Caracas - Harry Baya
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[Last updated May 12, 2020]

Chapter 6: Caracas

My family moved to England in the summer of 1950, or so, and we lived there till moving to Carlisle, Pennsylvania at the end of the summer of 1952.  My father attended the Army War College in Carlisle and we then moved to Monterey, California, in the summer of 1953, and lived there  for 6 months so that my father could learn Spanish at the Army Language school.   Early in 1954 we moved to Caracas, Venezuela. 

Most of my memories of Caracas are positive memories of one of the happiest parts of my life, and many of them are still fairly vivid.   I tried to capture the essence of those memories in a song I wrote for the first “Caracas Reunion” we had in the U.S…(Phoenix, Arizona, 2002).   Here are the words to that song:

Caracas Reunion Song – Harry Baya

Tell me, was it real,     though it seems like a dream
in the valley     by the mountains     by the sea
Where it was always spring    and our friends were all around
Kind universe   -    you were good to me

When we were all so young    in Caracas years ago
We could run,    we could swim,   we thought we'd fly
in a world filled with such magic,   and a future oh so bright,
it seemed as if we would never die


Bello Monte,  Campo Alegre,   las Mercedes,  El Rosal
Alta Mira,  Valle Arriba , El Bosque
los Caobos,  Petare,  Country Club,  La Guaira
and a long winding road to the sea


Warm summer nights   and parties by a pool
or in a home   of a dear or distant friend
Latin rhythms,   50's songs,    how I loved the hit parade
how could we know that it would someday end


did you climb Naiguata,  did you swim in the sea
did you dive,    did you bowl,   did you skate
it was magic,   Camelot,   and a world of living dreams
and the rest of life would just have to wait


Where we first fell in love,   where first our hearts did break
and the boys were quick and strong   and girls were fare
with a beauty that smolders still,    when I look into their eyes
ahh such wonder,      such good times, we did share
This is a link to a recording of that song

[ Related file : caracas_song_recording.mp3  ]

My life in Caracas began with the Santa Rosa docking in La Guaira.  However, before I start telling about specific experiences, I want to give some of the context of that experience.

Caracas is in a valley running from more or less east to west at an elevation of 3000 feet above sea level.  The North side of the valley is a range of mountains that are part of the Andes.  The highest mountain in that range is Naiguata with a peak at 9000 feet above sea level.  This mountain range separated the Caracas valley from the coast line. The coast line  also running more or less East to West, like the the Caracas valley.  Though the coast of Venezuela is probably less than 30 miles from Caracas, this mountain range makes access to the coast very difficult. 

The coast of Venezuela, where the port city of La Guaira is located, is close enough to the equator to make it fairly warm all year long .  That area is hot, humid, and tropical.  In contrast, the Caracas valley, with it’s 3000 foot elevation, is far more pleasant.  Caracas is sometimes called the city of eternal spring.

When we arrived in Venezuela in 1954 the country was ruled by President Perez Jiminez, who had become president, though never legally elected, in 1952.

From Wikipedia:

Marcos Evangelista Pérez Jiménez (25 April 1914 – 20 September 2001) was a Venezuelan military and general officer of the Army of Venezuela and the President of Venezuela from 1952 to 1958.

His ruling period is characterized by marked improvement in development, with the rise of oil prices facilitating many public works achievements. Political and economic stability, along with the completion of ambitious public works and the rapid development of industries such as hydroelectricity, mining, and steel. He instituted programs to eradicate many of Venezuela's rapidly growing slums, commissioning public housing projects to improve the living conditions of the poor. Pérez Jiménez was also responsible for the modernization of the military and the nation enjoyed a period of high prosperity and social tranquility. Despite such social advances, however, he presided over one of the most repressive governments in Latin America. His government's National Security (Seguridad Nacional) was very repressive against critics and imprisoned those who opposed his rule.

When we got off the ship in LaGuaira we were met by car and driver from the U.S. Army mission to Venezuela and driven to the Venezuelan officer’s club (Circulo Militar) for a few days before moving to our “vacation home” where we would live for two months or so.  Interestingly the only road up to Caracas at that time was a winding two lane highway through the mountains and the trip took around 2 hours (all this is from memory).  However, on the way we saw that there was a lot of construction going on near the road; bridges, tunnels, new highway.  Within a year or two after we arrived the “Autopista” connecting Caracas to LaGuaira was completed and the trip then took well under and hour – all on a highway comparable to U.S. Interstate highways.  This was one of the many public works of Perez Jiminez’s government.

Families moving to Caracas, including the families of members of the U.S. Army mission, usually move into a furnished home that is available  because American families working for the American oil companies in Venezuela (especially Creole/Standard Oil, the largest presence in the country) would often return to the states for two to three month vacations every two or three years. 

Most of the U.S. citizens living in Caracas, and many of the wealthier families of other foreigners lived in the Eastern end of Caracas.  This included the neighborhoods of Las Mercedes, Alta Mira, Country Club, Valle Ariba, and El Rosal.  Most of my friends, and the main English speaking grade school and high school, were also in this area.

We lived in our vacation home for several months and my recall is that I was there at least a few weeks before starting school.  I knew no one and remember relaxing in the large comfortable one floor house.  The owner had a collection of big band records (Glen Miller, Stan Kenton,  Guy Lombardo, etc.) and I enjoyed my first exposure to this kind of music.  I also remember watching the fast little lizards skittering across the gravel driveway.  Everything was new and interesting to me.

My parents eventually chose a house in El Rosal.  As in England, houses had names as well numbers.  Our house was called “Quinta Taguay” and was, I think, #33 Avenida Venezuela.   We were located only two blocks from Sabana Grande, one of the main shopping streets in the area.  At the West  end of our block was Avenida Las Merceds which ran South to the Guaire river (often barely a stream)into the Las Mercedes neighborhood and ended at the Hotel Tamanaco about two miles away. 

The lot on our East side was on the corner of the block and was occupied by commercial flower garden, was filled with beautiful colorful flowers and a number of parrots.  Very tropical.  

The house was on one floor, had four bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, a work area and a maid’s room.  The bedrooms were paired with a bathroom between each pair.  There was also a bathroom near the maid’s room.  There was good sized one car garage along the back of the house.  However, the most distinguishing feature of the house, and the one that most endeared it to me, was the fact the center of the house, with rooms or walls on all four sides, was an open patio about 30 feet by 15 feet.  The patio had a small square pond in the center.  The pond was about 5 feet by 4 feet, was painted a light blue, and had a small fountain in the center there were also some bushes or small trees in the patio.  Along the left side of the patio was a covered walkway, with some chairs and a bar.  I loved sitting in the walkway in a rain storm.

We had several maids who lived in the house during the time we were there.  The one there the longest was Elizabeth.  She was from Hungary and had a young son, maybe 8 who lived with her, and a teenage son who would sometimes visit.  She was kind of a second mother in some ways, especially for meals when mother was out and we became friends.   We talked in Spanish and I suspect that this was an important part of my learning to speak Spanish.  The U.S. Army tested me as fluent in Spanish, but I was far from that.  I had considerable difficulty reading a Spanish newspaper.  I got along well with her younger son, Victor, and barely knew the older one. 

There were two main English speaking schools in Caracas.  Campo Alegre went from first grade through 9th grade.  Colegio Americano (also known by its location name “Bello Monte”) went from 9th grade through senior year of high school, 12th grade. 

I had completed the first half of 9th grade in Monterey and could have been enrolled in either school.  My sister, Madge, was a year ahead of me in school and would be attending Colegio Americano.  For whatever the reason I was enrolled in Colegio Americano rather than Campo Alegre.

This was a significant choice.  It turned out that the 9th grade class in Campo Alegre contained at least 30 students ( I do not have an accurate list) and that many of these students had  been together in that school for many years, some of them starting with first grade.  The 9th grade kids were my age and in my grade.  Some of them would end up in the 10th grade at Colegio Americano with me.  Many would go back to the states to attend boarding schools and would return to Caracas in the summers, and even for Christmas vacation.  I would always be an outsider to most of these kids.  Had I gone to that school for the second half of my freshman high school year I would probably have been significantly more a part of their community.  There were 30 or more kids in the 9th grade that year at Campo Alegre but less than 10 at Colegio Americano.

Though Colegio Americano 9th grade class was very small.  The yearbook lists 9 members of the class, but did not include me.  Though I think Madge and I were there for the entire spring   semester of 1954, we were not included anywhere in the yearbook.  I guess they took the pictures in the fall.  Daniel Peters and Arthur Tuller were in the freshmen class and were friends of mine through graduation in 1957.  I have copies of the school yearbooks from 1954 through 1957 and looking through these evokes a lot of memories.

About Writing this :

I am aware that I can be verbose and boring. Though I consciously intend to minimize this, this sentence shows that I often fail.  Also, this particular reflection may fail that test.  I was thinking about my target audience for this writing.  The obvious ones are my sons and grandsons.  However, I don’t think they will be especially interested in these memories. Then there are my grandchildren and, if ever, future descendants.

It occurs to me that for most readers, including the above, this will be like an article in a magazine or a book in that it’s either interesting in itself, regardless of who wrote it, or it’s not.  Given that perspective I will do what I can to (a) include only memories that I think could be interesting to others and (b) try to write them to be as interesting as possible.   A significant aspect of this for me will be in having some success in being concise, in being as brief as possible, and to focus on the more interesting aspects of whatever I am writing about rather than potentially boring detail.

I realize that part of my goal here is to write material that might be interesting reading to many readers, perhaps even publishable.  It’s not so much that I expect there to be many readers or that anything I write will ever be published.  Rather it is that I think that having these as goals will shape my writing and make it more interesting to whoever does read it.   So be it!

