U.S. Symbol
Communicators AND Others Enjoying Retirement
Issue 27March 1998Volume 3 - Number 4

Welcome to the CANDOER News. Suggestions as to what you would like to see in the CANDOER are welcome. Letters to the editor, articles consisting of general information, feature articles, G-rated jokes, or poems, written/submitted by retirees or OC/IM employees, past or present, will be published, unedited. Material may be submitted on a 3.5" floppy disk (disk will be returned) using WordPerfect Version 6.1 or earlier (if it contains graphics), on a plain sheet of paper (if it has no graphics) or via e-mail. The deadline for submitting material is no later than the 25th of each month. Material received after that date will be published in the next issue of the CANDOER, space allowing. Please, restrict articles/submissions to two single spaced, typed pages. No hand written submissions, please.

The snail-mail address for submissions or letters to the editor is:

Robert J. Catlin, Sr.
Publisher/Editor CANDOER News
2670 Dakota Street
Bryans Road, MD 20616-3062


Samson and the Lab

by Jim Steeves

Samson, our silver, miniature poodle, demonstrated his good sense by knowing when to fold and wait for another day. We scarcely ever had to put his lease on and, of course, he always had the full run of "his yard" of which there was about half an acre around our house in Cape Town. Although there was a gate to close the driveway from the street, in three years I never had cause to swing it shut. Samson never strayed up or down the street, though I did see him now and then by the deep grass opposite the street from our house. The folks across the street had a big, old Lab. He was a fine old dog and often did come across the street to visit a few scent spots here and there but never, to my knowledge, ever walked onto our property. On such occasions, we could observe Samson raising all kinds of hell with that Lab, while Samson was on the INSIDE of the fence and the Lab on the outside. I wondered what he was telling that Lab. Was it "It's a good thing for you that you're on the other side of this fence because if I could get at you I'd whup you good and send you back across the street to your own place you miserable bag of old bones!"?

Whatever it was, the Lab never once took notice. He was old but weighed about 90 pounds and little Sam only got up to around 12 pounds just after a big meal.

It was therefore really funny the day I watched the usual rituals take place, Samson barking like crazy, moving along inside the fence while the Lab slowly wandered along the grass verge outside the fence. On this occasion, though, Samson got so carried away that he wandered onto the driveway, still barking furiously but with nothing separating him from the Lab other than about 8 feet of space. Then Samson awoke to the situation, swallowed a bark and slowly backed away, head and tail on a slight downward slant then he remembered something that needed urgent attention around the back of the house. The Lab still never took notice.


The following letter was received on Feb. 5, from a new member, Don Ivanich:

Dear Bob:

While in the Washington, D.C. area in June 1997, I met up with George and El Sura. George mentioned the"CANDOER Newsletter," which I had never heard of. He sent me a bunch of old copies which I found to be very interesting, and got me up to speed on the whereabouts of some old co-workers and acquaintances.

I retired in May of 95 after serving in England, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), South Africa, Russia, Kenya, Yugoslavia, South Africa, (again), Zaire, Malta, and Saudi Arabia.

I am now living in Elwood, Illinois, which is about 45 miles south of Chicago. It's an old farming community, but growing in leaps and bounds; from 900 in 1995 to 1,100 in 1997, and will be growing more, since we will be getting a 1,000 acre National Veteran's cemetery, 1900 acres for the Midewin Tallgrass Prairie Park, plus another few thousand acres for two industrial parks. It was the old ‘Joliet Arsenal' land, which made ammo during WW II, and beyond, and where I worked before joining the FS in 1964. Also, they are opening an NASCAR Race Track this May, about five miles from me. We also have four river boat Casinos within 10 miles.

This past December, I drove to Apache Junction, AZ (about 30 miles east of Phoenix) to spend Christmas with my sister-in-law. On the way there, I stopped in Antlers, OK, to visit George and Margaret Dunlop, who I was in Moscow with, and then down to San Antonio, TX, to pick up my son Todd, who is in the army at Ft. San Houston. When we arrived in AZ, my other son Paul, was already in from the University of Washington, Seattle.

While in AZ., I drove to Prescott, AZ, to see Bill Potter, who I was with in London, way back when.

In September, I went to Missouri to visit some cousins. On the way, I stopped off in Sedalia to visit Gary and Kathy Minatre, who have since moved to Reno, Nevada.

I also had a phone call from Dave Ferguson, who has now retired in Santa Cruz, CA.


