Chapter 14: The Nineteen Fifties

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by Dr. Sydney Ellerton

During the nineteen-fifties the world was getting back to normality after the great upheaval of the war. At home, Lilian, John and I had the luck to be living in a fine old, historic house. It was in a pleasant country setting, though not too isolated either. As we looked down the road to the east we could see the Blackwater Estuary and Maldon, two miles away. This small town had fishing and yachting as sporting activities and a history going back a thousand years. Chelmsford, eight miles in the opposite direction, was the town for some of the more serious shopping and it had a railway station with a very frequent service, taking just over half an hour, to London. Colchester was no more than half an hour’s drive in the opposite direction and was a much more pleasant town, steeped in Roman history.

When he was five, John went to the little village school and for a while perplexed the two ladies who ran it by coming out with various words in Welsh. That was the result of having Lilian’s mother living with us for quite long periods. Lilian and her mother normally spoke Welsh to each other and John’s young ears picked up some of the vocabulary. He grew up healthily, though he did get quite a heavy dose of measles, which can be quite serious.

When he was convalescing, in 1952, one of the I.I.R.B. summer meetings came up and we went to Spain by car, hoping that a holiday in the warm sun would set John on his feet again. There were four of us, Lilian, her mother, the six-year-old John and me and it was the last big trip for the old Riley. We had fixed John up with a ‘passport’ for his favourite golliwog, familiarly known as ‘Woggy’. The officials at each frontier marked it with every rubber stamp they could lay hands on, but on entering Spain there was a big problem. Woggy was not allowed in because he had white hair, while his passport picture (from a Robertson’s marmalade jar) showed black hair. Panic reigned for a few minutes until the whole problem dissolved in smiles.

We found a nice little hotel right by the beach in the unspoilt fishing village of Tossa del Mar, north of Barcelona. Like most things, this had its funny side too. I needed to get transport to Madrid, where the conference started. I tried to get hold of Jaime, who was the local travel man, but it was a national holiday. Next day was a fiesta, when we all turned out to dance the sardana in the square to the very characteristic sound of a Catalan band. Jaime was not available that day either. On the third day I ran him to earth in his favourite bar. He said that there was no possibility of getting on a flight to Madrid from Barcelona and there was but one train. It went from Madrid to Barcelona on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and back again on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Sunday was a rest day. How could I get on the train? Well, there were no reserved seats available, but if I went to Barcelona station, saw his friend Ortego and gave him the requisite number of pesetas, I would get a seat. I did not fancy it, and foresaw the same problem arising on the way back. So I went by car!

Spain had been more or less isolated since the beginning of the Civil War in 1936 and had hardly changed in all the years. There was very little traffic on the road. In some places gangs were to be seen, doing repair work. Stones were being broken up by sledge hammer and then taken to the site in baskets, mostly by women. Filling stations were as much as seventy miles apart. I was warned about this, but ran out of petrol nonetheless. Luckily it was only two or three miles short of Zaragoza, so it was no big problem. This, remember, was on the main road from the most populous city in Spain to the capital. What it would have been like on minor roads is hard to imagine.

These summer meetings were held in a different western European country each year, at least until there were no more beet-growing countries left. Then they started on a second round. The idea was that we would travel around, seeing the sugar beet crops, visiting the research stations and trial grounds; also, of course, meeting the people and partaking of the local delicacies and maybe doing a little merry-making! In Spain it was rather different, because we were treated very specially as the first international conference of any kind which had taken place in the country since the outbreak of the Civil War in 1936. In Madrid there was a government reception for us, and there was time to look around the city a little. I still think that the Prada is the finest art gallery I have ever visited and by no means only for its collection of the Spanish masters. Rembrandts, Rubens, Van Dycks and others were there a-plenty. After this we set off on our journeyings, to Cordoba, Seville, Jerez de la Frontera, Malaga, Granada and back to Madrid. Spain is a big country and our four buses covered many miles.

They did not have much to show us in terms of sugar beet science, so the programme was filled in with other activities. There were the wonderful old cities with their Moorish architecture and there was flamenco dancing to watch and exotic Andalusian food to eat. There were bodegas to visit in Jerez, which place-name we corrupt to name the local fortified wine, ‘sherry’. We saw beets in the field, with gangs of men hoeing out weeds under the supervision of a guard with a rifle. They were some of Franco’s prisoners, out of jail for the day. We were taken to see a combine harvester of 1930s vintage, a great rarity, because Spain wanted to provide employment for as many people as possible in the fields and the importation of labour-saving machinery had been prohibited for years. Near Malaga we saw sugar cane too, at the northern edge of its cultivation and therefore not particularly good.

