60 Years Ago Today

Wednesday, 16 July 1952:

At 8 a.m. we jaunted down to the train station for the Jungfrau excursion today. It was kind of cloudy with the sun shining now and then on the lower slopes. Houses dotted the slopes with a clear blue swimming pool below. We changed trains at Grindelwald.

Cows wandering around on the slopes were pastured out here to save feed for the winter. The train had to stop so the train workers could remove one cow from the track. The clouds broke and we got a glimpse of the mountain peak. Herr Watkins said “that’s just a foothill.”

As the day wore on we changed trains again. This train was kind of plush and had glass in the windows, our last train didn’t. The temperature had gone down quite a bit particularly when we traveled in a long tunnel. It took five minutes to get out and look at the mountains again. It was like an ice box at the first stop and it took one more stop to be able to look through a window at the mountains.

Clouds hung around the peaks as we traveled through the tunnel to the top. When the train stopped and the conductor said this was the stop, we were still in the tunnel or refrigerator. Take your choice.

As we arrived we found tunnels going every which way. We took a tunnel and were reminded of the catacombs. Five minutes later we came to the ticket coin machine and elevator to the observatory so we were told.

With everyone’s insides growling, we weren’t much interested in that particular phase of Jungfrau Yoke at that moment. So we back tracked past the train into a lobby affair with a little café on one side. There were rest rooms along with a porch that gave a beautiful view of the mountains.

Afterwards we bounded up a few stairs and found a big dining room with a view. We joined the others who were supplementing lunch with a hot bowl of soup. All tourists like ourselves enjoyed the beauties of nature in Switzerland.

With our stomachs comfortably full again, we were ready to enjoy the wonders of the Alps with greater enthusiasm. Several flights of stairs up at the first stop was the Ice Palace where we paid one franc to experience it. It was quite an experience being inside a block of ice. There was a hallway as a tunnel through the ice that went past a car sculptured in ice.

Then I caught sight of a little ice carved bar with booths, tables, and benches. It included an ice clock, piano, bar, skating rink with Roman arches, and square pillars. A thermometer inside stated that it was 10 degrees below 0 centigrade. Outside again we climbed up the snow bank and out to the flag pole. A little man gave bobsled rides for one franc, so I took one. It was quite a thrill, but the ride wasn’t long.

From where the ride stopped we could see the Jaeger Mountain to the left of Monch. We helped the little man push the sled back up. Some of the kids were sun bathing on a big rock and I climbed up just in time to get in the pictures Herr Watkins was taking.

What a luxury this was lying on a rock in the sun surrounded by and gazing at these majestic peaks. The Jungfrau was said to have less snow this time of year than ever before. Eager for an even better view of our magnificent environment, Mrs. Hansen, Carmela, and I decided to go back to the spot of our first sojourn.

We hurried through the tunnels and individually put our little one franc coin in the box in order to get a ticket for the lift to the observatory tower. We were presently gazing down from the highest spot of comfort of the Jungfrau Yoke. We moved first from one side to another. We had a most splendid view of the big glaciers and white clouds that were like feather beds below us making a fluffy blanket over the valley and blue skies overhead. At one spot the blanket thinned out ever so little to give us a hazy view of a small part of the valley below.

Henry came up to the observatory soon after we did and went partially wild about all the radical apparatuses around the tower. Everyone dashed back down to go elsewhere. I hated to leave so I didn’t.

I ended up talking to an interesting fellow from Pennsylvania. He wanted very much to have a picture of Jungfrau, so I took a picture and promised to send it on to him. Time was growing short so I tried to get on the next elevator. Unfortunately, too many others had the same idea as me. As I waited for the next elevator ir seemed interminably long time arriving. By the time I finally reached the bottom there was about one minute to spare before our train was due to pull out.
I ran madly through the catacomb tunnel leaving the Philadelphia man in my dust. As I rounded the corner I saw the train which I hoped to be on. I had only twenty seconds left. I looked around for familiar faces and found the kids. Herr Rogers was leaning anxiously from the window. As I crawled breathlessly into the train without any wind left to apologize with, I realized my late coming had caused some consternation. Herr and others all thought for sure, I would be left behind. I jumped on just as the train had pulled ahead to go.

Then I was duly chastised and kidded. Herr Rogers had been trying to explain to the conductor that one of our group was missing and would he please let me come on the next train. It would have been rather expensive for me if I had had to pay for a one way ticket back.

