|Issue 28||April 1998||Volume 3 - Number 5|
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
It is with deep regret, I wish to inform you of the death of one of our colleagues, Jim Fletcher. Jim died of a heart attack, while sleeping at his home, February 23, 1998. Jim is survived by his wife Toi, one son and two daughters.
Jim retired last year, after serving over 30 years in the FS. In January, Jim returned from a TDY trip to Kiev. He has been taking TDY trips as a re-hired annuitant, since his retirement .
A card has been sent in the name of the CANDOERs.
Thanks to Jim Griffin for the above information.
Although Samson weighed only 18 pounds and his head would fit into the palm of an adults hand, his mouth, when fully opened, seemed to be larger than his head. He reckoned he could restore peace and quiet whenever bedlam required. Accordingly, whenever anyone within earshot (his, not ours) shouted either in anger or exuberance, Samson felt moved to intervene. He did this by charging at the offender or offenders, who might be laughing loudly. He jumped repeatedly up and down like a yo-yo and barked up a storm. Whenever the offender was seated, he would lock onto a wrist and inflict great punishment - well, at least it would get a little wet. My wife and I would occasionally provoke him into his "peace making" routine by shouting something and raising a hand as though to strike the other. Samson would jump on the "victim's" lap and grab hold of the wrist of the striking hand. Though he was quick he never even came close to breaking skin; in fact, when he held a wrist in his mouth, it didn't even hurt. There was no question, though, about his intent. His growl was surprisingly loud for such a little creature and he looked fierce. Quite simply, he detected disharmony in the family and meant to squelch it promptly. We always acted as though he had frightened us into submission and then we'd go into reverse mode and give each other hugs and kisses which seemed to get him even more excited so he'd bark more though he never undertook to tear us limb from limb for that behavior.
The following letter was received from Graham Lobb:
March 10, 1998
Bob Catlin, Editor CANDOER
I would like to thank Bob Catlin, for the outstanding job he has performed as Editor of the CANDOER.
Jim Steeves has been most kind in his reference to my stories while in OC/S from 69-72.
I had the pleasure of meeting Jim and knowing of his talents and communications skills. Then in 1967, or 1968, I had learned first-hand when he came TDY from London, to assist in Accra during VP Humphries visit. Jim volunteered for the midnight shift. His performance and dedication was noted in a letter to Lou Correri then Communications Officer at London.
I recall Jim told me when he was in training at Norfolk, Va., I believe he first met Gene Beard, long-time OC Radio Technician who was in Accra during our tour. Both were in the U.S. Navy at the time.
Bill Ewing was RCO and his staff had very professional technicians and officers including Earl Satterfield, Wally Horn, Don Kennedy, and Gary Richardson, with the late Mary Ann Mulligan holding down the office duties. I almost forgot Dave Collins and Ed Ferry.
Perhaps some other old hands could focus in on the RCO operations and their staff personnel? How many recall Howard Brown known as Brownie? Do our members know he came off Correigdor before the surrender to Japan and was evacuated to Melbourne, Australia? "Brownie," then headed a U.S. Radio Intercept Company which saw service in Australia, the New Guinea Campaign, and the Philippine Campaign.
I was assigned to Central Bureau at Brisbane in 1943, but Brownie was in New Guinea, however, fifty years later in 1995, I learned how he was still remembered by survivors of the Australian Woman's Armed Forces assigned to CB. Rita Taylor Balin, recalled to me, her gratitude for his assistance. She was a member of the WAAF and is still living in Brisbane, after service with the Australian Delegation to the UN in New York.
Prior to hearing from Jim Steeves, I started a series of articles with arrival at Kabul, in March 1950. I hope to expand on my recollections before senility sets in!
The CANDOER should serve as a vehicle for others to record their accounts before they are lost to Father Time!
Jim Steeves, Jim Prosser, Joe Lee, Herb Walden and now Will Naeher have done a great step towards preserving history of those who follow.
