The Fulbright Year Abroad, Part Six (and Last): Jul-Sep 1955
 


A Note on the Text and Illustrations

For those who have not yet read Parts One (Sep-Oct 1954), Two (Nov-Dec 1954), Three (Jan-Feb 1955), Four (Mar-Apr 1955), and Five (May-Jun 1955), click on the links.

Asterisked hyperlinks below (*, **, ***, ****, *****) lead to biographical notes in those previous segments.  To enhance online clarity I have again amended some punctuation, adjusted some paragraph breaks, and expanded most abbreviations along with correcting some hasty typos.  A spaced ellipse (" . . . ") indicates one in the original text; closed ones ("...") are my editorial condensations. 

This webpage is best viewed on a device using both fonts I employed: Comic Sans for Mila Jean's entries, and Verdana for my own.



















 


July 9-11, 1955

[handwritten in faint pencil, to her parents]

       July 9, 1955
       This may prove to be completely illegible due to the high wind I am combating, sitting in the sun of the Tuileries Garden.  It is a lovely Saturday and since I got your letter today and
John* is busily writing to Edythe and Biffle, plus working up lecture notes for one of his classes, I thought I would be a good girl and write immediately, especially after you have been so wonderful about the money.  Thank you both so much and thank God for [my] bank account (I trust—with fear and trepidation—that you meant the balance minus the $30 withdrawn was $32.98 ???).  I unfortunately have budgeted myself to use the $30 for passage back to England, not anything exciting.  Ever since I last wrote we have been in a period of "rigorous economy" (John's term) as opposed to "economy"—meaning dinner at the cafeteria three times a week and no beer or nuttin' after theatre.  John doesn't miss this luxury since he doesn't like beer much anyway, but you can imagine how I took it.  John says he can't stand the whining much longer.  We did break the truce long enough for one night during which I examined his color slides (new camera) of Paris, Italy, etc.  Since most of these were overexposed, the "color" ran from a uniform grey with splotches of halfhearted red and green, to a newer roll which had some really excellent shots marred only by the unexplained presence of a fat Russian peasant woman (guess who?) figuring prominently in the foreground of many of the photos.  Anyhow, the beer was pleasant.
       John says I shouldn't even mention the weather situation to you for fear of your cursing unnecessarily.  However, it is been around 75 or lower (especially one cold day last week) for the daytime and in the 50's or 40's at night.  We didn't go to an outdoor production of
Molière last night due to the chill but walked instead to the old site of the Bastille, where they had a carnival going—just like Fairyland on a much smaller scale.  Such dirt!!
       I don't remember if I told you or not that John has a job for next year?  Naturally [he] is very bitter at least outwardly, but the past few days [he] has busily been preparing outlines and notes for the courses: Introduction to Theatre Directing and Speech at [the] University of Buffalo.  At least there it is an assistant professorship basis—actually should have been last year at KCU instead of instructor.  He has never got over the fact that he was once (?) [sic] my teacher and secretly thinks me lazy and stupid so is plying me with books, documents, etc. for furthering my knowledge.  I'm doing pretty well but keeping falling asleep over articles like "The Technical Art of Manuscript Reporting," and drawings of elliptical spotlights.  I was never meant for education.  He recently brought over a Pogo book and a cheap popular novel.
       If you happen to buy or know anyone who does buy Time, would you please save the "Music" page of this week (July 11) issue for me?  It is on the Berlioz***** production plus photo, and John has taken ours, since he bought it (ha).
       By the by, at least in Paris I am alright as far as opera glasses are concerned—John has a pair.
       As for your guess concerning the wooden boxes*****, well naturally I hate for Daddy to have to give up one of his.  I had originally intended to get something for Connie* more to her taste—English with flowers, etc., but that I have to plan everything down to the last sou, guess there's no help for it if you really want to do it.
       I'll keep working on the Jeanette card but it will have to be some week when I send no mail—everything cost so much I have to be that stingy.
       Ye Gods—it's getting so there are more Americans around here than Parisiens—a huge mob just passed with a motion picture camera!
       I had allotted myself $5 to buy something here (since I only bought those two guidebooks before) so have bought a book on Venice with colored and black and white pictures, mainly for you to see the gorgeous things I didn't photograph myself—and last week bought a huge gold ceramic mask to hang around my neck.  I don't think John likes it much, but you know how men are.  That leaves me all of 50 francs with which I am going to buy a bottle of wine to take [to] June's* parents in Ipswich.  Can you imagine buying a bottle of French wine for 25¢ or a bottle of champagne for $1.50?  You can here!
       Events last week [at the International Drama Festival*****] included a production of Oklahoma!, not very inspiring but you can't go too far wrong with that show—John is mad about it and kept humming tone-deafly throughout same.
       Also Skin of Our Teeth*****—very uneven, with some good parts—mainly Mary Martin, who was fine.  [Helen] Hayes had one good scene and Martin's daughter "Heller" was charming, but George Abbott was way off and Florence Reed seemed bored to tears.
       Also saw old 1932 film If I Had a Million, to celebrate 4th of July.  Had W.C. Fields, one of John's favorites, who nearly rolled on the floor during that part—also Jack Oakie (!), Gary Cooper as a young man, etc.
       Also saw Strasbourg (St. Denis***) do a production of a Calderon play—infinitely better than their previous Romeo and Juliet***** show.
       Also the Amsterdam production of Oedipus Rex—very good and beautifully staged.  Tonight—Vienna.
       Interspersed with our cafeteria and hash-house nights, we splurge
... last time had shrimp, a vegetable salad for hors d'oeuvres, escalope of veal and Italian spaghetti, two kinds of cheese and bottle of wine for 500 [francs] each ($1.50).  Time before I had ravioli, two lamb chops and green beans and strawberries for same.  John is bound and determined to get an elegant meal for Bastille Day.  He resents the cafeteria and hash-house nights even though you can get at the former steak and French fries, huge bowl of spinach, small bottle of wine, loaf of bread and dessert for 260 francs.  It's the atmosphere that gets him.  I can't say as I blame him there.  The sound of gulping, gnashing teeth and loud French isn't appealing.
       Last night I had two eggs mayonnaise (hard boiled), huge pork chop with curried rice, cheese, and crêpe with jam plus wine for 500 francs
—I could barely walk and didn't digest due to [our] usual argument—this time over a passing remark of mine which John took to be a slur against Jews ("If it's one thing I can't stand it's anti semetcism semitism" [sic]) which got me mad—heated exchange—but somehow all was ironed out and we ended the evening convulsed in laughter and giggling whilst walking by the Seine.  Such a biz!
       Half our pleasure in life is in 1) eating 2) walking around—the latter punctuated by such sillies as "Wouldn't your mother like a genuine elephant tusk to put on the T.V. set?" or "Why don't you take your father home one of those lovely Parisien relics?" (nude photos)—or me urging him to buy a pair of tartan bikini trunks.
       There's always a way to solve the problem of being broke.  John has now dispensed with the idea of going to Greece for obvious reasons and is considering Vienna.  We keep standing in long lines at Cook's** or CIT for travel information but never seem to get anywhere.
       Every night around midnight [a] huge contingent of Negroes on white horses clad in gold armor and red march down St. Germain—John calls it "The Saints Marching In"—we think they're part of some performance playing currently, but where else would we see it?
       I took some photos on 4th of July—one of U.S. flags on the Champs-Élysées, another of a sailboat on the Tuileries pond, one of a man painting in the gardens, and one of an old horse who pulls the carriages on the Champs-Élysées.  The remainder are to remain in secret.  Although we have it all planned out of which shots we want to take.
       Enclosed is Buchwald's (and my) opinion on the nudes of Paris—he can be very clever and entertaining at times.
       It is now 4:00 and I should be home finishing a theatre textbook but prefer sitting here watching the kiddies, the numerous poodles and the Americans with their cameras.

