What a Wife!

I flew into Tucson for my Dad’s birthday on a Friday, two days before his celebration and just in time for a fish fry. I couldn’t wait to give him his gift—a Kinko’s copy of our blog stories assembled and spiral bound—but I did.

I hadn’t finished documenting his Fellowship which was my goal for his birthday so we spent most of Saturday working on it. We didn’t finish. He had to take time explaining the four zones of the allied occupation of Berlin and I kept confusing West Germany with West Berlin so he had to get the World Atlas out. We finally made it through Berlin but still had Denmark and Scandinavia left to cover.

Map of trip

Total territory covered on Dad’s fellowship

I woke up Sunday morning and waited to see the light go on under Dad’s bedroom door. His “No Birthday gifts!” rule didn’t apply to me because the 172 pages I was planning to give him—with or without the final fellowship segment—were as much a gift to me as they were to him. And it wasn’t wrapped.

He really liked it.

IMG_20140211_180156His birthday was great. We went to church with my sister Joan and her family, and that evening they gave him a big party. My brother-in-law Arthur grilled 26 steaks! We had two kinds of double-baked potatoes, salad, cheesecake and a custard pie. Dad had been asking for that pie for years and Joanie and I couldn’t find Mom’s recipe. I found a recipe called My Grandmother’s Custard Pie on a Google search, sent it to my sister and gave us both computer viruses. But the recipe was spot on and the pie was perfect—thanks to Joanie. I told her I would make it but got busy editing Dad’s story on Berlin. I started the pie and then she took over. Good thing for that. I had added 1/2 tablespoon of salt instead of 1/2 teaspoon.

Joan's family in Tucson

Joan’s family in Tucson

On Monday, Dad and I had the day to complete the Fellowship so here, my friends, is the final section!

“It’s very evident to me, that none of our trip throughout Europe would have been possible without the attitude and ability of Dolores.” I could tell Dad knew exactly how he wanted to summarize his experience. “I believe, having been raised on a farm, without electricity until she was thirteen, really prepared her to manage all of the challenging conditions of our trip from day to day.

While I pitched the tent, the three kids would play around—often with other kids from the campsite. Dolores would take the car and go into town, going from store to store to find our supplies and groceries.  Most of the time, she wasn’t able to speak the language but that didn’t seem to bother her.

Through all of this we stayed healthy. There were times when tension in the tent rose. For example, Dolores would bathe the kids each night in one of the green tubs we had bought along the way. I remember in Spain, she had finished getting the kids ready for bed when one of them stepped on the edge of the tub and spilled the water all over the inside of the tent, including underneath the sleeping bags. But through it all, I do not recall one time when there was a harsh word between us. Everything was seen as an adventure and enjoyed—even that spilled water. We would somehow find a way to see the humor in a situation. Instead of hollering at each other, we’d sort of laugh.

So there was no illness, no tension, never anger and really only one answer…the presence of the Holy Spirit throughout the entire trip.

From West Germany, we drove on up to Denmark which was beautiful. We found an open space along the road and set up camp—it was warm and sunny and there were no bugs that I can recall.

20140105_182749_resizedHowever, the second day in Denmark it started to rain.

20140105_182802_resizedThe following morning, we got up early and did the routine—taking down the tent, and packing it up. We took the ferry and traveled on to Oslo, Norway. You could camp at any appropriate place you wanted along the road. The scenery was beautiful there too.

20140105_182628_resizedOne of the most important things I learned on the fellowship was about Scandinavian planning. I reflected on what I had learned from the city planner I had met with when we were in Amsterdam. He explained to me the reasoning behind the significant planning in their cities. In order to develop the land for their country, they had to plan years in advance because they were below sea level. In America, we expand into farmland surrounding the city.

When Norway and Sweden planned to expand a city, they would extend the transportation routes and subways beyond the existing city to create a new town. There, they would build a station for the subway and develop the town around it. This way, every one of their expanded towns had a means of transportation back into the central city. Individuals could buy a yearly pass for transportation and this could reduce the number of cars used. Many Scandinavians had cars but they would only use them on weekends and for vacations. They could use their mass transit for everything else.

It rained and rained all throughout Norway and Sweden. Fortunately, I had learned how to put up the outer section of the tent first when it rained, followed by the inner tent, so that it would be dry. This worked well for four or five days but after that, the continuous rain got everything soaked.

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Wet little Debbie

We found a hotel to stay at in Sweden so we could get the tent along with everything else dried out. I remember well, stretching the tent across the room and out to the balcony.

