Tuesday, March 9, 2004

Faith Adventures to Russia

The red and black plaid suitcase stood majestically on the Super Shuttle. It’s bulging sides seemed ready to walk away. If only this seventy pound bag could talk, its’ story would furnish the fascinating details of the next few days. But no, it could not talk. Nor could the other thirteen suitcases say a word, even if they wanted to.

Their sides had been marked with waterproof black markers to RUSSIA, along with the names of the city and mayor. Large stickers were well secured on all sides, proclaiming this to be the property of “Sisters City International.” The many yards of wide filament tape placed each side in many vice grips. All this was to disappear in the luggage hold of an International Flight, which would leave California for Moscow. The airlines had shown consideration several times to help the Sister City share its’ wealth of food, medicines, clothing, educational materials, and surprises; such as, packs of vegetable seeds, coloring books and crayons.

“Sisters City International” was organized in 1956 while Eisenhower was president. The office headquarters takes requests from a city and matches that city with a city of another country with similar population and occupation, such as farming, etc. The purpose of the organization is to extend cultural and educational friendship. It would be linking the California and Russian cities, which shared aviation history.

During the spring of 1993, two Russian travelers spent a month in California, thanks to the generosity of kind friends. There was wonderment in every moment! How does a credit card enable a stranded car to receive help? …and so quickly at that! Choices of shoes that fit. Lovely winter coats donated by friends…even a photo album with pictures labeled and ready to show “back home.” By now it seemed difficult to part with items we throw away, such as a “slurpy” cup. And, who would ever think of paper diapers for babies?

At last the final speeches had been made, some in Russian and some in English. Warm tears of friendship washed the cheeks. This could only happen once in a lifetime.

It was during the suitcase packing that the “Faith Adventures” one-year felt set was chosen to become an educational aide. This bright felt set had been cut and packaged by Irene Martinson and her friends. Before the trip of the Russian ladies, this set was used for display to community friends and organizations. A felt board, 32” x 48”, made of heavy cardboard that could be folded in half, was covered, and the scene from the book as shown on the diagram on page 131, was pinned in place.

Now the journey in the plaid suitcase would begin. First the flannel board was carefully folded into accordion size. The scene was still attached. Into a huge plastic bag went the flannel board, then the many numbered pieces of bright felt used to tell 156 stories (or even more as imagination required), along with the extra felt, the background pieces and the book, with a bookmark inserted to show the picture which had been set up. Next came many, many rolls of scotch tape, filament tape, and cloth tape, along with boxes of various sizes of straight pins and scissors. The whole set in the huge plastic bag was taped closed.

Now it was time to add the extra pounds, which would fill every corner of the suitcase and bring the weight up to seventy pounds. There were bags of dried fruits and nuts, bars of soap, pens and pencils, writing paper and envelopes. No space would go empty. Baby bottles would be filled with rice. At the last there would be a shower of rubber bands. All medicines, band-aids, and even a collection of tools, would be found with great delight!

It was a difficult decision to mark the suitcases with indelible letters, but this did provide the assurance that they would arrive at their destination. All suitcases go one way and stay. Another gift to the people in the Sister City.

Now came the weeks of waiting. Yes, the visitors with their multitude of suitcases had returned safely. But it takes time to unpack and deliver all the materials. Extra Ziploc bags and plastic bags with handholds, packed in each suitcase, would help. Each suitcase also had the names of new California friends.

It was July of 1993, when the first letter came from the city officials who were responsible for dispersing the goods. By now, thanks to the major airline and willing friends, there had been many thousand of pounds for the city, which had been visited by Californians. It is no secret that our Russian friends face starvation.

There had been questions as to the red and black canvas suitcase. Had it ended up on the black market?

In September of 1993, a beautifully written letter in English was carried from Russia. It read: Dear Horace and Jane, I am very glad to know that you are the very people who sent the Bible, and the pictures to my children at school. Lydua Levchenko gave them to me. Thank you very much. I appreciate your present greatly. I wish you Health and Happiness and Success. I enclose you the pins and the calendar devoted to the Air show and some coins just for viewing. With the best regards, Lida Sheffer

Who would have thought that the Faith Adventures felt would be used in the only English speaking school? It was the only set of felt in that city. The teacher who was using it was formerly with the KGB.

This miracle would not have happened if it had not been for the many hands and the generous hearts of friends.

Thieves, Bandits and Shiftas

“A thief has been here and stolen from me.”
Dad was sitting on the couch in his office, slightly bent forward with his hands clasped together in his lap. He sounded very tired when he told me this. He said he knew who it was. The trusted neighbor boy who had attended to the yard while my mother was alive had continued his weekly job. He was the one who knew my Dad’s habit of a daily nap in his office. He even knew where my Dad kept the money in his desk. That fifty dollars hurt Dad because he felt betrayed. While we sat side by side, our hands intertwined as he related the following.

“I am eighty-six years old and have traveled and lived all over the world. No one has ever stolen from me before.”
Then he related some of his experiences with bandits and “shiftas.”
“In the early days, trekking in Ethiopia, I was at the home of Eric Palm in Northern Ethiopia. The first night there were loud cries from the servants, “Shiftas! Shiftas!” Eric Palm dressed quickly and made the much-regretted decision to run outside. The “Shiftas” were very visible in the bright moonlight. They had decided to steal the tires from the Model T that was such a novelty in Ethiopia. They changed directions from the car to run after Eric Palm. He made it inside the house, where his wife was hiding. The shiftas made it as far as the bedroom where Dad had been sleeping. The men were pushing against the flimsy door and Dad had braced his shoulders against the door and his feet on the bed. With every shove he prayed for help. The help came, not from the servants, but from the barking dogs. The bandits knew the alarm would arouse the neighbors.

“I remember another time when bandits could have robbed and killed me,” continued my Dad. “When I returned by ship to Ethiopia after the war, we had to transfer our trunks to an Egyptian Dow. There were two of us who were passengers, a Catholic nun and myself. We were fascinated by the navigation required to keep this open craft with large sails on course toward Aden. Boards placed out over the ocean were scaled for restroom privileges and required great dexterity, especially by the woman who used a towel for a private screen.” “You know,” my Dad continued, “those Arabs could have thrown both of us overboard and stolen our luggage. We sailed in perfect confidence.”

“Once in Jamaica a thief came into our house,” remembered Dad. “He came during the night, climbing the stairs to the back porch and into the kitchen. He seemed to be satisfied with a meal that he fixed for himself. No one heard him enter or leave. He did not go in the dining room or try our bedroom door.”

When Dad had finished his trail of memories, I reminded him that his confidence and trust in God had always given me a feeling of peace. We had always known that God and his angels were our safety. A smile broke across Dad’s face when I pressed the fifty dollars into his hand. That replaced the money stolen from the middle desk drawer. “Jane, you shouldn’t do this,” he said as he took the money. “It will be our secret,” I told him.

The Waiting Scanner

The books are stacked together neatly. They are piling higher and higher. On top is the book Ocean of Grass, a documentary on the Florida Everglades. It is half open to the place where I put it aside coming back on the airplane from Florida. The enemy had taken over. The small battle was lost. But the war for reading becomes intensified.

Who can say when the love of books began, because it has always been there. Seeking refuge from annoyance of any kind, there was the kindly old tree limb, which spread out over the wall of Kabana. Having found it, I climbed up to the curve where the limb joined the trunk and, hidden from view, this was one of my favorite places of refuge. From here came alive the entire world: The crusaders on their way to Jerusalem, Pollyanna in efforts to bring love, beautiful rich stories from the Bible, even Aesop’s fables. My father, who knew of my books, approved of them. This surprised me when it came to fables. But in his wisdom, he knew that our history and culture has such fables and myths to be discerned as such. So, hidden up high in the tree in Africa, I spent many happy hours, never discovered.

It was Verena’s mother who taught me to read the original Heidi in German. This was slow going at the time, for an eight year old.

In 1935, we had been in Egypt and Palestine for six months. It was here in our rented home in Materia that my mother discovered another reading hideaway. This was tucked under the mosquito netting, with light from the dim street lamp outside the window. The book was removed, and such nonsense to be stopped. The book was T.H. Lawrence’s House of Seven Pillars. To this day I remember the determination I had to finish this. It was very difficult to understand, and I had to go over and over the pages. It was a large book, with many pages, and not that easy to hold, especially covered with the mosquito netting. Any books were welcome, and with new friends came new books. All of the families from the embassies and missions shared their books, which were read at night by the kerosene lamp, or in the daytime swinging in the net hammock, which Herbert and Della Hanson had hung on their porch in Addis Alem.

On the trip back to America in 1939, books proved to be a great anesthetic. The one and only boil of my life became painfully evident while we were in Rome. The hospital doctor lanced the boil, instructing me not to sit on it. My father found a book for me to read while the family took off for the catacombs. I knew all about the catacombs from reading, so felt no pain.

Back in America we were submerged with relatives on every side. They were determined to fatten their two scrawny refugee looking girls with homemade ice cream, bread fresh from Grandma’s oven, and best of all, cherries could be picked while sitting in the cherry tree. The fresh straw in the barns was made for tumbling and playing hide and seek with cousins. And then, of course, were the shelves of books, since the whole family loved education. Grandma and Grandpa were dedicated to education, even sharing their home with the local schoolteachers. They both came from Denmark, spoke Danish and English, but Grandma had not learned to write in English, while Grandpa had his own method with no capitalization or punctuation. Yet, he served for his whole life on all the local and state committees. Here it was in the little used parlor that I found my refuge for reading. There was Grandpa’s big black leather overstuffed chair where I could read in peace; nature stories, stories of the immigrants coming to America, and then on Sunday’s there was a good-humored dash for the comic section of the newspaper, especially by my uncles. They laughed uproariously, thus convincing me that comics were not on the forbidden list.

