to the Ship
the third day out - to try to recall some of the high spots of this
memorable trip. Writing on the Olympic is nearly as bad as writing
on the B&O Railroad.
February to June passed in expectation of an ocean voyage. Also
apprehension that I would not make the trip although tenor sax players
1st to 6th - Preparation for said trip interspersed with a few final
exams at the University of Rochester. Procuring a passport was great
fun and involved much red tape. Everything had to be just so-except
the character witness end of it. My witness had "known" me exactly
17 min 50 sec before he swore for me.
6th Immediately after finishing a psych quiz, the drummer- F. Clapp
and I made ready to start for New York in our 1921 Nash. At 3 o'clock
all was in readiness - or so we thought. However, after about two
blocks we developed engine trouble. After much cranking and coughing,
we got the car to a garage where the mechanic saw fit to install
a new battery for $4.
being done we set out in earnest - personally driven by Willis who
decided after the first two miles to make a two stop journey to
the city. The trip was uneventful until we passed thru Syracuse.
Hitting the Cherry Valley road, on which there were no cars, we
started to pick up speed. 43 miles per hour. The engine became over
heated and fumes of burning oil filled the car. Soon adopted the
expedient of coasting down hills. 55 down a two lane highway with
the motor dead and brakes in bad condition is great sport on an
unknown road at 10 PM. However, even this clever piece of work failed
to keep the motor from overheating and twenty miles west of Albany
a connecting rod burned thru. Schenectady was the nearest town,
so I relinquished the wheel and Clapp drove the protesting crate
into said town.
we stored the car in a garage - got a bite to eat and after a couple
of hours of sleep we started out looking for second hand cars. Finally
found one in the garage where we had spent the night. It was an
old Velie, which at first glance seemed to be in horrible condition.
The garage man offered to fix it up and trade us even, so we agreed.
took the road again in our newly acquired conveyance, which looked
much better then when we had first acquired it. Clapp took us safely
thru Albany, but a few miles south of there we broke down again
- the drive shaft let go at one end and fell to the road. After
much confusion, thru which I slept, a mechanic was located who fixed
us up temporarily. $6.
against doing over 25 mph, we crawled uneventfully into Poughkeepsie.
We went to Kahn's apartment to meet him and have lunch. Stayed in
a hotel that night and slept soundly. In the morning we abandoned
the car and took the train into New York.
Grand Central we waited hours for Haynes and Dinsmore, who showed
up at one o'clock. There to the steamship office where last minute
arrangements were made. To the docks after a couple of bars. Also
stocked up on cigarettes and a couple of pints just in case. At
the docks, we looked over the ship. A mammoth piece of work- but
like Niagara Falls- a bit below my expectations. What I expected
I really don't know.
band travels 3rd Class which is down on E deck. The staterooms are
not too cramped. The bunks are narrow but comfortable and each fellow
has a double stateroom to himself.
around on the pier until nearly dead and at last the time came to
shove off. The band had to play during this supposedly thrilling
departure, but we were soon released and at liberty to take a glance
at the rapidly receding shore line. The hugeness of New York at
once became apparent. The office building section looked especially
impressive. Stayed on deck so long I nearly missed dinner - and
what a shame that would have been. A multiple course affair. Hard
to order, but very easy to eat. Everything from soup to nuts and
well cooked at that.
this sumptous repast, we unpacked and went on deck to play. Very
windy and we drew no crowd. After a cursory examination of Tourist
Class, we went to bed with the determination to get up for a swim
the next morning. The pool was open for Tourist from 6-8 AM.
very soundly, but managed to get up and to the pool with Haynes.
experience with salt water swimming. Sea water is easy to swim in
owing to the added bouyancy it gives one. It was also a revelation
to me that the ocean is very salty - much more so than I had ever
again at 11 and had a magnificent lunch. Then to bed again until
time to play at four - what a job! Dinner followed playing and then
more playing. The weather outside was not conducive to dancing,
so we moved inside to the lounge. Even then, no one danced. In third
class, there were about three "danceable" women and about twice
that number of men - excluding the Kent crew, which was on board,
bound for England. A great bunch of gents who get up every morning
at six - exercise most all day and go to bed at nine. Their day
is also enlivened by a tutor who puts them in shape for exams in
England. The tutor is the card of the bunch - a very smooth gent.
and took another swim. On the preceding day, the bath steward had
given us notice that no 3rd class passengers were allowed in the
pool, but in the afternoon he took pains to come and look Haynes
up and tell him that if we two would like to swim every morning
we might do so. Not a bad gent on the whole.
