happiness

Mom’s Tour de France 11 (FGK 102)

I know mom was really annoyed at Grandma for sending these letters in to the paper to be published (can you imagine how annoyed she’d be with me posting these again 60 years later hahahaha) but I am so glad Grandma did – this was a Mom who I never knew and I’m so honoured that I get this little peek into her life post polio but before Melissa.

I had to chuckle when mom was describing how she wanted to learn to cook while in France. If she got French cooking lessons, we never benefited from them. But not only was cooking not really mom’s thing, it was physically difficult for her and became more so the older she got. A bonus of this – that I didn’t realize until I was older – was that it meant that my sister and I got a dad who did a lot of things for and with us that many dads in the ‘70s didn’t do. I grew up thinking it was normal to have a dad who helped around the house and who spent time playing with his kids. It wasn’t until I became a bit older that I understood what an anomaly he was – especially for the time.

November 13th, 1960

Dear Folks,

You’ve all been neglected in my writing lately! I thought I would have lots of time this weekend because Gail went to Belgium and I stayed here, but I didn’t even get any studying done. Thursday afternoon we went to have tea with a French family in one of the suburbs of Tours. It is not one of the wealthy sections of town but it was a very clean and happy home. The tea was very simple but good and the family just sat there and fired one question after another. I’ve never been in a home here yet without having to get out the map and show them where I live. I wish I’d collected more snaps to bring. They made me feel just as home because we sat around the kitchen table to talk and drink tea.

Friday was Armistice Day (Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!!) so Tours had an Armistice celebration. There were both French and American troops with a band and flags all over the place. Some men were decorated with the Legion of Honour also. At noon that day I was invited to lunch with a doctor and his wife who are from the more wealthy class. The meal was served by a maid in uniform and there was a vast array of knives and forks from which I invariably chose the wrong utensil. I was in the awkward position of having everything passed to me first so I had to decide how to manage it. In spite of all this the afternoon was just fascinating because they were such excellent conversationalists. There was a German student there also and they were discussing the last war (he could really speak French, I just listened) among other things. I was very interested to see how they felt about those things and about the present world situation. The French have an opinion on everything and every opinion is different. I wish so much that I could speak the language better to try and understand some of their positions. I still haven’t reached the point where I can carry on a good conversation or even understand everything that is said to me. After speaking French for six solid hours as I was on Friday, I’m just exhausted. This is really an experience though, because they tell us it is very difficult to be invited into the French home – and I’ve reached the point that if I’m invited to another I’ll never be able to waddle off the boat.

Gail and I met two girls from the Lyiee, Suzanne and Danielle, who came to visit us a few times and took us to see the movie. We had them over for dinner here on Wednesday night to show them some of the building. They are really just darling girls and have been so helpful because they take time to speak slowly and to correct our mistakes. We’d forgotten that Wednesday was the night we got the election results so everyone here was quite boisterous (the democrats that is). But they understand when we told them Americans didn’t sing at the table all the time. After dinner some students from the French med. school came over in an impromptu demonstration for Kennedy. They were dressed up in red, white, and blue costumes and made all sorts of comic speeches – half French, half English for us. They also sang some students songs (which we didn’t understand but I was told it was better) so we sang some back to them. I believe med-students are the same no matter what country they’re in.

On Saturday, Suzanne came by in the afternoon and we walked over to her place and then to Danielle’s house which is on the other side of town. Here we listened to some records (I tried to translate an Elvis Presley song into French for them but even I can’t understand it). They both have penpals in New York and have saved up all sorts of post cards so of course I had to describe our one rushed day there. They are just as fascinated by the idea of seeing America as I was of seeing Europe. On the way back, Suzanne took me to a patisserie to have some more yummy cakes and some tea. She also invited me to Sunday dinner at noon. I had mentioned how I would like to learn how to cook some French dishes so she asked me if I would like to come early and watch her make the meal. Her family have a boucherie (butcher’s shop) in a narrow winding street in the old part of town. It’s near a building where the man who made Joan of Arc’s armour lived. They live in behind the store. I was just overwhelmed to see all the work that goes into these meals we have been having with a family and what an occasion it is to have even just one insignificant guest like me. I’m sure they weren’t very wealthy but they just put out the very best of everything they had. This has been the case in every place we’ve gone to. Each plate was a masterpiece and Suzanne worked lovingly over it. The frustrating thing was I couldn’t express myself well enough just to let them know how much I appreciated it. I felt so guilty having all that done for me and know how much it was probably costing them. During the meal I go the usual questions about America and the atlas was brought out again. I’m beginning to feel like a walking encyclopedia- but I hope I’m giving the right answers to all these questions!! I had to sample their best wine and tried almost every cheese they had- I couldn’t even go to supper tonight I was so full. Her mother invited me back again to do some cooking. I told her that it took all my ingenuity just to work a can-opener! They don’t know what they are letting themselves in for.

