60 Years Ago Today

Wednesday, 2 July 1952:

I took my bag down to breakfast. Herr Rogers called me down for not bringing it sooner. I was too late! The bus was all packed. After breakfast, I carried my own bag to the bus and with Mrs. Hansen’s help I put it on the top myself. I had Andre check the strap for me though.

Soon we were off for Assisi! Evidently we have to go back through Naples. While there we stopped at the hotel to pick up some stuff the kids had left. Then we raided a fruit shop and got back on the road to Rome via Cassino. It seems all roads to Rome must be tree lined.

Cassino was at one time the most bombed out place of World War II. Germans used Cassino as a stronghold and Americans finally had to bomb them out. Herr Watkins fought here. The most bitter fighting in Italy took place here and it became a no man’s land for a while.Since then it has been reconstructed. A documentary movie, San Pietro, was filmed in the area in 1945.

Then as we left Cassino we passed a former town on a hillside that was completely in ruins. A new town had been built below. We had lunch on the road. In Rome we stopped back to pick up Betty’s coat and get a drink of water in the public horse trough. We passed several monuments and huge buildings that I didn’t see when we were here before. We saw the Etruscan Capitaline Wolf statue from the 5th century, who had rescued Remus and Romulus, Rome’s mythological twin founders, from death.

I observed the big stadium and the Tiber River which was a beautiful green. Some of the scenery looked a lot like Utah. One section of land had sugar cane or something that looked like it. Today was kind of a lost day. It was really hot and Bev had heat exhaustion or something of the sort. I missed the scenery for some well needed napping and writing.

Our next rest stop was at Turin. I snapped a picture of oxen and a man with a donkey cart who posed for us. By the time we left there was a huge crowd around the bus. Dusk was coming on as we met the hilly and windy roads. We caught sight of the Assisi Arched Gateway like in the picture shots we saw in Italy.

We stopped to stay at a beautiful hotel where the section we were in was probably once an old monastery. I talked to a girl from Nebraska and found a little book about Assisi for 250 lire. Then we ate dinner at a restaurant down a little street from the hotel.

Soon after it was time for bed. My only mistake was laying down on the bed before getting undressed. At 3:30 a.m., I finally got undressed and climbed under the covers.

60 Years Ago Today

Monday, 30 June 1952:

I had a good continental breakfast with the seething masses of people already up early. There were all kinds of vehicles. We proceeded to an ancient church built in 1600 a.d. that was restored. It had 54 silver statues with each one representing a saint. Our guide told us about the parade and feast day with different floats sent from each church. We found a sculpture in silver created in 1695 a.d. that weighed 45,000 pounds. It was St. Michael with a dragon. A large and ancient baptismal font was used to baptize by immersion. We passed through a section of the city that had been attacked during World War II and people were living among the ruins.

We got off on the wrong track to Mount Vesuvius and ended down at the Mediterranean Sea. We stopped traffic getting the bus turned around. And I observed a church with two beautiful yellow and green domes. There were purple frustration flowers creeping over the walls of the ruins and cactus plants in the courtyard. Then we squeezed by an overflowing wagon load of baskets. I noticed the dark rich volcanic soil. No matter how often it erupted, the Italian people refused to abandon the city.

Orchards and vineyards lined the road in Vesuvius. Italians had plenty of fruits and orchards, but lacked minerals. Then Andre had another tight squeeze past a small vehicle on a one way street. Some little kids ran to watch us and raised their hula hoops as we passed. The curves were too sharp for our long bus, but once again Andre did a super job. I viewed a man in the street without shoes.

At last a panoramic view of Naples, the valley, and the Mediterranean as we climbed higher and higher. Naples had a population of 1,600,000. By the side of the road there were little pepper fields. We passed a man and his family taking fruit to the market by wagon.

Again we had trouble with the curves. Andre really earned his money today. Lava flows had taken over some of the orchards here. Various kinds of vegetation were popping up everywhere since Mount Vesuvius had last erupted. This included wild grass and flowers. There were still some strips of fruit trees higher up in some spots between the lava flow.

The bus engine heated up with its 4000 ton load. We made it around the curves without having to back up. We stopped at the Eremo Restaurant and Hotel to pick up our guide and to gain the privilege of going on a private road for 300 lire apiece.

With our finances collected, the road turned out to be rather narrow and treacherous. We parked the bus and took to our feet, and me in Voodoo sandals, through loose lava, slate and dust. The road went inside the original crater that had destroyed Pompeii. A small crater had fallen into the larger crater in 1944.

At the top of the huge new crater it was still smoking in one section. Herr Watkins had been here nine days before the last eruption in 1944 and said the landscape had completely changed since then. He had gone clear to the top in a funicular which was destroyed in a 1944 eruption. There had been 33 previous eruptions recorded on Mount Vesuvius.

