have captured it all with my camera. I spied a little canvas covered truck with a mother, child, and household belongings in the back. Next were fields of strange looking hay? We stopped at a railroad crossing and Herr Watkins asked a man what kind of hay it was. It was cannibas hay, which was used to make clothing.

At 2:30 p.m. we reached Naples, that was supposed to be the dirtiest city in Italy. The green, white and red, Italian flags were hanging in the corners of the city square with the obelisk in the center. I strained to get my first view of Mount Vesuvius. There were herds of goats on the side of the road with signs pasted on walls down the street.

We proceeded down the main street of Naples, via Roma, to our Hotel Albergo Universo. It was pretty centrally located. Three bell boys met us with smiles and little kids gathered around us. The hotel facade wasn’t bad. The hotel had a beautiful lobby, slow elevators, and nice rooms.
Next we went to Pompeii with its wide streets and toll gate. On the way I saw a pill box, relic of World War II. We encountered a hot rod barreling around town that almost hit us. There were only inches between us and his windshield.

Pompeii was a ruined and partially buried Roman town near modern Naples and located in Sarno Valley. It had been inhabited since the 7th century and was influenced by the Greeks and Italians. It had resisted Roman domination till 80 b.c. In 63 a.d. Pompeii was destroyed by an earthquake and later in 79 a.d. by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius. There was a nucleus of Christians in Pompeii before the volcanic eruption. The town was buried in 25 feet deep of volcanic ash and its people were suffocated by the ashes. When it was covered there were 20,000 people in the city. Excavations commenced in 1599, rediscovered in 1738, and continued on and off till the present. The last lava flow from Vesuvius was in 1943.

There were two parallel main streets in Pompeii with loose ash and puma stone. Porta Marina was the main entrance and sea gate. A statue of Minerva, the Roman name for Greek Goddess Athena, was found by the Marina Gate. The streets were paved by lava stones and in 1597 Domenica built a subterranean aqueduct. Many relics had been taken to the Louvre and other museums. In the House of Vetti, one of the most famous of Pompeii’s luxurious residences, were the most important statues and frescoes.

There were plaster casts of the city as it was at the time of the erupting volcano. There also were plaster casts of just about everything: Dead people, dead animals, wheels, money box, huge steel deal, fish hooks, cameos, ring stone, pearls, scissors, fish scales, vases, bread, wine, press, dentist instruments, gold and silver coins, cake molds, strainer, locks, keys, little stoves, and taps. One third of the city had not yet been excavated.

Excavated items included earrings, springs, bones from San Marzano, statue from 500 b.c., pottery with art work, tufa stones, sculpture with little figures on a dish, baby jewelry, silver cups, bronze hooks, little statuettes, needles, jewelry, dice, and mill out of lava stones for making olive oil.

There were statues in the museum in Naples, including the statue of Livia. The original sidewalks and walls the Romans had constructed were still there as well. The walls were made of webbed tufa stones. Next we discovered pillar of bricks, wine shops, sliding doors, families living behind the shops, and imitation marble decorations. As we continued we saw the Apollo Temple, statue of Drana, Magistrate of Pompeii, and Palace of Justice Tribunal.

The forum, main square, included the religious and political center of the city. The Temple of Jupiter had marble carving on its gateway. The people washed their clothing with their feet. In the Temple of Augustus the walls were covered with marble and had its original altar. There were money changers, food markets, and big wine jars. Blocks were put up to stop traffic.

Then we went to the Temple of Fortune which had a chapel shrine inside and the triumphant arch of Nero. The public baths were like a club with Terne el torre Mosaic floors. The cold baths were open to the sky with frieze around the top of the walls. The Temple of Fortune still had its original marble floors, beautiful decorations, and locker area for the tepid bath. The hot bath had marble mosaic floors with a round dome of steam falling down on the side. A big wash bowl was there for washing hands and face.

I spied a wine shop across from the bath houses on the main street. Pompeii was symmetrical just like some modern cities. Also, we went to Casa del Poetatregica, the House of the Tragic Poet, with the infamous cave canem inscription which means beware of the dog. I discovered some lizards there.

Next the House of Dancing Fauns, built during the 2nd century b.c. was one of the largest, and most impressive private residences in Pompeii. The house had a fruit and flower garden and filled one whole city block.