Though my growing up from age 14 when I arrived in Caracas to age 18 (I turned 19 a few weeks after leaving Caracas) was a time of much change in my perspective and psyche I do not recall the years distinctly and the following will be more a somewhat random collection of vignettes rather than a timeline of events

Colegio Americano

My time in Caracas was distinctly divided between the school year and the summers.  The difference between the two was emphasized by the fact that the population of kids of high-school age in our English speaking community was about double in the summer due to the many kids who were prep school in the U.S. and returned to spend summers with their family.  The memories below relate to the school year.

Colegio Americano was a Presbyterian Mission school that I assume was supervised by the Presbyterian church.  The part of the school Madge and I were in was taught in English and had the equivalent of U.S. high school grades 9 through 12.  The other part of the school was taught in Spanish had both children our age and younger children.  There was very little interaction between the two schools.

Most of the students in the English speaking school lived in the Eastern part of Caracas (the Las Mercedes area and nearby neighborhoods).  This was fairly flat land in a large valley.  Colegio Americano was a mile or two West of this area and, oddly, was on the top of hill. The hill was  called “Bello Monte” ( Beautiful Mountain).  The school grounds covered the flat top of the hill, probably 2 or 3 acres, and was roughly 150 feet higher than the surrounding area.  This was the only hill anything like this in that part of the city and it gave us a kind of isolated, island like, feel.  I felt separated from the surrounding neighborhood.  We were an English speaking community clearly apart from the surrounding neighborhood, which I would call a lower middle class area.

There were roughly 100 students in our school.  The three upper classes each consisted of 25 to 30 students, and the 9th grades was smaller, maybe 10 to 15 students.   Though we all spoke English the students belonged to two somewhat distinct social groups.  The smaller group, perhaps 1/3rd of the students were native Venezuelans who, in general, did not participate in non-academic activities like sports, the school newspaper, the yearbook, school plays etc.  I think most of them were sent to the English speaking school to prepare them to go to college in the U.S.  Some were fairly wealthy.

The other two thirds, about 70 students, were a mix of U.S. citizens and a variety of other nationalities.  The U.S. citizens were the children of employees of U.S. firms like ESSO ( AKA Standard Oil, and known in Venzuela as Creole), and children of the U.S. government employees ( including U.S. missions from the  Army, Airforce and Navy).  The other nationalities were varied and included many families that had immigrated to Venezuela from Europe, some because of WWII.  Also, some native Venezuelans chose to be part of this community.  I remember friends who were Italian, Polish, German, Dutch, French, British and Arabic.

These 70 or so students were my social community.  We had parties together and participated in school government, sports and other activities.  These were my friends.  Though the school was nominally Presbyterian it was not particularly religious.  We had Chapel services several times a week, and sang hymns in the services.  I, and a number of others, were Catholic. I now know that several of the families with children in our school were Jewish.  I don’t recall that any of us had any reason to care about what church our friends belonged to.

The classes were relatively small, rarely more than 20 students, and sometimes as small as 12.  I now realize that the teachers were, in general, superb.  There were about 10 full time teachers ( I will look in the yearbooks to see how far off I am on this) and at least 4 of them were the American wives of U.S. families in Venezuela.  I think there were probably no professional jobs available to these women in the Venezuelan economy.   For that matter, this was the mid 1950’s and even in the U.S. especially bright women had few opportunities other that teaching and nursing.  I think these women were especially intelligent and competent teachers.

My teacher for almost all the Math and Science courses was Richard Brian.  He was in his mid 20’s and, I discovered, prepared me well for my freshman year at M.I.T.  He and I roomed together at one of the Caracas reunions around 2002 and I found that he had gone on to get a PHD and taught in college for many years.  Though I respected him as my teacher, I came to realize that he was more than that and I continue to think of him as a mentor.  I am still in touch with him at this writing (spring 2020).

I very much enjoyed my years at Colegio Americano.   I did well academically and was valedictorian of my graduating class.  I was president of my class in my Sophomore and Junior years, was in numerous school plays,  belonged to clubs (like the bowling club), and played sports with my friends.  The only team we had the played with any regularity was basketball. 

I played basketball every year but was not a starter till my senior year.  I was not a particularly good player, but I enjoyed the game.  We often played pickup games on weekends and more often than that during the summer.  In my junior year I tore a cartilage in my knee during a pickup game and had to stop playing   I was healed enough to play in my Senior year and, by chance, was the tallest player on the team by an inch or two.  All of our opponents were Venezuelan teams and they were, in general, even weaker players than we were.  Most Venezuelans are shorter than we are and I was usually, perhaps always, the tallest player in the game.   This helped me a lot. I played center, stayed near the basket. got a lot rebounds, and made a lot of easy up close shots,  I was often the high scorer on our team with, maybe, 14 or so points.  . 

At the time I thought I might be an above average high-school basketball player.  College told me a different story.  I soon realized that I had been lucky to be on a high school team where I got to play.  Had I been in the U.S. I probably would not have qualified for the Junior Varsity team in High school. 

When I got to college I was a little shocked to find that even with my years of experience and, at 5’ 11” above average height in our fraternity, I was a 3rd string player and sometimes did not get into the game at all, even in my senior year.  .  There were about 30 of us in the fraternity.  Maybe 15 members showed up for intra-mural game… and I was still one of the weakest players.  My knee was repaired in the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college. 

I got along well with my classmates in high school, had crushes on many of the cute girls, especially a few in my sister’s class, and enjoyed friendships with girls and boys.  However, except for a brief romance in my senior year I did not date and was pretty naïve about that part of life.

As I write this I am reading novels by Jane Austen and occasionally see myself as if seen by her.  I note that along with a fair amount of self doubt I was basically fairly happy with myself in high school.  As I write this I want to be as objective as possible.  I did get outstanding grades, I did excel at things like school plays.  I was somewhat proud of these things but I don’t think I was arrogant or felt superior to my peers.  Perhaps I saw myself as “fine young man”, but I did not think I had done anything that made me particularly outstanding.  Certainly my 2nd class status in basketball until my senior year, and the fact that I was, it seemed to me, not particularly attractive to the girls, added to my humility.

I think a look at my experience with the “motorcycle” culture of my high school may help to understand my “humility”.  I should point out that at that time the minimum legal age for getting a license to drive a car in Venezuela was 21.  Though political pull could, and sometimes did, get around the restrictions I can only recall two Colegio Americano students who had a car.  Both were kind of loners.  (Claudia Jenkins and Gus Morton, an older boy).

When I began attending Colegio Americano I was one of a handful of freshman boys. A number of the older American (that is U.S. citizens, American culture) boys had motorcycles.  There was a kind of James Dean mentality.  The bigger your motorcycle, the greater your prestige.  The size of a motorcycle was measured by the size of its engine.   In those days a big bike had a 500cc engine.  It was not until my senior year that anyone I knew had a 650 cc bike.  George Eskinazi, a Junior, had a 500cc Matchless.  Terry O’neil, also a Junior, had a 350cc AJS.  John Pickering, who I eventually thought of as one of my best friends, had a 250cc BSA.   Others  (Fred Porter, Richard Taylor, and names I can’t recall) had bikes as from 200cc to 250cc.  No one had the smallest common motorcylese, 125cc.  No one in our school had a motor scooter during my freshman and sophomore years.

These were kind of the coolest guys in school and I was hardly on their radar at all. I was to attend another year (54-55) with the Juniors and two years with the sophomores (54-55, 55-56) and became friends with many of them.  However, I always felt kind of inferior and second class compared to the older boys with motorcycles.  Many of them were also on the basketball team.  I was a kind of admiring little brother to them and I did not get over feeling this way until I was a senior.  .  

I suppose this is somewhat the same experience that most young men going through the American high school system feel but I think it was stronger for me because the added factors of (1) joining the group later – many had been together in school for years,  (2) not having a motorcycle and (3) being a second rate basketball player.

In my defense I probably should mention that I probably had about 10 hours of experience playing basketball before I moved to Caracas.  I had been in U.S. schools the prior 1-1/2 years but I rode a school bus to school and did not play any school sports.  It happened that, so far as I know, no one played basketball in the neighborhood I lived in during that 1-1/2 year period.   Prior to that I had been in an English school in England  2-1/2 years.  In England I could feel inferior playing soccer rather than basketball.  Certainly that explains my inferiority to start with.  However, I had played a lot of hours of basketball by the time I was a Junior and Senior but still was a weak player who, in my senior year, did well only because I happened to be the tallest player in most games.  The two years ahead of me at Colegio Americano included several players who were significantly taller than I was.

Here are a few vignettes from my Caracas basketball experience..

During the basketball season we often had weekly games.  The most common venue was a court in a large public park known as Los Caobos.  It was at least 5 miles away and usually most, or even all, of the team, would get there by motorcycle.  Those with larger cycles would usually take a passenger.  Our coach, Mr. Brian for several years and Mr. Collins (I think) for my senior year, had a car and would also bring some of the team. 

One night I was a passenger on the back of Terry Oneil’s bike (an AJS 350cc) on our way to a game in Los Caobos.  We were on a long straight stretch of two lane road as we entered the park. It was dark.  Terry pulled out to pass a vehicle, possibly a truck, and, for whatever the reason, was not making much progress in passing.   We were in the lane facing the oncoming traffic.  There was a vehicle coming toward us and we could see its headlights getting larger.  I was looking over Terry’s shoulder and I could see that things were getting dicey fast.  I’m sure he had the throttle wide open but the bike was not accelerating fast enough to pass.  It ended up being what seemed like a very close call to both of us.  Terry pulled in front of the vehicle he was passing only seconds before the car going the other way went past.  We said nothing.

We got the park and played the game.  When it was time to go home I went over to Terry.  It was always the convention that if you took someone somewhere you would bring them back.  Terry said “No”.  He told me he had decided he would never take a passenger on him motorcycle again.  He was even more traumatized than I was.  I found another way home.