The years we lived in Jamaica there came the library in Mandeville, which had volumes of The Saint. Riding my blue bicycle with a girlfriend, we spent happy hours reading exploits of danger. What really proved dangerous was Gone With the Wind, which my friend loaned to me and which mother immediately confiscated. It was the size of a thick catalogue.

Once a year we rented a cottage near the ocean. We could swim in the ocean with Daddy or gather shells while Mother wrote letters under the protection of her umbrella. The cottage was actually a two-story house rented out while the owner was gone, so there we were, with books and all. The pungent mildew aroma of the tropics was thick on every page, and it took hours to look at them.

During an earthquake on the island, as they were frequent, one of the corners of this house had split open, and hidden in the crack was a snuff box with Napoleon’s initials on it. That story has to be left to imagination, as such evidences of French history had been found in many places of the world.

Then Mother brought Shirley and me to Nebraska and Dad left for three years to regain school and hospital properties, which had been confiscated by the Italians. The college had a lovely library. Mother had been librarian at the West Indies College, so we understood the mysteries of checking out books. Also, there was a public library not far away. The tiny librarian tiptoes when looking for my requested books. She constantly held her finger to her lips, but who would disgrace a library with loud noise?

The great excitement of books comes rushing back with the experience of seeing our children read, learning with them the mysteries of birds, and taking them to the library to check out their own books. Who can blame a child who is reading under the covers by the light from a flashlight, this being preferable to using an extension cord with light bulb and burning the covers. I understand books piled by every bed, or between box springs and mattress.

Why grieve over the enemy of darkness when all the books are still in evidence? They stand in neatly lined shelves, according to their categories. They are multiplying by the week, thanks to the additions from estate sales and thrift shops. The enemy has been conquered by the bright friendly voices, which emanate from the talking books. These voices are often professional persons, reading in the accents of the author. With volume increased, these voices can follow me while I do housework.

Never to be discounted are the voices of friends. One long book on Russia was read to me at six o’clock every morning over the phone. The essence of the book was there, even if the pronunciation was not. Later I introduced my friend to the author, and he seemed quite pleased.

Now again comes the vision of the scanner. What a lovely birthday gift this would make! The magic of reading whatever and whenever, or proofreading my own typing, seems like a great promise. The first book chosen is Out of My Life and Times, the autobiography of Albert Schweitzer.

The Wallet

In the summer of 1950 I left for Collegedale, Tennessee, after graduating from Loma Linda School of Nursing. My parents would be in Tennessee for nine months where my father was finishing his Master’s Thesis while teaching at Southern College. He would return to the British West Indies College as President. While living in Collegedale I worked in the Barroness Erlanger Hospital in surgery. During this time several Registered Nurses drove together, enjoying the lovely fall colors and later struggling sometimes through dazzlingly white banks of deep snow. The following story is true. Told long ago by a dark-haired, brown-eyed, nurse in the spring of 1951. This nurse we will name Neosa, she had come from Brazil with her husband and two small boys. She worked so her husband could finish his college degree. We will call him Thomas. Although over forty years have gone by, the story has remained, although the names have not.

The Tennessee springtime had burst forth with lush greenery. Dogwood blooms were emerging from their trees of emerald green. The road from Collegedale seemed shorter on this particular Monday because of the story Neosa was telling us.

Neosa had cashed her check from the hospital on Friday, and the money was safe in her husband’s wallet. They had budgeted every penny and decided that there were a few dollars for them to take the children and enjoy a boat ride in the lake near Collegedale. Neosa’s picnic sandwiches and fruit disappeared as the boys watched other small boats rowing across the lake. At last it was their turn. Thomas rowed, while mother and boys kept up a steady description of all the excitement in this new water world.

All too soon, the time came to return the boat. The boat was ready to tie up at the dock and Thomas reached into his pocket for his wallet to pay the dock man. The oars remained across his lap and he seemed worried as he kept up his search in his one pocket. He placed the oars in the boat, stood up, and carefully felt in all his pockets. “Neosa,” he finally said, “My wallet is not here!” Neosa and the boys all searched every inch of the boat, being careful not to capsize it. At last they all sat down and looked at Thomas, the husband and father who always knew what to do in times of emergencies.

Thomas spoke slowly, “I know the wallet was in my pocket when we got on the row boat.” He began. “Now, the wallet is gone. All the money for our food and expenses for this month are in the wallet. God knows all about our problem. We will ask God to help us.”

The parents and children sat quietly with hands folded and heads bowed. Each, in turn, asked God to help them. The father was the last to pray. “We know, God, that nothing is impossible for You. We are looking to You, knowing You alone can help us.”

Before the prayer was ended, the sound of a passing speedboat could be heard. The waves were coming toward the boat at the dock. The silent family looked over at the passing speedboat and then at the waves circling toward them. To their wonderment, a wave silently approached their little boat. On it’s crest was a familiar object. Thomas reached into the wave and picked up his wallet. The wallet and contents were all dry.

God was answering the prayers of this faithful family, even before they had finished their prayers!

"It is Better to Give Than Go"

We were at the Kingston Airport in Jamaica. This was a tearful goodbye for our family. Daddy had, under much pressure, decided to leave for New York, then by convoy to Africa. It was evident that his experiences in Ethiopian affairs were more important than his replacement as president of the college in Mandeville.

There were other logistics to consider. Mother, Shirley and I would have to pack and leave for America. Once in America we would have to locate near a college and, as it turned out, not have our father with us for three years. The solution to the packing and moving was made easier by the knowledge that one of Mother’s sisters would come to help. Mother’s sister, Dollie, was chosen. Of all the efficient Danish sisters, she was the most efficient. Unmarried at the time, she had lived on both east and west coasts and had volunteered her services. By the time she arrived in Miami she had followed all of Mother’s suggestions. “You will have to come on standby,” Mother had written. “It is wartime, so you will not be allowed to bring any American money. We will be in Mandeville, so let us know when you get to Kingston.”

Aunt Dollie arrived in Kingston. She did not know anyone. She followed her sister’s instructions and arrived with only the money to get her to the Myrtle Bank Hotel. She was sitting in the lobby, wiping perspiration from her face, and wondering what to do, when Douglas and Patsy Pond happened to walk by. “Doug, that looks like Maggie’s sister,” exclaimed Patsy. They walked up to her and she explained her predicament. The Ponds called the college and let Mother know that her sister would be arriving “sometime” depending on the advance of money from Tim Walters and the train ride from Kingston to Mandeville.

Aunt Dollie was the one person in the Hanson family who was equal to any challenge. She was the one who could give advice on child rearing, having no children of her own. There was nothing she couldn’t do. But she was about to live through the most frightening experience of her life. She told us about it for days afterward, and we found her most entertaining, for we considered our existence to be that on an island paradise with all possible conveniences. Aunt Dollie followed us everywhere, clutching on our arms to emphasize her story.

“First of all,” she told us, “I didn’t know if I could trust this Tim Walters who loaned me the money and took me to the train. He is very tall and very black. Next was the train. I have never seen anything like it. Everyone sits on wooden benches. The windows are open and the smoke from the engines comes right in. Don’t tell me that the people on the train speak English.” This, we knew, because the dialect, “patois,” is not easy to understand. The women on the train have these big baskets with mangoes, guavas, breadfruit, and on top of everything are squawking chickens. Mother had sent a driver and car to wait at the Mandeville station. “How many times I thought I would not make it to your house,” said Aunt Dollie. The hours of travel were followed by days of packing. Each day brought a new experience. “Why don’t you have screens on the windows?” she asked. “No wonder there are insects in the flour and sugar. And what do you think of that black lizard running across the table? It blows up a red balloon on its neck.”

Each day Aunt Dollie would answer the streams of people who came to the back door to beg. Many would produce a “begging note” probably written by a friend and would conceal the illiteracy of the beggar. Aunt Dollie would especially train her eyes on the unmarried women who were standing there with protruding bellies. She proceeded to give each one a lecture on the evils of their life style. We were all quite composed to Aunt Dollies remarks. If only she could have visited us in Ethiopia!

With traditional efficiency, Mother and Aunt Dollie had us packed and we were on our way to Lincoln, Nebraska. We were fortunate, indeed, to have so many loving aunts, uncles, and grandparents. In Lincoln, we would stay with Aunt Hazel and her two small sons. Uncle Grover was a medical officer in the war in the Pacific.

Mother had to get us ready for school. I would be in college, and Shirley in the academy. Shopping for school clothes was first on the list and it took weeks to find a warm winter coat for Shirley. She had her own idea of a belted, fitted coat when “boxy” coats were in style. Mother patiently tried every store in Lincoln. She was not as exasperated with Shirley because she herself had always liked to be in style.

It was in Lincoln that Mother traded her full-length leopard coat with full fox collar for a smart black coat. The leopard had been sent from Ethiopia to Sammy Manquewitz in New York. It was beautifully lined and had her initials sewn into the lining.

An important decision was to have Shirley and me live in the girls’ dorm for a few months. We did not room together. One of Shirley’s first questions was, “Who will wash the floor?” and “Who is going to polish my shoes?”

Best of all was Aunt Dollie’s version of the trip and of nerve shattering daily life in Jamaica. Her conclusion, when she told the story to her local church was, “Believe me, it’s better to give than to go.”

Pajama Story

“That cat” was majestically occupying a favorite position at the head of the bed. Loud purring with an occasional swishing of the tail and stretching legs indicated a decision to stay. This was what Shirley had also decided. After all, “that cat” also was known to be helpful in pouncing on the lizards, which came through the unscreened windows. There were no screens on the windows of our home in Jamaica, which did not disturb us. In spite of all the good qualities possessed by “that cat” and Shirley’s insistence that the cat deserved our loving care, it was not the cat but the hundreds of fleas that swarmed into our sleeping bodies that I found objectionable. “If that cat stays, I go,” I announced to Mother. That was the decision, and I moved to the sun porch at one end of the house. Mother had made cafĂ© curtains to pull closed on the three sides. My Jamaican friends jokingly advised me to keep the curtains pulled closed at all times, especially during the bright new moon of the tropics. The golden beams would cause hideous disfigurement, “and don’t forget the duppies ghosts,” was the advice. Besides, the soft lacy Poinciana leaves outside the window did not completely obscure the view from the sidewalk outside which led to the porch of the boy’s dorm. The sun porch was a great solution. The disappearance of “that cat” was a mystery.