So to recap, after England, we went to Rotterdam and Amsterdam, Holland; across northern Germany to Berlin; north through Denmark and across to Oslo, Norway; east to Stockholm, Sweden; south to Copenhagen, Denmark; and back to Bremerhaven, Germany. We traveled a total of 12,000 miles and camped up until the night preceding sailing home—we probably would have camped the last night too, but we had to deliver the car for loading of the ship by 4:00 p.m. preceding day of departure.

20140105_183601_resizedThere is one rather amusing side light here. When we realized that we would have to spend one night in a hotel, we began to look forward to the prospect of a bath. Our last bath had been when we spent a night with friends in Heidelberg, Germany a month earlier. It turned out that the hotel we stayed at only offered baths in winter when the central heating system heated the water. We recovered from this disappointment and began talking of ‘taking a steaming bath every day on the ship.’ About five minutes after we boarded, we made arrangements with our cabin steward for baths the next morning.

20140105_183736_resizedThe tub was really full and the water very hot, but we were a little disappointed. It was filled with salt water which we found far from satisfactory for bathing purposes. ‘Oh well,’ we thought, one more week and we would be back home.

Reflecting on this whole experience, it’s interesting to recognize the responsibilities and roles that Dolores and I shared. I had studied and prepared for the trip and my part was seeing all the architecture, following through on the itinerary and details of the fellowship. Dolores’ responsibility was feeding us, keeping us healthy, washing all our clothes by hand, and making sure the kids were clean. This really was a much greater challenge than mine. She kept us all calm and happy. Except for setting up and taking down that double enclosure, two-room tent, my part was easy. What a wife!”

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On the ship headed home.

Crossing the Soviet Border

Around the time of Dad’s fellowship, the Soviets had been known to occasionally take Americans hostage for negotiating purposes. That didn’t influence Dad’s desire to see Berlin. He was interested in architecture in West Berlin and just plain curious about East Berlin. When he was making the decision to cross into Soviet controlled East Berlin, he was not going to be intimidated. Having been the smallest kid in his class at Fratney Street School, he understood what it meant to be bullied. He knew real power was not gained by creating fear in someone else in order to win the upper hand. Dad will tell you that his strength has always come from the Lord. He wanted to experience for himself the effects of the war and the impact of communist control.

Road entering Soviet zone

Entering first Soviet zone. No border check on the autobahn.

“The tension was great between the Soviet Union and the allies—France, England and the U.S.,” Dad told me during a Saturday afternoon history lesson to help me understand this story.

“I had stopped at the Consulate in Bremen to discuss the situation. They told me the only way that they had ever heard of civilians driving through the Soviet sector into Berlin, was in a military convoy. They said they couldn’t recommend anything to me but they did add, ‘If you do it, will you stop on the way back and tell us how it went?’

That night in West Germany, we heard artillery fire and we prayed for direction. In the morning a German told us that the Soviets did the firing intentionally to keep the German people nervous. Then I noticed that our VW had a flat tire—I hadn’t had any trouble up to that point. I took the tire off, put the spare on and Ed and I went to a garage in town. The mechanic checked it over and told us there was nothing wrong with the tire. He couldn’t explain why it went flat so he filled it with air and gave it back to me.

I suppose I could have interpreted this as a sign to listen to the words of the Consulate.  I didn’t know if somebody had flattened the tire to discourage us, but whatever happened, I felt compelled to get into Berlin. So we ignored it and continued on. But that’s how much tension there was.

When we got to the East German border, we had to go to the Soviet office to be checked out. They wanted to know who we were and what we were doing. I showed them my data from the University on the fellowship, told them I was traveling with my wife and three kids and that we were camping.They said they’d get back to me. So I went back to the car and we waited there while they checked us out. Before long, a guy in uniform came over to our car, said it was okay to go on and gave us a pass.

About this time, I had gotten word that the new tent we had ordered arrived in Bremen at the American Express office—always our connection point. This new tent had a covered area that we would be able to cook and eat under. We used our original tent while we were in Berlin because I knew the new one would take a while to figure out how to set up. So we went to pick it up and put it in our car-top carrier along with everything else.

We drove to Berlin without incident, and found the camp site there. We saw the architecture I wanted to see in West Berlin over several days. Dolores and the kids stayed at the camp site in the German sector while I went into East Berlin. The border of the German sector was at the Brandenburg Gate.