16 July 1952 – Interlaken, Swizterland:

Dear Folks, we are on our way down from the top of the highest railroad in Europe which took us to the Jangrau Yoke way up high in the midst of high peaks. It was high enough to be above the clouds. It was so beautiful we kind of hated to come back and I almost missed the slow moving train. Right now we were going down through the middle of the mountain. Switzerland has been quite restful after Italy.

However, I think I liked Italy the best. There were so many things to see and we almost ran ourselves ragged. Switzerland is kind of restful with lots of beautiful scenery, good food, nice hotels, swimming, etc. Like Herr Watkins commented when we came into Switzerland, “The academic part of the trip is ending for awhile and the aesthetic was beginning.”

Europe has really been different from what people have given me to expect. We could have gotten along fine without bringing three months supply of everything. It’s really quite civilized over here. You can get most anything you need. The people can’t afford to buy everything that’s available, but they were glad to have tourists buy it.

Italy has been the cheapest country we have been in so far and the people were very friendly. We visited the Pope in Rome. He shook hands with all of us, and we presented him with a triple combination for the Vatican Library. I loved Rome, Florence, Capri, Sorrento, Venice and Milan. I want to go back and spend months there. We have had running water in our rooms everyplace except one. We seem to be able to find baths every twice in a while, so we really haven’t had to go around real dirty.

Tonight we were going to Monte Carlo ballet. In Bern we saw Europe’s best circus and believe me it was good. We were certainly lucky so far, no sickness or serious trouble of any kind. There was only one thing about Switzerland that disappointed me and that was their grey rivers. The rivers were filled with limestone or something and they were a kind of a milky grey instead of a sparkling clear blue. We had to change trains twice going up today.

As things settled down there was some beautiful scenery coming back down under the clouds. The sunshine was all gone so I tried to write a letter to the folks on the way down. There were three changes of trains and we always seemed to get a reserved car.

Now back to the hotel and out to get food for tonight’s dinner and tomorrow’s lunch. The prices at the hotel were too expensive for us so I purchased cheese, bread, and fruit. It cost one franc for each of them. Then I bought milk and cheese for dinner and smuggled it into hotel.

Afterwards, I cleaned up and dressed for the ballet. The ballet was in Kursaal but in the theatre part of it. Our six franc seats weren’t the best, but we could see pretty well. The hall, where we had been the night before, was decorated with candles in bottles and lanterns. In the ballet the first number was Swan Lake. There were intermissions between the numbers so the gambling tables had a break. It gave us the chance to listen to A Night in Vienna music as well. Romeo and Juliet was the next ballet. All the numbers were good. The Monte Carlo Ballet had just finished touring the United States.

I saw a fellow from Jungfrau whose picture I had taken. I said hello to him on the way out and talked about how I almost missed my train. I waited for the city clock to chime on our way home after looking in the bar to see what it was like. It was enchanting as all the lights went out as the clock got a good start for Thursday.


60 Years Ago Today

Wednesday, 9 July 1952:

I had a delicious cold shower this morning. We had been staying on the top floor of a boys’ dorm. A little man had locked our door from the outside during the night and had stood guard all night long to presumably protect us from the men. I took my bag down from our room on the top floor. We were miles away from where the rest of our crew were staying. Our group was really separated this time. Across the street I got fruit for lunch where oranges were 300 lire a kilo. Then we left and had little trouble finding our way out of Milano.

We traveled on Autostrada, a toll road. I caught sight of Lake Magiore. It looked like a wonderful place to spend a lifetime. There was an island out in the middle like Venezia. As the mountains got higher, the air cooled. Switzerland was coming up! We stopped at a small town about 12 miles from the border, Domodossola, to unload the last lire. It was one U.S. cent for the “john”.

We were definitely leaving the low country now. The sheer mountain peaks were rising abruptly as we left our last stop. I felt the Swiss influence or maybe it was the influence of the mountains. There were swift running streams, little rock houses, and winding mountain roads with patches of snow. The border buildings were unimpressive. In between all of this I saw a 1952 Studebaker.

There wasn’t any red tape on the Italian border, but at the Swiss border our passports were checked. As we journeyed into Switzerland, there was a swift moving stream between our bus and the sheer rugged cliffs. Herr Watkins commented that we were leaving behind the academic part of our tour and entering the esthetic portion.

Everyone was excited about going into Switzerland—such breathtaking scenery! Beautiful meadows stretched right up to the edges of the snow. Families were outside making hay on the hillsides. I saw a little boy under an umbrella on a hill by Simplon Pass. Also I saw the movie Heidi relived on the mountainside in my mind. All of us were shooting pictures out of the window.