We now adopted a new sister, Marilyn Pond, who would live with us and attend College. On weekends and holidays she would live with her parents in Kingston. Marilyn was an exemplary sister and shared the room with Shirley. She practiced the piano, studied, ironed her clothes and proved to be all the good things we could hope to emulate. Also, she would occasionally invite us to spend time with her in Kingston. She was the only child of Patsy and Douglas Pond and we admired the views from the Hope Gardens and Port Royal. We could shiver at the stories of pirates and “obeahs,” and envision the great earthquake when Port Royal sank beneath the waves, all as a justice shown because of the wickedness in that city.

One weekend when I was visiting Marilyn, we decided to play a trick on her Dad. Marilyn brought his pajamas into our room, and we proceeded to sew them in tight stitches. When this was completed we tied the arms and legs into many knots, giggling nervously. They were hung back in the closet and we waited for bedtime. We had all retired when we heard mumbled exclamations, “Look what those girls have done!”

Steps were heard going down the hall past our door. We were trying not to laugh over our enjoyment but wondered what vengeance was planned for us. Quick as a flash we decided to prepare by assuming the role of innocence. We knelt together on the side of the bed as though we were saying our prayers. Right then the door opened, a voice pronounced, “This is one time your prayers will not help you,” and we were in perfect position for the skillet, which descended in the appropriate places.

We always enjoyed this joke, and especially that we shared families which were able to accept jokes and reciprocate in their own time.

In later years, Douglas Pond was to officiate at our wedding and Marilyn and Don (her husband) would drive us from the church.

The Tanks are Coming!

A hush fell over the classroom. Miss Moyer, teacher for the thirty students in grades four to six, had the two new students stand. “This is Shirley Sorenson in fourth grade and Jane Sorenson in sixth grade,” she announced.

After a short silence, there was a ripple of exclamation. For the first time in my life I can remember the overwhelming feeling of being in a classroom with such a multitude. Oh for the days when my teachers had been my mother and father and later the private teacher, Mae Matthews, who had come from Kansas to teach the American children and head the Ethiopian Girls’ School in Kabana. That year will never be forgotten, nor the next year in Redfield, South Dakota, when I was in seventh grade with not more than ten students. My father, during this time, was attending the University and writing his Masters Thesis on Ethiopia. Shirley, Mother, and I followed him as he was also employed as a college professor. We acclimated from the 9,000-foot elevation of Africa, with its lush beauty, to the plains of Nebraska. Having many aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents made it bearable, and soon we had our own circle of friends.

One day we approached our mother with a request. “Mother, we are the only two in school with no bicycles.” We all knew that this was a sight exaggeration. Mother gave this some thought. We knew she was busy, but happy to have us all safe in America – land of opportunity.

My parents had invited my mother’s brother, Russell, to live with us so that he could take pre-med in college. His teasing was a constant aggravation, but was to be expected in any of my mother’s family.

“Here is a letter from Omaha,” she announced to us two months later. “You have won the Chew Chew Candy contest!” it announced.

Mother was magical and she loved answering contests. Her letter to the contest, along with the candy wrapper, had done it! We could hardly wait for the trip to Omaha to pick up our new bicycle. It was a beautiful blue. It went into our bedroom with us at night and we took turns riding it.

“Guess what?” my mother said three weeks later when we got home from school. She was waving another letter for us to read. She had submitted another letter with a Chew Chew Candy wrapper in the name of her brother and I remember this letter because I thought it was so clever. She had written, “I wish I was a giraffe with a long neck so I could taste Chew Chew Candy all the way down.”

So, this time Uncle Russ went along with us to Omaha to claim the bike, asking for a girl’s bike. We were hoping he would because he had threatened us that this was his letter, after all.

The man in the Omaha bike shop was exclaiming how unusual this was, to have two blue bikes go to one address, but he loved seeing our happy faces. Now two blue bikes were in our home, this time in the basement next to the washing machine. Of course, the bikes went with us to South Dakota.

Seeing the campus for the first time, Shirley and I would not get out of the car. The first glimpse of the campus, and we both broke into tears. Why had our parents brought us to this God-forsaken country of sand and tumbleweeds? They were everywhere.

Once settled, we could ride our bikes again. I can remember the sound of the meadowlarks, while riding with a bread-and-butter pickle sandwich clasped in my hand.

Then came the big move to the tropical beauty of Jamaica where I took eighth grade and finished high school.

My mother and father were much loved from the first. My father was President of the College, which was accredited a Senior College while he was there the first time. Mother was Librarian, and took charge of the constant stream of company, which seemed to always be in our home. The two girls who did the housework had a room downstairs and knew the intricacies of taking care of us. We even had an indoor bathroom again!

As usual, our bicycles were with us. This time we had moved to an elevation of 3,200 feet. It was a challenge for us to ride the road from Mandeville to the “College on the Hill,” as it was called. Especially now, since the British had possession of the island and drove on the “wrong” side of the road.

An American bicycle, so beautiful, with large tires, was definitely more difficult to ride up the hill from Mandeville. Such excitement when we rode down the hill though. The people on their way to market, with baskets of fruit or chickens on their heads, would run from one side of the road to the other to better see this invasion from America. The lightweight British bicycles went whizzing by unnoticed. The cry went up, “The tanks are coming! The tanks are coming!”

Our First Frightening Experience

Shirley and I had clutched imploringly to Obashi’s hands. This nice Ethiopian, in his white Ethiopian shama was our savior.

The train had stopped at the station in Exira and below us on the platform were the joyous faces of all the relatives and friends who had not seen their sister and her husband for eight years. Had not even seen us.

Smiles and waves, arms reaching for us, brought only terror to our hearts! We had never seen so many white faces in our lives.

First Memory of Sadness

We were way up high in a New York Hotel. My parents had waited eight years for this furlough to go back to America to see family and friends. But why such deep sadness? Why the tears on my mother’s face and her grief?

Daddy was comforting her while Shirley and I sat on the bed bewildered. Why was this piece of paper in my mother’s hands causing her to cry so bitterly?

It was a telegram sent to the hotel. We had spent many long weeks on the ocean and taken a train trip down the steep mountains of Ethiopia to Djibouti. But nothing stayed in my three-year-old memory except for the deep sadness we felt as we tried to comfort my mother.
My mother’s sister, Elsie, had died. It was an anesthesia death during a routine appendectomy. Elsie had come from her teaching position in Hawaii. It wasn’t until many years later, while reading family letters, that I realized how much her eleven Hanson brothers and sisters loved their sister. She was only twenty-five. She was graceful and lovely with soft auburn hair. She was kindness and optimism personified. There had been letters between Hawaii and Ethiopia filled with the excitement of a coming reunion. Maybe Elsie would even come back to teach in Africa. It was not to be.

Where are the Girls?

Our train was on board the ferryboat bound for Denmark. It was 1939 and our long journey from Addis Abeba had led us up the boot of Italy, across Switzerland and Germany. In Hamburg we visited the zoo, which was supposed to be the best in the world at this time. The parrots had been taught to say “Hail Hitler” and the monkeys to do the Hitler salute. Mother had shopped for clothes for all of us. Shirley and I had bright red blieghly knit dresses, light brown belted coats, and brimmed hats with flowers tucked into the ribbons. Mother always checked the fashions worn by Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret Rose…just to be sure we would be in style.

Once secure on the ferryboat, our first smorgasbord array was like eating from a picture book. For myself, it was with remorse, because I was now seasick, I fed all of mine to the fish. This was done after climbing on the boat’s railing and leaning precariously over. One of the women passengers grabbed my skirt and with an alarmed voice, informed my mother that this was not safe.

Soon my mother returned to our compartment in the train after giving instructions to our father to keep a close watch on us. As usual, he did not interfere with our pursuits. He was so much fun to be with because he had no fear. In fact, we convinced him that he could return to the train below and we would be perfectly safe on the deck alone. After walking around the deck, watching the sea birds circling, we decided that we would also go to the train.

Holding tightly onto the rails, we climbed down the iron stairs and entered the train. We walked the full length of the train. Something was wrong. Our parents were not to be found. We walked the full length of the train again, this time in real fright. I had to be brave because Shirley’s lip was quivering and I was eighteen months older and responsible to figure out this predicament. Outside the train again, I said, “I’m going to look under the train.” Lying flat on the deck I saw another train on the far side. “Shirley, we have to get to the train on the other side,” I announced as I stood up. “We must have gone down the wrong stairs. We’ll go above and find the other stairs.” This should be done immediately. Land was now appearing and we could hear the clanking of chains being removed from the train and deck.

All of this was too much for Shirley. She stood rooted to the spot and refused to budge. Tears were appearing in her eyes. Someone had to come to the rescue. Two girls standing crying would not help. So up the stairs I went and across the deck. Sure enough! There was another stair, which led down to another train. The right train.

By now loud screams could be heard everywhere on the ferryboat. Daddy was the first to the rescue and there was Mother in her leather slippers. She had just asked. “Where are the girls?” and had been assured that all was well.
Such hugs and happiness as we all entered the compartment! It was almost worth all the terror to have such loving reassurance that our parents would never leave us. We straightened our new hats and prepared for our adventure in Copenhagen, the home of our favorite, Hans Christian Anderson, and also the homes of both of our grandparents.

War in the Mountains and Peace in the Desert

We knew that we were going on a long trip. Large trunks were open, with piles of belongings placed in stacks to be sorted and packed. Daddy was making travel arrangements, Mother-checking lists of what we would need. We knew the time had come when we saw copies of travel documents and money being sewed into mother’s corset.

