The Writings of Joanna and William McGaughey
Statement by William McGaughey, Jr.:
My parents were both writers. That has also been my life’s work. But my parents were professional journalists. My father was a reporter for the Indianapolis Star and, later, with the Wall Street Journal (which fellow graduates from DePauw University, especially Bernard Kilgore, built up into the nation’s premier business publication). My mother was a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. She later wrote for the Tarrytown Daily News and Scarsdale Inquirer newspapers before becoming a columnist with the Associated Press in New York. Two of her more memorable assignments were to cover how Lou Gehrig and his wife were coping with what became known as Lou Gehrig’s disease and the public unveiling of a new communication invention called television.
My parents married in St. Barthlomew’s church on Park Avenue in New York City on November 18, 1939, and then immediately moved to Detroit, where I was born. My father took a position as public-relations director for the Automobile Manufacturers Association (working under George Romney). My mother became a housewife. Yet the role of the newspaper man or woman remained in their blood.
My father wrote and published two books while he pursued a public relations career. The first was titled Roll out the Tanks. It was published by Macrae-Smith-Company in 1942 as a fictional account of a young man who worked in a factory building tanks during World War II. The second was titled American Automobile Album and was published by E.P. Dutton & Co. in 1954 with over 250 photographs. (LCCC # 53-10338) This nonfiction book told the history of the American automobile industry from the late 19th century until the mid 1950s. It mixed social history with the view of industry insiders. I remember accompanying my father to the Pentagon in search of photos for this book.
However, this page will link to newspaper articles written by my parents, especially my mother, during two trips to Europe in the immediate post-war period, 1948 and 1950. Because of my father’s position in the U.S. automobile industry, they were able to meet several powerful persons, including Winston Churchill. But they also described the post-war European scene from the standpoint of American tourists.
My mother was the more prolific writer of the two during those trips. Her passion for journalism continued throughout her life. In later years, she wrote a column for a small-town newspaper, the Pike County Dispatch, in Milford, Pennsylvania from the perspective of someone who lived in Washington, D.C.
I found carbon copies of her writings in a file-cabinet drawer after her death. See the following:
Joan D. McGaughey, Reports from Europe (1948 and 1950):
1. How my husband and I met Winston Churchill. (1948)
2. I unexpectedly meet Renato Ricci, Mussolini's minister of public buildings. (1950)
3. I visit the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough as they open Blenheim palace to the public. (1950)
4. I have an audience with Pope Pius XII (along with 35,000 others). (1950)
5. I learn how Roman housewives cope with daily challenges. (1950)
6. Out and about Rome (1950)
7. Visit with Switzerland's foremost watch maker (probably 1950)
8. The Zellerbach Italian collection (probably 1950)
9. Divided Germany (probably 1950)
(1) How my husband and I met Winston Churchill
Detroit, 14, Michigan
December 9, 1948
We now have three down with chicken pox - Billy, David and Margaret. At the moment David is the worse. I keep dousing him in hot water saturated with baking soda for temporary relief. Margaret has only a few spots. She may get more tomorrow, however, since I only noticed them on her yesterday evening. Billy has gone through the worst of his. They still itch a bit, but he isn’t so out of sorts - or so gray looking.
I do want to write you about our BIG MOMENT, before the excitement wears off. I am sure Gret has told you some of the details. But the meeting with Mr. Churchill is probably the most important thing that has happened to us, barring only our wedding day. And I do want you to know a little about it.
The more we hear from others the more we realize how lucky we were to see Churchill at all, let alone have thirty minutes with him - while eight members of the steel committee waited outside in the small office to discuss the nationalization of steel with him. And to think that WE came home with an at least partial promise that if he comes to the United States he will make very effort to come to Detroit and speak here.
I do want to emphasized that all this is FOR FAMILY CONSUMPTION ONLY. Please don’t tell ANYBODY else. PLEASE!
I think that I might preface my tale with the remark that I feel that my extra year at Columbia and my experience as a newpaperwoman were at least partial factors between success and failure in our enterprise. For if I learned one thing in all that it was that if you use your head and your imagination properly you can do almost anything you really want to do on earth.
We left the Ritz Hotel at 5:10 P.M. in a Chrysler loaned by the Chrysler head in Britain. It was driven by his personal chauffeur, a smart old Britisher name Cruttenden. I might say that Cruttenden didn’t ask any questions, but he was all with us, throughout the whole enterprise. He knew what we were going for, and he wished us luck as he let us out in the courtyard outside the Ladies Galley Entrance of the House of Lords. (The House of Commons is still being repaired for the terrific bomb damage.)
It was dusk, and the piles of masonry and tools looked quite movie-ish as we hobbled across the big old stones to a doorway that looked as if it might be open. It was sort of a back door, but in England you get used to going into important buildings by back doors, for the bombs hit just about everything everywhere.
We wandered up some back steps, along long corridors, through stacks of books and up staircases of assorted and gradually increasing importance until we were at the same main-entrance areaway where the bobbies had stopped us cold about a week before.
When I think back on that first try I get quite a laugh. For we had our sights set on shaking hands with Mr. Churchill and no more at that stage of the game. We had been told by everybody - including the know-all Brendan Bracken - that there was NO possibility of Churchill’s coming to America for a long, long time. Bracken said he couldn’t come for two years.
Miss Sturdee, the pretty, lady-like young woman who is Mr. Churchill’s “senior Secretary” had told us on that day she would try to work us in for a hand-shaking between the “Question Hour” in the House of Commons and the time Mr. Churchill left to go up to Harrow, his old school, where he makes an annual occasion of joining in singing the school songs with the boys.
Bill Dallas pulled us out of the fire on that one. He strongly urged us to send a note in to Miss Sturdee the moment we arrived, so she would know where to find us.
To make a long, heart-breaking episode short, Miss Sturdee didn’t go to Parliament that day with Mr. C., our note wound up in the hands of a very nice, but very firm young Scotland-Yarder, and we went off in a taxi after having waited for nearly three hours and missing Mr. C. altogether.
We were both sick. Also Mad. “To heck with this Marshall Plan stuff”, I blew off to Bill. “The least they could do would be to let us know he couldn’t see us.”
We sat in the gloom for a couple of minutes, rolling from side to side in the rattletrap old taxi. “For two cents I’d go right to 28 Hyde Park Gate and tell this Miss Sturdee off,” I exploded.
“ The least they could do is throw us out, “ Bill remarked, half in fun, half seriously.
“ Let’s go!” he snapped to in a moment or two. He pulled back the sliding glass plate that separated us from the driver and told him to take us to 28 Hyde Park Gate instead of the Ritz.
Then we settled back in our long deep seats for the ten to fifteen minuted drive along Hyde Park to the little sort of side street that is Hyde Park Gate.
A harassed-looking grey-haired maid answered. “May we see Miss Sturdee, please?” I asked.
“ Have you an appointment?” she inquired.
“ No,” we told her honestly.
“ Who shall I say is calling?” she went on politely.
“ Mr. and Mrs. William McGaughey of Detroit, Michigan,” we answered, both of us secretly highly amused at how simple it all was, but how much nerve we had.
“ If you’ll just have a seat in there,” she said, leading into a pleasant, small, chintz-decorated sitting room with a charming portrait we recognized as Churchill’s mother (American) on the wall, “I’ll tell Miss Sturdee you’re here.”
We sat down and looked around, taking in the modern chinese lamp and a few other small art objects around the room. As we sat, we could hear a pleasant English voice saying something about Danny Kaye. (Danny Kaye was then in London. His face was plastered all over the boarded up bomb pits and buildings under repair.)
One young woman fluttered in - and then went out again. And pretty soon one of the nicest looking young Englishwomen you can imagine appeared.
“ My goodness, are you Miss Sturdee?” I laughed.
“ Yes,” she laughed right back. “What did you expect?”
“ Well, to tell you the truth I suppose we expected someone much older,” we told her.
“ I supposed ‘senior secretary’ is a bit mis-leading,” Miss Sturdee who was dressed very simply in an elegant hand-knit purple dress and a single strand of pearls, said thoughtfully. “I just happen to have moved up to senior secretary because I am oldest in point of service. Actually I am only one of four. Mr. Churchill has four secretaries.”
“ I’m so sorry I didn’t get to the House of Commons this afternoon,” she apologized, seeming to take it as the natural thing that we had come to the house - which was a help to us. “I just had so much work to do - and so much came up during the day that I didn’t go.”
“ We felt that we shouldn’t leave without making every effort we could to at least see Mr. Churchill,” Bill said. “Even if it is only to tell him what a high regard the automobile industry leaders have for him.”
“ I am quite sure Mr. Churchill would like very much to see you,” Miss Sturdee said. “It’s only that it happens to be a very busy day for him.”
She smiled - almost indulgently. “He wouldn’t miss going up to Harrow for the world. Isn’t it lovely? He goes there ever year. He never missed a year singing with all the little boys.”
She asked how we had enjoyed the House of Commons. We told her that we had waited and waited - along with miscellaneous New Zealanders, Danes and others who had “Members’ Galley” seats from their (?) embassies, as we had from ours.
“ To tell the truth, it was quite dull, when we finally got (?) Bill said. “Somebody was reading a paper and there were ... (?) ... new members present.”
“ You should see it when Mr. Churchill is speaking!” she said, her face lighting up with admiration.
“ I’ll never forget the first time I heard him speak,” she went on. “He was standing here,” she indicated with her hand, “and all the little socialists - really nasty little people - were sitting in front of him going ‘Boo! Boo! Boo!”
I asked her if she had seen the little figurines of Churchill being sold on Picadilly. She asked what they looked like. I told her they were about six inches high and they had the stooped shoulders and the exaggerated paunch and great big black shiny shoes.
She said, no, she hadn’t seen them, that she had seen the Toby jugs and ash trays and so on, but not the figures. “They sound wonderful,” she commented.
