1965, Sabbatical from BYU to Cambridge, England – First Trip to Europe

In 1965, just after being called to the General Board, I went to Europe on my sabbatical from BYU. This was another fine experience in my life. I had made all my plans to go before I was called to the Board and so they said to go ahead and I would start when I returned. I had never been to Europe and decided that since I would get full pay for 6 months from the University and would rent both top and bottom of my home for that time, that I wouldn’t lose any money. In fact, I probably came out ahead financially because everything in Europe was so inexpensive then. I applied at Cambridge University and was admitted and began making plans. So, I rented the top of the house to 4 fellows that I knew and could trust and had 6 in the basement. Joan and Cliff were living here then so I said goodbye to them and got on a Greyhound bus along about the first of February, in a big snowstorm and started out for my great adventure. I took the bus cross-country because I said I was going to Europe and yet had never traveled that much in my own country. I left Provo in February of 1965 in the afternoon and the bus traveled all night through the mountains of Colorado with the snow getting worse by the moment. In Denver, because we had to slow down for the storm, I missed my connection to wherever I planned to go from there, so they put me on a bus for Memphis, Tennessee, and I got off at Indianapolis, Indiana where Linda and Rich were meeting me and taking me to Bloomington where Rich was in school at the University of Indiana working on his Ph.D. All day I traveled across the mid-west and Kansas and was the most unattractive land I had ever seen. No mountains, only a broad expanse of snowy plain, and if there wasn’t snow, it was brown, brown, brown land as far as the eye could see. I decided I didn’t care if I never saw Kansas again, and I couldn’t imagine why Dorothy and her dog Toto would ever want to leave the nice green Land of Oz to go back.

I visited with Linda and Rich and the boys in Indiana for a couple of days and then took the bus on for New York. I could see that Missouri would be a beautiful state in the summertime. It was almost beautiful in winter. From New York I flew for the first time overseas to Ireland. I got off there to spend a few days before going on to London. How marvelously different everything looked to me. It was freezing cold. I put my 40 pounder in a locker at the airport and took what I would need in my carry on, and took the bus from Shannon to one of the oldest cities in Ireland. I found a bed and breakfast place for about $2. or $3 per night and then went out exploring. Everything was so different. I visited a cemetery and looked at the ancient gravestones. On beyond a few blocks a funeral cortege came along with the little black hearse drawn by two black horses with the two men in black livery on top. Behind came the mourners, walking. I had my movie camera with me but didn’t want to be an ugly American and take pictures, but would love to have had some.

I also took a tour to Bunratty Castle, my first castle in Europe which was about halfway from Shannon to the village where I stayed. I found that on one night a week, they had banquets there and with the waitresses all dressed in old dresses and they served Baron of beef and mulled wine among other things. I wished I could have been there or one of them. I also walked all around the castle past the horse-shoeing place, warmed myself at the forge and talked to the men there. I was having my first enchanting time in Europe, never dreaming that I would be back 8 times so far, and am just as enchanted each time.

After a couple of days, I took the bus back to the airport and flew in into London. There I found a bed and breakfast place where my room was downstairs, past the kitchen and baskets of vegetables, etc., but it was home and I loved it. I had a week to spend before getting on the plane and going to Worlfsburg, Germany. My ticket was to this town with two stop-offs available. There I finally found a train I could got on to go to Wolfsburg where VW’s were made to get my little square-back sedan. There was no room on the train and I had to stand most of the way and worried about knowing when we would be to Wolfsburg, but people by me kept telling me with heir fingers how many more stops before we got there. And I shouldn’t have worried because when we approached that place there were huge signs everywhere proclaiming the spot.

A taxi took me to a bed and breakfast place and the next morning I went to the factory, took a tour, and then a young man showed me all about the car and I started out by myself in the middle of Germany in dead winter. I was barreling along the autobahn when I noticed that all the cars were at the side going very slowly. I looked at the highway and realized it was black ice. I slowed down and pretty soon it got dark and I told myself I’d better get off and find a hotel. I took the off-ramp at Cologne and saw a hotel sign turned into the parking place and a young man opened my door. “Spreche zie English? I asked. “Yes, Madam,” he replied. It was bitter cold, but I had my first encounter with a federdecken, those wonderful down-filled comforters, and soon I was warm. The next morning I drove to Aachen which is on the border of Belgium. By then I had gone 300 miles so needed to have the car serviced. They told me I wouldn’t get it until the next day, but I told them I had to catch the ferry for England, not actually having the foggiest notion when it would embark, so they hurried and I left there at 2:30and drove around the entire North of Belgium. There were no freeways in Belgium then but the road looked better to take the longer route according to the map, and even then I arrived at Ostend by 5:00 p.m.