Went on deck after another great breakfast and was surprised to
see white caps on the sea. They did not flash in the sun owing to
the fact that there was no sun. The sky was dull and overcast and
there was a chill mist.
of deck tennis and shuffleboard filled the morning hours and dinner
was followed by a nap followed by supper. Boat life seems to alternate
sleeping and eating. It is hard to say which is more enjoyable.
To sit an hour and a half at a meal and eat continually is a new
some more to a bunch of rather listless listeners - two couples
of whom danced.
so to bed.
and went straight back to bed and so missed breakfast. Got up barely
in time for lunch. Wandered around all afternoon talking to sailors
whom I could hardly understand due to their cockney accent. Also
played cards and lost 30 cents.
and more playing. A few "tourists" came along and livened things
up a bit.
and slept thru breakfast again. Lazed away the day. Practiced in
the morning and played after the cinema at night. They have five
pictures on the way across which are very good. The sound apparatus
is much better than one would expect in these situations. While
we were playing a huge crowd came from Tourist Class - high as a
kite- they passed around the drinks and made a crowd to play for,
so an enjoyable time was taken.
routine. Gambled a bit in the afternoon and won 25 cents. Went up
to Tourist to play in the night. Got $10 in tips. They have a lousy
band in Tourist, so we were highly appreciated.
day on boat. Sighted a few ships during the day including an Australian
sailing ship. Land came into view in the afternoon and looked pretty
good. Had to pack in the evening - an awful nuisance. Played about
a half an hour and went to bed thinking about the next day's trip
up at 6 and ate a hasty breakfast. Collected bags and took the tender
into land. The land looked nothing like the States. The harbor is
fortified on every side. Bluffs surronding the town are topped by
forts. The town of about 40,000 is spread out all over the landscape
and the buildings are old and low. The
rolling terrain on all sides was beautiful and picturesque. Green
slopes topped by darker forests and here and there great bare cliffs.
The weather, which had been decidedly drab, smiled upon our landing
and the sun enhanced the already gorgeous landscape.
a cursory examination of the station and the docks, we entrained
for Paris. French railroads are to be preferred to the American
variety in my humble estimation. As the second hand on the large
clock ticked off 9:00, the surronding objects lost their stationary
appearance and seemed to slide backwards ever so slowly. This is
the only way I can describe the punctuality and smoothness of that
start. (Compare to the B.& O.)
five shared a third class compartment. Another good idea - these
compartments. They give one a privacy not found on American trains
and even the 3rd class are very comfortable. I could see little
reason for traveling 1st class as we get there at the same time
as our moneyed co-travelers.
views for an artist whizzed by our windows. Old, old farmhouses
- some even thatched. Hay being harvested in fields scarcely larger
than a suburbanite's garden. Quaint old haywagons - and poppies!
The fields were one mass of color - dazzling red poppies set off
by a bright green background.
towns thru which we passed were composed of incredibly old stone
houses - narrow cobblestone streets and numerous outside markets.
Bicycles everywhere. Once in a great while we would pass thru an
enormous estate - stretching for acres whereon grazed Jersey cows
and sleek looking horses. More often, the livestock appeared singly
or in pairs standing peacefully under huge trees.
eating the lunch thoughtfully provided by the ship, we took turns
sleeping until we rolled into Paris with a stop that rivalled the
start for smoothness and punctuality. A four hour run and pulling
to halt on the exact scheduled second.
reigned in our compartment - but not for long. We soon staggered
out into the station. French buzzing about me and carrying to my
ears not the slightest connotation. I shall not say it was bewildering
- it was not - at least after the first few minutes. I was the only
one of the five who did not have an elementary knowledge of the
tongue and my dependence on my companions was therefore complete.
companions started out with a view of finding a reasonable hotel.
Found a very pleasant place right across from the station. We took
two rooms on the sixth floor for 18 francs each - one franc being
worth about 6.66 cents. About 45 cents apiece per day for a room
in the heart of Paris was extremely reasonable. As soon as we were
settled we started off looking at sights - Paris - the 3rd largest
city in the world.
we were in the middle of the city and nowhere was a building over
eight stories to be seen. The streets in this section were very
narrow. The shops were attractive and every few buildings a cafe
invited us to partake of liquid refreshment. Before we had gone
many blocks, we seated ourselves at one of Paris' justly famous
sidewalk cafes to enjoy a beer or two. Dinsmore and Haynes tried
out their American French on a couple of lasses seated in back of
us. With a few gestures, they managed to make themselves understood.
