29 April 65 : Unimpressed by the White House and US politics : Charlottesville, Virginia, USA

Thursday 29th April 1965

Dear family,

Well, we had a real turn up for the books on Wednesday. We were busy on a job in New Jersey and only about 50 miles from Philadelphia, when we had a phone call from the office telling us to drop everything and come into the office as we had to go to Birmingham, Alabama.

As you can imagine we were delighted and set off as fast as we could in case they changed their minds. Happily they didn’t, and we are well on the way.

It’s about 1,000 miles south of Philadelphia, and as we left on Wednesday afternoon, and it takes two days to do the trip, it means we have four days off on the trot. And very nice too.

We are both very convinced that all the people in this setup are crazy. We could easily have worked Thursday and Friday and travelled down in our own time at the weekend. But they said leave right away and we didn’t argue.

 

Dec 64 Tony Herb Vi Bahamas cruise - Copy
Herb, Vi and Tony on their Nassau cruise in December 64

 

Before we left Philadelphia we popped up to see Vi who was delighted to see us. She surprised us by telling us that she is having a house built in her garden for herself and Herb – and the foundations have been started already. She insists however that she hasn’t decided to marry him yet, but “probably will”.

It’s a jolly good job we did go to see her because we were able to discover that something very unfortunate has happened. She asked us if you have received the film of us all in Florida.

Apparently she sent it a few weeks ago – Special Delivery Airmail. As neither of you have mentioned it I was rather puzzled, and suggested she may have put the wrong address, and sure enough when she got her address book out we discovered that the address she has is completely wrong.

The film was sent to Bristol addressed as follows:-   —-, — — , Fishponds, Bristol, England. Where she got this from she doesn’t know. Says she took it off the Christmas card you sent her.

But I think she may have got confused, and I think she may have used the address of that big fat woman called —-, as I think she lives in Fishponds.

Anyway if you could check at the above address, they may have it, or they may have returned it as Vi put on her own address as well. I hope we don’t lose it as I would like you to see it. Anyhow, after we left Vi’s we went to Washington and stayed the night there.

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We had a meal and then went on a tour of the monuments, as Colin was anxious to see them. I won’t describe all these again as I believe I told you about them last time I was there.

 

temporary grave of JFK Tony
Tony’s photo: Temporary grave of John F Kennedy

 

Today we rose fairly early and had a busy day. We went to Arlington Cemetery to see President Kennedy’s grave, and spent a long time in the cemetery.

As we have moved further south the trees have at last become green, and the grass thick and long, and in the cemetery also were lots of cherry trees in full blossom. The whole effect under a clear blue sky was terrific.

Strange as it may seem, I think Arlington Cemetery is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to.

From there we dashed over to the White House and joined a terrific queue to go on a tour of it.

 

1965 04 29 Lincoln Memorial Washington
Tony’s photo: Lincoln Memorial

 

1965 04 29 White House Washington
Tony’s photo: White House
1965 04 29 The Reflecting pool and cherry trees taken from the Lincoln Memorial washington
Tony’s photo: The Reflecting Pool and cherry trees, taken from the Lincoln Memorial
1965 04 29 Jefferson Memorial Washington
Tony’s photo: Jefferson Memorial

 

When we eventually got inside we realised it was a wasted hour. I have never seen such a load of rubbish in all my life. Everything looked cheap and shabby and uninteresting. No wonder the Yanks go crazy about our stately homes!!

We then went to the Capitol Building and learned that there was a meeting of The Senate in progress. In order to get into the Visitors Gallery we had to get our passports and go to the Sergeant-at-Arms office to get a pass (because we are foreigners) and we were then able to sit in and listen to the proceedings.

Some Senators were reading, loads were talking in large groups, and even the Deputy Vice President was having a great time listening to jokes and roaring his head off.

At one point about a dozen got up and went out to lunch, and the poor chap speaking didn’t bat an eyelid. It was a bit like the courts we went to in New York. It lacked dignity.

 

1965 04 29 postcard United States Capitol
Tony’s postcard, captioned: United States Capitol. The cornershone was laid in 1793. Burned by the British in 1812. The House and Senate Chambers, Statuary Hall, the Rutinda and the President’s Room are most interesting.

 

We then went over to the House of Representatives and listened to them, but all they were doing was taking a very lengthy vote on something, so it wasn’t worth stopping. This second place is where Johnson made his speech to the nation recently about equal voting rights for coloured people.

We had by this time seen all there is to see in Washington, so we headed south down through Virginia. It was a very warm day and the scenery was terrific. I’m sorry to keep on about the greenery, but I honestly thought I would never see leaves on trees again.

We have been north for so long, and up there things looks so dead. Colin is convinced that those trees will never bear leaves again – but I suppose they will.

All winter we have seen dead brownish looking grass everywhere, and now it is a rich green, and I think it has given us a new injection of life.

As we go further south it will get progressively warmer, and by the time we get there (Alabama) it should be warm enough to swim in the pools.

It’s a fantastic coincidence because only last week Colin said that Birmingham, Alabama, would be the ideal place to be sent to, as it is convenient for lots of places to visit – and here we are on our way there, right out of the blue!!

We drove down through Virginia along a very beautiful scenic route. It is called the ‘Blue Ridge Scenic Parkway’ which is a road which runs along the top of the Shenandoah Mountains. It runs for the whole length, which is about 100 miles.

It’s extremely good, as on one side is the Shenandoah Valley (remember the song?) and across from that are the Washington Mountains. All the time you are travelling at about 3,000ft, and the views are fantastic.

On both sides you can see for about 20 miles we reckoned. We saw some wildlife – some deer and an opossum or a polecat, I don’t know which. We didn’t see any bears, but there are plenty around.

We came down out of the mountains to a small place called Charlottesville, Virginia, and found people swimming in the pool, so it really has been warm here.

We ran into trouble again – with the time. We found that we were on an hour ahead as they don’t put their clocks forward down here, as we did up north last week. It seems as if there are far more time differences than I imagined.

Tomorrow we are planning to travel to Bristol, which is on the border of Virginia and Tennessee. We are planning to phone one of the local TV companies and see if we can get on the screen.

To be continued… 

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