IT had become a matter of course that Americans should cross the Atlantic every summer to come to Denmark, and in 1931 the Copenhagen papers simply carried the headline: "The American boys have arrived."
It was fitting to begin the stay with a Welcome Dinner in Copenhagen. Here they met representatives of the organizations which had made former visits successful, personal friends of the leader, and university boys and girls. They mingled informally, at small tables, and in between the courses the group's orchestra from the Manlius School entertained not only the dinner party but all the guests of the Wivex Restaurant. Right away they felt that they were welcome.
The group of sixty divided into two sections. One of about thirty-five members, with the Manlius Orchestra, went abroad for a short trip, and the other section of twenty-five members departed for a longer tour. They separated after the dinner. The Manlius group stayed in Copenhagen for a couple of days, and whenever there was an opportunity they entertained people with their music. But there was plenty of time for other things. It was their privilege to be the first Americans to dive into Copenhagen's new municipal swimming pool, and they seemed surprised by its artistic appointments. On a bus ride they did not regret a stop at police headquarters, for no other purpose than to admire its courtyard, which made it almost an architectural treat to be taken in by the police. There was time for an excursion to Frederiksborg Palace and to Elsinore, and also to roam around the city, where people would recognize them in their smart khaki uniforms and turn around and whisper about their wonderful music. Overnight it had made them public favorites.
They hated to leave Copenhagen, but they were expected in Berlin. Under the guidance of Mr. Olav Fossum Poulsen, one of MY FRIEND ABROAD'S special Danish assistants, they began their rapid circling of Europe. It actually became a tour of musical triumph. The best thing was that they never got tired of entertaining people. At a luncheon in Berlin they played their way into the hearts of a group of students which prompted a German undergraduate to express his and his companions' admiration in good English. At a concert in the Wintergarten, Berlin's largest vaudeville house, the audience clamored for encores, and at Potsdam good old "Fritz" of Sans Souci fame might have liked to rise from his tomb and join them with his flute.
A day on the Rhine added two concerts to the enjoyment of hundreds of fellow passengers, and a great deal of liveliness to their boat ride. A Sunday in Brussels, Belgium, allowed time only for a trip to the battlefields of Waterloo before they turned into Holland. For two days, there was one constant movement from celebration to celebration, and there seemed no end to what the Dutch wanted to do for them. In Rotterdam they toured the extensive harbor by boat and were entertained at a Rotary lunch; were taken to The Hague for a visit to the Peace Palace; then to the famous North Sea resort., Scheveningen, for tea, and finally to Amsterdam. Here they were entertained by an organization of young Dutch men and women at their club. The only obstacle was the fact that the boys could not make out the name of the organization. None had brought along a Latin dictionary, or they would have been able to interpret the name Unitas Studiosorum Amstelodamensium. Now they had to have Captain Botts, their conductor, tell them that it meant that they had been the guests of the University Club of Amsterdam. However, there were no Latin ghosts at that party; it was truly collegiate. The National Gallery, with the old Dutch masterpieces, left them in admiration of Holland's age-old contributions to art, and the diamond-cutting works with respect for her modern craftsmanship. The visit to Volendam and Marken, with their natives in baggy trousers and wooden shoes, gave them a glimpse of what they had expected all Holland to be like. That it was not, they noticed when they were entertained by Amsterdam's leading business men at a Rotary luncheon. Long after they had left Holland, their music was ringing in the ears of the Dutch, because they had been ever willing to return a little of all the generous treatment by numerous concerts.
A railroad jump of twenty-four hours brought them back to Copenhagen, and the only regrettable part of the return was that a few hours later they embarked for America. The only way in which they could conceal their dismay at leaving the city which had shown them the first sign of welcome to Europe was by striking up some of their best band pieces on the pier. This made the Danes wish that the Manlius Band would take another trip to Denmark. Their music and their gentlemanliness had won them a place in the hearts of the people.
The other section, of twenty-five boys, had a novel experience during their six weeks abroad. They were the first of all the groups to be entertained in private homes outside of Denmark. They were guests in Danish families for a week, and then Germany opened up its homes to them. The Vereinigung Carl Schurz had selected some of Berlin's best families, and it was with no little anxiety that the boys one after the other filed from the railroad station to the various homes. What would the German families be like in comparison with the Danish families? The boys might well ask themselves this question, and the Germans and Miss Ilse Kraske, the chairman of the committee, wondered about the boys.
Only on one occasion during their five days' stay did they have an opportunity to compare notes. It was at a luncheon at the Borsig Locomotive Works, which they were invited to inspect. By this time they had found out that the Germans were most kind, and the Germans that the boys were pleasant. It seemed almost amusing that anybody could have had any misgivings as to the outcome of the visit. Intimate acquaintanceship was obvious on the night of their departure, when the manager of the Wintergarten Theater invited hosts and boys to be his guests. You would hear German fathers try to translate the "wisecracks" on the stage to American "sons," and notice the boys' happiness in the company of their hosts. There was no tourist atmosphere about this party. They had come to know one another so well that the whole group felt like a big German-American family. The boys left Berlin with the feeling that fine families in central Europe were as friendly as the families of the North.