I found that the ship didn’t leave until the next morning so found a bed and breakfast place right near the dock and soon went to bed. Up early the next morning and walked around the area and warmed my hands with a fisherman at a fire in an oil drum, and smiled at the ladies selling fish on tables, with hands red as beets with the cold. I was still enchanted. Got of the ferry and crossed the English Channel to Dover. In sight of land I looked at the white cliff of Dover and decided they were indeed white, and then found it was about seven inches of snow. And me getting in my car from the ferry and driving on the wrong side of the road. Quite an experience. Night came and I was nowhere near the city of Cambridge, so got off the highway in a little lighted town and found a place to stay. It was a struggle to reach Cambridge the next morning, but I did.

I had a hard time finding a place to stay but someone suggested that I go to the Women’s Graduate Club, right on the Cam River and near several buildings on the campus. I joined for 5 pounds and it was very inexpensive and the food was excellent. I can’t remember how much I paid per week, but that included 3 meals a day and my room. It was freezing cold there still in February and my only heat was a small gas heater into which I had to feed countless shillings each worth 35 cents American money. It took a shilling to heat for one hour. I crammed newspapers into and around my windows, slept with the beaver coat my friend Edna had loaned me on my bed and also the wool car blanket I had taken with me and I still froze. Edna was a life saver in that I wore her fur coat constantly to keep warm.

While staying in this women’s club, they decided to have a celebration and were going to be very democratic and invite the ’help’ to eat with them. Well, it turned out the help ate in the same room, but at another table from the ’ladies’. England still has a very strong ’class’ system.

Cambridge is an interesting city. At that time there were about 90,000 people and I’m sure there were 200,000 bicycles. I doubt that a single student had a car and bicycles were everywhere. The freshmen had to wear their academic robes to class. These were always terribly wrinkled because they would crumple them in a wad and carry them with their books until they reached their classroom and then unwind them and put them on. Cambridge University isn’t all gathered in one spot as most of our college and universities are here. The buildings were scattered all over town. Three building, including the library, were in somewhat close proximity just over the Cam River from where I lived. The officials gave me a card to the library and that and my classes had no charge because I came from another university and I used it a great deal. Two of my classes were near the Library, but another one was across the river and many blocks in the other direction.

There, the professors always wear academic robes and they march into the room, open their notes and seldom look up. Once in a while they looked out the window, but only in one class was there any give and take with the students. But, I loved sitting there listening to the lovely Cambridge accent. One psychology class I took was different. We were working with new psychological tests and there was much discussion there between the class and professor. I was only auditing classes so didn’t need to worry about tests.

The other women in the Club where I lived did have to worry. When the term first started we often spent evenings taking turns having several of the gals in our room all hovering around our little heater. I drank my Postum while the other girls sipped their instant coffee. I soon learned why the English drink so much tea. It isn’t the taste, it is the warmth. When the end of the term neared, the students suddenly stayed in their rooms and studied and the little sessions were no more. The women were a divergent group. One girl in music from Australia, a beautiful dark-eyed beauty from India studying law, a girl from Scotland in Math and a woman in her forties in psychology. None of them were getting any help from their advisers and certainly not from the professors.

I met one lady whose husband was a doctor and taught part-time at Cambridge and she said that Cambridge and Oxford Universities had the largest percentage of suicides among the students of any other schools in the world. I can understand that because the pressure was terrific. There is one test at the end of the term and if one didn’t pass, that was the end…no other chance. But I must say that if anyone did graduate from there, they extensively knew their field because they had to know everything about it since there was no clue as to what might be on the final test. They had to study and know everything.

I walked a great deal. Cars are not allowed on the streets at night so I had to put my car in a garage many blocks away from the Club, so most of the time I walked because it was as easy as going so far for the car. Besides I saw so many interesting things while walking. When April came so did the beautiful daffodils. They were everywhere. Came up in the fields that I had to walk through to get to the classes, and the horses didn’t seem to relish them. But the white swans did. I understand that all of the white swans in England belong to the queen. We had them on the Cam River and one intrepid mother-to-be made a nest right by the path next to the river where we all walked along. The students found some straw and made her a better nest, and it was a time of rejoicing when the cygnets were born. Soon they were sitting on their mother’s back riding down the river. The above mentioned mother cut off the daffodils to make her nest and that was the reason for students getting the straw.

One of the leisure activities of many students and community people was punting (poling) on the Cam. They sat in small boats and someone took charge with a long pole which was used to guide the boat in the stream. I even had a chance to do that.