Did i tell you we are going to Rome for 10 days on November 24th? It’s one of the trips conducted by the university. We have to pay $25.00 and for one meal a day but all the rest is paid for. I’m really excited about it.

I’m not sure where I’m going for Christmas. I may go to Vienna if the roads are good and if the weather’s fine. If not I may go to Spain or inland. I would rather wait until spring to see England as i don’t think the weather is too pleasant there now.

Tell somebody to write, yours are about the only letters I get.

Love,

Margi

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Mom’s Tour de France 9 (FGK 100)

I can’t believe I’ve hit 100 posts From Grandma’s Kitchen!! I am so grateful I’ve got these letters to share.

This is the second half of the letter describing mom’s trip to Germany. I noticed again that she mentions stealing apples off of trees to snack on. I had always figured it was dad who taught us to steal fruit – but now I wonder if maybe mom also had a hand in that. As children, when we would vacation on Vancouver Island, dad was famous for pulling over on the side of the road and sending my sister and I into the ditch with buckets. We had to stand amongst the prickly thorns and pick as many blackberries as we could, as quickly as possible. The drive back to Calgary after our vacations was always a very pungent one as flats of berries sat on top of our luggage.

Her description of the little parade watched reminds me of the Cochrane Labour Day parade when I was a kid. I think the only people watching the parade were parents of kids who were in it- everyone else was in the parade!

Mom bought a camera! I will have to dig around and see if there are any photos of her adventures in Europe.

About seven we got hungry but didn’t know where to find an inexpensive restaurant. While we were going through one of the towns we saw a Shell Station. We knew it would be German, but it felt so good to see a familiar sight that we stopped there to ask where to find a place to eat. Luckily the attendant knew a few words of English and with our few words of German he directed us to a lovely little wooden restaurant. We went in what we hoped was the right door and seated ourselves around one of the tables- which were similar to picnic tables. The waitress couldn’t speak French or English, but we got a menu by gesturing- then the fun started, because we were just starving but couldn’t understand the menu!! We spent about 20 minutes trying to decipher it . By this time a man and his wife had sat down at our table. Everyone in the room was very amused but we were getting hungrier and discussed in English where we should ask them if they would help us. Finally the man leaned over and said, “This is a very good meal!” He spoke a little French and English!! For less than a $1.00 we got a huge platter of meat and mushroom sauce, a platter of spaghetti, and a big salad among the four of us. We were so hungry we ate almost all of it. It was just delicious. We ended up having them all teaching us how to count in German and a few more sentences – like how much does it cost etc. We got into Ulm, which was our destination for the day, fairly late but found a hotel right away. It was new and clean. Our beds had the great big German feather mattresses on them – which made it very difficult to get out of bed the next morning!

Breakfast was served by a quaint old German lady who loaded us up with extra bread for lunch. As you probably have guessed by this time, bread and cheese is the cheapest meal you can get over here. We visited the church (I sent you a post card of it) and attended the service there which was Protestant. (Munster in Ulm an dear Donau hochster Kirchturm dear Erde (161m) Munster (cathedral) at Ulm on the Nonnau highest steeple of the earth (161m).

