• Back to Ream Family History Page
  • PDF Version

    Joseph Harold Ream - Honeymoon Letter 1930 - Introduction

    89 Honeymoon Photos      Honeymoon Map
    In May and June of 1930, my parents, Joe Ream and Anita Biggs, traveled to Europe

    By Dave Ream

    July 2008

    Honeymoon Letter  1930--Introduction      



    In May and June of 1930, my parents, Joe Ream and Anita Biggs, traveled to Europe.  They spent seven glorious weeks having the time of their young lives, as they sailed across the Atlantic on the R.M.S. Caronia and roamed from country to country seeing the sights and people they had previously only read about in books.  They were adventurous souls, with eager and inquiring minds, eyes, and ears, open to whatever new experiences and attitudes they encountered. 


    Joe was 26 years old, Anita was 23, they were in excellent health, both had completed their higher education, and the European tour was looked upon as sort of a last fling before they settled down to start a family, and for Joe to pursue his legal career.


    Joe Ream, known more familiarly in later years by his descendants as the Old Man, wrote a chronicle of their European trip.  He took the time to write it on board the Caronia on their homeward bound sailing; that chronicle has been dubbed “Honeymoon Letter 1930,” and it follows immediately after this background information.  I believe that he wrote it in longhand, then had someone at his law firm type it up and make carbon copies.  These were distributed to his and Anita’s families; that is why it is addressed to “my dear family,” and why the author is occasionally “talking to” the reader.  


    In 2008, Nancy Rose was able to obtain a faded carbon copy of the chronicle.  She retyped it so that it could be read more easily, and John Ream has posted it on the Ream family home page for all to read, along with some black-and-white photos of the trip (poor quality for such old photos).


    Here’s a bit more background.  Both of our parents came from humble but respectable backgrounds.  Each was a child of Protestant clergymen who served primarily in the Midwest—small towns and cities in Ohio, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Texas, and other states.  My mother Anita Biggs was an outstanding student, graduating with highest honors from Washburn College in Topeka in 1925—at age 18!  That same year, Joe graduated from the University of Kansas.  He then went on to law school, first to KU and then to Yale.  His grades were sufficiently high that he was asked to join, in 1927, the very prestigious Wall Street firm now known as Cravath, Swaine & Moore.


    Meanwhile, Anita and her sister Portia were teaching school for a year or two in rural Ohio.  At some point—probably 1927—they decided to move together to the excitement of New York City.  There, Anita played the pipe organ in a church and the piano in the silent movies, helped theaters select music appropriate to the on-stage entertainment, and gave piano lessons.


    Joe and Anita met through a mutual friend from Topeka named Henry Benning.  I don’t know just how long they dated—probably a year or so—before they married on 27 July 1929. [Portia Biggs and Walter Hahn wed a couple months earlier.]  The weddings were in Tonawanda, New York (near Buffalo), simply because that is where Rev. J. Quincy Biggs, the sisters’ father, had a church at that time.


    The demands of Joe’s work at the Cravath firm were heavy, one result being that the newly-weds had no time for a proper honeymoon (beyond a couple of nights in Niagara Falls).  Joe was finding the law work boring, and he was restless for a change—a common attitude through much of his life, it seems.  One alternative he considered was teaching at a small law school.  The only real excitement in his life at this time was living with Anita in their Manhattan apartment, and planning together for a major honeymoon trip—the 1930 tour described here. (I happen not to believe his statement that they did no planning at all for the trip.)  I also don’t know how the Old Man managed to take so much time—seven weeks—away from his duties at Cravath; my understanding of the life style at major firms, then and now, is that young lawyers keep their noses to the grindstone if they have any hopes of progressing with the firm.


    I won’t bother to recount their day-to-day activities on the Caronia and in European cities and countryside.  The chronicle, along with Nancy’s calendar (included on the website), does a thorough reporting job.


    A couple of observations.  There was much more formality to life back in 1930, as evidenced by the words and photos of the honeymoon chronicle.  Men wore coat-and-tie most of the time.  Women wore dresses or skirts.  No blue jeans, no shorts, no sandals or flip-flops, etc.  One “dressed for dinner” on board the ship (black tie?). 


    My parents had a healthy respect for Christian belief, certainly more than my own attitude on the subject of religion.  The even stronger faith of their parents, whose lives revolved around their church, rubbed off on them.  Cassie Ream, the Old Man’s mother, was a particularly strong believer and supporter of Christian missionary activities.  With this background, it is not surprising that in the chronicle the Old Man devotes a lot of space describing the Passion Play at Oberammergau.  And later, he tells his mother about seeing the tomb of David Livingston, the 19th century fervent missionary and doctor in darkest Africa; I’m sure she was happy and proud that her son remembered her hero!


    The religion aspect also had an effect on their attitudes toward drinking alcoholic beverages.  They were both raised by Protestant ministers who were strict teetotalers.  Recall also that national prohibition was still in effect in the U.S. in 1930.  So, when they reached Europe and encountered so much available wine and beer, it was like being offered a platter of forbidden fruit.  They were fascinated, and the Old Man frequently mentions something about alcohol in the chronicles.  Even more significant is their realization that one could drink a glass of wine and not go straight to hell.  They became responsible, moderate drinkers for the rest of their lives.


    On returning to New York City at the end of June 1930, I suppose the Old Man had a pile of work awaiting him at the law firm.  Imagine his surprise when, just a few months later, Cravath asked him to be the junior lawyer in the firm’s Paris office.  So he and Anita were off to Europe again, sailing on 1 October 1930, this time as a paid employee.