Another aspect of the team basketball games was that there was some cultural hostility from the Venezuelan teams toward our team.  I think some, maybe even all, of these teams were kind of local teams from relatively poor neighborhoods.  I think they saw us as the tall, richer, foreign white kids and there was a kind latin macho  behavior that would sometimes surface.  I ran into it several times over the years. 

The result was that occasionally fights would start between two players in a game.  These fights were always stopped immediately by the referees, coaches, and other players, but they did add a bit of spice to the game.  I was attacked several times because I was big and a little clumsy and would sometime whack a player with an elbow or a shoulder.  I did not do it intentionally but I the other player didn’t see it that way.  On at least one occasion this happened when several players were trying to rip the ball out of my hands.  I was angry and scared and would twist violently, bumping into people.

An odd part of it was that I often outweighed my attacker by 30 or more pounds.  However, it was a good thing the fight was stopped.  I had little experience with street fights and I think my attacker usually did.  I don’t recall that I ever backed down when confronted.

We would also play pick-up games on the court at the Campo Alegre school.  It was in easy bicycle distance from my house, and even walkable.  The kids we played with were students at either Colegio Americano or Campo Alegre.  They were from our culture.  We knew more or less when we would get together and I would drop by to see if I could play.  People would come and go during the time we played.  Sometimes we might have two full teams of 5 and play full court.  More often we had less.  A typical game was a ½ court game of 3 on 3.  We would play skins against shirts.  Shirts meant t-shirts. 

Though the weather was rarely hot in Caracas, playing basketball in 85 degree weather would mean sweat.  I recall two things about the sweat.  On one occasion I had either come to the court without a shirt, or perhaps I was not wearing a t-shirt.  When a player was not in the game they would wait on the side for the next opportunity – when someone wanted to take a break or had to leave.  On one such occasion I was waiting and was called in as a “shirt”.  I had to put on a t-shirt.  The only shirt available was someone elses shirt lying on the ground, soaked in sweat.   I hesitated for only a moment before, with some repulsion, putting it on and entering the game.

On another occasion I rode my bicycle home from the pickup game and went in to take a shower.  I took off my soaking wet t-shirt and through it against the wall and it stuck.  It was that wet.  I guess I was in decent shape in those days.

Here are some other Colegio Americano memories.

We had a chapel service at least once a week, maybe more.  The chapel was a little church building about 50 yards from the two classroom buildings. It had a stage with a curtain, and would seat, maybe 100 or so people.  The chapel was also used for school plays and for our graduation exercise.  It happened that we also had occasional night time club meetings in the chapel.

The chapel service usually consisted of Dr. Hamilton, the head of the school, or perhaps a minister or a teacher, reading something to us or giving a short talk, and all of us singing one or two hymn from a hymnal.  On one particular occasion it happened that there was a Hi-Y club meeting in the chapel the night before a day when we would have a chapel service.  I had come up with a scheme for staging a prank during the chapel service and was able to set it up that night.  The basic idea was to use a record player and a spool of thread to cause a small noticeable object to be pulled up the stage curtain so that it would be visible to everyone facing the stage.  The object I had chosen was a brightly colored little folder paper cube, about 2 inches on a side, that we had made in Geometry class.  I think it was orange. The process worked like this.

I had a spool on the spindle of a record player so that as the turntable turned the spool would wind up the thread.  I found I needed some way to guide the thread so that it would wind up on the spool rather than slipping off.  I found that a piece of cardboard with a hole in it could be used for this purpose.   I unwound enough thread, and spread it around the stage floor, so that it would take about ten minutes or so to wind up.  The thread went from the spool, all around the floor, and then up over the top of the stage curtain and down into the foot lights where it was attached to the small orange box.  The plan was to turn on the record player as we came into the chapel for the service and then be sitting comfortably in my seat with the other students when the orange box was pulled up the front of the curtain. I tested it and it worked fine.

The next day I turned on the record player as planned and made it to my seat without being noticed.  However, something did go wrong.  Unbeknownst to me Dr. Hamilton had arranged for us to have a guest speaker that day, possibly from the American Embassy or maybe a visiting Presbyterian minister.  Uh Oh!   There wasn’t much that I could do.  The speaker had just begun talking when the little orange box began a jerky ascent up the curtain behind him.  There were twitters in the audience, than laughter.  Mr. Brian leapt from his seat and raced up the side stairs to go on the stage behind the curtain.  He must have broken the thread when he ran in.  It seemed to me, and perhaps to others, that he had frightened the little box and it fell back into the footlights.   Mr. Brian came out from the stage. As he walked by me he whispered to me “I’ll see you after this ends!  I don’t remember what my punishment was, but it wasn’t too bad. I’d had worse.  After all these years I’m still kind of proud of that prank and, go figure, I’m kind of proud that Mr. Brian knew immediately that I was almost certainly the culprit.

Here’s another event from those days.  Throughout my life I have occasionally gotten into trouble by speaking my mind when it would have been much better to keep my mouth shut.  Here is one of the first occasions of that I can recall.

I was in a Sociology class.  I think the teacher was Mrs. Williams.  She was big woman, very bright, very competent, and a great teacher.  We were discussing something from the text book and I did not agree with Mrs. Williams’ opinion.  She and I got into something like a debate during the class.  She could easily have ended it as, I suppose, so could I.  I didn’t.  She kind of did.  She said to me, in front of the class, something like this:  “Well Harry, since you feel so strongly about this I would like you to leave the class and go to the library and spend the rest of this period writing out your opinion.  You can bring it to me during the lunch hour.”  I did.  I think we were using fountain pens in those days.  I don’t think ball point pens were around.

I took my paper, probably two hand written pages, to her at lunch.  She read it quietly and then told me that I was expelled from school and was not to come back until I brought one of my parents with me.  I was horrified, and scared.  I had not written anything inappropriate.  I had expressed my opinion as clearly as I could.  I may have been a little emphatic but I certainly didn’t think anything I had written called for this kind of reaction.

I went home immediately to find my mother and bring her back to school.  I did not want my father to hear about this.  Though I was a teenager and had not been spanked in many years, I knew my father would be angry with me over this and I feared what he would say to me and what he would think of me.  I found mother and she drove me back to school.  I don’t think we had to wait long to meet with Mrs. Williams.

When mother and I went into the room she asked mother to sit in a chair beside her at her desk.  She placed my essay in front of her.  Mrs. Williams had used a red pen to mark each of the spelling and punctuation errors I had made in the essay. She also pointed out how sloppy my handwriting was and the ugly places where I had crossed out something to make a correction or a change.  This made me angry.   This was so unfair.  I had not written the essay to be judged on my penmanship, I had written to express an opinion and, as I saw it, this was outrageously unfair of Mrs. Williams.  However, for once, I either held my tongue or did not press this point.  After some discussion it was agreed that I would go home and write another essay for Mrs. Williams ( I have no recall of what the topic would be) and it would be neatly written with as few errors as I could manage.  That’s what I did.  If mother told my father she did so such that he did not mention it to me.  I felt like I had dodged a bullet.

Though I was attracted to a number of the girls in my school I did not ask any of them out on a date until my senior year.  However, in my junior year I was working toward such a daring move when things went awry.   A new girl had started school, Ann Seidel.  I think Ann was in my grade.  Her father was Major Seidel and he worked in the U.S. Army mission reporting to my father.   The first month or two that the Seidels were in Caracas they stayed at the Venezuelan Officers club, a very impressive hotel like building next to an Olympic size pool. The club was about a 30 minute drive from the area where I and most of my friends lived.  Because of my father I had access to the club.

I liked Ann and wanted to get to know her and, hopefully, become her boyfriend.  I decided that one way to do this was to visit her at the club.  However, I thought it best if I went with a friend.  One of my good friends at the time was classmate named Pat Manzella.  Pat had a motocycle.  This would work.  I asked Pat to go with me to visit Ann and we went out there several times.  I thought everything was going well until, to my horror, I heard that Pat and Ann were dating.  It’s possible that Ann thought Pat was using me to get him into the officers club so that he could visit her.  It’s also possible that she just liked Pat and not me as a boyfriend.  In any case I was upset by this, possibly more than I realized at the time.

In the spring term of my junior year in high school, spring of 1956, my mother became concerned that I seemed dejected and did not seem to be acting like myself. Though I was not clinically depressed, I was depressed.  I think the experience with Ann and Pat triggered this.   Mother arranged for me to speak to a counselor, or maybe he was a psychiatrist.  The upshot of this was that he told her that he thought all I needed was just a good break from my normal routine, something to cheer me up and let me get over some problems I had had.  I don’t know exactly what he told her, but this is what happened.

My mother and father were then about 48 years old.  They had been planning a two week car trip into the interior of Venezuela.  My father would visit various Venezuelan army posts and meet with some U.S. officials in the cities visited.  The far end of the trip would be Merida, Venezuela, 700 miles away.  I suspect they were thinking of this as a kind of vacation together.  However, they asked me to join them and I did.  I loved the trip. I had my own room every night and I would often happily spend hours on my own, perhaps by a swimming pool, or exploring the places we visited.  I think my father let me drive the car every now and then, a first for me.  My Spanish was such that I felt comfortable on my own in the downtown part of cities.

While in Merida we visited the University of the Andes ( Universidad de Los Andes).  My understanding then was that this was a first class university, kind of like the Harvard of Venezuela.  The following year when I was looking at colleges my father tried to convince me to go that university for one year before returning to college in the states.  He thought it would be a great cultural experience for me and, as importantly, he felt it would probably allow me to become truly fluent in Spanish.  I did not disagree with either point and I often wonder how it would have affected my life had I chosen to do it.  However, by the time I was to make that choice I was fully committed to, and excited about, going to MIT.