From Ulm to Stuttgart we were on one of the German autobahns. These are just marvellous – the same thing as a freeway. At Stuttgart our troubles started – everyplace we drove while we were in that town we got lost. We had to count an extra hour whenever we wanted to go somewhere just to get ourselves untangled. After crossing the city about three times we finally got on the right road for the campus of Stanford in Germany. This is in the country near a tiny village not far from Stuttgart. We could see the buildings in the distance because it was at the very top of a hill, looking out in all directions. The sides of the hill are covered with vineyards and apple trees. There is a tiny winding road up to the top lined with trees, from which we took some apples because we hadn’t bought any. We got a great reception from the students there, it was almost like coming home – to meet someone who spoke English!! They showed us all over the centre. We both have different advantages. They live in the country, get to know the people of the village very well and have a homey atmosphere. We have more of the advantages of living near a big town and can meet more students and our building is more modern. Since they have been established longer than we have, they have a few more things – like a record player and more books in the library. Remember this time last year when I was dying to go to Germany? I am still just fascinated by the language and would love to learn it. After taking a walk around the village, we went back to Stuttgart to see Christof, Gail’s friend. He is one of the nicest people I have met over here. We had supper with him and his sister. It was a very simple meal consisting of German bread with cheese and liverwort. Their company was so enjoyable that it was one of the best meals we had. They served some apple cider that had just started to ferment. It was delicious. I wish that it could travel so I could send some for you, but you have to drink it at a certain stage. Christof studies physics at the University of Stuttgart and he had a book on his shelf that was written by Ruth’s father who is a professor at Cal. Christof is also an amateur photographer – some of his pictures were really terrific. He gave us all one as a souvenir. This hobby comes in very handy because the next day he took us down town to buy cameras. I have a fabulous Zeus camera which I got for $50.00 off because someone had exchanged it. I am so excited with it I can hardly wait to run out and get some pictures. I’ve seen so many things since I’ve been here, it’s just killing me without a camera. We walked around the streets of Stuttgart a bit and then went to have a lunch at a milk bar. We had some German bread and pastries for next to nothing. They even sold milkshakes but we just had plain milk. That afternoon we headed for Baden-Baden and the Black Forest. This was one of the prettiest parts of the whole trip. On the tops of some of the hills we could see old ruins of castles. Down in the valleys, here and there we could see a little town. The forests are very well cared for. We could see where they had been re-forested after lumbering. At the top of one of the hills we came across a little store run by two little old men. We stopped here to buy some cookies. We went to so much trouble and get all this in German that he gave us chocolate bars to eat long our way. After leaving the Black Forest we took the Autobahn to Strasburg. The Rhine is the border between France and Germany here and we were caught in a traffic jam on the bridge, trying to get through French customs. They were looking in the trunks fo cars – and we had five cameras plus a lot of odds and ends from Switzerland. We decided to say we were tourists so went in that lane but the little man didn’t really believe us because we had French license plates. We more or less just drove off before he could figure the whole deal out. We spent the night in Strasburg in a tiny hotel in the old part of town. The street we were on was really interesting – hundreds of years old. The people there speak a mixture of French and German – I didn’t think they know what they are half the time. The next morning we visited the cathedral and threw a stone in the Rhine. Since we were quite far from Tours and this was our last day of holiday, we had to drive straight back. We hadn’t seen this part of France before though, so it was quite interesting. I saw some Herefords in a field. There was also some big stacks of baled hay – much more than around Tours.

It was All Saints Day and in some areas of the little villages we passed through they were holding services and parades. Everyone in the village was in the parade so there was no one to but us to watch them. We got back in Tours about seven thirty, in time to compare our experiences with those of the other kids who had gone travelling in all directions.

Margi Copithorne

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Mom’s Tour de France 8 (FGK 99)

I was emailing with my aunt the other day and we were discussing mom’s trip to Germany. I wasn’t sure if she would have included it in these letters, so I was very happy to see this trip in today’s letter. The story I got from mom was a bit more dramatic and involved the guards walking out, fully armed, and pointing their guns at the carload of girls. Chances are mom embellished the story to make it a bit more exciting, but chances are just as good that she completely downplayed the border crossing in her letter so as not to freak out poor Grandma.

I am amazed at how strong and agile mom was. I do remember as a kid how much she was able to do – but the a trip like this must have taken such courage! Even her description of sitting under the trees having their lunch – for mom sitting on the ground was not an option because she couldn’t get herself up after. She must have trusted these girls she was travelling with. Quite the different life from 5 years before when she was 4 years into her hospital stay. It really is proof that you never know what is coming ahead for you in life. What if she had listened to the doctors who said she would never even sit up again? What a great life she would have missed out on. Thank goodness for the determination of Grandma and the support of her family.

November 2nd 1960

Dear Everyone;

Here at last is that long promised letter. I have just returned from a fabulous weekend to find mounds and mounds of work waiting for me. I don’t have the nerve to face it so I’ll write a letter instead.

We had a pleasant surprise last week when we discovered that the French celebrate All Saints Day. This meant that our French teachers refused to come on November 1st. We talked to our other professors into giving up their classes on the following weekend so that we could have from Friday to Wednesday free.