Donald L. Ivanich

The following E-mail letter was received from Jim Steeves on February 12:

Hey Cat,

Just wanted to tell Herb Walden and Graham Lobb that I really enjoyed reading their articles in the February issue of the CANDOER. It's great to be able to look back on history and recall events and other things which were so commonplace then but gone from today's busy world.

I submit that Mr. Lobb has many, many other stories which he ought to submit. I certainly recall him telling me tons of them when I had the pleasure of working with him in OC, back in the late 60's.

Does anyone recall doing what I and my friends did with bottle caps? In my tiny hometown, way"down east" in Maine, we would place as many caps as we could find on a railroad track, then go hide in the nearby bushes waiting for a train to come by. I remember there were times when the train would be within a mile and we would be nearly scared out of our minds, thinking we'd be seen and caught or there might even be a train wreck because of those bottle caps. I don't recall what, if anything, we did with those flattened caps but they sure were flattened.


The following E-mail letter was received from Tim Lawson, on February 13:


I have written previously regarding my great pleasure reading the CANDOER newsletter. But let me say that the most recent issue of the CANDOER was clearly the best I can recall. The layout, the style, the stories, the one-liners, all superb. Articles by Jim Prosser and Jim Steeves seem to become better with each passing issue. They are of sufficient interest, humor, and historical value to warrant even wider publication. This is first class stuff!

As a veteran reader of the CANDOER, the only suggestion I can think of to further enhance this super newsletter, might be to give these stories a more prominent place. Bring them and other pieces right up front to your banner page. Move the still important, but more routine CANDOER treasury and meeting reports to a page further within. I believe that this minor editorial change will help promote the CANDOER's main strength --- that being an ability to link a very select, specialized readership, no matter where they are or what they may be doing, by sharing stories that each of us can relate to and find meaningful.

These are only some thoughts Cat. Other readers may also have other ideas. But whatever you do, do one thing for sure: Keep the press rolling on the CANDOER --- you are really spinning gold.

Best regards,

Tim Lawson, IMO Hong Kong

EDITOR'S NOTE: I found Tim's suggestion, on moving the routine Treasury Report and the Luncheon Information, to have merit. I have therefore moved these articles to the back page containing the E-mail addresses. This still allows you to tear this page out, without losing any of the stories that are so important to the make up of the CANDOER. This will also allow more room for your stories and poems.

The following E-mail message was received from Paul Del Giudice on February 15:

DE RDELG #0001 0461825
P 151822Z FEB 98


E.O. 12356: N/A





CFN 1 2 117 127 131 3 4 5



I have had several inquiries about donations to the CANDOER News and Memorial funds.

I request a yearly donation of $20. You receive 11-12 monthly issues of the CANDOER with 14-16 pages and one 30-36 page issue of the Directory of Members. I keep track of the last time each member donated. When you reach your one-year anniversary, I will send you a REMINDER notice, attached to that month's issue of the CANDOER. To keep costs down, I do not have checking or savings accounts in the name of the CANDOERs. Therefore, I request all donations be made payable to Robert J. Catlin, Sr. $18 of every donation goes toward publishing and distribution of the Newsletter and the Directory. Any amounts received more than $18 goes to the Memorial fund.


In attendance at the February luncheon were the following 17 CANDOERs: Bob Alexander, Cal Calisti, Bob Catlin, Al Debnar, Paul Del Giudice, Charlie Ditmeyer, Dick Hoffer, Charlie and Dorothy Hoffman and guest, Joel Kleiman, Mel Maples, Joe Pado, Nate Reynolds, Robby Robinson, Val Taylor and Norris Watts.

In addition, we had one new member, Hugh Hudkins and his wife, Jennie, attended for the first time. A big CANDOER WELCOME to you both. May you find the time to attend many, many more luncheons.


On January 26, I received a contribution and Personal Data from Lamonte (Smitty) Smith. You will find his Personal Data in the Pen and Ink section of this issue.

On January 27, I received a call from Will Naeher. Will and Doris are going to be in Florida for the months of February and March.

On January 28, Babe called from Maine. He sold his house in Virginia and has moved to Levant. He said they caught the ice storm that made the news recently and were without electricity for approximately three-hours. Since, they have gotten a lot of snow, but they are doing well.

On January 29, I received an E-mail from Judy Chidester furnishing her personal data. It may be found in the Pen and Ink section of this issue.