But one of the most exciting things I did was to rub monumental brasses. These brasses are in many of the ancient churches in England. Most are on the floor and up until about the time I was in England, people were still tromping on them when they went to church…which I don’t believe many people did. They were etches (cast or whatever the process was on large brass plates I guess is the only word for it. The picture etched on the brass was supposed to be of the person buried underneath. When I first heard of brass-rubbing I didn’t supposed I would ever get a chance to do it, but I found that many of the women in the Club did it very often so they showed me how.

I got two books on the subject and soon was able to tell everyone where the brasses were. Brass rubbing paper is sold in most bookstores and also the rubbing crayons. One of the women ordered gold wallpaper for me and I did many of them on that. I rubbed 28 brasses while I was in England, many of which I distributed to family when I returned home. The paper is put on the brass and held down with masking tape. Then the rubbing begins and the harder and longer one rubs the darker and better the picture is. It was another great adventure and one of my most interesting during my stay in Cambridge. One that I did is the second most famous ‘brass’ in England and is of Sir Roger de Trumpington. Trumpington is a small village just outside of Cambridge. Sir Roger is 6 feet tall and is one of the larger brasses. It cost me 75 cents at the time to rub him. When I arrived home, I decided I would donate Sir Roger to the Wilkinson Center on campus where my office was. When I told the staff about it, they were rather offhand about it and noncommittal. In other words they didn’t act a bit excited or pleased.

When my son saw Sir Roger, he loved it and said he would like to have it, so I gave it to him and it now hangs on the first landing going upstairs from his entrance hall. England is now being much more careful with their monumental brasses and also it now costs ten times as much to get permission to rub them.

Toward the end of my stay at Cambridge the Ward began work on their Roadshow. At that time very few of the members had telephones and much of the work of the ward was done by members of the military and their families from Alconbury and Lakenheath air bases nearby. I found that the English very much resented Americans coming in and taking over, so I was very careful to only help when asked. When they found that I had been so active in Roadshows they asked me to help, and I did, being careful always to try to make them think that my ideas were theirs. Cambridge Ward had never won in the Roadshows, mainly, they said, because in one of the wards to the North there was a professional musician who did their Roadshows and they always won. I kept encouraging Cambridge to work hard and be so good that this would change. They did work hard and I worked with them until I had to leave, which was a couple of weeks or so before the Roadshows would go into competition. When I returned home and went to a Board Meeting of the MIA, Margaret Jackson of the executives of the Young Women’s Board gave a report on a trip to England and mentioned that she attended the Roadshows. I couldn’t wait for the meeting to be over to go ask her about Cambridge’s show and to my great delight she said they had WON!

The term at Cambridge ended and it was sad to leave my little room in the Graduate Women’s Club and the friends I had made, but I was to meet Donna in London. This was May 1965, so I packed up my trusty VW and headed for London. I met Donna and even drove all over London on the wrong side of the road while we did much sightseeing there. We took off for Scotland up the West side of England on the MI which at that time was, I think, one of their ’dual carriageways’ but which is now freeway. England was so far behind the times in almost everything. Their plumbing was atrocious, and their heating as bad. Most people didn’t have refrigerators. They put their food on the open windowsill. Their only phones were in little red booths on almost every corner of every town. While in Europe I tried very hard not to be an ’ugly American’ and when the girl at the Women’s Graduate Club who had never taken a bath in a real bathtub until she got to Cambridge who was from Scotland said as we were washing dishes on Sunday evening when the cook was always gone. “I with there were such things as dishwashers.” I quietly said that I had one in my kitchen and it was almost unbelievable to her. I think she probably have thought I was lying if I had told her I also had a garbage disposal, etc.

We arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland and immediately found our nephew Larry Evans and his missionary companion waiting for us sitting at the base of a famous monument on the main street. His landlady insisted that we stay at her place and the two of them had permission on their P Day to show us around. We visited the castle that dominates the city from a high hill right in the center of everything. We also went out to the Firth of Fourth, which is a waterway near Edinburgh which played an important part in World War II.

After a couple of interesting days in Edinburgh, we left and started down the other side of England, went to Dover and took the ferry for Belgium. The complete history of this trip to Europe is covered in my diaries and I won’t write anymore here. If anyone is interested I will have copies of all my trip diaries together for anyone who wants to read them.

(Marilyn: She described the work ethic in the working class people that she saw in England while there. I commented to mother when she got back that her letters sounded like Chris’ parent’s letters from Northern England where they served a mission.)