Gail knew a boy in Stuttgart who was a close friend of a friend here and who had invited us there for a weekend so we decided to try our luck at German. Together with Pat and Ruth, two close friends of ours, we took a car and headed east early Friday morning towards Switzerland. We had stopped at a little grocery store the night before and were well stocked with French bread, cheese, and fruit which was to be our lunch throughout the whole trip. Neuchâtel, Switzerland was the goal fro our first day. We drove along the Loire for the first hour and then headed off into the farmlands of Eastern France. These were just gorgeous with the red, yellow, and orange leaves against the dark green of the grass. At first, the terrain was quite flat with lots of forest but few hills and then gradually there got to be more and more knolls. We stopped for lunch at a little village on top of a hill. At the very peak of the hill there was an old Abby part of which was built in the 9th century. There were still monks living in the same old building – probably rebuilt. We ate our lunch out under the trees in the church garden From here we could see for miles up and down the valley. It would have been a good place for a fort. From here on we kept going into more and more hills until we hit the Jura mountains – which really aren’t too high but which are very picturesque because the towns are all in the valleys when you drive into one you get the same view as we get of Banff from the top of Sulphur Mountain. We drove through here at the hour when all the farmers were taking their cows home to milk them and many a time we had to yield the right of way to a big bossy looking creature with a bell around her neck. These bells sound lovely in the evening when they are all going home and there is a peasant going along behind chasing them with a stick. We crossed the Swiss border just at twilight. All the guard did was look at our passports – much to our disappointment, he didn’t even mark them so now we cannot show off all the places we’ve been to. We got to Neuchatel fairly early and were able to find a nice hotel near the centre of town. It was right by a market place where we went out and bought carrots the next morning. We met some Americans who were studying there and who told us where to go for our meal. It was a charming little restaurant where we had soup and a big main course for about 75 cents. Really good food. We all bought the Swiss chocolate bars for dessert and ate them in our room. Since we wanted to get an early start we went to bed early in our little wooden beds which were loaded down with elder downs. I had some more Swiss hot chocolate for breakfast along with some homemade jam on rolls. I’m sure I gained about 10 pounds on the trip. We drove around the town in the morning to look at the lake and the buildings and then headed out for Bern.

Swiss villages pleased me more than any others I’ve ever seen – they are so quaint, clean and picturesque. They still use horses a lot but there is the odd tractor. The fields are as well kept as the houses are – and the people are so very friendly. We kept waving at all the farmers as we drove along singing in our little car. We got to Bern about 11 o’clock, not knowing exactly what we wanted to do. It took quite a while to find a parking place and then we decided to look in some of the shops. As we were walking along the street we heard someone calling our names and a girl we met on the boat came running up! She showed us over much of the city – the cathedral and the clock were the highlights. You’ve probably read about the big clock in Bern. When the hour strikes all sorts of little men and animals come out and run around it. I was just fascinated by it all. She took us into a shop which specialized in chocolates. There were every kind imaginable there – and all sorts of weird shapes. I did some Xmas shopping there – you should get the parcel early in December and be able to distribute them for me. After this we went to a toy store, I could have spent hours there – much of the toys were the same as ours but some were quite different. I bought Dixie something – it was hard for someone her age but it quite sturdy and should be hard to break. After saying goodbye to Erika and buying some more bread and cheese for our lunch, we headed for Zurich. This is in the German speaking part of Switzerland, as is Bern, but most of the people could speak French so we got along alright – language difficulties weren’t to come until Germany. We got an excellent view of the Alps going into Zurich. They remind me of our Rockies. The difference is these have tiny villages with wooden houses (chalets) around them. Every village has a church with a big clock in the tower- I could always keep my watch set! We had to stop for gas here as it is cheaper in Switzerland than in Germany. The people at the station were very kind and gave us our directions in a mixture of French, German, and English, telling us a few necessary German phrases like “where is a restaurant, hotel, etc.” It was dusk when we drove up to the German boarder. As we approached two tall guards in the German uniform stepped out to stop the car. Suddenly I guess I forgot what year it was it I usually was terrified. It was just a passing feeling and I didn’t say anything about it until a half hour later and i found out the other kids had felt that way too. I guess I’ve seen too many World War 2 movies.

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Mom’s Tour de France 6 (FGK 97)

Several things about this letter make me emotional. First of all, it’s shocking to realize how much happened to mom in those teen years – at 11 being in the hospital (well really she was still 10 but a month or so from being 11), all of those years spent wondering if she would survive the effects of polio, praying for her to sit up or be able to walk again. Then off to boarding school in Florida before attending Stanford – and then off to France. There are also little details in her letter that fascinate me. When mom says they were up at 4am to explore for the day, I wonder how she got ready. Even when I was a child and mom was stronger and more agile, getting dressed took her a couple of hours. She had to put on a back brace that had various layers and many snaps and straps, then she had her leg brace to navigate as well. Mom didn’t complain about it, but getting ready every day was almost a full day event for her as she got older. Then there’s the accessibility issue. As a child I remember going places with mom and there were no such things as automatic doors, and many places had steps to get in – all of this took mom extra work to navigate. Some of those heavy doors she couldn’t get through without someone there to hold the door for her. I had to do a short stint on crutches when I was younger and I was shocked at how frigging tiring it is to haul yourself around on them. I’m struck by her courage, and also the kindness of her friends travelling with her.