       Monday [July 11]
     
 Got your darling card and second installment today—thank you.  I am beginning to feel the heat here, especially in this small room.  Somehow when it's 80° here, it seems as warm as 90° in the States.  I remember how warm it seemed in England in the 60's—wonder why?  Got a sunburn writing to you Saturday [the 9th].  By the way, VII-e in the Paris address means 7th, that's all.
       Vienna did a beautiful production of Schnitzler's Light and Love last night—this time last year I could never have imagined myself getting carried away with a play in a foreign language—now I don't seem to think of this factor as a hindrance, if the production is good enough.
       After a night at the hash-house and last night at the cafeteria (two more planned for next few days) John is up in arms—claims he is going to have a good meal on the 14th [Bastille Day] or die in the attempt—also is planning to go to a street carnival that night—hope there aren't any fireworks!
       We're off to the Cluny Museum to look at medieval tapestries today, so I'll mail this on the way.  Much love, J

July 18, 1955

[handwritten in faint pencil, to her parents]

       July 18
       This must needs be short
—no more paper left—I was just aroused with your letter (11:15) and since I have to go to the post office anyway, will dash off a few lines.
       While walking down [a] small side street yesterday (really staggering after visiting two churches) I casually looked at the thermometer and shrieked to find it 31° C (or 90° F).  One reason people keep passing out over here is no fans, no air conditioners, no ice (or little), hence no relief at all—another reason is that they're not used to it.
       No I am not flying back to England—going the cheapest way by channel for $18—no, no plane to Ipswich—it's very small.  And, dear Mother, bless you for your innocence, but I haven't gotten a check from Fulbright since May—guess they figure if you want to stay out the summer, that's your affair, and it has been too—living on accumulated $1 bills, money from the typewriter
June sold, and your generosity.  The thing that really makes me bitter is not being able to afford to have anything washed or shoes repaired.  In this heat everything is filthy and reeking and wrinkled and, well—c'est bohemianism, and I can wash in Ipswich.  Am leaving here for London either the 28th or 29th.  Hope to stay in Youth Hostel there for a couple of days until I can get to Ipswich.  There for a week, then after that don't know.
       You would have dropped your teeth at seeing me on Bastille Day.  The night before at midnight we were fighting our way through the street [dances], rounded the corner of St. Germain and everywhere you could see millions of people, bands playing, chickens roasting on spits, men making cheese and ham sandwiches, and added attraction of people throwing lighted firecrackers out of windows.  Naturally I balked and screamed "I'll meet you somewhere but I'm not going through that (just like Gone With the Wind, hey?).  We sidetracked and ate chocolate ice cream and a pitcherful of icewater in our own sedate, quiet neighborhood.
       Next day out to take photos—had just been out half an hour when it poured—retreated to [a] bar for an hour.  In walking home, came across old barrel organ in street, with several old characters dancing around it.  I took a photo, but it was awfully dark.  We each splurged and spent 1,000 francs for dinner, so exotic—egg and ham in gelatin, 1½ inch thick filet steak in wonderful sauce, Beaujolais wine in straw basket, lettuce salad, Gruyere cheese, vanilla ice with burnt sugar and nuts, coffee and brandy.
       Since John considers my fear of fireworks "a childish neurosis used to dramatize" myself, I got dragged against my will to the display on Pont Neuf.  There, crushed against a bookseller's stall and John's back, fingers to ears, eyes squinted, I lived through a half an hour of it and it was gorgeous—the first thing like that I'd ever seen really.  Then we walked up Champs-Élysées to Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile—everyone out, fountains on, buildings floodlit.  During the time when I ran over to look in a store window, a "young lady" approached John but he told her innocently that he was American and didn't understand what she had in mind.  I think she got the insult since she stalked off furiously and he was giggling.  My feet really ached that night from all the walking, but I think the U.S. could learn a lot from the French on the way of celebrations.  All was relatively quiet—what big fireworks there were, were police-controlled—no small children setting them off in the streets etc.  All very sensible—the French are well self-controlled.
       I have now got through two books of Shaw's plays, and am starting on a volume of 18th Century.  Haven't been doing much—I have a slight tan and my hair is getting long.  It is so hot in the theatres I don't enjoy them anymore—nearly passed out last night and it was so dull: Maria Stuart by Schiller.  We only have one more to go—Greece [on] Wednesday.
       Saw Salt of the Earth [a] few nights ago—made about New Mexican mine workers labor troubles and strikes.  Guess McCarthy would be after me if he had any power left.
       Must go and mail this—we are going to the Rodin museum today, and it is after noon now.  Only eleven more days here, sob!
       Love to all, Jean
       All money arrived safely.  "Tanks."

July 25, 1955

[handwritten, to her parents]

       July 25th
       3:20 PM
       (Recognize the paper?  What you had wrapped around clippings.)
       I'm sitting in Tuileries Garden in the shade, enjoying a wonderful breeze.  It is once more hot.  Last week on Monday we hit
91°—then huge thunderstorm; [temperatures] began dropping with continuing rain day after day.  It was very cool which set John off complaining, and he has been at it ever since.  Guess it's the strain of getting packed—he will live out of the same suitcase from Aug. 1st to Sept. 9th and is getting very agitated about all.
       I got my ticket to London today—got the last reservation of the second class.  Will get to London 7:50 PM Friday night [July 29], probably go to Ipswich either Monday or Tuesday [Aug. 1-2].  Address c/o F.G. Laws / The Poplars / 59A Henley Rd. / Ipswich, England.
       Please don't send any more of your own money!  If I need it I'll write you for more of the savings [account] and cut the stay in NYC.  We no longer eat at the cafeteria.  John has taken a stand—we are currently gobbling at sidewalk bistros on Montparnasse and going to old movies like Ninotchka and Animal Crackers.  Finished off the International Drama Festival with Greece's production of Oedipus with Katina Paxinou—very elegant and well unified.  [I] do little in the daytime but window shop, read and dream about the night's dinner—[illegible].
       Mailed off (or will in a few minutes) the forms to Dr. B[arnett]** with accompanying jocular note.  No, I doubt if I will be compelled to work on the 15th [of September].  Please thank Marcia* for her very sweet letter which I so appreciated even if it was a bit late in being posted (written July 9th!).
       Sorry for condition of this mess—cheap pen and sticky hands!  Must run to the P.O. with this in order to get ready for "Old Sour Puss" tonight.  Will write in London.  Lots of love, Jean

July 31, 1955

[handwritten airmail, to her parents]

       July 31st
       Hello from London!
       Only a  few highlights.  After agonizingly slow taxi ride to the station Friday, I boarded the Paris-Calais train at 12:24.  It left 12:25!  Luckily, I had no way of getting to the third class car where my reservation was (the first [car] on the train) so I spent the three hours in a plush first class car (the last on the train).  Crossing was fairly smooth but so crowded they had to run [a] relief train from Dover, and I was an hour late in London.  The girl who was meeting me gave up waiting (Frankie, the Jamaican****) and usual terrible confusion, hysterical phone calls, etc.  Finally got in this Roman Catholic Youth Hostel at 10:30 Friday night
—it is ridiculous—the Sisters turn out all lights at 11:00 PM, you can't sit on beds, etc. etc. etc.  But more of that later—will stay here until Tuesday morning (the 2nd), am taking the 11:30 train to Ipswich, so you can write me there (even after the 10th, because they will have my forwarding address).  Yesterday Frankie and about five other Jamaicans and I went stomping about and saw Dorothy Tutin in Anouilh's*** The Lark—good, but I was so tired and had headache.  Slept the [next] morning until 11:00, so feel much better.  Tomorrow is a bank holiday, which means everything is closed—oh, England, England!!
       A few little things—will you please before the middle of August send the rest of my savings account to Joann in New York (in order that she can bail me off the boat and to finance my two weeks in NYC).  I don't really know the most advantageous way of doing this, but will leave it up to your good judgment.  Tell her I'll write her as soon as possible, about landing on the 26th, etc.  Even a more hideous development is that John is landing on the 8th [of September] and will be in NYC the 9th too, with probably a new car, etc., so I have to plan for that far in advance, getting theatre tickets, etc.—oh, what a riot!
       Also, Frankie sent a box full of my books to K.C. Wednesday July 27th, so they should get to you around Aug. 10-15 if all goes well.  I could not send them before I left Bristol due to the rail strike, so I had to leave them with her to mail.
       Today there are suspicious plans about going rowing on the stream (or river) in Regent's Park.  Can't you just see me rowing a boat?!
       It was pretty awful leaving Paris and I'm having a rather rough time getting out of the Rue du Bac habit—but it's easier being with a lot of people, constantly talking, rather than being by myself.  Had a lovely last meal in Paree—omelette with herbs, tournedo (filet) with French fries and watercress, lettuce salad, Cantal cheese, Mystere with chocolate sauce, and bottle of Beaujolais wine.  Didn't do much last week—almost died laughing at Groucho Marx in Animal Crackers, walked around watching TV on the Champs-Élysées, drinking beer (finally).  I bought June's parents a bottle of rosé and the kids some cute lollipops with flowers on them, bought myself a Scott Fitzgerald novel to read on the train—naturally John came up with a book for a going-away present—plus a Time, Punch, and New York Herald Tribune, so I had plenty of reading material—ha!
       It rained a lot last week in Paris—we were constantly getting soaked, but surprisingly London is having quite nice weather.  Today the sun is out and it is balmy.
       Money is holding out to date—think I can manage okay, except for tips on the boat.  Those I haven't figured out as yet—ah, well—on to Ipswich and what is has in store for me.  Lots of love, MJS