On January 29, I also received an E-mail from Chuck Fleenor furnishing his personal data and requesting more information about the CANDOERs. Chuck heard about the CANDOER's from Lloyd Stevenson. I sent Chuck my normal canned E-mail message. Chuck's data may be found in the Pen and Ink section of this issue.

On February 2, I received an E-mail message from Ralph Girdner. Ralph furnished a new E-mail address. His new address may be found in the Pen and Ink section and on the last page of this issue.

On February 6, I received an E-mail message from Bob Kegley. He has a new ISP. His new E-mail address is listed in the Pen and Ink section and on the last page of this issue.

On February 9, I received a snail-mail letter from Don Ivanich. Don's letter may be found in the Letters to the Editor section. His bio may be found in the Pen and Ink section of this issue.

On February 15, I received an E-mail message from Paul Del Giudice furnishing his new E-mail address. This information me be found in the Pen and Ink section and one the last page of this issue.

On February 20, I received a snail-mail letter from Susan Armbruster requesting information about the CANDOERs. I sent her my normal canned letter.



This is the first of what I hope will be a series of articles concerning the history of the Office of Communications (OC) of the Department of State. I realize there is much history that predates these articles. Some have already appeared in the CANDOER. However, I was not a part of that history, so I will leave it to others to add to this.

The following article is about the ATS, which I believe had the most impact on how the Department communicates with its field stations. To my knowledge, there are no written documents which describe the ATS, still available or in existence. Therefore, the following articles will be, to a large part, anecdotal and are derived from my memory of those events. I ask that, if there are any inaccuracies or omissions, you will write to the editor, so that this history will be as accurate as possible.

Automated Telecommunications System
by Willis E. Naeher

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F. Kennedy had considerable difficulty communicating with his embassies and other government agencies in Washington. He was forced to use the media to indicate his intentions to other foreign governments. After the crisis was over, he appointed a Committee Chaired by John Orrick, from the Department of Justice, to review and examine the Government's communications networks (Mr. Orrick later became the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Management). One of the Orrick Committees recommendations was that a modern"state-of-the-art communications terminal" be designed and installed in the Department. A task force was formed to accomplish this. A general description of the problem and an announcement was published indicating the Department's intentions, together with the descriptions to solicit interest. Nine companies responded. The task was then to develop a composite of the replies which contained the best solutions to the problem. This composite was then reissued requesting unpriced proposals. All nine of the companies responded.

A committee was then formed composed of elements of the Department, i.e., Security, engineering operations, etc. Representatives of the CIA and the Military were also included. After a review, the committee decided that all companies were responsive and could do the job. This meant that it would be necessary to negotiate with all the companies. This would be very labor intensive and time consuming.

Jack Coffey then appointed another committee consisting of five representatives of OC to again review the replies. This committee eliminated five of the companies for being non-responsive. They reissued the RFP to four companies, ITT, Boroughs, Honeywell, and RCA, with a request for prices. IBM also responded, but their proposal was to perform a study to determine the scope of the project. We found them to be non-responsive and they were eliminated.

After a series of meeting with each vendor, ITT was awarded the contract. ITT had the advantage in that they had just finished a major contract for SAC, called SACDIN, which involved a series of switches based on the ACP 127 protocol and they had completed site construction for several DEW Line sites. Therefore, they had experienced personnel already on board and were prepared to begin the project immediately. Furthermore, they were low-bidder. To eliminate conflict that may arise between two contractors, we decided to award ITT a separate but interrelated contract to construct the site for the ATS.

I was appointed as the Contracting Officer's Representative for the system. Jack Hulbert, who was a member of the various RFP development committees, was appointed the Contracting Officer's Technical Representative for the construction of the site. Our task was to insure contract compliance.


The system design was complicated. A part of it had been done before. However, this system combined the disciplines of system switching with system termination procedures. For example, there were several switches in existence using the ACP 127 protocol. However, there were no systems that combined the discipline of terminal processing.

The requirements of the system were:

1. Up to 50 separate circuits of various speeds.

2. Be cable of automatically switching messages from one circuit to another, using the ACP 127 protocol. This was the standard for all switching systems, either manual or automated in the U.S. Government networks, at that time.

3. Terminate messages addressed to the Department on Video type viewing screens, where analysts could review the text of the telegram and determine distribution. The analysts could also correct garbles and spelling or forward the telegram to others for service message action. If the message was addressed to other stations, the switch would relay the message to the addressees indicated.