Billie Horacek's poem recalled staying in Carlton Mansions referred to by some as "Crumbling Mansions," since I understand it suffered damage in the blitz of WW II from German bombers.
Bob, Your efforts are not in vain!
Consider all the changes we have witnessed:
We were born before television, polio shots, frozen foods, Xerox, plastic, contact lenses, and frisbees. We were before radar, credit cards, split atoms, laser beams, ball-point pens, pantyhose, dishwashers, clothes dryers, electric blankets, air conditioners, drip dry clothes, and men walking on the moon.
We got married first and then lived together. Bunnies were small rabbits; rabbits were not Volkswagens. Designer jeans were scheming girls named "Jean" or "Jeanne," and having a meaningful relationship meant getting along with your cousins. We thought fast food was what you ate during lent.
We were before house husbands, gay rights, computer dating, dual careers, and computer marriages. We were before day-care centers, group therapy, and nursing homes. We never heard of FM radios, tape decks, electric typewriters, artificial hearts, word processors, yogurt , and guys wearing earrings. For us, time sharing meant togetherness, not computers and condominiums; a "chip" meant a piece of wood; "hardware" meant hardware, and software wasn't even a word!
The term "making out" referred to how you did on an examination. Pizzas, McDonalds, and instant coffee were unheard of. Five and dime stores were where you bought things for 5 or 10 cents. For a nickel you could ride a street car, make a phone call, buy a Pepsi, or enough stamps to mail a letter and two post cards.
You could buy a new Chevy coupe for $600 and gas was 11 cents a gallon. Cigarette smoking was fashionable, grass was mowed, coke was a cold drink, and pot was something you cooked in. Rock music was Grandma's lullaby and AIDS were helpers in the principal's office. We were the last generation that was so dumb as to think you needed a husband to have a baby!
No wonder we're are so confused today! But we survived. What better reason to celebrate.
The following people were in attendance at the March 10, luncheon: Bob Berger, Bob Campopiano, Al Debnar, Don Denault, Charlie Ditmeyer, Jim Gansel, Graham Lobb, Mel Maples, and Val Taylor.
A big THANK YOU to Charlie Ditmeyer for furnishing this information.
On March 1, 1998 I sent information to Dulcie Lawton about the CANDOERs.
On March 1, 1998, I received a donation to both the News and Memorial funds from Susan Armbruster. You will find Susan's address in the Pen and Ink section of this issue.
On March 9, I received a donation and a Personal Data Form from Hugh Hudkins. Hugh's bio may be found in the Pen and Ink section of this issue.
On March 10, I received an e-mail message from Phil Blanchard. Phil has changed his ISP. His new e-mail address may be found in the Pen and Ink section and on the last page of this issue.
On March 12, Dennis Starr furnished a second e-mail address. His AOL address is still good and his new address may be used.
On March 18, I received an e-mail from Sandra Williams. Sandra has left Bonn and is now working in the Office of Career Development and Assignments (PER/CDA/SL). Her new snail-mail address and e-mail address may be found in the Pen and Ink section of this issue.
The following is a copy of an article published in Virtual Government, February 1998, the Official Publication of AFCEA, and is being repeated by your friendly neighborhood publisher/editor, for those of you who are still interested in the goings on of the Department of State.
Alma Charms Diplomatic Crown
A Logical Measured Approach (ALMA) is the key to discreet foreign service communications among U.S. Embassies and Consulates world-wide. The State Department's new information technology initiative is underway and is considered central to transacting business using traditional cable traffic while adding an open systems wide-area network capability with a variety of advanced features.
This flagship information technology program, known as Alma, provides a common hardware and software architecture. Alma will replace antiquated systems still in use at Main State and at far-flung locations. Eventually, more than 229 posts will operate with Alma's technology.
Alma, however, also provides desktop workstations to transmit unclassified traditional cables that Embassy and Consular officials have used for generations. Slated to become operational at overseas sites by June 1999, Alma features will be strictly state-of-the-art, according to Paul Converti, who manages this program effort.