This letter was written October 6th, 1960 (Margie’s birthday)

I just got back from a marvellous birthday party which my friends have sprung as a surprise – and it really was!! They called me down to Ruth and Patti’s room and when I walked in there was the most fantastic cake I have ever seen plus a big sign on the wall saying “Bon Anniversaire.” Then they all sang “Happy Birthday” in French. The cake was an enormous French pastry with “Bon Anniversaire Margi” written on it. This involved a problem as far as cutting was concerned but it all disappeared within a few minutes. French pastry is really just out of this world. Gail gave me the most darling French poodle for my bed which was looking very bare with nothing on it. Pat and Ruth gave me a big potted plant for our balcony. Margi and Rosemary gave me some candles and Penny and Kathy gave me some more French pastry and some lipstick (the colour all the French girls have been wearing).

I left off my first letter when we decided to go to Paris last weekend. Friday morning we had lectures until noon about how to adjust to French life, get along with the people etc. At noon we were free to go and catch the first train to Paris – something I’ve waited for so many years to do that I couldn’t believe it was happening. We stayed on the left Bank which is the student section. We were too tired Friday nite to do anything but walk around a bit, see the Louvre illuminated and go to bed. We got up at 4am Saturday morning to go to Les Halles which is the great vegetable market of Paris. We walked around all the Halls while the people taught us the name of the food in French and gave us some grapes. We then went and had the most delicious onion soup I have ever stated at a little restaurant. The soups they have here are out of this world. After this we went back and slept until 10am when we went to take in such things as the Toulaires, La Place de la Concorde, the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower etc etc. We sat down at a sidewalk cafe and had a cup of tea on the Champs Élysées. Gail and Ruth and I bought a piece of French bread, some cheese and an apple and sat down on the banks of the Siene in front of Le Louvre to eat our lunch. It was so much fun just sitting and watching the people and boats that we spent an hour and a half there. After this we wandered through the gardens around the Louvre and back to our rooms to go to bed early. Sunday we caught the Metro to the Ile de la Cite to attend Mass at Notre Dame. None of us were Catholic so we decided this wouldn’t be polite so we went in a little bit but spent most of the time walking around outside. We then caught a bus to the Louvre – it would take a lifetime to go through it but I saw the Mona LIsa and several other masterpieces. I would like to spend the weekend there – I hope it isn’t too long before we go again. Paris is absolutely charming. What I enjoyed most was not the tourist spots but the more out of the way places like the quasi of the Siene and the parts of the Left Bank. I miss my car needless to say, because there are so many parts of this fabulous country I want to see. Not only is Paris full of fascinating things, but just going through the countryside is an experience. I’m starting to get some friends among the French students now which is fun because they don’t talk English. I never realized how poor my French was before!! This is certainly an incentive to work on it. We have really had a lot of work piled on us for the past two days I’ve been locked in the library back in the old routine.

Margi Copithorne

Stanford in France

Place Anatole France

Tours, Indre et Louvre

France

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Mom’s Tour de France 5 (FGK 96)

September 27, 1960

Bonjour:

Nous sommes en France!! I can hardly believe it!! After an all night trip on the bus from Le Havre we reached Tours at 6:00am.

When we saw the building we were just stunned. It’s fabulous beyond dreams. Everything about Tours is so thrilling I am in a state of delirium most of the time. There were 70 workmen working on the building the day before we came and when we arrived they had it almost to perfection. It is a brand new building – some rooms aren’t painted yet. Each room has a balcony, a bathroom which is enormous (a tub), closets and two beds and a table with chairs. Every bed had a bouquet of flowers beside it with a card from the people welcoming us. On one side we look across to the park filled with flowers to the river, and on the other side of which are old churches and houses peeping through the leaves which are barely staring to turn. On the other side there is a park which is still under construction.

Gail and I slept most of yesterday and then got up to go to dinner at the French University. We ate with four French boys at our table. I’m sure they knew English, but we tried to do all our talking in French. We made all sorts of mistakes and at times had to resort to English to make ourselves understood. One boy was particularly helpful we thought. He was either Russian or studying Russian (both of us missed that sentence) – and tried to explain words to us. When we left we asked him to tell us how to say – “it is nice do meet you.” – and he said “Oh this is very important, I’ll write it down for you,” so he did and we walked back memorizing it. Just for fun, we decided to look it up in the dictionary and found out he had told us to say – “I am Scotch!!” We laughed for hours.

