James Takes A Trip

J. Alan Burdick

© Copyright 2005 by J. Alan Burdick


James had lived in Ankara for about a year. There were few American goods available and those that were, were too expensive to buy. At first, there was no milk available so the family tried boiling water buffalo’s milk…and found it too rich and sweet! Since Turkey is an nation whose people are mostly Islamic, there was no bacon to grace the morning table. In other words when James’ father asked if he would like to go to Germany, he jumped at the chance!

You remember Pat Van Wagener from Michigan?” Dad asked.

Yes”, James replied, “He’s the governor of Michigan, isn’t he?”

Not anymore, he’s been appointed the military governor of Bavaria, and he has invited us to visit him there.”

(“Ah, thought James,” a chance to go to a PX, and buy a candy bar…..eat bacon….drink milk! And the ‘Old Museum’ there has some of the world’s best collections too!”)

And so, James, his mother and sister found themselves climbing aboard a rusty M.A.T.S . C47 (his father could not go, the Marshal Plan for highways was demanding too much work at this time.) The C47 was a cargo plane. It was unheated, not pressurized, had cargo tied down in the center of the plane and bucket seats along both sides…that were originally meant to seat paratroopers. The windows appeared to be some sort of clear plastic, which had a circular plug in the center that could be removed. You could see light around the door when it was closed. The family (per instructions) had dressed in three layers of clothes, and brought an empty coffee can for “problems”.

The flight from Ankara to Rome was fine. They had been overheated on the airfield in Ankara, but blessed the three layers when flying. The plane needed several days to reload for Munich, and so the family checked into “their” hotel Hasler, located at the top of the Spanish Stairs. It was modern, and within walking distance of the Vatican (a couple of miles away). There were colorful, friendly people on the Spanish Stairs to greet them, but mother never allowed James to talk with them.

The plane was heavily loaded with cargo, and only about ten people when they reboarded it several days later. They found out that civilians were not allowed into Germany, and that special papers would be needed to get off the plane. Without paper, but armed with faith, the family started off.

All was well for a while.

Because the C47 was a low flying cargo plane, it could not fly over the Alps, it had to fly through the Alps. The plane banked heavily, first this way around a mountain, then that way up a valley. The air currents were very strong, pushing the plane suddenly up then down. James called for the empty coffee can. A pretty young girl, seated down the row that had not been mindful of instructions of what to bring and who was a pale shade of green signaled that she would like the can too. James looked at the girl, looked into the still empty coffee can…. and heard a “click” inside his mind! He gallantly passed the can, still empty, to her (just in time)

[Now James had been “sick” often before this “click”…indeed, the family car had been cleaned many times; but even 50 years later, when he found himself being tossed about in the English Channel in a round bottomed small sailing ship in a force 3 wind…and a rich shade of green, he had never needed a coffee can again even though he wished to be.]

At last the airfield of Munich came into view, and the plane landed. Pat, had sent his car and driver (a young good looking American soldier, who later married Pat’s daughter) and so with little difficulty, they found themselves, somewhat worse the wear, at Pat’s place. He now lived in Hermann Goering’s house. Goering had said:” I am what I have always been - the last Renaissance man, if I may be allowed to say so."  The house was just as he had left it and in good condition. As James wandered through the place, which was richly furnished to say the least, he noticed that there were paintings by famous painters…which had been looted from museums and brought here to grace the house.

His visit to the Old Museum was a sad one. The driver took him through the streets (which had only recently been cleared of rubble) to the bombed out shell of a building. His visit to the PX , however, was equal to  his wildest dreams!  He slipped away from the family, bought 5 candy bars and two containers of chocolate (!) milk and downed them out of sight.

His reward for this was his first ever, stomach ache! Which of course, he could not disclose to anyone.

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