Excerpts from Anna Mary Creekmore’s personal account of the Fashions and Fabrics Study Tour to Europe from July 16 to August 29, 1956.
Monday, July 16 – New York. Depart Idlewild Airport at 11:00 a.m. TWA #918
The big departure day came early. We had to be up, packed and have breakfast by 8 o’clock. We did everything, but breakfast was quick at the Howard Johnsons across the street. It was terrible! We left for the airport via a special bus and arrived there about nine. Some of the group had to register cameras, some got flight bags, and others checked schedules. There was much darting hither and yon and Miss Anders was busy trying to keep up with us all because TWA wanted a picture of us. By this time it was raining and we all needed to go to the rest room. You can imagine the confusion. We finally got together about 10:30 for a picture and no airplane! There we sat and in a few miniutes the officials came to the lounge and announced that the plane had developed mechanical difficulties on the way over to the apron from the hanger!
I must say the group took it well and proceeded to relax slowly even though some of the excitement was lost. We were told there would be some news about the flight by 12 o’clock so we sat, and sat. About 12:30 they came and announced that our flight was cancelled but that they were putting us on a plane scheduled to leave at 1:30 p.m.
We would load about one and be served lunch on the plane. Our spirits rose a little with this announcement.
We finally had our picture taken on the steps of a big TWA sky master in the rain. We got on board, strapped ourselves in and taxied out to the far end of nowhere and sat and sat some more. After 15 or 20 minutes the plane snorted and we left the U.S.A. in pea soup. Lois (friend) was sitting next to a peephole, Miss Anders on the aisle and I sandwiched between! A most uncomfortable position you can be sure.
After a little bit we were served a most delicious lunch. I can’t remember exactly what it was. I do remember that as I put my tray down on the pillow in my lap it slipped and my milk tipped over into Lois’ lap! You should have seen me scramble to mop it up. Did you ever eat with your elbows locked against your ribs? Well, I have and tain’t easy.
As you can see we were off to a flying start. Things cleared up a bit in many ways and by the time we got to Gander, Newfoundland, the rain and clouds were gone. It was then about 9 p.m. (their time) and still very much daylight. We had a half hour there in the clear brisk air and then off across the Atlantic.
I don’t know exactly when it was we were served dinner, with the change in time time I think it was around eleven which was two 0’clock Paris time. We ate and then Lois and I exchanged seats and bedded down for the night. At six I was awakened by the general commotion of people stirring about. Why so early I’ll never know!
When I awoke I looked out. The view down was most beautiful! The sea (which they said I couldn’t see) was dull blue and there were little fleecly clouds swimming about between us and it. The contrast was delightful. The clouds thickened as we sailed along and soon the water was blotted out by the overcast. The pilot was nice enough to annouce about 8 o’clock that we were over France and would be in Paris about nine! We landed in Paris in soup! What a disappointment. We were met at the plane by a bus and taken to the terminal. There, passport in hand, we were passed through and were shown to long tables set up for breakfast.
As we were finishing we noticed much activity about the airport. There were gendarmes all over the place. Soon came companies of soldier marching in formation. And a band! They lined up in front of the terminal and then the steward came by and said, “Passengers for TWA flight 963 get aboard please.” We slowly walked out to the plane much disappointed and left Paris never to know what was taking place. (Today the paper, our first, stated that Nehru visited Paris.)
After we had been aloft a bit the clouds began to break up and we could see more of the countryside below. It looked very beautiful, like a patchwork quilt made out of the finest triangular scraps. Occasionally there would be a village with the church in the middle and roads leading off in several directions. We stopped in Geneva for a few minutes and took off over the hills. The Captain told us that we would be flying over the Alps in about an hour and that we would be able to see Mount Blanc in all it’s splendor. This is unusual because the top is usually shrouded in clouds. We were lucky; the clouds had disappeared by that time!
I wish that I could describe to you what we saw. We were all looking eagerly and there were still some areas of clouds. After peering down for a while, I happened to glance up and there to my surprise were snowy peaks sticking up amoung the clouds. They looked so nearly like the clouds themselves that the casual observer would have overlooked them. When I looked more closely, the ourlines were sharp and tiny dark parts were visible but, for all that, they looked very much at home there.
All the while we were climbing up and around and gradually, as we got closer and higher, we were able to see the closely stacked ranges with the deep sharp valleys between. We circled Mt. Blanc twice. First, before we had reached the maximum altitude, (gave one a strange feeling to be so very close to the earth in this way) and again after we were high over it. We felt as though we could almost touch the snow.
The Alps are like the Rockies in some ways, but the differences are greater. The peaks are bare and seem to be all rock, very sharp and dark. Also, individual peaks seemed to be very close together making the valleys sharp and deep. After an hour of this austere and rugged view, we passed over a wide, wide valley with a river wiggling through it, the Po Valley of Northern Italy. Soon the pilot announced that Genoa was coming underneath and Nice to the far right. Then the rocky coast of the Mediterranean and the blue, blue water came into view.
It wasn’t long until the rocky islands of Corsica and Elba were below us. Another 30 minutes and the city of Rome was below! Again we cirled twice so that we could see the city from the air. The Colosseum was clearly visible, as well as St. Peter’s, the train station, Mussolini’s Stadium and other important landmarks.
We came down (in aviation lingo) about 2:45 p.m. into the bright sun and discovered that the weather was hot! Customs didn’t take long. We were met by our bus, a new 24 passenger one about the size of a large bread truck, and our driver. After introductions all around we were taken to the Regina Hotel, a first class hotel. It looked wonderful to us!
In coming issues, Anna Mary’s account of her travels in Europe.