Gail and I took an interesting walk this morning through some of the streets of the town. The stores are fascinating but it doesn’t seem to me that the prices are much cheaper. I think this is a tourist trap.

This afternoon some French students are taking us on a tour of the town. We hope to go out to some of the chateaux this week also.

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Mom’s Tour de France 4 (FGK 95)

I finally have a year – 1960. So mom was about to turn 20 while on this adventure, and only 19 while she was on that ship. She lovingly gave my boy a trip to Iceland with his school when he was 17 (unfortunately mom died a couple of months before he took the trip, he wanted to badly to be able to tell her all about his adventures when he returned). I thought of mom and my grandparents often while the boy and I were texting across continents and time zones – I was very grateful for technology so that I knew he was safe and having a good time.

The Cochrane paper only printed excerpts of mom’s letters from her travels- I really hope that the whole story is in the letters in this box here. Of course, I’m sure that all the best stories didn’t even make it into the letters – but it’s fascinating to hear of her travels.

Sunday September 24th, 1960

We are all starting to are preparations to leave the boat – it seems as if we have been on here forever.

We had a masquerade ball last night. Gail, two others and I went as a French singing group. We didn’t win anything, but we had all sorts of fun parading around. The name of our group was les Quatre Barbes (The Four Beards). We made the hats and beards out of paper and borrowed striped t-shirts from some boys. we were a weird looking lot. There was singing afterwards and folk dancing. None of us in our cabin could get to sleep last night so we sat up all hours talking. As a result I didn’t get out bed until 3:30 this afternoon! I can imagine what Dad has to say to that!!

We must be nearing land as it is getting very misty out and we pass the occasional ship. One night when we were out in the middle of the ocean we passed a big liner at night. It made a magnificent sight with all its lights.

Later – We passed a lighthouse on Ireland a little while ago. This time tomorrow night we will be going across France in a bus on our way to Tours!!

We just got back from the mad pizza foray. It is so funny to see the Italian waiters rushing through the room with the trays high above their heads screaming in Italian while everyone is trying to grab the pizza. The tall Americans are very frustrating because they can reach the trays easier. Marshall would have it made. A darling little Italian officer who is one of my friends brought us a large pile so we missed all the crowd.

I almost know how to play bridge which will be a very bad habit. It’s really not so terribly different from whist except for the bidding and scoring which I find harrowing.

I had a letter from Mrs. Neilson when I got on the boat. It was so very nice to have a bon voyage card on board. Please tell her “Thank you” for me when you see her.

September 25th – We’re sailing up the channel now and due to land at Le Havre any hour. There is such an air of excitement on the ship when you walk around. After 10 days that land is going to be a thrilling sight.

It is very sad to leave all the good friends we have met while crossing. Sharing experiences with them made it all twice as much fun. I’ll try and write some from Tours.

Margie Copithorne.

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Mom’s Tour de France 3 (FGK 94)

My first thought was “If I’d found myself alone for the day in New York in my early 20s, the last thing I’d have done is gone to watch the UN.” But then I realized that I had found myself alone for the day in New York in my mid 20s and I spent the day at the Museum of Natural History – just a different sort of nerd I suppose.

September 22nd

We have been on the ship for a week and there are only 3 more days to go. I have my sea legs and am no longer sea sick but our cabin is a state of chaos.

They are holding a Model United Nations on board this afternoon but I went to sleep instead of going. It would have been fun to compare it to the one in New York —- which reminds me.

I haven’t told you about the first part of our trip yet. We had fabulous flying weather from Calgary to San Francisco. All the changing autumn colours over the mountains were low enough to see all the details. The customs men boarded the plane in Spokane for me, so I didn’t have to leave it once during the trip. It was interesting to see all the country we drove through by air, when we got near San Francisco I could also see the road by which we left.

The jet flight from San Francisco to New York was marvellous, it took us only 5 hours to cross the continent. There was no noise to speak of and no rough weather the entire way. We were up 29,000 feet.

Our boat was delayed by the hurricane (Donna) so we didn’t sail till 10 pm. The university rented part of a hotel and we were let loose in the city from 9am to 7pm. Five of us spent the morning touring lower New York in a bus. We went up to the United Nations building about 11:30 am and I was so fascinated I spent the rest of the day there. We made a fairly complete tour of the building and then attended a Security Council debate on the Congo. It was thrilling to sit there and see history being made. Gail and I got caught in the 5 o’clock rush when we were trying to get back to the hotel. They are really trying to kill off the pedestrians in that city. You take your life in your hands every time you cross the street, even on the “walk” signs.