There had been tension in the country for some months, as the Italians had sent their army to invade Ethiopia from the north. Mussolini, wearing his black shirt, had been
screaming that Ethiopia needed to be colonized and civilized. Many of the army officers and pilots joined in this expedition, sensing a release from boredom, and new adventure. They were determined not to allow the humiliation of 1896 to be repeated. At that defeat, the Italians were sent home humiliated by barefooted-Ethiopian soldiers who had relentlessly practiced guerilla warfare. They would swoop down from the high mountains, reigning terror with their swords and ancient muskets. This defeat had rankled in the hearts of the Italians.

Now the war was on different terms. The Italians had tanks and airplanes. It was 1935. The Ethiopians were fighting to retain their freedom. Foreigners joined the ranks of the Red Cross. Many sent wives and children out of the country.

When we tearfully kissed our Daddy goodbye, he would be heading to Dessie to help with the hospital and Red Cross. Although he was not trained as a medical doctor, he would help Dr. George Bergman and Dr. Tesla Nicola. Mrs. Nicola, with sons, Bruce, Darryl, and baby Ben, would leave for America. Mrs. Bergman, with Clyde and Phyllis would travel with my Mother, Shirley and me to Egypt. Before we left Addis, Mother had seen me on the front porch of our Kabana home. “Why do you keep looking up in the shy?” she asked. “See those big birds flying overhead,” I answered, not taking my eyes from the shy. “I am looking to see which one Clyde is on. He told me that he fly’s over our house to check up on me.” Nothing my Mother could say could convince me otherwise. Clyde was five years older than I, and Phyllis was a year younger than Shirley.

Aunt Gertrude, as we called Mrs. Bergman, was one of the most congenial travel companions. All disasters brought laughter from her lips. She was the kind of Auntie that we loved to hug.

Our train pulled out of the Addis station and we would stop three times before arriving in Djibouti. The stops were Dierdawa, Harrar, and Hawash. Some nights there were unscheduled stops due to fear of “Shiftas.” The bandits who would take out portions of the rails to cause a train wreck. Or, if the locusts had settled on the tracks, they would make the rails slippery and unsafe. At each stop we would be tucked into cots with netting draped over us. In lower altitudes there was the fear of the malaria mosquito. We were accustomed to all manner of other insects, having to hop into our beds and say our prayers from this safe distance. We knew that Mother had her usual bottles of Iodine and Lysol and we would be well protected.

Once in Djibouti, we found the only hotel. We had been there only a day when the man whose room was directly below ours, came with a complaint to Aunt Gertrude and Mother. It seems that Shirley and Phyllis had found a knothole in the floor and could, with proper aim, drop tangerine peelings upon his head as he sat below. This proved to be very embarrassing to the mothers. We tried not to look at him when we went into the dining room for meals. Here there were large sheets attached to horizontal poles. At one end was a rope, which a boy would pull back and forth. This gave some coolness and kept the flies from settling on us.

Arrangements had been made for us to travel to Egypt, where we would live in a house in the suburb of Cairo. For many years to come, this location was to be an orphanage. We knew it as the location, according to tradition, where the baby Jesus and his parents had stayed when they fled to Egypt. The flat roof of the house was ideal for play and for spreading clothes to dry. There was an open gazebo with seats and an area where we could play in the sand and not be subject to the scorching sun. Our mothers took turns marketing and preparing meals.

Aunt Gertrude was especially pleased on one shopping expedition when she came back with a quart size container of exotic perfume. It was a delicate green and she had bartered with great skill. The one big problem turned out to be that the contents were odorless. We should have known, because the persons who came to barter seemed to practice slight of hand most of the time. My mother decided to negotiate with a carpet maker in the local bazaar. Week after week, we would walk to his shop to approve of his beautiful skill. The result was an entrance rug and a large rug, both done in soft shades of brown, with woven designs of the Egyptian lotus blossom and the God Horace, with wings outspread as he knelt on either end of the carpet. Mother hoped to place this rug in our Addis Abeda home, along with the bright Turkish rugs she had already used. She proved that there is more than one way to cover a dirt floor.

While we were living in Egypt, Phyllis came to her mother with a complaint. “Why is it,” she asked, “that my name is not in the Bible?” Her mother said she did not understand. “Well,” Phyllis said, “Shirley has her name in the Bible.” It turned out that Phyllis had been memorizing the Psalm, which reads, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…” Young children are very literal. Years later, Lester Ortner told me that when he was a child he would sing the chorus of “I Come to the Garden” and in the chorus the words gave him concern as to who Andy was…Andy walks with me, Andy talks with me. The actual words are “and He walks with me, etc.”

During our stay in Egypt, Mother and Aunt Gertrude taught Shirley, Phyllis and me. Clyde was destined for bigger and better things. He was enrolled in the American school in Cairo. He disdained to have us follow him, so we kept a safe distance. He was very posh in his uniform; short pants, navy jacket and cap, knee high socks, black shoes, and tucked under his arm a magnificent brief case.

Playmates who came to join us in Materia were the nine children of the Farag family. They seemed to be all ages and very well mannered. Mr. Farag was an employee of the Egyptian railroad. He was always wearing a business suit and red fez, which made him look even taller than he was. He had the distinction of joining the Seventh-day Adventist Church as one of the first in Egypt. Desiring to exchange his day off from work from Friday to Saturday, he approached his employer. There was nothing that could be done except to appear before the local judge. He made his request. His request was denied. The judge promptly fell over dead. The next week Mr. Farag had to appear before a different Judge. He made his request. His request was denied. This Judge also fell over dead. It took a few weeks to go before the third Judge. This time the request was granted.

We used to go to church where the Farags and ourselves were the only ones present. The service was held in a home and we learned to sing in Arabic, “I will make you fishers of men.” One day we had left the house and were descending the steps, all except Salem Farag. He was walking carefully on the rail. He was, until Shirley gave him a playful shove. His mother was very embarrassed to report this to my mother. To this day, Salem has this scar on his forehead.

We had lovely excursions into Cairo and into the bazaars. The Cairo museum was open, and even in our observation we found it a disaster. Nothing was in order, but thrown together helter skelter. We could walk by chariots, touching the gilded wheels, which had become loosened. What a way to display mummies of kings and queens…. All thrown together in a pile.

There were the trips out to the Pyramids. Our mothers would take the four of us on the train right to the end of the track. There we negotiated for a horse and buggy. The driver would flick his whip over the backs of the horses and they were off in a spray of sand. Usually, we could view the British soldiers on parade when we were nearing the station. The Scottish bagpipers would strut forth in their wool kilts, bagpipes blaring loudly into the Egyptian sky.

Once at the Pyramids, we were allowed to play for hours in the sand. Once mother and Aunt Gertrude climbed the largest Pyramid with a guide to help them hoist themselves up each large granite block. Another guide was left to care for us as we picked up pieces of alabaster.

It seems like a hundred years ago that we had this serene time by the Pyramids. There was not another soul in sight. From the Pyramids we walked over to the Sphinx who seemed to be guarding the desert. We admired the profile, remembering that it was Napoleon’s soldiers who shot away a portion of this nose.

It was in walking between the Pyramid and the Sphinx that Shirley declared a sit-down strike. With true Danish stubbornness, she sat in the sand and refused to move.

During our stay in Materia, we met Mr. Stanley Bull. Because of the war, his wife was in England and since he was now in a country, which did not have a good connotation of his last name, we always referred to him as “Mr. Stanley.” Many years later, when my father was President of the West Indies College in Jamaica, Mr. Bull and his family came to join the faculty. One occasion, Mrs. Bull and another friend had joined in neighborhood “Harvest Ingathering.” They had not thought of the impact of their names until they introduced themselves at the first door. “I am Mrs. Bull and this is Mrs. Hoag.” (Pronounced hog).

We were still paying weekly visits to our carpet maker in Mataria. The workmanship was progressing slowly but exquisitely beautiful. Each time we went to the shop, we stopped to admire a very tall slender oblisque. It was dark blue, very shiny to the base, which disappeared into a small pool of water. Why this oblisque was placed here, we did not know, but loved to lean over the rail to admire our reflections.

During one of our trips to the Great Pyramids, our guides had taken us to a burial site nearby, which was for commoners. We went underground, passing between shelves, much like bunks on a ship. We could have handled the bones piled on the shelves, but the thought gave me shivers. Entering the burial sites in the Pyramids was very eerie. The long narrow passageways would end in the burial chamber that contained only the stone outer casket, much like a large bathtub. In later years, an Israeli flutist was allowed to record in the empty Pyramid. When he tapped his flute on the open Sarcoguphus, he would tune his flute to a perfect note of D Major. At the time I was there, my only thought was how to escape as quickly as possible from this prison, which was hot and lit only by a single light bulb. There were no other visitors, or hoards of camels, to tempt tourists to ride around the huge edifices. There was a solitary camel, which Shirley and I climbed on, clutching tightly when the beast was commanded to stand. We really preferred our Ethiopian mules.

Aunt Gertrude and my mother took a train to visit the Royal Tombs. The only one that was near Cairo was large and artistically decorated on the walls, Egyptian style. The colors were in earth tones and depicted the slaves and family possessions, which were to accompany the dead to a place in the future.

During the fifth month in Egypt, a trip to Palestine was planned. Our mothers were courageously packing and excitement was high. The morning before departure, we were having oatmeal for breakfast. Mother directed me to ladle the cereal into our bowls. Shirley refused her oatmeal and spread her hands across the bowl. I insisted that Mother had directed me, and when she still refused, the hot oatmeal landed on her hands. None of us were prepared for the redness, swelling, and pitiful screams. We took turns plunging her hands into cold water. I was aching for my sister, realizing that obedience to the letter of the law was not always a good idea. Since our travel arrangements had been made, we had to go on with Shirley’s hands bandaged. The long train ride through the shimmering sand, and black smoke billowing through the open windows, the hard wood benches, all made me more conscious of my contribution to my dear sister’s pain. When we look at photos of our trip, I am reminded of my crime. Walking on the Via Delarosa, pointing to the plains of Bethlehem, wherever we went, are the reminders, as Shirley’s hands are very visible. Somehow mother had enough salve and bandages to keep the burns from becoming infected.