Brandenberg GateI got checked out by the Russian guards and was permitted to enter. West Berlin was already rebuilt by this time. I couldn’t get over all the war devastation—bombed out buildings and rubble—still evident in East Berlin. I believed it was the difference between the economic systems and freedom.

East Berlin

East Berlin

East Berlin (2)

After I had spent several hours walking around East Berlin observing the conditions, it felt good to get back into West Berlin. I went to our camp site and discussed my experience with Dolores. The next morning, I put up a sign that said Zelt Verkaufen (Tent Sale). Almost instantly, it was sold. I guess the Berliners didn’t have much access to outside merchandise.

The buyer of the tent came by the next morning, after we had packed up. We drove back to West Germany and found a camp site there. I couldn’t help but recall the beautiful site in Florence that had convinced us to camp. This site was a vacant lot in an urban area. I unpacked the new tent and realized two things. First, it wasn’t the one I intended to buy and second, it had many pages of detailed instructions on how to erect it—all in German. As I was pondering my situation, another camper noticed me and offered to help. He could read German and helped me put it up. It was very difficult and took us a while. After about six times of putting it up and taking it down myself in the days ahead, I could finally get it all laid out and set up pretty quickly.”

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Then it was on to Scandinavia with our new two-room tent.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. II Timothy 1:7 NLT

1958 World’s Fair

The final six weeks of Dad’s fellowship took us over more mileage than any preceding similar period according to Dad’s notes. We traveled a total of 12,000 miles in the Volkswagen bug—camping through Germany, then south to Italy, on to Spain, France, Geneva, Brussels, London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Oslo, Stockholm, Copenhagen and …I know I’m missing a few things.

Amsterdam

Our car along a canal in Amsterdam

The truth is, I want to get through Dad’s fellowship so the total trip will be included in the 40 years of stories that I give to him on his birthday this Sunday. He has been asking for months, “When are we going to finish the fellowship…?!”

Local resident in front of our tent

Local resident in front of our campsite

Brussels deserves a special mention on at least two counts. For one, the World’s Fair was there in ’58. Dad said John became part of an exhibit when he got tired of carrying him while watching a contemporary furniture exhibit. No sooner had he laid him down to rest when he heard voices muttering, “Look at those Americans.They put a live child in their exhibit!”

And secondly regarding Brussels, we lost Ed.

Dad said he gave us all clear instructions, “Now you kids stay with us. If we lose you in the World’s Fair, we’ll never find you!”  Within the first hour, Ed was missing. Apparently, we were walking along a boulevard that curved. Ed followed the curve while the rest of us went straight. Pretty soon someone was saying, “Where’s Eddie?”

Not with us.

Mom and Dad did find him two hours later.

Ed’s story was that first a man with banana peels found him, (a litter clean-up man) and he took him to a policeman who only spoke French.

“Of course it may have been any other language but to Eddie it was French,” Dad said.

Ed’s story continued on. A man came along who spoke English and told him to go with the French speaking policeman.

“We finally found out where we should go to find a lost child,” Dad said, “when we heard an announcement over the loud-speaker—in four different languages—that all parents with lost children should report to such and such a place. So that’s where we went and there we found Eddie with a toy in each hand, three stewardesses trying to comfort him.

“They said they’d never find me if I got lost!” He was crying to them with big tears in his eyes.

Well, we did find him and then it was on to Amsterdam, Holland where there were windmills and wooden shoes.

20140105_185750_resizedMy wooden shoes were red. I loved the color but I still remember sliding my feet into those hard things…the rub against the bone on my arch, but also the wonderful tapping sound they made on the streets.

20140105_185652_resizedThey were great for walking on the cobbled streets and also served well as toy shovels in the dirt.

20140105_185711_resizedThey were magical wooden shoes.

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British Hospitality

There she was, standing on the deck of the ferry looking out over the White Cliffs of Dover, the sea air tossing her new French cut, when a kind Englishman noticed her and her three small  children.

20140105_174618_resized“I had made it across the ocean,” Dad remembered, “traveling for eleven days on the MS Berlin with no sickness. Dolores and Eddie both got so terribly seasick they had to stay up on deck for fresh air. They weren’t able to eat except to go down to the German sausage bar at night. They survived on that sausage. I did end up getting sick though when we crossed the channel from the mainland to England. I don’t think it was seasickness, I was just plain sick.