I piped up "sprechen sie Deutsch?" to one of them and imagine my
embarrassment - "ja wohl." I soon decided that I could get much
more out of the French conversation and lapsed into silence.
we started back toward the hotel, but not before we interviewed
an Englishman who offered to take us around the following night
and show us the "sights" of Paris. Having been warned by all sorts
of sources beforehand against the ilk of this individual, we decided
the less we saw of him the better. After eating in a restaurant
where we were unmercifully gyped, we set out to see what we could
find in the way of entertainment.
up with a German and an Austrian. Combining their knowledge of English
and my knowledge of German, we conveyed to each other our views
of finding something to do. The German had the address of a place
where we could have a drink or two and see a show, so we decided
to go with him. As we had but 2.50 apiece, we knew that the worst
that could happen to us would be a night in jail, so we set merrily
off in a taxi. After a few blocks, we drew up in front of a building
faced with some sort of white stone. Rang the bell and nothing happened
so we walked in. A reception hall luxuriously carpeted met our gaze.
A French maid met us and instructed us to go upstairs. At the head
of the stairs, we were further directed into a room walled with
chromium and mirrors. We sat down on stools and music was heard
in the distance - the show had started. Discretion prompts me to
trust my memory for that part of the experience and merely jot down
- what a show !!
it to say - in about ten minutes the proprietress became interested
in our financial state and we soon realized we had stumbled into
the wrong building. So - somewhat abashed and minus most of our
luchre - gone for one glass of champagne - we stumbled out again.
we had spent enough for the night, we started walking back. Having
been brought up with the best of American conventions, I scarce
know how to fittingly and delicately describe the number of prostitutes
who attempted to pick us up. They were stationed about four to a
block and we were accosted about twenty times in five blocks. Gave
the boys some great practice in their French. I also learned the
phrase which silences anyone trying to sell anything at all - "Nous
n'avons pas d'argent" - or something to that effect. Enough of this
sort of stuff - which might prove disgusting to anyone who has never
witnessed the conditions. It was, however, more pathetic than revolting
of beer and to bed.
next morning about noon. Were recommended to a very good - and cheap
- restaurant. After a hearty repast, we set out to wander around
away the whole afternoon. Went to the Opera where we made reservations
for Kahn for that evening. Wandered back to the restaurant where
we ate another big meal. We stood around wondering what to do. Finally
took a chance on the Arc de Triomphe.
a taxi to the Champs Elysee.
the one end we left the taxi. In the distance the arch stood out
against the darkening sky. It looked massive and somewhat impressive.
The immediate surrondings, however, were impressive enough. One
could easily believe the whole of Paris was congregated on the street.
The street provided plenty of room for pedestrians and every square
inch seemed to be in use. Here, as elsewhere, were sidewalk cafes
and, being very thirsty, we tried to get a place to park. It was
virtually impossible, so we sauntered along toward the Arc. Priced
a few shows - 15 francs minimum.
Arc was quite a structure. Very large and all that. In as much as
its historical significance was unknown to me, I probably missed
much of the thrill associated with the viewing of this masterpiece.
Saw the grave of the French unknown soldier - the light that never
fails. It was possible to walk over the grave, which was not discernible
except for the light. Could not help contrasting it to the American
unknown soldier's grave with its tomb and ever present guard. In
about five minutes we had seen enough. Stepped out to the street
to hail a taxi and witnessed tragedy as an American driven car struck
a girl. Was impossible to say how badly she was hurt as she was
bundled into a car. In the street, however, were a couple of ominous
pools of blood.
hailed a taxi and rode to a spot near the hotel. Walked a couple
of blocks amid the now familiar "avec moi's". Climbed our several
flights of stairs and so to bed - with the determination to go to
church the next morning.
some miracle (and a little assistance from Kahn), I rolled out of
bed at the atrocious hour of 9 the next morning. Clapp, Dinsmore,
Kahn and I took a taxi up to the Church of the Sacred Heart. We
went up and up. The building seems to be built on a hill in the
middle of the city as we could look far away over the town on three
sides. The Eiffel Tower was visible in the distance. Like other
days in Paris, this was almost hot and sultry. The sun shone down
in a blinding glare. Strangely enough, there was the slightest suggestion
of a mist on the horizon. From here, the true size of Paris began
to impress itself on us. The tallest structures were smokestacks
from a few industrial plants. The rest of the city stretched away
at a uniform height.
church in front of which we stood was truly beautiful. Light grey
stone with the usual stained glass windows and also multiple spires.
Were hailed in front by an old crone from whom we bought a few souvenirs
and then passed inside.
perfectly huge place. No pews - just chairs placed on the stone
floor. Away at the front was a great stage effect in white with
pedestals and candles. The priest stood in an elevated pulpit and
was delivering himself of some very euphoneous French. At the conclusion
of his speech, the great organ blasted out and filled the mammoth
room with Bach (so I am told). In fact, the organ was the main cause
of our going to church as one of the Eastman School of Music instructors
had formerly played it. During the playing and the chanting, "things"
were happening on the aforementioned stage. Very pretty and impressive.