I then told her of my experience in trying to buy one. I had walked down Picadilly Arcade and seen one in a window - the only item in the window. I walked in and found the place was an engineer’s office - not a shop. I apologized and told the very nice-looking middle-aged Britisher who got up from behind the desk to greet me that I just wondered if it were for sale.
“ No, it isn’t,” he said. “But I LOVE you for asking!”
He turned and summoned a younger man who was apparently his son. “Robby”, he said, “see if you can help this lady find another of the Churchill figures.”
“ Robby” and I then went out and wandered along Picadilly inquiring at several places until we came to Page and Shaw’s. There was one in the window. The price was “one and ten”. (about five dollars) “The nerve!” Robby remarked. “We only paid fifteen shilling!” “Father could have sold a thousand on his last trip to Norway”, he added.
From there we launched into the business part of our discussion, which I wont’ repeat, but I could easily see that we were making progress we hadn’t dreamed of making.
After a while Miss Sturdee seemed to have reached the conclusion that we should at least see Mr. Churchill. “I don’t know exactly what I can do,” she told us. “I can see how important this is, however, and I will see if there is any way at all we can arrange a meeting.”
“ After he gets back from Harrow, there is a delegation from the Finnish Parliament to see him. He is supposed to see them at 7:30 - but he won’t be on time. He never is. That means dinner will have to be kept in the warming oven. There is no telling when he will eat.”
“ Mr. Churchill is a very great man,” she turned to us - as if she knew (?) she should convince us. “Everybody is after him all the time. The President of Turkey wants him to come to Turkey. Mr. Smuts wants him to come to South Africa. And he has had invitations from more than forty English cities to speak on various occasions just this fall.”
“ And you know he isn’t a young man. It is really very wearing.”
“ But I will see what we can do,” she repeated. “I am sure Mr. Churchill would like very much to see you.”
When we shook hands to tell her goodbye her hands were cold - as mine get when I have been worked up considerably sometimes. She repeated the fact that she now realized how important our mission was and she would let us hear from her shortly.
We both knew for sure, then, that if anything on earth could be done to help us, she would do it. For she had told us Mr. Churchill would like to come to America, that he wouldn’t fly, that he loved “the Queens” (.... It’s such a holiday feeling ...)
As we left, Miss Sturdee introduced us to Lord Inverchapel, who was just coming in. (He was ambassador to the U.S. until recently.) We took his taxi, as a matter of fact. We drove back to the hotel in high fettle and got dressed for dinner.
While we were dressing I had an idea. “You know what we ought to do?” I asked Bill. “We ought to send that little figure to Miss Sturdee. And we ought to send it by messenger - tonight. Just in time for dinner.”
Bill agreed that it was a wonderful idea. So I quickly wrapped it up and telephoned the desk to ask for a messenger. Then we went to the Savoy for dinner “among the international set.” (It was international, too, complete to an Indian from the East in full regalia.)
The net day we were on pins and needles. I should say we were on a full bomb disposal dump. Bill had a lunch date with Leonard Williams, the very high-brow Packard representative in England. He had to be at the American club at one, so I told him I’d have lunch in the room and stay there. I was just settling down to lunch, as a matter of fact, when Miss Sturdee called.
She started off by thanking us for the figure. She said it was wonderful - and asked if we didn’t want it back for our children. (I had told her I’d bought it for them.) I told her I wouldn’t think of taking it back - that if I worked for Mr. Churchill I would want one - and I thought she should have one. After a few more pleasant remarks she threw in, almost casually, “If you could possibly delay your going until Wednesday, Mr. Churchill could see Mr. McGaughey at 5:45 on Wednesday in his big room at the House of Commons.”
I didn’t try to hide my excitement. “That’s simply wonderful, Miss Sturdee, I told her. “I just can’t tell you how grateful we are.”
“ I felt that it was important enough to you that you might want to postpone your departure,” she said - in such a way that I knew she meant we might open up our discussions once more with Mr. Churchill. Then she added, “And, Mrs. McGaughey, if you would care to come along perhaps we could talk together in the small room while Mr. McGaughey saw Mr. Churchill alone if he wished.”
I told her I would leave that entirely up to her, that of course I’d love to come along, that 135,000,000 other Americans would have jumped at the chance, but that I didn’t want to jeopardize anything in the smallest way.
She repeated the invitation to come along, indicated that if nothing else, she would like to talk with me again - which was very nice of her.
Well, time went by. We spent a wonderful week-end “down” in Sussex on the 400-acre country place of the William Dallases. (The main house was built in 1657. The woods they own are the woods which harbored the 1,000 Canadian soldiers who went on the Dieppe raid ... only 300 of whom came back.) We came back to town on Sunday night, had a car and chauffeur for a one-day tour of London Tower, the St. Paul’s area (everything but the church is demolished) and so on. Bill was the guest of honor at a lunch given by Brendan Bracken at his Financial Times - attended by his top editorial staff members. I had lunch with Gwynne Barker, the brilliant young woman who represents our Collier’s magazine in England. We did a little shopping ... and Wednesday finally came.
We got to the House of Lords considerably earlier than 5:45. We wanted to be in plenty of time. We climbed the various flights of stairs, walked down the endless corridors and finally found a bobbie who told us where Mr. Churchill’s chambers were.
In a few minutes - after we’d sat down gingerly in the small room’s two stairs- a hurried looking Englishman came in with a brief case full of papers. “I guess these will be safe here,” he said, deposited them on a small rear desk. Then another younger Englishman came in with another brief case full of papers.
The latter stayed. He seemed very curious about us - as we were about him. He told us, shortly, that he was the conservative party’s economist. In the midst of our conversation, the bobbie came in and told us - for he knew how excited we were, I’m sure - “Mr. Churchill is just coming into the courtyard.”
So we all snapped to. Our conversation, which had rapidly reached the jovial stage, quickly receded into formality.
Pretty soon the lights snapped on in the big room behind us and the door was quietly closed.
In no time at all Miss Sturdee came quietly out of that door. “Mr. McGaughey, Mr. Churchill will see you now,” she said.
My heart was pounding at that point. I couldn’t have carried on a conversation for that moment if my life depended on it. I pretended, of course, to be casual. But I noticed that even the economist - who must have seen Mr. Churchill rather regularly - was rather tongue-tied, too.
My sense of humor caught up with me on that. It was a good thing it did, for the door behind me opened and the first thing I knew - there was Mr. Winston Churchill, squatty little, grey-looking bald-headed Mr. Churchill - who looked almost unbearably old and tired - standing right behind me.
“ Won’t you join us, Mrs. McGaughey?, “ he asked me. I almost jumped up. “Why, Mr. Churchill!”, I cried. “I’d love to.”
That was the funniest feeling - standing there looking down at that little heavy-set man I’d seen in the newsreels and on Life Magazine and on all the posters in London streets.
He led the way into the inner room - a very large one, with a long table that reminded me of the table in Bill’s board of directors’ room - only it’s very modern, and Churchill’s room is all dark, old oak.
He indicated a chair next to Bill’s and sat down himself at the head of the table.
Bill said, as we sat down afterwards, “Well, Mr. Churchill, we didn’t bring you any papers to read.”
“ I don’t want any more,” Mr. Churchill half grunted and half grumbled, with a twinkle in his eyes.
The first feeling I had was almost of pity. He looked so old and so gray and so tired. And so fat, too - for the rolls of fat almost buried his eyes. It was only when he stretched the muscles upwards that you would get the full impact of those bright blue eyes.
He opened the subject up shortly. I”I would like to emphasize,” he said, “that I’m not making any commitments. I am merely doing a little more thinking on the subject. But am I to remain under the impression that your offer is still open?”
“ It certainly is,” Bill told him.
“ Well, it will be impossible for me to go to America this year. Too many important things have to be attended to in this country. But Mr. Bernard Baruch, a great friend of mine, has visited me here and he has invited me to visit him in March. And Toronto University has extended an invitation to me to give me an honorary degree - an invitation I would like very much to accept.”
“ This speech - at this banquet - how long would it have to be?”
“ Any length you would care to make it,” Bill told him.
He grunted, indicating, we guessed, that he wished for Bill to be more specific. So Bill then amplified. “I would say, Mr.Churchill, that a speech 30 to 40 minutes in length would be about right - if that met with your approval.”
“ Oh, yes, the radio ...” Mr. Churchill sensed the timing was aimed at radio.
“ And who would attend such a banquet?”, he went on.
“ Leaders from the steel, the automotive, the rubber, the petroleum and other industries, Mr. Churchill,” Bill said. “Men from the educational and governmental and military fields - if you wished them.” (Later on we remembered Bill had omitted Labor. Bill said he wondered at the time whether Mr. C. wanted Labor or not - and decided against including it at that moment, that detail could be filled in later.)
“ I don’t fly,” Mr. Churchill said - bearing out what Miss Sturdee had told us. “And the Queens take seven days ... that’s a lot of time.” (I later couldn’t remember for sure that he said seven, but I thought he had.)
“ Mr. Churchill,” I said, “Believe me, if they could speed up the Queens they would.”
"And this speech, would it be in New York or Washington or where?” he wanted to know.
“ In Detroit, Mr. Churchill,” Bill said. “Detroit is the great production center of the country. It is a town where there is a great percentage of foreign-born, where a speech by you could do a great deal to help cement Anglo-American relations.”
“ Some very important people have been in touch with me in connection with this invitation,” Mr. Churchill said. “Who were they?”
Mr. Hoffman, Mr. Churchill. And Mr. Hoover - ex-President Hoover. He said he would communicate with you. I don’t know whether he did or not, but he said he would. And Mr. Douglas ... Ambassador Douglas. And Mr. Chenery.”
“ Who?”, Mr. Churchill asked.