August 4-5, 1955

[handwritten, to her parents]

       August 4, 1955
       Finally from Ipswich!
       I am determined to answer coherently all of your questions, so as to somewhat ease your minds from inquiry, etc.  Sorry it is so unbearable there.  I am writing this from the seashore at Felixstowe, where the Laws have a little hut
—it is fairly warm, although they call it "hot" (in the 70's, 80's at most).  Erica* has been in swimming and all are sitting around in various garbs of suntops, sneakers, etc., yours truly in a pair of borrowed white towel shorts and long-sleeved sweater, coward that I am—can't quite get up the nerve to completely strip.  As you have probably gathered, yes, June and the kids are here.  Rod* is still in Bristol working on the thesis.  He may go up to London next week to work at the British Museum, and she will meet him there.
       Question No. 1:  Dear John is sailing from Naples the 31st of August on the Andrea Doria***—Italian ship, first class—arriving New York Sept. 8th, which I shall meet.  He left for Brussels Aug. 1st—planning to go from Cologne down the Rhine to Frankfurt, then Vienna, Italy again—Florence, Rome, Naples.  I envy him unmercifully, but he didn't much relish all those weeks lugging around two Samsonite cases—they are so terribly heavy, you know—[he] is going by train (American Express tickets) all the way, I think.  He is going to stay in New York at least the 9th—wants to buy a car there (wants to get a Hillman Minx) and try it out there before attempting to drive to Baltimore.  Not having driven for a year, he is a bit apprehensive (per usual) but at least I may get to see Long Island in a car this way.  So, on he goes to Baltimore to stay a couple of weeks with stepmom Douty and
sister Mary Alice** before beginning the long-haul grind at Buffalo Sept. 19th.  No, he's not going to pick up his furniture at K.C.—if he can find the right kind of apartment he will have the storage place in K.C. send it on to Buffalo.
       No. 2:  Yes, I still have the vaccination certificate in my wallet.
       No. 3:  No, John didn't get vaccinated in Paris—why should he?  He had [the] smallpox one done in Baltimore.
       Got a doleful letter from Bonnie* a couple of days ago.  Says she suspects you have been out on a protracted "jag," since she's been trying to get you on the phone for weeks and can't get through or something.  Anyhow, if weather permitting you ever feel like calling her, you know it will be greatly appreciated from her poor soul.  I will try to write to her.
       This is paradise in comparison with the hostel in London.  I could never get used to the frenzied rush home there at night, throwing off clothes and washing before the electricity went off—then if we giggled in the hall, one or the other sister would come "hushing" us all.  Actually the room itself was nice—clean and large with a double bed and three nights I had it to myself before one of the girls came back from the weekend.  The day I wrote you (Sunday) we did nothing but go to a movie, East of Eden, and eat at a Swedish place.  Next day we went rowing on the Serpentine River—really fun, although I crawled in with the grace of a baby elephant and kept clutching the sides of the boat, gritting my teeth horribly.  Strolled about Hyde Park (littered with people) eating all sorts of gooey complexion-ruining messes, and went to an ice show that afternoon late.  Thoroughly dirty we staggered home and I packed hurriedly in the "box room" as they call it, because you can't take suitcases to your rooms.  They claim it knocks the plaster off the walls carrying them up the stairs, or some sort of idiotic reason.  It took four Jamaicans to get me on the train to Ipswich the next day—we had to lug that enormous suitcase all the way from Notting Hill Gate to Liverpool Street Station on the subway, a half-hour ride (couldn't afford a taxi).  Very dirty ride of 1 hour 45 minutes and was met by June and Mama around lunchtime Tuesday in Ipswich.
       After having just finished a gin and orange (slurp) we are preparing cold chicken sandwiches and salad.  Can you stand all of this—perhaps I am just being too cruel, eh?
       One nice thing happened.  I had a letter from Cunard Line, saying that they were changing my boat accommodation (due to a cancellation apparently) to a two-person stateroom instead of the four-person one I was scheduled for, which will make the trip much nicer, I daresay.  Also Mr. Reade* called Rod to say he had finally sent the trunk on to Southampton via railway express.
       One horrible thing happened.  Due to the heat, spontaneous combustion or something, the bottle of cote d'agneau I had bought for June's parents became uncorked (the seal broke) and gurgled all over the place, seeping into one of the hostel's overstuffed chairs—the whole room smelled pleasantly like a distillery.  Wonder what the "Sisters" had to say after I left?  Anyhow, there was only an inch of it left by the time I smelled it, discovered the horrible truth, aired out the straw basket it was in (luckily) and cushion, so we finished it off at the hostel.  Too bad, it was a beautiful wine, but after being here awhile I wonder whether or not it wouldn't have seemed awfully prosaic.  Mr. Laws always served some sort of lovely wine at dinner, far beyond any price I could have afforded to bring from the Rue du Bac wine shops.  Also, always a "cocktail" hour before dinner, and a whiskey and soda before bedtime.  I am getting terribly spoiled (per usual) and used to living way beyond my means.  London next week is going to seem like dire poverty in comparison.  I think now I may try to get up on perhaps Wednesday the 10th and stay until the 20th, the only damnable fact being that hotels cost so much.  Still, I will not go back to that hostel and have my last days abroad marred by it.  June says that her father will lend me some money and I need it, but I hate like heck having to go into debt, especially not going into a job with much salary—so, what to do?  I think I will write to the St. George Hotel** (where John and I were Xmastime) to see if they can have me—if not, I may have to go back to the hostel.
       These Jamaican girls I was with were planning to leave the next day for a two month hitchhiking tour of France with rucksacks and sleeping bags strapped to their backs—can you imagine?!  Made me feel about 100 years old.  Also, the hostel couldn't accommodate them the night of the day I left, so they were planning on sleeping in the waiting room of Victoria Station!  Ach, Gott!
       Right now Diane* is playing with a springer spaniel out by the surf (about eight feet away from where I'm sitting).  I am going to have to get up soon and go to the W.C. since I have consumed gin, cider, two cups of black coffee, and am distinctly "feeling" it all, shall we say?
       These English are so enduring.  They say "Come in, the water's fine" (like today) when the temperature of the sea hovers around 50°.  Freezing to me!
       At "The Poplars" I have a lovely room with bed, bedside table and lamp, two huge windows, basin, huge chair, table, plush rug, closet,
with two bathrooms  on the same floor—imagine!
       Yesterday we washed out all those filthy clothes I brought back with me from six weeks of Paris dirt.  Tonight, I am taking iron and board to my room to finish the nasty job—actually, the worst part.
       Last night we went to production of local professional group of Noel Coward's Hay Fever—tomorrow night dinner at the Country Club—get me!—and next night somewhere else exotic.  Ah, the life of the idle rich!  Can you imagine what I am going through and will go through, orienting myself back to making a living?  Oh!  By the way, Bonnie said Morton has a peptic ulcer!  Said he was being very conscientious about diet, milk, etc.