Getting on the boat was chaos. Everyone was screaming at everyone else in a different language. We almost died when we saw the ship. It’s just a little larger than the one we took to Nassau I’m sure. The rooms make that one look like a luxury liner. Nevertheless, we are having all sorts of fun on it since most of the people are students who don’t really care about things like that. We got a wonderful view of the New York Skyline and the Statue of Liberty as we were leaving the harbour. The next day and since then – we have seen only the waves and a few porpoises and birds.

By the way, I haven’t thanked you for my roses! They were just beautiful, and cheer up our little cabin no end. It was so exciting to get mail the next day, far out in the Atlantic.

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Mom’s Tour de France -2 (FGK 93)

I recall having a conversation with mom when I was an adult where she said something like “you have to remember, I’m essentially a paraplegic” and it completely threw me. Although I knew she’d lost use of her stomach, back, right leg, and most of her left leg muscles due to polio I was so used to seeing her marching around on those crutches it was easy to forget how fragile she was. I was fortunate enough to have taken a 3 day cruise several years ago (ironically to Nassau – which mom references), and navigating the movement of the ship and the small quarters of the cabin was challenging at times – I can’t imagine doing all of that on crutches like mom did. If she fell it was a big deal, she needed help to get back up and often medical assistance as well. It astounds me how brave she was, and how brave my grandparents were because it must have been incredibly frightening knowing their baby was travelling by ship to another part of the world.

We’ve jumped several years from the letters in the hospital, but still it’s amazing how relatively quickly mom went from the letter sent by Grandma asking her if she thought she’d be able to sit up in bed, or be able to learn to walk on her crutches, to letters being sent by mom on her way to Europe to study. No wonder Grandma wanted to let the community know how well mom was doing, they’d all spent years praying for her to get better. While it wasn’t perhaps the full recovery that they’d hoped for, mom was really living an extraordinary life.

Margie left Calgary on September 13, by plane to join her fellow students at San Francisco and fly by jet to New York to catch their boat to sail to France.

Ahoy there:

I am out on the deck sun-bathing and trying to keep my stomach in one place. Why, oh why didn’t I pack my sea-sick pills. We have finally hit upon a cure – always keep something in your stomach, this is very fattening, but it helps.

I wish you could see the “Asconia’ (our ship). I don’t know where they got the pictures for the folder “Burnett’s” gave me but it wasn’t this ship. Actually it has quite a history. It was sunk during the war and remained at the bottom of the ocean for ten years. An Italian company bought it – dragged it up, and fitted it out as a student ship.

There are six girls in my cabin, all going to Tours. The room is about the same size as the one we had in Nassau (very small) and we are all jammed in there with six months of luggage. We take turns dressing.

The crew is just charming. They are all very Italian and when they get excited their gestures and expressions are something to see. Their English is not so good and my Italian is worse so as a result our conversation consists of a little bit of each. The steward and maid for our room are very mischievous and love to play tricks on us. One day we came in and discovered a pair of pyjamas stuffed with a face on it posed to represent one of us when we are sick. They have a terrible time getting us out of bed in the morning as everyone wants to sleep until noon. Gail and I have a French lesson at 9:15 am so we at least have to get up for that. There is always something to do on the ship – language classes, discussion groups, folk singing and dancing, art and music groups, card games, etc, etc. There are students from all over Europe and America on board. I haven’t met very many French students yet, but we have some Swiss girls at our table who are lots of fun and very interesting.

Last night we went to a movie which wasn’t very good at all but the comments made during the show made it hilarious.

They serve a midnight snack of pizza so we decided to go and try it. We had six pieces each!! It was delicious but if we continue this way we won’t be able to waddle off the boat. The meals here are something to behold. I haven’t made it for breakfast yet, but there are a few who say it has everything. Lunch and dinner are both huge. There is always a big dish of hors d’oeuvres and pizza and spaghetti are a must. After all this plus a soup and a salad comes the main meal. Dessert is always some gooey confection which breaks your heart to turn down. Ormando, our waiter, takes great pride in the meals and is just crushed when we turn something down.

This morning in our French class I had to tel them all about Canada, en français. We try to talk French as much as possible in our cabin. I can understand the Americans when they speak French but I can’t understand the French.

Yesterday we attended a discussion on Algeria. There were some French and a Moroccan and Algerian speaking. Feelings really ran high and it turned out to be a very hot discussion. I gained a lot of insight into the problem by seeing how strongly they felt about it. There are so many nationalities abroad, we can get quite a variety of ideas. I’ve found out I’ve had many mistaken concepts of their countries, but on the other hand, they have some odd ideas about America too.