    They were in Paris for about 18 months.  Joe would later recall that his duties were not too demanding, and life for him and Anita was most pleasant.  For instance, rather than spending much time in the French courts, he escorted vacationing Cravath senior partners, showed them and their wives the sights of Paris, rode horses with Anita in the Bois de Boulogne, the Forêt de Fontainebleau, and other parks in Paris, bet on the ponies at the hippodrome, etc.  Anita kept busy polishing her French language, attending gourmet cooking classes at Le Cordon Bleu, and accompanying the Old Man on his business trips to several major cities in Europe.  They acquired custom-made horseback riding habits.  One special time: Walter and Portia Hahn came to visit in the summer of 1931; Anita and Portia tooled around Europe for a few weeks in the Ream car.


    Their favorable experiences in the two separate trips to Europe began a long love affair with French culture generally.  I can remember Mom serving salad only after the entrée, and I suspect that we were the only family in Ossining or Millstone who knew how to properly eat an artichoke!  This Francophilia faded in later decades, as the OM became disenchanted with the attitudes of some French people toward Americans.


    At the end of 1931, Joe and Anita discovered that she was pregnant.  She returned to New York City by herself, while the Old Man wrapped up his work in Paris.  Jack Ream was born in July 1932 in Buffalo (yes, Rev. Biggs still had a church in Tonawanda!).


    A look back at Western Europe in 1930 would suggest that Joe and Anita picked the right time to go to that part of the world.  The Continent had largely recovered from the devastation of World War I, and the dark clouds of Naziism had not yet started to gather.  Few had personal automobiles (no traffic jams), French cooking was as tasty as ever, wine was cheap, travel generally was a rewarding and leisurely experience.  While most Americans in 1930 had neither the wherewithal nor the inclination to visit Europe, travel was available for young folks of modest means and adventurous spirit.






    This Introduction was written in 2008 by Dave Ream (third son of Joe and Anita Ream), with input from Nancy Rose (daughter of Joe and Anita), Jack Ream (first son), Chris Ream (fourth son), and Holly Noble (only child of Walter and Portia Hahn).

    Joseph Harold Ream - Honeymoon Letter 1930

    89 Honeymoon Photos
    On Board R

    On Board R. M. S. Caronia

    June 21, 1930



    My dear Family,


               My contribution to the family letter this time is going to be a more or less detailed chronicle of our trip to Europe.   Now that we are homeward bound on board the same boat that took us eastward, I intend to use some of my leisure time in composing this letter, realizing that it would be difficult to find the time to do so after we reach New York.


              When we planned our trip to Europe we did so by making no plans at all.  We did have one or two pretty well-defined ideas of how it should be done, however.  First, we intended to do only what we wanted to do and to see only those things that attracted us.  In other words, we didn’t go to Europe with the idea of acquiring an education but solely with the idea of having a good time.  Hence we are coming away with practically no idea at all of most places of interest to the ordinary run of tourists.  Second, we intended, in so far as possible, to speak the language, eat the food, drink the beverages, and in short to live the life of the people of the country in which we found ourselves.  This entailed, of course, a divergence from the beaten path of travel, and we studiously avoided anything that had to do with tourist parties.


              After these preliminary remarks, we had better be getting on with the chronicle itself.


              We sailed out of New York at midnight on the 9th of May under most propitious conditions.  We had packed our three small bags in a half hour, after a leisurely dinner, and nonchalantly went on board about 10 o’clock.  (We did not forget a single thing that we wanted.)  A large group of friends were down to see us off, and we felt indeed like a couple of honeymooners.  The night was hot, the moon almost full, and you can imagine the thrill it gave us to see the familiar lights of lower Manhattan move slowly by and finally fade away and to realize that we were actually on our way and had irrevocably cut ourselves off for many weeks to come from everything that we had known.


              The Caronia is a cabin boat of about 20,000 tons, which means that it is fairly small and fairly slow as compared with the bigger ocean liners and that we had the run of the boat and could go any place we pleased.  I strongly recommend this type of boat for one making the trip for the first time at least, as we found the voyage one of the most enjoyable parts of the whole trip.  While there is really nothing in the world to do on board ship it is astonishing how quickly and pleasantly the time passes.  You soon know about half of the passengers (there are always some, of course, whom you never meet) and everyone has no more to do in the next seven or eight days than you have and is as ready for any sort of entertainment or just ordinary loafing as you are.


              Here is a typical day--


               Up for breakfast about nine o’clock (you should see the menus on these ships, and you can eat any or all of it--that is if your tummy can expand sufficiently.)   Then a few turns about the deck and perhaps an hour or so of shuffle-board, deck tennis, deck hockey, or other games.  About this time along comes the deck steward with some hot bouillon and wafers and you sit down in your deck chair to take a little nourishment after your exertions.  By that time you probably decide you are exhausted so you loll back in your deck chair (by the way, the most comfortable chairs every invented) and sun yourself while waiting for the call to lunch.  At lunch you can, if you are foolish enough, eat enough to satisfy a couple of section hands, but by the second day you have learned that just because the food is free is no reason for eating everything on the menu.  Then, after lunch perhaps some more turns about the deck, another deck game or so, a little reading in your deck chair, and perhaps some bridge in one of the lounges.  About four o’clock this is broken up by some tea and cakes, and soon it is time to dress for dinner.  After dinner there is opportunity for a bit of dancing (which, however, is quite difficult if the boat begins to rock too much) and after a little congenial conversation with your traveling companions it is time for bed.


               We met several very interesting persons on board--some who were regular globe-trotters--but I can’t bore you with describing them in this letter.