We’d been all over southern Europe by this time with Amsterdam, Berlin, Denmark, Norway and Sweden still ahead of us. I was down in the men’s room and this Englishman befriended Dolores. He saw her, started talking to her and she happened to mention to him that we were camping.

crossing channel mom

When he found this out he said, ‘Well, you’re not going to live like an American Indian in the Queen’s country! I’m in real estate and I have a vacant flat near my house in the West End I’m going to let you have while you’re in England.’ He didn’t know when he said this that Dolores’ family were descendants of the American Indian tribe known as the Ujamis.

By this time, I had made my way back up to the deck and introduced myself to him. He gave us his address in London where we should meet him after we got off the boat. He said he would probably be detained while going through customs so if we happened to miss him, we should go on to London and meet him there. His name was Mark Finley. He was an importer-exporter.

It did end up that we couldn’t find him when we got off the boat and we really were looking for him. So we loaded up the kids into the car and since I was still sick, Dolores had to do the driving. Now remember, this meant driving on the left side of the road and we were in a German car with the steering also on the left. That is kind of tricky to do. So we were on our way to London and we stopped at a couple places, doing our best to try and find somewhere to stay for the night but couldn’t find anything. Dolores drove all through the night in this unfamiliar place, on the left side of the road, in this German car, with three little kids and a sick husband.

How we ended up finding this guy after all those hours of driving I don’t know, but all of a sudden, there he was standing outside of a nice looking house with his landlady, just raving. “Where are they?” he ranted at her. “Why haven’t they come?!” we heard him say. It was clear he was upset but as we pulled up and he noticed us, immediately relieved.

He welcomed our family in and showed us the apartment he had told us about. I have to admit it really was nice not to have to pitch the tent and set up camp in the shape I was in. Instead, we made up camp on the apartment floor and the landlady brought us hot chocolate.

The next day, Mark Finely came driving up with a truck load of furniture—beds, a dining room table and chairs. He furnished this apartment for us. He mentioned Mom was welcome to stay on there at the apartment instead of camping with me. But I didn’t trust him. I got the feeling that his plans were different than ours”.

“So how long did we stay with this man?” I asked.

“Not long, a week or so. You all came with me on a couple of trips, we saw Westminster Abbey, Shakespeare’s house—Mom would take you to visit things while I did my work.

An interesting thing we learned was that a typical apartment building would be heated to about 68 degrees. Additional heat had to be provided by the tenant with small unit heaters.”

London Bridge

Playing London Bridge in front of London Bridge

“Did you ever hear from Mark Finely again?”

“Yes. He wrote to us. He was going on a trip to South America. He said he’d try to come to see us in the states if he could fit it in but he never made it. That was 1958. Years later, in ‘71, Mom and I went on a tour in Europe of industrialized housing and new towns. The first stop was England. When we were in London, we were walking around to see if we could find Mark Finley’s house. We remembered it was across from Hyde Park. The area looked familiar. Just then, a man in a wheel chair was being brought out of one of the houses to be put in a chauffeur driven limousine. We saw that it was Mark Finley and went over to greet him but his eyes told us he didn’t remember.”

Inspired by European Architects

Look at this roof! I can’t even get bookshelves to stay mounted. My office looked like a tornado had hit when my shelves crashed to the floor. The thought of dealing with wide span concrete structures and cantilevers makes my heart pound. 

Nervi's soccer stadium in Rome

Pier Luigi Nervi’s soccer stadium being built in Rome 1959

Though I’ve been exposed to beautiful architecture all of my life, I have never really been able to appreciate the level of expertise, courage and depth of understanding that goes into it until I looked at this roof and thought of my bookshelves.

Dad’s Reflections—Fellowship Part III, 1959

“One of the highlights of our travels had been a meeting with Pier Luigi Nervi. He was an Italian engineer and architect known internationally for his large-span structures built of reinforced concrete. He didn’t speak English but with the help of one of his men as interpreter we had a very pleasant visit. He showed us around his office and explained some details of his current work. We were pleased to note that he does much of his calculations and drawing himself. The following day, one of his men gave us a guided tour through his partially completed soccer stadium in Rome. The reinforcing steel is preassembled and then lifted by crane into the concrete form.

After all the steel is in place, for any thin section, Nervi used a fine mesh (similar to our chicken wire) over the total reinforcement. Nervi’s man explained that from experience the stresses are distributed better and the actual strength is greatly increased over the calculated strength when the mesh is used. Nervi seemed to be a very forceful yet quiet and humble man—similar to his structures.

