Dear Mother & Daddy,
"Happy birthday, Mother. I hope you have your package by now.
I promised you a letter about our trip so I'll start at the very beginning. It was cloudy and drizzly the morning of March 22 but no one cared. We had gone to a class session a few nights before & had met all the students that were going. B had an 8:00 class Wed. morning so the kids & I locked the house up & drove to the lot where the bus was loading. B came there from class so we drove out right after the bus. We took lunch with us that day & ate in the car to make time. The students ate lunch in a park in Effingham but we stopped to talk only a minute & went on to Nashville, Tennessee. We ate breakfast with the group the next morning & then drove out to see Andrew Jackson's home, the Hermitage. It's a beautiful place but the bus didn't go there. They went to the Parthenon (a copy of the Greek) & saw the exhibit of marble work & paintings.
We just drove around it & caught up with the bus in Monteagle, Tenn. for lunch. This town is right on top of a mt. Bob & Ann got on the bus then & we took students with us to Lookout Mt. from which you can see 7 states.
The day was dreary but our pictures came out all right. You can see the whole city of Chattanooga below you & this is all Civil War country. We even saw a Confederate flag flying beside the U.S. flag in front of the Post Office. I really felt like a Yankee before we got to Florida. We stayed in Atlanta, Georgia that night & drove an hr. the next morning before breakfast. Everywhere we went the people were waiting for us & glad to see us.
That afternoon we went to the Okefenokee Swamp & took boat trips back in the swamp. It is full of wildlife of all kinds--birds, snakes, alligators & others. The trees are full of Spanish Moss & it was all kind of creepy but beautiful.
The Suwannee River starts in this swamp.
It was so interesting I'd like to spend a whole day there but we went on to St. Augustine, Florida. It was almost 9:00 P.M. when we got there but we went on a tour thru a wax museum that was very good. The people kept the place open for us. It was still sort of chilly but the people at our motel had the swimming pool ready for the kids & a lot of them went swimming, including our own. It didn't hurt them a bit but I almost froze watching.
We are on March 25th now & spent that morning seeing St. Augustine which is the oldest white settlement in America. It was here that Ponce De Leon thought he'd found the fountain of youth. The spring is still there & marked with a stone cross he made. All of us had a drink from it but we were disgusted because we couldn't dip the water out of the spring ourselves. A big covered pavilion is in the center of town where slaves were auctioned off. Now the old men play checkers there--a much better use for the place, I'd say.
We went on to Marineland which is much like the one we saw in Calif. & on to Daytona Beach where we had a picnic right on the beach.
By now the sun was wonderful & the kids couldn't stay out of the water. Most of them had wet pant legs & shirt tails in just a few minutes. They were dry, though, by the time we got to Cape Canaveral. We stopped here at the Indian River Fruit Co. where we bought the fruit for you. These people had a welcome sign out for us & gave us all the orange juice we could drink.
Then the man cut up grapefruit (the biggest ones I've ever seen in my life) for us. It was sweet--not bitter like we get them. Before we left they gave the students all little souvenirs & had a gift for me, Mrs. Brown (the wife of our teacher) & the bus driver's wife. They were salt & pepper shakers.
We stayed in Miami that night & flew to the Bahamas the next morning. It just takes an hour to fly the 200 miles. It was beautiful flying & we could see the islands & the shallow spots in the ocean.
The airport is quite a ways from Nassau so it took us a while to go thru customs & get into Nassau by taxi.
Everyone went to church the first thing. There were 4 (Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian & Church of England) but we chose to go to the Church of Eng. It was high mass and in English (not Latin like Catholics) & interesting.
After lunch we took a walk as a group to see part of the city & then went out in 2 glass bottomed boats to the Sea Garden. The water is clear as daylight so you can see all the fish & plants. The students and kids went skin diving with an aqualung but they didn't get very many shells this way because it is so hard to get to the bottom in the salt water. Bob was disappointed that he couldn't get down deep but he kept floating to the top.
That night we took another long walk thru the native quarters of the city & were up early the next morning to walk again. We went thru an old fort & then to a tropical garden. The man who owns it is a botanist & told us so many interesting things. He gave me a hybrid hibiscus that was one of the prettiest flowers I ever saw. I wore it on my dress all day.
He also has a flock of trained flamingos that do military marching. They were fun to see.
That afternoon we shopped around. We didn't buy much of anything but we sure saw a lot. There were china shops & liquor stores galore. Bob & I bought some shells & a piece of coral & I got some coral beads. After supper that night we all (all 34 of us) went to a night club to see some native dancing & hear some native music. We bought a record of their music & sometime in here (I'm sort of mixed up by now) we had a beach picnic.
The next night we stayed in Panacea, Florida. One of the cottages had a kitchen so we all gathered there & some of the girls cooked breakfast. All of us did a bit & it is surprising how fast bacon & eggs, toast & coffee can be made for 34 people. The people here were like grandparents to the kids & all of us had a good time in that motel. Florida State University has a marine laboratory near there so we spent a lot of time there. One of the professors stayed with us to point out things in the water & used a net to bring in things to show us.
Each person had a big jar to put things in so we have 2 smelly jars of stuff in our basement that haven't been cleaned yet.
Our family left the group early & went into Tallahassee to see some friends. They were our next door neighbors in Japan. Their girls are in college there now & the parents plan to go back to Japan & leave the girls here to finish school.
We headed north the next day & it began to get rainy. We drove past Helen Keller's birthplace but didn't have time to go thru it. Our last night was in Jackson, Tenn. & we had a big banquet in the hotel. Everyone was sad the trip was over for we had all had a wonderful time. It was about 30° the next night when we got home & we just about froze at first. The kids on the bus had only sweaters & raincoats so they were cold. Their parents were waiting for them when the bus arrived though, so it didn't take long for everyone to be headed home.
Today is a beautiful day but it's cold. I can't wait for warm weather. My house is so dirty I wonder if I'll ever get it cleaned. I must stop & ice a cake for our church carnival. If there weren't so many things like that to do I'd have more time for my own house.
Hope you both are fine."
Lots of love,
NOTE: As for the skin diving, in spite of the fact that most of us merely bobbed around near the surface, we received our "certification" in the form of membership in the Neptune Society. Bob has since become an enthusiastic scuba diver and explorer, filming coral reefs and marine life...so he finally has made it to the bottom! As for the marching flamingos, I naively volunteered to be part of demonstrating how tame, trained flamingos responded to verbal commands. On cue, the flock bolted toward me, stopping just in time, also on cue. I thought I might faint.
Below, take a minute to hear a bit of the record of The Eloise Trio, playing on Dad's old turntable.