In addition to an open systems requirement, Alma meets year 2000 compliance rules and provides local and wide-area networks that support electronic mail. Access to the Department's applications and forms by shared compact disc-read only memory (CD-ROM) is a major feature, along with a wide range of other office management functions, Converti stresses.
By remaining interoperable with the older State information technology infrastructure, Alma "lays the railroad tracks" on which the various Department bureaus will install advanced client service applications, Converti says. He adds that the Alma network will link overseas posts to the Department's domestic information technology infrastructure. This approach involves establishing network operations and the purchase of standard desktop, server and network components.
The system will run Office 97 and other current-generation desktop software. Alma program officials are collaborating with the Department's Diplomatic Telecommunications Service Program Office to establish an integrated worldwide telecommunications network.
As with many federal organizations, State is at a juncture where new information technology is essential. The Alma program office's configuration control board oversees the development of the system's architecture. This board includes representatives from the Department's functional and regional bureaus, the Diplomatic Security office and the Foreign Service Institute.
The Institute will train operators and system administrators in the use of Microsoft NT, networking operations, and other necessary skills. An Alma installation team is working with security staffs to ensure that secrecy standards are met and that guidelines are observed throughout all installations.
Converti says that one impetus for the development of the program is the Department's requirement for deployment of new consular applications in response to border security regulations in certain countries. Alma is being integrated with worldwide telecommunications networks to support the Department's diplomatic tasks and operations, such as modernizing applications to process visas.
Department officials claim that this system will support integration and standardization of information processing and data management and result in the rapid sharing of information. Initially, Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) began as the prime Alma Contractor. A Department Alma team, however, examined the program's schedule and decided to award an information infrastructure personal computer/local area network contract to an industry team. Members of this team include BTG, which is providing hardware, and EDS and Wang Government Services, which together are developing Alma functions. CSC is handling overseas installations.
Five pilot systems have been installed at posts in Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Seoul, and Bogota. Alma's Department installations met the full rate schedule late last year, with a pace of 10 per month. An additional 114 sites are slated for installation of Alma during this year, with an additional 90 more during 1999.
Full Alma program costs are estimated to be $120 million, funded through Department capital investments. These funds must be approved by a departmental information resources management board. Full funding for Alma will depend on the Department's ability to refill its investment coffers over the next two years.
The recent story (January 1998 - Volume 3 Number 2) of Jim Steeves' encounter with a centipede in Amman brought to mind a similar one I had in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) with a Congolese gecko.
Now the geckos in the Congo were quite friendly, very common, and useful (eating flies, mosquitoes, spiders, etc.). But ours were also quite large, six to eight inches long including the tail.
Mary and I came home early one evening. I went out in our kitchen to get a cold Primus (beer). The cook and houseboy were still there cleaning up for the day. Taking the last beer out, I went into the darkened pantry to get a few more to put in the fridge.
One of the resident geckos being surprised ran right up the inside of my trouser leg. Now I started to do a rather strange dance in the pantry trying to get him out. But he didn't come out! So I removed my pants and began flapping them about, but by this time the gecko had gotten into my underwear.
I eventually got him out while the cook, houseboy, and Mary were in the kitchen doubled up in laughter watching my antics.
ATS - Firsts
First Communications Center to use video screens to analyze telegrams for distribution.
First Communications Center to use a high speed tape reader to input data to a communications switch.
First Communications Center to use an OCR to input telegrams into an automated switching system.
First Communications Center to interface directly into an automated reproduction and collating system.
First Communications Center to use Random Access Computer Equipment (RACE) to store and retrieve telegrams.
First Communications Center to automatically format ACP 127 protocol using JANAP routing indicators.
First Communications Center to automatically scan text of telegrams to determine distribution.
I very much enjoyed Will Naeher's treatise on the beginnings of the ATS and am willing to take up the challenge of providing some of the earlier history of State communications. Like Will, I am doing everything from memory and sometimes the old memory fails me. I know that my time doing the actual processing of telegrams predates most of the CANDOERs. Perhaps there is someone who will come forth with WWII and pre-war history.