One day we drove across the border to nearby Merida, Colombia.  Merida, Venezuela was an impressive modern city, probably due in large part to the university.  Merida, Colombia, as I remember it was a messy, crowded old-world market town, with burros, and many dirt roads.  I don’t remember much but I do remember finding it fascinating and I loved walking through the market area with the many stores and street side stalls.  In one of the stores I bought two large cowboy like hats, one for Pat Manzella and one for me.  I guess I had gotten over whatever was bothering me about Pat’s behavior.  I took my hat to MIT with me eventually and remember wearing around school sometimes.  I enjoyed thinking of myself as an eccentric with some foreign roots.

When I returned to high school after that trips I was, I think, my old self.  The advice given my mother worked for me.

My father had bought a fairly new 1952 Packard to take to Caracas and had it painted black. In its way it was a fairly impressive looking limousine.  Daddy taught me to drive and occasionally let me drive on short trips, like to mass on Sunday morning at the church that was a few miles away.  One afternoon when no one was home I decided to take the car out on my own.  By this time I had driven my motor scooter for several years and new the roads in our area fairly well.  I drove up to the Little Theater Club, maybe 3 miles away, but was careful not to be seen.  I then decided to come back a different way, a little longer, that would put me on the autopista, a kind of super highway, that happened to have an exit in El Rosal a few blocks from our house.  The exit was not a normal ramp exit, it was a direct right hand turn with only a little lead in off the main highway.  I got on the autopista and was motoring along comfortably.  I was watching the speedometer to be sure I wasn’t going to fast because the right hand exit was a sharp turn.   The speedometer said 50 and I knew that was fairly slow. As I approached the exit I realized I was going too fast and it hit me that the car’s speedometer was in miles per hour and my motor-scooter’s speedometer was in kilometers per hour.  50 miles per hour was the same as 80 kilometers per hour.  I think my motor scooter would only go over 70 Kilometers per hour on a downhill slope with no wind. I was going way to fast.

I had to make a quick decision.  The next exit off the autopista was miles further on in a more built up area that I was not familiar with.  I decided to slam on the brakes and make the turn.  The big car went into a contolled ( or lucky, but I did have experience driving on dirt roads and sliding around turns on my scooter) 4 wheel slide.  I waited for the crash when the two wheels on the driver side would hit the curb on the street I was turning into.  It didn’t happen.  I think I only missed it by inches.  I drove back to the house and parked the car in the driveway.  I went inside and sat down on the couch.  I was dripping wet from sweat over my entire body.   After a while I went back outside to make sure the car was OK.  I found that the engine was still running.  I had gotten out and walked inside without even turning the car off.  I also left the driver’s door open.  I turned it off, rolled up the windows and went back inside.  I did not tell anyone about this experience.

The Paper Route

During my first year in Caracas there was a weekly English newspaper, “The Caracas Journal”.  Sometime around the summer or fall of 1954 the paper announced that it was going to become a daily paper.  One of my friends, David Peters, who was a year ahead of me at Colegio Americano got the idea of starting a paper route to deliver the daily paper to the many English speaking families that lived in our part of the city.  I was all in.   We spoke with the newspaper and got permission to seek subscribers.  Though there was later a bit of an argument as to who “owned” the route, we won.   David and I got as many addresses as we could from the people we knew and began knocking on doors.  When we spoke with a prospective customer we also asked them who else they could suggest for us to contact.  By the time the paper began publishing its first daily paper we had over one hundred subscribers.

We both had bicycles and we divided up the route, with some trial and error, so that our delivery routes took roughly the same time.  I would get up at 4 AM in the morning and meet David at the nearby Automercado where we would meet the delivery truck with our papers.  We would spend about 30 minutes or so (all guesses, I don’t remember the details) folding the newspapers for delivery.  Some we wrapped with rubber bands so that we could throw them up to balconies for a quicker delivery. ( I remember once hearing, and maybe watching,  a glass object roll across a glass table on a balcony before smashing on the floor.  I also remember running into what I thought was an open door only to find it was a closed clear glass door.

After we finished rolling the papers we would set off on our bikes for an hour or two to deliver to our customers.   The only time this was at all difficult was if one or the other of us got sick, or otherwise unavailable to deliver papers.  When that happened the other one had to deliver all the papers.  I think we occasionally took each other over our separate routes so that it was not as bad as it could have been when it happened.   Still, we would be working from an address list and it was not easy and sometimes annoyed customers did not get their paper.   Fortunately those events were rare.

David and I agreed that we would split all the net profit evenly.  We thought of the profit as the “kitty”.  When we did anything together, like go to the snack bar at the automercado for hot fudge Sundays, kitty would pay.  I remember that one month, probably 6 months or more into our work, “kitty” came out something like 50 bolivars ($16) in the hole.  

I felt good about having a job, working for my own spending money.  I think my father thought this would teach me to act responsibly with money.  I’m afraid it did the opposite.  Instead of having to be thrifty I now had some spending money.   I could go out to eat at a restaurant, or have pizza at lunch on Saturday, or buy things I could not have before.  It was not a lot of money but it was a lot more than I had ever had before. 

David and I belonged to the Explorer Scout troop sponsored by the U.S. Army mission.  When we saw in a catalog that there we could buy a bright red Explorer Scout jacket, with an Explorer patch on it, we decided to order one each ( “kitty” paid) and wore them together some times.  As a further sign of our affluence we eventually both bought used Lambretta Motor scooters.  David got the better one, with the motor enclosed in panels, and I got the cheaper one with exposed motor. I have a picture of me on the scooter that I hope to put in here when I find it.  You may recall that I mentioned motorcycle engine sizes, like 500cc or 250cc.  The Lambrettas were 125cc machines, pretty weak.    I think my scooter could reach about 50 miles an hour on a flat road with no wind.  If I was going into a head wind, or up hill, it would slow me down considerably.

Having the scooters made our job a lot easier and I think we may have expanded our routes a little.  We kept those routes till David went off to college at the end of the summer of 1956.  At that point I kept only a much smaller, and easier, route.   I kept only the nearby Gallipan building about two blocks from my house.  I think I had 30 to 45 customers in that building.  I could get up at 6 AM and be back in time for breakfast and going to school.  It was still a nice little income.

Here are a couple of quick stories from my route.  David and I went around monthly to collect from our customers.  At one point I went to the front door of a house in Las Mercedes and to my great surprise I recognized the lady at the door as someone who had been at Colegio Americano with me the previous semester.  She could have been as young as 16.  Upper class girls often married that young in Caracas through a more or less arranged marriage.  Sometimes the husband was 10 or more years older, but sometimes only a few years older and part of a marriage attractive to both families. [these are memories, totally unconfirmed]  I think that’s what had happened in this case.   I tried to greet her and have a conversation with her.   She would have none of that.  I don’t think she was embarrassed.  I think she simply recognized that it would be inappropriate for her, a young married woman, to be talking to a young man she had known in the past.  She left the door and sent back a maid who paid me.  I never saw her again.

Though I enjoy learning foreign languages I think what limited success I have is due more to my motivation that a particularly strong ability.  I also have a good ear for accents that I think is based on my growing up with a wide variety.  Both my parents had fairly strong Southern accents.   My father’s accent from Tampa sounded like the accents from various parts of the South.  My mother, from an upper class (mainly the generations before her) Abingdon accent had a rather unique accent.  I’ve only heard one like it since I moved to Abingdon 15 years ago.  I don’t think I had ever heard anything other than a Southern accent when we moved to Falls Church in 1946.   I have mentioned before that I had some trouble adjusting to the John Fisher school in England.  However, I did assimilate and by the time I left that school after 2+ years my accent, and behavior and dress, was indistinguishable from the other students.  I remember a new student asking why I was called “the yank” and the having difficulty believing I was an American because I talked just like my peers. 

In my life I have heard many accents, some  long enough to be able to do a rough imitation.  I think my son, Paul, has this talent to a greater degree than I do.  Among those I’ve learned, a little, are Australian, several Boston area accents,  New York (I recognize at least three or four area accents) and several different parts of the South (like East Tennessee).  I also had (and still have a little of) a Cockney accent that l learned while spending time with our gardeners son.   I also have an upper class snooty English accent I probably learned, probably from movies.  I enjoy accents.  I like to try to tell some of Justin Wilson’s stories with the Cajun accent he uses.  I read recently that though he had a native Louisiana accent, his Cajun one was something he had learned for his comedy routine and was sometimes criticized by real Cajuns.  With the possible exception of those that I end up using unconsciously I think all of my accents are more theatric than accurate and are easily seen through by someone who has the real thing.

All that so I could tell a very short vignette.  One time I went to a house to collect from one of my newspaper customers.  I was standing in the lady’s front door talking to her when she looked at me oddly and said “Are you making fun of me?”  I was puzzled.  I told her I was not and asked why she would ask that.  She told me that when I had come to the door I had a typical American accent but that now, later in the conversation, I had an English accent much like hers.  It was completely spontaneous without any awareness on my part.

Harry and the Indian

I have mentioned the 125cc Lambretta motor scooter that I bought with money from the paper route in 1955.   This was a big deal to me. It allowed me to go anywhere in the city on my own. In particular it allowed me to go to the Little Theater Club, Basketball games, houses for poker games, and parties, without having to get a ride from someone else.  I was very happy to have the scooter.  However, it was not even close to having the aura of having a motorcycle.   I managed to get a little bit of that aura for at least a little while.

One of my closest friends for most of my time in Caracas was John Pickering.  John was a year older than me and lived in the Gallipan building about two blocks from my house.   He had a BSA 250 motorcycle.  At some point John’s father bought an old motorcycle for John.  I think it was mainly so that they could work on it together.  It was a 500cc Indian Warrior, probably a 1951 model.  Nearly all of the motor cycles and scooters in Caracas were made in Europe, mostly in Germany, Italy and England.  Indian motorcycles were made in the U.S.   John’s Indian Warrior looked a lot like the picture below, only the entire gas tank was red.  Also I think it had a double seat so that it could carry a driver and a passenger.  I think I have a picture of it somewhere.  If I find it I will put it here.:

John and his father put a lot of time into it and eventually got it running fairly well.  John rode it off and on, but it was somewhat unreliable and I think he preferred the BSA bike most of the time.   John graduated in 1956 and would be going off to VMI that fall.  During the summer he gave me his Indian motorcycle.  By this time it was not running very well and, we thought, might never run again.  I put it in the area next to the garage at the back of my house.  