“ Mr. Chenery of Collier’s.” Mr. C. smiled faintly. (We never could figure out why, but we had heard that Mr. Chenery had once pulled him out of some trouble.)
There was a moment’s pause, so I hastened to add - for I felt he would like to have included some of the Truman crowed, in view of the way the elections had landslided, “And Mr. Lovett of the State Department, Mr. Churchill. I think you might like to know that he was very interested in your coming.”
“ And Mr. Harriman,” Bill added.
“ Averill?” Mr. Churchill smiled again. “I thought he was running a railroad.”
There was another moment - and then Bill added once more, “and Mr. Vandenberg - our senior senator from Michigan, Arthur Vandenberg.”
Mr. Churchill nodded and said, “I have great admiration for Arthur Vandenberg.”
“ What did you think of your elections?” Mr. Churchill wanted to know. We both felt he was sounding us out - and we didn’t now exactly how the wind blew. Bill decided to answer honestly.
“ Personally, I was quite disappointed.”
“ A lot of people were disappointed,” Mr. Churchill said.
” I never meddle in American politics. But I have been very happy over the way America is behaving.”
“ I was glad when F.D.R. was re-elected. I wanted him to be re-elected. And I think Mr. Truman’s party treated him very badly. Much as I like Eisenhower - I know and like Ike very well - I was shamed of the way that business was handled.”
“ Now Mr. Truman’s got REAL power,” he emphasized.
After a moment he added, “What your country needs now is continuity.”
He got back to the subject at hand.
“ If I should come to America I wouldn’t want you to provide any entertainment for me. Mr. Baruch will take care of that.”
“ People always try to be very kind,”he amplified. “They try to kill me with kindness sometimes.”
He sank back in his chair a bit and looked even older and tireder. “In these few years I have left there are a few things I must do,” he said.
“ When I wake up in the morning I look at my calendar and hope there is very little on it.”
“ My memoirs ... I must finish them. I must go to southern France in December.”
I looked at him as he talked and I couldn’t help, for a moment, wishing we could spare the old man. The half hour we were taking was costing him, I knew.
After a little while Bill said, “What shall we do then? Shall we keep in touch with Miss Sturdee?”
“ Yes,” he told us. “Miss Sturdee will know how things develop. You may keep in touch with her.”
Miss Sturdee came to the big oak door shortly after that. We knew it was time to leave. And as we filed out we realized how much time we had taken. For the room was full of the most important people in England. It was like walking past a newsreel. First, there was Anthony Eden. Then several others, including Sir Oliver Littleton. (We figured out he was the economist.) Then came Brendan Bracken.
Bill held out his hand. “I’d like you to meet Mrs. McGaughey,” he said. I don’t remember what he said at all. I was too excited. But I do remember a very pleasant look on a tall, sturdy man’s face. And I remember thinking he ought to use some kind of hair tonic to keep down his unruly blonde, wavy hair.
Miss Sturdee followed us out into the elevator corridor. I had the comfortable feeling that she was almost as anxious as we were.
“ I just can’t tell you how grateful we are,” I repeated.
“ I felt that it was perhaps important enough for you to stay over,” she said.
She asked if we had gotten down to particulars. We told her he had said to keep in touch with her. She seemed very interested in the financial arrangements and opened up the subject in a very nice way. “And the figure you mentioned - it was two to three thousand, wasn’t it?”
“ Oh, no,” we said. “It was twenty-five thousand dollars. Plus traveling expenses.”
She didn’t say so, but we could tell she thought that was a lot of money. So did we.
“ And if he comes, I hope you’ll come, too,” I told her.
“ By the way, I have something for you,” I added, pulling out one of our last year’s Christmas cards with the kids’ pictures on them. “I should have send it with the little figure, but I didn’t think of it.”
“ Are these your children?” she asked with evident interest. “And that wonderful dog - is he yours?”
We talked for a few seconds more and started to walk down. She almost insisted on walking with us. “If we found our way up, we can certainly find it down,” we told her. “We borrowed a car for the occasion - and it’s waiting in the courtyard.”
So we went on down- and back to Cruttenden. He took us back to the Ritz without asking us any questions. From there we went to the very fancy Cot D’Or for dinner - after we’d sat down and written a brief resume of the conditions and put them into writing.
We were rewarded. The next day, in a note delivered “By Hand” from Miss Sturdee, she promised to let us know if Mr. Churchill should come to America “as I feel sure he would like to do.” She also said she hoped our delay didn’t cause us any inconvenience, that she felt our visit had been “fruitful”.
It was a wonderful letter. I hope to have it framed when Bill is through with his board of directors.
And that is the story of how - thanks to you for letting Gret come up to take over my regular responsibilities - we got to see and talk with Winston Churchill, the Man of Our age.
Note: My father, William McGaughey, was then the director of public relations for the Automobile Manufacturers Association, the trade association for U.S. automobile manufacturers. His mission was to try to persuade Winston Churchill to come to the United States to address a gathering of industry officials to commemorate the 100 millionth vehicle produced in the country. In the end, Winston Churchill did not come. However, he did send a handwritten note to my parents thanking them for the Christmas card given Miss (Jo) Sturdee. The letter was mailed from north Africa. In the summer of 1951, Miss Sturdee took me (Bill) and Andy McGaughey on a private tour to the House of Commons and to Blenheim palace, Winston Churchill’s ancestral home. I believe she later came to Detroit and toured Greenfield Village and the River Rouge Ford plant. Besides being a good writer, my mother had a gift for making friends. Gret (Margaret) Durham was my mother's sister.)
(2) I unexpectedly meet Renato Ricci, Mussolini's minister of public buildings.
The sun was beginning to fade. We had spent the day walking through the thick-walled Hadrian’s Tomb, dickering with cameo salesmen in the shadow of the colosseum and wandering in and out among the ruins where, nearly two thousand years ago, stood the Roman Senate and other public buildings.
We were about the bring to a close the outing planned by my two Roman friends when one of them said with half shrug, half laugh, “Well, now you’ve seen the old ruins. Perhaps you would - or wouldn’t you - like to take a look at the new ones?”
Puzzlement must have crossed my face, for she quickly explained, “Poor old Musso ... he left his ruins, too. I was speaking of what we used to call the Foro Mussolini, but is now named the Italian Forum.”
We drove north and west, through the gardens of the Borghesi, along the magnolia-lined avenue to the ever-crowed Pincio - the elevation high above the city from which you can look down below at the Piazza del Popolo and out across the city toward the dome of St. Peter’s.
We managed to park our new Fiat 1400 for a few moments at the Pincio. All around us where every conceivable kind of vehicle, from motorized bicycle to “Topolino” (“Mickey Mouse” - the nickname given the tiny Fiat) to a very occasional American car.
Then we would our way down to the Tiber and out toward a series of comparatively new apartment buildings, finally crossing over the impressive, wide Ponte Duca d’Aosta, to find ourselves in what might have been a modern college campus deserted for the summer.
At first we were entirely alone, free to drive in any direction among the terra-cotta-colored modern buildings trimmed in starkly contrasting white laid out for all branches of physical education and inaugurated in 1932.
We stopped at the brim of the familiar-looking white marble Stadio dei Marmi, surrounded by its 60 enormous statues of athletes in all sorts of athletic poses.
Suddenly one of my companions stiffened slightly and turned to the other.
“ Do I see what I think I see?” he began. “Or am I mistaken to believe it is Ricci?” He gestured off in the distance toward where two men stood.
The other narrowed her eyes, then exclaimed with half a glance, half a questioning look in my direction. “It is Ricci. Certainly, it is Ricci.”
Who was Ricci, I wanted to know, sensing the excitement between them.
“ It was Ricci who built all this,” one waved a hand to include the stadium, the spacious, now-empty buildings. “Ricci was both minister of public building and also minister of health under Mussolini. I myself received the medal once from him for winning one of the foot races.”
“ After five years they have let him out of jail,” said the other pityingly. “Only a few weeks ago it was, that he was finally released.”
The other started to lead the way back to the car. “In the old days we knew him,” he said. “Everybody knew him.”
“ Now most people think he is dead, hanged by the heels with Mussolini.”
I asked if there were any reason why we couldn’t talk with Ricci a little. They consulted in Italian for a moment, then agreed they couldn’t see why not.
So we headed toward the former Fascist leader along the marble rim of the stadium dwarfed as we wandered on, the the tremendous statues Ricci later told us where sent by the various Italian cities to conform to master specifications furnished from Rome.
Finally we reached the balding, tired-looking man with one hand on his hip and both feet planted firmly apart - the gesture popularized by Mussolini during his many addresses to the people from the balcony of the Piazza Venetia.
With Ricci was a somewhat larger, younger man.
“ We used to work for him, this other man,” one of my guides said in English as an aside to me. “Now he has a job and he is working, But Ricci, poor man, times are very hard, I am afraid, for him.”
Introductions were made in Italian. Ricci and I shook hands gravely And in the awkward interval that followed - an awkwardness mainly induced by the fact that I speak no Italian, Ricci spoke very little English - I noted the neat, but far from new, grey herringbone suit and the yellow, soft-collared shirt with frayed cuffs.
Once the ice was broken, however, he explained, through my Roman friends, a few things about the huge project which he said was Mussolini’s favorite and had cost 40 millions before the war.
“ Now, I think,” he said, “it would cost many times more.”
In a little while he asked if the visitor from America would care to see the swimming pools. I replied that I would.
All five of us squeezed into the Fiat and drove down a graveled avenue, crossing short area paved in white marble.
“ Mussolini planned eventually to pave the whole roadway in white marble,” Ricci explained.
We pulled up under a porte-cochere in front of a series of broad stone steps. At the tope was a lone scrub woman with her pail and rags. She promptly recognized Ricci and permitted us to enter the deserted building, moving the paid and rags for us to pass, and looking silently after us.