There was not much cleanliness in accommodations, very few hotels or hostels. The night we were to spend by the Sea of Galilee there was only one small room to rent for all of us. After Aunt Gertrude pulled back the covers and exclaimed over the dirty sheets, the covers were pulled up, and we slept on top with our clothes on. Mother and Aunt Gertrude took turns guarding the door that night.

Next morning we took a small rowboat ride on the lake. Our mothers were determined for us to visit the places that we had read about in our Bible stories. In a visit to the Dead Sea we put on bathing suits to swim in the buoyant salt water. We visited the Cave of Machpelah and the Oaks of Mamre, where Abraham and Sarah had been buried, the tomb of Lazarus, the city of Jericho and the River Jordan. One of the moments that was very overwhelming to me was walking in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was a very sacred feeling to walk under the ancient olive trees. The traditional burial tombs in the city of Jerusalem were more commercialized, including one by the Ethiopians. We had visited the Coptic Church in Egypt when we were traveling to Palestine. These tall Coptic monks, dressed in black with high, black, brimless, stovepipe hats, were impressed with two mothers and four children who could speak the Amheric language with them.

Walking through the narrow cobbled streets of Jerusalem, there is a flow of traffic with bazaars on each side of the street with wonderful aromas of spices and perfumes.

Masada had not been excavated in 1935, and it was not until 1978 that we took our two youngest children to Israel and were lifted by tram to the top of Masada. It would be a dream to spend a night there, under the bright stars, overlooking the sheer drop to the Dead Sea.

History comes alive when remembering our six months in Egypt. There was a carefully typed letter from Daddy when we returned to Cairo. “All is coming along well,” we read, “you can make plans to come back to Addis Abeba. It doesn’t look like the Italians will win the war.” Included with the letter was a photo showing Dr. Bergman, Dr. Nicola, and Dad. They had all grown mustaches and were standing by the American Red Cross ambulance.

When we arrived in Addis we did not have time to unpack our trunks. We were introduced to the bomb shelter dug into the hillside at the bottom of the campus. There we found supplies and were handed our gas masks.

Mother, Shirley, and I listened for hours to the stories of the Italian invasion. Daddy gave us a full account, always full of optimism and faith. When he had reached the hospital in Dessie, traveling with Dr. Nicola and Dr. Bergman, they found large Red Cross insignias painted on the roofs. Dr. Bergman had built the hospital years before. At that time, the news media had sent reporters to cover the war, but they had all been detained in Addis. They were forced to send imaginary reports, using photos of natives painted with shoe polish and bandaged on all limbs. There was no communication from the front. October 3, 1935, Italians, under General Bodolio, crossed into Ethiopia. By November, the news reporters had come to Dessie and were camped in tents on the hospital grounds.

Emperor Heile Salassie was also in Dessie in his palace. The Italians were anxious to kill the Emperor, and decided that if they bombed the hospital, he might be seeking shelter there. They dropped forty-one bombs on the hospital, even with the Red Cross visible. Surgery was busy helping the injured. One nurse, Sister Maria, sustained a broken leg and was the only casualty from the hospital.

On December 8, 1935, the Emperor came to the hospital grounds where he and my father conducted a thanksgiving prayer service.

The Italians had air power much superior to the ten Ethiopian planes, eight of which could fly. There were stories of the enemy planes making deliberate strikes at Red Cross ambulances, some from Sweden, Switzerland, and England. Two doctors in one ambulance were killed. The retreat to Addis had begun.

One of the first Italian planes to land in Dessie landed while the reporters, including a young George Putnam, were still in Dessie. The Italians had lists of names, and Dr. Rohrbaugh, a Presbyterian missionary friend of my fathers, tells of the pilot’s eagerness to meet a reporter by the name of Knickerbacker. They shoved Knickerbacker into the pilots’ seat of the plane, demanding that he fly their plane. They had mistaken him for the world famous Eddie Rickenbacker. Years later, Mr. Rohrbaugh received $250.00 from the Reader’s Digest for this story, with verification from my father.

The tragedy of war was spread like a mist from the air. Natives, unfamiliar with airplanes, would look into the sky and receive deadly mustard gas. Death from this poison was extremely painful, with hair turned yellow, and tongues bloated. The nightmare continued.

On May 3, 1936, the Emperor and his entourage had left Addis Abeba by train for Djibouti, then by way of Palestine, for asylum in England. Had communications been more advanced, the Italians could have bombed the train on its way down the mountains. A short time before, the Emperor’s cousin, Legasu, mysteriously died. There would be no one to rule while Heile Salassie was in exile. June of 1936 would find the Emperor standing before the League of Nations, assembled in Switzerland, pleading for help. Not one nation volunteered their help. In quiet dignity the Emperor turned and pronounced, “Today it is my country. Someday, it will be your country.”

On June 12th the Pope blessed the occupation of Ethiopia.

The city of Addis Abeba was without government. Skies were blazing night and day, from fires started by the native looters. With “Teg” and “Talla” to heighten their drunken stupor, the shooting began. The palace was looted. Stray bullets flew everywhere. The Italian airplanes that flew over were showering leaflets in Amheric to quall the city. Two planes tried to land on the airfield after unsuccessful effort to strafe the two Ethiopian planes on the ground. To destroy the Ethiopian planes, they had to land, place straw against the planes, then set the straw on fire. Dr. Lambie from the Presbyterian Hospital, who also helped coordinate the Red Cross ambulances, found it amusing that the Italians were not accurate at bombing their target.

By now it was impossible to coordinate help to other stations. We rushed to our bomb shelter when the first plane came over. I can remember running down the mountain slope, holding my mother’s hand. I found it expedient to tell her that it was I who had broken her comb, as this seemed like a good time for confession. We were not in the bomb shelter too long, but were rescued by the British legation, which was nearby. The very tall Sikj solders from India protected the legation and came for us in an open truck. They also rescued the Americans from the Filwoha Hospital. We were on the Embassy grounds in tents with the Bergmans.

At this precise time, the American Embassy, located five miles across town, was in trouble. The drunken rioters were trying to tear down the protective wall. It was thanks to a Morse code operator that no one was killed. This brave man sent the message to the Philippines, the Philippines to Hawaii, Hawaii to San Francisco, San Francisco to New York, New York to London, and finally London to the British Embassy in Addis. “COME AND RESCUE US,” the message read. After what seemed long hours, the British arrived to transport the Americans to safety.

It seemed like days that the Italian tanks rumbled by, on their way to occupy the city. They had not wished to destroy Addis Abeba, but the occupants had done most of it themselves. When it was safe to return to Kabana, Shirley and I spent hours picking up the spent shells. They were everywhere. Thatch roofs did not provide much protection.

One of the first nights back in Kabana, there were dozens of neighbors who fled their huts and were seeking refuge on one of the lawns at Kabana. It was a bright moonlit night, but when the Italian soldiers came, they did not see the refugees. Our God, who had protected us for so many days, was holding His hand over His people. The hospital at Filwoha had many hundred seeking refuge. When the Italian soldiers came, these natives were not so fortunate. They were marched outside of the compound walls and many were killed. Phyllis told us that the next day she was running and tripped into the bloated body of a dead man.

The Italians were not at all happy to have Americans in Addis. They called us the “White Ethiopians.” It was not too many days later that two soldiers appeared at the Kabana gate. They proceeded to question Shirley and me as to whom we preferred, the Italians or the Ethiopians. Only out of good manners we replied that we liked them both. Since they were not successful in getting information from us, they tried another approach. “We want to see your cook, Gumtesa,” they announced. Shirley, in her young innocence, ran to the cookhouse and called him. They took him off and shot him.

Now the looters were presenting some of their trophies. We had a few dishes, which looters had taken from the palace. Other foreigners had many of these dishes. The Emperors china had a wide gold band. The Queen’s china a smaller gold band. In the days after the Emperor returned from exile, he declined the return of these pieces of china. He had already ordered china from France.

Our family spent three more years in Addis. Travel was restricted, but after a time, we continued our exchange of schools, part-time riding to the Filwoha campus, and then having class on our campus. Mae Mathews was still our teacher. She had earlier told Aunt Gertrude that her son, Clyde, was a hopeless student and would never amount to anything. In 1954, it was with pleasure that Aunt Gertrude sent Mae Mathews Clyde’s graduation announcement from LLU School of Medicine. Aunt Gertrude had never forgotten Miss Mathew’s remark.

It was a sad day when we packed to return to America. The hope was that Mr. Cupertino from Italy would have more freedom with his countrymen. This was wrong, and he was even more restricted.

Della and Herbert Hanson stayed on, as did Mae Mathews and Balle Nielsen. Romance bloomed for Balle and Mae and they were married. It was fortunate for the Emperor that, upon his return from exile, there were some trusted friends to help him. Della Hanson assumed the job of reorganizing the Palace, with staff and supplies. She was very capable, and has told me of walking with her tools to fix leaky faucets and take care of other repairs. Uncle Herbert stayed on at the Akika Boys School, where Aunt Della taught music and began her work on translating the hymnal into Amheric. She had her apartment in the Palace and served for more than twenty-five years with the Palace functions. She had met President Tito, Queen Juliana, the Queen of Denmark, the Shah of Iran, and many other heads of state. Before an auxiliary luncheon at the Ambassor Hotel, I helped her arrange the beautiful invitations in a leather scrapbook, and place the luxurious lace tablecloth, a gift from Tito, sterling silver vases from the Queen of Denmark, and other gifts. In her talk at the luncheon, she gave all praise and glory to God.

After Uncle Herbert’s death and burial in Addis, Aunt Della stayed on and was there the day the Emperor was taken from his palace.

Our family traveled through Europe, then by ship to New York. This was my first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. This occasion reminded me of the feeling I had in walking through the Garden of Gethsemane.

