3 July 65 : VW campervan bliss, charging for culture! : Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

(In case you’ve wondered – whether they were never written, were lost in the post at the time, or have been lost since then, we have no letters for the days between 20 June and 3rd July…)
Saturday 3rd July 1965
Dear family,

So much has happened this week that I just don’t know where to start. It’s been very hectic and this is the first chance I have had to sit down and put pen to paper.

I think the ‘news of the week’ for this week is definitely our latest acquisition. This morning we paid for, and took delivery of, the most beautiful Volkswagen camper-van you ever did see. We went out shopping for a car about Wednesday, and went to a certified Volkswagen dealer in Norristown not far from here. We had just about settled on a regular Volkswagen car – when we saw this camper-van.

This is the Microbus, but all equipped as a camper-van. It was priced at $1,600 which was too much for us, but we fell in love with it right away and began to haggle – and eventually it came down by $200 to $1,400, which almost made the salesman weep.

We also saved another $70 by using Herb’s mother’s address in New Jersey which saved us paying any State Tax. Although even at $1,400 it’s more than we really intended to pay, we decided to have it, as everyone tells us we should make a fat profit on it in California where these are in great demand, and where camping is extremely popular.

img306 laundry day near Kabul
A photo from later in their travels, showing Colin with the beloved VW campervan (on laundry day, near Kabul in Afghanistan.)

Also, we should save a lot in rent as we shan’t now have to find an apartment when we get to San Francisco. We shall be able to live in it from the time we leave here, to the time we leave for New Zealand.

It is 1962, and has only done 26,000 miles which for a Volkswagen is nothing. It is spotless and has been serviced by the people who sold it to us, every 3000 miles. It belonged to an elderly couple (teachers) who only used it in the summer during their vacations. They sold it to buy a $7,000 Dodge camper which has everything (air conditioning, TV etc.)

Ours has a toilet, stove (with 4 extra cylinders of gas not used), icebox (like a fridge except you put in ice), radio, heater, cigarette lighter, reversing lights, two bunks, full length closet, full length mirror, electric lights, a huge awning to erect outside and loads of other odds and ends – including a 5 gallon water container.

img305 Colin posing near Kabul
A photo from later in their travels, showing Colin with the beloved VW campervan (on laundry day, near Kabul in Afghanistan.)

It is fitted all around with mosquito mesh, and is fully lined with wood – which gives it an oak panelled effect. It has all new tyres and the engine is really sweet. We have loaded ourselves with insurance on it, and both of us can’t wait to head west in it.

It’s very strange having to change gear again, and especially with the right-hand!! The stove alone is worth $20, so this has saved us quite a bit in odds and ends. It can all be switched around and you can erect tables and things. I am thrilled with it, and can hardly believe it’s half mine. We can’t wait to show it off to our friends.

On Monday we decided to go job hunting, and went to Norristown and bought a paper and went through the jobs. We saw an advert – ‘Two Painters wanted’ – so we became ‘painters’ and went along.

The foreman hired us immediately, saying that he appreciated ‘culture’ and seemed to think that because we are English that we are automatically highly cultured! He asked me what sort of cultural level we were on in England, and I was so amazed by him, that I just raised my arm and said “Oh – about that level” – and this seemed to mean something to him, and he was quite satisfied!! He seemed to think that he was a cut above all the others, and said he would appreciate having us to talk to – and he offered us $2 an hour.

We said that we charged extra for the ‘culture’ – and believe it or not he actually raised it to $2.25 an hour. We thought he was a bit nutty!!!

The next day we reported at 8 a.m. and set to work on the roof (6th floor) and had to scrape an iron fire escape which went down to the street. It was 94 degrees all day, and scraping rusty old iron becomes mighty hard work believe me, after eight hours. Still we thought that for over $100 a week it was worth it.


From Wikimedia – By Tim Green from Bradford (Fire escape) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Unfortunately our new found wealth didn’t last – we were fired at the end of the day!!

Apparently the boss didn’t value his foreman’s appreciation of culture – and he nearly fired the foreman too!! The boss said he had enough painters already. Still, we were paid $20 each – more than enough for a week, so we didn’t mind too much.

Tuesday, we had a lot of official business to do with our bank accounts and travel arrangements, and we got ourselves straight.

It’s been very hot here and the pool is a great temptation, and we have certainly not let it go to waste, but on Thursday we finally roused ourselves and went job hunting again. We went into a trucking freight terminal and were signed up right away – and started that evening (6pm until 2.30am).

The wages are fantastic, $2.96 an hour which for a 5 day week brings in over $110 a week. Unfortunately we are only casual and have to phone in every day. But even two or three days in a week is ample. We are ‘platform loaders’ and load and unload trucks. It’s very strenuous work and more fitting to horses than humans – but the money is so good. Also the hours are ideal as we then get up at 11am and can spend the rest of the day in the sun.

Unfortunately we can’t work until next Tuesday now, as it is Independence Day on Monday and is a national holiday – and they don’t work on Saturday or Sunday.

The weather here has been so hot that we haven’t been able to sleep up in the top room. This is really the attic, and as it’s so near the roof it gets unbearably hot. So we asked Vi if we could use our own beds down in the hall on the ground floor. She didn’t mind, so when it’s very hot we sleep down there. We spend most of our time (all of us) in shorts only.

On Wednesday we went up to see Pat and Tony at their new house. It’s amazing to think that they have only been here nine months. They have everything!! – a beautiful house with loads of ground. It’s what we call ‘ranch style’ which is really just a bungalow.

They have air conditioning (which Tony fitted recently), a washer and dryer, all new furniture, a motor mower, TV, car, freezer etc etc. They also have a beautiful little boy, very blonde and very much like Pat. They are very happy, although Pat doesn’t like the heat a lot and she nearly always wears a swimming costume.

Tony was made redundant in his job but luckily he saw this coming and made plans, and as soon as he left his old job he started in his new one. He has had a rise in wages and he even made over $300 in compensation money.

Philadelphia Inquirer 1965 front page
Philadelphia Inquirer (Jan 65 cover)

He now works for the ‘Philadelphia Inquirer’ which is a newspaper, and has a much better job. He has never done newspaper work before so this is a great chance for him. He should now be able to get on to the London newspapers with this experience, whereas before he couldn’t – (assuming of course that he will return to the UK, as he says he might).
To be continued…

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You can follow us at http://www.facebook.com/Tones1960stravels, feel free to say hello or ask Tony a question 🙂

2 thoughts on “3 July 65 : VW campervan bliss, charging for culture! : Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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