Eagerly Ricci led the way across the grey marble hall, up a long flight of matching marble steps, - with here and there a broken or chipped section of marble lying loosely about - and opened a door leading into one of the most impressive indoor swimming pools I have ever seen. Some sixty feet in length, it was flanked, at either end, by intricate mosaic murals of athletic figures.
Pointing to the great plate glass windows and the outdoor terrace beyond one of my friends said, “Many times we went swimming in this pool and afterwards sat out there for our drinks. Perhaps it cost a lot of money, but it brought much happiness to many people, too.”
Next we went upstairs to another pool built especially for children, with overhead roofing that rolled back electrically at the push of a button to let in the sun’s strong rays.
Someone pointed out the words “Push” and “Pull” on the inside of the swinging doors through which we had entered. Ricci laughed nervously at this reminder of the American military personnel which had occupied the premises.
“ They made jokes about Mussolini - these American officers,” his companion said. “But we in Rome noticed it was three years after the war was ended that they left his Foro at last.”
Downstairs we went again, this time turning to follow Ricci through a concealed door into a high-walled chamber paneled to the ceiling in black-grained white marble. At one end of the room, some fifty feet long and half as wide, was a marble-encased coffee dispenser for the very black “explosive” coffee every Italian must have. At the other, on a pedestal almost as high as my shoulders, was a gilt statute of David - the David who slew Goliath, complete with slingshot and stone in hand. Why David was there, Ricci didn’t know. All he could say was that this was the secret chamber once used as Mussolini’s private exercise bar.
“ We didn’t even know it existed, “ my Roman friends admitted.
We looked out of the windows lining one side of the room and over a small garden in back. Austrian pines twenty-five to thirty feet high were about the only feature remaining what had evidently been quite a formal, though small, arrangement.
At this point Ricci, who had kept up a fairly steady flow of conversation in Italian lapsed into a dreamy silence.
Finally, he broke it.
“ I have been to see them so many times I almost think they know me,” he remarked fondly as he gazed below at the pines he had planted as seedlings.
In the gathering twilight we walked out of the building - this ghost from the past who had led me on the tour of monuments to the past - his companion, my Roman friends and I. Past the scrubwoman once more and down the long flight of steps we went, encountering a pair of stray Romans who stopped to stare, one of them venturing a solemn handshake.
We drove Ricci to his apartment, not far from the old Roman wall. As he and the man with him alighted from the Fiat and stood completing their farewells I noted that he unconsciously assumed, once again, the stance of the dictator - his finger ring gleaming from his hand on his hip.
“ Such as strange world this is,” reminisced one of my friends as we departed. “This was a good man - an honest man who didn’t profit from his office too much. One who criticized many things the Fascisti did, too.”
“ Now that we’ve got your democracy, the Communists hold their noisy May Day parades and can paint anything they choose on our walls. But I must warn you to write carefully of what you say about this man - or perhaps they will take him back to jail.”
That night as I sat alone at dinner in my hotel I asked the waiter who brought it to my room if he had ever heard of Renato Ricci.
“ Si, si,” he answered. “He was one of the Fascisti.”
“ With Mussolini he died,” he made the expressive throat-cutting gesture.
The next day I found myself in conversation about Mussolini with a young woman who had been “married with” an American soldier, but whose marriage hadn’t worked out too well.
Now she was back home with her family, trying to support a two-year-old daughter on a salary of 20,000 lire (about $33) a month.
“ Mussolini had many, many good intentions, “ she said. “It is only five years now - and already many of the people are beginning to have nostalgia for those days of the athletic games in the Foro Mussolini.”
What about America’s post-war help to Italy - and the Marshall Plan?
“ They did what they could - the ECA,” she said, pronouncing it as a single world and not as individual letters, as all Italians do, and speaking in the past tense, as if the program were finished and done.
America is in Italy as a friend - and we do so much need help. I am so afraid of the Russian people and of being cut off from the rest of the world. It would be so terrible - what they could do to a little country like Italy.
“ If only Italy had a few good, honest men,” she sighed sadly. “But with the Italian people it always seems they want to go out of office rich.”
(3) I visit the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough as they open Blenheim palace to the public.
“I went to Blenheim Palace for lunch alone with the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. I wanted to see for myself what the post-war socialized lottery has shaken up for the cream of Britain’s blue-bloods.
The Marlboroughs own the tremendous 300-room palace - surrounded by a 5000-acre park - which one working man described to me as “the biggest white elephant in England.”
In all honesty, I must report that the present duke, who is the tenth to bear the title, and his wife - as regal-looking a brunette beauty as any Hollywood producer could dream up to fit the role - are putting up a darned good fight.
Taxes and upkeep - the duke’s 12,000-acre holdings require some 50 to 60 employees to keep them in condition - have made it impossible for the tall, ramrod-backed, patrician-looking 53-year-old duke to consider this home his castle in the old sense of the proverb. This year, for the first time since Queene Anne, in 1705, presented the first Duke of Marlborough with the royal estate and a starter bequest of 240,000 pounds to erect suitable mansion for her favorite war lord, Versailles-like Blenheim is being opened to the public.
For about thirty-two cents (American) you can brouse among family portraits by Reynolds, fountains by Bernini, furniture by Reisner - and drool over the world’s finest collection of Powder Blue china and silver like you never gazed upon in Madison Avenue windows.
The Marlboroughs, who own all this, are somewhat bewildered at the prospect of the invasion of the thousands who will undoubtedly come to view their treasures. But they are completely unbowed.
“ I see you’ve got your roof back over your head,” the Duke quoted one of his friends as remarking to him when announcement was made of the public opening of Blenheim.
A borrowed chauffeur, at the wheel of a borrowed car, drove me through the great entrance gate and along the winding avenue which lead through the magnificent green acres toward the mansion in the distance.
A guide conducted me to the family sitting-room. The Duchess rose from her desk to offer me a cocktail. I noted the stacks of correspondence, piles of stationery and envelopes and sheaves of accounting sheets - and gathered at a glance that much of the business sense behind the establishment belonged to this woman in her late forties or early fifties who was born the Honorable Alexandra Mary, fourth daughter of Henry Arthur, Viscount Chelsea and granddaughter of the fifth Earl of Cadogan.
“ It was my husband’s decision to open Blenheim to the public,” she said, adding quite candidly, “But I’m the one who puts the extra guide in the Great Hall or sees that the carpets are turned in the State Dining Room.”
We talked briefly of her Red Cross and A.T.S. activities. She is especially interested in the Red Cross activities at Monte Cassini, was chief commandant of the British Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service from 1938-40.
The Duchess was in the process of showing me her collection of small, hand-carved elephants arranged on a lamp table by the fireplace when her husband, a very tall, somewhat portly - but very erect - man leaning on a cane entered the room.
The Duke found it considerably harder than his wife to keep the conversational ball rolling with a visiting American journalist. Or perhaps the reticence was mutual. For I found it difficult to decide whether the poker-faced aristocrat was trying to be humorous - or was merely being inadvertently funny - in his comments about Texas and Oklahoma and questions as to whether I lived in Windsor. (I live in Detroit, on the United States end of the runnel which connects the Motor City and Windsor, Ontario, across the Detroit River.)
So, stifling an old Hoosier inclination to have a good, hearty laugh now and then, I tried to respond to each of his comments carefully and soberly.
My visit with the Marlboroughs left no doubt in my mind on two scores. The Marlboroughs love Blenheim with an intensity, almost a selflessness, that a vagrant, itinerant American hardly understands. And talk about teamwork - those two are pulling together in their proud, haughty, way, to keep the operation going, like a couple of veterans.
“ Do come and see our beeches”, the Duke led the way much like my Aunt Margaret used to direct visitors to her red peony beds at the Old Home Place in Greencastle, Indiana.
We walked through a pair of French doors that gave off of the sitting room onto a raised stone piazza affording a panoramic view of the south and east portions of the park.We stood for a moment, resting our hands on the grillwork railing covered with morning glory-like vines of abretia.
“ That’s what the war did to our hedges,” bridled the Duchess, pointing toward great gaps in the meticulously trimmed yews surrounding the formal garden below me.
She explained that yews require manure fertilizer and the latter was unavailable during the war, adding with a shrug, “It will be a long time before those bare areas fill up properly.”
We walked down the sun-stained, worn stone steps, across a gravel driveway, and out onto a great green. In the midst of the green the duke turned abruptly and pointed back.
“ The finest bust in existence of Louis XIV, “ he waved toward an enormous stone bust at the height of the South Portico.
How did it get to Blenheim?
“ The first Duke took it as a bit of loot, I think,” smiled the Duchess wryly. “It came from the gates of Tournai in Belgium.”
Later, I read in the guide book that it weighed 30 tons, was put on a West Country barge which was “quite ruin’d by its weight, and was not hoisted into place until 1721. But so perfectly is it in proportion with the rest of Blenheim that it might have been carved expressly for the palace.
Back in the sitting room we relaxed for a few moments, as the Marlboroughs told of some of the trials of getting the place refurbished ( it was taken over by the government during the war) and the treasures back in place in time for summer tourists. Then a footman in livery softy announced lunch.
“ What’s this?”, His Grace inquired a bit testily when the second course - long strips of gravy-covered meat - arrived to follow the first course of quartered, hard-cooked eggs served on beds of shredding lettuce, topped with a Hollandaise-like sauce.
His wife, who refers to him as “His Grace” in front of the help and addresses him personally as Blandford (he was the Marquis of Blandford until he assumed his present title after his father’s death in 1934), took his brusqueness sitting down. With a snap of her proud chin in my direction she answered, “It’s some beef my mother-in-law in America sent me.”
I asked where in America her mother-in-law lived and she told me that the former Consuelo Vanderbilt, whose portrait and sculptured likeness I was later to see in various spots about the palace, is now Mrs. Louis Balsan and lives in Aiken, North Carolina. The Marlboroughs also have a married daughter in the United States, whose husband is a newspaperman in Pennsylvania.
