60 Years Ago Today

Thursday, August 21, 1952:

While ever so happy about a bath in our hotel room, I noticed it was still raining for our last jaunt on this continent. We had a lecture on England en route to Dunkirk, France.

Now back to the drive we saw Belgian soldiers on field maneuvers. We stopped near Bruge, Belgium to see a windmill, elevator bridge, and Ostend Cathedral. It was a beautiful, lacy cathedral. Then I caught my first glimpse of the North Sea coast. We stopped for pictures at the lovely beach where I caught sight of a land soil boat among the war fortifications along the coastline of sand dunes and grass. Farther on I noticed an overgrown graveyard with crosses.
I spotted a hotel that was built like a boat amidst the sand dunes by the shore of the North Sea. At 3 p.m. we said goodbye to Belgium and hello to France. As we left the Belgium border it was a cinch with no red tape at all.

Then at the French border I observed an inspector looking over some meat which was hanging in a big truck. The French border was just as easy as the Belgium border due to a little grease on the job by American Express. The inspector came on the bus and looked at Andre’s passport and asked if we had ours. Andre asked him if we could get out of their country and up went the gate. And we got through fairly easy with no bags opened. Andre was happy to be back in his own country and the mob livened up as we greeted Marseille, France.

Then we reached Dunkirk where the British had been pushed into the sea. Under blue skies Dunkirk still looked like it was at war. There were rows of houses with red tiled roofs as we stopped by a monument to Dunkirk and had our last dinner on the bus. We indulged with a can of pickles that we have had since Venice. Remember how some of the sailors we met there had given us food from their ship? We also had a big surprise: cookies. We cut bread and made sandwiches on our laps as per old times.

We reached Calais at 1:30 p.m. A Liberty ship had collided with another ship farther out in the channel and was sinking in the harbor. Part of the ship had drifted and the other half sank. After we got out of the bus some French Marines posed for pictures for us. At the dock there were touching good byes to Andre, our bus driver. I shed a couple of tears.

Touring Students Near End of Extensive European Journey

(Editor’s note: This is another in a series by Mrs. Afton A. Hansen of Provo on her experiences with a group of students touring Europe.)

Dear Friends,
The small countries of Holland and Belgium are none the less significant in European history and must have been important to those ambitious Romans who seem to have preceded this Brigham Young University tour by several years, and left their mark in statuary and stone as well as in ideas and laws. In every country, thus far, we have heard the story of “when the Romans were here.” Of course, it took the Romans nearly 900 years to achieve their purpose, while ours has been done in three months.

Entering Holland from Germany, we were immediately aware of the verdant beauty, which plenty of water brings, and the comfortable looking homes which come from economic stability. Large brick homes, many with thatched roofs, are surrounded by spacious gardens and groves.
Amsterdam in Holland is a thriving, homey city, called the Venice of the north because of its canals and waterways throughout the city. In a large glass-topped motor boat we made our customary inspection of the city and found everything to be clean, ship-shape and in good working order. That is, everything but the pulley bars anchored to the fancy gables of some of the older homes. They were used in times past to hoist merchandise from the waterway to the third floor storage room. It seems that it was a very good way to avoid those narrow, steep stairways inside the house.

One typical house, with red shutters and a light burning in the second story window, was said to be the place where Rembrandt lived. This revered old gentleman stands alone in the park just across from our hotel. Right now a pigeon is resting comfortable on the top of his artist’s beret.
Because Holland is below sea level, the dykes are strong and wide enough to support our big blue bus as we travel out in the country for a better view of the windmills. It is somewhat strange to see the land so low on one side while the sea is higher on the other side. Across the green fields can be seen the black and white cows grazing and the white sail boats apparently sailing on the pasture. From the distance the water in the canal is not visible. The slow moving arms of the windmill indicate that water is being pumped into the canals which carry it to the sea, whence it came.

