Correspondence from Canada: Letter 25 - 02.01.82
Copyright holder(s): Name withheld
Dear Mom & Pops & Al,
Not a good Noo Year: Homer Jordan took a hamstring injury on the third and four in the second quarter of the Tigers - Huskers game just as Clemson was making the big play. Nebraska made the best of the break, forcing a turnaround with an interception, and went on to the touchdown to clinch the first half. However, things brightened up after President Reagan's message at half-time, and Jack Jones (now white-haired and sporting a moustache) sang the "Impossible Dream" to cavorting majorettes in the half-time pageant, and then the Clemson University Tigers came back and took the Orange Bowl by storm to win the game, the league, and the championship.
Or something like that. Yes! My last iota of resistance has crumbled folks, and I've learned how they play American Football. It's all over TV just now, and I sat through about 3 games on New Year's Day after taking a long walk in the country in the morning. I quite enjoyed it: it's far more exciting and interesting than I thought it was. It helps to know what they're doing.
But what have I been doing? You may have noticed that the postmark on my last letter read "Intercourse". Intercourse (and, for that matter, Blue Ball, Paradise, and Eden) are all towns in Lancaster County which is in the midst of Pennsylvanian Dutch (originally Deutsch or German) country. This is largely a farming community of Amish & Mennonite people made famous in the musical "Plain & Fancy". Their idiosyncratic religious beliefs demand a certain sort of dress (men: black, broad-brimmed hat, clips rather than buttons; women: cap, green or blue dress, cape) and deny them the use of electricity, hot & cold running water, and automobiles. Unmarried men are clean shaven, married men sport untrimmed beards. Mrs. [CENSORED: surname] took me into Lancaster Market and through an Amish farm that has been turned into a show-farm. It's a large community and still fairly strict - we saw a great many horse-and-buggies on the highways, and orthodoxly-dressed Amish folk in the towns. Like the Brethren intensified, it's a kind of religious club, and their newspaper, "The Budget" goes to the Mennonites in 24 states, Mexico, and Canada. Pennsylvania has the 2nd largest community in the U.S.
That was an eye-opener. On the second last day of 1981, Mr & Mrs T., Wendy, Rod, and I all rose at 4am to drive the 3½ hours to Washington, D.C. We had tickets to see round the White House - at 8am. Around 1600 people were scheduled to see thro' the area open to the public that morning, and we were among the first. It was interesting, but hardly spectacular, inside. We were guided by a Secret Serviceman who kept on making military-style jokes. On entering the very red Red Room he informed us: "This is the Yellow Room..." [Laughter] "...Glad to see some of you are still paying attention. Now if you will proceed into the hallway, and don't walk past the red screens. There is another Secret Service officer there and his job is not to show you round the White House." It was fun. There were pictures of ex-presidents all over, including a really good one of JF Kennedy, but none of Nixon. We didn't ask our guide why.
Then we went 500 feet up the 550 foot Washington Monument which is a large Cleopatra's Needle which I must have photographed about 6 times. From up top (on a bright but cold day) we had a great view of the city, especially the Reflecting Pool down to the Lincoln Memorial, where I am pretty sure Martin Luther King "had his dream". We could also see Watergate, which we drove right past on our way out of the city.
From the Washington Monument we proceeded to the Lincoln Memorial, the familiar huge statue of a seated Abe Lincoln. It, like many of the buildings of central Washington, is built after the Greek fashion and it is really impressive. It's a gorgeous city.
And then we went to the Smithsonian Institute - 13 buildings which are museums and galleries dedicated to the sciences and arts. I got stuck in the National Air and Space Museum. About six of my childhood dreams came true there. Rod and I went into the backup Skylab orbital station which stood in a gallery amidst an assortment of rockets (including a V-2 and a buzzbomb), and linked Apollo - Soyuz capsules commemorating the American-Russian link-up in space. I touched a Saturn V booster, stood underneath the actual Apollo 11 re-entry capsule, and lingered by a lunar module. They even had the original (now rather worn) model of "Star Trek"'s USS Enterprise. I didn't get through a quarter of that museum. I did see Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, the Wright Bros. first aircraft, and a Gemini space capsule, and various other exhibits in the huge, futuristic building, as well as 2 films on a movie screen 5 storeys high (you actually feel you're flying, believe me), but I didn't get to see a section on WWI aviation, which I did want to see.
That took up most of the rest of my day. Mrs. [CENSORED: surname] & I dashed to the Folger Shakespeare library and were just in time to see a display of Renaissance books, and a life-size model of Shakespeare's own Globe Theatre, where plays are actually performed. But that was about it. It was a long but fascinating day.
That night Michael & Marilyn, Mr & Mrs. [CENSORED: surname]'s niece & her husband arrived to spend a few days with us. On Hogmany - yes - we went ice-skating on a nearby frozen pond. I've a bruise on my hip and several aching areas to prove it! I actually didn't fall for about 15 minutes, then I made my fatal mistake - I tried to move...
New Year's Day was spent walking and watching TV Football, and eating a gorgeous turkey dinner, and today Mr & Mrs. T. took me to see the Mummer's parade in Philly. That was incredible. Young, old, rich, poor, black & white - the whole city was out to lunch. We took the train in because Philadelphia doesn't move when the Mummer's parade is on. It lasts from around 8 a.m. to around 7. p.m. and winds through the city. Working-class, usually ethnic, truck-drivers, labourers, shopkeepers, you-name-it, dress up in the most exotic frills, satins, feathers, furs etc. etc. to "strut" or "cakewalk" down the streets to the sound of the string bands - banjos, bass, saxophones and horns. All year and a lavish amount of money is poured into this parade by the string bands - it's Philadelphia's "Mardi gras" and probably just as colorful and exuberant. It seemed the whole city turned out to see the Mummers, and 4/5 of the city was drunk, stoned, or both. I also had my first lunch in "McDonalds" (over 40 billion served thro'out the world) and even there Mummers were eating, shouting, and strutting down the passages.
So now you're up to date. Michael and Marilyn left today, and Wendy flew back to Salt Lake City. My time here is slowly drawing to a close. I've given the [CENSORED: surname] our address in Ayr and said that they're welcome to stay if they're even back in Scotland. I hope you don't mind: they've been extraordinarily good to me, and they're a really nice couple. Don't be panicking and cleaning the silver-ware - it's unlikely that they'll be in Europe for a while.
I hope you're all well & are recovering from the New Year splurge. As you'll can gather I've had a great time and am nearly all set to return to my studies with renewed gusto. I'll need to get a lot done to prepare for Carole's arrival, if all goes to plan. Have a very happy new year, & convey these wishes to anyone who's asking after me.
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Correspondence from Canada: Letter 25 - 02.01.82. 2021. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved January 2021, from http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=873.
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