Happily Ever After
I don’t remember a whole lot about the trip back to London and even in Paris for I couldn’t stop thinking about this girl, I really liked her, but I wasn’t sure if she liked me. She grew up in a very cultured environment going to the theater, ballets, and musical concerts. She had been exposed to art, literature and entertainment from around the world.
Edinburgh is a beautiful city with world renowned entertainment, architecture, history, museums, art galleries and gardens. What could I offer her when I was in the Air Force and did not know what kind of a job I would get when I got out of the Service?
I was a country boy, raised on a farm with 10 brothers and sisters. I had never been to a play or a concert in my life and did not know anything about the history of Scotland and England that she kept talking about. I only recognized country music and knew nothing about Puccini, Rossini or Tchaikovsky and as far as Degas, Monet and DaVinci were concerned they could be football players for all I knew.
Getting back to Toule Air Force Base in Northwestern France is all a blur, I am sure I saw a lot of wonderful things in London and Paris, but I just could not stop thinking about the cute little Scottish girl who had stolen my heart while I tramped all over Edinburgh.
I did write to her as soon as possible, but I never got a reply. I said to myself “Well, you blew it”
What the heck did I do or say – she just disappeared. I still thought – she really liked me – was there a chance there was some mistake I could fix?
Nah, she’s not interested - I’ll just buy my Renault and have that when I get back to the states.
My buddies at the base kept telling me – “Go back” and “What do you have to lose”
All the letters I wrote I sent to the name and address I was given and I wrote quite a few, but I didn’ get a reply and I checked mail call every day.
I became obsessed, I thought if I don’t see her again, I’ll never know.
Eureka! A letter arrived from Scotland! This was about a month after I got back to France. I wondered why she took so long to answer my letters. One of the guys in my bay collected stamps and he noticed the postage on the letter from Scotland was not Air Mail and he pointed that out to me. I asked him if that would make a difference. He said it costs more to send Air Mail and I realized I had not sent my letters Airmail either. This might explain the delay in our correspondence.
In August I flew back to Edinburgh on TWA on a new Constellation Aircraft made by Lockheed Aircraft – not on a MATS flight.
I wanted to be sure I got there in a minimum amount of time as I had a definite purpose for this trip.
I booked myself into the iconic North British Hotel (now called The Balmoral) which sits right on top of the Waverley Railway Station. They even had an elevator to take guests from the railway station level up into the hotel with their luggage. This time when I arrived in Edinburgh it was at Turnhouse Airport which was about a 20-minute taxi ride to the North British Hotel.
It’s a very impressive, ornate building with a huge clock tower; it is close to everything in Edinburgh with the Castle on one side and the historic area on the other side.
The hotel was a short walk to the medieval part of the city and up to the Castle. It is the best situated hotel in Edinburgh for access to Princes Street, the shops and the Gardens and the Old Town. I thought I had done very well to get a room there, especially since Edinburgh was right in the middle of The Edinburgh International Festival of Music and Drama when the town is full to bursting with tourists from all over the world.
I called to let Dorothy know I was in Edinburgh. It took her a few minutes for her to realize who I was. She told me later she never thought I would really come back. I am sure she had to make some changes to her schedule to fit in some time with me.
The first thing she said was “How much are you paying per night for this hotel?”
She knew it would be expensive and the next thing was “That is way too expensive. We’ve got to get you out of there; we’ll find a nice clean Bed and Breakfast”
I didn’t really know what she meant, I had never heard of Bed and Breakfast, but I was in for a pleasant surprise.
The Edinburgh Evening News had the listings and the advertisements for B. & B.’s and after making enquires we trailed (still walk, walk, walking) all over central Edinburgh until she found a B. & B. that was “Clean and didn’t smell like wet dogs”.
I still didn’t fully appreciate the true frugal nature of the Scottish people. While we were walking around the streets, going up and down stairs, in and out of these B. & B.’s and checking out the accommodations I saw a lot more of this lovely city. A lot of the houses are quite small, but nearly all had little gardens with well tended flower beds in front with some of the biggest roses I have ever seen.
People in Edinburgh do speak with a Scottish accent, but I really never had a problem understanding what everyone was saying. It was mostly the British English terms that are so different from American English that were confusing. For example I put a call through from my hotel room and the switchboard operator asked me “Are you through sir? In Britain when you are not “through” that means you are not connected- that the call did not go through. I told her no, I was not through – meaning I was not finished with my call. The operator told me to hold the line please and proceeded to disconnect my call and re-dial the number. This was very frustrating and it took a long time before I realized what was going on.
