This continues the letter dated 9 June 1965, which began:
Friday 11th June
Well, today we are in Panama City, Florida, enjoying the sun and the sea.
But first let me tell you about yesterday. As I told you, we were back in Montgomery working for a few days, so Colin phoned up the Governor’s secretary to see if there was any chance of us meeting him this time.
Anyway, we were lucky and she arranged an appointment with him at 12 noon yesterday. So we didn’t go to work in the morning – we went straight to the Capitol Building, after having put on ties and jackets for the first time in ages.
We had to wait for about 15 minutes, and then he saw us. We had quite a long chat with him (although he was due to fly off to Birmingham at any moment). He was interested in our trip, but was very annoyed at the British press and criticised them continually about the reports of him, and the trouble in the South.
He said that he is of Scottish/Irish origin, and pointed out that “When they laugh at him, they are laughing at their own kin”. Actually, as we have been in America for the last seven months, we don’t know what has been said in the British papers, as we never see them. So we didn’t really know what he was talking about, and didn’t like to ask.
He seemed quite a nice chap although very fast talking – which is very unusual for a Southerner. I have my doubts about him being a future President of the States, as many people predict, mainly because of his stature – he is very small – about 5ft 6 inches. It’s difficult to imagine such a small man being the president.
He ended our ‘audience’ by giving us each a personally signed photograph of himself and wished us good luck – so we were very glad we were finally able to meet him.
We went back to finish off the job we have been doing. One of the fellows told us about a cemetery nearby where lots of English fellows are buried. They were all members of the RAF and were here during the war and were training at the Maxwell Air Force base just outside Montgomery – and were killed during the training.
He offered to take us out there, so we went. There were about 100 graves there and all had the name and home town of the person. There were fellows from all over Britain, and even one from Mousehole in Cornwall.
The owner of the place we are working at was the fellow who invited us to his home last time we were here, and took us out to dinner with his wife and son. I think I told you about that in a previous letter.
Well, since then doctors have found lumps in her breast and yesterday she went in to have an operation to have them removed, and if they were found to be malignant, they would also remove the breast. Apparently, when they had learned that we were returning, they had planned a big party for us – but had to cancel this because of the op.
We were very sorry to hear of this and decided that the company could afford some flowers, so we went out and bought her a huge box of plants, and delivered it to the hospital before we left.
We have had a day owing to us for ages, as we worked two Saturdays in succession, so we decided to take it this weekend and we drove down to Florida last night (Thursday) to Panama City. It is about 200 miles from Montgomery and we arrived in a fantastic storm. It was raining so hard I couldn’t drive and had to wait until it eased off a little.
We are staying at a very nice motel, brand new, and right on the beach. We can step out of the pool and into the sea. Strangely enough the sea is warmer than the pool. The sand is snow white and extremely fine.
The weather cleared up today although it is still very humid. In fact it is so humid that I did something today that I never dreamed I would do. I went out and bought a pair of these awful American shorts that I have been telling you about. Mine are a very loud plaid – in blue and green and marroon (I’m sure that’s spelt wrong) and come down to just above the knee.
I should feel very silly in them, but as everyone else wears them I don’t look any different and the result is I feel very comfortable in them. In this climate they are essential – but six months ago I would have died rather than wear them!!
To be continued…
Note: I asked Tony about their visit to see George Wallace as I was interested to know why they wanted to meet him. After all, he wasn’t the nicest character!
Why were we so keen to meet George Wallace? Good question! I’m not really sure to be honest – both Colin and I were quite inquisitive types and were always asking people questions, we loved to know all about the people we met.
At the time we were in the USA, segregation was the big thing in the news, especially in the south and in Alabama, where we spent a lot of time due to our jobs. Being publicly pro-segregation, George Wallace was very much in the news at the time.
Colin was more ‘politically aware’ than I was, and I must admit I didn’t think a lot about the politics of it all. We both liked the idea of meeting famous people and I think that to me, George Wallace was a celebrity – albeit a notorious or infamous one.
Being two English men in America at that time, we’d become used to being a bit of a novelty, and being very ‘sought after,’ with everyone wanting to meet us, introduce us to our friends or invite us to dinner, or to stay with them. We’d even been interviewed on the television and radio several times at this point. We probably thought that George Wallace would enjoy meeting us!!
We certainly weren’t backward in coming forwards, as they say, and we had huge initiative in all we did – we were a bit cheeky I suppose! But we’d decided to try to meet the infamous George Wallace, and that’s what we did.
We continued to approach anyone interesting or famous as we travelled the world, and went on to meet many fascinating (if sometimes notorious) characters on our travels…
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