There were fortifications in several places along the way. We found out the roads were mined and were ready to be blown up at a moment’s notice. This was in case of an invasion. Meanwhile the bus had clutch trouble, so we stopped at the next rest stop.

While we were at the rest stop, Carmela was busy gathering bugs with Henry’s milk bottle. At the same time Henry was searching madly for his bottle to get milk from a Swiss farmer. The current topic of conversation was milking cows. As we continued there was more snow visible in the mountains and it was much cooler, so bringing our coats hadn’t been for naught.

The water was finding its way down the mountain in little rivulets. Herr Rogers gave a Swiss lecture about how mountains play a big part in Swiss life. The Alps and Jero Range helped form a border between France and Switzerland. These mountain barriers helped the Swiss people maintain their independence. Switzerland with few natural resources was dependent upon tourist trade.

We hit a 12 mile tunnel, Simplon Pass, where the passes were mined and fortified. Then I saw a valley meadow with an old church where workers were removing the mines along the road. There was a free shower outside. When I saw little kids herding cows, it reminded me of my childhood. Switzerland had 22 cantons, a small administrative division of the country, which occupied distinct valleys.

As we stopped for gas and milk I saw a large statue of an eagle on a hill top at the summit pass. SOS casa contoniera is the Swiss’ rest stop. Back on the bus there were colored mountain goats on the inclines and little clouds hanging down between the huge mountain walls on the east side. Beautiful waterfalls dotted the mountains as well. What terrific scenery!

Herr Watkins yelled out and asked a man if he knew his great grandmother. Then there was some kind of bottleneck ahead. All the men jumped out to investigate. The rain had washed the bridge away. We couldn’t wait for it to be fixed or we would miss the train to Zermatt.

So we had a council of war with a decision to be made. I guess we were going on a cross country hike to the bridge. We got our suitcases down. The kids opened them on the road in the rain to get their supplies out for two nights. We definitely got our raincoats and boots out as well. With big suitcases back inside the bus, we bid adieu to Andre.

Whatta sight! Thirty-six characters with different kinds of garb and bags on a cross country hike. As we met the road again, Herr Rogers buzzed by in a car in order to make arrangements ahead of us. Bonnie had a big suitcase and Helen’s suitcase was not so small. We thumbed a ride and everyone piled in with suitcases.

As the rain stopped, we could see the car’s tires going down so Helen and I got out and walked. We shed our coats and brought up the rear. It was a beautiful refreshing walk in the Swiss countryside. As we strolled into the town of Brig, a little boy leaned out of a three-story window to wave. Brig had clean streets and shops.

At the railroad station, I changed my first traveler’s check into Swiss francs. My insides were groaning with hunger. We found a café in the station that provided a delicious meal for 4.25 francs plus tip. I had spaghetti and pork. It was time for the train, so the waitress put the fruit for dessert in a sack and we ran out.

Somehow I got out on the wrong side of the depot. Probably because there were train tracks all over the place. I ran around madly trying to find a sortie. In the process I darted into the same office twice and finally remembered the stairs I had used to get to the café. It was past time for the train to leave as I dashed frantically out the right door onto the right track.

No one was in sight. I couldn’t see a train on the track and a sinking feeling set in. I asked the first person I came to if the train for Zermatt had gone. “No, it’s right there,” as they pointed to the next track. I peered in the windows. Yep! There they were. What a relief!

It was an interesting train ride to Zermatt. I practiced a little German with servicemen on leave from Frankfurt. The scenery was rugged with magnificent meadows right up to the snow line. The water and waterfalls were trickling down the mountainsides in unexpected places with a view of little houses with rock shingles. My first glimpse of the Matterhorn was impressive with its stark rugged peak above all the rest and clouds hung all around it.

We made it to Zermatt! All out. Hotel where art thou? It was right across the street. First class too. My room 14 was right off a beautiful lobby. OOOh! The bed looked positively luscious with a beautiful fluffy silk comforter on top. It felt like we may need it here. There were double sinks that were big enough to take a bath in if necessary, plus overstuffed chairs. Gee it was quiet. There were no cars.

First job on the docket was to remove the dirt of Mount Vesuvius from our tresses. Believe it or not, my hair hasn’t had a real shampoo other than the swimming on the first night in Rome when I went to the concert with wet hair. I went out to the desk to check on maps and events. Then I crawled into bed to write. Whatta farce! I should have known better than that. I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.