There was one trip which was concerned with breeding, though not of plants. It was of fighting bulls, which presented a special problem. How do you select such bulls for ferocity? For they must enter the ring without previous experience, or the unimaginable might happen and they might win the fight! What the breeders did was to carry out mock bullfights with their sisters (the young bulls’ sisters, that is) and the ones which put up the best show were the ones which were bred from. We watched several heifers put through their paces. They looked terrifyingly fierce to me and I would have hated to be in the ring.

A rather touching thing happened on the way from Malaga to Granada. Our buses went through a small town where there was a sugar factory and the locals were upset that they had not been included in our programme. As our buses passed through, we came to a total roadblock of people, determined to stop us. They made us get down from the buses, gave every lady in the party a bouquet of flowers, and trooped us all off to a hall where a fine meal was laid out. We were booked in for dinner at Granada, but that was cancelled and we finally arrived late about 2 a.m., some six hours late.

While I was away, the family had been enjoying themselves in Tossa and on returning I was able to linger there for a few more days. John, aged six, had shown us how resilient young children can be with languages. There was a little group of them, all about the same age, who played together on the beach. Between them they spoke a variety of languages; English, French, German, Swedish, Spanish and Catalan, hardly two the same. In spite of this, they got on fine together and seemed to understand each other perfectly well. There was a little stream coming down to the beach, where some of the local women did their washing. In and around the stream were hundreds of little frogs. John was not entirely popular one day, when he collected a number of them in a paper bag and liberated them in the hotel dining room!

It was pleasant to meet our Dutch colleagues, the Hendriksens and the Van der Haves, at very frequent intervals. Ton and Lidy Hendriksen were our immediate opposite numbers and we used to stay in each others’ homes rather than in hotels. This is always a delightful way to get to know people in other countries and the way they live. We would either fly to Rotterdam from near-by Southend Airport, or we would go on the night boat from Parkeston Quay near Harwich to the Hook of Holland. We got to know Holland very well and always enjoyed going there. We travelled across the dyke which had converted the Zuider Zee into a fresh water lake and through the years watched the progress of reclaiming new polders. This process was so efficiently and logically handled by the Dutch that it was most impressive. Of course we just had to go to see the tulips in the spring, both in the fields where the bulbs were grown and in the Keukenhof, where the Dutch bulb trade had planted beautifully landscaped parkland with millions of bulbs of all kinds. I went there with Ton who, in spite of having lived in Holland all his life, had never seen the bulbs in flower!

It was not so easy for our Dutch friends in 1953, when the North Sea floods had caused devastating damage and loss of life. The floods had been extensive and had caused loss of life in eastern England, but in Holland it had been much worse. For a while, no non-residents were allowed to enter the province of South Beveland, where our colleagues lived, and Ton and I met on the ‘high’ land of North Brabant, near Bergen-op-Zoom. The after- effects of the floods could be seen for a long time. Until the gaps in the sea-wall had been repaired, it was strange to see trains splashing their way through water as low tide approached. It was a little ominous too, to sit in a restaurant in Kruiningen and to see the mark on the outside wall, above ceiling height, indicating the level which the floods had reached. In some places, large boats had been washed up on farmland, as much as half a mile from the sea. This episode also cast a light on human nature. At the time of crisis, everybody helped in every way possible, often taking considerable personal risks. Later, when things settled down, many looked for ways in which they could make profit from the situation in carrying out restoration work.

Each summer there was an I.I.R.B. meeting in some country or another, almost everywhere west of the Iron Curtain except Norway and Portugal, where there was no beet industry. First, though, we had to do something about our aging Riley, which was a 1936 model. New cars were still utterly unobtainable, though it was possible to go on a waiting list for delivery years later. People used to sell their place in the waiting list, sometimes for quite large sums. One possibility briefly cropped up, however. There was a temporary surplus of Austin chassis of the type used for London taxis; sturdy, reliable vehicles. We bought one and had a shooting brake body made for it by a local body builder. We fitted the back out with a removable raised, hinged floor under which were cubby holes for camping gear, and we used it in this way for several continental trips.

