Showing posts with label WW2. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WW2. Show all posts

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Recollection: A Birthday Party

While looking at old pictures for some past posts, I found a couple that reminded me of a birthday party from long ago, when I was 11 years old.  My parents and I had been living in an apartment near the Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre but I had problems with my lungs.  I went regularly to the doctor for ultraviolet treatments (was never told why) but kept on coughing and our doctor advised that we move away from Paris - somewhere with fresh air.  My parents found a house in a suburb not far away near a large forest, but I was sad to leave Paris and my friends.  I knew I would also miss playing in the gardens of the Sacre-Coeur as shown in the postcard below.

My parents kept the apartment in Paris for years but our main home was now in Saint Leu la Foret, in the Val d'Oise.  It was close to the large Montmorency Forest with its 2200 hectares or 5,382 acres of land.  I could walk up to the forest and did, with my dog, every week or more.  Below is a map showing where St Leu is located - it is about 15 miles from the center of Paris, or 24 kms.  The letter A below is at Kilometer Zero, which is located near Notre Dame de Paris, and B, near the forest between St Leu and the next town called Taverny.

I have a few vintage postcards of St Leu la Foret and not many photos.  It is an old town, like most towns in France.  It was called St Leu-Taverny until 1915 then it became St Leu la Foret.  It was close to Paris but when we took the train from St Leu to Paris it took about 45 minutes or more, in a steam train.  The station had an Alsatian look and it still retains the same architecture now.  Below are postcards of the station - the left and top right pictures are modern, the middle one is from 1910 or earlier and the bottom one is from around 1914 or later, I think.  (Click on collage twice to embiggen.)

I did go back to St Leu la Foret about ten years ago but I did not have a digital camera and took film pictures.  I took my husband to the forest which had changed somewhat.  Now it has better paths and there are more houses closer to it.  When I lived there I would just go up the street and soon there were paths into the forest.  I would walk high up in the forest and there was a point where I could see all the way to Paris.  The forest was beautiful in all seasons - with wild hyacinths in spring, lovely green foliage in summer, mushrooms in the fall and chestnuts in winter.

My house was at about 9 o'clock in the aerial view of the forest above and about 20 minutes from the forest itself.  I also would ride my bicycle to the small lake.  Last time with my husband we walked to the "Pont du Diable" (Devil's Bridge) which looked innocent but was a bit scary when I was 10 to 13 years old and walked there alone with my dog.  Here are are some vintage postcards of the forest.

When we moved to St Leu la Foret I was about 10 years old and had to be admitted in primary school during the school year.  I knew no one and felt quite alone.  The school was not far from our house - there were no school buses and no subdivisions, everyone had to walk to school even if they lived a distance away.  Below is a postcard of the post office on the left then the elementary schools, the boy school and the girl school.  The bottom photo shows the girl school as it looks now.

After a while I did make a friend.  Rachel was an orphan who lived in an orphanage in Taverny.  In the school picture of that year, 1950, I am the 5th from the right on the top row (the tallest ones were placed on top) and Rachel is the 4th one from the right in the middle row.

I did not realize at the time why Rachel was there.  I knew she lived in the Chateau de la Tuyolle in nearby Taverny, that she was Jewish and that her parents had been killed during the war in a camp.  Below are vintage postcards of Taverny from the forest and the castle Chateau de la Tuyolle.

So I knew that Rachel's parents had died in the war in some camp but was not sure where or why.  At 10 years old I was not that current with world affairs.  I found the history of the castle on the French web.  The castle named Chateau de la Tuyolle was built by a rich family in 1853, the Guntzberger.  In 1869 it was purchased by Lady Ashburton, Duchess of Grafton, then after the First World War it was used by French Forces.  Later, with the help of two American women - Mrs Royall-Tyler and Wharton, it was made into a sanatorium treating women with tuberculosis and lung ailments.  In 1920 it was purchased by the state and kept as a hospital/sanatorium and called The Hospital of the Park (L'Hopital du Parc.)  From 1940 to 1944 it was one of the headquarters of the German Army and was used by them to train the "Milice" from the French Government in Vichy.  The Milice were additional corps to the German Gestapo.  They looked for agents of the Resistance to fight them.  After the Liberation in 1945 the castle became one of the four children centers of the OSE association (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants.)  This can be translated as "Organization to Save the Children," a French Jewish humanitarian organization saving and helping Jewish refugee children.  You can read about it here in Wikipedia.  Picture below of children coming back from the Buchenwald Concentration Camp is from Wikipedia.

