by Betty Dahl
Once it seemed tears were not going to change the situation, I began to make plans for my last semester in high school. I had completed graduation requirements for Kodai, but had to take American Government and American History to meet U.S. requirements for entering college. Mom and Dad decided I could use the remaining semester at Hlllsboro to review chemistry and to take the required American studies. The family was too poor to fund college. I was hoping my academic record would win me a scholarship. The only college I considered was Tabor as my parents told me it was a slam on Dad if his children went to any other college. Bit by bit, my plans were changed and my goals with them.
A Last Goodbye
Once again we prepared to return to the States. Final packing for the trip to the U.S. kept us busy and we had to say goodbye to our many friends, knowing we likely would never come back. It was very hard to leave our friends in Kodai; living so close together, we were like a large family. I knew I would probably never see them again. We cried at parting.
We left Kodai and headed by train for Mahabubnagar so we could pack up anything we were taking back to the States. Dad and Mom were much loved by the people at the mission station. Several evenings were set aside for meetings so folks could express their feelings for our family. Anyone who wanted to talk could have the floor, so these meetings went on until late at night. It was hard for Dad and Mom to leave India. They had served there as missionaries for 28 years. However, folks at Tabor College had made several pleas for him to take over the presidency of the college, and Dad had finally agreed to do so. It was time for us all to say goodbye to India. For me, this included saying goodbye to two close Indian friends that I would not see again: Sugnanama (I called her Sugie) and Prelalilla.
We traveled to Bombay and boarded the Himalaya, which was heading for Southampton, England. The ship stopped at Port Said and the port of Aden, where we were able to get off and go shopping; we also sailed through the Suez Canal. Dad felt this trip gave us the golden opportunity to see London, as well as Holland, Germany, Switzerland and France. He arranged for a church to house us in Amsterdam, but the family stayed in hotels in London, Geneva and Paris. Necessarily the hotels were as inexpensive as Papa could find.
It was late November when we arrived in Southampton, so it was very cold and damp. We took a train from Southampton to London. The cold dampness penetrated our bodies because we had come with clothes made for a very hot climate; my shoes wore out and the only shoes we could find that were large enough for my long feet were red and white loafers. I felt out of place with white shoes in winter, but that was all there was to be done. People stared at the family who came without heavy winter coats, no long stockings or caps. They offered help for winter clothing but we were too proud to accept help. Nevertheless, all of us found it very cold and were grateful to get under featherbed covers, which appeared to be the norm as the hotels had very little heat. We were quite toasty under the featherbeds and it felt good to sleep without the rocking of the boat. Cheap food for a family was hard to come by so we had pot pies, wieners, and bread.
We spent several days exploring London. Dad, the historian, told stories about the various kings and queens as we saw the Tower of London, Westminster Abby, London Bridge and other tourist stops. A favorite of ours was Madame Toussaud's Wax Museum. Dad made history come alive and taught us a timeline to give us reference points. After seeing the tower and wax museum, we wondered about England's gory past: people locked up; prisoners beheaded; kings and queens vying for power and wives getting killed for not having children of the male sex. It all sounded gruesome. We rode the red double-decker bus around London, always hoping to get a seat on the upper deck.
The family took the ferry across to Amsterdam. It was cheaper to sail by night, and the family had hoped to get a free night's sleep on the boat. Unfortunately the crossing was rough and the low fare rooms were right above the engine room. The noise kept most of us awake, as did the movement on the rough water. All of us soon felt ill. Dad had splurged and bought us some hot chocolate in the evening and we tried to keep it down, not wanting to vomit such an expensive treat. No luck--the hot chocolate came back up. We were so tired from the ferry ride that when we got to the church host's home in Amsterdam, we went straight to sleep. We slept so soundly that a whole day passed and it was time to get on the train for Germany. So much for the sights of Holland.
We took a train to Switzerland. Every time we went through a tunnel or made a sharp turn in the mountains, we could see a new, fantastic view; it was so beautiful. In Switzerland we were guests of a Mennonite church. The church loaned a car to the family so we could see the hillsides, beautiful snowy mountains and Alpine villages. I made up my mind that I would come back there one day, and I did on four different occasions. We were amazed at how clean Lucerne and Zurich were. It appeared as though everyone swept not only their own houses but also the streets in front of their homes. I can recall the wonderful taste of their chocolate candy, which we could buy in bulk. With so many of us children, our fair share never seemed very much and we wished we were rich enough to buy a pound per person.
When we went through Austria, we saw guards come through and lock all the doors in the train. Dad told us that this was because Austria was part of the Russian-occupied territory, and the Russians didn't want anyone trying to escape the country by sneaking onto the train.
Germany was a stopover to see some of Mother's cousins. Signs of the war were still abundant--bombed out railroad stations, hotels, city centers. Our cousins felt bitter about the massive destruction, though it was often reported that the U.S. tried to avoid bombing architectural wonders. One of Mom's cousins had been a prisoner of war in an American camp for prisoners. Thus we were able to see the ugliness of war from both sides.