In 1954 came my first post-war visit to America, this time by air. It was very different from what it is today. The flight left the intercontinental terminal at Heathrow, then a collection of wartime Nissen huts, about six in the evening. The plane would be a DC6B, a little later a DC7, from which great jets of flame would shoot out from the engine nacelles on takeoff, like giant blow-torches: quite alarming at first, especially if you had not been warned about it. If headwinds were forecast and it was desirable to top up the fuel tanks before crossing the Atlantic, the aircraft would stop in Shannon. Next stop was Gander, Newfoundland, in the middle of a bitterly cold, dark night, to another uninspiring group of Nissen huts. Gander was not north of the Arctic Circle, but it certainly felt like it. After refuelling, we would arrive in New York about 9 a.m., local time, no less than twenty hours after leaving London. The planes, with their piston engines, used to vibrate uncomfortably and they were very noisy. A few years later came the ‘whispering giants’, Britannias with four turboprop engines. They seemed to be wonderful. To get to the West, the thing to do was to buy a little cardboard box of food at the airport (then called Idlewild) in New York for in-flight refreshment on the way to Midway Airport, Chicago. Then on out west again, in another plane, with another cardboard box. For the final section of the trip up the Pacific coast, no little box was needed, for the Convair aircraft only had first class accommodation.

The American Society of Sugar Beet Technologists (A.S.S.B.T.) had its winter meetings in late February, every other year. At first I was the only visitor from across the Atlantic, but as the years went by more and more attended. The meetings used to take place in fairly regular sequence in Denver, San Francisco, Salt Lake City and either Detroit or Minneapolis, all places near to areas of commercial sugar beet production. Each meeting took several days. There was a plenary session in which some local bigwig made a very forgettable speech and after that there was a division into sections. Naturally I went to the sessions of the Breeding and Genetics group, though there were occasional problems when some interesting item of, for instance, plant pathology, clashed as to time. One evening the ‘Breeders’ Forum took place, an informal discussion which was usually very interesting. I confess that I used to enjoy playing devil’s advocate with the Americans, since they were so imbued with the idea that the principles of hybrid corn (maize) breeding were the only ones to apply. That was good-natured fun. It was at these meetings that I got to know so many American sugar beet researchers, both in the sugar companies and in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and among them were the Great Western Sugar Company research staff. I ultimately made a joint research arrangement with their company.

The Great Western Sugar Company, known simply as ‘GW’ was the most important beet sugar company in America at the time, with factories in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Ohio and elsewhere. The head office was in Denver, Colorado and the research station was at Longmont, some 40 miles to the north. It was there that I went in the following summer, to meet the folks on their own ground. Harvey Brewbaker (‘Brew’) was in charge, in his fifties at the time and well-liked by his staff. He had a memorable idea as to how to introduce me to them. Longmont, over 4,000 feet high, is within sight of the Rocky Mountains and we all went to the Rocky Mountain National Park and up on to Trail Ridge Road, over 12,000 feet above sea level in the midst of spectacular scenery. There were wonderful views all around, especially of the 14,000-foot high Long’s Peak and of the deep, dark craggy corries on its flank. We had a barbecue meal and it was a great way to get to know each other. It was the first of many meetings, on both sides of the Atlantic.

The head of GW at the time was Frank Kemp, tall, grey-haired, rather gaunt and with an air of authority. His base was an office in what was known as the Sugar Building in Denver, a well-furnished room with a fine Frank Remington painting on the wall behind him. It was of a cattle roundup in Kemp’s home state of Montana. He spent a good deal of his time in Washington D.C., lobbying on behalf of the entire sugar industry. There always had been a lot of politics in the beet sugar industry which had been founded on various forms of subsidy and still required protection from the cold winds of the open market.

Frank was not good at delegating and when he was away it was often difficult to get a decision about anything. The company was run conservatively and funds were retained to cover possible losses in the bad season which was bound to happen sooner or later. This was to be its ultimate downfall, for the take-over boys saw rich pickings in its coffers. Unlike Harvey Brewbaker, Kemp was an American isolationist and saw little chance that the rest of the world could usefully tell America anything at all. He did thaw out one year, though. He came to see us in Essex and went over to Southminster, near Maldon, where some of his family had originated. The place was still full of Kemps, fishermen and the like. He was thrilled to have tea with the vicar and to look at the Kemp gravestones and he left a sum of money for the church. Very briefly he forgot that he was American and became more British than the rest of us. I felt sorry for him in later years. He had married Katharine, a very good-looking lady much younger than himself, who led him a real dance, getting all she could out of him while treating him with contempt. Not long after he died, she found another rich man to marry, the third. Many tales could be told about Katharine. One concerned Fifi, her poodle. The Kemps had a very nice colonial style home in South Denver, which Frank liked. Katharine, though, wanted a penthouse in a new apartment building then under construction. She went along and enquired, but was told very definitely that tenants were not allowed to keep pets. Katharine tried to exercise her charm, which was considerable, but to no avail. Then she had an inspiration. “How about owners?”, she asked. Well, she was told, there did not seem to be any rules about that. So Katharine bought the penthouse at great expense, presumably with Frank’s money, and Fifi was in!