4. The system should automatically examine certain captions contained in the heading to determine suggested distribution and indicate this distribution on the bottom of the video screen. The analyst could then change this distribution, or add to it, after a careful review of the text. The distribution system also indicated the number of copies which were to be made for each individual distribution addresses, and would indicate the total number of copies to be reproduced and whether it was to be reproduced on pink paper for outgoing or white paper for incoming. The system would also automatically change the format for distribution by stripping off element of the ACP 127 heading and replace it with a designated distribution format.

5. Indicate in the Logo whether the message was Incoming or Outgoing.

6. Store the message for a period of 30 days, so that it could be retrieved by message reference number so that the analysts could review the distribution, or by the message channel number, so that the Systems personnel could make a retransmission in response to a service message.

7. Automatically assign the appropriate JANAP 117 routing indicator to outgoing messages based on the designated addressee(s).

8. Design the system in such a way that no message could be lost. The system was required to be fully redundant.

9. The system should automatically issue channel numbers for each transmission to each circuit to ensure circuit continuity and prevent the loss of messages en route, which could be caused by circuit difficulties. This was accomplished by sending, automatically, a service message addressed to RUEH which was the Department's routing indicator. When the service message was received, the channel number was checked. If there was a discrepancy, a message was printed on a monitoring Teletype receiver for action. The system also assigned a Message Reference Number to every outgoing message. It also assigned a Message Continuity Number to each message between the Department and addressees to ensure that no messages were lost en route.

10. Accept messages from a high speed tape reader art the rate of 1200 words per minute. Later, this was replaced by an optical character reader (OCR), which was interfaced directly to the system. This was a first in communications operations and affected many of the telegram development mores in the Department. It required that a distinctive type font,"OCR A," be used when preparing telegrams, so that the OCR could read the message. To accomplish this, the Department procured the IBM"golf gall" typewriter as a standard so that the OCR A font could be used. This new procedure eliminated more than 20 positions in the communications center.

11. Maintain an accounting of all messages entering the system to determine that all appropriate actions were completed. In the event of an outage, the system would determine which messages had not had all actions completed. These messages would be retrieved automatically and reprocessed. This action resulted in many messages being retransmitted to recipients who had already received then once. However, as the system became more accurate and the outages became less frequent, this problem disappeared. Later a program was written to determine which actions were yet completed and the system would not repeat those actions again.

12. The system would consist of two main frames which were duplicates of each other and would run in a parallel mode. They were called ADX A and B. They were installed in such a way that if one system went down the other system would automatically take over. Each main frame consisted of 64k of core memory. This automatic take over system was eliminated when we decided that we would take a quick program dump to determine the cause of the failure, so that the programmers could make corrective patches to the operating system. As a result, the software became very accurate and failures became very infrequent.

The system consisted of about 13 separate programs controlled by an"Executive Program." Experts who reviewed it after cut over declared it to be 15 years ahead of its time and at the cutting edge of communications technology.

Many of the operational concepts were taken from a system being designed by the Military. However, the ATS was the first system of its kind on line. The military system did not come on line until over a year later.

The contract specified that the system was to be built in 16 months. The contract also stipulated that liquidated damages would be charged for each day the cut over from the old to system to the new system was delayed. The system developed unexpected difficulties particularly in the software and the cut over was delayed. At the time, the contractor was charged about $2,000 per day. It was finally agreed that the system would be cut over on July 25, 1967.

The contracting officer and his representatives met monthly with the representatives of ITT. We alternated locations for the meetings, one month we met at the Department and the next month at ITT in Paramus, NJ, where the system was being assembled and tested.

The contract also stipulated that the system would run"error free" for 30 consecutive days. If a failure occurred, the system was shut down, the problem was fixed and the 30-day countdown started all over.

We had a"cut back" plan to go back to our old system on the sixth floor, but the plan turned out to be flawed because the ATS was so incompatible with our old system that a cut back was not possible.

Furthermore, the ATS with all its faults was infinitely better than the old system. There were 25 cogent deficiencies in the ATS and I refused to accept the system. Finally, a meeting was held with the ITT Defense Communications Division President, Rand Aroskog and the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Management, Idar Rimstead. It was decided that we would accept the system with contingencies and we began to pay rent. The liquidated damage charges were negotiated and were suspended. ITT agreed to make a maximum effort to eliminate the deficiencies.

Other elements of the contact were that ITT would train Department personnel as programmers.

We also contracted with ITT to maintain the hardware.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I will write separate sections in the coming months to explain the training and other aspects of the ATS. END NOTE

Mistaken Identity
by James F. Prosser

Bill Ewing (RIP) was the communications officer at the American Embassy Vienna, at the time the summit meeting was held there between the U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Union Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

One of Bill's favorite stories was about the late night arrival of Air Force One and President Kennedy's official entourage.