My EOD was 3/10/46 as a trainee code and cipher clerk CAF-3 (now GS-3). If there was a training program, it did not reach out to the midnight shift. I simply went into the code room, picked up some telegrams and went to work. My buddy, Bob Nichols, had told me that the crypto equipment was identical with what we had used for nearly 3 years in the Army Air Corp.
The Department of State was at that time located at 17th and Pennsylvania, next to the White House, in what is now the Old Executive Office Building. The CommCenter was on the 4th floor, the code room overlooking the south lawn of the White House. We remained at this location until August 1947, at which time we moved to 21st and Virginia, the present location.
As I entered on duty the CommCenter consisted of the Code room, Typing section, Acceptance, Editing, Wire room, Sigtot, Analysis, Reproduction, CWO's, and Admin staff. It was known as the Division of Communications, Telegraph Branch, DC/T. These various units accomplished the duties which their names suggest. The division chief was Howard E. Chaille. The chief of the code room was Bill Cummings. Really do not remember who headed the other sections, so shall not make any guesses.
The move to 21st and Virginia saw some upgrading of equipment, at least in the code room; of course that was my station and therefore the one with which am most familiar. The Typing section, Editing, and Acceptance were all brought into the Code section. Two of our systems were semi-automated, and a bit later, Sigtot was modified into a much improved system and brought into the Code room where it belonged.
At this time, parts of the CommCenter were on different floors, the 5th and 6th. There were emergency doors to the Center on the 6th floor, but normally we got to our 6th floor units by way of a temporary wooden stairway from the 5th floor. (It was temporary in that it was used "only" ten years.)
In 1957 the CommCenter was again moved. By this time, the Department building had been enlarged to approximately 4 times its 1947 size, and the new CommCenter was entirely on the 6th floor. And again there were upgrades, especially the Philips System, and many of you will remember this baby. It had its problems, but was still a great improvement. It was used until we brought up the ATS.
In October of 1980 my family flew into Dallas/Ft. Worth (one of the worst airports in the world) from somewhere in the U.S., I forget where and caught an overnight flight to London, Heathrow. We arrived there at around 6 a.m. the following morning and went straight to an airport hotel. We were numb from jet lag but didn't care to work on it because at about 6 p.m. the same day we'd be catching another overnight flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. This second flight would be a 13 hour affair on a special 747 which was a short aircraft, carrying only about 200 passengers. I guess it had really big fuel tanks. South African Airways wasn't welcomed in many African countries so the route was a non-stop one skirting the western hump of Africa. For some reason I never heard, the plane did actually land in Tenerife, part of Spain, way off the coast of Mauritania or Senegal.
Anyway, SAA took good care of its passengers and we eagerly anticipated great food and comfort and, on a flight that long, some sleep. I am one who rarely sleeps on airplanes and always get a little twisted about people who do. Blast them!
We didn't rate first-class passage, of course, but SAA had something that was just a little down scale from first class. They called it "Gold Class". People flying in that category did not sit in any particular part of the aircraft but all seats were much more spacious than on airplanes these days. They were really comfortable and about half way back in the main compartment of the airplane. Each "Gold Class" passenger got a coupon book, which provided 6 mixed drinks; an excellent menu selection; beer and wine. Our kids, then about 4 and 2-1/2, didn't drink a lot so we were ... ok, I was planning to use their coupons, though beer, wine and six mixed drinks was rather a lot. Suffice it to say, I planned on a great overnight flight even if I got buzzed early on and didn't sleep.
Did I mention children? Oh yes. We put down some wonderful steaks; the kids pecked at theirs. They had been traveling for a few days at that point and were sort of off their feed. Still, my wife and I had a great wine and a fantastic meal.