In 1948, Boy Clark and I had been to Warsaw and had managed to enlarge our interest in British Pedigree Sugar Beet Seed Ltd. The next phase of this story came ten years later, in 1958. The communist government of Poland still kept its citizens pretty much confined, but Stefan Byszewski had for the first time obtained an exit visa, to visit Belgium and Britain. His wife and family had to be left behind, as hostages as it were, and he should have had a ‘keeper’ with him in the form of a sound and reliable party man. This man’s health proved to be less reliable than his politics, however, and he conveniently fell ill too near to the time of Stefan’s departure for a replacement to be appointed. So we were able to meet, keeperless, the chairman of Buszczynski’s, in England. Of course Dr Ruberl had no difficulty in coming in from Italy to join us.

It was a strange meeting. Boy and I sought to buy the Polish-held shares in our company. Neither of us had enough money, but we had covered our tracks there. For some years we had been supplying mother seed to Johnsons’ of Boston and now they were looking for a new arrangement. It was agreed that, having hopefully bought the Polish shares, we would sell part of them to Johnsons. After all this was done, we re-named our company Bush Johnsons. Why Bush? Well, we had been selling sugar beet seed to British farmers for years and we had realised that they would have great difficulty with the name Buszczynski and for that reason we had shortened it to Bush.

The Poles were willing to sell and had no interest in a high price, because the money would only have gone to the communist government, which they had no desire to support. What they wanted was to sell as cheaply as would seem decent, but to have us put a much larger sum of money into a private bank account in London. We had no objection to this and could sympathise with their wish to have a nest-egg outside the communist orbit. However it was illegal, because there was a British government tax on share transfers and we were about to buy shares but at the same time to conceal a much larger payment, so evading the tax. What were we to do? We found a lawyer in London who specialised in Eastern European affairs and his solution was simply that we should approach the Treasury for guidance. The reply came that it was our government’s policy at the time to liquidate Iron Curtain holdings in British companies wherever possible and we were told that we could go ahead with our plan. So that was how it was done.

Before all this happened I had been sought out by a couple of ‘headhunters’, one from New Zealand and one from the Caribbean. Otto Frankel was in charge of cereal breeding in New Zealand and came over to recruit a second-in-command not very long after the war. For a few years I had spent some time testing some novel breeding methods in wheat, basically developments of Harry Harlan’s population studies in barley. They gave the prospect of very large-scale breeding for grain yield without too much human intervention or too much cost. It was based on the concept of letting natural selection on hybrid populations do much of the work normally done by the breeder. Frankel arrived, thinking that the new international threat of the atomic bomb would lead any one of us to rush at the first opportunity to the relative safety of the southern hemisphere. He was astonished not only that I turned him down, but that others he approached after me did likewise. He returned to New Zealand only briefly: six months later he took up an appointment in Australia. The job he offered would therefore have turned out better than it appeared at the time. Years afterwards I visited the breeding station near Christchurch in South Island, New Zealand, and felt quite pleased that I had not gone there to work.

Britain is my favourite country to live in, but sometimes there can be a succession of raw, sunless winter days which make one long for the warm sun. On one such occasion it was even more so, for we had young John in bed with a middle ear infection, a legacy of his measles. Just at this moment came an offer of a job, sugar cane breeding in the Caribbean. It would have meant being based in Barbados and running sub-stations in Guyana, Trinidad and Jamaica. It was most tempting. The offer itself must have originated from some person who thought that sugar beet and sugar cane breeding must be much the same thing. The sugar is certainly the same, but the plant, and consequently the breeding methods, are utterly different. I suspect that the instigator was my former Bangor fellow­ student Bob Innes, of Jamaican bauxite fame.

