Mrs. Ruth Scott Describes Trip To England *
Dec. 19, 1950.
[Mr. Willis, I believe, was editor of the Meade County Messenger at this time. jbs]
Dear Mr. Willis:
To be in England with snow on the ground and Christmas in the air is so exciting that Im sharing my thoughts. This trip was in the planning for two months. As soon as I made plane reservations for Dec. 16th I had to begin unwinding red tape.
First the matter of a birth certificate, census record not accepted-so I wrote to Uncle Allen Stith, also Cousin Eva Carrigan to make out affidavits as to my birth. Uncle Allens was so interesting and the fact that another Uncle, Tom Stith was notary, made it more so. Mrs. Ida Wallace of Garrett made an affidavit too, and for all of this I am thankful. Then I went to a 10c store to have passport pictures made, but the pictures showed such a pitiful looking old woman that I took myself to Harris and Ewing (Washingtons best photographers) and for a much larger sum the pictures really flattered me! The smallpox vaccination really "took" and with my daughter Jessie Williams as a witness and a ten-dollar bill in hand I was at last equipped to apply for a passport. Had to go to U.S. Public Health and have an International Health Seal on the Doctors Certificate.
Made a few extra purchases - woolen underwear and stockings, hot water bottle, folding umbrella, fur lined shoes, presents for grandchildren, Barbara and Allayne and new grandson Nicholas Fontaine Scott - picked up plane ticket and travelers checks and I was all set.
Left Washington via American Airline 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, arrived LaGuardia Field New York at 12:10 noon and took a bus to Overseas Airport where my baggage was again checked and weighed. Was allowed 66 pounds and I had a very narrow margin. After a light lunch, boarded TWA plane at 3 p.m. This was the hardest part of the trip as my hands were more than full of luggage - had to show passport - also keep up or ahead of the 47 people and we had a lengthy walk. Eight U.N. delegates were returning home for Christmas and over half of passengers were going as far as Germany to visit.
Captain Weaver, the pilot all the way, told us we should reach Gander, Newfoundland, in four hours, though we were a half hour late, arriving 8 p.m. and were told to set our watches to 9:30 p.m. We had been served an excellent dinner enroute and the time passed quickly. Read all about Gander, in Saturday Evening Post of Dec. 16th. Big planes leaving in all directions. One took off for Rio just before we did. In the large warm lounge the one and a half hours sped by and at 10:30 p.m. we took off. Captain Weaver told us that in the 7 hour flight to Shannon, Ireland we should move our watches up 3½ hours.
Passengers were soon wrapped in blankets and fast asleep and it didnt seem to long before I awoke and saw faint signs of dawn. Most passengers slept on, but a few of us stayed awake to watch natures most beautiful picture unfold. We were sailing along so smoothly in a floor of clouds and then in the east we began to see reflection of the sun in the clouds. This was all along the Eastern horizon and grew more gorgeous as we flew into the sunrise. This lasted perhaps 2½ hours, then we sensed the descent of the plane, catching just a glimpse of the ocean before we spotted Ireland-all snow covered but the small plots of ground distinctly outlined by hedges or fences, we flew up the Bay of Shannon to Shannon Airport. We had filled out a paper and had to show our Health Certificates when disembarking. Just before landing we were served orange juice so we were more than ready for the good hot breakfast in the airport. An elegant dining room, colorful carpets and hangings, linen tablecloths, good service. At our table of eight I met a women lawyer from Oklahoma City going to Frankfurt, Germany to spend Christmas with her son. She knew Walter Harrison and his mother (she was a sister of Aunt Lena Stith). We had several friends in common in F. T. Smith, Arkansas and she knew of my brother D.L. Fontaine. We visited the one hour and 45 minutes it took to fly across the Irish Sea and England.
As we glided into the airport I saw Bill (Major Scott). However it was 30 minutes going through Customs before I reached him. Since I was a visitor, I was asked if I had gifts and I had the list ready. The Customs Inspector checked my list and did not open my luggage.
I had read of the heavy snow in England and it snowed again on our hours drive to London.