About when the meal was finished and coffee and brandy was being served (they refused me a cigar) our little one, Jennifer, started fidgeting. In moments she was in pain and started screaming. This was long about the time when the film was starting and some people were breaking out their books and growing heavy eye-lids. Her screaming only changed as it got louder. The cabin crew attended and provided a pain-killer which, after a few hours began to have some effect. We were able to narrow the problem down to an ear infection or at least something to do with the ear. Since I had known a friend, in grade school, who had excruciating pains with an ear which led to a serious operation, I was pretty anxious about little Jenny. I also wondered if a lot of people might be considering throwing us off the plane.
Eventually, about ten hours out of Heathrow, she calmed down sufficiently to allow other people to sleep. My wife and I were physical wrecks by the time we arrived at Jan Smuts Airport. The time there was around 9 a.m and jumbos were arriving from all over the world so we had to stand in line for nearly two hours to get through passport control in spite of having diplomatic passports. To top that off, a friend from the Embassy in Pretoria didn't meet us as promised so we had to take a taxi to his house (we had his address) but the taxi driver didn't know the territory so that trip took two hours. We practically fell on the sidewalk when we finally got to his house, with twelve pieces of luggage.
That was one trip, among a few, that I'll never forget. Oh, the problem Jenny had? It never came back.
Back in 1950, each geographic bureau at State handled its own personnel, including arranging transportation to post.
I recall a Mrs. Sanford, who reigned supreme, like Ruth B. Shipley at Passport!
Now Mrs. Sanford didn't travel much, other than to and from her residence to State; or perhaps a trip to Peoria; or some other exciting place to visit her relatives.
A new recruit like the writer was asking about going to Karachi, then on to Kabul as I recall! He asked the area transportation officer. She allowed him to go by boat to Karachi. At this point, the new employee asked, "What do I do when I reach Karachi?" The answer came back quick, "You stay on the boat!" I often wondered if the poor soul ever got to Kabul.
My turn came and I went via air. It was PANAM from Idlewild, to Boston, then on to Gander in New Foundland, and across the Atlantic, stopping at Shannon. I roamed through the original Free Port and got back on for a hop to Heathrow. In those days Heathrow was a mere series of Quonset huts, scattered across the field. From London, I changed to PANAM, going East bound to Brussels, across Yugoslavia, landing at Istanbul. Here in the airport, over a Turkish coffee, I first experienced the Orient! Then it was back on the plane to Beirut, Damascus, and finally steaming Basra in Iraq. There, I still remember a Brit racing over the tarmac at 117 degrees on some urgent errand in his military issue shorts. From Basra, the plane flew on to Karachi. I got off PANAM, which continued on to Manila. After a night at the Bluebird House (BOAC), I was awakened by the late George Fer, Pouch Clerk in Karachi. George got me up and onto Orient Airways. This was a Pakistani airline flown by British pilots using old DC3's (Dakotas), the work horse of the Air Force. Along with natives, businessmen, and couriers, we flew beside crates of chickens, to Lahore. Mildred Miller of our Consulate was on hand to exchange pouch material, and we soared off to Pindi, the capitol before Islamabad became the capitol.
From Pindi we crossed the Indus over Attock and landed in Peshawar. In the distance I could see the famed Khyber Pass heading to Kabul. Orman Powell, met me with the "Green Hornet," an International vehicle, with Abdullah Jan at the helm. We overnighted at Dean's, the noted hotel in Peshawar, where a retired British Army NCO named Dean's had opened in the days of Victoria.
I was almost there despite Mrs. Sanford!
After a curry dinner and some Pakistani beer from Murree, I fell asleep. The next morning, before six, we rolled out of Dean's, surrounded by every servant screaming, "BAKSHESSH FOR ALLAH!" To which Orman replied, as we cleared the entrance, "I beat them again!"
It was spring in March 1950 as we crossed the Plains of Peshawar and entered Alfridi country. Only the road was neutral and controlled by Pakistan. On past several mud forts. Then Abdullah Jan started to climb as we looked out on a narrow gauge railroad track-The Khyber Mail between Peshawar and Land-I-Kotal-once a week might have rolled by.
At Land-I-Kotal, there was a center where trucks from Central Asia stopped as the drivers had tea and discussed the latest news from the banks of the Oxus.