There are no bridges across the larger canals, but a ferry-boat transports people, cars and our big blue bus on our way to the Island of Marken, where the inhabitants retain old traditions in living and in dress. For work and for dress up—the men wear long black bloomer-like pants made of heavy woolen with a tight skirt of the same material. Wooden shoes of course, are part of the picture but not everyone wears them. The ladies and children wear full, dark skirts, colorfully decorated above the hemline. A white blouse, colored bodice, a white lace cap and wooden shoes complete their costume.

A little old man, leaning on the close bottom half of his door, seemed to invite us, with his toothless smile, into his house, which like all the houses on the island is built on piles. On the walls of his cozy, but simply furnished room, were hung a collection of plates of which he was most proud. He was a man after my own heart, so to speak, for I have been collecting plates too. You may come to my home most any day now to have pie and see my plates and spoons.

“The Hague” is the capital of Holland. In passing through this beautiful clean city where in the Peace Palace, the World Court of Justice convenes, we could only wish for a longer stay. Of necessity we had to hurry to Rotterdam, where we were to leave our heavy bags, until going aboard ship for the return voyage.

Brussels in Belgium is a crowded city of 1,300,000 population much like any crowded American city. Kind, availability and prices of merchandise are also about the same as in America.
That , which in Belgium is most unique is the delicate and beautiful hand-made lace, which may soon become a lost art, because the young girls do not care to learn this intricate skill. With needle, bobbin and hand loom, the deft fingers of older women produce designs with linen thread which are called Rose Point, Pearl Point Dutchess and Princess. It is quite expensive.

Brussels is also crowded with huge, massive, impressive buildings in a variety and conglomeration of style and architecture. Statues of royalty and nobility have their story to tell, as well as the statue of the brave young mother who led the resistance movement during World War I, and when shot by the Germans, so bravely said, “I’ll show you that a Belgian mother is not afraid to die.”

Stopping at the gates of the Palace of King Leopold III we saw the changing of the guard. Through the pickets of the iron fence, during a rainstorm, a few pictures were taken. The formality and stiffness of the ceremony almost equaled the stiffness of the fence. True to form, however these girls tried to catch a movable expression in the faces of the handsomely uniformed guards. From the bus, they waved and smiled, with not a flicker of an eye cast from the guards, until in order to get out, we passed them the second time, and then the lone sentry outside the gate responded with a vigorous wink of one eye, much to the delight of the girls.

Parks and driveways around Belgium are beautiful with castles, cathedrals, formal gardens and a great variety of trees—beech, walnut, chestnut, elm, oak and maple. There seems to be as many windmills in Belgium as in Holland.

At Ghent in Belgium we held a farewell party for Andre, our French bus driver who chauffeured us through traffic thick and thin in France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Holland and Belgium.

Whenever anything irregular happened Andre’s appropriate remark, with his French accent, was “experience.” Leaving him next morning at Calais, over the border in France was a sad “experience,” as he sped on to his home in Paris and we took the steamer across the English channel to Dover and thence to London.

See you there,
Afton A. Hansen

As we got on the boat we were handed a white slip to fill out for English Customs and directed to “D” deck in the third class section of the ship. We went across the Straits of Dover in a pretty little white ship. It was beautiful weather with a lot of English marines aboard.

As we approached England, the White Cliffs of Dover were not quite as white or as high as I had imagined them. At 5:20 p.m. we landed in Dover and had no trouble with customs.

My first glimpses of the English country side was from the train as we rode toward London. It was pretty and green with lots of orchards. But there were so many chimneys. It seemed there must be one chimney pot for each room on the roofs of the houses. I watched red roofed cottages, green countryside between smoky tunnels, and huge apartment houses. I could see the Thames River and the train station. Then I noticed double-decker buses driving on the wrong side of road. Crazy!

An American Express bus came to the train station to pick us up. A big fat driver took us to our hotel. He had never heard of the hotel and had a rough time finding it. Halliday Hall, the hotel, was in a residential area where there were separate rooms and baths. Alice, Elo, Carol, Alene, and I left the hotel pronto to find London via the tube. South Clapham Station was not far and it took only 12 minutes from the hotel to get to the center of London. We explored Piccadilly Square and the vicinity surrounding it as we ate hot dogs.

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