       August 5—11:30
       Back to the beach today.  Got a pitifully hopeless letter from Joann today, saying her father was desperately ill, and I have been in a quandary ever since, trying to figure out what to do with myself after arriving in NYC.  Think I will leave the ultimate decision to the 26th when I can see how things are by then.  Certainly at this stage of the game, I couldn't think of staying there any length of time—but, on the other hand, she is so counting on seeing me I feel that maybe I could help in some way to ease things and cheer her up.  At any rate I shall have to stay somewhere in NYC in order to clear up some affairs for at least one night, so God knows what will happen.
       Back to this fool's paradise—have been madly ironing and not seeming to accomplish much—it takes so long for each dress—still stuffing myself with food, drink and luxury, but it all seems so useless now when I think of poor Jo and her troubles.  Mrs. Laws keeps pressing th
is £20 dress she bought for June (too big for June) on me, but I hesitate to take it—one reason being it doesn't suit me, another that I've never had such an expensive dress and would feel foolish.  Anyhow, have a wonderful vacation if I don't write before you leave.  Don't worry about me.  Love to all XX MJ

August 12, 1955

[handwritten airmail to her parents, from Dean Court, 29 Cleveland Square, London]

       August 12th
       Midnight
       Have intended writing you a last note before our respective departures, but have been so frenzied and tired taking care of absolute essentials, I find letter-writing almost impossible.
       I left Ipswich early Wednesday (10th) morning on the 8:45 train
—rode down with June who was meeting Rod for lunch.  We took a chance on calling a hotel for a room for me, which was running an ad in the Telegraph and lo and behold, I got in!  Leaped in a cab and am stationed here until I leave on the 8:54 boat train Saturday the 20th for Southampton.  The hotel is definitely not luxe, especially my garret, located seven flights heavenwards with a naked light bulb and hard bed, but I'll call it home.  Can go and come as I please (a factor I have learned to value above almost anything) and am, in the rediscovery of London, finding much of the old charm and love I once had for it.  I walk around all day (feet are killing me) and naturally am trying to see as much theatre as possible—to date—Michael Redgrave in Tiger at the Gates, Emlyn Williams as Dylan Thomas, Bad Seed, Can-Can—tomorrow, John Gielgud and Claire Bloom in King Lear, night—Desperate Hours.  Next Tuesday Gilegud and Peggy Ashcroft in Much Ado About Nothing, Wednesday Alfred Drake in Kismet.
       Living here is not cheap, so I am having to borrow £10 from Mr. Laws which June is bringing up Monday (am meeting her and kids for a jaunt to Victoria and Albert Museum).  I hate going in debt, but will not spend my last week abroad wondering where the next meal is coming from.
       I have my reservation and ticket for boat train and had Cunard call Southampton to check on my trunk which is there, praise be.
       It has been almost hot today
—I sat in the park and dashed off a note to John.  Felt I should get it off soon, since I have to send it to American Express in Rome, and am not quite sure when he is going there.  Got a hilarious letter from him Tuesday written in Nuremburg, evidently is having one hell of a time finding hotel rooms and battling crowds of tourists.  There are 100% more Americans in London than I remembered, all milling about gawking.
       Ipswich continued apace after I wrote you—luscious food and drink (my face and teeth suffered).  Had a cocktail party last Sunday [Aug. 7] and Papa drove me and June for a quick tour of Cambridge.  Lovely day.  Dinners at Country Clubs, movies, TV, etc.—baths, clean clothes and seaside, but I must confess I was not sorry to leave.  Mama is "grand dowager" of the worse sort (will explain all later).  Guess I am really turning into the Old Maid Schoolteacher, but I do so value my independence (shades of Aunt Mellie) and am having a good time by myself in the big old dirty city.
       Have a wonderful vacation.  I will write in NYC, I guess—since I don't know where to reach you before the 26th.
       On to the Atlantic where the winds and the hurricanes play.  Love to all  Me

August 30, 1955

[handwritten from the Stegmans's at 381 Central Park West (Apartment 2N) in New York City, to her parents]

       August 30th
       Just a note to welcome you home and to inform you on present state of affairs here.
       After I got back from seeing you off Sunday [Aug. 28], the Stegman girls arrived from the nursing home where Papa is going to stay indefinitely on the stipulation he can come home anytime he likes.  Actually aside from some understandable readjustment he seems to like it quite well.  He has a very nice room
—far exceeding his here, and is by himself, which was what he wanted.  Still, it's hard not having anyone to talk to, and they say he walks about constantly in an aimless manner.  He gets lonely, poor old guy, and was in tears when we finally got there (an hour after closing time for visitors—Jo was talking on the phone).  Last night he demanded 1) whiskey 2) a radio—both of which will be hell to acquire since 1) will have to be smuggled in and 2) [Joann]'s so far in debt now she'll have to buy it and charge it.  Oh, God, Pat is away this week, and it's one constant rush, rush.  I sleep in the living room with all the doors and windows shut, thus eliminating the "bobby-pin crowd" conversation and the late-late movie on TV (starts at 1:00 AM—God knows when it ends) so I sleep like a top all night long.  Turn on the radio first thing in the morning and putter about by myself.  It's perfect.
       Yesterday I stayed home all day since P. had the only extra key—but Jo had one made for me yesterday.  I did a washing, really unpacked, took labels off the luggage and generally got oriented.  Got a card***** from Bunny*** (the Canadian at the Bristol Old Vic) welcoming me home, which made me feel good.  After much confusion, we got to Bus Stop last night—very disappointing.  I guess I just don't vibrate with Inge's writing—I always thought Shirley Booth was the only thing that saved Come Back, Little Sheba from being trash.  Today I have to get tickets for Pajama Game, thus exhausting half of my remaining funds.  We're off to [cat-eared smiley face****] on a Hot Tin Roof tonight—are having [illegible] over for dinner since he's using Patricia's ticket, and guess who's cooking dinner?  Jo has to go see her father after work, so I get the job.  Wednesday [Aug. 31] is an all-Bach concert at Carnegie Hall.  Thursday night shopping at Macy's and Orbach's—then the long [Labor Day] weekend.  Joann keeps suggesting all sorts of wild things to do, but I am going to try to encourage her to stay home and take it easy for a change.  I myself am tired constantly and have little ambition to do anything.  Guess it's the reaction setting in.  Also, by the time I get through organizing things here at home [i.e. the Stegmans's] there's practically no time to do much before setting off back home [i.e. KCMO].  I've never known the time to pass so quickly—shows I'm content, I guess.
       Would you mind writing me those time schedules again for my train next Saturday [Sep. 11].  I know I leave here at 6:15 (5:15 [Central time]) but when do we get into St. Louis—and when does the train leave for K.C. and when does it get into K.C.?  I know I could find these things out here, but I feel ambitionless and I have to start getting cracking with the Italian lines about the Andrea Doria, it's all so confusing.
       Do we know anyone in St. Louis I could ring up?
       It is hot and humid today and I'm listening to Schoenberg on the radio—can you imagine getting classical music from 6:00 AM to 1:00 AM in K.C.??
       Be enigmatic about my coming home to my vulture friends there.  I don't think I could take many millings right off.  Love to the Nash family* and if I don't write again I will see you sometime around 7:00 the 11th.  Much love, Jean

September 7, 1955

[handwritten from the Stegmans's in New York City, to her parents]