Shortly after the plane came to a halt, the President and his family exited and descended the stairway for the official reception. Traveling with the party was R. Sargent Shriver, the President's brother-in-law.

Stanley Chaleff (RIP), one of the post communicators, was assigned to meet the plane and remove several diplomatic pouches from the belly.

For some inexplicable reason, Shriver got off the plane and went directly beneath to where the baggage unloading process had begun. In the darkness, Shriver hollers up into the baggage compartment "I'm Sargent Shriver and would like to have my suitcase right now!" Stan, who was helping Air Force personnel unload replied: "@#$%& Sarge! Can't you see we're busy? Now get the *&%$# out of here and you'll get your bag later with everyone else!"

Shriver was stunned and quietly retreated without his bag.

Trans-Siberian Railroad Voyage Journal
July 1996
by Jim Prosser

Part 13 of 14

- Friday, July 26 -

Again in the wee hours and in a deep sleep, the telephone rang and a male, English voice offered pretty girls and a massage. This is becoming harassment.

My last full day in Vladivostok was just that.

Renovations were under way in the 1st floor reception area. It was difficult to determine if the results would be an improvement or not. The workmanship was awful.

Amazingly, the clouds disappeared and I had a very bright, sunny day, most unusual for Vladivostok at this time of the year.

My main goals today were twofold: to take a harbor trip and ride the funicular up to the Eagle's Nest to take pictures of the Golden Horn from above. Rimma of the Intourist service bureau advised the harbor cruise would depart at 1100 from the marina I looked down on yesterday morning and that the funicular operates to the Eagle's Nest every 15 minutes or as the traffic requires. It is only a 10 minute walk from the hotel to the marina.

Walking over to the marina, I learned there is no harbor cruise leaving from there. It leaves from the harbor just across from the Naval Museum. I started walking to a point where I could catch a tram or taxi, but wasted much time. Finally catching a tram it was already 1100, so I missed the harbor cruise.

But by staying on the tram I could get near the base of the funicular to at least take a ride up there for pictures. I misjudged the stops and went two past. Then had to walk back and up a couple of blocks to reach the base of the funicular. En route I walked passed the American Consulate General and stopped outside to have a couple of pictures taken. Further on I passed the Gothic Lutheran Church. Beyond it I arrived at the funicular base station.

Surprise! The funicular was closed, and apparently had been for a very long time. The rails were rusty, one car was at the base station, and the other car was stuck at the mid-station half way up the hill. Needless to say I was rather disgusted at having been given more misinformation by Intourist resulting in wasting more time.

At this point I decided to forego lunch because getting a boat ride in the harbor was of the utmost importance to me. Walking down the streets I finally reached the Naval Museum and the harbor tour station across the street. I found a tour boat tied up with the captain in the wheel house. I went up and asked him if he was willing to make a special harbor trip for me of at least two hours duration. His name is Alexei and he said "yes" but would have to check with his office for approval, for the harbor was loaded with naval vessels and periodically closed to traffic. He returned in a few moments with approval and we were off on one of the most unusual harbor trips I have ever taken. It was a cloudless sky with almost unlimited visibility.

First of all, even visiting Vladivostok five years ago was unheard of for any foreigner, much less hiring a boat and sailing by the Russian far eastern fleet at anchor five miles out! Captain Alexei's boat was spotless and he was personally very proud of it. He formerly was a master of a vessel of the Russian Far East Shipping Company. His English was quite good!

Under perfect sailing conditions, we exited the Golden Horn past numerous docked naval vessels of several nations, including the USS Blue Ridge out of Yokusuka, Japan. We passed dozens of freighters, ore vessels, fishing boats and car ferries to various islands nearby.

We exited the harbor and sailed out to the anchored Russian fleet of 19 ships They were all decked out with colorful flags from stem to stern offering me marvelous photograph opportunities. We returned via a different route, circling Russian Island, which is still forbidden to everyone.

Included in the many ships we saw were two three-masted Russian Naval training sailing vessels. They were beautifully rigged with flags everywhere.

After disembarking back at the pier, I met many U.S. and other nationality sailors in their white uniforms. A very old Russian veteran sailor (Vassily) showed up in his uniform and service medals. He was the object of all sailors' attention and cameras. All wanted to be photographed with him. He cooperated nicely.