              On Saturday night, after eight days, we got to Havre, but did not land until the following morning.  There we got our first opportunity--and necessity--of speaking French.  A special train took us to Paris.  Rather unexpectedly and very fortunately for us, as we had no idea as to where we would stay or anything of that nature, we were met by Herve Pleven, a French friend of ours who had spent several months in the office in New York.  He took charge of us and fixed us up in a nice little hotel.  We spent Sunday afternoon wandering about the city, afoot and in the frightfully cheap taxis.  We saw the Gardens of the Tuileries, which adjoins the Louvre, and the statue of Lafayette there; the statue was erected by American school children.  One of the big fountains in the Gardens--the size of a small pond--was covered with toy sail boats which French children were sailing.  We then wandered up the Champs Elysees Avenue and saw the Arc of Triumph, erected to commemorate the victories of Napoleon. On the pavement in the center of the Arc is the grave of the unknown French soldier who died in the War, and at the head of the grave burns the so-called “perpetual fire.” I understand that this fire is extinguished for five minutes every day at three o’clock and then relit, amid appropriate ceremonies, by some patriotic organization.  We then drove out through the Bois de Boulogne, a great park which borders the city of the northwest, and had tea there.


               We spent only four days in Paris, and much of the time we simply wandered about the streets, trying to speak French and to learn how the people lived.  We did, however, take in three other “sights”--the Palace of the Louvre, the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and Napoleon’s tomb.


              The Louvre, as you know, used to be the palace of the kings.  While not more than three and four stories high, it covers a great deal of ground.  Today it has the greatest collection of paintings and sculpture in the world.  It gave us no little thrill to see the originals of the famous pieces with which we were familiar through the many copies which we have seen.  The two most famous pieces are, of course, the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci and the Venus de Milo.  Throughout all the galleries of paintings were artists with their easels and palettes making copies of the originals on the walls, and of course, there was a fellow with longish hair making a copy of the Mona Lisa.  However, his copy, like all the rest that I have seen--and I know nothing about art--was a pretty poor imitation of the original, as he was getting the face too long and narrow and the expression on the face ultra-enigmatic.  In the original the face and forehead are quite broad and the whole expression kindly rather than seductive and enigmatic.  The Venus de Milo has a whole room to herself and is wonderful, but I could tell no differences between the original and the copies except that the original is quite stained and the marble is eaten away in several places.  Herve told us that hundreds of sculptors have tried to construct arms for the figure, but that no matter in what position they were placed the addition of the arms spoiled the perfect symmetry of the whole, so that they have to come to believe that the statue never did have arms.


               I suppose Notre Dame is the most famous cathedral in the world on account of the hundreds of years it took to build and the many historic events connected with it.  It has an air of great antiquity about it, its white stone having been turned to black in most places by the soot and the dirt of centuries.  We climbed up to the top and stood beside the famous gargoyles which typify the evil spirits, and I am sorry that we did not have our camera along so that I could take a picture of Anita standing beside that jolly old fellow with his tongue sticking out. While we were in the cathedral several groups of little children escorted by monks came through, the monks explaining, I suppose, the various parts of the cathedral to them.  While the Roman Catholic is about the only religion of importance in France, I understand that the younger generation of Frenchman pay very little attention to religion as a rule.


              Napoleon’s tomb is a typical sight for tourists, so we didn’t enjoy it very much, and I won’t trouble you with it or the adjacent military museum.


              The restaurants and side-walk cafes in Paris and throughout France were a constant satisfaction.  The French are undoubtedly the best cooks in the world, and I believe that eating is about the most important thing in life to the average Frenchman.  Except for breakfast, which throughout continental Europe which we visited consists of rolls and butter and very strong coffee and nothing more, the meals are huge.  The French food is very rich and quite oily and greasy.  For this reason and because they say that the water is not fit to drink, the French have wine at every meal.  The water may not be good, but it certainly will not kill, as we drank a large amount of it with no ill effects.  I seldom saw any drinking except at meals, and I don’t believe Frenchman drink at other times except very moderately.  Wine may be had at any price, but ordinary table wine costs from 5 to 20 francs (20 cents to 80 cents) a bottle, and I believe one would have to drink a gallon or more to become intoxicated.  It does cut the oily, heavy taste of the food, and I suppose it is essential if one is really to enjoy the food, although I must admit that our taste was not sufficiently cultivated to enjoy the wine by itself.


               Wednesday we did some shopping and while we were wandering through one of the big department stores--Au Printemps--we saw a good collection of bicycles on display.  Bicycling in Europe is a universal means of travel, the streets and roads are full of them, and it is no uncommon sight to see a woman riding along carrying a child in a basket in front of her.  I forgot to tell you that ever since we arrived in Paris, the change from the bracing sea air afflicted us with extreme lassitude and drowsiness, and the more we rested and slept the more tired and sleepy we became.  We simply could not stay up at night at all, so that we missed out entirely on Paris night life.  We were in a state of mind where something had to be done when we saw these bicycles in the store, and they gave us the brilliant idea to buy a tandem and ride about the country on it. We had a little difficulty in finding a tandem, but finally we did find one which was a beauty--three speeds, three brakes, balloon tires, etc.  We bought it for 1700 francs or about $68.  We then packed one of our three bags with things that we would not need and left it with the steamship company for forwarding to the boat, and strapping our other two bags on the bicycle, one in front and one behind, we started our trip about eleven o’clock on Thursday morning.


               Our immediate destination was Versailles, the summer palace of the kings, about 15 miles southwest of Paris.  It was with little regret that we left Paris behind us and started out through the beautiful country.  The heavy bag in front made guiding and balancing a little difficult until we got the hang of it.  The chain slipped off on one tumble and we wasted quite a lot of time before we got it adjusted again.  Stopping to eat along the road, we arrived in Versailles about three o’clock and rode through the beautiful grounds and went through the palace.


