September 2023
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Saigon Kids Today: Frank Goes To Europe

by Frank Stoddard (ACS)

Frank going to EUROPEIn two weeks I’ll be landing in Amsterdam. This will be my eleventh trip-taking teenagers to Europe. As a retired military officer and a retired schoolteacher, I could not otherwise afford to do this. I dislike the flights. I find at being 69 years of age, it is getting harder. I, also, am one of those folks that cannot sleep on planes. I stopped all teaching a few months ago, so I stepped out of being the tour leader. My friend Carlos will be the boss this year. We will all get to the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport by 4:30 am, so I am already tired. We will fly to Newark and then on to Amsterdam. We will see all sides of this interesting city… Art museums, and Anne Frank’s House. We will even take our teenagers to the “Red Light District”. Carlos and I both do not like this, but the kids are interested. Carlos and I think of human slavery and other such angles that bother us a lot. We will tell the students what we think before we go.

We go on bus to Heidelberg, a small city I love. I plan on having some great wine and a Pils beer. Bitter!. Our hotel will be in Mannheim. I have memories of this industrial town from when I was a Battery Commander back in 1979. I had a SSGT that I worked diligently with the CID to get him arrested and convicted of selling drugs and extortion. I was required to visit him while he was in the US Military Prison, which was in Mannheim.

We head to Munich and will visit Dachau on our way in to the city. After one day, we will head to Venice with a stop in Innsbruck. Venice is nice, but it is a tourist city. A person does not really get to see the everyday Italian. Next! On to Lucerne (with a few hour stop in Verona). What a beautiful laid back city. Great food, chocolate (of course) coffee and other wonderful drinks. Are hotel is out in the country. Hopefully it is one of those Alpine spots where we will be able to see water, mountains and smell the dairy cows.

We will travel back into Germany and have a great meal in the “Black Forest”. Beer will not be my main objective, but the “Black Forest” cake. After the dessert, we’ll head to Colmar, where one of my Great Grandmothers came from. In the 1800’s she would have been German, but today she would be French. It is truly a lovely spot, even though it was the last town liberated in France in 1945.

Ah, then on to Paris. Gosh, I love this city. No better place than to sit at a sidewalkFrank in Paris café and watch the natives go by. Certainly the best place for wine, bread, and Roquefort cheese.

After two days we get on the high-speed train to London. Bangers and Mash (and of course some peas) and a cool pint are waiting (realizing the Scotland is not England, a good single malt also tastes very good in London).

Now some of you must be wondering if we a pay attention to our students. We actually spent a tremendous amount of time helping them, taking them to places we think they would like to experience. Cheering them up, helping them with finances, friendships, introducing them to European customs, food and drink and at times being very worried about them. We knock on all their doors every morning and have even helped some to their rooms in the evening. We did not go through our school board, and we let all students and parents know, so we are under few restrictions. We have twenty kids this year. Yes, they will keep us busy. I think it helps that both Carlos and I are retired military. Are military training has made us both very flexible. Carlos and I have both gone through different schools of “hard knocks” and are both parents with great kids. Maybe that is our greatest resume.

We travel through most of Europe by bus. I love looking out the window. When we travel my mind often drifts back to service time in Europe and the various trips my family and I took during a total of six years in Germany. I also think of the Allied Forces advancing across Europe in 1944 and 1945 when we go through areas that I know battles to have taken place. Of course Dachau speaks for itself. We even drive by the small town where Josef Mengele was from.

P.S., in the last month, Suzy and I had our oldest grandchild (daughter) graduate from college in San Diego and our youngest grandchild (son) born in Honolulu!

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9 comments to Saigon Kids Today: Frank Goes To Europe

  • Kenneth R. Yeager

    I envy you and the folks you will squiring around Europe but I note you are missing a trip to Prague, which is one of the really more beautiful cities in this part of the world. I spent three years in Prague and never tired of looking at the wonderful architecture and learning about the city.

    Nonetheless, enjoy the trip, the food, wine and beer (Nobody beats Czech beer except for perhaps the Latvians…I loved their beer). I am also disappointed that Hamburg was left off your itinerary, but I’m sure your plans were made based on several criteria and perhaps Hamburg and Prague did not meet those requirements. I hope the weather cooperates…certainly the past week or so hasn’t been very nice for tourists or us “locals” either. Cold and wet so tell your kids to bring some warm clothes just in case.