We climbed for about 30 minutes after leaving the bus. Then we reached a spectacular view of Naples, Mediterranean Sea, and countryside. It was from one side of the top to the yawning mouth of the other side of the crater. My sandals and rocks made even better friends with each other on the way down. The soles of both feet and sandals were walking on rocks. They came in from both the front and back of my sandals. There was only one advantage, no dirty socks.An Italian trail repairman at the bottom gave me a pretty rock with gold colored flecks as a medal of valor for my bravery in hiking Vesuvius in my sandals.

Andre did a good job turning the bus around on a really narrow road while we were gone. Going down was even more hair-raising than going up. Andre’s brow was furrowed from the strain when a huge rock got lodged between the left rear dual tires. It felt like riding on the rim and a square rim at that! We couldn’t stop to remove it until we got farther down.

While Andre maneuvered our big unwieldy long bus around one sharp turn after another we ate lunch. Andre backed up on many of the curves to make it around them. Finally, we found a level spot and stopped to remove the rock. Italian truck workers stopped to help Andre remove it. They had to partly remove the outside tire to get rid of the huge rock.

All of us relaxed again when we reached the foothills. We passed a wagon load of barrels that were hanging out on all sides of the truck. After crossing a railroad track, we made a detour to visit a cameo factory. I caught sight of little kids asking for cigarettes and a tiny shoeshine boy at the side of road who was busy at work.

What a madhouse the cameo factory turned out to be when we arrived! First I was busy taking pictures of Andre, the bus and purple frustrations. I missed seeing how the cameos were made. However, I got a pretty good explanation from the other kids afterwards.

In any case I didn’t miss going into the shops. There were so many beautiful cameos. I looked and looked and was tempted and tempted. But at the ninth hour I settled on a beautiful cameo ring set in gold for Lois. I was almost the last one on the bus.

Now we’re off for Sorrento. The view from the bus window en route was superb or more so than heretofore. Mount Vesuvius and the Island of Capri looked like thick purple mists on opposite horizons. The road curved high above the edge of the Mediterranean Sea and olive trees terraced from the sea edge to the roadside. I tried to pick out our hotel as Sorrento buildings came into view across a strip of the Mediterranean Sea. There were plumed horses pulling buggies through the streets.

We arrived at Hotel La Terrazza and the grounds were like an estate. Alice said she thought it used to be someone’s pensione. We went exploring while the rooms were being assigned. There was a terrace overlooking the sea with beautiful flowers. I wandered down tons of steps to the private beach below.

First thing on the docket for me was a dip in the Mediterranean Sea. It cost 100 lire and I was the first one in. What fun I had riding the waves! I played water ball and talked to Puerto Rican girls who knew the kids on the Sibijak. I found a warm shower on the beach, my bath for today.

Afterwards there was a long trek up just like climbing the steps of Notre Dame.
We dressed for dinner on the terrace. We had sliced bread, water, soup with a little macaroni, hamburger with a cheese topping, and cheese rolled in pepper skins. The meal was 300 lire and dessert was a potato-like ice cream or pastry cake fruit.

Then we went downstairs to the square called the Bagalella. A boy from the hotel showed us the way to the native Tarantella dances. This traditional Italian folk dance had a fast upbeat tempo and used tambourines like castanets. There were beautiful costumes, a blues singer, and musicians wearing black and white striped shirts.

Another group of American girls were there from Roanoke, Virginia. They were really dressed up. I sat by a man and his wife and daughter from Buenos Aires, Argentina. He pronounced thousand as Susan. Alicia talked to the daughter and a small Italian man asked me to dance. He was a good dancer and smooth, but so short.

We sat down to talk and he asked me what “ice block” meant. He had a letter from a girl signed “ice block.” I tried to explain. Then another character came over. I decided it was time to bid them adieu before things got involved. They both had spoken pretty good English though.
On the way to the hotel one of them followed us on a motorbike and offered to give us a ride. I said okay if the two of us could come. Eloise hung tightly to him and I to her for a hair-raising ride to the pier. We rounded the curves laying on one side of the motorbike. We climbed up on the pier and talked for a few minutes.

Then another bike roared up the hill. It sure looked liked a “put up job.” He asked permission to introduce us. I said “You can introduce us but that’s all.” The second bike left and I decided that we best get out of there. No! He said he’d take us home in a few minutes.

But before a few minutes were up the other bike came back. Then the other guy came up and talked to us. We convinced both of the bikers that we don’t smoke or drink and must get back to the hotel. We insisted on going back together, but they swore so sincerely to take us back to the hotel that we relented. We arrived at the door safe and sound, but the manager complained about the noise of the motorcycles.

It was a gorgeous view from our room. However, there was no water stopper in the tub which made taking a bath challenging. Margaret, Helen, Alicia and I took our mattresses out on the terrace to sleep under the stars.

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.