              Our next point was Fontainebleau, about 45 miles southeast of Versailles.  The first part of this jump was through pretty country, but for the most part the country was largely agricultural and a little industrial.  We stopped that night, completely worn out from our first day on the bicycle at a little inn near a tiny town called Ris Orangis.  We slept like logs that evening and were up at the crack of dawn, but as stiff as boards.  We had not been on the road long until it started to rain and this soon developed into a downpour.  As we had no raincoats, we got pretty wet and soon stopped for breakfast.  The rain let up a bit after a while but settled down to what looked like an all day proposition.  We were wet and cold and ached in every joint as we sat there at the breakfast table, but decided that the only thing to do was to go on, rain or no rain.  We went right ahead then, through the rain all the time, getting wetter and wetter, with our clothes weighing tons, but we kept ourselves warm through exercise and arrived in Fontainebleau about eleven o’clock.  We went to a little pension--which is a combination small hotel and boarding house--took hot baths, had lunch and loafed around our room while our clothes were drying out in the kitchen,


              About four o’clock the rain stopped and the sun came out; this raised our spirits about 1000%.  We were quite rested and decided that the thing to do was to start on again as our clothes were practically dry.  The little town of Fontainebleau is completely surrounded by the Forest of Fontainebleau, and it was great sport riding through it after the rain.


               We headed south.  After we got out of the forest we struck some very pretty small-farming country, following all the way an old canal called the Canal du Loing.  We unanimously agreed that here surely was the life!  We decided to try to reach Montargis, a fair-sized town about 30 miles south of Fontainebleau before dark, as we wanted to take the train to Marseilles.  We were sailing along until about 7:30 when it started to rain again, with us still about twelve miles from Montargis.  As we were getting pretty ravenous and didn’t care about getting soaked again we stopped at a tiny little store near Suppes run by an old woman.  We bought some bread and cheese and sardines and washed these down with a bottle of wine.  I really believe that we enjoyed this little meal more than any we had during our whole trip.  We did not leave a crumb.  We were just finishing when the old woman shouted “Le soleil.  I dashed to the door and sure enough the rain had stopped and the sun was shining.  We hopped on the bicycle and as it was getting late we pedaled as hard as we could to get to Montargis as soon as possible.  We reached the edge of Montargis just as it got dark and started to rain again, but fortunately the station was close and we only got a little damp.


              We had a difficult enough time getting our tickets to Marseilles and shipping the bicycle. The ticket agent told us that we would not reach Marseilles until midnight of the following night, but as a matter of fact we did get there about four o’clock in the afternoon, that being our first taste of the mistake of placing reliance on anything you were told about train schedules.


              After fortifying ourselves with several cups of hot chocolate, we got on the train about eleven o’clock, and after one o’clock found ourselves alone in our second-class compartment.  The European coaches are all divided into compartments each with its separate door and are similar to a Pullman compartment except that there are no sleeping accommodations and the seats are much longer.  As soon as we were alone, we each stretched out on a seat and slept pretty well until we got to Lyon about seven o’clock in the morning.  After breakfast there and waiting awhile for our train, we got on a very good express and were able to get lunch on the train.  You have to go into the dining car at a particular time, and then the waiters serve everyone the same thing at the same time.  There is no choice as to what you will eat, but as I recall it was a very good meal.


              Marseilles is quite a shipping port and I think it the dirtiest and ugliest city that we saw.  The hotel that we stopped at was a horrible affair, but we were out bright and early the following morning (Sunday) and so did not mind it much.


              About ten miles out of Marseilles we saw a bicycle race participated in by at least 200 men and boys.  They whizzed by us on the road in groups of twenty or so, all with bright colored sweaters, but we knew nothing about the outcome. It was along this road also, on a hill, that we saw our trolley bus, which looked just like a regular motor bus except that the power came from overhead electric wires through trolley poles.  I don’t know what would happen to it if the driver ever made a wrong turn and the trolley poles got out of reach of the wires.


              When we left Marseilles we planned to go to Nice which is also on the Mediterranean about 160 miles east of Marseilles.  We had sent our two bags by train to Nice, keeping only a few necessary articles in a small satchel, so as to lighten the load on the bicycle.  Although the road did not skirt the sea until the last 70 miles, we had looked forward to fairly flat country as hills were difficult even in low gear.  In this, however, we were disappointed, as it was hilly most of the way.  The country was almost tropical in appearance, although we did not see many palms until we got near Nice.  There was very little farming except for vineyards and one mammoth hill, called Col de l’Ange, on which were orchards of olive trees.  We got a lift most of the way up this hill by holding onto a big truck which itself was having difficulty in getting up.  After we got to the top we were able to coast about ten miles down this hill, winding back and forth and forced to use the brakes much of the time.  For real sport we have agreed that nothing can touch coasting down long hills on a tandem once you have been able to get to the top.  Although Anita did not like going too fast down hills that we did not know, it always struck her as positively unjust that we had to retard our progress by braking on a hill that we had climbed with such difficulty.


              We had lunch that day in Toulon which is a good sized town with several resort hotels.  About 15 miles out of Toulon we struck wooded country again and it was very pretty.  It was in here that we met the two gendarmes.  We were coasting down a hill, and we were a somewhat unusual sight, when we passed these two policemen leaning against a culvert.  As we had seen several soldiers along the road that day I scarcely noticed them, but apparently they spoke or waved to us.  We had just passed merrily by when we heard the universal police whistle and here they were coming for us.  When we had shipped the bicycle on the train someone had stolen our bell and one of our little license plaques and apparently it was quite serious to travel without them.  They examined our passport and put us through a long set of questions, but eventually became very amused at our efforts to speak French and let us go with warnings about the steep hill which awaited us.  This hill, Col de Grattaloup, was over three miles long and very steep so that we had to walk all the way.  It was beautiful country, however.  After refreshments at a little inn just over the top we followed the road, down-hill or level, all the way for over 15 miles to the sea.  The country was pretty farming land, and we were in the best of spirits.  We then followed the seashore around the Gulf of Saint Tropez, which is a little arm of the Mediterranean, to Sainte Maxime where we stopped at the most delightful place of the whole trip.   It was a tiny, little pension built out over the rocks, and the French windows of our room opened out on a little veranda where the waves almost splashed in our faces.  We went to sleep that night to the music of the sea, dead tired after our 95 miles on the bicycle.


