We arrived in Washington just after noon on 13 September 1965. Initially I went to the Cunard office to make myself known to my fathers contact there, Gouveneur E Smith (no relation). He invited us to dinner and offered us a bed for the night which we gladly accepted. We then went to meet the Pooles who Nigel knew. Mr Poole had been the US Consul in Southampton and would have been known to Nigel’s parents, both of whom had been prominent local politicians in Southampton and had both been Mayor of the City.
Nigel remembered that the Pooles had a daughter, Amanda. She was also there. She was lovely and acted as our guide while we were in Washington. The Pooles were very interested in our trip and made us very welcome.
The plan was that Nigel and Julian would stay with them and that Peter and I would go to the Smiths home. We set off to Alexandria and spent the evening with the Smith family. The Americans were incredibly hospitable to four young Englishmen who they hardly knew and who had arrived in Washington unannounced.
It had been agreed that next morning we would all meet outside the White House at 10.30am. Tickets had magically appeared. Mrs Poole worked in the State Department (their Foreign Office). I imagine that she had organised the tickets.
After the tour we walked to the Washington Monument and went to the top. There were fantastic views in all directions.
Mrs Poole (I’m sorry but I don’t know her first name) entertained us to lunch in the State Department. And as we left the building we found a crowd gathering outside. Astronauts Gordon Cooper and Charles Conrad had heard that we were in Washington and brought the Vice President Hubert Humphrey to meet us.
The astronauts had been on the 3rd Gemini flight between 21 and 29 August 1965 – just a couple of weeks earlier. They were about to embark on a world wide goodwill tour, but it didn’t start out well because they forgot to find us to shake our hands. A breakdown in Anglo – US relationships!
I’m not sure who organised the meeting but there was plenty of security about.
We then walked to the Lincoln Memorial with Amanda Poole
Next it was the Capitol building but it was in session which meant that we couldn’t enter.
That night we had all been invited to dinner at the Pooles. It was a great evening and at about 10pm Peter and I drove back to the Smiths. After some difficulty, we eventually found their house! No satnavs or mobiles in those days!
Next day we said our goodbyes to the Smiths and the Pooles who had all looked after us so well. Our next invitation was to lunch with the Grady’s at a new development to the west of Washington. They too had been US Consuls in Southampton. This was the development
I knew my father was in New York that day on Cunard’s RMS Mauretania and leaving for a month long Caribbean cruise. I managed to reach him on the Grady’s telephone. He was very surprised and pleased to hear from me and was amazed that I still spoke without an American accent.
After a lovely lunch we left the Grady’s and set off for New York and Peter’s parents home in Yonkers. After eating and drinking beer legitimately for the first time in months, we told them the story of our travels. We were late to bed.
We then had 2 days to get our clothes washed, the car sorted out and Pete ready for his second year at Cornell. He and I met up with a Canfordian friend, Richard Dalgleish, who was on a world hockey tour with GB Schoolboys. After leaving him we picked up the car after it’s service and a new tyre.
Next morning we set off for Cornell.
The University is in Ithaca which is in northern New York State at the southern end of one of the Finger Lakes.
Peter showed us round the campus. There were large numbers of freshmen finding their way. Peter had been invited to join the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity.
That was a great honour for him. His ‘brothers’ were very pleased to see him. There was no doubt that he had made a big impression on them the previous year. That evening we toured the local hostelries. Rooms in the fraternity house had been made available for us.
The next day Peter had sorted out some ‘dates’ for us at a girls college 20 miles away. A beautiful college slightly further north. It was a fun evening. Lovely girls and plenty of eating, drinking and dancing. They lived in a sorority house off campus but curfew was at midnight and we had to bow out at that time and drive back to Cornell.
Next day we left Peter to get himself sorted out for the new academic year. He had to register and then find himself a job to keep him fed for the year. He had been a great companion on our grand tour of the US and it was sad to leave him.
We headed north from Cornell towards Buffalo and Niagara Falls.
Initially we looked over the Falls from the US side but after checking with immigration that we would be able to get back into the US if we needed to do so we crossed into Canada. The Falls were much more impressive from that side.
This from the US side
And from the other side
We then drove off to find a park said to have camping facilities. The Queen Elizabeth Way took us along the south side of Lake Ontario. The Provincial Park was closed, so we carried on until we saw a sign advertising Cabins. A doddery old man said that his sister ran the place and wouldn’t be back until 10.00pm. He couldn’t say whether or not we would be able to camp there. We said that we would be back and went off to find somewhere to eat. We found a large smart eating place – restaurant, coffee shop, golf and bowling alley. We looked very scruffy, but they eventually served us.
It was then back to the Cabin place. The lady said we could camp there and use the washing facilities for the total sum of $2 for all 3 of us. A bargain!
Next day the target was Toronto where the Pratts lived. They were Cunard passenger friends of my father, but when we rang them we found that they were at their summer place further north at Midland, located on Georgian Bay.
We spent the day at Oshawa beach
We sunbathed and relaxed there and ate in a restaurant by the lake. The waitress was from Tottenham!
The target next day was Canada’s capital, Ottawa. It was an easy drive and we enjoyed the city. We found the Supreme Court, which was not in session, and we were allowed to sit on the bench in the Judges seats. We climbed the clock tower in the centre of the two Houses of Parliament and that gave us views of the City and the river.
It was a hot and humid day and we walked for miles.
We then drove 30 miles to another Provincial Park. It nwas alongside a dirty looking South Nation River. We bathed briefly but the water smelt of sulphur!
We found a place to eat and a campsite near Wendover.
Next day we were aiming for Montreal. We found Mount Royal, but unfortunately drove up a road in which cars were apparently banned. A policeman stopped us and said that we had to go back. He said something about going to a police station. We didn’t. He spoke to us in French. Although we all had French ‘O’ level on our CV’s, if we had later been arrested, we would have pleaded a language difficulty!
We decided to find the site of the 1967 Worlds Fair which was being constructed on an island in the St Lawrence river, but access was impossible and we had to give up.
We chose Highway 3 to Quebec. It ran alongside the St Lawrence River.
When we arrived we parked at the Citadelle and walked around it.
The streets of Quebec were quaint. We circled the Chateau Laurier. We ate and we drank here. And we walked for miles. At one point Julian found a drinking fountain. Before anyone could speak he drank from it. As we walked away, two girls burst into laughter and pointed behind us. There was a horse having a drink from that same fountain!
We then headed south. We found a campsite that was open. Most campsites seemed to have closed because summer vacations were coming to an end. The campsite was a good place because we were allowed to sleep in a shelter. It rained all night!
The tour was soon to come to an end. We went south to the border and had no difficulty in crossing back into the US. We then went south through Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut to New York. We had very little time left before Julian and Nigel’s BUNAC flight home and my departure on Queen Mary.
The plan was that we would try to sell the Buick and then pay our share of the loss to Peter. We were led to believe that longshoremen in New York regularly bought cars from people who were sailing to Europe and wished to dispose of the vehicles that had brought them to New York. When we talked to longshoreman it became clear they were only interested in smart newish vehicles where they could make a substantial profit by selling them on. The Buick didn’t fit into that category.
The Kendall’s, who had looked after us once again, took over responsibility for the Buick, and eventually it was sold. I think individually it cost each of us $25. Not bad considering it had taken us 10,000 miles.
That’s the story of the summer of 1965. Peter was into his second year at Cornell. Nigel and Julian flew home and I returned on Queen Mary. Within days we were back at University and launching into our second year of law.
I have been asked what happened to the 4 travellers after the summer of 1965. That will appear shortly as the final instalment. I am pleased to say that they are all still alive and kicking!