After a spell at the village school, John was transferred to the privately-owned Elm Green school, a few miles away. It had a very fine reputation and Lilian and I ran a ‘taxi’ service jointly with some other local parents, taking the children to school and back. Then John went a little further afield again, to a preparatory school just the other side of Chelmsford, and the parental taxi service was quite a lot longer. The alternatives of the state and the ‘public’ school system in Britain did not present an easy choice. They had both advantages and disadvantages. When I went to Cambridge, a majority of my fellow-students had been through the ‘public’ school system and they seemed so self-assured in so many ways that I felt rather disadvantaged in comparison with them. They seemed to get all the best jobs, too. This, I think, was an important factor in our sending John to Oundle, a public school which had quite a reputation in science and engineering, as against the classics for which many of them were noted. To get into Oundle, a school about 100 miles from home, John first had to pass the Common Entrance Examination, as it was called, at age 13! He passed, though we hadn’t much doubt that he would. John had always been able to do extremely well anything he set his mind to not surprising for, according to an I.Q. test he was submitted to, he had a score of 147.

For me there was a curious and peculiarly British happening in the early 1950’s. The first I knew about it was a letter from the Lord Chancellor’s office asking me whether, should I be asked, I would be willing to serve as a Justice of the Peace. I agreed and in due course was sworn in, in the county town of Chelmsford. I joined the limited number of people, mostly armed forces, who were asked to swear an Oath of Allegiance. I mention this, because Americans are doing it all the time! I did it just this once and most people do not do it at all.

Sitting on a bench of magistrates is a curious experience. Individual attendance was usually for a day every two weeks, though sometimes there were emergency sittings at very short notice. Of course there was no question of any pay. Usually three of us sat together, sometimes five, though whenever possible we avoided even numbers so that there would always be a majority decision. We were appointed mysteriously. There was a committee, the membership of which was not publicly known, which made recommendations. I strongly suspect that Arthur Ingham, my headmaster friend, was responsible for suggesting me. In one way or another we heard all the criminal cases in the area, which was known as a Petty Sessional Division. All such cases, from parking offences to murder, came to the court. We had no legal qualification, though there was present at all hearings a Clerk to the Court, who was qualified, and to whom we could refer on points of law. There were three categories of offence. At one end was the fairly trivial, on which we gave a decision as to guilt and determined the penalty. Then there was a whole list of intermediate offences, where the defendant could elect to be tried by us or alternatively before a jury. We also had the option of sending such a defendant to a higher court if we thought that our powers of punishment, up to six months in prison, might not be enough. Finally, there were the gravest offences. We could not try these, but had the duty of hearing the evidence for the prosecution, which was written down as ‘depositions’ for the help of the higher court. In theory the accused could file depositions but the defence normally preferred to keep quiet at this stage. We had the duty of deciding whether there was a prima facie case for trial. If we thought not, we could dismiss the case, but this would have been a very rare event.

Nowadays, new magistrates are required to take some training. In my day, it was not obligatory and much of the learning was done by sitting in court to see how cases were dealt with. I read appropriate books. I was appointed separately to the Juvenile Court panel, and to get some experience there I got permission to attend a busy juvenile court in London for a day. They had as many cases in a day as we would have in months. Permission had to be obtained because Juvenile Courts are closed to the public. The press could be represented but the name of any young offender could not be published.

I soon realised that criminal cases could really be funny, on rare occasions at least. There was a bright-looking young boy, maybe 11 or 12 years old, up before the court for throwing stones at the ducks on the lake in Regent’s Park, contrary to the Bye-laws of the Royal Parks Act, paragraph etc. etc. An imposingly uniformed park keeper gave evidence. Having done so, the boy was asked if he wanted to ask any questions. “Yes”, said he, “did you actually see me hitting any of the ducks?”. “Well, no”, said the keeper. “So you are saying that I was aiming at the ducks and was a rotten shot?”. “I suppose it amounts to that”, said the keeper, rather guardedly. “Then”, said the boy, “if I told you that I was a good shot and was throwing stones at the spaces between the ducks, would that be contrary to Bye-law so-and-so?”. It had to be admitted that it would not and the boy got off scot-free!

A few cases stuck in the mind as different, and interesting, but it was mostly routine. There were other duties at the time. Once every year or so, the turn came round for me to sit at a higher court in the county town, along with a legally qualified chairman and a jury. Cases could take days. Also I was very often asked to be present, as the law then required, with two medically qualified people, to determine whether a person should be certified insane, and so detained against his will in a mental hospital. This was always sad, though it must be said that some of them, in spite of a history of very strange behaviour, could suddenly turn very normal when faced with a little committee of three, out on a mission which they understood perfectly well. On other occasions we would visit prisons and also institutions for young offenders, so that we could see where we were sending some of our miscreants.