              The trip that day had been under a good hot sun all the way, and Anita, having worn a sleeveless blouse, had as nice a case of sunburn on the arms and shoulders as I have seen.  It was over a week until certain spots ceased to be sore to the touch.


              The following day we followed the sea all the way to Nice, about seventy miles, but our hopes of a level road were doomed, as the foothills of the Alps come right down to the sea, and the road was going constantly up and down.  The result, however, was the most delightful scenery composed of hills and sea, alternate rocky and sandy shores, and a glorious sun shining over us.  All along also were resort hotels and magnificent estates with beautiful grounds set out with lovely palms.  Shortly after noon we got to Cannes, which I suppose is one of the three most popular resort spots for people who have oodles of money and lots of time to spend it. We went on toward Nice, but about eight miles out we had a puncture and it started to rain so we got on a train and arrived in Nice about five o’clock, quite travelworn and very dirty.


              As we had no further use for the bicycle and could only get 500 francs for it in Nice, we shipped it back to Paris to be sold, but have not heard from it as yet.


              Nice was the cleanest and most modern of the French cities that we saw, and while it might be very nice to live there it was too much like our American cities for us to enthuse over it as we were interested in things that were different.


              The next day we went out on a bus to Monte Carlo which is the capital and only city of Monaco, an independent little state only a few square miles in area.  The casino here is the most famous gambling den in the world, and we were anxious to see what it was all about.  The casino is a large magnificent building and the gambling rooms themselves have ceilings about four stories high and are more luxurious than the hall of the kings in the Louvre.  There were hundreds of attendants about, in full dress, standing stiffly at attention or watching the players at the roulette tables, and scores of others in scarlet, with knee breeches and silk stockings, just merely standing.  Everything was perfectly quiet and as dignified as a church, and I believe that Anita and I were the only ones who ever smiled.  We wanted to take a fling at it and eventually found an attendant who could explain the game to us in English.  We only had an hour to play, but that was long enough for us to lose 600 francs, or nearly $24.


              As this was Wednesday we hurried back to Nice, because we wanted to get to Switzerland for a day or so and then to the Passion Play on Sunday.  We had some laundry done at Nice.  Anita had sent her coat to be cleaned, having been promised it by that afternoon.  We got the laundry all right but shall never see the coat again.


              Our trip through France was, I think, in many ways the most satisfying of the whole trip.  We were completely off the beaten track, got an excellent eye-to-eye view of the country and the people, and were forced to speak French practically all the time.  Needless to say, we soon got so that we were able to express ourselves sufficiently well to get anything that we wanted. It used to make us mad when some Frenchman who knew a few words of English would try to speak English to us instead of French.  It was with real regret that we said good-bye to la belle France and the good old “bicyclette.


              We took the night train of the International Express to Switzerland late that afternoon and passed through Italy where we submitted to customs examination, but that is all we saw of Italy.  We were at Interlaken the following morning.  It was frightfully cold, but one of the few things we had wanted to do in Europe was to climb the Jungfrau, which is one of the three highest peaks in the Alps and perpetually covered with snow and ice.


              That morning, we took the cog-wheel electric railway up to Jungfraujoch, which is a little ridge about 2000 feet below the peak of the Jungfrau.  The mountain scenery along the way is the best I have ever seen and while similar to the Rockies in many ways, there is a bleakness and grandeur--and even an intimacy--about these Alpine peaks that you cannot find in the Rockies.  The last ten or fifteen miles of our track we tunneled right through the middle of an adjacent peak, and I don’t now recall how many years or how many millions of francs it took to build this road, but it surely is a wonderful feat of engineering. 


              It began to snow long before we reached Jungfraujoch, and by the time we got off at the last stop, we were in the midst of a regular blizzard.  We soon found out that it would be out of the question to climb the Jungfrau for several days, as recently fallen snow hides the landmarks on the peak and makes a very insecure footing.  We decided that we would have to give it up as there was not a guide who would attempt it, and we were finding Switzerland altogether too expensive for a protracted stay.  However, we wanted to do some climbing, so we hired a guide and some suitable clothes and paraphernalia (the most important of which were spiked shoes and an alpine stick) and attempted the Sphinx, a little secondary peak about 1000 feet above Jungfraujoch, and which had not been climbed yet this year.  The three of us tied ourselves together with ropes and the guide went ahead picking the way.  It was still snowing and the wind was blowing a gale, and we could not see more than twenty feet at any time.  At one place the guide had to chop little steps out of a wall of ice for us to place our feet.  At another point we got a thrill that we will not forget in a hurry.  The guide would punch his stick through the snow to find a solid footing of ice underneath, and once near the edge of a precipice his stick found no ice but went right through the snow.  He showed us the hole, and sure enough there was light at the bottom.  The explanation was that the soft snow had formed a drift on the edge of the precipice, and while it looked as solid as any of the rest, a step on that snow would have plunged one some hundreds of feet down over the precipice.  We got to the top of the Sphinx all right and back to Jungfraujoch in time to catch the last train down to Interlaken.