It was now 1630 and l was mightily dehydrated, wind and sun burned plus hungry.

I had not brought sun block along today as when I left the hotel this morning it was quite overcast.

I walked back up the hill, caught the tram back to the voksal (station) where I had rail tickets for the suburban train trip for dinner at the Vlad Motor Inn (site of yesterday's lunch feast). With an hour to train time, I found a kiosk in the shade and promptly devoured a liter of Russian beer to slake my thirst.

Promptly at 1715 the train departed for the Sanitoria station 20 kms away. But 3/4 of the way there, it had an unspecified technical problem and stopped right along the ocean. Now it began to rain. Already hot, humid and sweaty from a day's touring and boating I had to endure a 45 minute wait before the train started to move. This was only one of the many unforeseen events that stalled, interrupted or revised my day.

After arriving at the Vlad Motor Inn at about 1830, I took the chance to wash up before dinner. I had the waitress bring a pitcher of cold water from their well. I ordered the Kamchatka king crab platter.

After the meal, I called Bob, the chef, and gave my profuse thanks and compliments. Then Chad, the Canadian facility manager, came over and I applauded him for the excellent results he has achieved in training his Russian staff to be so attentive, courteous and professional. This again was an unforgettable meal.

I left the restaurant at 2100 and walked through the forest back to the Sanatoria station as the sun was beginning to set. The train to Vladivostok departed at 2110 with me very happy, contented and well fed. I was looking forward to getting back to the hotel and just collapsing in bed. No more exercise or walking tonight! But --

Another unforseen event took place, and with dire consequences. Shortly before arriving in Vladivostok, the train went off in a southerly direction to another part of the city. We passed through a very long tunnel which we did not go through on the way out to Sanatoria station. I was in another part of the city! When we arrived at the end station, it was almost dark, but I could see across the Golden Horn to the Vladivostok train station where I wanted to be! It was 2230. The cross-harbor car ferry was closed for the night. How was I to get across or around the Golden Horn now?

While the objective was in sight, albeit two kms away as the crow flies, it was 16 kms distant by road around the Golden Horn. It was totally dark now. There were no street lights, taxis or buses in sight.

I spied six fishermen tieing up their boat. None spoke English, but sign language works wonders. They could not take me across the harbor, but would show me how to get around the Golden Horn. One kindly fisherman motioned to follow him. He had a string of nice sized fish. It was pitch black with no moon and little ambient light.

Our fisherman leader pointed up the side of the mountain to what appeared to be a lateral road. That is where we were headed! We had to climb what turns out to be more than 300 steps in the dark to reach the road.

Finally reaching the road after 20 minutes of climbing, I had no idea of how we were going to make it back to the other side. The fisherman was successful in flagging down a sedan. I heard him explain to the driver in so many words "this crazy American somehow got abandoned on the south side of the Golden Horn and needs a ride to the Hotel Vladivostok, and would you be so kind to take him there?" He agreed. The car appeared to be a large Toyota sedan!

At 2345 I was back at the hotel after leaving at 1030 this morning! I had 13 hours of incredible delays, wasted time, lots of walking, travel mishaps and miscues, sun burned, wind burned, exhilarated, a fantastic boat trip, an incredible meal, dehydrated, dirty, sweaty, and oh yes, genuinely tired!

- Saturday, July 27 -

You've got to hand it to my midnight caller. He was consistent. I made a mental note to complain to the front desk in the morning.

My streak of unforeseen bad luck of yesterday with Intourist continued unabated. After breakfast, I stopped by the Intourist office to pay for my transfer to the airport. The airport is 60 kms from the city because terrain about the city is mountainous. Rimma and her two other colleagues were not working today. The man said there were no arrangements for the airport transfer nor did he have a vehicle or driver!

I said I personally made them two days ago with Rimma, and confirmed them with her again yesterday. He made numerous telephone calls, but each time came up with "sorry, we have no cars or drivers." It was now time to leave for the airport.

Suddenly Rimma burst into the room and excitedly said "Your vehicle is ready." I was delighted, but the Intourist man was stunned to say the least, dumbfounded and consternated to be sure. She demanded I come quickly. I did. I loaded the vehicle, paid her in dollars for the transfer fee, bid her da svidanya and was off to the airport.

It now became obvious. Rimma arranged a "private" transfer to the airport with her husband or possibly a friend. Intourist did not monetarily benefit from this at all. I would love to be a fly on the wall in the Hotel Vladivostok Intourist service bureau Monday morning when Rimma comes to work and observe the fireworks which most certainly will occur between the man I dealt with this morning and Rimma.