With the beef from America we had tin round new potatoes dipped in parsley butter, and excellent young spinach, neatly chopped and lightly creamed, which I relished. His Grace, however, lacked that common interest with Popeye. He looked on the spinach with considerable disdain.
The next course - the footman always served me first, the Duchess next, His Grace last - was a fruit-filled mousse, eaten only by myself and the Duke. (Perhaps the Duchess’ abstinence accounts for her beautifully slender figure.) Then a cheese board was brought on, with such a bewildering array of fine cheese that I found it impossible to identify the one the Duke urged by name and took only a small portion of the cheese nearest me.
Three glasses graced our place settings at the table, an indication that the owner of Blenheim were making an all-out effort for a visitor from America. Into the first, one of the footmen poured, at the beginning of the meal, a sort of iced orange-colored mixture with mint leaves in it. “Is there orange in this?” the Duke frowned at the footman nearest him. “Yes, Your Grace,” was the meek reply. The Duke sputtered audibly, “Never want to add orange to it - spoils it.” I gathered that the liquid had originally been the British favorite - tea.
The rest of the glasses went empty, except for the port the Duke took, which I declined, at the conclusion of the meal.
Conversation during the luncheon went somewhat jerkily from one topic to another. The Duke’s English - a British accent has always presented somewhat of a barrier to this Middle Westerner - added to his mumbled enunciation, had me bending my ears almost double.
The Duchess took hold, however, whenever verbal gaps occurred.
Knowing the Mr. Winston Churchill’s birth room was at Blenheim and that both Churchill’s parents were buried at Bladon Church, easily seen from the Saloon portico, I mentioned that my husband and I had seen Churchill twice that week - first during a fifteen-minute interview at his office in the House of Commons and later - even more dramatically - at the bewitching hour of near-midnight when the “division” (voting) followed the heated debate on the subject of raising the freight rates on the government-owned railroad.
“ Just this Wednesday I had dinner with him,” brightened the Duchess.
I went on to say that we were dinner guests at the House of Commons the evening of the debate of the Richard Crossmans. Crossman is a Labor leader, and a member of Parliament from Coventry.
“ How did you happen to do that?” the Duchess asked with a mixture of humor and incredulity.
I told her that the Crossmans had been sent to us in Detroit the previous year by a mutual magazine editor-friend, that I had found them both stimulating and interesting - and Mrs. Crossman surprisingly conservative.
When I mentioned that I had attended a 45-minute interview with Sir Stafford Cripps, Her Grace wanted to know what I thought of “the man”.
I replied that he had handled the interview extremely well, that he hadn’t resorted to an old English trick I find very annoying - the trick of belittling the question if the individual being questioned does not choose to answer or is unable to do so.
“ Several things he said alarmed me for the the future of Britain,” I added. “His statement to the effect that Britain could take care of cartels by nationalizing - that frightened me.”
“ But I must say I had the feeling he is very sincere,” I concluded.
“ Yes,” said the Duke quietly - “Yes, there’s no doubt about it - he’s sincere. Sincere and very able.”
“ He gave up a splendid practice to take on the task he now has,” he reminded me of the very remunerative legal practice Cripps had abandoned to become Chancellor of the Exchequer.
We discussed education.
The Marlboroughs’ five children were largely educated at home by tutors. Only the last, a nine-year-old boy who is now away at school, has been thrown in with the herd.
I inquired as to where they found suitable tutors.
“ Tutors?” the Duke looked as if the thought were almost too ridiculous to mention. “You can find plenty of them - anywhere,”
We got on the topic of babies and I mentioned that as an American woman I wouldn’t have thought of having my babies anywhere but in a hospital if I could avoid it. “Too many British women that I’ve talked to insist they’s rather have them at home,” I opened up the subject.
“ Certainly, it’s better at home - at least we think so,” my hostess assured me. “Then you can boss things around the way you want to,” she modified the comment with the hint of a smile.
“ I’m on the board of the local hospital,” she went on. “And right now I’m having terrible problem with one woman.”
“ In the first place, I can’t get her a bed. And in the second, nobody wants the responsibility of the rest of her family while she’s off to the hospital.”
As mayor (cq) of the town of Woodstock, where Blenheim is located, the Duchess had to put in an appearance at the funeral of one of the local authorities. So she excused herself, reappeared in a moment - after donning the long gold chain of authority over the beautifully cut black dress she was wearing - and turned me over to the head guide for a two-hour tour of Blenheim’s interior.
The guide, a Scotchman who had served with the Duke in the army, turned out to be gentleman after any curious American’s heart.
I noted a tremendous, oblong silver bowl on a massive table in the Great Hall, where the official tour begins. The guide turned, and with a twinkle told me, “We tell the people the present duke was bathed (pronounced bathed) in it,” he remarked good-humoredly. “His father had it made from a collection of silver. The present duke insists it’s a punch bowl - but he’s the only one who does.”
I asked what was behind a door labeled the Rose Room.
“ Well, let’s just have a look,” he opened up obligingly.
Within were a few stacks of framed pictures, a corner fireplace into which a great chunk of soot had fallen, some beautiful parquet flooring.
“ Somebody suggested we should say this was the Churchill room,” he explained. “But the Duke said he wouldn’t have it - someone would find out it wasn’t the Churchill birth room. And now a young woman wants to rent it to show a collection of dolls.”
How did the Duke feel about letting out parts of the palace for others to profit by his ready-made audiences?
“ He thinks that when the people pay their money to see the palace there shouldn’t be extras they aren’t counting on,” was his answer.
Later, in passing through one of the great drawing rooms, I pointed to some exquisite, tiny, after-dinner coffee cups on a very accessible table. “He’d better put those things away before the crowd gets too thick,” I warned.
“ The Duke won’t put anything away,” he shrugged. “As long as they’re paying half a crown he wants everyone to have his money’s worth,” he insisted.
“ When the Marlboroughs got back from the funeral they expressed concern over something they had raised earlier - the best means of getting American tourists with American dollars to take a day off and travel seventy miles up into Oxfordshire to see Blenheim.
“ We’re out after your American dollars,” they both said quite frankly,
The Duke chewed thoughtfully on a long-thick cigar.
“ England needs those wonderful American dollars,” he mumbled softly, adding proudly, “I got my first American dollars only last week.”
(4) I have an audience with Pope Pius XII (along with 35,000 others).
My audience with Pope Pius XII today was shared with 35,000 others, including Eamon de Valera of Ireland and his wife and daughter.
I went to St. Peter’s in an American Ford, driven by Vatican chauffeur, thinks to a letter of introduction written by Father Joseph Breitenbeck of Detroit.
In that respect I was one of a very select few, for in Italy today a ride in any automobile - not to mention an American automobile - is a luxury. Taxes are high and gasoline costs just about a dollar a gallon.
So the great majority of those who go to St. Peter’s in this Holy Year do so by bus or even on foot. Some have ridden horseback, as did one old woman from the south of Italy whose picture has been in all the Roman newspapers.
All the papers except one, that is “Unita”, the communist paper, keeps repeating that there are no pilgrims coming to Rome for Holy Year - it is only Catholic propaganda,
As a tourist - a Protestant tourist - I have been to many “tourist” places. And everywhere - in the Coliseum, at the old Roman ruins, in all the numerous ancient churches I have visited in Rome, there have been great numbers of pilgrims. Led by their priests, they have come from all over the world.
This afternoon, at St. Paul’s - one of the four basilicas good Catholics must visit, the one in which hang portraits of all 264 Roman Catholic popes - I saw at least a hundred German pilgrims, led by the red-robed students priest (referred to by Romans, even by the student-priests themselves as “boiled crabs”), following lighted candles toward the altar at the center.
Yesterday afternoon, as I dickered with a cameo salesman in the shadow of the Coliseum - that incredible monument to the grandeur that was Rome which still stands in the heart of the city - I smiled and gestured until a dozen or so old women understood I wanted to photograph them with their priest.
These were the poor and the old and the hungry pilgrims my Roman friends had told me were flooding Rome. I wanted a picture of them, in their long-black, worn-out dresses, with their drawstring bags full of food from home, eagerly seeing the sights of Rome in shoes that would be dubiously received by almost any charity agency in Detroit.
As the driver honked his way - everybody honks at everybody else in Rome, even at priests and nuns - up the brand-new Via Conciliazone, leading to Vatican city, we passed bus-load after bus-load, all bound for the noon-time audience the Pope scheduled for both Saturday and Sunday of this week.
Because I’m Protestant and don’t know much about these matters Bishop Martin J. O’Connor of the American College instructed the driver to take me to the very door of St. Peter’s. A big, heavy-set man in a long black robe trimmed in the very individual purple-red everybody in Rome recognizes as the “Cardinal’s Red”, Bishop O’Connor told me he had had 700 requests for audiences this week alone, that there were 200,000 pending for the weeks to come.
So we drove past several sets of the colorful Swiss guards dressed in the red and orange and blue uniforms designed for them so many years ago by Michelangelo. Standing at attention, wearing their black helmets topped by ostrich plumes of Cardinal’s Red, they held their long black spears just as if they meant business.
Magic words spoken in Italian got me through the door, past more long lines of guards, through several big crowds of the faithful, and high up on a special wooden platform built just under the enormous statue of St. Andrew beneath St. Peter’s famous dome.
I looked silently about me. On the benches in front of me and standing raptly all around were a group of nuns from an orphanage in Verona, accompanied by many of their charges.
As we waited a voice from high above read the announcements - in Italian, French, German, Spanish and English. (The Pope speaks nine languages.)