              At Interlaken, we stayed at the oldest house in the village--over 300 years old--and as pretty on the outside as any Swiss house we saw.  On the inside the ceilings were very low and there was a total lack of modern plumbing, but we enjoyed it nevertheless.  The next day we climbed a small mountain close by which was completely wooded and without snow. 


              That evening we took a bath.  At any place in continental Europe a bath is an event and always costs considerably extra.  This particular bath was more of an event than usual, as of course there were no facilities in the house, and we had to walk two or three blocks to where an enterprising Swiss groceryman had fitted up a little bathrooom above the storage place in the rear of his store.  Ladies first being my motto, Anita had the first crack at it with the result that there was scarcely enough hot water left to take the first chill off of my bath, and no chance for more hot water that evening.  Thus passed a very pleasant evening for us.


               The next day, Friday, we took the train for Munich.  Although we missed the first train (it was standing on the track, but we mistook it for a freight train) and did not get out of Interlaken till late that afternoon, we got to Munich early the following morning, by riding all night in our second class compartment.  We passed through Lucerne and Zurich but saw very little of them.


              A word in parting as to Switzerland.  The mountain scenery here is undoubtedly the best in the world, but it left us pretty cold--both literally and figuratively--as we gathered the impression that the one and only industry of importance in the country is the traffic in tourists.  We did think, however, that it would be great sport to take a little cottage for the summer on the side of a mountain and actually live there for awhile, but the prospect of dashing madly from one wonderful sight to another held no appeal for us.


              We were a little afraid that we would not be able to secure tickets for the Passion Play as we had made no arrangements before arriving in Munich.  But by refusing to take “No” for an answer at the office in Munich we were able to get fixed up all right.  After buying a coat for Anita to replace the one left behind at Nice, we took a special train and arrived in Oberammergau that afternoon and went directly to our room which was at the house of the girl who played the part of Salome, the friend of Christ.  All of the houses in the village were spick and span, and on the outside walls of many of them were large paintings, mostly of a religious nature.  The majority of the men, of course, had beards and long hair for the occasion, and most of them wore the typical Bavarian costume, the chief part of which is the short leather or canvas breeches held up by leather suspenders.   The village was simply thronged with tourists, mostly Americans it seemed to us, and nearly every house in the village, except those in the outskirts, had one or two rooms on the ground floor turned into a shop for curios and souvenirs.  The commercialized aspect of the whole place gave us a bit of a shock that first evening.


              This year for the first time the audience at the Passion Play has sat under a roof.  The theatre is an unusual sort of building with the stage itself under the open sky with a view of the hills beyond, and when the sun shines down upon the stage it is truly a beautiful sight.


              Some of you know a great deal more than I do about the facts and figures of the Passion Play, so I won’t bore you with a recital of these.  I had thought that the play covered more of the life of Christ than the last week, but aside from the tableaux (of which more later) the whole of the nearly eight hours of the performance were taken up with the last week, the crucifixion, and resurrection.  All of the speaking was in German, and although we followed along with an English translation, I believe that we missed a great deal by not being able to understand the words as they were actually spoken.  The only way to speak of the Passion Play is in terms of superlatives.  It is truly a wonderful performance, and it should not be missed, although I hardly think it is worth a trip to Europe to see only that.


             In the center of the stage was a little curtained off part, which was the only place where scenery was shifted, and it was here that the tableaux were given.  At each tableau the choir sang and Anton Lang spoke a prologue in verse.  Anton Lang is a majestic figure, and I am sure that his portrayal of the Christ must have been far superior to that of Alois Lang, who by the way is not a relative.  The tableaux represent events in the Bible, Old Testament for the most part, and for color and perfection of execution we have never seen anything that could touch them.


             Any attempt to appraise the Passion Play is bound to be rather futile, as it must be influenced largely by the background of the appraiser.  As you know the Oberammergaus are Roman Catholics, and the emphasis which they place on the New Testament is apparently on the sufferings of Jesus, the perfidy of Judas, and the wicked schemings of the Jewish priests, while I have always considered these a very minor part of the background of the Christian religion.  The result is that in the Passion Play the scheming of Judas and the high priests takes up a very large part of the time, and I believe that Caiphas, the high priest, has more to say and spends more time in the center of the stage than any other character, not excepting the Christ.  The Passion Play is, of course, a gigantic spectacle with the hundreds of actors on the stage at the same time, and you all know that our background in religion has rather been one of simplicity.  The result was that the Passion Play was for us not a deep religious experience, although it undoubtedly is to a great many persons.


              The charge has often been made that the Passion Play is becoming commercialized.  I do not believe this is true as to many of the principal players.  For instance, I have no doubt that Anton Lang is above anything of the sort--one look at his face would dispel any such thought, and to me he typifies the Passion Play spirit as it should be.  To the great majority of the people in the village, however, the Passion Play is primarily a source of revenue.  The thousands of tourists, all with money to spend, cannot help but have one result--that most of the people are able to sell all sorts of things to them at tourist prices, and all of the villagers have a style of salesmanship which is anything but shrinking.  The fact that Oberammergau is cleaner, has much better houses, and more prosperous inhabitants than the average Bavarian village is due solely, in my opinion, to the Passion Play.


               We arrived back in Munich about noon on Monday and spent most of the afternoon wandering about the city and doing a little shopping.  That evening we went to the Hofbrauhaus, which I think is the most famous beer house in the world.  Beer is to the Germans what wine is to the French--the universal drink.  The Germans, however, do not confine themselves to drinking with their meals, but seem to enjoy merely sitting and drinking beer alone.  At the Hofbrauhaus we each had a stein holding a little more than a quart of beer and could scarcely finish it as our tummies fell far short of the German elasticity.  I think it would require several steins to give any feeling of intoxication, and I am sure that the Germans drink beer because they like the taste of it rather than for intoxication.