After the 60 km ride, and witnessing two major auto accidents (they drive too close and change lanes without looking or signaling) I arrived at the airport.

It is an old airport, quite crowded, should be replaced, and was full of surprises. The few signs are in Cyrillic and there is no information booth. It is impossible to determine what to do or where to go. It's a challenge, but I was up to it now. I saw there was only one check-in counter for all flights, the one with the very long line. That's why they want you at the airport two hours in advance. It's a very inefficient operation.

Surprise No. 1. A Russian man who, seeing the perplexed expressions on my face, was able to give me advice and direction. It turns out he spoke English, and introduced himself as "Vassily." He is a school headmaster outside of Moscow. For seven years he used to teach high school physics in Dodoma, Tanzania! We made a lot of good conversation reminiscing about east Africa, some in Swahili, both in the airport and on our flight to Moscow.

Surprise No. 2. Checking in, I was charged substantial excess baggage fees. Internally, Aeroflot charges for everything exceeding 20 kgs.

Surprise No. 3. The security check was not anything like non-diplomatic people experienced 24 years ago. I breezed through relatively quickly.

No surprise. The passenger waiting area was a dark, dingy, small area which looked like a disaster just happened. Most furniture and glass windows are broken, ceiling tiles are hanging loose and the exit doors to the tarmac bus waiting area were ill-fitted. Only one set of doors work. While today was a lovely day, I wonder what happens the other bitter cold months of the year. There were people smoking everywhere outside, notwithstanding signs posted prohibiting it.

Surprise No. 4. This was supposed to be Aeroflot flight SU-134. It was, but the plane we boarded was Orient Avia with a subtitle "Subsidiary of Aeroflot."

It was an IL-62 carrying 155 passengers - full. Boarding was orderly and uneventful. The crew was very helpful, responsive and spoke good English. I recall incidents of 22 years ago when police had to come on the plane and physically remove the excess number of passengers who boarded without a seat and refused to leave.

Surprise No. 5. The lunch was chicken (no surprise), but it was edible, warm, de-boned and not made of rubber!

Surprise No. 6. The Orient Avia plane interior was almost like new. There was adequate space between the seats! With all the hand luggage passengers were allowed to bring aboard, overhead compartments were very tightly packed. There was a large room at the rear of the cabin where the excess was stored. This created a big traffic jam in the single aisle.

The nonstop flight departed on time at 1400 local, was smooth and uneventful. The path was a great circle route over northern Siberia to Moscow and lasted nine hours.

I talked a lot with Vassily and his wife who sat directly ahead of me and thanked them for their invaluable assistance checking in. I mentioned that in the past two plus weeks of traveling throughout the country I had noticed a very large number of men, women and even children wearing Christian crosses on chains around their necks. They are the standard cross of Jerusalem, not Russian Orthodox crosses. He suggested perhaps no one has thought of making them, or it was easier to obtain crosses from "the west." I asked if the wearers were doing it out of faith or conviction, dress jewelry, or was it faddish? He thought some of all three, but mostly conviction.

We crossed seven time zones and landed at Moscow Sheremetevo I airport at 1545 Moscow time, 45 minutes ahead of schedule on another beautiful, warm day.

The Intourist car got me to the Hotel Intourist in record time of 30 minutes. There was little traffic on a Saturday afternoon. I ate an early supper at 1800 as I was exhausted and still on Vladivostok time (0100) by my body clock. I made plans for Sunday activities and went to my room.

I made a USA Direct call to my spouse. While still on the line, I was surprised when a woman came in the room (the door was open for the breeze) to ask if I would like a massage! These Russians are so accommodating!

The Great Bank Strike
by Jim Steeves

Soon after our arrival in Dublin, I began to hear rumors of "The Great Bank Strike" which reputedly happened several years earlier. Since the first few references made of that event took place in pubs, the sort of place in which my note-taking was even worse than at staff meetings, it took a while before I formally asked someone if that had really happened. I mean, one doesn't often hear about banks going on strike. Well, think about it. Do all branches of the First National Bank shut down while all the other banks in town stay in business or do all branches of all banks in town and all the surrounding towns and villages and, in a small country like Ireland, all the banks in the country close up?