The Chateau de la Tuyolle was an orphanage for children and teen refugees from the Buchenwald Nazi Concentration Camp in Germany.  One of the teens who stayed there was a Romanian/Hungarian Jewish boy who later immigrated to America named Eliezer Wiesel (born in 1928.)  At the age of 15 he had been moved from Auschwitz to Buchenwald and at 17 was admitted to the chateau.  In the US he became a professor at Boston University and wrote 57 books, fiction and non-fiction.  In 1986 Elie Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for speaking out against racism, repression and violence.  But he withdrew from the chair of the International Conference on the Holocaust and Genocide when the conference refused to include the Armenian Genocide.  In 2008 he re-visited the Chateau de la Tuyolle and the castle was renamed "Maison d'Enfants Elie Wiesel" (Children House Elie Wiesel) in his honor.  (Photo of Elie Wiesel in Taverny in 2008 below courtesy Primo-info.)

When I was 10 years old I did not know all this history or where Rachel came from.  She was shy, friendly and nice.  I think the reason we became friends was because the other girls did not like us - her because she was a Jewish orphan and me because I had this weird and impossible to pronounce foreign last name.  But by the end of my first year there I had made several other friends.  So now I have to come to my 11th years old birthday party on Monday, March 26, 1951.  My mother told me I could chose a birthday cake from our local Patisserie - bakery. At the time I was very fond of a chocolate cake called "Patate au Chocolat" or chocolate potato cake.  On the outside it looked like a potato covered with cacao powder but inside was a creamy chocolate filling made of madeleines (not potato,) almond, butter cream and flavored with rum.  My mother ordered a cake for 8 servings.  Here is a small patate chocolate cake below, courtesy Marmiton.

I could not invite Rachel to my party because she had to get back to the Taverny castle with a group of other orphans right after school.  I had asked 5 girls to come after school and my mother had given me written invitations for their mothers earlier that week.  They all told me they would come.  My mother had sewed for me a special white dress in organza for the occasion so I quickly left school that day to go and get dressed before my guests arrived.  They never did.  By 8:00 pm my parents told me the girls would not come and we better eat dinner then we could eat the cake.  I was so dejected - why didn't they come?  Why didn't they call?  Mother, to make me feel better, told me that I looked so nice in my dress that she would take me to the photograph shop the next Saturday and have my portrait taken with my dog, a boxer named Woo-hoo.  He was a pedigreed dog and was born the year of the letter W.  I did find this old portrait last week in a box.  My mother always placed ribbon in my hair - I wish she had not...

When I went back to school I asked my friends why they had not shown up at my birthday party.  They all told me they wanted to come but their mothers refused because ... "we don't know these people, they must be foreigners, and who knows what they are going to feed you - you can only attend parties given by French families."  I told them I was French like them and that my father, even though he was an Armenian, had fought in the war and become a French citizen.  That did not help.  So, this is a bittersweet memory - a pretty dress and a birthday no-party.  That's when I understood that most people don't care for foreigners (they don't in the US usually, too - I know.)  I don't remember my 10th or 12th birthday but I remember this one.  I guess out of a lack of understanding of diversity comes fear of the unknown, of people unlike ourselves.  This happens in all countries and it is sad that children have to suffer adults' prejudices and bigotry.  I did not invite girls to my home after that.  In a way it gave me strength - the strength to be by myself and not count on others - that maybe the reason why I could leave France at 21 and travel to the USA, alone.

"There are victories of the soul and spirit.  Sometimes even if you lose, you win."

- Elie Wiesel (American activist and writer born in 1928.)


(Joyeux Anniversaire means Happy Birthday in French.)