The area behind the garage included a paved area about 15 feet by 20 feet (the end of the driveway turned right at the back of the house) and a grass area about 12 feet by 20 feet.   This ended up being a place where I and friends would often hang out.  We put a box on the garage roof and attached a makeshift backboard and basketball hoop at around right height and we would takes shots and occasionally even play games, most likely 1 on 1  or 2 on 2 because the area was small.  I also put a flat plywood board on top of a large wooden box to create a ping pong table.  The table was more or less regulation width but it was several feet shorter than a real table.  This meant that playing on it required quicker reflexes than a regular table.  It also meant that I became used to returning the ball to a shorter table.  It was even funkier than that.  The table was outside and exposed to the rain and sun.  Over time it grew somewhat warped and playing on it often meant the ball would bounce off at unexpected angle.  I think this helped my game.  

During the summer we often had from 3 to 8 or so boys hanging out, taking basketball shots, playing ping pong, and working on motor cycles or scooters in this area.   The word used for motor cycle repair shops in Caracas was “Taller” and most of us used “Taller Barbieri”, a shop a few miles away in the Petare section of Caracas, to have our machines repaired.  Mr. Barbieri was an older Italian man I admired and considered a friend.  We began to call the area outside my garage “Taller Baya”.   I spent hundreds of hours there – many of them alone working on the Indian motor cycle.  My guess (this was over 60 years ago) is that during the summer there would be at least a few boys there 3 or 4 days a week.  It was a pleasant place to hang out.

The Indian motor cycle was part of the scene at Taller Baya.  Often someone would be sitting on the seat, perhaps pretending to start it, or drive it.  The incident I am going to describe probably happened when John was home on a break from college.   In any case the Indian motorcycle had been sitting in Taller Baya for months, unused, and John was hanging out with us in the area in back of my house.  Someone pushed the starter pedal down on the Indian and there was a kind of “woomph” sound.  We noticed it and had him push it again, several times.  There was definitely some reaction to this, including at least one double-woomph.   It sounded like the motor cycle might start.  This was exciting.  We were unable to get the engine started using the kick starter.

We decided to take it up to the top of the hill on the street where I lived, Avenida Venezuela.  The hill was about three blocks away and was probably something like 100 feet high.   We put gas in the tank and inflated the tires.  We may have had to repair a tire.  John checked whatever else he thought should be checked and we used my scooter and a rope, and some guys pushing, to tow the Indian up to a location a few hundred feet from where the street began to go down hill.  The plan was for John to be driving the motorcycle when we launched it down the hill.  He was to wait till he thought it was going as fast as it would go on the hill, put it in second gear and let out the clutch.   I used the scooter to tow him toward the top of hill along the flat street approaching the drop.  He may have been going 15 or so miles per hour when he began going down and may have reached 20 MPH when he let out the clutch.  The rest of us, including me sitting on my stopped scooter, watch from the top of the hill.

This is one of my strongest memories.   We knew that John must have let out the clutch but we had no idea what had happened.  This was for two reasons.  The first was that the entire street at John’s location became filled with a huge cloud of black smoke.  We could not see him or the motorcycle for at least 5 or 10 seconds.  The second reason was that when John let out the clutch there was an explosion that sounded a little like a bomb going off.  I wondered then if the motorcycle had exploded.  Our fears were abated within seconds.   From a block or so away we could hear the roar of the motorcycle as John turned the throttle and revved the engine.   The Indian had started!  Far out.  Utterly amazing.  This was a small miracle to us.

After that we began working on getting the Indian into usable shape.  John was only there for a few days so it ended up being my project.  We cleaned the carburetor, changed the oil, and checked all the settings like the chain, the breaks, and the electrical system.  I probably had Barbieri tune the carburetor ( I was never good at that).  This meant that I, the guy with a 125cc scooter, was now the proud (oh so very proud) owner of a 500cc bike.  Among its distinctions was that the muffler was not very good and it was pretty loud.   Though I drove it around occasionally, it was unreliable and I only used it for special occasions. 

One of the problems was that sometimes it was difficult to start.  If the kick starter did not work I would push it with my hands on the handle bars, let out the clutch, and keep pushing it while the engine turned over.  This did not always work.  Sometimes I would get mad and push harder.  I remember that on several occasions I would get more worn out from doing this than anything I have ever done in my life.  The anger pushed me to my limit.  Added to this was the fact that if I could not get it started I would have to push it all the way to my house from wherever I was.  Even rolling in neutral this was a heavy bike and that could be a very tiring experience.  I kept my scooter and it was my main transportation.

I did take one trip with the Indian motorcycle down to the coast East of Caracas, probably  2 or 3 hours each way.  I think there may have been four motorcycles and/or scooters,  on the trip and the others were smaller bikes.  I had a passenger and could still easily pass any of the other bikes going up a hill.  I loved the power.   We were lucky the Indian made it all the way there and back

I had a number of interesting experiences with the Indian.  One was that I decided to paint it.  I painted all the painted surfaces, mainly the fenders and gas tank, a bright shiny black. I learned how to do the paint correctly, with a base coat and lots of top coats and sanding.  The painted parts looked like new.  This took many hours over weeks of time.  My final paint job was to paint a kind of slanted diamond on the gas tank.  I painted the front of the tank a bright yellow and then had the yellow taper off to form the ends of the diamonds on each side of the tank pointing towards the rear ( it would be easy to draw).  I thought it looked great.  It was utterly unique, I never saw another cycle like it.  The front fender should have been braced by two struts parallel to the ground.  I did not have the struts and did not bother to somehow replace them.  A few months later, probably after 20 to 30 hours of driving time, the front fender cracked  in half.  Sad. It not only made the bike look less attractive it also made it a sloppy bike to ride on wet roads. Also, that fender was, to me, a work of paint art.

Another interesting part of this experience was that the Indian handle bars used rubber rings as shock absorbers where the bar was connected to the pieces going down to the front wheel.  This was probably a good thing when the bike was new.  However, by the time I got it the rubber had grown old and weak and this meant that vibrations of the front wheel could get fairly large even though I was holding the handle bars tightly.  The result was that it was unwise to go more than about 50 miles an hour because the shimmy in the front wheel would become dangerous.  That was OK.  I had no reason to go fast in Caracas.  I wasn’t about to race anyone.

Though I was not much of a mechanic I did disassemble the motor.  I had a problem with the motor and that may have been why I took it apart.  The engine had two cylinders and a rod assembly that sent the power out to the chain.  It was designed so that there was a place where one part slid over another to kind of absorb the push when each cylinder fired.  These two parts got stuck so that each firing made the bike jerk forward in a way that was clearly wrong.  It’s kind of hard to explain, but it was kind of like a little fixed hill that a roller would go up one side and down the other.  In my engine the roller got stuck on top of the hill and no longer went up and over, back and forth, like it was supposed to.

I think this happened a couple of times.  On one of those occasions the two parts were so tightly crammed together that I could not get them apart after I opened the engine up.  I think there may have been something like a very strong spring in there.  In any case I was unable to separate the two parts and was stuck.  At that point my father had one of his officers living in the room next to mine in our house.  I can’t remember his name but I am pretty sure that he was an engineer.  He and I got along and one day I mentioned this problem to him.  He asked me to show it to him.  At this point the motorcycle was in the garage.  He studied it for a while and asked if I had a crow bar.  I found one, full size,  and gave it to him.   He said he thought he could separate the two parts but thought it would be better if I were out of the room.  I stepped into the house.  Shortly after this I heard a loud bang.  I went back in and the two parts of the engine were separated and back to where they should be.   I asked where the crowbar was and he said he did not know.  I later found it on a ledge at the top of a wall in the garage.  Whatever he did must have flung a 5lb+ crowbar across the room.   I was impressed.  He seemed more amused than anything.

Another thing that happened was that the gear box on the Indian got messed up and clearly had to be replaced.   Barbieri told me that new parts for my Indian were not available so he could not help me.  However, he, or someone, told me that the Venezuelan police force used to use Indian motorcycles and that there was a junkyard in the city full of old Indian motorcycles.  I found out where it was and I and a friend, maybe Fred Hill, went there one day and got the guard to let us in to look for parts.  I am guessing I probably offered to pay him 30 bolivars ($10) or so if I could find what I wanted.  It was an amazing place, like something out of a Mad Max movie.  There were hundreds, maybe thousands, of old Indian cycles piled up in there, often 5 or more deep.  Climbing around required some care.  Most of the cycles were the big Indian Chief models (1300cc), but there were also some Indian Warriors (500cc) and Scouts (250cc).  I needed to find an Indian Warrior in a position such that I could get to the gear box and remove it.  This turned out to be a challenge.  I finally found one that I could see through an opening in a pile. I could not see the whole cycle but I could see the gear box and I could see the bolts I had to remove.   It took a while, but I got it.

Now this part of the story may be apocryphal (i.e. a story or statement of doubtful authenticity, although widely circulated as being true.).  This is what I think happened, but I have no way of verifying it.  Apparently the gear boxes for the 500cc Indian Warrior and the 250cc Indian Scout looked identical from the outside.  They attached to the rest of the engine in an identical manner.  By mistake I got a gear box for a 250cc bike and put it on a 500cc bike.  I had no idea I was doing this. 