After freshening up at our hotel we took a taxi to Claridge Hotel for tea. This is in Grosvenor Square and in the snow I could see the statue erected to F.D.R. a year or so ago. To the hotel for a rest, then to U.S. Officers club for 8 oclock dinner.
Monday morning we had breakfast served in my room - juice, coffee, sausage, baked beans, toast, a hard cold roll, and jam. I am fond of hot tea, but it is taken for granted that all Americans want coffee, besides tea is rationed.
Bill had business to attend to - shopping at U.S. Commissary and PX. It had been 7 weeks since hed been to London for supplies. So we arranged to meet at 3 p.m. at one entrance to Selfridge Dept. Store. You may have read of this - the largest department store in London-founded by Gordon Selfridge, who if I remember rightly started out with Marshal Field in Chicago and later founded this store on that pattern.
Christmas crowds as at home, but an immense tax on every purchase-up to 100% tax on luxuries. Their dining room where I had lunch much on order of Stewarts 6th floor, but larger. At the table I chatted with two very pleasant Britishers who told me of their difficulties during the war, of being bombed out, and for 6 months they slept with their clothes on, in their backyard shelter, ate cold food, not even hot water for tea. It was pouring rain when Bill met me and we started our trek to Fulbeck, 129 miles north of London. We traveled the Great North Road between London and Edinburgh - first built by the Romans in 66 B. C. Fog settled down, it snowed in spots, the road was slick or slushy, we made 25 m.p.h. the first half of the journey. Then stopped at Cromwell Inn for tea. This had all the atmosphere of old England-fireplaces, tile floors, lovely rugs, the walls covered with leather about three feet square and put on with copper nails, Wedgewood china and old paintings. Bill called the Royal Auto Association as to road conditions and was assured the roads would get no worse.
We made it in to Fulbeck at 9 p.m. where Harriet was holding dinner for us and Barbie was still up. Harriet had ordered Christmas supplies from Sears and Wards fully 7 weeks ago and they pick up packages at U.S. Embassy in London. Mail is also forwarded from there. Wards had arrived and there was disappointment that Sears did not, but we brought a package from Harriets folks the B. M. Fasts of Brandenburg.
Harriet and Bill live in a wing of the historic Manor House of Fulbeck-the original part of house with stone walls and floors and immense fireplaces built in 1631. Their living room is 22 feet by 33 feet and is cold as some of our old homes in Kentucky are. Paintings of former owners adorn the wall, lots of old oak furniture and lovely china figurines, vases and plates. The present owner tells me the Manor was occupied all during the war by British officers while she had quarters in one of her cottages. Their paintings and china with some furniture was stored but the Manor was not too well taken care of.
Bill is on the Directing Staff of Royal Air Force College at Cranwell, which is British equivalent of West Point.
(Mr. Willis, Bill is giving me permission to print this).
We are invited to dinners or parties each night through Christmas and Friday night Dec. 22nd Bill and Harriet will have a party. Sunday afternoon Dec. 31st they will have Nicholas christened and a party goes with that. The god-parents are in the States and will be represented by proxy. They are Mrs. Mary Moorman Murray and Mr. Davis Sorgano of Washington D. C., and my brother J. T. Fontaine at Richmond, V. A.
On the 27th of December I will go for a 3 day trip to Paris and when in London am invited to dine in the home of Col. Lawrence Lewis, nephew of Mrs. W. D. Ashcraft and Mrs. George Woolfolk.
Will return home, leaving Jan. 7th via same route. My daughter Jessie Williams told me to be sure and let her know if I got here. I remarked, "Youll see in the papers if I dont." The article about Gander in Saturday Evening Post said thered never been a mishap from there in a scheduled commercial flight. However when we had boarded the plane we were handed a circular, "How to Ditch without a Hitch," and instructions how to don the life jacket. Believe me, I studied that as I knew I wouldnt have time to put on my "specs" and reread it if we did "ditch"
Ruth F. Scott
* From files of Jack Jeffers Scott, fall 1998. Typed from newspaper clipping by Alan Richard Scott, January 1999.