The final stop in Pakistan was Torkham. Here we crossed out of Pakistan, as our vehicle was checked against the customs sheets. A barrier went up, the black macadam road in Pakistan ended, and we bounced onto a dirt, rocky road. The guard motioned for us to stop! We were in Afghanistan. Years ago, there was a sign, IT IS ABSOLUTELY FORBIDDEN TO ENTER AFGHAN TERRITORY," at this same spot.
Abdullah Jan took our passports and we watched an official exporate on a dried stamp pad, then take a rubber stand to mark our entrance. A four-post wooden bed frame with a string bed called a Charpoy, held us as we talked with the official.
Finally, we crossed another plain of rocks and we came to Dacca. Here was the Afghan Customs building. It meant more delay, chatter, and of course, share a cup of tea with the Afghans. They probably called ahead to other military check-points that we were coming. We now followed rich, fertile Kabul River bottom land. Melons, sugar cane, and produce grew. At Jallalabad, winter capitol of Afghanistan, we stopped at a government rest house. Here, we had lunch, eating the sandwiches and drinking tea prepared at Dean's. Soon a crowd of Afghans, some carrying old Enfield rifles slung over their shoulders, checked we "devils" from the West!
We let Abdullah Jan do the talking as they Salaamed one another.
Now we followed the gorge of the Kabul River, high from melted snow, as it raced to join the Indus at Attock.
At Sarobi, we stopped to visit with Walter Flannery, an American from Scranton, who was test drilling with a crew in the Kabul River. He was preparing a site for a new power plant and dam. Walt's sister was Mrs. Paul Eckes of Hawley, PA., who ran a bakery in my home town.
The best test of Abdullah Jan remained! The trusty International, sold by agent John Bell, purred up the 7,000 foot Latabond Pass. Near the top we again halted! Abdullah Jan took some change and walked to a small hut with flags atop. He gave alms to the Holy Man, which insured a safe journey over the pass. Fortunately, all was well! We came down into Kabul's suburbs and passed into the city, stopping in front of a building with very dim lights. A sign read, "Hotel Kaboul." There we stopped, as I bid farewell to the passengers. At the door was a figure of a guy named Finnigan, an American Civilian Guard who was returning home. He said, "You Lobb?" "You ain't gonna like this place!" My names Finnigan, I just resigned!"
Somehow, after six years in the U.S. Army in both the Pacific and Italy, I wondered if I was up to this!
The next morning I hailed a horse-drawn tonga and was taken, by a turban dressed driver, to the American Embassy in Shari-nau.
It was raining, as we entered the gates of what was once the old German Legation. "Colonel Salaami," waved us in.
No wonder Mrs. Sanford never told anyone Kabul bound what to do upon reaching Karachi!
- Sunday, July 28 -
The last full day in Russia I dedicated to personal nostalgia by visiting my old neighborhood and apartment building on Ulitsa Donskaya in the morning and the American Embassy area in the afternoon.
I exited the metro at the Oktyabrskaya station. The escalator there was the single deepest anywhere. (The Guinness Book of Records now shows one in Hong Kong .50 meters longer for a single stage.) In the passages under the street, I was astonished to find so many foreign goods for sale; i.e. Miller Genuine Draft Beer, Parmalat fruit juices from Italy, bananas from South America, South African oranges, and Japanese sake! Things have really changed here!
The Oktyabrskaya square has been completely rebuilt, and I must say is a vast improvement over what existed 22 years ago when we departed. The Warsaw Hotel is still there, but has either been demolished and rebuilt, or has had a complete facade replacement.
A number of new office buildings have been constructed on Ulitsa Donskaya, mostly banks. Another building is being erected by a German construction company with German workers, and they were working this Sunday morning! Obviously, they were there to get the job done without delay.
I was unaware if any American Embassy personnel still reside in our apartment building, but it is still occupied exclusively by foreigners with the militia on guard. The East German trade mission which existed on the ground floor has been replaced by several other commercial enterprises. It was only 0945, so there weren't any people outside in the parking lot with whom to talk.