       Sept. 7th
       Whilst drinking a beer and having a cigarette while my gooey cake-frosting hardens, I'll dash off a note.  The cake, by the way, is in John's honor, but I doubt if any is left by the time he has a chance to eat it.  It's so sweet, it makes me ill to smell it
—all chocolate fudgy and ugly.  (Also a Laurel & Hardy movie is on the TV, if this letter is a trifle incoherent.)
       As you will know by the time you get this, there is a strike on at the docks, but I called the Italian lines and they said the Andrea Doria would dock anyway at some ungodly hour in the morning.  Have received two letters from John, one from Rome, one from Gibraltar (the latter written on the boat) which promise hilarious things to come.  I went down to the Customs House in the Battery and got a pass to [get] inside the customs lines, and reserved him a room at the Algonquin, but am anticipating some sort of strikebreaking riot tomorrow with Marlon Brando types stomping about with clubs or something.
       Have been taking things fairly slow.  Home is slight chaos always, what with the constant influx of "Archies" (cockroaches) everywhere and a similar steady stream of gentleman callers every night—they are all sizes and varieties but all arrive bearing beer or buy us drinks, so I don't complain much.  I watch the Late TV Show every night until 2:00 AM and try to sleep in the mornings over phone calls and doorbells ringing.
       We took the boat trip Saturday night [Sept. 3] and it was glorious—by the time we got back it was dusk and all the lights [of New York] were on and it was quite a sight.  Also quick trip around Chinatown on our own.  Sunday we went to the Cloisters and saw Antonio and his Spanish ballet in a film that night  Labor Day [Sept. 5] we saw the film I Am a Camera.  I gave up the struggle when my one pair of shoes started caving in at the sides, and took in a sale at Orbach's basement—got a pair of black shell pumps for $4.99—also bought a Spanish bullfighting poster for my room.
       I sent some of my books home by parcel to help ease the weight of that damnable suitcase—I am thinking about checking it through to K.C. to relieve my bothering about it during the trip home.  Guess I'll take the 4:00 train from St. Louis unless I wire you—the other one stops sixteen times, did you know?
       I wrote Jo Ann Laughlin, telling her my problems about next week—I'll probably have to work, but she may write or call you sometime before I arrive.
       I hope there is something in the way of clothes there that I can leap into Monday morning [Sept. 12].  Everything here is in the process of getting filthy again.  I washed both pairs of PJs but that's all.  I'm even borrowing a dress of Jo's to wear tomorrow (her brown sheath).
       It sound like as much bedlam there, what with phone calls and people-calls, as here—glad I am getting prepared.
       Hope the steamer trunk isn't too much trouble or mess (bet it is!)—I must run and see what is happening with the cake—also must buy some chicken livers for John.
       Minerva* is fine and money manages to hold its own—$5 left for the train.
       See you Sunday [Sept. 11]
       Lots of love, [smiley face]


Afterward

Thus ended The Fulbright Year Abroad, 368 days after setting out from Kansas City to New York and telegraphing home: "ARRIVED SAFELY NO CATASTROPHES YET LOVE JEAN."

The Oct. 4th KCU Campus Newsletter would announce:

FULBRIGHT SCHOLAR RETURNS TO UNIVERSITY
     Bastille Day in France, the International Theatre Festival in Paris, Winston Churchill and Jean Cocteau, playwright-artist of France, are among the outstanding events and people Miss Mila Jean Smith, graduate fellow in the Speech Department, enjoyed seeing while spending a year abroad as a Fulbright scholar.
     Miss Smith, 23, returned to campus this fall and is now supervisor of studio theatre.  She plans to direct a Lorca play and supervise the remaining three studio theatre productions which will supplement the regular Playhouse series.
     A comprehensive view of all aspects of British theatre was the purpose of her study at the University of Bristol which has the only drama department in England and Winston Churchill as its chancellor.  Miss Smith did a special research project in English pantomime and collaborated on three productions with two other Fulbrights at Bristol.  While in England, she saw plays featuring Peggy Ashcroft and John Gielgud.
     She also went to the Continent
(Holland, Germany, Italy, Switzerland) and summered in Paris where she observed the various styles of dramatic presentation of the different countries.  American artists represented at the International Theatre Festival were such outstanding thespians as Helen Hayes, Mary Martin and Judith Anderson.

The "About Town" column in the Nov. 21th Kansas City Times would report:

     Incidents that occurred in a year's stay in Europe are told by Miss Mila Jean Smith, 23-year-old graduate fellow in speech at the University of Kansas City, who returned this fall after studying abroad as a Fulbright scholar.
     Leaving for England on the S.S.
United States with about 200 other Fulbright scholars, Miss Smith attended the University of Bristol, where she studied all aspects of British theater.
     "The University of Bristol, which has Winston Churchill as its chancellor, has the only drama department in England," Miss Smith said.
     She carried out a special project on English pantomime and collaborated with two other Fulbright scholars on three productions at Bristol.
     Miss Smith's adventures could vie with some of those related by Cornelia Otis Skinner** and Emily Kimbrough in their book, "Our Hearts Were Young and Gay."  Excitedly experiencing her first British fog, Mila Jean promptly purchased a flashlight, which did no good, but which she carried with her during the remainder of her stay abroad.
     The flashlight came in handy when she had to change trains one night in the middle of a field on the way back from seeing "The Taming of the Shrew" at Stratford-on-Avon.
     "Stratford is one of the show places in England," she said, "but the British have yet to put in a train running clear through from Stratford to the main British cities.  The railroad people think nothing of having passengers tramp across a field in the middle of the night to change trains, which I did, with the aid of my flashlight."
     Purchasing tickets to take them back to Bristol from Stratford, Miss Smith and two of her fellow Fulbrights discovered they had only enough money for two and a half persons.  Since British railroads will not accept checks, the three companions paid the rest of their f
are—which amounted to about 68 cents—in postage stamps*.
     "Everyone abroad tries to be very helpful to visitors," Miss Smith related.
     While visiting Munich, she was puzzled about operating a telephone*** there are two American soldiers, an Indian man and a German student carrying a pair of skis obligingly helped her.
     "I imagine the five of us looked rather funny in one telephone booth," she reminisced.
     New Year's Eve in Munich was very exciting, and Miss Smith dined on roast duck
[actually goose***] and white wine.  "There were hordes of people in the snowy streets and it seemed that all you could see were skis and American soldiers," she said.
     Bastille Day
(July 14) in France provided another thrilling experience for the young Kansas Citian abroad.  Street dances, fireworks and whole hams roasting on spits were the highlights of the celebration.  Attending the International Theater Festival in Paris, she saw such American stars as Helen Hayes, Mary Martin and Judith Anderson.
     Miss Smith received her B.A. degree in English at K.C.U. in 1953 and started her graduate work as costume assistant at the Playhouse there before receiving her scholarship.
     Back at K.C.U. this year she will supervise all studio theater productions which supplement the major Playhouse presentations of the year.  "Gammer Gurton's Needle," a medieval farce opening in December, will be the first such production.
     Miss Smith is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Francis S. Smith, 3908 College Avenue.

Very soon after plunging back into campus life at the University of Kansas City and its Playhouse, Jeanie was introduced by Mort Walker (as "Mila Jean Smith, who has been abroad") to George Ehrlich.  Born in Chicago on Jan 28, 1925 to recently-arrived Hungarian émigrés, George had been hired to teach art history at KCU back in 1951, but promptly got recalled to active duty by the Air Force for the Korean War (which he spent in Texas as a radar instructor).  Discharged in 1953, he returned home to Illinois via Kansas City to at least revisit KCU, but unwittingly arrived in the midst of the "The Revolution" against University President Clarence Decker; bewildered by the mysterious confusion, he left "in a to-hell-with-them-mood."  When the KCU art history teaching position re-opened and was re-offered to George in 1954, he had serious misgivings about accepting it and only did so after certain conditions were met.  He returned to KCMO on Sep. 18, 1954; found an apartment a day later; commenced his faculty duties a day after that; and then a semester later found himself in charge of the entire Art Department when its chairman (and lone other member) went on sabbatical.  The 1955 Kangaroo yearbook perceptively remarked:

MR. GEORGE EHRLICH has probably made a lasting impression on KCU students quicker than any other person on campus.  Filling in as a one man art department, he has taken over while Mr. Henry Scott is on leave.  Mr. Ehrlich's intelligence teamed up with his unusual wit and humor put local campus comedians to shame.  A day rarely goes by without Mr. E getting a few laughs out of his classes.  His ability is rare, his personality is tremendous.  We hope that he will be with us for a long time.