              Munich is a rather beautiful city with wide streets, plenty of parks, and is much cleaner than most French cities.  There are even more bicycles in Germany than there are in France.


              The next morning we went to Nuremberg, about a hundred miles north--by aeroplane.  The cost of travel by aeroplane in Germany is about the same as first-class railroad fare, and the Germans have the best system of air routes in the world.  The route from Munich to Nuremberg was over the most beautiful farming country, and the perfect little squares and triangles of the farms below us looked just like a patch-work quilt.  We could just make out a man and some sheep now and then.  Apparently the Germans do not live right on their farms, but in little villages of fifteen or twenty houses, from which they go out to work in the fields.  We got to Nuremberg in just over an hour and I must say that air travel seems a great improvement over any other kind.  Our plane was a rather old one with a cockpit for two pilots and a little cabin for four passengers.  The engine made a good deal of noise and a few air pockets would give us a dip now and then, but the trip was very comfortable and we enjoyed it immensely. 


              Nuremberg is, I think, the oldest city of any size in Germany, and it surely looks the part.  We spent three or four hours wandering about the city along the narrow little streets, and had lunch (consisting of sausages and a glass of beer) at the Bratwurstglockle, a very old little inn with autographed pictures of famous men of bye-gone days covering the walls.  Distressingly incongruous as it may seem, at the next table sat a New York Jewess who spent all the time telling her friend how frightfully difficult it was to get breakfast for four people on the electric stove in her New York apartment.


               Leaving Nuremberg by train we arrived in Heidelberg that evening and spent the following day looking over the university buildings and the castle.  The school buildings look just like any others on the street and were distinguishable only by the absence of curtains from the windows and now and then the drone of a professor’s voice through an open window.  The college boys all seemed to wear distinctive caps, for the most part military in appearance, which I suppose signified different classes or clubs to which they belonged.


              The castle stands on a high steep hill overlooking the city, and with all of its rambling buildings, passages, and courtyards is a mammoth structure.  It is entirely in ruins now, except for a small part which has been restored, but in the olden days it must have been able to withstand any and all invaders.  In one of the cellar rooms is a wine barrel, the size of an ordinary room, which holds 49,000 gallons.  The head man of the castle used to collect one-tenth of the wine produced by the people in the surrounding country and put it into this barrel.  In the same room is a statue of the old keeper of the wine cellar, who is said to have drunk from fifteen to eighteen bottles (quarts) of wine every day.


               We went to Mainz that evening and the next day took a steamer down the Rhine to Cologne.  The river from Mainz to Coblenz (which is halfway to Cologne) is very pretty, although not as beautiful as our fancy had painted it.  The river seemed to be rather narrow, but it is deep all the way so that there was plenty of traffic.  The hills rise up on either side of the river and are covered for the most part with terraced vineyards among the rocks, some of the terraces so small that they do not have more than half a dozen vines.  Nearly every other hill has a castle on its top, so if you want to have your “castle on the Rhine” you will have plenty to chose from.


              We arrived in Cologne with just time to catch our train for the boat to England, so we hurried right by the famous cathedral of Cologne--walking under its very shadow--with scarcely a second glance.


              We enjoyed Germany a great deal but would have enjoyed it much more if we had been able to speak and understand a little German. But this was quite beyond our power as we could scarcely make out even the peculiar German printed letters.  Everything was much cleaner than in France and seemed more substantially prosperous.  I believe if one could speak a little German and knew something of the history and culture of the country, he would have the time of his life in Germany.


              Our train took us through Holland, but as we did not stop and it was beginning to get dark then, we did not see very much of the country.  We took a night boat from the Hook of Holland to Harwick, England.  We had a perfect channel crossing, sleeping all the way and arriving in London the next morning.


              The next fifteen days we spent in England.  I hardly know how to tell you about our doings there, but I think I will be more brief as England is not so different, and this letter is already assuming sizeable proportions.


              We stayed in London at the Regent Palace Hotel which is in the center of town but still quite reasonable.  The traffic in the streets is left-hand instead of right-hand, and we had several narrow escapes before we learned the proper technique for crossing the street.  It seems that London spreads out over a good part of southern England as none of the buildings are over eight or nine stories high and most of them only three or four.


              The first Sunday we went with Mr. and Mrs. King, fellow passengers on the Caronia, who lived in London, up the Thames to Windsor where the King has one of his castles.  The grounds were mammoth and the buildings themselves rambled over several acres.  As the King was not there at the time we were able to go through most of the grounds.  We later had a picnic supper farther up on the bank of the Thames.


              The next day we went to the horse races at Hurst Park, and as it was a holiday, the place was thronged.  Horse racing evokes a universal following among all classes in England--from the King on down to the poorest workman.


              Of course we visited Westminster Abbey and that was well worth while, as the tombs, statues and tablets really meant something to us.  Mother, the grave of David Livingstone is one of the most conspicuous in the whole Abbey, right on the floor of the central nave not 25 feet from the grave of the unknown soldier.  Ben Johnson’s grave was marked by a tiny square stone which merely said, “O Rare Ben Johnson.


              One Sunday we went out to Kew Gardens which I believe is the royal botanical gardens, at least so far as trees are concerned.  It was very delightful with great expanses of rolling lawn and groups of beautiful trees.


              Hyde Park is to London what Central Park is to New York, but more so.  One of its greatest attractions for me is the corner where the soap-box orators gather.  You can hear fiery words on any subject under the sun (although it is sometimes difficult to discover just what the speaker is talking about) and the heckling by the listeners always provokes some lively repartee.