The B. & B. I stayed in was run by a Mrs. McInnis and was a lovely clean, what I would call, apartment. I had breakfast with the family every day and every day we had something strange to eat. Eggs served with black pudding, tomatoes, baked beans and mushrooms is something I had never seen before, but the food that really floored me was the smelly fish that they called “kippers”.
I must say I tried everything because I knew Dorothy would ask me if I ate my breakfast – she wanted to make sure I got my money’s worth. The rate was 12/6d per night and at that time that was about $1.50.
“Tea” in Britain is not a cup of tea. When I was invited to Dorothy’s home for tea I went to a restaurant and had a good meal on the way there because I don’t like hot tea. I discovered that “Tea” in Scotland is a full evening meal!
The average family in Britain had to be very careful with grocery shopping. Housewives shopped every day at the butcher, the fishmonger, the baker, the ironmonger and the dairy buying only what the family needed for one or two days.
No one had a refrigerator and it would be too expensive to buy for a week. On top of that the average kitchen did not have much storage space. In 1958 things were getting better, but people still were very careful how they shopped for food; a habit learned during the war when food was scarce and everything was rationed. In Britain, even as late as 1953, food was still rationed.
During our meal Dorothy’s older brother did not talk to me at all. When her sister came in later and I was introduced to her, she unplugged her radio, picked it up, said “hello” and walked out of the room. I also met her cousin and his wife and he took me out into the garden to have “A Talk” and proceeded to tell me he didn’t much like the idea of his cousin going out with a man she barely knew and a foreigner to boot.
I knew I wanted to marry this Scottish lassie. There were many differences in our culture and education, but I knew she was a Protestant like me, she was sincere, and she seemed to be very sensible and independent. She was quiet and polite, did not dress flamboyantly and didn’t wear a lot of makeup. My buddy thought her a bit dowdy, but I thought she was beautiful.
I only waited about a week to see if Dorothy felt the way I did. We had been at a play that evening and afterwards when we were back in their parlour I got up the nerve to ask the big question.
I said “How would you like to come to America and marry me”.
“I know we haven’t known each other very long”.”
Is this too sudden?”
“I don’t want to risk losing you again”.
“Do you need to think about all this or talk to your folks?”
I didn’t know I could make that much of a speech and I was surprised I got it all out without stuttering and stumbling over my words. I had rehearsed and rehearsed, and I am still not sure it came out right.
Dorothy got up from the sofa and walked over to the big, black marble fireplace, turned around and said “I I don’t think I need to think about it. You would not have come all this way and spent all this money if you weren’t serious.”
“I don’t need to talk to anyone; I have been on my own since I was 16 working and living at the Roxburghe Hotel,
“I only have myself to consider”.
“My own feelings for you, which I didn’t dare hope, are the same as yours so “Yes”
No one in her family was happy about our news at all, except her cousin’s wife. She had been with Dorothy in the Manhattan Cafe the day she asked if I had found a hotel, and she acted like she liked me very much.
The Edinburgh International Festival of Music and Drama is held in Edinburgh in August and September. It is an exciting time to be in Edinburgh. The town is decorated everywhere with flowers and flags. The whole city is cleaned up and full of tourists from many different parts of the world.
There is such an atmosphere of happy anticipation. The tourists are hoping all the venues will be as good as promised and the citizens are hoping the Festival will be a success.
Back in 1958 everyone who visited Edinburgh would have been so surprised by the sights and sounds of the city with the ancient castle dominating the skyline towering over beautiful Princes Street Gardens and elegant Princes Street. The gardens are always filled with gorgeous flowers, but at this time the gardens and parks were at their finest.
The performances, exhibitions and venues for the Festival are so very varied and so many you had better study every option thoroughly weeks before you try to attend anything. There are symphonic concerts, operas, ballets, art exhibits and guest bands and orchestras from all over the world.
I wanted to make certain Dorothy was sure about her decision and I had to find out what happened when she disappeared from the restaurant back in May.
When I brought it up she told me that she was beginning to really like me, but also knew that it would be very silly to form an attachment to an American Serviceman who was in Edinburgh on holiday. Someone at the hotel had told her I had been seen on Princes Street with two other girls. I had kept telling her I was leaving and then did not leave.
Most young men in Scotland did not have so much money that they could take foreign flights, stay in hotels and eat in restaurants as much as they wanted. The whole scenario was very suspicious. I told her I was going to come back, but she did not believe that at all and therefore it would be better to break this off completely.
The last straw was when I did not wait for her outside the restrooms. When she said she was going to “The Ladies” I don’t think I knew what she was talking about. I had gone back to the table and when she came out of the restroom she said she waited and waited for me, and I never showed so she left resolved to forget all about the ‘yank’ tourist.