Then to the House of Vetti, another important home, had large blocks with coats of plaster and original gargoyles. It was well preserved. The bedroom was so small there was only space for the bed. And there were high doors and a Roman bowl that dated back to 15-20 years before Christ. Some of the paintings were well preserved as we caught sight of paintings by Mercury, Juno, and Isis. In the dining room there were Pompeii red figures on a black background.

Other art included two money boxes, cupid breaking medicine, and paintings of Gods. There was a slab of lead to keep out the dampness around the floor. We walked through one sitting room for mom and pop and another one for the kids. In the kitchen were copper looking apparatus’, lead pipes, and fountains out of mosaic.

During our tour we found out that our guide had been in the movie September Affair and spoke four languages. He took us through the butcher shop, soap factory with a mill stone, and by the beautiful statue of Nero. I noticed that the pharmacy symbol was represented by snakes. Also, I caught sight of a rock that had a hole in it in order to tie the horses during that time period. The Doric columns in Pompeii were dated to 600 B.C.

Next on the tour was the ancient Roman city of Stabiae which was destroyed in the eruption. Then the Greek style theater, which seated 5,000 people, which opened upwards to the sky. On rainy days they put up an awning and on hot days they put water on the awning to cool themselves.

Picturesque Towns of Italy Swarmed With Tourists From All Parts of World

Editor’s note: This is the seventh of a series of letters written by Mrs. Afton A. Hansen giving her impressions of a trip through Europe she is making with a group of 35 Utah college students. This one was written on July 7 in Italy.

Dear Friends;
From one end of Italy to the other—from north to south and back again, we have traversed this strange land—along its blue Mediterranean coast, over the dry summer hills, to the rim of Mt. Vesuvius, which was so dry and windy that workmen went ahead of us to clear the trail of wind blown dirt and rolling rocks.

Throughout the country we find construction work going on in roadway and building. It is said that Italy is using her lend lease money [post WWII economic aid from the US] for reconstruction of their country to attract the tourist who provides a major part of the national income. These lovely towns are swarmed with tourists from all parts of the world.

Our first stop in Italy was somewhat disappointing. Expecting some romantic Romeo to serenade us with song, or hear a street cleaner singing an aria, we were almost alarmed when looking through the hotel window to see four dismal looking characters playing cards. Unkempt, dirty and mostly toothless, they were pounding the table in vigorous competition of the game.

Felt Like Emigrants
Having been repeatedly warned to watch our baggage, I was much concerned when an Italian gentleman attempted to help with my heavy suitcase. Although I said “No, No!” he insistently carried my bag to my door and went down stairs laughing. Indeed we looked like we might need help as we trudged from bus to hotel with bags and bundles.

A few of us with scarfs on our heads looked and felt like emigrants sitting on all our worldly possessions.

The next hotel in which we stayed—Grand Verde, in Rapolic—held the romance of situation on the hilbarde, overlooking the beautiful Mediterranean from a balcony window. No Romeo’s yet though.

Not until we came to our noisy Atlantico Hotel in Florence did we hear street singing. Two boys on a bicycle, in working clothes at 5 a.m. were lustily singing an Italian “ditty.” The little girl, strolling along with her parents in the warm summer evening singing to her heart’s content, was unnoticed, except by us Americans.

Enjoy Laughter
Italian like the French seem uninhibited, stopping anyplace on the street to discuss and gesticulate. They seem to enjoy laughter and a good joke.

The country of Tuscany affords picturesque traveling. Our 30-mile-per-hour bus permits good seeing. The hill tops are crowned with old medieval castles, walls and fortifications, while below them are ripening grain fields, trees and gardens. Highways are lined with Oleander trees, fig, olive and pomegranate trees.

For centuries, women here have trudged to the water well with jugs on heads. I am anxious to try out, with brush and paint some of the sketches I have of a young lady balanced on a donkey with heavily laden baskets on either side, and the family coming home from market in a large two-wheeled cart drawn by two white oxen.

There is a variety of interest in every city we visit. Even the ancient dead city of Pompeii had an amazing silent story to tell. Two thousand years ago it was a thriving commercial and agricultural city on the side of the hill near the Mediterranean. For nearly 10 centuries before Christ the nearly 25,000 inhabitants traded with Greece. One day they heard a deep earth rumbling and their beautiful city was shaken with an earthquake. Then on a warm August day at about 1 p.m. in the year 79 A.D., the nearby Mt. Vesuvius erupted, spreading ashes and pumice over the entire area, covering Pompeii in a depth of 30 feet. It remained covered until about 60 years ago when the excavation began. One third of the city’s 161 acres still remains to be uncovered.