Saturday, April 13, 2013

A little cabin at Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park

Last January when we visited Callaway Gardens we had lunch at the Country Kitchen Restaurant and saw that the gardens were adjacent to Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) State Park.  We decided to return to the area to see the azaleas in bloom at Callaway Gardens and this time, we rented a small cabin at the state park for four days.  We arrived at FDR State Park last Sunday, April 7, 2013.  The temperature during our stay was between 75 and 82 F (24 to 28 C,)  dry with a slight breeze - perfect.  It took us about 2 hours to drive from our home to reach Pine Mountain, Georgia, where the park is located.  F. D. Roosevelt State Park is operated by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.  Below is a Georgia map showing the 63 state parks and historical places operated by Georgia DNR.  FDR State Park is at the 9 o'clock point on the map below.

The State of Georgia is very diverse and its various state parks show that - they offer hiking, fishing, golf, swimming and overnight accommodations in cottages, campsites, yurts, lodges, etc., from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the north, waterfalls, lakes and marshes to the south - a total of 77500 acres (33,363 hectares) of natural area.  F. D. Roosevelt State Park offers 22 cottages, 109 campsites, group camps, shelters, picnic areas, etc., as well as seven nature trails and a 23-mile Pine Mountain trail which winds through forests, scenic overlooks, waterfalls, and goes up to an elevation of 1,395 feet.  The park entrance is in Pine Mountain and the headquarters are housed in a rustic stone building.

As we walked up towards the building we passed a statue representing a CCC worker.  (Click on collage twice to embiggen.)

Inside there were more photos and information on the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC.)  This program was part of President Roosevelt's New Deal.  It was a public work relief program in the US operating between 1933 and 1942 for unmarried men aged 18-25 left unemployed by the Great Depression.  They did not use machinery but picks, shovels, wheelbarrows, mules and human muscles.  The 15-acre Lake Delanor and 25-acre Lake Franklin were dug by hand by the CCC.

Two and a half million young men participated in the CCC and planted about 3 billion trees to help reforest America.  They upgraded most state parks, constructed more than 800 parks nationwide and built a network of public roadways in remote areas among other projects.  They built the entire F. D. State Park - lakes, pool, bathhouse, hiking trails, roads, cabins, etc., in less than 3 years.  At almost 10,000 acres (4047 hectares) FDR State Park is the largest state park in Georgia.  The stone building which is now the park headquarters was originally a park tavern.  Below is a copy of their menu at the time.

After checking in to get the keys to our cabin we walked around the stone building to admire the beautiful view below.

Then we drove to our little log cabin, one of the original cabins built by the CCC, and one of the smallest in the park.

It was cool inside and smelled like a wood fire had burned earlier in the fireplace.  There was a main room with a loveseat sofa, table, chairs and fireplace.  On the sides of the main room were a tiny kitchen and a small bathroom.  The bedroom and small porch were facing the lake.

It was early afternoon so we went back to the village of Pine Mountain for lunch, then for a drive on Highway 190 which was built in 1935 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) another of President Roosevelt's New Deal.  It employed unskilled out-of-work men, women and youth to carry out public work projects such as roads and public buildings.  Highway 190 runs the full length of F. D. Roosevelt State Park along the crest of Pine Mountain.  We stopped at the Callaway Gardens overlook and could see the golf course there.

Highway 190 is a beautiful drive where you can look way down on the right and on the left and stop at scenic overlooks.  We stopped at another overlook on the other side of the crest.  As my husband was going down a trail I took some pictures.  The trees were starting to show color - different shades of yellow to green.  Some clouds were casting shadows in the background of the landscape and gave the illusion that a body of water was running there.

We returned to our little cabin.  My husband went down to take a closer look at the lake.  I sat outside on the cement picnic bench to catch the last rays of the sun.  I read my book "A Covert Affair" by Jennet Conant which is about the establishment of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) precursor of the CIA and how Julia Child and her husband Paul were working in this service.  The OSS had been authorized by President Roosevelt on 13 June 1942.  I enjoyed reading my book but also stopping once in a while to look down at Lake Delanor.  It was not cool enough to build a fire in the cabin but the people in a nearby cabin made an outdoor fire.