After the Bach, we all came to the conclusion that we had seen enough
for one morning and strolled out of the church very nonchalantly
ignoring the box for contributions at the entrance.
We set out to walk home. Nearly famished, we went to our restaurant
and ate. As our finances were running low, we dispensed with the
customary wine and saved six cents. Wine is all a Frenchman ever
drinks with his meals. It is lousy stuff - very dry and puckering.
The French coffee is even worse and tea and milk are simply not
drunk at meals.
afternoon was spent writing cards and resting up for the big debauch
we planned to enter into that night.
supper all of us except Kahn started out to do the town. Our first
port of call was the joint we had been in the first night in Paris.
We barely got inside the door when the question of money came up
again, Although we had money in our pockets, we had no intention
of blowing it there and so we were ushered out again - this time
with a string of invectives from the proprietress. That being that,
we stood on the corner wondering what to do when someone had a great
and classic inspiration - let's get drunk! Figuring, in my perverted
way, that a stay in Paris, no matter how short, is not complete
without a first class binge, I readily acquiesced. What would be
a more fitting place to drink than the Moulin Rouge in Montmartre.
So the four of us piled in a taxi and rode. Montmartre seems to
be the center of nightlife in Paris. Cafes, caberets and just plain
dives. More questionable women and sharks looking for unwary tourists
whom they can take into their favorite joint and fleece at leisure.
Got some champagne which is dirt cheap in France (90 cents a fifth).
After a couple of bottles, we started out again looking for excitement.
Met a former Brooklyn prize fighter at the Moulin Rouge who used
to deliver milk in Dinsmore's home town. After a bit of reminiscing,
we told him we were looking for some cheap excitement and were recommended
to the Palace of Mirrors. As our prizefighter had nothing to do
for the rest of the evening, he offered to come with us. Thinking
at first he might be another sharper, we demurred at first, but
finally agreed among ourselves that he should accompany us. A taxi
took us to the Palace which is one of the cheaper dives in Paris,
but none-the-less interesting because of its lack of selectivity.
stayed in the den as long as we could without spending over 10 francs.
Then we left with our genial host who consented to a glass of champange
with us. He also took us for a short walk and showed us one of the
old original gates of Paris. It seems the ancient Parisians had
walled their city in for fear of barbarians. After a couple of more
bottles of champagne, we started for home - a bit slow in our reaction
time perhaps - but with a light-hearted (and, it must be admitted,
a light-headed feeling). However, as I probably will not take a
bath (internal) in champagne again for many moons - it was worth
it. Expenses for the evening were about 30 francs.
started home en masse, but somewhere Dins and Clapp lost Haynes
and little Willie. The latter two walked briskly and directly home.
About an hour and a half later, the other two dragged their protesting
carcasses up the long flights. They told a fantastic story about
having been chased by a dozen gendarmes for the attempted theft
of a bottle of wine. Luckily, it turned out to be a bottle of water
when examined by the cops. They had also picked up a cake of soap.
The only one I saw in Paris.
morning we awoke feeling like the top of the world. After lunch
we took a walk. Kahn got into a piano store and turned loose a lot
of American jazz. It ran wild in the place. Also a piece which has
never been played there before or since -our own "Time and Tide."
continued a last minute rush for souvenirs by those of us who still
had money. After supper we spent a quiet evening at home getting
ready for the long train ride to the coast. Along about nine as
we sat at the cafe near the hotel, along came a street vendor selling
furs and tapestry. Two of the boys, H.and D., got hooked $2 for
a couple of robes made of dogskin in China (of all places). Clapp
got a dandy buy in a tapestry for $1. And so to bed.
got up at the unholy hour of six and ate our first breakfast in
Paris. After the repast, we were hugely thankful that we had not
interrupted a morning's sleep at any other time to a "feast" of
rolls, butter (French eat butter only at breakfast time) and some
very vile tasting coffee. It cost as much as a real meal.
loaded our stuff into a compartment and crawled in after it. The
train ride back was largely a repetition of the ride to Paris except
for the fact that this was a slightly slower train. Thru the towns
we sped. At almost every station, construction was going on. Putting
up new stations. At one of the stations, we stopped for a bite to
eat. The most we could afford was a ham sandwich and a glass of
beer. Once more on the train, we sped on toward Cherbourg. Who had
to run for the train? For once it was not I but Clapp who almost
passed thru fields and hamlets scarce noting the beauties. Haynes
got in a crap game with an old Frenchman. After forging ahead about
110 francs, he had a sudden reversal of luck and ended up losing
about 20 francs. The Frenchman showing a bit of European temperament
Just when the ride was becoming almost unbearable, we rolled into
the station at Cherbourg - on the dot, of course.