Another significant privilege was having a meeting with Italian architect, author and publisher Bruno Zevi.  A recent publication of his, Architecture as Space, guided me a great deal through my time in Europe. He eventually published quite a bit of my work including the thin shell concrete structure churches and school, followed by Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis.

Eden Seminary

William Wenzler Eden Theological Seminary 1968

Eden Library Interior

When I think about the renown of these two men and their incredible talent and ability in structure and architecture, I‘m overwhelmed that I could walk into their offices unannounced. Each of them gave me a considerable amount of time.

We left Paestum, Italy and traveled to Turin where we saw Nervi’s Exhibition Hall. We were quite prepared for this work form the coverage Time Magazine had given it in 1958, Poetry in Concrete, and from the photos in Nervi’s book, Structures. The interior was all we had hoped it would be, but the exterior (we had never seen a photo of that) was tremendously disappointing. The large rectangular entrance section reflected none of the beauty of the arched hall—it appeared to be an afterthought. The arched portion itself was water-proofed with some black tar or asphalt and lost all feeling of concrete. We do not know the history of this project, but we imagine Nervi did only the engineering and was not the architect. If this is the case, the building is to us a perfect example of the need for a more complete integration of structure and aesthetic design. We believe that during a period of architectural (or cultural) advance, as we are now in, structure and architecture out of necessity become one.

Next we headed south to Nice, France and along the Riviera to Barcelona, Spain. The winter before our trip, the Museum of Modern Art had the exhibit of the work of a Spanish artist named Antoni Gaudi.

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Antoni Gaudi Temple of the Holy Family

We’d never heard his name before and were quite anxious to experience his work. We stood before his “Temple of the Holy Family” which had only its front facade and spires completed but it was enough to convey his thought.

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Gaudi closeup

His work seemed to “drip” with ornament and apparently was based on no systematic module. It was entirely free—unrestricted.

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Gaudi closer up

As we continued to drive around Barcelona, seeing more and more of his work, we began to respond to it in a much deeper way than we had at first. He had shown us the vast possibilities of architecture. He used the basic structural system of the Gothic period. However, he was not limited to the development of that period as we in America were when the Gothic revival swept our country. His columns were not limited to a vertical position, his vaulted bays were not necessarily rectangular or even symmetrical, his walls were seldom plane surfaces, his roofs were not merely a covering but often sculptural shapes covered with bright colored ceramic tile. All of his work showed a plasticity of form and unity of structure and ornament that we had not seen before. When we experienced the space of his work, we realized far better the full potential of architecture and its effect on the emotions and feelings of man.

Campsite in Barcelona

Our campsite in Barcelona

Barcelona

Camping in Barcelona

We went north and west through France. Along the way, we experienced the work of Le Corbusier. The first work of his we came across was Unite’ d’habitation at Marseille. That impressed me and later impacted my work. I was greatly surprised at the honesty, almost crudeness of his use of concrete.

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Le Corbusier Unite d’habitation

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Rooftop which had a pool and workout area

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More cool rooftop

We were disturbed yet pleased by the natural, almost unkempt appearance of the surrounding grounds—no mowed grass or flowerbeds, only natural shrubs and trees. We also saw his houses at Pessac and the Villa Savoie at Passay—one of his most famous.

Savoye

Corbusier’s Villa Savoie

We had recalled seeing pictures of it but were not prepared for what we found. It had been in a state of abandonment for many years. Draperies were rotting on their rods, dishes and silverware lay on the shelves, furniture and cushions were scattered everywhere, glass broken, flower beds covered with weeds. Our French wasn’t good enough to find out why it was deserted. When we asked a policeman, he merely shrugged his shoulders. Nevertheless, the house in its present condition gave us the opportunity to scrutinize everything and see it all far better than had it still been in use. We couldn’t help ponder the question—what good is architecture if this can happen to such an outstanding example?

Along the way through France, we camped at a site right at Corbusier’s Chapel Ronchamp. The Chapel had been covered by many magazines and I could only say it was deeply inspiring—its curving roof, unique use of glass, flowing walls and brackets—all mindful of Gaudi.

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Chapel at Ronchamp

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We had at this point completed our travels in southern Europe including Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Spain and France. We had spent some time in Munich, Germany and were preparing to head north to Cologne, then on to Brussels and the World’s Fair, then to England and finally to Scandinavia.

Camping proved to be interesting—especially with the children—and campsites were available everywhere. The cost was usually 25 to 50 cents per night. Toilets (in one form or another) were always provided along with drinking water, sinks, showers (cold water), gas stoves (we had our own), etc. and had proven to be as economical as we had hoped.

