60 Years Ago Today

Friday, 11 July 1952:

The bed was too wonderful! Even more comfortable than when I first crawled into it. I had to get up though. There were new fields to conquer. First on the list was the post office where I mailed five cards for 2.75 francs. Looking around I discovered that the Matterhorn was at its best. The sky was crystal clear blue and peak free of clouds.

As we tried to catch the train, there was not enough room on the train for us. Herr Rogers explained that there were 36 of us so the train workers rolled the baggage car onto the next track and put on another car. Herr Rogers helped. We experienced the same beautiful scenery on the way down or maybe even more so. It kind of grew on you.

As we reached the Stalden station, we were confused whether or not to get off. Andre where art thou? Nope, stay on. Herr Rogers breathlessly came dashing in with more tickets to go on to Visp. Andre couldn’t get through. We prayed that he was at Visp. We were captivated once again with more picturesque scenery of the kind that defied description. One had to see it to appreciate it.
Visp was coming up. Could anyone see Andre? Yes, yes, there he was. Whatta reunion! Never were we so glad to see Andre. Fifteen “rahs” for Andre! Another fifteen rahs because our baggage was all repacked and ready to go. I’ll bet Andre felt like the hen who just found his 36 chicks. Cause we swarmed around him just like chicks around a mother hen.

More beautiful countryside ahead, in stark contrast to tank barriers and mined roads. I spotted a landing strip on both sides of a tree-lined road. It rounded and crossed the road at one end. The hanger was camouflaged with straw.

We traveled through Rhone Valley where it was warmer. We viewed ruins of an old castle on a hilltop, this was the French section of Switzerland. They irrigated by sprinklers. Everyone had lunch on the road again. It included cherry jam sandwiches, an apple, and a cookie. When we crossed the Rhone River, it was a tight squeeze getting the bus onto the bridge. Then there was a sharp turn, but Andre always came through. At 1 p.m. we arrived at Lake Geneva with its beautiful blue water. Later we ran into some road repair.

Castle of Chillon, built in 1256 by Peter of Savoy, was where Byron got his inspiration for the Prisoner of Chillon, a 659 line narrative poem. We walked down the road to the castle and saw a camouflaged gun mounted in a wall along the road. The castle bore the emblem of Berne from 1536 a.d. and was built to guard the road and collect toll taxes.

There was a Gothic prison downstairs with stone slabs for those condemned to death and a hole where some prisoners were thrown down and forgotten. Also I saw the gallows and windows where prisoners were thrown into the lake with a stone tied to them. Byron’s poem described the trials of a lone survivor of a family. He spent four years in prison and was almost blind. Byron visited him and carved his name in the stone.

The guide said that a big banquet was scheduled there for that evening. Candles were at each place setting. What an atmosphere! We saw banquet halls with heavy old pewter ware, swords, and other weapons. Then we proceeded through the torture chambers. We had a good English speaking guide. She was an Italian looking lady with dark hair and a pleasant voice. I noticed her beautiful ivory necklace.

Next on the tour was the old moat, towers and places where they poured boiling hot water on their attackers. I didn’t have my notebook with me and couldn’t remember everything she told us. I bought a souvenir, book of Chillon, at the little shop outside the gate. Then it was back to the bus and off to the hotel.

The hotel turned out to be a large, pretty place right along the highway overlooking the Lac Leman on the outskirts of Montreux. It had a beautiful lobby downstairs, game room, and a pleasant girl at the front desk. When I asked her a question about the concert, the phone rang. She lifted the receiver and kept talking to me until she had finished.

The hotel, though it had seen better days, was still nice. And it turned out to be the only hotel so far without running water in the rooms. We had huge pitchers of water, large basins, a “dealy” in which to pour the waste water, and a big long soap dish. All of this was flowered crockery. I got lost almost every time I left my room with too many twists and turns. I cleaned up slightly to go visiting. Herr Watkins, Alicia, Henry and I took off for Montreux Proper to find the folks of Herr’s home teacher back home in Orem. We decided to walk instead of using the train so we had a chance to window shop on the way.

One store had darling little dresses. Herr Watkins finally succumbed and ended up with one for his little girl. After wandering around in a couple of circles, we found the right street and number. Up some stairs we went and knocked on the door. A little, slightly stooped man peered over his glasses at us. Herr Watkins explained to him in German who we were. I guess we took him by surprise because he seemed a little at a loss. He asked us to come back at 7:30 p.m. when his wife, who spoke English, would be home. Before we left, his kids squirted us with their water guns.

After saying adieu to Art and Henry, we went window shopping for awhile. Then we searched for a likely eating spot. We finally settled for a tea room that looked more French than Swiss. It was cool and pleasant. I had a plate of assorted cold meat and a milk shake. Ha! Ha! They should let us show them how to make milk shakes. After I went to a perfume shop and “john” at the big station.

Later we went back to visit Herr’s friend’s parents. They were thrilled to see us and had been crying for fear that we wouldn’t come back. They had a dressmaker and tailor shop in their home. They once had a dressmaking shop under our hotel, in the days when it was Montreux’s biggest and best, that catered to royalty. Their flat was clean and nice, but quite modest.
We looked at pictures, talked a little German with them and they showed us around. We went for a boat ride around the lake and, unfortunately, saw a crowd at the side of the lake that was looking for a drowned man’s body.

As we passed Chillon, it was all lit up. People at the banquet waved to us as we circled around the lake. What a beautiful night and city with weeping willows everywhere. They insisted on taking us to the casino for a drink. The casino insisted on charging 2.50 for drinks plus 15 cents cover. I had a really jippy ginger ale. There was a New York band with an interesting floor show. Other entertainment included: four ballet dancers, comedy team, and a Spanish number. The roulette table was quite a temptation for me. Later we walked home with them and then back to the hotel ourselves.

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