the way back we had been equally divided in opinion. Some of us
thinking it best to sleep in the park - if we could find one - and
the more conservative element advocating a loan of $10 to put us
up in a hotel.
the station, however, we were met by a representative of the White
Star line and the "sleeping in the park" faction capitulated. So
it was that we lugged our bags to to the steamship office in the
village main street and then negotiated a loan of 150 francs which
would purchase us a lodging plus a couple of meals at the Great
Britain Hotel. This latter turned out to be a second rate hotel,
but still the best that Cherbourg had to offer.
proprietor was an agreeable Frenchman whose knowledge of English
had been gained on the island. Having been shown to our room, we
washed and sat down to some very good cooking. Without bothering
to notice what we were eating, we devoured it and asked for more.
supper we went around the town, picking up postcards and haggling
with street merchants. Saw some very good hand tooled brass work,
but as I had only 10 centimes it did me no good. After this we split
up into groups - Clapp and Haynes going to the top of the bluff
overlooking the town and the rest of us going to look around the
a couple of hours we wandered around wondering at the quantity and
strange forms of the bicycles - window shopping and in general "soaking
up atmosphere." Finally got quite far afield. Down some little alley
where the second stories of buildings projected so as to nearly
form a roof over the street. The evening was marvelous, the scenery
unique, but due to the fact that the gutters of the strets served
as sewers the general effect was marred by not too pleasant an aroma.
Cobblestone streets, by the way.
there, and everywhere sailors were to be seen and the people in
general looked more "French" than any seen in Paris. Next time I
go to France, I think I shall confine my activities to visiting
villages. They are much more interesting.
the alley mentioned above we went and inquired for a wine shop.
We were directed into a little hole in the wall, dark but clean.
It looked like no shop I had ever seen before. Here, however we
picked up a couple of bottles of wine at about 18 cents a quart.
Good wine, as it later turned out. We made a deposit of 2 or 3 cents
and then started back to the hotel. Like any small town, Cherbourg
looked pretty dead after dark. That small town is perhaps a misnomer.
Cherbourg boasts a population of 40,000. I'm sure I don't know where
they all stay. Two and sometimes three story buildings may be seen
and the town does cover quite an area, but it's still a puzzle to
the way back, we were stopped by an exceedingly shabby individual
who had a strange request to make. He was to give us a letter in
the morning addressed to someone in the mid-west - his folks I think.
He had come to France - missed the boat back by some misfortune
and long ago used up his money. He had written home several times,
but received no reply. He thought that if he wrote again and had
us mail the letter in New York that he would have better luck. His
story was delivered in good American interspersed with some very
vigorous cuss words. We promised and the letter was subsequently
in our room, we tested the excellence of the wine and then our two
companions blew in. Their story was that the view from the bluff
was worth coming across for. In fact, the best thing they had seen
in France. I'm sorry that I did not acccompany them.
the five of us finished the wine and then went off to bed.
Last Day in Cherbourg
morning Clapp and I started out to return the wine bottles. We wandered
astray and were surprised at the number of alleys we found which
resembled the one containing the wine shop.
the outskirts of town we observed a peasant woman coming to town
with a dog cart. A large two wheeled affair pulled by a team of
dogs. The dogs were hitched to the cart underneath the axle and
as they were good sized dogs, some idea of the size of the cart
may be gained. The big wheels, the cobblestone streets, the unmannerliness
and vigor of the dogs, the woman's apparel and excitability all
combined to make this one of the sights not quickly forgotten.
old institution which the French didn't adopt from us - and thank
heaven I can say vice versa - was noted in our morning stroll. We
came to a three walled shed which was covered by a roof raised considerably
from the shoulder high walls. My curiosity piqued, I looked over
the walls and saw that the shed was built around a well. Surronding
the well were half a dozen women occupied in doing the weekly wash.
There wasn't a washing machine in the crowd. I didn't even see a
wash board. Suddenly one of them looked up and spotting me began
to laugh. An embarrassed Clapp was standing at some distance with
a rather red face. Not wanting to further embarass him, we made
a hasty departure.
was sights like the two mentioned above that made my day in Cherbourg
perhaps the most memorable of the whole trip.
ended Bill Johnson's diary entries. Tragically, Bill was never to
return to France. He and his fiancee were killed in an automobile
accident outside Pembroke, NY on February 18, 1940.