During the next three days we visited Callaway Gardens and two other places which will be in future posts.  We drove on Highway 190 again and stopped at the Roosevelt Memorial Bridge.

We passed by some picturesque barns.  Luckily there was not much traffic so I could stop and take pictures from the car.  It was hard not to stop the car and get out to take a look when there was a clearing on the road.  In the picture below little farms can be seen.

Another time we drove by the Liberty Bell Pool.  It was also built by the CCC from local stones and is spring-fed.  Many ages ago Creek Indians used to roam this land and buffaloes drank from this spring.  It is open in summer until Labor Day.

On the fourth day of our stay at the park, on Wednesday April 10, 2013, we decided to drive to Warm Springs which is about 10 minutes away (approx. 6.5 miles.)  We visited "The Little White House" President Roosevelt's house there.  Later we stopped by the pool where President Roosevelt sought relief for his crippled legs by getting therapeutic sessions in the naturally heated mineral springs.  The pool complex was refurbished by the Georgia State parks and is now a museum.  The lady at the desk told us that when President Roosevelt left the pool he would drive on Highway 190 to a place called Dowdell's Knob and gave us directions to find it.  It was about 10 minutes away.  When we arrived there we understood why this was a favorite place - it was high above the valley and the view was breathtaking.

An historical marker explained President Roosevelt's visits to this site.  The picnic grill he had built had been filled to preserve it.  For the 62nd anniversary of Roosevelt's death, on April 12, 2007, a 1,200 pound bronze statue was unveiled.  It seems the president is gazing at the view as he did so often when he came here to picnic with friends or reflect and meditate.

An interpretative panel described the significance of Dowdell's Knob in the president's life.  The bottom right photo explains that on April 10, 1945, President Roosevelt was driven to this point by his Secret Service agents and asked them not to come back until they heard his car's horn.  He stayed there for two hours.  Two days later, on April 12, 1945, he died at the Little White House in Warm Springs from a massive cerebral hemorrhage.

It was awe inspiring, peaceful and at the same time sad to be in this same spot and, as a coincidence, also on April 10, 2013 - sixty-eight years after President Roosevelt's last visit here.  I don't think the view has changed.  It is magnificent as ever with the spring colors and the trees in bloom.  The birds are still visiting it - as I looked up a bird was flying toward me.

We stayed there a long time.  Then we went back to our little cabin and walked by the lake.  Ducks came to take a look at us but went on to eat some vegetation by the bank.  The sun was going down behind the pines but gave a soft pink glow to the lake.

The next morning we went back to the stone building to leave the cabin keys.  We took a last look at the view - clouds were coming.  The weather forecast was announcing bad storms, some tornadoes even.

It was time to go home.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas at Bulloch Hall with US Presidents - Part 1

I was going to continue writing about our trip to Venice, but yesterday we returned to Bulloch Hall which is decorated for the holidays in December.  To be more in keeping with the Christmas season, I'll share some of the photos I took there.  In December 2010, we had already visited gracious and elegant Bulloch Hall in Roswell, Georgia (a part of the metro Atlanta area.)  The 2010 Holiday theme was "The Symbols and Traditions of Christmas."  I wrote a post on it showing pictures of the house and decorations.  Click here to see this post.  We bought our entrance tickets and walked up to the front door.
There was a panel by the side of the door explaining that this year the Holiday theme was "Christmas in the White House at Bulloch Hall."  Please click on the picture below to read this panel.
Bulloch Hall was completed in 1839 as a home for Major James Stephens Bulloch and his family. In December 1853 Mittie Bulloch married Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. in this house.  Later their second child, Teddy, became President of the United States.  Their third child, Elliott, was the father of Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of Franklin D.Roosevelt (her father's fifth cousin.)  Bulloch Hall is a Greek Revival mansion listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  I enjoyed walking on the front porch and taking several photos.
Maybe Mittie sat in a similar rocking chair in the front porch waiting for the Christmas guests to arrive.
Inside the home two docents gave us a brochure for the self-guided tour explaining the decor of each room. It gave information on the eleven US presidents represented there.  On this post we'll visit with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, George Washington., Grover Cleveland and John F. Kennedy.  We will visit the other presidents in my second post - part 2.  The front hall is decorated in a patriotic scheme.