Ancient Wheel Ruts
As we were guided along the stone sidewalks, two and three feet wide, we noticed the ruts in the narrow stone streets made by the many chariot wheels rumbling along thousands of years ago. We saw the shops along the main streets, stores, snack bar, stock exchange, wool market, dye shops, palace of justice and fountains on the corner where we quenched our thirst.

In one house, once lived two rich merchants, perhaps father and son with their family. A sign on the entrance read — “Care Canni” — which means “Beware of the dog.” In the vestibule were marble columns, benches and low chests. The house had many so-called modern conveniences such as a central heating system for warm and cold air. Bath tubs were of Carrara marble. A huge wash basin of Egyptian Chipolena marble, was put there at a cost of $60,000,000.

This size basin would be convenient for a large family for it could easily accommodate eight people at once. The stone stove in the kitchen could bake 89 loaves of bread at one time.

Glorious Past
This dead city tells of a glorious past, with only one inner yard being kept alive with flowers, shrubs, grass and vases.

Don’t you wonder what these people did, when the volcanic ash began to spread over their city? Of course many of them left the city when the earthquake occurred, but about 3000 victims have been uncovered from the ruins. From the position of their bodies we can be almost sure that they did what we have been told to do in case of an atomic bomb attack. They threw themselves to the ground covering their faces with their arms. One man sat in a corner protecting his face with his hands. A dog was found in an agonizing position.

Bodies Restored
We wondered how they could recover these bodies with such detail even to eye lids, folds of the skin and expression of the face. The guide told us that the ashes and pumice hardened as it poured over the bodies. In time the flesh decayed, leaving a cavity containing bones, skull and teeth. Into this cavity was poured a thin plaster which was left to harden for several months.

With small picks and a brush, the ash was cleared away, leaving the perfect shape of a victim of suffocation. The same process was employed in recovering furniture.
In the houses have been found furniture—kitchen utensils, cereal, cloth, water faucets, ring, money, surgical instruments, oil press, wine press and other things which would indicate their activity. So much could be told of Pompeii as well as many other places which are so interesting by we who see them but could become tiresome on paper.

Let me tell you a little about the schools. For more than an hour we visited with an elementary grade school teacher and her sister who teaches piano lessons. They were delightful ladies who discussed education in Italy through our interpreter Dr. Watkins.

From the readers and work books which we saw, we were pretty sure that an Italian child of seven or eight in the second or third grade was two to three years ahead of our youngsters the same age and grade in the reading, writing, arithmetic and ability and quality of work.

Even in these young grades they learn to sing songs from the opera. The program of Verdi’s work put on by these youngsters was very good, according to the teachers and principal. These youngsters of course have an opportunity to visit these museums, so full of history. Their penmanship is excellent.

We wondered, if, in our mania for freedom we have lost some thing in basic values. This would be worthy of further investigation. One choice idea from this visit was old but always worth repeating: “Keep the avenues of expression and conversation open between you and the child.” These people love to converse.

Afton A. Hansen

Little boys and girls were trying to sell things for cigarettes or American dollars. We looked at some canvas in a factory and saw a double bus leaving Pompeii. At 7:30 p.m. we were leaving Pompeii and what a wonderful experience it had been!

Back at the hotel I had a delicious dinner with two desserts, just like on the Sibijak. Gastone, a guide, wanted to show us the city and was persistent. At first we ended up talking to a few sailors. Then there was a Catholic parade for St. Peter’s Day that had money hanging from a statue. Henry walked down the main street with us.

Millions of people were everywhere. Other guides, Sam and Mario, came along as well. Sam, 15 years old, had stowed away to America twice. He doesn’t work because he only gets 70 cents a week. And he doesn’t have any money for school, so he was a man of leisure. He was very old for his age. Paul, the elevator boy, studied English, German, French, and Spanish. He spoke the languages well. Many people spoke English here. I made a mistake by saying Signora instead of Signor. As a side note the post office in Naples was built by Mussolini.


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