On board ship were our few belongings from Ethiopia. There were gifts from the Palace, which we had treasured from earlier years, framed pictures of the pressed flowers Mother had helped us identify when we were in Palestine, our Turkish and Egyptian rugs, and many, many memories.

We were thankful for God’s protection. We had known His presence during the terror at night and the arrow by day.


We sat spellbound whenever my Father told a story. He had an endless repertoire from his reading and life experiences. Best of all, he enjoyed telling stories about himself that ended up with him looking foolish.

He told us of the time he had accepted an invitation to have dinner at the Mission Inn with his two friends from Ethiopia, Dr. Nicola and Dr. Bergman. By then he was also a Doctor, having graduated with a Ph.D. in History. The three good friends enjoyed the meal in grand style. When the waiter appeared with the bill my Father asked him to present the bill to the person who looked the most successful. The bill was placed on the table next to him.

My Father was a College President in Jamaica for twenty years. It was there that he was exposed to ”interesting” cultural expressions. To understand why these Jamaican stories were funny, we had to learn the dialect, “Patois”, in which nicknames were invented to fit the person. Kitty Parchment, my Father’s treasurer, was called “Fish Mouth” because she held her mouth in a pursed expression. Then, there was a Norain, a student from Trinidad. His name immediately became “Drought.” The farm manager was very good-natured and constantly appeared with a big smile on his face. His nickname was “Serious.” My Father did not know that he had been given a nickname until one day he was showing a new student through the bindery. Another new student approached them, calling out to my Father, “Good morning, Mr. Lacky.” The new student, who had spoken up, became terribly embarrassed when the others broke into laughter. Many of them had been in a class on religious history where my father liked to recount stories about Lacunze, a missionary priest in South America.

In the early days in Ethiopia, Abyssinia in those days, a young couple in Addis Abeda had planned the return trip to Scandinavia. The father would be traveling alone, while the wife and eight-year-old daughter stayed in Addis. Marie listened while her parents planned the trip from Addis, down the mountains to the seaport, then by ship through the Red Sea. When the day for departure came, the family knelt in prayer and the parents listened while their daughter ended her prayer by saying, Dear Jesus, please make the Red Sea blue for Daddy.”

My Father had taken me for a walk into the forest, and now I was lying stretched out on my stomach, propped on elbows and entranced by one small plant. “That is a Jack-in-the-box,” my Father explained kneeling beside me. It was ten inches tall, a celery shade of green. Upon the slender stem was the form of a pulpit with a magical person inside. Hardly daring to breathe and not even touching this gem of the forest, we both shared this special moment.

My Father was not a trained botanist, but he appreciated the unusual beauties of the Ethiopian countryside. True to his Midwest upbringing, we spent leisure time planting gardens, some which had to be fenced with thorn hedges. His first planting had been one thousand eucalyptus trees from the familiar fat triangular seeds. The garden in Addis Alem was planted before I was born. The thorn hedges kept the less lively deer from nibbling, but porcupine burrowed, the monkeys leapt, and numerous birds flew in. The answer, of course, was to employ a gardener to maintain vigilance. An ancient firearm added prestige and served mostly as a headrest when it was time to curl up for a good night’s sleep. The howling hyenas never seemed to alarm him.

During the months we did not see Daddy, we missed him terribly. We could not understand “trekking,” or why he could not take us along. He would start off with mules laden with tents, camping equipment, and some food. Before another doctor joined him with his crew, they rushed to my father and inquired where my father kept his guns? When they were informed that there was no guns, they exclaimed, “Well, this time we will take your God, but next time, you’d better bring guns.” Of course, someone had to have a gun to frighten off the shiftas (bandits), and to shoot into the rivers that had to be forded by mules and campers. No crocodiles ever attacked.

My Father loved to play with us. My sister and I had “horsie rides” just before bedtime; he climbing trees with us and pitching tents inside our walled compound for us to play in. We had lots of adventures, free from our Mother’s concerns about sweaters and wearing helmets.

When I was six years old and visiting Addis Alem, my birthplace, I assured my Father that the river below the school and next to the Jim Jam Forrest would be very good for fishing. He took me at my word, sending two servants to keep watch. My baited hook tied to heavy thread, tied to a branch was not going anywhere when tossed from the bank, so I talked the servants into allowing me to climb out on a low branch that overhung the riverbank. It took only a few moments to get into position, standing, of course, and less time to fall headfirst into the river. Fortunately, that spot had many feet of mud so it was not a choice of drowning in water but mud. The servants did a thorough rinsing job, including helmet, before turning my sister and me over to our nurse, Abinish. This experience seemed to lessen our enthusiasm for fishing.

My sister and I always knew, however, that if we really wanted to do something, it was better to ask Daddy.


My mother had just survived one of the great frights of her early-married life. She and Dad were living in Addis Alem and received many neighborhood guests; many came to satisfy their curiosity, some brought gifts. This was how my mother received a large ape that looked like a baboon.

The ape seemed content to stay in the high trees with long low limbs. My mother was checking on the progress in the cook’s house one day, when nearing the cook, she felt a great weight descend on her shoulders, straddling her. The ape seemed to enjoy her screams and climbed back into his tree. Another morning he was observing a mother hen and her downy chicks walking under his tree. What could be more fun than to take each little chick to walk on his branches? Their peeping alerted everyone as to where they had been safely placed. What happened to the ape is a mystery, but as far as I know, he returned to his friends in the Jim Jam Forest.

Then there was the happy day when mother accompanied the cook to the market in Addis. She walked through the big gate with a pet for her daughters, Shirley now six, and Jane now seven. “This is your new lamb,” she explained. The other adults who were visiting, and our teacher, Mae Matthews, assured my mother that this lamb would never become a sheep. They were amazed that a person who had grown up on a farm in Iowa could even think that this goat was a sheep. “But," said my mother defending herself, "they told me at the market that this is what all Ethiopian lambs looked like.” The goat could leap any rosebush, make havoc of the large garden, and eat every blossom in sight. It would rush at us with lowered head to give us a playful nudge. It was retired to the property at Addis Alem where we could later visit her and her family of small kids.

The chimpanzee belonged to Shirley. There was no doubt that! She played with it as though it were a baby. Once she dressed it in doll clothes. At that point, the chimp had had enough. It climbed out of the doll buggy and scampered out of reach into the nearest tree. The doll dress, bonnet, shoes and diaper dropped to the ground. Enough was enough!

Then there was our pony, a gift from Mr. Cramp at the American Embassy. (Maybe it was a peace offering. I had earlier made some unflattering remarks about Mr. Cramp’s large nose.) My sister and I awaited its delivery on the stonewall. It seemed like hours before the pony came down the dirt road and into our compound. Without hesitation, Shirley called the pony “Beauty.” Her reason, she said, because he was so ugly. She chose to ride Beauty whenever possible, but Beauty would not tolerate even a small blond rider. He would rush over to one of the many rose hedges and dash his rider into the roses. Beauty, it turned out, also migrated to greener pastures in Addis Alem.

By now the war had been over for a year, and we had another family, the Ossent’s, living in the guesthouse. Wonder of wonders, they had two girls, Verena and Erika. They had been outside Addis when the city had been burned and their father’s Agriculture Station was destroyed. For some reason we called Verena “Butzilie.”
Susie, a precious little deer, was another story. Where she came from is a mystery, but she was very small, could drink from a baby bottle, and followed us everywhere and bleated for attention. All four of us loved Susie. Shirley and Butzilie were especially attentive. One day they decided that Susie needed a long overdue bath. Susie submitted to the generous sudsing, but just when the bath water appeared, she was slippery enough to make a mad dash for freedom. She found the nearest mud puddle and rolled to her heart’s content. Of course, as Susie grew, so did her love for our garden, and her ability to jump over the fence. As a consequence, a new pet made the trip to Addis Alem.

Keep Looking Up

Verena was such fun. The year she lived next door in Kabana, she and Shirley and I had high rubber boots so we could slosh up and down the hill between the front gate and our house. There were two seasons—one called “The Little Rainy Season”, and another called “The Big Rainy Season” when the skies opened and poured down for weeks. Magnificent lightning flashed across the sky, thunder rolled, and we imagined that furniture must have been moving overhead. Best of all was the constant heavy downpour of rain.

Our roof had been partially covered with corrugated sheets with thatch all around. Under this was a layer of “abojeta,” much like cheesecloth. This served to keep the thatch from falling on our heads, but would bulge and swell as the rain poured in. This called for as many pots and pans as we could find to catch the rain. Sometimes, it was possible to puncture an overhanging bulge, which was about to burst. Piercing the bulge with the sharp end of an umbrella prevented catastrophe. All this was made more challenging at night because we did not have electric lights. The rain flooded and paddled and made the mud road up the hill the perfect place to practice running in our knee high boots.

Sleeping with Shirley was painful for both of us and we decided a barbwire fence would help keep our sleeping “territories” safe.

One thing we all knew about my sister was that she would always wait until the split second before she had to go to the bathroom. The “two-holer” was some distance from the house. While we were in house there was the chamber pot, kept in the narrow room next to the bedroom where our family slept in two double beds. During one of our rainy seasons we were playing with Verena, whom we always called “Butzilie.” A large wardrobe had been built and placed in the one corner of the bedroom. There was a space above the wardrobe, and with the help of a stool placed on a chair, and Butzilie and myself holding all in place, we hoisted Shirley on top of the wardrobe. What fun! She could almost touch the “abojeta.” Suddenly Shirley started to dance. There was no way could she make it down in time; so Butzilie, always inventive, handed the chamber pot up. When my mother came into the bedroom, all she could see was Butzilie lying flat on her back. We were both laughing hysterically. When my Mother asked what was going on, Butzilie pointed upward and the whole situation was made even more hilarious when Shirley turning her back to us.