Which came to pass, in part because George became close friends with fellow newcomer Al Varnado, a dapper Louisianan who'd succeeded John Douty (and before him, Charles Moore) as Assistant Director of the KCU Playhouse.  As Al's pal, George attended tryouts, contributed a "dreadful expressionistic green nude" for the landlord’s painting in a production of My Sister Eileen, and a "strange wooden nonrepresentational sculpture" for a play directed by Mort Walker, who in the spring of 1955 asked him to design the set for Don GiovanniWhile spending his summer back in Illinois, George built a small balsawood model which he submitted that fall, thinking that would be all that was necessary; Mort then informed him his presence would be required till the set was considerably more than balsawood.  Meanwhile, Mila Jean was roped into assisting with the show's costuming.

As part of the Playhouse crowd, George and Jeanie were together a lot; first with the rest of the gang, then on their own, getting "clearly emotionally entangled."  By late November, Bunny Behrens back in Bristol was asking, "How are you doing with the art instructor kiddo?"  In December George invited Jeanie to come visit his family and friends in Urbana IL and see in the New Year 1956 with him, which she did.  Back in Kansas City, she brought him a basket of strawberries one January day when he was feeling unwell; and though George "certainly didn't get down on one knee," by the end of her visit Mila Jean was engaged to be married.  They tied the knot twice: first on May 26, 1956 in KCMO, then again on June 16th in Urbana, where their honeymoon was spent working on George's doctorate and Mila Jean's master's thesis (and incidentally conceiving the present author).

While gaining a spouse and child, Jeanie lost an ex-boss and traveling companion.  As she would relate many years later in the handwritten reminiscence found tucked inside her Fulbright Year scrapbook:

I spent the summer in Paris after Bristol was over (I couldn't wait to get out of there); [John Douty] got me a "room" in another hotel—both of us were almost out of money, but we kept going to International Theatre shows.  I left for London and he stayed in Paris.  I went home (to NYC) earlier, he went later on the Andrea Doria (!?) which I met in NYC.  He, Joann, her sister and I went to the theatre etc.  By this time, I had a fellowship in the "new" McIlrath theatre and John had a teaching position in Buffalo.  I went home to KC and began the routine of studies, living at home, and I met George.  Up to this time, I still corresponded with John.  When I wrote that I was thinking of getting married, he responded with a typical letter ending with "Are you still going through with that silly bit with George?"  I said yes.  I never heard from him again.
     What this relationship was all about I can't say, but I guess as innocent as it was, some people could
(did?) have misinterpreted it.  So that's the "secret saga."  Make of it what you will.  MJE

John Templeman Douty went from the University of Buffalo to the George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville in 1958, and then on to chair the English and Humanities Department at Angola IN's Tri-State College (now Trine University) in 1966.  He died of stomach cancer on Apr. 6, 1973, having just turned 53, and was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in his native Baltimore.  Mila Jean saved all his correspondence from her Fulbright Year Abroad, tied with a red ribbon.



Notes

[click on the > at the end of each Note to return to its source above]
 

  Walter Biffle Moore was on the Language faculty (drama division) at Murfreesboro's Middle Tennessee State College in the mid-1950s.  In 1957 he, wife Edythe, and John Douty opened a summer stock theater in Nashville.  "The theatre will offer eleven wonderful weeks of summer entertainment featuring sophisticated comedy, enthralling dramas, and intriguing mysteries," reported the July 3rd MTSC Side-Lines.  John and the Moores "arrived last week to start scrubbing and dusting and readying the handsome barn for its second season as a straw-hat playhouse," announced the June 8, 1958 Nashville Tennessean.  Like John Douty, "Biff" Moore had done graduate work at Johns Hopkins and earned his master's degree from the University of Denver.  Mila Jean mentioned Edythe Moore in her letter of Feb. 20, 1955.    >
  Summer days in Kansas City MO can feature "low" temps of 80° plus 80% humidity, which makes respiration feel like trying to swallow a hot biscuit-and-gravy unchewed.  (This was a prime factor in my move to Puget Sound in 1988.)  >
  Fairyland was a KCMO amusement park at 75th and Prospect that opened in 1923 and had its heyday in the 1950s and '60s; losing its clientele to "the newer and shinier" Worlds of Fun, it closed in 1977.  >
  Mila Jean had already clipped the Music page of Time magazine's June 20th issue: "Peking to Paris," profiling the Chinese opera's performance and reception at the International Theater Festival.  >
  Heller Halliday (born 1941) was the daughter of Mary Martin and Richard Halliday, and younger half-sister of Larry Hagman.  Earlier in 1955 she appeared as Liza the maid in her mother's televised production of Peter Pan.  >
  Florence Reed played the Fortune Teller in both the original 1942-43 production of The Skin of Our Teeth and its 1955 revival.  >
  In the anthology film If I Had a Million, a dying tycoon leaves his fortune to eight random strangers selected from a phone book.  W.C. Fields and Alison Skipworth use their share to buy a fleet of cars with which to ram roadhogs; Gary Cooper and Jack Oakie are fresh-out-of-the-stockade Marines who assume their check is an April Fools joke.  >
  Though comedian Jack Oakie grew up in Oklahoma (hence his stage surname), he was born in Sedalia MO and spent part of his youth in KCMO as a paperboy for the Kansas City Star.  >
  CIT was the Compagnia Italiana Turismo travel agency, founded in 1927 (by Mussolini's Fascists) to promote Italian tourism.  >
  Humorist Art Buchwald lived in Paris from 1949 to 1962, working as a columnist for the Herald Tribune*** >
  Light-'O-Love was an 1896 drama by Arthur Schnitzler, a Viennese MD who abandoned medicine to become a controversial author and playwright.  >
  The Musée de Cluny (today known as the Musée National du Moyen Âge) features a series of six "Lady and the Unicorn" tapestries woven circa 1500.  > 
  Though Pont Neuf means "New Bridge," it is in fact the oldest surviving one across the Seine, dating from the late 16th Century.  >
  Friedrich Schiller's Maria Stuart, an 1800 verse play about the last days of Mary Queen of Scots, was adapted in 1835 for the libretto to Donizetti's opera Maria Stuarda.  >
  Denounced as subversive, Salt of the Earth was a 1954 film produced, directed, written, and performed by blacklisted Hollywood personnel (including Will Geer, pre-Grandpa Walton).  >
  Joe McCarthy's political career was effectively scuttled when the Senate censured him in Dec. 1954.  >
  The Musée Rodin opened in 1919 and includes artworks Rodin collected as well as thousands of his own sculptures, drawings, and photographs.  >
  Frederick G. Laws (born 1899) was June Brown's father.  In 1961, "en route from the West Indies to Chicago and Denver," he visited the Browns in Alfred NY (as per the Mar. 17, 2011 Alfred Sun's Fifty Years Ago column).  >
  The Poplars at 59A Henley Road became Bethesda Eventide Homes, offering "high-quality residential care and day care in a friendly Christian environment for up to 27 residents, including those living with early stages of dementia."  >
  Katina Paxinou, one of the founders of Greece's National Theatre, won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress as Pilar in 1943's For Whom the Bell Tolls.  >
  On July 20th Dr. John Barnett, Dean of the KCU College of Liberal Arts, addressed a letter to Mila Jean's home address in KCMO:

Dear Mila Jean:  Enclosed is the memorandum covering your appointment as a Fellow in the Department of Speech for the academic year 1955-1956.  You should indicate your acceptance of the appointment by signing and returning the blue copy to this office as promptly as possible.  You have been assigned to Miss McIlrath*, Chairman of the Department of Speech, for work that will normally amount to twenty hours each week.  You should get in touch with Miss McIlrath for the assignment of your duties during the regular academic year.  All fellows are also expected to report to Mrs. Laughlin, in the Testing Center, on Thursday, September 15, to assist in the new student program.  I hope that the year will be a profitable and stimulating one for you.  We are happy to have you associated with the University.  With kindest personal regards...