The exterior of the apartment building is the same with one major exception, a large number of satellite dishes have been fastened on the rear balconies. Some are quite large. As the steel on the balconies has rusted so severely, a strong wind could easily rip the dishes and railings off of them.
The timing for this visit was perfect, but not planned. At 0950 the melodious bells of the neighborhood Russian Orthodox church "Deposition of the Robe" began pealing for the 1000 service. I walked over to the church where I even recorded the bell-ringer at work in the tower! I went into the church and respectfully stood at the rear, remaining 30 minutes to observe the liturgy and listen to the chant.
Time did not allow for me to walk up the street to visit the Donskoy Monastery which is a working facility again, no longer a museum.
Walking past our former bakery, then under Leninskiy Prospekt, I entered Gorky Park and walked to the Moscow River, then to the tall, creaky old ferris wheel in the center of the amusement park. Great view from the top! It used to cost 50 kopeks, now it is 1,000 rubles for adults!
Exiting Gorky Park at noon I went down into the Oktyabrskaya metro and this time took the circular line east and north to the Komsomolskaya metro station. Along the way I stopped at each intervening station to check out the diverse architecture of each.
Exiting the Komsomolskaya metro station, I had some unfinished business to take care of relative to the Trans-Siberian train trip. The Yaroslavl railway station with its beautiful facade is here, but when I departed over two weeks ago, I was unable to get a photograph with the facade in the background. It was impossible with the massive crowds around these three railway and two metro stations!
Today I located a willing Russian man who, took many photographs of me on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon with the back drop of the Yaroslavl station.
I descended again into the metro and went back to the hotel for a late lunch.
I took the metro to the Barikkadnaya station by the zoo and a very short distance from the new American Embassy housing property. I took many photographs to compare with those of 22 years ago and to show friends who were with us then what it looks like today. The Russian Parliament, "The White House", is just across from the new embassy housing on one side, while the Moscow mayoral office building is on the other corner.
The Russian Orthodox Church of The Nine Martyrs, directly across the street from the new, controversial (understatement perhaps?) embassy office building, closed for many decades, is now a working church again. The interior has been renovated, but the exterior now needs it as well.
In front of the Embassy, I met a young political officer and had a pleasant discussion with him, comparing life there in 1972-74 with what it is like today.
It is unquestionably much better today. He said the employees facetiously refer to the church across the street as "Our Lady of Immaculate Reception". I said the last word could also be changed to "Perception" as well for it is less than 100 meters away.
The new embassy office building interior has been completely gutted. The exterior looks awful due to several years of neglect and rusting of metallic fixtures which have now grossly stained the red brick finish. Reconstruction of the interior starts in August by an all-American crew. That was the original plan in 1974 when President Richard Nixon ceremoniously dug the first shovel full of dirt for the foundation!
Black clouds had been gathering with strong winds whipping up. It was time to find shelter for a while. I crossed under Novinskiy Bulvar (the name was changed from Tchaikovsky a few years ago) and stood under the archway of the building (from which emanated the Russian microwaves) directly across from the present embassy office building, the one in which I worked on the 8th floor. The ornamental neo-rococo facade has been completely painted, recently I presume, and looks very nice. Certainly much better than the "new" building which has zero architectural character. Anyone with a kindergarten education could have done better. I was able to take several nice pictures.
Then the heavens opened up and a deluge descended for about 20 minutes. The traffic was not even slowed by it! But what was amazing was that no one stopped to place their windshield wipers on as used to happen in 1974! There no longer is thievery of wipers. The thieves apparently have graduated to bigger and better things, according to what we read in the Moscow papers, i.e. Jeep Grand Cherokees, Mitsubishi Pajeros, and Toyota Land Cruisers, all 4-wheel drive with air conditioning, if you please.
