April 2024
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#1 Son of “The Eyes” – Revisits Saigon

My brother, Pete Novick, first son of “The Eyes” was in Saigon in March of ’07 and sent me the following brief reflections…..

Well, I was back in Saigon in March ’07. We lived on Phan Tan Gian ’57-’61. That street has been renamed Dien Bien Phu. Interesting that the Vietnemese Communist Party replaced the name. Phan was one of the original Vietnamese to oppose French hegemony in the mid to late 19th century and paid for his actions with his life. Still, our old house was long gone (house # 123). I did stop an older French gentleman, dressed like Sydney Greenstreet but much thinner – it’s the Bordeaux I think) and inquired in broken French about the neighborhood. He did point out one remaining French colonial villa that has survived 2 or 3 periods of energized urban renewal and after finding it, behind a tire repair shop, I closed my eyes and ears (as well as one can amidst 6 lanes of motorbike traffic) and tried to get a sense of the past. It’s there: the cold, sweet iced coffee served in plastic bags, street vendors and now and then a glimpse of the progeny of Agent Orange – kids with Holloween-forever faces. ‘Cyclo’s driven by chain smoking men well into their 6th decade on Earth. All there. I carried wads of cash (dong) and passed it out to the street urchins as I could. And then that beautiful river. The strong and fast artery of commerce still. There, at a Vietnamese Navy base, 2 derelict ex-Soviet Osa PT boats that probably hadn’t seen salt water for many years.

There is nothing made in America for sale in Saigon. Try as I could in an expanded box search on foot for 3 hours before the noonday heat drove me into a hole in the wall cafe – I could find nothing. Now to be fair, Proctor & Gamble, Kimberly Clark and Colgate are there – licensed products from local factories. Middle class moms (and dads) learn plenty quick the convenience of Huggies and Pampers.

A great city, full of vital energy and one way to busy to worry about the past. And everywhere, signs advertising businesses to “Improve your English – get a better job!”


3 comments to #1 Son of “The Eyes” – Revisits Saigon

  • frank

    Very intersting!
    When Saigon Kids get together in Saigon in March (2009), do you (or your brother) have a suggested, must do kind of thing(s)? Frank

  • Admin

    Frank … you didn’t ask me, but I’ll suggest anyway … LOL … ya might want to consider a “Water Tower” party as a MUST DO for the reunion. Ya know knida like a tail gate party but on top of the water tower. Heck, you could even do a re-enactment (for the good ole’ days) … a couple guys could hold you by the ankles as you dangled upside down ‘repainting’ “The WORD” of Saigon Kids … HA HA HA! 🙂

    Of course, we want to see a ‘direct feed’ video of this on the Blog … 🙂

    Just a friendly suggestion to keep you from getting bored while in Saigon … lol


  • Bon Jour,
    This is my first visit to this website and myriads of memories came flooding back. The congested thorofares, markets ablaze with color, with smells and customs far too difficult to describe. But I can describe one memory as permanent as the jungles nearby hiding tigers, which roaming in the distant mountains.
    My first kiss.
    Yes Peter Novick you were there. Like the agile footings of a silent jungle cat…you took two steps over and leaned in and I felt a sweet gentle wet touch. It was soft, forbidden, on my left check as I recall as we were on the roof of the veranda to the mansion we lived in. The property was tended with expert care by “servants” who were wise, honest, and protective of their charges.
    I may have reciprocated, because I thought you were smart (you wore dark rimmed glasses as I recall) and you were very nice indeed. I never realized that when folks sang “The Eyes of Novick are Upon You…” to the tune of “I’ve been Working on the Railroad” that it irreverently referred to your Mother…if I ever offended you, your Mother, or family please accept my apology. However, our nano-second encounter on the roof took me many months to process.
    Back then, I was a very slow learner. The new math Mrs. Jeanette Wiltse introduced to us was the greatest trial of all. Dreadfully missing the Mickey Mouse Club on TV back in the states and fussing over powered milk that had to come by ship. Here I was given a gift of living in the exotic orient, surrounded by an abundance of culture and did not appreciate it until years later. During the coup on the palace, my father and his crew being shot down, I learned fear and terrors I had never known. I learned negotiation with God for their safe return… I would give up my new roller skates to the children at the Catholic orphanage and kept my word upon his return. I even gave them the skate key, not realizing that they did not have shoes with soles rigid enough on which to attach them.
    The scars took much more time to process and a longer time to heal. The Christmas Show the school put on was always a cultural highlight. That small group of high school girls signing “Oh Holy Night” in my mind has never been equaled. We must have a place in the brain for all those firsts.
    As a result a magnificient education of the world poured out in the challenging and beautiful city of Saigon… in that mixing bowl of people in that cross-roads of time. Even special lessons of the heart. Thanks to those of you who have contributed with birthday parties and “pajama parties” (sleep overs) and helped me, help propel me along on my life journey.
    And today a special thanks to Barbara “Bobbie” Mauch (nee Sheehan) who sat in a Communications Class in Boise, Idaho this week and spoke up to her instructor about having lived in Southeast Asia…her father filled the same position in which my father had served after we left. Their family even occupied the same house. What are the chances, almost fifty years later we meet in Boise, Idaho, USA. Life has taught me there are no coincidences. It is a small and wonderful world! My prayers are for those who survived and all those who perished. It is our responsibility to be good stewards of these precious gifts of memory. All the best! JR’58-60

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