The enclosed Memorandum on Appointment to Staff offered a stipend of "$800.00 plus eighteen (18) semester hours tuition free" for the academic year Sep. 12, 1955 to June 3, 1956.  (Eight days before that academic year ended, Mila Jean Smith would become Mila Jean Ehrlich.)  >
  Among many other roles on stage, screen, and television, Dorothy Tutin played Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest (1952), Polly Peachum in The Beggar's Opera (1953), Lucie Manette in A Tale of Two Cities (1958), and Anne Boleyn in The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970).  >
  L'Alouette (The Lark) was Jean Anouilh's 1952 play about the trial of Joan of Arc; it was adapted by Lillian Hellman for an English production in 1955.  >
  Produced in the Auvergne region of central France, Cantal cheese is said to have a "vigorous" taste when well-ripened.  >
  Despite its ominous "mystery dessert" name, Mystère is a meringue thickly covered with vanilla ice cream and hazelnuts.  >
  Animal Crackers was withdrawn from theatrical distribution in the mid-1950s and spent the next two decades mired in a mess of tangled rights.  A campaign to re-release it achieved success in 1974; Groucho Marx's attendance at the Los Angeles and New York premieres were among his final public appearances.  >
  Felixstowe is on the North Sea coast in Suffolk, a dozen miles southeast of Ipswich.  Two years earlier, almost fifty people drowned there during the North Sea Flood of 1953.  >
  The mid-sized Hillman Minx was produced in Britain from 1931 to 1970; during the early 1950s it was marketed in the United States.  "More American in appearance than most British cars, the Minx is one of the top sellers among foreign makes," reported the Jan. 1953 issue of Popular Mechanics.  >
  East of Eden, released in Apr. 1955, starred James Dean in his first major film role; he would be killed in a car accident on Sep. 30th.  >
  Côte d'agneau is French for "lamb chop," and may have been Mila Jean's facetious term for her ill-fated r
osé, à la actual wines like Côte Rotie or Côtes du Rhone.  >
  At this time Ignace Stegman was eighty-one.  Born in Tarnów (then Austria, now Poland) in 1874, he came to America in 1893 and worked as an artist in Seattle, Indianapolis, Kansas City, and New York.  In 1928 he married Ruth Kaneff (1896-1949) in Keokuk; shortly thereafter they relocated to San Antonio, where daughters Patricia Jean and Joan(n) Elizabeth were born in 1929 and 1931.  Like Mila Jean, both attended KCMO's Central High School in the late 1940s and KCU in the early '50s; Patricia earned her BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute.  >
  In later years Mila Jean's mother Ada Louise would grouse that the Smiths never went anywhere on vacation except back to their native Ohio; but father Frank was said to have loved Chicago, and during his career with American Radiator occasionally went to its headquarters in Buffalo on business.  >
  Cleveland Square is in Bayswater, west of Paddington.  >
  Jean Giraudoux's 1935 play La guerre de Troie n'aura pas lieu (The Trojan War Will Not Take Place) was translated by Christopher Fry as Tiger at the Gates in 1955.  That year's Broadway production would be nominated for a Tony as best play, and Michael Redgrave ditto for best performance by a leading man.  >
  Maxwell Anderson's The Bad Seed premiered in 1954 and was adapted for the screen in 1956; Nancy Kelly and Patty McCormack appeared as the mother and daughter in both versions.  >
  Cole Porter's Can-Can premiered on Broadway in 1953 and London's West End in 1954.  Bunny Behrens wrote***** Mila Jean in Aug. 1955 that their Bristol friend "Maureen (ballet) has gone into Can-Can."  >
  The Desperate Hours, a play about three escaped convicts, played on Broadway in early 1955; its film adaptation (with Humphrey Bogart replacing Paul Newman as the trio's leader) would be released that October.  >
  The musical Kismet began a long run on Broadway in 1953 and the West End in Apr. 1955; like The Desperate Hours, its screen adaptation would be released in Oct. 1955.  >
  On Aug. 6th John Douty wrote Mila Jean in Ipswich:

Guess who
     is going to be the next Mr. Univers
e—if there is anything at all to the weightlifting gimmick.  Believe me, after a week of dangling a Sampsonite
[sic] case at the end of each numb arm, a mere millstone around the neck would be a pleasure.
     Paris was grotesque over the weekend
—British, British everywhere (Bank Holiday, y'know) and a few Americans....  Brussels was a real nothing (what is it you young people say these days: a bomb?)... the big attraction—the town square—the most monstrous eyesore I have ever seen.  There was one bit of excitement, however—it was carnival week and the carnival was set up in the vacant lot between my hotel and the railroad station.  During rush hour my bidet was used as an extra car on the "American Railway" (roller coaster) and I think the tunnel of love went through my armoire—I thought it best not to look.
     Cologne as usual—but I did get a better meal than before.  Then the boat trip—
a 12½ hour journey starting at 8 AM.  Well!  I made it and it was scenic—but so long and tedious.  I read
Huck Finn and muttered dark things at the other passengers who were about 60% American, 30% British, and 10% assorted.  Most of the British were Jehovah's Witnesses—but they were fortunately not witnessing that day.
     ...It was getting dark, so I pushed on to Frankfurt, arriving at 10:45 PM.  Horrors—all the cheap little hotels filled!  All the not cheap little hotels filled!  All the not cheap big hotels filled!...  It seems that there was some sort of sporting orgy going on and there were orgiasts all over.  I gave up at 1 PM
[the next day] and took the train to Nürnberg
—so I shall never know what Frankfurt was like....
     How hostel were the youths?  Or didn't you find them?...
     Give my regards to Broadway   JTD 
>

  If Mila Jean "explained all" later about June's grand dowager of a Mama, it must have been by word of mouth.  >
  This strongly implies that Mila Jean's parents came to New York to meet (and surprise?) her when RMS Mauretania** arrived on Aug. 26
th—but if so, this is the only mention of such an event.  >
  Unclear whether "P.," who had the only other key to the Stegman apartment, was Papa or Patricia.  >
  This was the stage version of William Inge's Bus Stop (set 25 miles west of Kansas City MO) which premiered in Mar. 1955; the film adaptation (starring Marilyn Monroe, and set in Phoenix) would not be released for another year.  Bus Stop played the Victoria Theater in KCMO in Nov. 1955, and the cast's Glenn Anders addressed "aspiring young actors" at the KCU Playhou
se—including Mila Jean, pictured with Anders and Al Varnado in two newspaper clippings, one identifying her as "head of the KCU studio productions."  >
  Glenn Anders appeared on Broadway in Hell Bent for Heaven, They Knew What They Wanted, and Strange Interlude, as well as in Orson Welles's The Lady from Shanghai.  In the 1955-56 National Tour engagement of Bus Stop, he portrayed Dr. Gerald Lyman; former child star Peggy Ann Garner (of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Junior Miss) played Cherie.  >
  Less than four months later, George Ehrlich would write his first letter to Mila Jean (from Urbana IL, where he was spending Christmas with his sister Martha's family):

     ...I feel compelled to make use of the achievements of the poets of the past.  Sadly however, I know not the poets of the past—or of the present.  And so my sentiments must be entrusted to my inadequacies.  My voyages have taken me afar, and I am now somewhat settled; and as I labor to guide this pen with decorum, the strains of "Pajama Game" fill the air with sprightliness.
     Pajama Game—
     Maybe it was the theatre—a travesty of design—or an uneven cast—or too much expectation—but the production deserved more.
     But don't they all?
     Then again the seat next to me was empty.  And it is this which took the edge off all.  Or the Tom and Jerry without companion.
     If my diagnosis is correct, Miss Mila Jean—
     I MISSED YOU.
     STILL DO....