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Mom with French bread and wine. The only way to camp.

Since Rome, we lived in the outdoors, rain or shine, including our cooking on a two burner Kerosene stove.

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Mom knew how to wash diapers. While sipping champagne of course!

We washed clothes by hand, bathed in water heated on the stove, slept on air mattresses and blankets—we missed our sleeping bags which were back home. Our camping life was a full story in itself. It wasn’t exactly restful but it was certainly healthy.

We returned to Spaichingen to the Alte Poste Hotel and repacked all our things. We left behind our trunk and two large suitcases to be shipped directly to the ship for our return voyage. We also paid a visit to the sisters in Bremerhaven.

A second visit to the sisters in Spaichingen

A second visit to Dad’s relatives in Shpaichingen

We wore blue jeans or shorts and each of us had only one good outfit for “town”. It took us two hours from the time we got up to the time we were ready to travel in the morning and about three hours to set up, cook, eat and get to bed at night.The weather was excellent for camping in Italy and Spain, fair in France and lousy in Germany—cold and rainy. We hoped for improvement as we traveled north.

In regard to food, we had had no great difficulty up to this point. We’d been drinking any water designated as drinking water and Dolores had been buying fresh fruits and vegetables with no ill effects. With the exception of a few American supermarkets in Italy, it was always necessary to shop at four or five stores—one for bread, one for pastries, one for meat, one for milk and one for general groceries. Many stores were open to the street, especially butcher shops where the half steer or lamb would hang unrefrigerated in the open. When we went out to eat, we would normally order three dinners—the kids would share one meal. “Drei mahl mit fünf tellern” (three orders with five plates.) This led to extra charges for the extra dishes used and there was always a charge for the bread, use of the table cloth, etc. Then it was always topped by a service charge of 10-20 percent.

There were many little characteristics that differed from America of course and some amused us. For instance, in one restaurant a standard meal we had ordered included a bottle of wine or mineral water. We told the waiter, who spoke a little English, that we didn’t want mineral water, we wanted orange soda. He said that would be extra. We asked him what the cost of orange soda was and he said 150 lira. We asked how much it would cost for mineral water and he said 150 lira. We asked him to substitute one for the other but he didn’t see it that way. Orange soda was extra and that was that. We had similar experiences with vegetables. A dinner in France was 500 francs with peas for the vegetable. If we wanted beans it cost more—beans were more expensive than peas, I guess.

A Fellowship and a Family Adventure

I have never tired of seeing Dad’s slides of Europe. The smells and sounds of the projector fan whirling and the popcorn popping created our own version of “movie night”.

Each slide is a story in itself.

My pictures of his slides don’t do them justice. I figured out I can hold my camera up to a 4″x4″ slide viewer screen, enlarge the picture on my camera, exhale and shoot. The lighting, clarity and dimensions are all off. It’s the best I can do right now as we work our way through upwards of 5000 slides.

I found a set of Dad’s fellowship reports. He glanced through them and read, “Government….State of Affairs…well…..thank goodness, there it is. Architecture!”

If you know my dad then you know that he doesn’t separate the concept of architecture from the cultural and historical context from which it emerged—just as early Renaissance church architecture was so fundamentally connected to the Reformation.

Dad sets down the reports—he knows it all from memory—and he starts in where we left off. Saying goodbye to his relatives in Germany. https://sundayswithdad.com/2013/09/01/one-china-cup-of-love/

“After removing the backseat out of the Volkswagen in Spaichingen, Dolores and I loaded the suitcases in with the kids on top of them and off we went. I had planned my itinerary starting as far south as I could and then we worked our way north so we would be in the warm weather. We headed down to Paestum, Italy, to see original Greek temples.

We first arrived in Bern Switzerland because I knew they had an original Gothic Cathedral there.

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Wait Dad., can we play in the snow…?

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Ed was always quick to make friends.

It was quite amazing to actually see one—all the structural forms within it. I still remember standing there looking up and walking around the outside of it. It was an amazing structural solution. Of course, they added sculpture but it was always subservient to the structure.

Gothic Church Amiens, Italy

Gothic Church Amiens, Italy

Gothic Interior

Gothic Interior

I needed a little history lesson in Gothic. A page from Dad's college history of architecture book.

Page from Dad’s college book on history of architecture–I needed a lesson on Gothic.

Then we continued through Switzerland into Austria. It was in Innsburg, Austria that I had a real surprise. I saw my first authentic Renaissance church.