Shirley was destined for other high places. One day we were with Phyllis at the house next door that had a ten-inch wide cement shelf, such as might be placed over a fireplace. On this occasion, we decided that Shirley would be the perfect “Queen of Sheba.” She looked very elegant in her paper crown and a veil that was improvised from the curtain over the window; there she sat, a queen sit on the cement “throne”! Alas, the reign was short lived. The queen became tangled in her elegant “gown” and came tumbling down. It was lucky that, Phyllis’s father, Dr. Bergman, was available to stitch the Queen’s forehead. Once more, Shirley survived.

My Mother, the Doctor

“Shirley and Jane are very puny.” My parents often heard this remark when we arrived in America. I was too young to remember the scrutiny given to us by our hundreds of relatives. By this time, Shirley’s head was covered with soft blonde hair, after being shaved by my mother. During the time we were traveling, if any comment were made about her hair, she would respond with a beautific smile.

We did enjoy fresh milk, but viewed ice cream with suspicion. Grandma Hanson was constantly presenting us with wonderful sugar cookies. She loved us, even if we were puny.

One day she called Mother to come and see what Shirley was eating. There sat Shirley, surrounded by the large flock of chickens. She was shoveling handfuls of chicken feed into her mouth.

My Mother attended to our medical needs with bravery, prayer, and the meager health knowledge provided by the large home nursing volume that came with us from America, in which the following procedures were written up and illustrated.

It was not my parent’s fault if we did not look round and rosy. They had provided the best possible care. After I was born, there was a smallpox epidemic in Addis Alem. My father obtained vaccine and vacinnated mother and me. I am reminded of this whenever I look at the left side of my left leg, right below the knee. My vaccination left a scar the size of a silver dollar.

Then there was the time when Shirley received an injection of blood directly from my father. In those days no one knew about typing or cross matching blood.

Sore throats were treated with vigor. I can still remember the pantry in our Addis Abeba home, which seemed the most appropriate place for the throat swabbing. A large gob of cotton was twirled on the end of a stick, dipped generously in iodine, and placed deep into our protesting throats. After the throat swabbing came the throat compress. This consisted of a wet cloth wrapped around the throat covered by a piece of wool and oilcloth fastened with a safety pin. Mother was also adept at the mustard plasters applied to coughing chests.

Whenever we sprained our ankles, out came the square ten-gallon cans, formerly containing gasoline. We would be instructed to place our sprained ankles, first into the hot water, then into the cold. Frequent replenishing of boiling water into the hot can kept the Doctor Mom busy. She should win a prize for her practice of hydrotherapy.

My Mother was a marvel, not only as a seamstress, but also at knitting. She protected our legs with long wool stockings and did not hear our protests that they itched.

When I was three, my mother saw me through the whooping cough. Clyde Bergman, at age five, had given me the cough. We both survived.

When we lived in Kabana, Shirley came down with scarlet fever. I was escorted out of the house to spend time with Verena. Mother nursed Shirley with much love and cooling compresses. When I was allowed back into the bedroom, Shirley was as red as a beet, not from scarlet fever, but from the hot Lysol bath Mother had given her. For some reason, all the walls had been covered with sheets. I know now that Mother would have been a whiz in a CD unit.

Looking back, I have to admire the young father and mother who would take children to a place in the world so medically remote. In those days, there were not much better medical practices anywhere.

When our family went on furlough in 1930, it was my Father’s desire to study medicine. He knew the need for Doctors in Ethiopia. He had been forced to take care of many dental extractions, needle and thread stitching for injuries, and liberal applications of iodine to whatever was in question. At least he never put iodine in anyone’s eye, as did our teacher, Mae Matthews, when treating a schoolboy. He recovered from it, but it might have been due to all the prayers.

Castor oil must be universal. We had our share. I can still taste the horrible oily substance, followed by orange juice. Of course, we were standing in the pantry, our “torture room”. Since we always had agreed to our treatment and knew that there would be a special story afterward, we didn’t protest?

We both had our tonsils taken out by Dr. Bergman at the Filwoha Hospital. We were told that the deep breathing of ether would make us think we could see monkeys running in a circle.

There were the two small graves left in Africa, the tiny twins of Hedvig and Carl Jensen. Carl Jensen and my Father were trekking, and my Mother, at Hedvig’s side, watched the ravages of Typhus on the tiny bodies. Together they wept as the twins were buried, first one, then the second tiny body.

Aunt Esther Bergman died many years later. She was working as a nurse in the Filwoha Hospital and died of the improper administration of anesthesia.

During the war of 1935, a stray bullet killed Dr. Stadine’s wife as she lay sleeping.

Uncle Herbert Hanson is buried near Akai School.

Where, Oh Where Has My Brother Gone?

Packages from America were rare and wonderful! The latest package had coveralls for my sister Shirley and me. They were similar to overalls except for the attached blouse and wonderful pockets.

I was in the kitchen where Gumtesa was preparing lunch. He and Areti, the houseboy, were admiring my new coveralls. Mother appeared from the house and told me that something important had happened. She said, “Come and see your new brother.”

I was three years old and not informed as to such miracles. I took my mother’s hand and put my other hand in the coveralls pocket. The sun was shining brightly on the newly whitewashed exterior of our home. As we rounded the corner, my mother announced, “Here is your new brother.”

To my great disappointment, all I could see was my two-year-old sister, Shirley, in her new coveralls. But she really looked different. She was standing with our nurse, Abinish. Her formerly short blond hair was nowhere to be seen. As a matter of fact, she was totally bald. This was done in preparation for our long trip to America to visit relatives. Mother wanted us to look our best. She had sewed twenty outfits for each of us, some hand-smocked silk coats and dresses with bloomers. No one would think we had come from Africa.

The one big problem that needed to be improved was Shirley. She sucked her thumb and held strands of her soft blond hair next to her cheek. Since there had been no way to atop her from thumb sucking, drastic measures were called for. It worked!

However, it was a huge disappointment! No brother after all.

The Emperor and the Popcorn

“HA HU HI HA HAY HER HO, ME MU MI MA MAY MER MO,” came the droning from the schoolroom. There are 251 letters in the Amharic alphabet, which really represent syllables formed by a consonant followed by different endings. The best way to learn was to join in the chant.

When Mother and Daddy had first arrived in Abyssinia, their language study occupied every spare minute. They both learned to speak in Amharic, the principal native language of Ethiopia.

After language study in the capital Addis Abeba, the couple moved forty miles to supervise the Boy’s School in Addis Alem. Addis Abeba means “New Flower” and Addis Alem means “New World.” There wasn’t much time for studying the language while supervising the school; arranging the furniture, which was uniquely adapted packing crates; planning menus with the cook; and decorating their home.

The walls of their new home were made in traditional style with varying thickness of mud, straw, and cow dung held together with water and decorated with whitewash. Mother fancied the effect of wallpaper and found some designed with vertical stripes. Using a paste made from flour, salt, and water, and working dexterously to make the stripes and uneven walls come artistically together, the task was finally accomplished and the effect viewed with pride. At dawn the next morning there came the realization that the ants had had a banquet on the paste, and all the wallpaper had rolled onto the floor.

Mother also had some novel experiences with the cook. One of the first mornings she had asked him to place a tablecloth on the high clothes line. As he jumped up, a pocket full of sugar streamed forth. He announced, “Now look what those boys have done. They have filled my pockets with sugar to get me in trouble!” After that my mother measured out ingredients for each recipe.

Even though some food products could be found at the Addis Alem market, food, when available and at the right cost, was brought in by horseback from Addis. Lentils and other grains piled on the ground of the marketplace could be taken home and washed. The ever-present rocks caused speculation that the person preparing the lentils could become a “rock hound.”

The market women would bring eggs to my mother, who would direct that they be checked in a full pail of water. In this way, the rotten eggs could be eliminated. One woman became very upset when her eggs were found wanting, and she angrily removed herself and the eggs. At one time the family from the German Mission found that their shortage of eggs was due to the entrepreneurship of the yard boy who had been selling the eggs elsewhere and collecting the “tehunes.” This small coin, the size of a farthing, was often kept inside the cheek of the women in the market. They were expert at spitting out necessary change.

The subject of meal planning and food was ongoing; sometimes it was very much a trial. Mrs. Bergman found her cook was boiling strawberry jam for hours. It would not thicken as he had stolen the sugar. Mother always supervised the milking of the cows. This way no water could be secretly added. Of course, all water and milk had to be boiled.

Without immunizations and no antibiotics, we survived typhus and typhoid.

It was better not to take too much notice of every detail of food preparation. Verena’s family had a houseboy who made their toast. On one particular morning, the toast was late. Investigation showed this young lad by the outdoor fire. With bare feet extended on either side of the fire, he was holding a stick over the flame to toast the bread, and then placing the slices between his toes. The toast had not arrived at the table because he had not filled all the spaces between his toes.

Fresh vegetables were grown in the mission garden. It required painstaking effort to plant the garden from precious imported seeds. Placing a fence of thorns around the garden discouraged porcupines but did little to prevent the thieving birds, deer and monkeys. Consequently, boys watched the garden night and day.

When my parents first came to Ethiopia, Empress Zauditu was the ruling queen. My father had visited her in her previously and knew her without royal regalia. Her husband, Ras Guksa, seemed to be of ordinary birth. After her death, he was beheaded and persons could view the grisly proof of his death as it was carried around the countryside in a basket. During Empress Zauditu’s reign, there was speculation that the young Haile Selassie, who was of royal blood, would be the next king. He was fluent in several languages, interested in betterment of his country, and wished to meet the few foreign educators and doctors.

In 1925 my parents were settling into the routine at the Boy’s School. They wrote letters to America, made out shopping lists from the Montgomery Ward catalog, and every month took the daylong horse trip to Addis. At this time, my mother was also supplementing their income by churning butter for sale in Addis. This brought the fantastic sum of five dollars to her small metal cash box. No one tried to steal this small box. We still have it with attached key, still in perfect working order.

Early one morning, a runner came with a message for my parents. He unfolded the paper from the end of the split bamboo, where it had been placed for safekeeping. This message brought great excitement to my parents and the boys in the school. It was a message from Haile Selassie announcing that he would arrive the following day. The entourage would arrive on horseback, for there were no cars in those days.