Across from me, on the side of the famous gold-colored window of Bellini - the only bit of St. Peter’s damaged by bombing during the war - were a group of pilgrims from India, garbed in their beautiful, colorful saris. Everywhere were the women in black - the nuns, the widows, the old.
The young too, in the little black Spanish lace veil seen everywhere in Rome these days. And here and there a delegation of children, usually in black, too - many of them little boys with a dash of color in their ties.
Soon the white handkerchiefs began waving - sea on sea of white handkerchiefs, waving from as far as I could see. A sister on my right handed me her precious binoculars and I look through them toward the front of St. Peter’s, to see the white-robed Pope, mounted on a gold-embroidered chair borne on the shoulders of men dressed all in Cardinal’s Red, slowly being borne toward the tribune in the center.
Slowly, reaching out with both hands toward the people on both sides of him, and swaying from side to side, he came nearer and nearer, until he was finally just under the great dome. Then his bearers brought him slowly around the tribune so that hose to the back and on the sides would be able to see and be blessed.
He looked like very happy man, this slender, lean-faced 74-year-old Pope Pius XII, and you got the feeling that he desperately wanted to reach out to all, missing none.
There were many, many “Viva’s!” Then came his voice, acknowledging the presence of the people everywhere, calling the names of the countries and the regions and the towns.
As each name was spoken, the white handkerchiefs waved even more frantically and many were the tears from under the cowls of the nuns on our stand.
A fat old woman behind me, who came to the stand after I did, almost fell of of the bench on which she was elevated, landing heavily on my shoulder in breaking her fall. The man with her, evidently a son, was all apologies, as was she, once the tears were wiped away.
Slowly, deliberately, the Pope read the special Holy Year prayer in five languages. I listened intently to the words in English and found the softness and the liquid quality of the slightly Italian pronunciation pleasing, almost musical.
When the prayers were finished, he descended and walked among the delegation to the front and right of him. It wasn’t until later that I learned the special blessings were for the pilgrims from Ireland.
Then, to the tune of the famous song - Christ wins, He rules, He reigns (in Latin) - he passed slowly around once more on his way out among the endless sea of upturned faces ahead.
(Note: This article was printed in the Detroit Free Press on Sunday, May 7, 1950, Section D.)
(5) I learn how Roman housewives cope with daily challenges.
Roman housewives - even the most efficient and well-to-do - don’t try to budget their costs these days.
“ Now we are living day by day,” says a mother of five small children who is considered a rich woman. “We just live as cheaply as we can.”
For her household of ten - five children, her husband, herself, a cook, a nursemaid and other maid - she spends approximately 4,000 lire a day, or about six dollars. That is a lot of money in this country where a white collar woman employee considers herself lucky if she earns $33 a month and a good maid may be engaged for fifteen dollars a month.
Even this mother, who can afford 4,000 lire a day for groceries, never buys bananas for anyone except the two smallest members of her family.
Because nobody has refrigerators and also because food shops do very little delivering, this Roman woman goes shopping every morning, often including Sunday. For a time an attempt was made to shut down the shops on Sunday, but there was so much grumbling that now they are open again.
Sugar, soap and a few tinned goods - that is all she asks the shop to deliver to her house. “The meat and fruit and vegetables and fish - I buy them all myself and bring them home. Otherwise, the shop-keepers would cheat me on the weight.”
Just having everything back in the shops again was a terrific thrill for all the Italians, particularly those who spent the last war days in Rome and ate potatoes with a few drops of oil - if they were lucky - and boiled down a bone or two for soup.
“ We nearly went crazy,” said Adelia Panunzio, twenty-four-year old young woman who works in a shopping service with a desk in an American airlines building.
“ During the war our father bought a bicycle and twice a week he rode 140 kilos (about 70 miles) to a spaghetti factory where he had known the owner and bought 80 pounds of farina and brought it back home.”
“ One day - you should have been me,” laughs a Roman noblewoman who lives alone with her mother, “One day I went down to the street in front of my house to take my turn in the line in front of the public fountain for two vessels of water. And I looked down and I saw one potato! You never saw anyone so happy over one little potato!”
So now, even though things are high, there is great happiness among the Italians that they exist.
It is an old Roman custom for the cook to steal a little here and there. When she wouldn’t think of touching anything else in the house she will short-change her mistress money-wise when she goes shopping for the family or will help herself to a little food now and then. Consequently, since the war Roman mistresses have taken to doing their own shopping.
All the best food still goes to the restaurants. The biggest oranges. The nicest fish.
Nobody thinks of buying a good steak. “It is 1300 lire a kilo (about a dollar/ a pound), so we just wouldn’t dream of it - only if somebody is sick.”
Eggs for the wonderful Italian omelets at 28 lire each now that the supply is plentiful. They got as high as 40 lira in the winter.
Chopped beef and the cheap cuts of beef - the former about sixty-five cents a pound. That’s American money, remember, that sixty-five cents. All right for the Detroit automotive plant worker whose average wage is well above a dollar and a half an hour. But rough on the Italian, even the lucky Italian who has a job in a well-paying automotive plant in Turin at between thirty and forty cents an hour.
Veal for the famous veal scallopini? Never. It is far, far too expensive.
An electric stove is a rarity in an Italian household, although Italian householders are being encouraged to use electricity by an “industrial rate” which is considerably under the rate charged for lighting.
I visited one kitchen, a kitchen considered well equipped in these parts. There was an old gas range - with overhead vent. A great grey marble sink and drain board. A wooden cupboard where the day’s milk supply - two quart-sized bottles in a family with half a dozen children. And over in the corner a tiny, tiny chest that would be at home in many a small American girl’s toy kitchen - for ice in summer.
(6) Out and about Rome
Rome, in this springtime of 1950, is a city of dark glasses, umbrellas, bicycles, priests, ruins, churches, fountains, statues, tiny, tiny portions of “explosive” black coffee taken standing every few hours at a bar - and tips.
Everyone wears sunglasses because of the glare of the strong Italian sun. Everybody carries an umbrellas, too, for showers are unpredictable, and buses are crowed - and taxis too expensive to hire except for the most important emergencies when one gets caught in the rain.
Bicycles are everywhere, motorized and without motors, You can hear the whirr of the wheels and the put-puts of the motors almost all night long in almost any part of the city.
Even in other than Holy Year there are many priests, of course. But now you see them everywhere - in the long Via Conciliazone leading up the Vatican city and St. Peter’s, leading long queues of pilgrims on sight-seeing tours through the Coliseum, even walking along the fashionable Via Veneto where everybody, it seems, sits along the sidewalks to sip an afternoon coffee.
But for one who has never seen great piles of ancient ruins before, it comes as a constant surprise to find ancient columns, broken and scattered and lying in every conceivable location.
The famous Coliseum, of course, is the best-known. Great floodlights play on it at night, giving an eerie light and shadow outline for those who want to visit it after dark.
Such a strange thing it is, to see this windowless, doorless two-thousand-year-old monument to a day that is gone. There’s a very amusing saying used by Roman mothers whose children are in the child-like habit of leaving the doors wide open, by the way. “Where do you think you are living - in the Coleseo?” they ask.
But aside from the Coliseum and the ruins of such ancient landmarks as the Senate and the Temple of the Vestal Virgins - there are bits of old marble statues, tops of ancient Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns, and sections of aged walls everywhere you turn. Children use the columns to play hide and seek behind, little boys kick and bounce their Rugby-like rubber balls that every little Italian boy considers standard playtime equipment against the old masonry, baby-sitting relatives us the tops of column capitals to sit on while their charges are out for an airing.
Especially in the area around the Borghesia - a sort of Palmer Park in the heart of the city, once the estate of the famous ruling family - living quarters have been made out of the space in the ancient Aurelian walls. The government allows only artists to occupy them.
Best known of the churches, of course, are the four basilicas to which all pilgrims in this 24th Holy Year (the first was in 1300 - successive Holy Years 100, then 50, and finally 25 years apart) are paying visits: St. John Lateran, St. Peter’s in the Vatican, St. Paul’s on the Ostian Way and St. Mary Major’s on the Esquiline. Of these, in ordinary times, St. Peter’s - where the Pope holds audiences and St. Paul’s - where the gallery of portraits of all 264 Popes is located - are the best known.
But there are countless others, all with their own individuality and legends. Like the church wit the “Hand of Truth” font in the vestibule - where you place your hand through the open mouth carved in a grimacing stone face and - legend has it - you can tell whether you have been telling the truth. If you have, you can withdraw your hand. If you haven’t, you can’t. And the pretty church with the quiet courtyard entrance with the great iron door through the keyhole of which you may look at the dome of St. Peter’s. And the Church of the Three Silversmiths, high on the side of a hill, where an order of extremely impoverished nuns struggles in the enclosure beyond to look after orphan charges that are deaf and dumb.
There’s the fountain that reminds you of the one in Radio City. Only the figure in this was done by Michelangelo and you try to pitch coins into the water underneath it. And you mustn’t miss the street-corner fountain with the three oversize marble bumblebees drinking out of it. Those bumblebees were in the family crest of the Barberini, the family that confiscated so much of the marble from old roman landmarks to use in building their own palaces. (“What the barbarians didn’t do, the Barberini did!” is on old Roman saying.
All these fountains and statues and churches are a strange contrast to the extremely modern new building that is going on everywhere in Rome. Like the new Fiat building, for example, just up the hill behind the American embassy. And the row on row of very modern apartments in the direction of the Italian forum. And the great square office-buildings on the just-opened Via Conciliazone, where only two or three weeks ago the glass globes were finally mounted on the much-discussed near-sky-scraper lampposts. (Most Romans don’t like them - many think they should have been replaced with treds.)
Tips and tipping are the biggest headache for the American in Rome this year. The concierge at your hotel, the chambermaid, the waiter and the bellboy - each of them gets his cut of your lire supply. So does the soloist who sings with the musicians and stops at your table when you’re dining. So. often, does the maid where you have been invited to lunch and tea. (If you go to a big party you tip the maid who hands you back your wrap.