Rennaisance Church in Innsburg, Austria

Renaissance Church in Innsburg, Austria

The Gothic, as beautiful as it was—posts and beams, pointed arches—was overwhelming in its scale. To see my first Renaissance church really challenged my thinking. It was very much to human scale and and they did away with structure. They made it decorative and it was just loaded with light, beautiful adornment, paintings, etc.

Interior

Interior

Close-up ornamentation

Close-up ornamentation

The fact that the scale was so different made me think about what was going on historically. This was the “Awakening”—the time of the Reformation when the printing press came to be and all the other amazing things that took place during this period. It’s historical significance became evident to me when I saw this example of architecture in person. So here I am, this architect sold on Gothic with my breath taken away in a Renaissance, nonstructural solution.

Then we continued to work our way south to Milan and into Verona,

Juliet's balcony

Mom beneath Juliet’s balcony, Verona

We spent our days experiencing all  the beauty—both natural and man made—and of course, photographing architecture.

Boat from Parking area to St. Marks Square, Venice

Boat to Venice

We reached Venice and as we were standing in St. Marks Square taking it all in, John started running into the flocks of pigeons. They’d take off and he’d yell, “Gagas! Gagas!”

Gagas' in St. Marks Square

Gagas in St. Marks Square

It’s hard to imagine him six months younger than my great grandson Eddie who just turned two.

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A moody St. Mark’s Square

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We reached Florence and spent the night in a penzione which is similar to our bed and breakfasts. Again, we were put in a garret on the top floor—I guess the price was right. At this period in my life I was subject to claustrophobia—I’d wake up at night thinking I was suffocating, not sure where I was and would try to get out. I’d wake Dolores and she’d calm me down. That’s how our night went. I remember Easter morning very well because Dolores had dressed the kids up for church.

Easter

Easter in Florence

I don’t recall actually going to church, we may have. I do remember being in this park with these precious kids all dressed up when a bee stung Ed. Dolores and I were trying to figure out what to do when an Italian woman came with mud in her hand and put it on his bite. The pain went away, the swelling went down and we piled back in the car and continued on south through the beautiful Alps.

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I loved this sweater I’m wearing. It had two zippers at the neckline and a gray pleated skirt to match. Mom would have known where we bought it. Still have it. Still love zippers.

When we arrived in Rome, we found another little Penzione but couldn’t find anywhere to eat except at a white tablecloth place. I got the bill when we were through eating and there was a large item on it I didn’t recognize.  I talked to the waiter and he kept saying, “Servitzio!” (Service charge). The kids had made a mess of the white table cloth. By now we had begun to notice that there really weren’t children in the places we were having to go to eat. That bothered us. We pondered it. Not only did we feel out of place with the children on many occasions but we were also exceeding our budget even though we would stay in the cheapest hotels we could find.

The woman who owned the Penzione we were staying at was very friendly and helpful. We found out the Bolshoi Ballet was performing that night and we asked her if she would watch the kids. She agreed and we had a wonderful time at the Ballet. We couldn’t get over the tremendous response of the audience to the dancing—they would burst out in applause with shouts and make lots of noise showing their approval of a scene. I had never experienced anything like it. In my experience at home, everyone is hushed until it’s over.”

“Okay Dad, I just have to interrupt here. I am so happy to hear that because you and Todd get hushed more than anyone I known. At the Ballet I remember you whispered, ‘Beeeautiful!’ and the person in front of us turned around and snapped, “SHHH!!”.  I remember what I wanted to snap back but I didn’t. At the Symphony Todd whispered and got a trio of shushers.”

“Hmm…you kids apparently made as much noise and ruckus as the audience that night and the woman at the hotel was not so pleased. She didn’t say much when we got back. But when we got alone with you kids you told us all she said to you was, “Naughty children!” I suspect you were just being yourselves but it was more than the proprietor was prepared to deal with.

Rome

Ed posing in front of the Colosseum in Rome

Anyway, as we continued on we discussed our situation. We had seen a presentation by a couple who had camped throughout Europe. After talking it over, we decided to camp—it would be cheaper and the kids could make all the noise they wanted. We had seen a beautiful campsite in Florence. It was absolutely gorgeous—it was high on a hill, overlooking the city. There were toilet facilities, there was a covered area to eat under in case of rain—it was just beautiful. It was also much cheaper than the penziones were costing us. So we decided we would buy camping gear and get a rooftop carrier for the car to handle all the extra stuff we were beginning to accumulate along the way.