I discovered it in what we could call “the hard way”.  After I got the Indian running with the new gear box I noticed that it had an amazing amount of pick up in first gear.  I could peel out and leave rubber for 20 feet on the road with almost no effort.  If I was careful I could sit back on the seat and pop a wheelie (ride up the street with the front wheel in the air for 20 or 30 feet) with equal ease.   I also noticed that I got into the top gear at a fairly low speed and that the engine seemed to be going awfully fast when I got up to 50 miles per hour (which was fine because, remember, at 50 or so the front end began shimmy uncontrollably). 

I think the Indian Warrior with the right gear box and handlebar shocks should have been able to go at least 80 miles per hour.  The only reason I could come up for explaining these things was that I must have put a 250cc gearbox on my 500cc engine.   I would like to believe I verified this by looking at the gear boxes on other Indian motorcycles – and maybe even went back to the junk yard – but I can’t say for sure that this view is anything other than an attempt to explain my experience.   Maybe I just learned to control the bike better.  In any case I remember that friends brought their friends to my house on several occasions and asked me to show off the peeling out and wheelie popping.  I was delighted to do it.

Death of an Indian:  Taller Barbieri was on a slum like road several blocks long with a lot of different repair shops (cars, motorcycles, whatever) on both sides of the road.  We U.S. kids were something of an anomaly when we went there.  Our typical dress, blue jeans or kakis, t-shirts and Keds, gave us away immediately.  We were also whiter skinned and usually taller.  However, we were customers and no one gave us a hard time.  At some point I noticed a problem with the Indian, probably a nock in the engine, and decided to take it to Barbieri.  I was riding down the street to his shop, still probably 200 feet away, when one of the engine rods broke through the engine casing.  The cycle stopped and oil poured out on the street.  I could not help but feel that my horse had died and spilled blood in front of all the other people who worked with horses.   There may have been laughter.   In any case, that was the end of the Indian.  I may have paid Barbieri something to have it towed away.

Thus endeth the saga of Harry and the Indian.

Climbing Naiguata:

If you Google Caracas, or look at it with Google Earth, you will see that it is separated from the Caribbean ocean ( part of the Atlantic) to the North by a mountain range.  No matter where you were in Caracas you could see those mountains towering over you.   These were part of the Andes mountain range. The tallest mountain near Caracas was Naiguata.  Its peak was 8,054 ft (2,455 meters) above sea level.   Caracas, in a valley next to this range of mountains, was from 2500 to 3700 feet above sea level.  To climb Naiguata from Caracas you would need to go up about 5000 feet, a not insignificant climb.

When we read about mountain climbing we often read of freezing temperatures, dangerous snow and ice, and dangerous slopes and cliffs to be scaled.  Naiguata was not like that.  “Climbing” Naiguata from Caracas meant walking up a long winding path for hours in pleasant weather.  The base of the mountain was in fairly thick tropical jungle and this continued, growing sparser for at least 2/3rd of the way up the mountain.  At that point the vegetation was much lighter, mostly high grass with low bushes and no large trees.

One of the best trails up Naiguata started about 10 miles East of the city at a location called Camp Schlageter.  Camp Schlageter was a camp used by two youth groups to which I and many of my friends belonged.   The HI-Y club was for teenage boys and the Tri-Hi-Y was a similar club for girls.  Both were part of the international YMCA (Young Mens Christian Association).  In Caracas these clubs sponsored meetings, outings and activities for kids.   The ones I and my English speaking friends belonged to seemed to be associated with the local Prebyterian church. 

Camp Schlageter was a collection of rustic cabins and facilities that could be used for camping weekends. Every year there would be one or two Hi-Y weekends for boys and one or two similar weekends for girls.   There were also occasional joint weekends for boys and girls.  These were a lot of fun, camping, games, hikes and the like.  About 15 minutes away was a small waterfall, maybe a 15 foot drop, and a deep natural pool about 30 feet in diameter and quite deep.  The water came from springs up the hill and was chillingly cold.  Along with all the normal water sports, dunking, splashing and the like, it was fun to climb, carefully, up to the top of the waterfall and jump off.  You could also edge in along a ledge underneath the waterfall and stare through it at the pool, a kind of spooky experience.

I recall three events associated with that pool. 

The first occurred when I had been climbing around on the sloped rock surface above the waterfall  and  began to slide down out of control.  It was safe to jump from the top of the waterfall into the pool if you were in the right position.  However, if you were too far to either side you would land on rocks 15 feet below.  I was slipping out of control and realized that there was a good chance I would go over and land on the rocks.  I was very frightened.  As luck would have it I grabbed a branch, or two, and was able to stop sliding.  I recall laying there for a while getting over the experience.

The second occurred on a Tri-Hi-Y weekend when only girls were supposed to be at the camp.  We had heard, over the years, that the girls would go skinny dipping in the pool.  I and three or four other boys us rode out to the camp on Saturday afternoon on our cycles (me on a scooter) and snuck in hoping to see them.   As we approached the pool we met the girls returning, fully clothed.  Carol Oneil, my friend Terry’s younger sister, and John Pickering’s girl friend, was among them.   She has a picture taken of the girls, in towels, on that day.  We pretended that we had successfully snuck up and seen them nude, but they never believed us.  It became part of the lore of Camp Schlageter in future years, with us claiming we had seen them.  I sat next to Carol Oneil at a dinner at the Caracas reunion last fall in Charleston, SC, (2019) and we renewed the teasing discussion of that day.

Another memory was that the last mile or two of road into Camp Schlageter was unpaved and at time during the year it would turn to thick powder dust.  On one occasions I was on my motor scooter and there were several of us on scooters and motorcycles more or less racing up the road.  One of the reasons we were racing was that whoever was in front was going into clean air while every one behind that person was riding into clouds of dust.  The more vehicles there were in front of you, the worse it was.  It took some skill and luck to ride in the thick dust and I passed others, and was passed, several times.  At one point I went off the road but it was not a problem and I was quickly back in the chase.  I recall that part of time we were doing this we were laughing hysterically at the silliness of it all.

The final memory was of getting into the pool after coming down from climbing Naiguata.  Here begins my story of “climbing Naiguata”.

Yes, indeed, I am a courageous explorer and have many bold feats to regale you with. I did indeed manage to survive the ascent and equally perilous descent of Naiguata Mountain next to Caracas, Venezuela.  It was long ago, probably around the summer of 1956, and you can imagine, if you like, the dangerous beasts and indigenous Indians of that era, and the degree of danger in such an undertaking.

Our climbing group consisted of about 20 teenage boys and girls.  Most of us had no previous mountain climbing experience, though a few of the party had previously climbed Naiguata on a similar outing.  The outing was sponsored by the HI-Y & Tri-Hi_Y clubs of Caracas and we had two or three adults with us.  At least one of them, and possibly all, had previously climbed Naiguata.  We went out to Camp Schlageter in the late afternoon and were told to get some sleep, if we could, before we would begin our ascent around midnight. We each had a small back pack with water and snacks. I recall that apples and oranges were recommended, and something to eat for breakfast at the top of the mountain. 

We were leaving at midnight so that the ascent would be done at night and early morning before the sun rose and baked down on the mountain side.  I think the weekend was chosen to be near a full moon and once we were out of the high bushes and trees of the jungle near the base of the mountain you could often see ridges up the mountain in front of you.

I think we wore sneakers (keds).  The weather was pleasant at midnight, but we knew that when coming down the mountain we would be in the hot sun with no cover.  We also wore long sleeve shirts or light jackets because we were told it might be chilly at the top of the mountain, maybe as low as 45 degrees Fahrenheit,  or so.   I think we were roughly evenly divided between boys and girls.

We began walking up the trail at midnight and expected to reach the top before dawn, around 5:30 am [ my guess, looking back ].  The trail forced us to walk single file and before long we began to get spread out.  It was fairly dark during the first part of the trip because we were in the trees, but the trail was fairly clear and we could hear others talking ahead and behind us.   Eventually we got out of the trees into the high bushes.  The trail was constantly turning so that it was not too steep and this meant that others as close as 20 or 30 feet ahead of you on the trail  were usually out of site. 

I remember that it seemed kind of eerie to me that I could sometime hear voices of people who were actually a hundred yards up the path from me.  Sometimes I could see them on the trail maybe 30 yards from me, but actually maybe ten minutes or more up the mountain along the winding trail.  I recall being offered an apple from a friend who would wait for me to catch up and they had to wait about ten minutes even though we thought we were close to each other.

With the moonlight, and the approaching dawn, I could often see a ridge in the distance.  When walking up this kind of mountain side it often seems to me that the next ridge could be the top of the mountain, or at least an important ridge far from the next one.  Then when I would get to the top of that ridge I would see another one, not so far away.   This would happen over and over.

The leaders called for a rest break in a clearing about half the way up.   By this time we had been walking for a few hours.  A few people were having some problems, like blisters, or aching muscles, but I don’t think anyone had to stop there.   We rested for about 45 minutes.   The stragglers came in at least 20 minutes after the leaders. 

We resumed walking.  I remember that one of the boys who was a particularly good athlete, Paul Herring, had ranged far ahead of the rest  of us and then come down the trail to talk to everyone before going back past us and back to the front again.  We reached a clearing about ten or 15 minutes below the peak and gathered there to get us all together and rested.   We were tired and it was chilly.  I recall that we kind lay down in a collected pile in the middle of the clearing.

Our leaders got us up and moving so that we could be on the peak when the sun rose.  It was an absolutely glorious experience.   We watched the sun break  the surface of the ocean. Quickly everything became brightly lit.  It was a clear day and we could see the towns on the shore line on the ocean side far below us.  Maiquetia, the town with the main airport for Caracas, was about 30 miles away and we could see the runways.  In my memory the sea is a bright blue and the jungle on the mountains side is a lush green.  Looking  down the other side of the mountain we could see the city of Caracas in the valley.  I think it was hard to distinguish particular houses but I assume we could make out the Tamanaco hotel at the end of the valley spur that held the neighborhood of Las Mercedes.  Behind the Tamanaco were high hills covered with jungle. 