Just as I began my stay in Russia with a visit to Red Square, so appropriately did I end it as dusk began settling. The square was floodlighted as well as the multi-colored domed spires of St. Basil's Cathedral. The full moon was just rising over the Spassky gate tower with its bright red star on top. At precisely 2200 on the Kremlin clock, a fireworks display took place all over the city in honor of the 300th anniversary of Peter The Great's founding of the Russian Navy. It was quite dramatic. But, as fireworks displays go, those in Green Bay on July 4th were 100 times far superior. No kidding. By comparison, these were duds.
- Monday, July 29 -
This being Monday, museums and tourist sights were closed, so I had the morning free for any last minute shopping.
My fabulous visit to Russia came to a close with my departure on the Intourist bus at noon for the airport. I was heading for Amsterdam on KLM where I would overnight and then depart on Northwest Airlines for home.
At Sheremetevo II I found the airport very crowded. It's a good thing you have to be there two hours in advance. You need all of it to battle the queues.
The first queue is for outgoing customs inspection. Each departing Russian seems to have at least 100 kgs of baggage, each piece of which must be inspected for illegal exports, especially works of art, antiques, money, etc. I noticed dogs working with the officials, so that probably includes drugs.
Once through that hurdle of one hour waiting in frustration, the check-in procedure with KLM went rather smoothly. At this point I asked the airport information office if there was a bank inside where I could change surplus rubles into dollars. She said "yes, no problem". She lied. The bank in the departure area refused to convert my rubles. Fortunately, I did not have many and spent them on lunch and purchase of one classical CD in the "duty free" store.
Arriving back in Amsterdam, I checked into the Ibis Hotel at the airport. My room had a large, beautiful watercolor painting of Ludwigstrasse, the Theatinerkirche, Frauenkirche and Alps south of Munich! From the angle, it almost appeared as if it had been painted from the roof of our apartment building when we lived there 36 years ago!
I spent the evening writing up notes and get a full night of sleep before the early wake up.
- Tuesday, July 30 -
I had a 0700 breakfast and caught the shuttle bus to the airport. My flight was to Detroit-Green Bay, but it was three and one-half hours late in arriving. My departure was now scheduled for 1130. This was further complicated by a disaster which took place in one of the plane's galleys where a drain became stopped and major flooding ensued. Two hours were lost with everyone sitting on board while mechanics and other ground crew scrambled to repair the plumbing and clean up the mess. We finally departed Amsterdam at 1300, two and one half hours late.
The flight time passed very quickly, because sitting next to me on the plane was a young Russian man, 19, by the name of Yuri. I could not have picked a finer or more interesting seat mate. Yuri is an exchange student at Southeastern Louisiana University sponsored by the Methodist Convention of Tennessee. He is from Yekaterinburg.
I learned a lot about his family, schooling and life in the Urals, and his ambition in life (to study and be ordained a minister in his church). I took the opportunity to pose the same question to him as I did to Vassily on Saturday's flight from Vladivostok to Moscow about the large number of Russians wearing Christian crosses. He thought the majority wore them out of conviction with only a few for dress jewelry or as a fad.
Right now he is leading a group of 16 Russian tourists to the U.S. to attend a Methodist liturgical music convention in Nashville, with subsequent visits to a few other places in Tennessee and Louisiana before sending them home from Detroit the third week of August. None of his 16 speak English, but he is completely unconcerned about any potential difficulties he might encounter. I have to commend him for his spirit for leading a group of 16! I wished him the best of luck.
After he places his charges back on the plane to Moscow, he will return to his sophomore year at Southeastern Louisiana University.
Disembarkation in Detroit was delayed several minutes for Northwest Airlines had police come on board to arrest a passenger who continually disregarded the "no smoking" prohibitions, especially in the lavatory. He had disabled the smoke detector.
I arrived in Green Bay at 2030 to be greeted by Mary. We gathered my bags and headed for home.
EDITOR'S NOTE: If readers missed portions of this personal story or would like to have a full printed copy or have it sent you via E-mail as a DOS text document for downloading into your word processor, Jim Prosser said he would be happy to furnish same upon direct request."