But when you stop to add them up, you realize that the total is far less, dollars and cents wise, than the fewer tips you are accustomed to shelling out at home, for the most part. And by the time you have been in Rome for a few days you are so fond of the place you don’t even mind it any more.
For Rome, the city where chewing gum papers are swept off the main streets almost as fast as the tourist drops them, the metropolis where anything in transportation goes - from horse-drawn ancient carriages to the tiny Fiat “Topolino” (“Mickey Mouse”) to the trucks with benches built along two dies and roll-back canvases over the top which you get into by climbing up a rickety ladder tied to the back, the wonderland of shops filled with beautiful leather goods and silk and silver and linens - Rome, you will believe, is all the guide books tell you - and more.
(7) Visit with Switzerland's foremost watch maker, Adrien Jaquerod (probably 1950)
Adrien Jaquerod, the “Boss Ket” of the Swiss watch industry, is a tall, distinguished-looking 73-year-old physicist who looks very much like Detroit’s William S. Knudsen.
Impeccable in his grey tweed jacket, white shirt with its stiff, rounded stand-up collar and bright blue silk tie, and courtly in manner - the visitor gathers at a glance that this grand old man is of the chose few who can walk with kings yet keep the common touch.
His outlook on life, too, has a familiar ring to those who knew and loved the big Danish-born immigrant who rose to the presidency of the world’s largest automobile manufacturer - and then left it in the time of his adopted country’s need to direct the very strategic war production.
His children and grandchildren are the apples of his eye. He walks home to lunch every day from his office in the Horological Research laboratory in the picturesque town of Neuchatel and spends as much time as he can playing violin with his youngest son.
Unlike Knudsen, however, Jaquerod doesn’t own - want to own - an automobile. It is only when he is in an extreme hurry that he consents to ride in one.
“I like much better to walk - or to ride bicycle”, he smiles, adding with a twinkle, “Yes, I know that in America nobody walks.”
Even when he goes up into the mountains to his little Swiss Chalet that he delights in telling American friends is older than the city of New York (the chalet was built in 1575) he walks the last three-quarters of a mile. In his nail-studded shoes, with a mule to carry his heaviest pack, he and his wife wouldn’t think of getting there any other way.
His office in the Institute - the “Swiss watch proving ground” where specialized instruments can take the heart-beat of your watch and tell whether it is off by so little as a few seconds a day - is simple and orderly. Above a desk set in a recessed section of a wall of bookcases is an arrangement of small, neatly-framed etchings of Newton and Pascal and Huygens and half a dozen other leading physicists. On top of the desk, too, are a neat array of rubber-band bound rolls that look very much like miniature camera watches and instruments, a number of them made by students attending physics classes at Neuchatel’s city--owned university at which he was a professor of physics for thirty years.
Neuchatel, a city of 25,000 inhabitants, is able to own and subsidize the operation of a good university, a college of commerce, and a conservatory of music because it constantly encourages tax-paying industry to come into the town. An interesting phenomena that - the fact that the city is primarily interest in industry because of what it gets tax-wise from that industry to glow back into salaries for professor, modern equipment and constantly improved facilities.
The laboratory, for example, would o justice to any American professor’s dream. With electrically-operated elevators, spotless terraza floors, and a roof with a view (on clear days you can see Mont Blanc, many, many miles away - across lake Neuchatel in the Alps) it also has a room for a series of control clocks mounted on cement bases in the best setting of all for good clocks - the basement.
“Always it is in the lower floors that are best for the good clocks,” he points out. “For on the lower floors one can control the temperature better and all of the other necessary things.”
This man who probably knows as much, if not more, about watches and watch care than almost anybody else n the world has this to say about them:
For a watch that will give long hard years of service, buy one that isn’t too small. The smaller the watch, the harder it is to make, the more it will cost in the beginning, the harder it will be to care for.
Don’t put “shock-proof, waterproof” watches through sadistic tests just to prove their qualities. There’s an extra shock-absorbing part in your watch to give you added protection if you drop that watch accidentally. “ Your “waterproof” watch wasn’t sealed against moisture so you could get under the shower and show off. It was done so if you do get your watch wet accidentally your precious time-keeper won’t be absolutely ruined.
Don’t be taken in by an extravagant number of jewels used in the manufacture of any watch. Fifteen to seventeen are about the maximum any top-notch watch needs. Incidentally, synthetic rubies costing a few cents - better than the real McCoy because the former are without imperfections - make the best of all jewels for watches.
Take care of your watch. Like an automobile - it can’t operate properly without oil. If you’ve a big watch, probably a good cleaning and oiling every two or three years is enough. If you’ve got a small one, you’d better take it to your jeweler once, even twice, a year.
(8) The Zellerbach Italian collection (probably 1950)
James D. Zellerbach, chief of ECA’s Marshall Plan aid to Italy, considers the Zellerbach a “one-family Marshall Plan.”
Cupboards in the Zellerbach apartment in the Grand Hotel in Rome are full of things Mr. and Mrs. Zellerbach have bought in Italy and they will show them to you at the drop of a hat.
One choice item, a beautiful lace tablecloth from Sorrento, is kept carefully locked away. But piles of other table linen sets, scarves, leather goods, Roman stripe silk skirts, blouses - many of them destined for the two daughters-in-law back in the States - lie neatly arranged in a ceiling-high cabinet in one of the bedrooms.
Visitors to the Zelerbach apartment are startled to see a life-size blonde doll, beautifully dressed in the handmade clothes for which the Italians are famous, and tiny, spotless white shoes, playing “hostess” at the coffee table in front of the fireplace. Mrs. Zellerbach purchased “her” on a visit to Florence where she first saw her being led about by a street vendor. The doll would be the delight of even the most blase little American girl, for she walks along when led by the hand, turning both her curl-covered head and yer eyes from one side to the other, taking everything in.
The Zellerbach have three “ice-breakers” for visitors who might be awed on the occasion of a first call. The doll is one. A special martini pitcher is another. Miss Ruth McCrystle, who has been a secretary of Mr. Zellerbach for twenty years - and was with him in his San Francisco paper company, is still another.
Prematurely grey (I used to be able to say it was prematurely grey, she pokes bun at herself) Miss McCrystle is a tall, slender ambassadress of American goodwill to everyone who calls. She knows all the answers - right down to where the administrator bought that beautiful Italian leather briefcase he is carrying.
The martini pitcher was made to specification for Mr. Zellerbach in a Venetian glass factory. Shaped like a teapot, it is wonderful for mixing and pouring the martinis for which he is famous. So many of his friends have asked for one that it is now being marketed both at the source and in a shop in New York which is the factory’s American outlet.
How does he make his martinis? Chill the teapot-pitcher well with ice first. Then add four parts London dry gin to one part Martini dry Vermouth. Twist a bit of lemon peel over it for the few drops of oil, taking care not to squeeze in the juice.
(9) Divided Germany (probably 1950)
Fear dominates everybody and everything in Germany today.
And it does strange things to strange people.
Monday I attended the press conference held at the Press Club here during which all accredited correspondents in the Frankfurt area were allowed to interrogate the eight officials and employes of the Polish legation in Frankfurt who that day asked asylum with the German government. Asking asylum of the German government, of course, means asking for the protection of the United States of America.
During the interrogation, the man who emerged as the spokesman for the group revealed the deadly fear behind his decision to throw himself on the mercy of another government. It was the fear that he was the next to be recalled to Poland. “The elder generations are all going to be recalled,” he said with finality.
Pressed for what he meant by the “elder generations”, he said he meant elder generations not in age, but in exposure to outside influence.
After the press conference was over - the spokesman answered questions put to him in German through an interpreter - I asked if I could see the one woman employe and the wife and thirteen-month old child of another, for those three hadn’t been present.
The interpreter dutifully relayed my question. But the young husband, who had been a driver for the Polish officials, looked frightened and quickly shook his head in the negative.
Fear did something queer to some of the correspondents present, too. The constant threat of Communist and Communist tricks lays heavily over everyone’s heads. It is only natural that correspondents, who come into quite close contact with it in collecting their stories, are always suspicious.
One of them asked when the first feelers had been put out as to whether asylum would be granted. The Pole looked around a bit, then colored. Sputtering and stammering he replied, “At three o’clock today”.
All of us present had been notified long before three that something would happen. So we knew that he wasn’t telling the truth.
Unfortunately, one member of the group, without thinking, looked pointed at the spokesman and said he knew that wasn’t the truth.
The Pole pushed his hands deep into his pockets, then said in resignation, “This investigation - I thought when I left where I was I had all that behind me.”
He could understand, he went on, that because Poland and Russia were close together geographically it was important for them to get along with each other. What he couldn’t understand - the factor that finally resulted in his severing his former connections - was that Poland is not 100% under Russian domination, to the exclusion of all private rights, the complete dependence on state.
After the conference was over I discovered it hd left in its wake two camps of correspondents. The first, including Larry Rhue (spelling?) of the Chicago Daily News, deplored the gestapo-like methods they felt had been used in the inquiry. The second defended them by pointing out that the desertion could very well be just another trick dreamed up by the Communists.
They tell me fear has lessened in Berlin. I wouldn’t know, for I have never been in Berlin before. All I know is what I picked up in the two days I spent with Kathleen McLaughlin, the New York Times‘ distinguished woman reporter who now heads the Times’ Berlin office.
Kathleen and i were having dinner with my old Columbia University professor, Howard Jones, whom Kathleen describes as wearing two hats of authority because, in addition to heading up the ECA (Economic Cooperation Administration - Marshall Plan) Berlin set-up, he is also second in command in HICOG (High Commission for Occupied Germany) in Berlin.