    Introduce your charges to the wonderful taste of snails in garlic butter, the small of freshly baked baguettes or warm croissants and a hot café au lait.

    Yes, I do envy you…have a great time, and all of you, be safe.

  • Sarah Rogers

    Have a great trip Frankie! Glad you are doing it again. Congrats on new grand children.

  • H. Clark

    Ah, Frank, the world traveler! I saw your picture in front of the Manneken Pis. I am so envious. Thirty one years ago, I stood at the exact spot in Belgique. But there was no water running that day! 🙂 – Needless to say, I was disappointed.

    It’s unfathomable, the war. Hard to believe Tet offensive was 45 years ago. Am I right? When I saw Paul’s picture in the newspaper, I had tears in my eyes… It’s so unfair. I keep looking at his extremely kind and handsome face. He was only 22 (my daughter’s age). He grew up around here, too. Why it has to be him who paid the ultimate sacrifice for all of us. So much more sadly, his father died of grief and heart attack two years later… the family believed!

    For many, the Memorial holiday merely serves as the beginning of summer filled with barbecues, picnics and family gatherings. All of those things are great, we love them, too. But we shall never forget that many, many have died so that we can enjoy the day in such pleasure, comfort and convenience. We owe the families a great debt of gratitude. It seems like the least we could do is take a little time to remember them and offer a simple thank you. Without their grandest sacrifice, we would not be the nation we are today.

    Frank, I also saw your picture taken in Hue in 2009. I have a brother-in-law who was born in Hue. He was a captain pilot during the war and is now retired. He visits his parents there every year.

    In regard to my garden, so far I have some green beans already. They are from the bush bean type, not vine’s, that I grow from seeds. (I have some vine green beans also). I’ve never seen how they grow before.

    All my 10 cherry tomato plants (yellow and red) are doing great. They’re also grown from seeds, because I enjoy seeing them grow from seeds to plants. Per the newspapers, the growers have messed up with the big tomatoes’ (for hamburgers) genes, called K something (?); therefore, they are not sweet anymore across the states. However, the cherry tomatoes’ genes remain untouched so they say. I’ll let you know if it’s true.

    The summer heat is very harsh, even in this area. They burned all the tender leaves of my blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries last year to their stems, so I have moved them to where they only receive the morning sun. They have all recovered very nicely. I have already eaten some raspberries thus far 🙂 Yumm. Wish I could attach some pictures here!

    Have a safe trip home. Congrats on new grand kids, too! 🙂

  • frank

    Go to Phoenix on Monday and Carlos and I fly to Europe on Tuesday. This will be my eleventh year, but the big difference is..this year Carlos is the boss. I fellow with my physical and mental difficulties is bowing out! Hic!!
    A guy by the name of Timmy first got me into doing this, but he is now a “no count” in Colorado, so I’m not sure why I even mention him.
    I know where Carlos and I will have lunch in Munich and Lucerne , but I am still trying to figure out where in Amsterdam, Heidelberg, Innsbruck, Venice, Colmar and Paris we’ll have lunch. London? All we know is we’ll eat in SoHo! But what pub? Travailing is so difficult these days!!

    Huong, hope to meet you and your family. Love your comments. You seem, like most Saigon Kids, to judge people for what they are not, but for who they are.
    By the way, we planted our above ground garden. We have high expectations. Oh! Do I want those tomatoes.
    I do not want pictures of your raspberries, I want the taste. Maybe that is in the future…where taste can-be sent by Internet!
    I think the closet I was ever to your town is when one of my older sisters lived in Danville, CA. On my way to Camp Pendleton (staging Battalion) and then on to South Vietnam in 1966. I arrived at the San Francisco Airport and took the local Transportation to her town. Back then G.I.’s got half airfare by being on standby and were required to wear their uniform. I remember the bus ride to my sisters house very well…Through parts of Oakland..rather scary..I sat in the back of the bus and everyone in front was turned around and staring at me. I do not know if my Marine Corps uniform saved me or made them stare.

  • frank

    Huong, My father’s middle name was Clark. That was the maiden name of my grandma or her mother. I do not know which. Maybe we are related.

  • H. Clark

    It’s a small world, Frank! In 1975, I was flown into Marine Corps Air Station El Toro and spent one month at Camp Pendleton, helping the refugees.

