Saturday, August 7, 2010

Peek in the Past—Beyond the Big D.C.

(Continued from Peek in the Past—The Journey Begins)

One of my new friends in our Maryland apartment was Pauline Stevens, a young lady from London, England. She had fiery bronze hair and a great sense of humor. After a few months working in Washington D.C., we were both tired of the humid summer heat and began dreaming of the west coast.

So we planned a long trip across the States and began saving pay checks for Greyhound bus tickets to our first destination—Nashville, Tennessee.

That first leg of our journey across the Roanoke Mountains in early October 1963 was awe inspiring. We couldn’t get enough of magnificent views and stunning autumn colors. And Nashville was such a cool place. It didn’t take long to find work. There were no secretarial jobs available, so we turned our hands to serving in a restaurant—a first for both of us. That was fun. Hours were long and hard, but we saved enough for the next bus tickets to Dallas, Texas, arriving there at the end of October.

Fortunately, there were more office vacancies in Dallas, and we both found jobs with a Temp agency. As soon as we had enough money for tickets, we moved on to Colorado Springs via a night in Wichita, Kansas at the home of strangers—a generous Baptist family.

During our travels, we discussed religion and attended different churches. Pauline was a lapsed Catholic, and I was raised without religion, but had a great curiosity about God. When I was eight, I went—by myself—to a local Church one Sunday, just to see what went on. My dad gave me a thrupenny bit (three English pennies—like 3 cents) , and said, “You’ll need this for the collection.” I had no clue what that meant until half way through the service a plate was passed around. Everyone around me placed ten shilling notes, or even one pound, or five pound notes on the pile. I kept my tiny, bronze thrupenny bit tight in my fist, and ducked my head, embarrassed. I didn’t understand the service and couldn’t see past all the winter coats and fancy hats. No-one spoke to me afterward so I never went back.
Fast forward to 1963. It was now November 22nd, just one week after we’d left Dallas, and we had jobs washing pots and pans in a Colorado Springs YWCA. I was standing at this large stone sink, washing a huge stew pan, listening to a portable radio, when we heard the never-to-be-forgotten news of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. There was a little old lady drying pans with us, and we all broke into tears, hardly able to believe such an impossible thing could happen. The world seemed to take a down turn after that. I was glad to be out of Dallas.

On our days off, Pauline and I explored Colorado Springs and the surrounding mountain retreats. I think we were the only people bussing and walking everywhere. It took us forever to get around, but we had a great time. Pikes Peak and the Garden of the Gods were top favorites. That Christmas, we were the only two residents left in the YMCA, and calling home was a must, despite the cost. What was another day’s work compared to chatting with family.

By mid-January, we’d saved enough to travel on to the Grand Canyon—and a new twist in my story. But you’ll have to wait another month to find out what happened next :-)


susan dayley said...

I am dumbstruck with awe / amazement. I look forward to the followup next month.