During dinner, Mr. Jones got up to answer the telephone. When he came back he asked if Kathleen had picked up anything about an incident on the Autobahn involving a German man and his wife and a Russian officer who joined them in their car at the check point at Helmsted, She hadn’t, but after dinner we went to the police station to which the report was allegedly given. When Kathleen finally convinced the officer in that she knew a little bit about what had happened, he admitted that some sort of a report had come to him, but that he was asked not to do anything officially.
Until I went to Berlin, I didn’t fully understand what the uncertainty of travel to and from Frankfurt and Berlin - entirely through the Russian zone - meant to Berlin.
Imagine, if you can, that U.S. Highway 12 running between Detroit and Coldwater, Michigan, were the Autobahn. Once you left the “American sector” (American-controlled) area of Detroit and entered the “Russian zone” to the west you would be on your own. Somewhere in the Irish Hills a Russian check-station would be set up at which you would show your papers and pray to the powers above that, on that particular day the officer in charge didn’t bear any unusual grudge against Detroiters. If he did happen to have a gripe on which you got to him, you would be completely at his mercy, for he would be able to hold you and all those behind you until he got over it - or some lesser prejudiced successor took over his post.
Berlin is a little island of democracy in an ocean of communism. “A show window to the East” - Howard Jones calls it, for through it all Germans, East and West, can see how much better it is to live on the American plan than it is to survive under Communism.
In June, 1948, a month Berliners long remember, the “currency reform” was finally established. Deutsches Marks were first issued to those not in the Russian zone in an attempt to establish financial stability that has proved far more successful than could have been dreamed. (Try to buy a pair of shoes first on one side, then on the other. They cost almost exactly seven times as many East Marks in the East zone as they cost Deutsche - or West Marks - in the other. There are, of course, some bargains in the East Zone - like china and figures made by the factories controlled by the Russians and sold cheaply in a desperate attempt to get Deutsches Marks.
Berlin, then, is completely surrounded by Russian-held terrain. The only reasonably safe way to travel to and from it is by air - and woe be to those in the plane if the motor should fail.
The city itself is divided into four “sectors” - England, French, U.S., and Russian. Travel between the first three is like travel from any street in Detroit to another. But all streets leading into the Russian sector - the rubble heap wherein lie nearly all the remnants of buildings that once meant Berlin to Berliners - are plainly posted.
The famous Brandenburg Gate - it looks a lot like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris or the big stone arch that spans Fifth Avenue at the lower end of Manhattan - was where we left the security of the American sector and entered the insecurity of the Russian.
Just before we left the American sector, I might add, we bought postcards from hawkers who described them verbally as “Berlin before and after” - meaning that they showed some of the more famous buildings and streets before and after the war, streets like the famous Unter den Linden and Friedrichstrasse, buildings like the Reichstag and the Kaiser Wilhelm Church and the big Altes Museum.
Once under the Brandenburg Tor (Gate), we drove down the long street lined with bombed-out buildings which the Russians were hanging high with portraits of Communist leaders and propaganda signs such as “German youth of today, the New Germany awaits you” -- all in preparation for the communist rally they plan to stage in the Russian sector on May 28.
Very, very few people were out that day, for it was Sunday and in the russian sector, in decided contrast to the American, nobody went out who didn’t have to.
I had a talk with a brave young woman student whose parents live in the East sector but who managers to attend the new “Free University” in the west.
Founded in December 1948, this Free University now as some 5000 students, an estimated 40% of them from the East Zone and also an estimated 40 of whom are young women.
Times are very hard for these young people who don’t want to attend the old Berlin University in the East Zone because it is Communist.
To begin with, they have only “East Marks”. It is very difficult to scrape together enough Deutsche Marks for books and necessary equipment for classwork. So they come to their classes in every kind of clothing imaginable.
This particular girl was wearing a dress that had been pieced together fourteen years ago from two other dresses. No stockings. Very old shoes. Another had on a skirt that had belonged to her mother, she told me, some thirty years before.
These young people take on all sorts of extra-curricular jobs. Seven hundred girls are now enrolled as “Heinzelmadschen” (“brownies”) who do everything from baby-sitting to carpet-beating. Boys go on call for hard work, such as loading trucks or washing walls.
Somehow they manage - and hope to keep managing, many with help from the Allied Women’s Clubs. But with one eye on their classrooms and the other on their fear-ridden relatives and friends in the East zone - they are the strangest student body I have ever seen.
Fear - fear of being without jobs - is a major factor in keeping the German wage level so far down and making available to those recruiting labor such an enormous supply of anxious workers.
In one big manufacturing plant outside Frankfurt I visited one afternoon, I saw none of the horse-play I have seen in so many places at home.
I talked with a woman worker in the sewing division. Because my German is so bad I couldn’t get all the facts about what she is earning, for part is base pay and the rest depends on her teamwork output with the others with whom she is working. But she seemed very grateful to be working.
Would she like to own an automobile? She looked at me almost as if I were joking, then shrugged, smiled and answered, “But it is far, far too much money for me.”
William H. McGaughey, Report from Germany (1950):
East Berliners Sulk Beneath Signs Telling of Soviet Friendship
by William H. McGaughey
A corporal’s guard of Detroiters on this peaceful Sunday morning visited the gutted capital of the vanquished Nazi dictators and rode over the ground where Moscow’s men are ruthlessly creating another dictatorship.
Nothing we have experienced or seen in Europe so far has driven home the frightful meaning of war.
A Saturday night in residential Berlin’s American sector, except for the wartime ruins down the street, was scarcely different from an early May evening in Birmingham, Grosse Pointe or Indian Village.
But an hour on Sunday morning touring the Russian sector in Berlin was like Dante’s Inferno in Twentieth Century dress - a graveyard of magnificent ruins and withering human personalities.
INDIVIDUALISM of the American type did not appear to be flourishing among the Germans living in the sectors within the control of the American democracies. But the people seemed tranquil, if not completely happy, as they pedaled along the Tiergarten.
But a different breed of men sulks along only a few yards inside the Brandenburg Gate, where Russian statism is supreme and individualism is meaningless .A Slavic sentinel, erect and motionless, in front of the Soviet war memorial near the edge of the British sector, seems to typify the monastic, obedient, servile community of men of East Germany.
A Soviet sign beckons from atop the Brandenburg gate:
“German Boys and Girls - the Capital of Germany Awaits You.”
Our 1949 American Chevrolet, driven by a grey-haired, informed American newspaper woman, who has spent the five years of the cold war in Germany, eased the car into the Russian zone at an hour when Americans normally start off for church.
For the next 60 minutes, we saw not a single Russian soldier, policeman or guard. Yet a sense of terror, real or fancied, gripped the two Detroiters in the car.
EVERYWHERE red and yellow propaganda posters caught our eyes. At the Lustgarten, temporary bleachers stood empty where the command performance demonstration of May 1 had been staged.
We drove past the platz where the Nazis had burned the books. Past the old university and the Opera House. Past a reddish, orange sign, showing two giant hands clasped in a handshake.
In front of the old university were erected pictures in brown pastel shades of Marx, Lenin, Stalin. Across the Unter den Linden pictures of the leaders of the German Communist Party were posted - Wilhelm Pieck, president; Otto Grotewohl, plrime minister; Walter Ulbricht, his deputy but actually the most powerful man in East Germany, and Dr. Herman Kastner, another deputy, whose son recently fled to West Germany.
Down the virtually empty street our car moved. Past Kaiser Wilhelm’s royal palace, now gutted, past the cathedral, the art gallery. Rubble was everywhere.
The car slowly circled Neptune’s fountain, almost entirely intact.
Back to the Gate
ANOTHER SIGN looms up in the distance:
“Long live our President, Wilhelm Pieck. Ideal and Friend of Youth.”
By now the two Detroiters and their guide were nearly back to the Brandenburg Gage. In our drive, we had seen hardly more than a dozen persons. None spoke. None appeared interested in us. The warm May sun threw a mellow glow over the street. Everything looked peaceful, quiet, deserted. But a sense of oppression seemed present.
We asked our guide about a sign saying “VVN”. She said it stood for an organization of Germans who had been in concentration camps. They organized after the war, but now the Communists have taken them over entirely.
Where Hitler died
THE CAR TURNED left into the Wilhelmstrasse, past Von Ribbentrop’s old headquarters. Then to a historic spot, the underground shelter where Hitler and Eva Braun died. Here we stopped.
The sense of the historic was too much for Mrs. McGaughey. She stepped from the car and did what the Russians strictly forbid in their sector - took a photograph. No one was around. Yet we were glad to return to the car and hurry away.
Across the way we saw the gutted site of Herr Goebbel’s propaganda ministry, rebuilt by the Russians, and now used by them for similar purposes.
A BLOCK FURTHER ON, on the Wilhelmplatz stood Goering’s concrete Luftwaffe headquarters, now housing the official offices for the East German state. A sign 150 feet long, near the roof, proclaimed:
“Long live the Eternal Friendship Between the German and Soviet People.”
Our car turned right on the Wilhelmstrasse past the former headquarters of the Gestapo, completely ruined now, and we came out on the Potsdamerplatz. Here the Russian, British, and American zones meet. Here the blazing hatred of the West Germans for their neighbors across the way breaks out from time to time, with cries of “Swine! Swine!” hurled across theLeipzigerstrasse, followed by the heaving of stones.
Today all was peaceful.
In the British zone a peaceful and benign man on a bicycle rode toward the Templehof Airport, from where we were to return to Frankfurt.
Our car speeded past him. A feeling of relief surged over us. We were glad to be leaving Berlin.
The Detroit News, Thursday, May 11, 1950
Note: The first report was written in 1948 when William McGaughey was sent to England by the Automobile Manufacturers Association to try to persuade Winston Churchill to give a speech in Detroit. The last articles were written in 1950 when Joanna and William McGaughey took a three-week trip to Europe.