    Danville is only 15 miles from where I live and 11 miles from where I work. Is your sister still living there? If she is, would you like me to visit her for you? – LOL – 🙂

    I think your Marine Corps uniform keeps you safe. You are the best of the best. I worked near the Oakland Naval Center for 18 years so I know that parts of Oakland are very rough. I used to have nightmares when I first arrived there in 1975, because in Saigon I never saw people wearing nylon wigs. I was also very young and naïve, easily frightened by strangers.

    We could well be related and I hope that is true. Let’s see, my father-in-law was an unsung hero, born in England, in the Cornwall area, between Plymouth and Land’s End. He lived in the East Coast (New York, Virginia, and Maryland) before his family moved West to California.

    You’re too funny… raspberry is a rather interesting plant. The way their berries turn color when ripe and the way how you harvest them is very different. You peeeel the berries off the plant, leaving their cores intact on the canes. They are so sweet. Maybe you and Bob can develop a way where taste can be sent by Internet. Please hurry before someone else gets rich on that idea – LOL – 🙂

    Please keep us posted on your trip.

  • frank

    Very small. I spent the November and half of December at Camp Pendleton (also going through Boot Camp Rifle Range there) in 1966, in the rain, going through “Staging Battalion”, arriving in South Vietnam 16 December 1966. We had flown out of El Torro to Okinawa (the “Rock”).
    A little over twenty months later, I landed at El Torro in August of 1968. (Just before we landed, after the pilot said we were almost there, the whole plane went silent.) The minute touch down took place a huge cheer went up. I was not the only one who knelt down and kissed the asphalt!
    That was a long time ago, but why does it seem like yesterday?

  • Frank

    I arrived back in Hereford, America, sometime after midnight of someday this week. I was exhausted. We had a terrific trip whirlwind trip. My words cannot explain how wonderful it was. We did so much, saw so much and ate sooo much and a
    Had a few drinks in between. Heidelberg and Munich are so pleasant and are on the top of my list. My expectations of Switzerland were fully realized. Our hotel was high on a hill in a small beautiful Alpine village. There was a small soccer field next to the hotel where our teenagers played into the darkness for two nights after we got back from long days. Three of our teenage girls played soccer in high school. Carlos and I of course sat on our balcony watching and cheering on the games. Our most enjoyable moments is when we got to our hotel room, after a long day, to compare our cankles (Swollen angles and feet) have a “boilermaker” (made up of a terrific single malt and followed by a great European draft beer).
    Paris? Rather high in stimulus! Carlos went to see his Mom, but this year I begged off and had three hours to myself. I purchased, after searching many places, a “French made” stuffed animal for my grandson. I also bought a bottle of “Absinthe”. For lunch, I found myself on the top floor of the Department Store Lafayette having a carrot soup with bread and a red wine. I could see the top of the Eiffel tower from where I sat.
    I had two straight nights of eating “duck” for dinner. Several years ago, I asked a French waiter in Montmartre how the pork was. His answer was why eat “pig” when you can have “duck”. I have followed his advice since.
    London? We walked straight to our favorite pub in Soho. We were not sure if we would find it. If you sit at a table, they do not serve you. Patrons have to go up to the bar and order, then sit down. Last year when we were there, we at first put our American narcissism into gear thinking they may just not like Americans. Fortunately we saw others doing it correctly and we followed.
    I have seen eleven straight years of beautiful weather in Europe. The day before we arrived, everyone told us the weather was terrible.
    I plan to go again next June, health willing.

    Suzy and I do not leave our “comfort zone” very often. Our next trip, however, will be next month. We plan to meet my brother in Cody, WY near the end of July. (dates to still be decided). We will visit where we lived when we were little kids, at the old Japanese Relocation Camp of Heart, Mountain. I think we left there in 1950. Heart Mountain is where I have my first memories. It is located 12 miles north of Cody. I started the first grade in Powell and that is 12 miles north of Heart Mountain. My brother and I have not seen a lot of each other since we were teenagers. We have had our ups and downs with each other, but for now we are pleased with each other. I have a strong gut feeling that this will be the last time we see each other. I hope to have a good special time with him, even if we are so different.

    Today is the first day of summer. My parents were married on this date in 1939 in Whitehall, MT. Suzy and I were married in Missoula, MT in 1971 by a J.P. In 1975, on this date, we were married in the Catholic Church, ST. Paul’s, in Anaconda, MT. My Mom gave me her wedding rings to give Sue at that time. Sue gave Silas, our son, these rings to give Riji, his wife, last year.

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