My friends and colleagues in the Embassy confirmed that the strike not only happened but it lasted for several months! They also explained that the economy, such as it is in Ireland, kept humming along, suggesting that perhaps banking wasn't as much of a necessity as we were led to believe. It seems that people received either cash from their place of employment or a check. Customers used their checks or issued I.O.U.'s for their grocer and at the neighborhood pub. The publican wrote out a check to the Guinness delivery man and the brewery kept the checks received from pubs everywhere but, of course, they couldn't be turned into any bank. Hundreds of thousands of I.O.U.'s and checks were written and many were subsequently honored when the banks returned to work. Did you miss a word in that last sentence? "Many" were honored. My in-depth investigation did not provide further details but I was still working on figuring out how clever the Irish were in telling tales. They were excellent indeed. So I filed away the story and learned to enjoy the tales and banter in the pubs without being distracted by such things as fact or fiction. Some say I enjoyed it too much but that's a bunch of bologna.

During my last year in country, one day people were excited because there was a rumor of an upcoming strike. A bank strike! Aaah, bejasus I thought, this was carrying it a bit too far. I just didn't want to hear it until it happened. Perhaps those who got swindled the first time, ten years earlier, learned their lesson in taking I.O.U.'s but I do know a lot were passed around this time. The Bank of America's main office in downtown Dublin somehow kept in some sort of business because the Embassy continued to receive money but for six months they were all closed to the public.

I will try too illicit from Jake Kocher, the tale of another strike that shook Ireland some time after I was sent to Israel.

Embassy Quarters
by Billie Horacek

EDITOR'S NOTE: I will let Herb's letter explain the poems you will find below, written by his wife. END NOTE


On my first Foreign Service assignment in London, my wife Billie, a former teletype operator at State, wrote a poem about Carlton Mansions, which was a government housing project and our first assigned living quarters.

Rules were, you find your own quarters after three months and we moved to No. 5 Culrose Street, until Albay Court became available.

The following poems represent a little humor of the times (early 1960's)


Carlton Mansions

Dear Old Carlton Mansions
We only stay,
You are too convenient
To move further away.

The lace curtain Irish
Housekeepers of renown,
Fight a losing battle
In this end of town.

Beds not made, dusting to be done
Kiddies in the halls, having lots of fun.
Is that the sunshine shining in?
Or the antique lamp growing dim?

Broiler pan cute as can be,
Big enough for bacon - when you serve high tea.
In your laundry room we gather around,
Your central heading is really sound.

Now there is water in the bathroom, both hot and cold,
Pump on the water closet, getting old.
Window glass slightly thin,
You can't look out, but the neighbors see in.

Water from ceiling is dripping through,
The Marines are spinning a wash or two.
Its hard to tell if its rain or shine,
Their overflow, flows all the time.

The rugs have seen far better days,
But like Old Carlton Mansions
They are around to stay.

If St. Peter should knock at your door,
You're filled up - and can handle no more.
Many of us, who have chosen to roam,
Humbly we have called you home.

To the next transients passing through,
May flat 13 be vacant for you!

No. 5 Culrose Street

Behind the U.S. Embassy
Up four flights of stairs,
Is a wee-wee dolly flat.
Guess who is stationed there?

He pays his rent on Monday,
And never in arrears.
But its not his prayers he's mumbling,
As he climbs back up the stairs.

His wife wants an antique chair,
Yankee dollars are getting rare,
"How many shillings?"---she will sigh,
She has a limit and its far too high.

This little verse his wife doth hear:
"Don't sit around and pout,
The junk you tote up, my dear,
I'm the guy who will lug it out."

May there be fewer stairs to climb,
When judgment bells will chime,
If harps are played on carpets of red,
Say your prayers, go back to bed.

Could it be that music so sweet,
Is coming from No. Culrose Street?


Thanks to John Kennedy for the following bit of humor.

A local bar owner was so sure that his bartender was the strongest man around that he offered a standing $1000 bet. The bartender would squeeze a lemon until all the juice ran into the glass. Anyone who could squeeze one more drop of juice out would win the money.

Over time weight-lifters, longshoremen and lumberjacks had tried, but nobody could do it.

One day a scrawny man wearing thick glasses and a polyester suit came into the bar and said in a squeaky voice that he'd like to try for the money.

After the laughter had died down, the bartender grabbed a lemon and squeezed away. He handed the wrinkled remains of the rind to the little man.

The crowd's chuckles turned to silence as the man clenched his fist around the lemon and six drops fell in the glass.

As the man put the $1000 in his pocket, the bartender asked what he did for a living.

The man replied, "I work for the IRS."


See you next month.

Issue Index    Issue 28