We found a store that sold the equipment. All the tents had fly sheets over them, creating a double tent—unlike what we had at home. They were very lightweight—made out of nylon which was also unlike the canvas we were familiar with in those days. We bought an alcohol burning stove, two large green tubs to do our laundry in and give the kids baths, and a small folding table with six chairs that folded up inside. Everything fit very well on the rooftop carrier.

Home away from home

Home away from home

All the campsites in Europe were nice but none of them were as beautiful as what we had seen in Florence. I remember one site was little more than an abandoned lot but we worked our way down to Paestum, Italy on a better budget.”

Paestum, Italy

Greek temple in Paestum, Italy

When I stop and think about having these three little kids, plus my wife and myself, I just don’t know how it was possible. I guess the answer is, in our own strength it is not.

John in foreground, Mom's head peaking out on the right

Playing Hide and Seek in the Greek columns Mom’s head peaking out on the right.

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

“What is a Home?”

My husband informed me that my blog is confusing at times because it’s not clear who’s talking (Dad or me). The reader has to figure out who’s saying what. I’m sorry about that—this is a work in progress. From now on, I will be clearer about attributing the words spoken to the correct person. (What a concept.)

This is me, Debbie, starting this story:

So it was 1958, we had just arrived in Europe and there was a major change of plan. We wouldn’t be staying with the German relatives while Dad fulfilled the requirements of his fellowship as my parents had originally hoped. The alternative? Well, fortunately, Mom had the knack for making a home anywhere.

“Perhaps,” Dad said,  “I should explain first the reason I applied for this fellowship. It’s many sided. Central, was studying church architecture but It also involved my faith, family life and various other factors. I’ll summarize by saying we were seeking an opportunity to stand back from our every day living to study life and architecture in other places and ages so that we could better understand ourselves and our own time.

We planned our itinerary so that our travels allowed us to study the various historical periods in approximately their chronological order.

After a week and a half in Spaichingen, during which time the three kids recovered from an illness that all the children on the ship seemed to have, we bought a 1954 Volkswagen and the papers, insurance, taxes, etc. required to drive in Europe. Our first problem was to get all the baggage and ourselves into the Volkswagen. We worked it out by removing the rear seat and arranging the suitcases to make a platform for the kids to play on, and left it at the hotel.

Our first reaction to our travels through Switzerland, Austria and northeastern Italy was that we were somewhat challenged. We found we could not associate ourselves with any group. Neither our budget nor our interests placed us in the “tourist” class with reserved hotels, guided tours, planned entertainment, etc. Traveling as a family with three small children kept us from being a member of the “student” group–youth hostels and the American Academy in Rome were out. We met G.I. families with small children who had been very helpful and friendly but obviously we were not in that group either. It gave us a very strange feeling to have the responsibility of a family with the only “home” available being a 4′ x 10′ Volkswagen.

Thinking about Dad’s story now, I can’t help but wonder what I would have done at this point, knowing my home for the next six months would be a 4’x10′ space to be shared with my husband and three young children, one still in diapers. I don’t even like camping for a weekend. At two and a half years of age, it was an adventure for me and I fit in the Volkswagen pretty nicely. At 28, like Mom was, I’m not so sure I would have felt the same way.

I did take a vacation once during my first marriage in a 1968 Volkswagen, so I have a little sense of what she must have felt. Justin and I traveled the entire southeastern coast for days in search of a camp-site on the ocean. They were all packed with people and trailers. We decided to keep driving instead of pitching the tent. On and on we drove. I slept, making a nest out of my seat. Though I had sufficient leg room and a pillow, it was hot, stuffy and mosquito-ee. I would have given anything for a bed and a shower. We drove and drove until we ended up back home. Home never felt so good.

I recently uncovered an essay my mom wrote entitled What is a Home?. This is a section of it:

“To me, a home is a place of happiness and unity with one’s family. A true home must consist of more than rooms and furniture with nice lace curtains…. It must contain something which will serve as a magnet to draw us back to. That something, I believe, is the warmth, tenderness and understanding of our families.

All families have their differences of course but these small difficulties only serve to strengthen the love and to make us realize even more how much we need each other. Basically, the real foundation of a home is our family and our desire to assist and comfort each other. We must never expect to get more out of our homes than we put into them. We must always be willing to do our part in making our home what it can be.” –Dolores Rahn 1948

Thanks for the reminder, Mom.

(to be continued)

Now this is living!

Now this is living!