60 Years Ago Today

Sunday, 3 August 1952:

At 6 a.m. I was up and at it! We had a delicious breakfast and said goodbye to Kay, Kathleen, Afton, and Carmela. We took pictures of the Drachenloch staff. The hotel was kind of a rustic old Gasthaus, but we’ve certainly been treated like kings and queens.

Now we’re back on tree lined roads into Linz. We’ve left behind the little Swiss chalets and rolling hills. In Linz there was a new hospital that had been built after the war. There were beautiful grounds around the new Bahnhof train station which had also been built up since the war.

Hermine was going to stay here while we ventured into Vienna. She said she felt like a Canadian refugee. But when we pulled up and found three pretty tall missionaries, she felt much better. We thought we might like to stay as well. The three missionaries included Elder Blauser from Rexburg, a good looking elder from California, and one other.

Everybody warned us about the Russians as we drove into the Russian zone. In the immediate aftermath of the war, Austria was divided into four occupation zones and jointly occupied by different powers. There was lots of excitement and feelings in the bus as we approached the Russian zone. There was much anticipation mixed with fear. We faced the sign “You are now leaving the U.S. zone.”

I spied a pretty red, white and blue house on our side of the bridge with an American flag flying. On the other side of the Danube we got our first glimpse of the red flag of Russia. We accidently went a little way past the checking “dealy.” We were quiet as mice as tension filled the air. I wondered what this Russian soldier was like. There was a line of cars waiting to get out of the Russian zone.

All were quiet on the bus as a Russian soldier came on the bus to check our grey cards. He was very young and wore a uniform which was made of coarse looking material. He laughed and spoke a few words of German with us. Everything was okay and it went off without a hitch. He wished us a good trip in Deutsche and slapped Andre on the shoulder like a buddy.

The countryside doesn’t look any different except it was maybe a little drier. There were rolling hills with boys on bikes in brown uniforms. We headed towards a little town with red and white flags hanging from almost every building. A banner hung across the street saying Herrlische Willkommen. We passed through several little towns that seemed deserted. We saw nary a soul walking around in most of the towns. There was almost no one to wave to from our bus amongst the beautiful rolling hills and fields. Most of the grain fields from what I could see had been harvested.

It was fast Sunday today and Herr Rogers took an apple up to Andre to eat. He tends to get a little unhappy when he has to go a long time without eating. As we passed more tree-lined roads I saw the white strips on the trees for night driving. The closer we got to Wien, the fields were replaced with forest. Even though we were going through the nervous Russian Zone, there was lots of napping throughout the bus. It included me too.

“Hey man, what’s your rank?” U.S. Sentry, Pat Dubrieuil asked Andre. We should have had a paper at the border to show what time we had left the American zone just in case we didn’t arrive within a reasonable length of time through the Russian zone.

On the way we passed a big technical museum. There were metal window blinds on many of the stores and few people on the streets. Most of the buildings were built during days of Austrian Emperor Nikolaus Esterházy in the mid 1700’s. He was the principal employer of the composer Joseph Haydn. It once had been a carefree and happy city. At Habsburg Palace Dr. Watkins had heard Hitler speak from the balcony. Then we hurried onto the National Parliament, Votif Keiche and part of the university.

At the Hotel Bellevue we met Elders McIntire and Linstrom. We held a special Sacrament meeting where we all sat on the stand. The program consisted of a sextet singing group, chorus, and about ten talks. The Austrian people seemed reserved at first, but relaxed more as time went on. They seemed to enjoy the program and talked to us afterwards. We thought we were finally ready to go, but Betty and I hurried back inside to have punch. Someone showed us a picture of Dr. Watkins when he was on his mission here. We left at 10:30 p.m. to go back to the hotel.

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