When the Festival is on in Edinburgh the theaters, parks, churches, school gyms and even the streets have performances going on everywhere. In the middle of all this bustle we went up to George Street to an old-fashioned jeweler and chose a diamond engagement ring.
That night we celebrated our engagement by going to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. On the way up to the Castle for the performance we had dinner in The Beehive, which still is a very popular, very old restaurant situated in the historic heart of Edinburgh. It sits in the shadow of The Castle and boasts a history going back around 400 years. With a drinks license thought to have existed since it was a 16th Century coaching inn, the present building replaced The Beehive Hotel in the 1860’s
The Military Tattoo is such a unique, emotion evoking event. It is a display of several Scottish regimental bands in full Scottish Regalia. The bleacher type seating is in front of the castle which is in darkness at 9:00 pm. Everything starts with a lone bagpiper spotlighted in the ramparts of the castle and then dozens of Scotsmen all troop across the drawbridge playing the pipes and drums.
Different branches of the British military act out feats like abseiling down the castle rock or a demonstration of a naval sea rescue by ‘breeches buoy’ which is a canvas seat in the form of breeches hung from a life buoy running on a hawser and used to haul persons from one ship to another or from ship to shore.
In 1958 there was a Mock Battle between Spacemen and local Forces. The Spacemen were Cadets from the Parachute Regiment and the Local Forces were Cadets from the Royal Scots Greys.
It was so appropriate for me to see The Tattoo that year because the featured guest participant was A Rifle Drill Display by The United States Marines from the United States Marine Barracks, Washington DC, accompanied by their Drums and Bugles and by the Band from the United States Marine Corps.
Other bands performing that year were: The Royal Scots Greys, 1st Battalion of The Black Watch, 1st Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, Depot The Royal Scots and Lowland Brigade, Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas. There was a Combined Display of Piping and Highland Dancing by the Massed Pipes and Drums with teams from the Scottish Regiments.
After all the bands in their colourful uniforms have played, the Scottish dancers in kilts and sporrans have finished and the choirs have sung then the whole audience joins in a singsong. The song sheet is part of the souvenir programme so everyone can join in. Some of the tunes and songs were; Hands across the Sea, Skye Boat Song, Green Sleeves, Scotland the Brave, Stars and Stripes, The Star-Spangled Banner and We're no Awa' to Bide Awa' are so familiar so everyone was singing.
Everyone seemed to know the hymns too, like “Amazing Grace” led by the bagpipes. Of course there was “God Save the Queen” and the whole thing ended with everyone shaking hands and singing Auld Lang Sine.
The very last tune was played by one lone bagpiper with one spot light on him up in the ramparts closing the whole ceremony with a plaintive tune.
The chances of my ever meeting this lovely girl, all the steps it took to get me there in the first place and then to have glorious Edinburgh as the back drop to my bold excursion to woo and win the girl of my dreams is the stuff in romantic novels.
Dorothy’s mother, who was in Cyprus with her 2nd husband, had expressed her disapproval in no uncertain terms. “What do you mean you are going to marry a foreigner who is getting out of the military with no job and no home to go to whom you have only known for a couple of weeks”???? This meant her mother would not give her consent to Dorothy’s emigration to the USA and she would not sign any necessary forms she would need to emigrate as she was under 21. I did not have any idea how anyone got a visa and I didn’t see how she would ever qualify to emigrate to the U.S.A. with the quotas being what they are. I had to fly back to France to finish up my tour of duty in the U.S. Air Force and started enquiring about all the steps necessary to get Dorothy to the USA.
My own family was very skeptical about the relationship too. I used a lot of my savings to get airline tickets and travelers checks for Dorothy to come to the USA. My family kept saying that my girl would not come at all; she would just keep the money.
It took Dorothy several weeks and several visits to the U.S. Consulate in Edinburgh before she was given a tourist visa. She had to have a return trip airline ticket and $1,000.00 in travelers’ checks – enough to support her for three months. We had to provide a letter from my family inviting her to come to America for a three month visit then return to Scotland. The U.S. Consulate had to be provided with letters from her minister (pastor) and her doctor with character references. We needed a letter from her mother giving her consent to the journey and to the marriage and she had to have another smallpox vaccination. We believe she got the visa with the help of her employer who gave another character reference and verified that she had her job when she came back. This was not like it is today where you book your flights and off you go.
A few months later I went back to America, got a job in Chicago and Dorothy came over on 11 December 1958 and we were married on 27 December 1958.