What does one serve to royalty? Mother supervised cake baking and sandwich making. Dad remembered his one great success, popcorn. The seed, brought from Iowa had produced popcorn, despite the onslaughts of monkeys, and was harvested for a great occasion as this. Haile Selassie tasted these fluffy white puffs for the first time. From this day forward, there was a deep friendship and trust between Haile Selassie and my father.

After the coronation in 1930, there would be visits to the royal palace, both for holiday and other occasions. My father would interpret for visiting dignitaries, always remembering never to turn his back to the Emperor. After the British liberated the country from the Italians, my father again had friendly visits with the Emperor.

In 1953, and again in 1974, the Emperor visited the United States and received my father with a warm handshake. The Emperor had not forgotten those who were loyal to him and his country. Perhaps popcorn should be known as friendship food.

Auntie Alex

The social life in Addis Abeba reached a new zenith with the arrival of Auntie Alex. It was 1925 and many refugees were coming from Europe and Asia to find a new life in this strange exotic land. Alexandra Dabbert, with her engineer husband, had come by way of Germany with Alexandra’s parents, the former General and Mrs. Drovdosky. Alexandra’s father had been General in Czar Nicolas’ army, and was in Switzerland on maneuvers when the Bolsheviks executed the Czar and his family. Without hesitation, her mother collected whatever jewels they could carry and walked across the border with Alexandra and Peter. The parents would never see Russia again. Peter later would perish in the German army he had been forced to join.

Only Alexandra had the courage to return to Kiev by train, load up her father’s back pay into suitcases, and cross back into Germany. By then, she was known to be fearless. She had served in the Crimea as a nurse when she was a teenager, then studied to be a dentist in Kiev. Her father had insisted that many of the prosperous Jewish families had daughters who were studying to be dentists. While studying, she had gone to St. Petersburg to live with an Aunt. She saw the first airplane to fly over St. Petersburg. She loved the museums and art galleries, and proved to be of such high intellectual ability that she had been invited to the palace to receive the medal that proclaimed her the best student in all of St. Petersburg. It was here that she met the Czar’s mother, Dowger Queen Maria, who served her chocolate and cookies. The Empress had been one of two sisters who were born in Denmark. When the Princess married the Russian Czar Alexander, she took the name Marie and joined the Russian Orthodox Church. During her short visit with Alexandra, Marie fell in love with this bright girl. Later, when Alexandra was engaged, she sent her five hundred rubles for a trousseau.

The life in Russia, as daughter of a General, suited her inquisitive nature. She enjoyed the social life, and as a child, liked to play military games while her cousin, Latoshinsky, sat dreaming at his piano. When she escaped to Germany, her cousin stayed on, and became a protected “pet” of Stalin’s and was allowed to live in his safe refuge to compose music. In later years we found his music manuscripts and orchestral renditions on long play records.

When Alexandra arrived in Germany, she completed her dentistry degree, married Herman Dabbert, and together with her parents, left for Ethiopia. Her diamonds were used for security, as they would be in her other miraculous escapes. Herman Dabbert was in his element exploring Ethiopia, writing his thesis on the stone churches of Lalabela, which had been carved out of the mountains in the North. He was gone more than he was at home in Addis, and they eventually had a peaceful divorce. Meantime, Alexandra supported the family with her practice of dentistry. She added elegance to the primitive capitol city along with style, wit, and friendship. She immediately became friends with my parents. They all took a vacation in Djibouti in French Somaliland. This was in 1925 and it was a good to leave the high altitude, even if it meant the blazing heat of the seaport.

On one of their first days in Djibouti, they wandered into a section of the city where the old wind-up phonographs were playing loud dance music and native girls were standing in the doorways. A girl had run out, wrapped her “shama” around my father, and pulled him into the doorway. The servants began to call out in a loud voice, “Let him go. He is a holy man.” This was repeated until my father was released. He tells us now that he never remembered this happening, but we choose to believe Auntie Alex.

Auntie Alex practiced dentistry in her home in Addis. Among her clients were most of the foreigners and many of the nobility. She says she always had confidence in the persons who were recommended by my father, as they always paid. She soon developed a technique for taking care of persons who she suspected would be “deadbeats” She would clean only half of the teeth until payment was made, then complete the job. After 1930, when Haile Selassie had been crowned Emperor, Auntie Alex became the dentist for the royal family. She carried her dental tools on the back of her horse when she went to the palace. She was an excellent equestrian, and loved her horses since she was a little girl in Russia. Verena reported that Auntie Alex would have the servants bring her favorite horse into the kitchen for her to examine. When she began painting the traditional mosaic style Russian icons, she placed many of her saints on horses.

While my parents were in Addis Alem, Auntie Alex would ride horseback to visit. In 1926, she brought a picnic lunch for her guests under the trees on the Addis Alem grounds. Her among her guests was a Rothschild banker from France, and one of his bank executives. It seemed that there had been a divorce, and what was needed to sooth the upset was a voyage in the Rothschild yacht to Djibouti, then up to the capitol city of Addis by train. Auntie Alex then took over the entertainment, and she never allowed any escape from enjoyment. At one time, when she had filled all her beds with guests, she slept on her billiard table. This had great advantage because she was surrounded with bookshelves. She was fluent in Russian, French and German. Now she learned Amharic, and would later read and speak Italian and Spanish. Her most recent language, English, she confessed, is the “garden variety.” But nothing stops her reading and annotating margins of books in all the above languages.

While she was raising her son in Ethiopia, she began painting beautiful traditional Russian icons. Previously she had been acclaimed for her landscapes and had earned pocket money in St Petersburg by painting the “pesankes” or wooden eggs. Her dentistry and art would make her ingeniously able to go from Europe to Africa, to Italy to Peru and later to California.

Auntie Alex has one son, Olec or Olegard, born in Ethiopia. When Olec was a little boy, she was determined to find a companion for him. The man who cared for the horses had a son, Tafara, who was Olec’s age. Tafara proved to be another example of Auntie Alex’s good taste. He went to school with Olec, learned foreign languages, studied in Canada, and became the banker for the Emperor. Tafara was jailed by the Communists but remained in good spirits in spite of the seven and a half years of severe treatment. Upon release he became Banker for the King of Swaziland. He and Olec continued to share the excitement of safaris and other adventure trips.

During the Italian occupation, Auntie Alex stayed in Ethiopia and continued her dental practice. She was well known as the dentist for the government railroad personnel. After her divorce, she had married an Italian officer. Our family bid her farewell in 1939, little knowing that our father would be asked to return in 1941. The English had driven out the Italians, and my father went back for three years to regain possession of the schools and hospital properties that were scattered throughout Ethiopia. He had been the one who established them many years before and was again staffing each one. In 1941, Auntie Alex was also looking for help in securing her paintings and jewels. She had been “deported” along with Olec and her parents. She as sent to Italy and her Italian husband ended up in a camp in India.

Her paintings had been commissioned to Dr. Lambie, doctor at the Presbyterian Hospital in Addis. She gave my father her jewels for safekeeping. Her jewels were eventually returned to her. Dr. Lambie told her that her landscapes had been confiscated. She was later told by a friend, “How I enjoyed seeing your paintings on the walls of the hospital.” When Auntie Alex wrote to Dr. Lambie, who was in Jerusalem at the time, his reply was, “You should not be so concerned with things of this world. You should be more concerned with things of heaven.”

When the Italians occupied Ethiopia, they summarily sent all Germans and citizens of “unfriendly nations” out of the country. This was the fate of the Hessel family. They were not allowed to take any belongings, or to notify anyone of their plight. Since there was no mail or phone, it was many weeks before their sad story was known.

Our family was not asked to leave because we were Americans, otherwise known as “The White Ethiopians.” When my father returned to Ethiopia, Mr. Hessel was in Palestine and asked for his dishes to be sent to him. Balle Neilsen and my father sent the dishes, as requested. The dishes arrived in thousands of pieces, and there were no more requests from other refugees. It was my mother who had the skill of packing.

Auntie Alex always showed great humor in time of disaster, and had keen insight into human nature. She was “the eighth wonder of the world.”

The Fladds

In 1922, the ship bringing my parents through the Mediterranean to Djibouti had a honeymoon couple on board. I think they got on the ship in Alexandria, Egypt. Because the tropical heat was intense, the two young couples spent many hours visiting while sitting in deck chairs.

While they visited, my father was fascinated by a story told to him by the young Mr. Fladd. He was born in Ethiopia and spent years with his parents and siblings imprisoned in Magdella. In 1863, Emperor Theodore of Abyssinia had imprisoned all the foreigners in his country. They were placed in cruel shackles in the Fort of Magdella. Not only was the fort escape proof, located as it was on top of a mountain, but should any prisoner break out of the fort, sheer escarpments and deep gorges prevented escape.

King Theodore was cruel and vindictive even to his own people. The reason he had turned against the foreigners was clear only to him. He had wished for recognition from Queen Victoria in England, and had sent a letter to her by way of Vice-Counsel Cameron. When there was no letter in response, he felt rebuffed and took revenge on hapless foreigners. Later, when the Queen sent equipment to a port south of Massawah, it was hoped that he would free the prisoners. However, the exchange was never made, and the prisoners remained in the Fort, many barefoot and freezing. Martin Fladd, his wife and children and baby, survived, but they had no way of communicating with the outside world except for the Vice-Counsel Cameron.

The decision was made in England that only armed intervention could free the prisoners. Lord William Napier headed the British rescue forces. He was in charge of an Indian army that included elephants. News of this invasion brought terror to King Theodore. As Lord Napier and the elephants ascended the mountain, King Theodore declared his great joy to see them coming, and the prisoners were released.

The Fladd family returned to Germany. The infant had grown to manhood and married one of the daughters of the wealthy Swiss Nestle’s chocolate family. The honeymoon couple was returning to Fort Magdella as tourists.