(Small wonder that Jeanie did not turn into an "Old Maid Schoolteacher.")  >
  Like Bus Stop, Tennessee Williams's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof premiered onstage in Mar. 1955.  >
  Orbach's was a moderately-priced department store that moved in 1954 from Union Square to West 34th Street, across from the Empire State Building.  Many branch stores were opened after World War II, but the chain folded in 1987.  >
  On Aug. 25th John Douty wrote Mila Jean c/o the Stegmans:

     How can you stand all those Americans
     It's bad enough in Rome with only a couple of million—but New York—eight million!
     Otherwise Rome
[was] much the same
—hot, dusty, noisy, smelly—a wonderful place to visit but I'd sure hate to live here.  Opera going strong.  Have seen Aida—a little disappointing with only six horses and two camels—and Lucia di Lammermoor—somewhat less impressive (only two horses and seven dogs) but better musically....
     Life in the Youth Hostel sounds so homely and—British.  I should have thought you would have enjoyed it....  I have had to send for more money, of course—unfortunately enough to make certain that my own little Hillman-Minx is
not waiting on the dock for me....
     I did
—in my usual innocent manner—get involved in a strike in Firenze [Florence].  I was calmly strolling down the street when it occurred to me that siesta time must be overpeople were pouring into the square with no more than normal agitation.  The next day I read in the paper that I had been in the midst of "rioting" strikers—and me without my red flag....
     If you insist upon meeting me—which I doubt considering the hour—why don't you call the Algonquin a couple of days before and reserve my usual small room behind the elevator.  I shan't bother writing them.  Then at least I shall have someplace to hide until my sister bails me out....

This was followed on Sep. 1st by:

     It seems we slow down as we pass Gibraltar tomorrow while some of the passengers climb aboard and a swarthy little Italian boy with limpid brown eyes dives over the side and swims into a pillar-box, this letter clutched between his teeth.  All of this simply to keep my dignity with a logical explanation for the salt stains on this letter—what are really tears....
     Such a dull crowd at my table
[on the Andrea Doria]
—three widows (of various types), a maiden lady and a priest.  None of us have wine with our meals—and just as well, too, since I couldn't afford the
80¢ a bottle.  All of us are single cabin passengers—fiercely independent—we haven't exchanged names—do not reveal our business—nor ask questions.  We discuss the food, the tourist attractions and languages.  My type of people.  One of the widows and I became soul mates today at lunch when we compared our experiences in not getting anything in Italy because neither of us could stand physical contact.
     I've just written my sister to have a P.O. money order waiting at the Algonquin just in case neither the Algonquin or Joanne's
[sic] little grocer will cash a personal check.  And I've worked out a strict budget which should leave me a dollar for taxi fare to the Algonquin.  I doubt if I could make it
—and I know my handle [coming off the Samsonite suitcase] couldn't—walking.
     So everything is taken care of except getting through customs, and I expect you—as an experienced world traveler—to handle it.
     Back to the free lunch counter
     Giovanni    
>

  Mila Jean's own customs declaration listed: "grey winter coat (wool), green cashmere set, purple wool dress, pink cotton dress, yellow cotton dress, grey wool skirt, black wool sweater, Italian sandals, Italian ceramic earrings, four Italian watercolor costume plates, English pewter mug, wool scarf, French guidebooks, Swiss handkerchief, Dutch ashtray, Italian leather compact, English glass earrings, English scarf ring, China salt and pepper set, French ceramic mask, Italian scarf, English book (ballet), English book (costuming), English book (swords)."  >
  As per Don Marquis's typewriting cockroach (who was said to have been a free verse poet in a previous life).  >
  It was under the blooming lilacs outside the Cloisters museum that Wally Wronken got his memorable kiss from the title character of Herman Wouk's 1955 novel Marjorie Morningstar.  >
  KXTR-FM, Kansas City's all-classical radio station, began broadcasting on Sep. 3, 1959.  It was banished to the AM dial in 2000, and lost its format in 2012 ("after an astonishingly long reprieve for classical music," according to the KC Radio History website).  >
  Mila Jean's last letter certainly appears to be dated "Sept. 7th," and the Andrea Doria's "List of In-Bound Passengers" including DOUTY JOHN T. definitely shows arrival in port of New York on "September 8th, 1955."  However, the envelope that contained Mila Jean's ticket on Missouri Pacific Train No. 6 (Car No. 61, Seat 12) shows a departure on "Sept 7" at 12:20 PM.  Could it have meant Sep. 9th?  >
  Released in July 1955, I Am a Camera was adapted from the 1951 play based on Christopher Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin.  >
  Jo Ann Laughlin, to whom Dean Barnett told Mila Jean to report in the Testing Center on Sep. 15th, was KCU's psychometrist from at least 1952 to 1956.  During these years she also served as faculty advisor to the Sigma Beta sorority.  >
  Gammer Gurton's Needle, one of the earliest extant English comedies, dates from the mid-16th Century.  KCU's Studio Theatre presented it Jan. 12-13, 1956, following a Dec. 11, 1955 production of the Christmas tale Kings in Judea.  (Later that month Mila Jean wrote George Ehrlich that she was "getting costumes put away from that damned Kings in Judea and arguing with Granny [Mort] Walker.")  The third Studio Theatre production was La Parisienne (The Woman of Paris) by Henry Becque, presented in the round in the Swinney Gym Recreation Lounge on Mar. 27, 1956; it starred Mary Jane Davis as Clotilde and was directed by Mila Jean, who made it the subject of her master's thesis.  >
  Alban Fordesh Varnado (1920-2015) hailed from Baton Rouge; served for seventeen years in the Air Corps/Air Force, receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross; and earned his bachelor's, master's, and doctorate from Louisiana State, to which he would return from KCU to teach for two decades.  His retirement years were spent in San Antonio volunteering for the American Red Cross.  When I was a child he was "Uncle Al," and I assumed he was Dad's brother.  >
  The KCU Playhouse staged My Sister Eileen Oct. 19-22, 1955; Al Varnado directed and Mort Walker designed the sets.  >
  Don Giovanni, directed by Mort Walker, was presented Feb. 15-18, 1956 as "the University's salute to Mozart in his bi-centennial year celebration...  The music and art departments joined the theatre in this tribute to Mozart," with George Ehrlich credited as Set and Artistic Designer.  (Mila Jean appeared at the bottom of the bill among "Friends of Don Giovanni.")  >

  The Sep. 6, 1958 Nashville Tennessean reported: "Dr. John T. Douty, co-producer of Nashville's Theatre South, has been appointed to the faculty of Peabody College as assistant professor of English.  Douty, who is 38 and unmarried ... will teach courses in speech and drama and direct a play each quarter."  >
  The Nov. 1973 issue of News from the Hill, Western Maryland College's alumni magazine, noted for the Class of 1948 that "We were saddened ... when notified of the death of Dr. John T. Douty."  >
  The "Necrology" column in the Jan. 1974 PMLA (Publication of the Modern Language Association) included "John T. Douty, Tri-State College, 7 April 1973"; but his Indiana death certificate shows "4-6-73  4:50A" as the date and time of expiration.  > 
 


List of Illustrations

●  United States flags on the Champs-Élysées, July 4, 1955
●  horse-drawn carriage on the Champs-Élysées, July 4, 1955
●  painter and observer in Tuileries Garden, July 4, 1955
●  The Louvre (with view of Tuileries Garden and Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel), Bastille Day 1955
●  barrel organ (cranked by a little girl) on the Left Bank, Bastille Day 1955
●  man playing an "electrified mouth organ" in Montparnasse
●  another view of Montparnasse
●  a third view of Montparnasse
●  Paris: theater ticket montage
●  Bayswater: "the worst accommodations yet"
●  June Brown's parents's home: The Poplars in Ipswich
●  Mrs. Laws, June, Diane, and Erica on the beach at Felixstowe
●  RMS Mauretania: the ship
●  RMS Mauretania: the baggage label
●  RMS Mauretania: the Landing Arrangements
●  RMS Mauretania: the Customs Declaration 
●  George Ehrlich in front of the KCU Fine Arts building, 1955 Kangaroo yearbook
●  J. Morton Walker, Patricia McIlrath, and Alban F. Varnado with the University Players, 1955 Kangaroo yearbook
●  Mila Jean with Glenn Anders and Al Varnado in Kansas City MO, Nov. 1955
●  John Douty in the 1962 Peabody College Pillar yearbook 
●  John Douty in the 1967 Tri-State College Modulus yearbook
 


Return to The Fulbright Year Abroad: Part Five



A Split Infinitive Production
Copyright © 2017 by P. S. Ehrlich


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