While we were in Germany, Dad took us to see Dachau, the concentration camp where thousands of Jews had been gassed. He felt we should always remember the evils perpetrated on the Jewish people. We saw the chambers where the people had been taken for "showers;" instead gas had been piped in to kill them in large numbers. There were deep scratches all the way to the top the walls where people had climbed on each other trying to scratch their way out of their deadly prison. We saw the buckets used to hold gold fillings and other "valuables" taken from the bodies, and the large ovens where the bodies were cremated. Outdoors we saw the mass graves holding the bones of thousands of innocent men, women and children. We were very quiet the next days.
For breakfast our hosts would serve eggs and bread with butter and jelly. For lunch they had bread and baloney, and for the evening meal they had bread, potatoes and a cooked vegetable. We children grew tired of bread during the days spent there. Yet it cost our hosts a fortune to feed and house our big family, an amount later repaid to these hosts. Most houses where we stayed were two-family dwellings: one family lived upstairs and one downstairs, a common arrangement in postwar Germany.
Feeding us children as we traveled through Europe was problematic because food on the train was expensive. Thus Dad soon decided to buy a big quantity of baloney or sausage and bread. When he asked for drinking water, the steward and stewardess were puzzled. Dad explained that he wanted boiled water and with his command of the German language was able to communicate to them that the children were thirsty and he wanted water for them. The request ended up in the engine room, where they boiled some water and sent it to our family. We had to let it cool down before we could drink it, but were thankful for this kindness. If time allowed at a station, we could buy bread economically from a seller who went down the platform with a basket of long French bread loaves just baked that day. We filled up on the bread.
In Paris, we again spent a lot of time seeing historical sights. Dad would sit us down the night before and tell us what we would be seeing the next day and the history associated with each place. He had read about the various places we visited and made it all seem alive. We balked at this, being much more interested in what kind of boys we might see. But Dad was persistent, and we learned so much. We went to see the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Arch de Triumph, the place where the Bastille had been located, and the Palace of Versailles (my favorite). Dad played the part of our tour guide, teaching us more than the average guide could ever have done.
One rather worrisome experience was when Papa thought he had taken down the address of our hotel but had actually written down a phone number. When we were ready to return to the hotel in the evening, Dad gave this incorrect information to the taxi driver. The poor taxi driver could not find the hotel and drove around until we recognized a familiar park or statue close to the hotel. The ride was expensive, but we were so thankful to be back at a place we knew. The hotel had a very tiny elevator that could only hold two or three people; thus it took several trips to get everyone down or up. It appeared that the elevator was hanging by a thread and that it was a risky proposition, but luckily no one was hurt.
From Paris we headed back to Southhampton. There we boarded an elegant liner, the Ile de France, which was sailing to New York. Aboard the great ship were swimming pools, deck tennis, shuffleboard, card tables, pool, and just about everything we could ask for. It was winter, though, and in spite of all the fun things to do on deck we wanted to just stay warm and play inside.
Since the family could not all be at the same table at one sitting, Gwen, Joanne and I were assigned to a table with an elderly British lady. This very prim lady did not like the assignment but upon finding that neither she nor we would be relocated, she grudgingly took over her self-assigned duty of educating us girls in British manners. The way we held our forks was wrong; the way we held our cups was wrong; the way we ate was wrong. Manners, after all, were a sign of class. We ordered the simplest of meals--usually pancakes for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and mashed potatoes and gravy for the evening meal. Our British lady thought we were sensory-deprived for choosing such mundane food. We complained to Mother but she took the attitude that this was a good thing for us and we should listen to the lady and learn our manners. We did try, but once out of sight of the lady, we had great fun imitating her and laughed so hard our sides hurt.
Being adolescent, we girls lived it up on this trip. We ordered early tea to be served at 6:00 a.m. and then we'd go back to sleep. We loved the bright, shiny apples that were available everywhere, and would happily much on these exotic treats. We spent much time watching the ship's crew to see which ones might notice us beauties. Gwen boasted of walking around the ship with one of these guys. The trip was much too short--only a week; we were greatly enjoying this life of luxury.
We landed in New York City, and immediately took a train for Mt. Lake. We wanted to get there in time for Christmas, but were delayed by a huge snow storm. We were so anxious to see Phyllis, Grace, Paul, and Grandma Jungas, and now we would also meet Grace's husband Rick and her new little baby David. It seemed strange to us that Loey was only a little older than her nephew. We had a wonderful time together at Grandma's place. Although she always told us to kiss her goodbye when we left for India since we would "probably never see her again," here she was--alive and as feisty as always.
After a few days in Mt. Lake, Dad purchased a car and we headed for our new home in Hillsboro, Kansas. While driving through Nebraska and Iowa on our way to Kansas, we hit a heavy snowstorm. This was quite an ordeal with so many children in the car and it had been years since Dad had driven on ice and snow. Snow tires had not yet been developed. The ride was cold and long. Uncle Jake, husband of one of Mom's cousins, drove his large truck with our trunks as well as some appliances and furniture donated by Grandma Jungas. Mom and Dad thought he was offering to drive the furniture to Hillsboro as a gesture of kindness, but when they got his bill, they were upset because the costs were high, and neither the college nor the mission had provided a moving allowance.
(To be continued)