              Adjoining Hyde Park is Kensington Gardens, the high light of which is the most charming little statue in the whole world--Peter Pan standing on a little pedestal covered with rabbits, mice, and fairies.  The little kiddies love this and the bronze mice, rabbits, and fairies are rubbed shiny by their little hands.


              The Tower of London, the oldest part of the city, dates back to William the Conqueror and has a few remains left by the Romans.  The most interesting spot was the site where Henry VIII beheaded several of his wives, including Anne Boleyn, the mother of Queen Elizabeth.


              We visited the Law Courts one day and heard parts of two cases in the court of Kings Bench.  It was a great deal like our own courts, except, of course, for the gowns and wigs worn by counsel and the judge.  I must admit, too, that if the two judges which we saw are typical, they follow the cases much more closely than our judges and have a knowledge of the law which is unusual in the United States.


              We also spent a couple of hours in the House of Commons listening to the debate on unemployment, which I guess is dwarfing all other political issues in England at the moment.  Ramsay McDonald was sitting down on the front bench but we did not hear him speak.  Lady Astor, who apparently claims to be the only perennial champion in the House of rights for women, made a peppery talk which brought forth a good deal of heckling from the government benches and a good deal of laughter from all sides,  Her talk had very little substance in it, however, and she was quite disappointing to me.  The attendant said that we were fortunate to hear her as she was always a good show.


              We went to two plays and enjoyed both--one a serious study of the life of working girls in England, and the other a slap-stick comedy.


              Walking and riding about London on buses occupied a great deal of our time and we acquire a good working knowledge of many of the places, the names of which are familiar to you--Trafalgar Square, Pall Mall, Leicester Square, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly, Soho, etc.


              Then one night we went to see some dirt track racing, which is merely motorcycles racing around a quarter mile dirt track.  This sport has taken a great hold in London the last two or three years, there being eight or ten regular tracks with paid riders attached to each one.  They go so fast that they simply slide around the curves and now and then they take some rather nasty spills.  It was an evening of continual thrills all right.


              We ran into a man named Clarke whom I had played bridge with on the boat, and our last Saturday afternoon in London he took us in his car for a ride through the country.  We were able to get off the main roads which are traveled by the buses and to get a taste of real old English countryside which is positively charming.  We visited the Stoke Poges church where Gray penned his famous lines.  We stopped for a late dinner at the Hotel de Paris on the bank of the Thames.  Clarke was very fond of it because the last time he was there two or three years before, the Prince of Wales had dropped in for some dancing, and it really was a charming place set among delightful grounds.  We stayed on till midnight and danced, and that constituted the one and only taste of anything resembling night life that we had on the whole trip.


              The second day of the Ascot race meeting, we went to the races again.  Ascot is the most fashionable race meeting in England, and royalty always attends.  It is called Royal Ascot because the track itself is on land owned by the King.  We rode a bus which took us right onto the field, and we had expected to see the King and Queen arrive in state.  The day started with a little rain, however, and after the second race the heavens opened and it came down in torrents.  We were able to keep comparatively dry in the bus, but the thousands of poor souls who had no shelter were soaked to the skin.  All the pretty frocks and hats were simply ruined, and as the track was a lake it was necessary to call off the rest of the race--the first time in history.  A bookmaker near the grand-stand was killed by lightning, but we did not find this out till later.  The King and Queen were there, having arrived by motor, but we did not see them.


              I almost forgot to tell you that we were able to save enough money out of the amount we thought we would require in Europe so that I was able to get a couple of suits and half a dozen shirts in London.


              Our last night in London we had dinner at the Kings’ home, and this was our only meal in a private house which we had in Europe (except in Oberammergau which, of course, we paid for).  It was very pleasant to sit before the open fire and enjoy an evening with congenial friends once again.


              The next day we took a bus to Southampton and enjoyed the trip immensely.  The country was quite pretty for the most part, and it was on this trip that we saw our first thatched roofs--and these, in my opinion, would make almost any house look charming.  Southampton is a shipping port and about one-third of the stores are saloons.  That night we saw a sailor drunk on the street, and he is the only drunk person that we saw in our European travel.


              The next day we went over to the Isle of Wight where the King has another of his castles--I think this is the one where he spends the month of August during the boat racing season.  The industries of the island apparently are boat building, fishing, and traffic in tourists.  We took a bus around the southern part of the island and it is truly a beautiful spot on the face of earth, but we succeeded in running into rain again and some fog also, so we could not see as much as we would have liked.


              The following day was Saturday, the 21st of June--the day we sailed for home and the day I started this letter.


              To be consistent I should try to appraise England for you, but I find it exceedingly difficult.  Perhaps a few unconnected generalities will suffice.  In the first place an Englishman is exceedingly proud of the past and the traditions of England.  Any sort of a proposed change--even the widening of a road--brings forth a storm of protest.  In the second place there is a rigid distinction between a man who is a gentleman and a man who is not a gentleman.  I suppose I would be a gentleman because I am a college man and a lawyer, and perhaps the rest of you would be gentlemen too.  This distinction exists and so far as I know very few men who are not “gentlemen” are greatly perturbed by the fact.  Thirdly, every Englishman is in his heart a sportsman, and every type of sport has a huge following.  It would be great to live in England if one had lots of money, but I am afraid that having to work would interfere too much with other essentials.




              It is now Sunday, the 29th of June, and in a few hours we will be home.  I hope this letter has not bored you too much, as it was quite difficult to make it brief, and even now I’m sure I could write on and on.  I’ll have this copied when I get back to the office so you can make it out, and if the pictures we took turn out at all well, I’ll attach some of them.


              Lots of love to you all,



              (No Signature)


  • Back to Ream Family History Page


  • Back to Ream Family History Page