On the walls were campaign poster portraits of several US Presidents
and a patriotic Christmas tree.
From the front hall I could see President Franklin D.Roosevelt sitting by the fireplace with his dog Fala on his lap. (32nd President - 1933-1945.)
As we entered the front Parlor, we saw Eleanor, the wife of the president, standing near the piano.  Was she going to play, go and eat a cookie or sit on the sofa and proceed with her knitting?
The Roosevelt grandchildren will enjoy the Christmas tree in the Parlor with the original 1930s and 40s decorations.
Approaching the dining room we could see President Dwight D. Eisenhower (34th President 1953 to 1961) at attention near the Christmas tree.  (The life size presidents and first ladies were made by local artist Mary Jane Stone and are on loan from the Teaching Museum North.)
First Lady, Mamie Eisenhower, loved the color pink and had the first pink Christmas tree in the White House.  In 1958 she had 27 trees throughout the house.  She also wrapped all the gifts herself. President Eisenhower was an avid golfer.  His sport is represented by bronze statues of golfers on top of a cabinet.
 As we move to the breakfast nook we see an inviting tea and cookies set on the table near the radio.  Are there good news?  What are the headlines?  
The East Liverpool newspaper on the table says "Britain Intervenes - Yanks Blast Japs In Town After Taking Shuri Castle."  So we are back in May 1945 when the US battleship USS Mississippi began shelling Shuri Castle in Okinawa and then burnt it down.  "Rebel Company A" of the 5th Marine Regiment even hoisted a Confederate Battle Ship Flag on the castle site as they said it was the only flag available.  It stayed there for 3 days until removed.  Below is a photo of Shuri Castle taken in 1925 and another photo of the rebuilt castle after the war. (courtesy Wikipedia Commons.)
Now we are going downstairs to the kitchen and first we take a look at the cellar.  
Under the stairs we find a starkly handsome fox.
I guess he escaped the hunt that President George Washington (1st President - 1789-1797) organized this morning with his guests at Mount Vernon.  The President, in front of a bountiful repast, is waiting with First Lady Martha to greet the tired and famished hunters.
There is a large Virginia ham, home baked breads, cheese, fruits and succulent desserts waiting on the pie safe.
The room exudes warmth and companionship.  Near a bright fire many gifts have been placed under the Christmas tree. 
Now we are going upstairs to Mittie's bedroom.  There we meet President Grover Cleveland (22nd and 24th President - 1885-1889 and 1893-1897.)  I remember him well - in 1886 he presided over the dedication of the Statue of Liberty (a gift from the people of France.)
President Cleveland was a bachelor until the second year of his first term and then married Frances Folsom - being the first President to have his wedding at the White House.  At 21 years old, Frances was the youngest First Lady - President Cleveland was 49 years old.  (The White House Historical Association issued an ornament in 2007 in honor of their wedding.)
They had five children.  Frances became the first wife of a President to give birth in the White House.  Another first for the White House was when President Cleveland started using electric lights.  His Christmas tree was decorated with red white and blue lights and a small model of the White house was placed under the tree.  One of his presents to his daughter was a pretty dollhouse.  The Clevelands considered Christmas a children's festival.  Frances Cleveland was a member of a "Christmas Club" that offered gifts to poor children.
Now we pass to the Wing Room where President John F. Kennedy (34th President - 1961-1963) is standing by the fireplace.

Presently First Lady Jacqueline is joining him.


In 1961 she initiated the idea of having a theme for the official Christmas tree at the White House. In 1962 the theme was "The Children's Tree"
We said "goodbye" to Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy as they were waiting for their guests.

As we walked near the Sewing Room we saw Archie Roosevelt, age 8, fifth child of President Theodore Roosevelt.  With the help of the White House staff, he secretly brought a tree into the house with a gift for each member of the family including the dog, the cat and the pony.
Archie had a large amount of "Teddy" bears next to him - they were named in honor of his father, President Theodore Roosevelt.
But we could not stay long to admire them as we had more US Presidents to visit...
More to come in part 2 ...