We stayed there for maybe an hour, ate whatever breakfast we had brought, and began to descend back to Camp Schlageter.  I don’t think we made any effort to stay together as a group and at times I was alone going down the mountain.  By mid morning the sun was blazing and luckily we had been told to bring enough water to get us comfortably through this phase.  I and some other boys noticed that there were places where we could sit down and slide on the tall grass (maybe a foot or two high) like being on a toboggan sled.  It might have been a little dangerous but we had just come up and we had not seen any big drops.   I remember at one point I shot off a ridge next to a path, flew over the path and continued sliding along on the grass on the other side.  Some of our group on the path saw me and yelled hello.   Did that really happen?  It’s all so long ago.  I know I slid on the grass some… but beyond that it’s hard to distinguish what was imagined and what was real.

Though it took hours less to go down than come up it still took hours and was in some ways, partly because of the sun, more tiring than going up.  The path ended by the waterfall and the pool and I remember jumping in and experiencing the ice cold water on my sun heated skin.  That memory is almost as strong as the one from watching the sun light up the coast and the mountain.  I loved it all and this trip up and down the mountain is one of my happiest memories.

Senior Prom – Spring 1957

I think I was co-chair, or something, of the senior prom committee for my class.  We arranged to use the Valle Arriba golf club for the event.   They had a large dance floor and a beautiful pool.  The club and the pool were on a high bluff overlooking the golf course, the city of Caracas in the distance, and behind it the Andes Mountains (including Naiguata).  We had other parties at this club and it was a great venue.  I remember I had a date for one of the parties there and my date suddenly left me on the dance floor, went in to the ladies room, and was gone for a while.  I was embarrassed.  I was afraid I had said or done something wrong.  I asked another girl to find out what was wrong.  It turned out that the clasp holding her dress together in the back had broken.  Eventually this was repaired, probably with a safety pin, and we resumed our date.

I believe we had a live Latin band and either they played some 50’s songs or we played 45’s for some dances in addition to the Latin dances (Cha Cha Cha, Rumba, Tango etc.).  No doubt the played at least one Joropo number, the lively national dance of Venezuela.    I recall two specific events from that dance.

I had seen somewhere, possibly in a movie, a mirror ball at a dance.   You probably know what I am talking about.  It was a ball the size of a basketball or bigger, covered with little mirrors. It was hung  from the ceiling so that it could twirl and spotlights were pointed at it.  The result of this was hundreds of moving lights cascading across the dance floor.  I decided to try to make one.  My plan was to make a ball and cover it with little mirrors.  I would make the little mirrors by buying a piece of mirror and cutting it into little squares with a glass cutter.  That part went well.  I planned to make the ball by shaping tough wire screen  into a ball shape ( it did not have to be perfect) and covering it with paper mache (flour, water and newspaper as I recall).  That did not go so well. 

I think I cut the mirror up a day or early but I did not start on the ball till the day before the dance.  Dumb me!  I worked on the ball out by the pool.  I remember going up to the club the afternoon before the dance and going out to examine the ball.  I had put it in the sunlight to dry behind some bushes near the pool.  It was a grotesque wet soggy mass of misshapen goo and showed no signs of being dry in time to use.  I gave up the idea.  Looking back I wonder whether I made any attempt to rent a ball like that.  I wonder how I thought I was going to get it to twirl.  I also wonder why I didn’t just buy a basketball, or a beach ball, and glued the mirror pieces to it.  Perhaps this was a metaphor for various experiences later in life.  I and friends went out to see the ball during the dance and I was teased about the still damp and heavy, messy failure hidden behind a bush near the swimming pool.

The last associated experience has joy and sorrow ( My Jewish friends use the Yiddish words tsuris and nachas [ problems and things to be proud of] to capture this kind of contrast in family stories and jokes.).  Another idea I had for the dance was to buy some glitter to sprinkle on the dance floor to reflect the lights in the room.  I probably thought it would work well with the mirror ball.  In any case I did get quite a bit of glitter and it ended up being spread all over the dance floor and, I thought, worked well.  I liked to think of it as a kind of fairy dust carpet to dance on.  I liked it.

The day after the dance I went up to the Valle Arriba club to assure  that we had paid all we owed and to see that they were as satisfied with the dance as we were.   When I got to the club I discovered that there were men working on the dance floor and it looked different in some way.  It turned out that the glitter had worked like a fine grinding dust and that dancing on it had, effectively, completed sanded off the varnish finish on the dance floor.   The dance floor was shiny and glistening around the far edges, but in the center, where the dancing had taken place, it was a smooth, dull, bare wood.   It was as if a fine sanding machine had been used to remove the varnish on the floor.  I was horrified.  I could imagine what it would cost to varnish the large dance floor and we had already spent all of our senior prom budget.  The club manager told me not to worry about it.  He said something like “We were due to have the floor redone soon any way and this takes care of sanding phase.”  Wow.  That seemed like a miracle to me.  I don’t know what really happened there.  I suspect the fact that many of the people at the prom, children and parents, were members of the club made a difference.  For all I know one or more of the parents who were club members agreed to pay for the repair.  All I know for sure was that I was very glad they did not ask the prom committee to pay for the work.

High School Graduation – 1957

I will start with Mr. Pickering.  I mentioned that my friend, John Pickering, had given me his Indian motorcycle.   John’s father, Mr. Pickering to me, was an engineer.  He drove a Porsche and I thought he was an interesting, and somewhat cool, guy.  I had a number of conversations with him.  John and his older brother, Bill, were going to VMI.  I was also enrolled there and had a partial scholarship.  Perhaps Mr. Pickering had gone to VMI.  I would see him occasionally, perhaps because I was delivering the Caracas Daily Journal to him in the nearby Galipan building during my senior year.  At some point we talked about computers.  I was reading science fiction and had also read about computers in the newspaper. 

Mr Pickering was interested in computers and at some point he gave me a book, which I still have.  It is a paperback book published in 1955 by Scientific American.  It was 146 pages long and contained a collection of articles about computers and related topics that had been published in the Scientific American magazine, some as early as 1948.   That book may have changed my life.  I read it from cover to cover with great interest.  I’m sure a read some of the articles several times.  It was my first real exposure to the concept of a computer and the kind of related thinking in the minds of scientist.  I was utterly enthralled. 

It was at that point that I decided that this was something I might consider building my life around.  I don’t have clear memories of my thoughts and I often wonder whether I have reconstructed my past to make it sound like I knew I wanted to work with computers before I went to MIT, but I don’t think so.  I “groked” [ Google it, see “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert Heinlein] the concept at a fairly deep level.  I think this book was the source of that vision, that insight.  I kind of had the full paradigm from then on and though it grew richer and deeper as I learned more, the underlying essence is still there – very close to what I remember thinking back when I first read the articles.  One of the articles in particular inspired my thinking.    

The article was “Man Viewed as a Machine” by John G. Kemeny, published in Scientific American in 1955. The abstract for that articles states “Describes the logical working of computing machines in analogy to thinking, and shows that a Turing machine could be programmed to reproduce itself.”  This was the last article in the book and I wonder if it was at that point that the light bulb went off in my head.  I just skimmed over it and I found that it was the last two or three pages that blew my mind.   It may also have synergized with some science fiction ideas  I had read.  The basic idea was that a machine could be created that could follow instructions to build another machine out of raw material.  If it were given instructions to build a machine like itself, it could reproduce.  If it were then allowed to modify those instructions, perhaps at random, it could, in effect become part of an evolutionary process.  In this way it could evolve to ‘think”.   That’s a weak suggestion of the bigger paradigm I got from the book, but it was an important part of it.

I now think that had I been asked in the summer of 1957 why I was so excited about going to MIT I would have said it was because I was very interested in computers and that was the best place in the world to study them.  I now realize that what  I was interested in was computer software and my interest in hardware was very limited.  I only cared about hardware to the extent that it empowered software.  I did know that I was not interested in what I understood to be Electrical Engineering.   There was no such field as “Computer Science” then.  Even today I’m not sure that software engineering is anywhere as near a distinct field as I would like it to be.  {Software engineering/design/programming), to me, bares the same relation to ( computer science and hardware,) as, say, (flying )does to (aeronautical engineering and related science).  There are probably better analogies.   Perhaps I would say the same relationship that (writing) has to (the design and science of printing machines, the rules of grammar, and the structure of language.)  Software is the medium used by programmers to create dynamic systems that exhibit much of the characteristics of conscious thinking.  In contrast, hardware is just a tool needed to create and use software.  Also, I am one who thinks, and has thought since high school, that software may eventually evolve be as advanced as consciousness, and, most likely, transcend it.  I got bit by that bug early and it’s still with me.

I did well academically in high school. I was the valedictorian of my class.  Though I was proud of this, I don’t get too carried away because there were several important considerations.  Actually there was a girl in my class with higher grades.  It turned out that she was not taking a full course load in the final semester, so they made her the salutatorian.  When I went to MIT I found that many of my classmates, even in my 11 man pledge class at Theta Delta Chi, had been valedictorians.  Many of them had gone to schools with hundreds of people in their graduating class.  I think there were 27 in my graduating class.  Of these about 1/3rd were native Venezuelans whose only contact with English was in school.  Their world was their Venezuelan families and they did not participate in the other activities associated with the school.   This was a handicap academically, especially in subjects like English and Sociology.  I got the same handicap in reverse.  As much as I liked learning languages, and still enjoy speaking Spanish, I knew that I needed good grades to get into college and I knew that I would have a hard time getting better than a C in Spanish since many of the students were native Spanish speakers.  The Spanish class I was to go into would be a class in Spanish literature.  Though I could speak Spanish well enough to get by in most situations, I had difficulty reading something like a newspaper.  I quit taking Spanish – I think it was sometime in my Junior year.