Gail is up learning Swedish. She is part Swedish, so she takes quite an interest in it. I was really lucky to get such a wonderful roommate. She’s the type of person who gets to know others easily and is always in a good mood. She’s always helping me and doing things for me. She’s going to be fun to travel with because she’s always full of energy and eager to see everything.

I’m sitting in the ballroom writing this, there are countless games of bridge going on with a piano at one end and a record player at the other. No one can really hear what the other people are saying.

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Mom’s Tour de France – 1 (FGK 92)

While mom was attending Stanford, she was chosen to spend a semester studying in France. She sent home letters describing her adventure, and Grandma sent those letters to the newspaper in Cochrane to be published. I remember mom telling me how upset she was with Grandma sending in her private letters for everyone to read. I remember Grandma telling me how happy it made everyone in her community following mom’s story and keeping up with her adventures. I have boxes of letters mom sent home from school which are sitting here waiting for the day my sister and I are ready to read them.

I have never read these letters that were published despite the fact that I remember a box of the printed letters sitting in the sun porch at Grandma’s for most of my childhood. There were two reasons for this. One was because I knew how upset mom was about the letters. The second (and the real reason) was because why would I want to read boring old stories about my boring old mom. Now that I’m older I don’t think her stories are so boring, and I’m grateful that my uncle kept a copy of these letters.

Margaret Copithorne, who is attending Stanford University in California, has just completed her first quarter examinations and has passed very successfully. The University of Stanford has a branch university in Germany, Italy, and France. Twice yearly they pick a number of their better students who have personal qualifications and send them to the country of their choice with parents consent. Margaret was very surprised to be one of the lucky ones chosen and will leave by jet for Tours France in September with a number of her close friends from the university.

Torus Study Centre is part of a growing cultural centre developed by the City and the University of Poitiers. The city is located int he heart of the chateau country only two and a half hours by train from Paris. It is a charming provincial French city of some 85,000 inhabitants which shares the rich historical past of the Loire Valley with its magnificent chateau and monumental cathedrals.

After writing her exams, Margie enjoyed ten days holiday, here is part of her letter describing it:

“I really had a good time at Wendy’s. They have an enormous house next door to Loretta Young at the Ojai Country Club. We spent most of our time at the pool getting a tan. Actually it was a very relaxing vacation which was what I wanted after the hassle of exams. On Friday the 25th (of March), I took a bus from Ventura and went down to see Anne and Dave (Cousin Anne Copithorne Campbell). They have the loveliest apartment with a perfect view of the ocean. I had my best time there. On Saturday we went to Disneyland which was fabulous. Anne and I went on all sorts of rides – the teacups, a submarine, a boat trip through Storybrook Land, the jungle cruise, a trip on the Riverboat, down the well in Alice in Wonderland, through the woods in Snow White, on an old fashioned streetcar drawn by a horse, and on a train around the whole area. I felt just like a little kid again. I wish you could see it – I’d like to go back again because they say every time you do there is something new. Anne and Dave were really great to me and I enjoyed myself no end while I was there. They drove me to the airport Sunday. The plane was quite late but I met a bunch of kids I knew from Stanford and we flew back together.”

On April 28th, General Charles de Gaulle, President of France will make a tour of Stanford University during his visit to America and Margaret is among the group of students chosen to meet him.

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More good people in the world than many of us realize (FGK 91)

I had to google the Trend House, I’d never heard of it. You can see it Here if you’re interested. This is the link for photos of the one in Calgary. Who knew?! This lady always seems to be able to put a positive spin on things, as I’ve said before I find her letters quite comforting to read and I wish I’d known her.

Monday, July 19 (1954?)

Dearest Margie

This time I’m answering right smart but I sure won’t promise to be so prompt the next time. Seems as though you are still a little short on mail.

We sure enjoyed your letter. Nice to hear of those people coming to entertain you. More good in the world than many of us realize.

Glad to hear your throat is better. Your mother said last night you had missed your drive again yesterday. That was too bad when it was such a nice day, but it looks as though we are going to have a few of those now.

Your Aunt Marjorie and I went to see the Trend House on Thursday. We weren’t too impressed with it. It had too many windows and steps for we older Janes.

Imagine a North door in your bedroom! Really quite an elaborate affair in some ways.

Bernard and the German boy we have just got moved (mowed? I don’t know – usually I can read her handwriting really easily – but I don’t know what either of these words would mean they’re doing for the next few weeks) on Saturday so you know what will be going on here for the next few weeks.

Hope you are well enough to be out next Saturday Margie.

Best Wishes

The Barkleys!

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