I retired from these duties in 1965, when more frequent absences overseas made it difficult for me to pull my weight and too many extra duties fell on my colleagues.

During the fifties I had been making trips to America, usually by air but on one occasion by sea: by the French Line, going out on the Ile de France and coming back on the Liberte. I had made many good friends in America and had very much enjoyed the visits. The time had come, by 1959, when Lilian and John were understandably getting more insistent that they would like to join me on such a trip. I was able to organise a spell of no less than eight weeks away from home, much longer than any other such occasion during my working career. I spent a little of this time visiting Great Western and also a couple of U.S. Department of Agriculture research stations, but most of it was a wonderful holiday. We took our car, a yellow Ford Consul, aboard the Holland-Amerika liner Rijndam to Quebec and at the end brought it back on the Maasdam from Hoboken, New Jersey. We were a day late in Quebec. There had been an iceberg warning which necessitated a detour of about 500 miles. Nobody aboard wished to emulate the Titanic.

The trip was a real high spot. First of all, there was a glimpse of French Canada, of Niagara Falls and then a rather quick journey to Flagstaff, Arizona. This part of the trip was more hurried than intended, to make up for our extra day at sea. Across the Middle West we drove no less than 1450 miles in two days, but Lilian and I shared the driving and the roads were good and had light traffic. At Flagstaff we met our friends the Dennstedt family, Norman, Janet and their two children, Joyce and Larry. Flagstaff had its annual Indian gathering in full swing, Indians of many tribes, dressed traditionally, performing their various dances and competing in a rodeo. It was a new world for us all, but especially for the children. On the way to Flagstaff and after we left, we passed through deserts and forests and saw all sorts of wonders: the Painted Desert, the Meteor Crater and the Petrified Forest. After leaving Flagstaff we saw the Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce National Parks, Las Vegas (a very different kind of wonder!) and then California, where our friends the McFarlanes lived. John McFarlane was director of the premier U.S. Department of Agriculture beet research station at Salinas.

We met John and Lois at Fresno, in the boiling hot Central Valley and they took us up into the mountains, to Yosemite and to see the giant redwoods. We were a shade nervous, sleeping in a tented cabin in the Yosemite Valley and hearing bears snuffling about just on the other side of the canvas during the night. I had been there before but in mid-winter, when the bears were all soundly asleep. The American national parks are just fantastic and it was great to be enjoying them together. The fact that they had been set aside for the enjoyment of the people no less than 100 years previously was one of the best examples of foresight known to me. Up in the mountains it had been delightfully cool. Back in the Central Valley at Fresno the temperature was 115 and at Salinas, close to the sea, it was around 60. Such is California. On the way through, particularly at Hollister, we had seen the effects of some of the state’s earthquakes. From Salinas we went to the nearby Monterey Peninsula. I had planned to go there with Stebbins in 1938 and now I was really there, just 21 years late! At Carmel, John realised his ambition of a swim in the Pacific Ocean. It was cold, as it usually is off the Californian coast.

There were so many other things too, meeting Lilian’s cousins in Reedley and Placerville, California, visiting San Francisco and Berkeley and then crossing more deserts to meet up with the Brewbakers in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. With them we visited Aspen in its outstanding mountain setting. We went camping in the Rockies with the Oldemeyers, Bob, Shirley and their two daughters. Bob was Harvey Brewbaker’s right-hand man in the breeding department at GW. Jan Oldemeyer was about the same age as John and together they built a raft which duly capsized, or rather disintegrated, in the middle of Lake Brainerd, a lake fed by icy water from melting mountain snows. That might have been serious, but proved merely to be a scare.

From Colorado we headed east, again not spending much time in the generally featureless Middle West, through the flat farm land and then into the much more pleasant countryside of Pennsylvania and Maryland. In 1959, very few foreign tourists travelled in America, and still fewer took their cars with them. The right-hand drive was a complete novelty and I remember being pulled over by a policeman who admonished Lilian for not paying proper attention when driving. Actually I was driving while she was filing her nails, a fact he had not appreciated. Another thing was that the big, traditional American car was nearly universal at that time. Cars in those days had to be serviced every thousand miles or so and our much smaller Ford Consul, though not that small by European standards, would not fit on some of the garage hydraulic lifts. The wheels were too close together.

We had a couple of days in Washington D.C. and again in New York City before driving through the tunnel under the Hudson River to catch our boat in Hoboken, New Jersey. It was the best holiday we were ever to have.

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