As valedictorian I gave a short speech during the graduation exercises.  As I have written elsewhere, Mr. Pickering, my friend John’s father, had given me a book containing a collection of articles related to computers (“Automatic Control”, 1955, Published by Scientific American) and it, and my plans to go to MIT. had contributed to a strong interest in computers and the future they implied.  That was the topic of my valedictory address.  I don’t seem to have a copy of that talk.  I know I put some effort into trying to communicate my enthusiasm and what I felt was the essence of an important development in the world of technology. 

The graduation was held in the chapel at Colegio Americano and my parents were there.  It was an important moment to me.  After the graduation a man I did not know came up to speak to me about my talk.  He began by saying he thought it was a brilliant speech. I loved that.  He then went on to say that he understood almost nothing that I was talking about. I was still proud and I hoped that at least some of the audience understood some of what I wanted to convey – but – I remember that experience often. 

It was a lesson in humility.  Though I may have succeeded in writing down what I clearly understood to be my message, I had, at least in part, failed at communicating it to others.  I took that to heart.   I resolved to remain aware of the failure in the future and to make every possible effort to communicate to others in a way that they would understand.  I would do this in writing and in speaking.  That has stuck with me and gotten me in trouble many times.  The trouble occurs when I am in something like an argument and I am presenting my view on the subject.  If the other person responds in such a way that they clearly do not understand my view I go out of my way to try to communicate it –often by rephrasing the statements, using different analogies, seeking a metaphor that they would understand. 

In many cases the other person thinks that I am trying to convince them of my opinion, that I am trying to attack their view.  That’s not what I think I am doing.  I tell them then that at this point I am NOT trying to change their view I am trying to get them to understand what I am saying even if they don’t agree with it.  Usually they can’t see this.  Sometimes (and I have three wives with whom this has occurred ) they get quite annoyed with me when I have this experience.  I have recently read a number of articles and heard discussions of how holding a particular opinion can blind a person to hearing/understanding one that is in conflict.  I am sure I suffer from this as much as anyone.

By the way, I am aware that I am often verbose ( long winded, loquacious, prolix etc. ).  I think part of this is a very very strong desire to communicate my thoughts in a way that is unlikely to be misunderstood.  It seems to me that more words helps, that it is appropriate to add details that minimize the chance of being misunderstood.  I am particularly annoyed when someone responds in a way that shows clearly that they did not understand what I wanted them to understand. I see that I have failed and it bothers me.

Anyway, I did graduate, but… it turned out that the diploma I was handed by Dr. Hamilton was blank.  After the ceremony I asked him about this and he found mine and gave it to me.  The blank ones were intended for students who still had to fulfill some requirements but were allowed to “walk” for the graduation with their class and with their family in attendance.  A fat lot of good that did me. I lost my diploma that same night.

After graduation a group of us went out to celebrate.  I rode with others in a car and we went to night-club/restaurant I had often heard of up in hills South of the city. I think it was supposed to be a little bit wild and I don’t think I had ever been before.  It was called “Mi Vaca y Yo” ( my cow and I ) and was well known for having a cow that walked around inside the restaurant, between the tables.  Part of the story was that if the cow would happen to crap in the restaurant every one would get a free drink.   There were stories that people fed it laxatives to bring this on. I think I saw the cow, but we did not get free drinks that night.  It was a rowdy scene, probably on a Saturday night.  We sat at a big table and had drinks and had a great time.  There was no age limit on drinking in Venezuela.   The most popular drink that I remember was a “Cuba Libre”.  This consisted of rum, Coca-cola, and lime.  I probably had a couple of those.   I had taken my diploma with me to the restaurant.  When I got home later I did not have my diploma.  I rode my motor scooter up to “Mi Vaca y Yo” the next day and ended up searching  the garbage for my diploma.  I did not find it.  I believe I had the school make me another one.

Below is a report card from the fall of 1956:


Venezuela, like all predominantly Catholic countries, celebrates the period before Lent ( technically the days between the “The Epihany” and “Ash Wednesday”).  In New Orleans this is called Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday, the name for the day before Ash Wednesday).   In most of Latin America  it is called “Carnival” and is especially well known for its celebration in Brazil.   I remember Carnival in Caracas as being several days of kind of mild street madness with people in masks, makeup, and costumes on the streets and partying in various ways.  There was singing and yelling and general rowdy behavior in the more populated parts of the city, such as downtown streets.  Along with music and fireworks (especially fire crackers) one of the popular activities was throwing water on people at every opportunity.  One popular expression of this was for a group of people to get in the back of a truck, small or large, with buckets of water that they could throw on pedestrians, other trucks, and, a favorite target, people on motorcycles and scooters.  Another popular activity was throwing water balloons, often from the balconies over looking busy streets.

It happened that one of my classmates, Fred Hill, had a hernia operation during Carnival one year and was recovering in a hospital in the center of Caracas.  Several of us decided to visit Fred in the hospital.  I think we went on two motor scooters.  I had never seen much of the Carnival activities as our neighborhood was a quiet suburban area and the nearby commercial streets were relativity benign.   I had a rider on the back of my scooter when we went down town, somewhat limiting my ability to escape from the numerous water attacks from trucks.  I think we probably also stood out as Americans and that attracted even more attention.  I remember that some of the water balloons that hit near me had come from many floors up and might have actually hurt someone had they been hit directly rather than just causing us to be pinged by the sharp spray of the exploding balloon. 

By the time we got to the hospital we were all completely drenched.  We found Fred’s room and went in to see him.  At first I could not understand his reaction.   He seemed to be in pain, kind of having a little fit or something.  It turned out that he was trying to say something like “Go away! Please!  Come back another time.  This is too much.”  The problem was that our coming in soaking wet, and dripping on the floor, was provoking Fred to laugh and, with his recent hernia operation, laughter was quite painful.   We finally understood and left.  We had to brave the same attacks on the way home.  I believe we went to visit a day or so later after Carnival had ended.

More Caracas Memories

John Pickering and I were best friends – at least I thought so.  Looking back I think it was more my friendship than his.  One of our friends, Ana  (Anna?)  Palenzona, was having a party at her house.  She lived out past the Tamanaco in a nice house with a pool   Ana and I were friends and I had visited her there a couple of times.  I was told that the party was to be formal.  That seemed odd to me, but I knew the Palenzona’s were wealthy and from an Italian culture and my friends told me it was some sort of family event and that’s the way they did it.  I had a tuxedo.   I asked my best friend, John, what he was wearing to Ana’s and he told me he would wear a tuxedo.  I trusted him.  I rode up to her house in my Tuxedo on my motor scooter.   When I came in the gate to the pool area I found everyone in summer clothes, Bermuda shorts, swimming suits etc around the pool.  They got a good laugh and said things like “He believed it!”.  I was embarrassed.  I rode home and changed and came back.  I regret to say I never really forgave John for that – even though I think it was a good prank and well done.    I guess I’m just a sore looser sometimes.  I had thought I could trust a good friend.

The normal tour of duty for an assignment like my father’s was three years.  I think he extended that by 6 months so that I could finish high school.  I was to return to the U.S. early in the summer of 1957 but my father and mother would remain in Caracas until the fall. Before moving to his next assignment in Atlanta.    

A month or two before I left Caracas my family moved from our house on Avenida Venezuela (Quinta Taguay) to an apartment in lower El Rosal, just a few blocks from our previous house.  At that time we had a beautiful Collie dog named Suzie. She had been with us for several years and I loved her dearly.  One day when I came home from school to the new apartment I noticed that Suzie was missing and asked mother where she was.  Mother had me sit down and told me that she and Daddy had taken Suzie to the vet that day to be put to sleep.  I was horrified, saddened and very angry.  I asked why.  They said that she was an old dog and long haired and they did not think she would be happy in a hot climate like Atlanta.  I had not been consulted because they knew I would not agree to putting her to sleep.  I felt badly betrayed and they knew it.  This was one of the saddest events in my life up until Bonnie divorced me some 20 years later.

I was only in Caracas for a few weeks after graduation before going back to the states.  Madge had gone to Florida State University in Tallahassee for her freshman year the previous fall and I think she stayed with Aunt Rosalie in New Orleans that summer.  I sold my Gallipan paper route and my motor scooter the last few weeks I was in Caracas.  The guy who bought the motor scooter never paid me and I tried to track him down where he lived out near Camp Schlageter.  I still am ashamed that I was stupid enough to let him take it before I got the money.

Our yearbook was not published until after I had left Caracas and I think Connie Finch got my copy and got friends to autograph it.  I still have it and enjoy all the silly comments people made.  I think it was mailed to me at MIT.

Mother and Daddy took me down to La Guaira, the commercial airport for Caracas, to catch my Pan Am flight back to the U.S.   It was my first flight on an airliner.  My only previous flight was in a Piper Cub over the Grand Canyon in 1953.  The plane was a Lockheed Constellation and it seemed enormous and luxurious to me.  I flew to Miami where I would stay for two or three weeks with George Felts.  George had gone to Lawrenceville prep school for high school but was in Caracas in the summers and he and I were friends.  He had a red Vespa motor scooter.  George had started MIT in 1956 and I ended up joining his fraternity there.  We both went directly on to get MS degrees from the MIT Sloan School and I was later best man in his wedding.  I very much enjoyed my time in Miami.  I stayed in George’ house.  I remember that his family had a color TV on the wall in the dining room.  It was the first color TV I had ever seen.  I was also amazed that they sometimes watched TV during dinner.  George and I got a part time job tearing down a house and we got along well.

I left Miami and visited in Tampa for a few days before going up to Abingdon to spend the summer.  My memories of that summer in Abingdon are in the Abingdon section of these memories. .