But how would it be in eastern Europe'? There was a railroad ride of practically thirty hours eastward through Germany and Czechoslovakia on which to ponder over that, until late at night they arrived in Hungary, their destination for the following ten days. They were to be entertained by Hungarian families. What a list of addresses! A dozen boys were on the shores of the Balaton, Europe's largest lake; two on an estate in the forest regions, almost on the border of Yugoslavia; one on a tributary of the Danube; one in a small town on the border of Bulgaria; two in a town which practically was owned by a Count, and a few in Budapest itself. It was a great opportunity to bury themselves in what to many is a nation of next-door neighbors to Mongolian civilization.
After a week's entertainment in the private homes, they met for a group program in Budapest, planned by the Hungarian Boy Scouts under the leadership of Dr. Temesi Gyözö, who was the guiding spirit of the whole visit, excellently assisted by Dr. Alex Fischer. Headquarters were at the luxurious Hotel St. Gellert on the bank of the Danube, but its muddy waters did not tempt the boys nearly as much as the hotel swimming pool. What a treat to plunge into its artificial waves of clear water, which came right out of Budapest's seventy natural springs, and to have for companions swims were a daily pleasure, added to the charms of the capital. Its the ever-helpful Boy Scouts and the lovely Hungarian girls! These buildings were very impressive. in the Houses of Parliament you felt what the Austro-Hungarian Empire had amounted to before the World War, when Europe had listened to the debates of Hungarian statesmen. You noticed the contrast between those days and the present times in the appearance of a member of Parliament accompanied by a little woman in a peasant dress with a shawl over her head. It was hardly believable that he in top-boots was what one of the boys termed the Borah of Hungary, and that she was his wife. A country, however, which had a senator as kind as he was in his speech to a group of foreign boys must be a friendly country. Another contrast of past and present was noticeable in the view of the Imperial Palace across the river on the steep bank of the Danube. Its magnificence war, now merely a memory of days gone by, when the word of the Emperor had been the law of the land.
Everywhere signs of the losses in the World War kept awake the bitterness, but also the hopes, of the Hungarians. There was the Liberty Square with the flag at half-mast, not to go to the top until the lost provinces were restored to the mother country; and there was the monument in memory of the men who had given their lives in the postwar revolution. Almost every monument and building reminded you of the national and international struggle to keep the many peoples together who once upon a time had made up this eastern empire, and of the hopes and desires of the mutilated nation to be united again.
On such a background of political bitterness, the naturally peaceful spirit of the people was a relief. The tunes of the gypsies carried you away as they played in a continuous rhythm of inspiring melodies. Peace reigned along the banks of the Danube, where mountains of watermelons were offered for sale by gaily dressed peasants to throngs of Budapest citizens, and it met you in the constant flow of traffic of all kinds of vehicles along the crowded modern boulevards. And at night, when the lights flickered on the slopes across the river, when floodlights illuminated the arches of the Fishers' Bastion and the restful citizens strolled along the river promenade, you felt sure that political ambitious had not killed a peaceful spirit, the same spirit which had prompted private families to show friendly hospitality in their homes to a group of foreign boys.
Upon their departure the. boys could not but think how similar was the home atmosphere of different nations, whether up in the North, in central Europe, or far off in the East. The Danes, the Germans, and the Hungarians were distinctly different nationally, but individually they had a similarity which united them among themselves and united them with Americans, too. This similarity was found in the last glimpse of the Hungarian boys and girls and committee members, who waved an early morning good-bye to their guests in the Budapest railroad station. They were there not just out of politeness; they wanted to show that the East and West can meet when the right kind of people get together.
The long jump back west from Hungary could not but be an enjoyable tourist trip of inquisitive boys through beautiful European scenery and attractive cities. Vienna was the first stop. Little did they think of the political ties which once had linked Vienna and Budapest, the two competitors within the former Austro-Hungarian Empire; to them it was the center of music and art, having been for centuries the metropolis of Germanic culture. But here also were felt the sufferings of war. The buildings were intact in their splendor, but the spirit of the people was unconvincing. They made an effort for gaiety, but never more than an attempt, which merely awakened the memory of days when all had been gay. The sun was there, but it did not penetrate the souls of the citizens.
If only the sun had been out in Switzerland, the appearance of Lucerne would have been perfect. How could it be otherwise, with the snow-capped peaks of the Alps and the evergreen slopes which bordered the dark waters of the lake? Once in a while a few rays would penetrate the clouds and chase the rain away and make Switzerland look like a resplendent Alpine queen; but what help were a few rays, when on the top of Mount Pilatus the wall of fog was so dense that you could not even imagine what was beyond it?
At Paris one stopped because everyone wants to stop there, and because Paris in 1931 offered an opportunity to see a glimpse of a world which is not ordinarily open to the traveler in Europe. It was at the Colonial Exhibition. Tens of thousands of visitors of all nations saw the jungles of French China, deserts of Algeria, temples of India, and mosques of Tunis reproduced, and watched natives of many races, customs and dresses of numerous tribes-all part of a marvellous exotic world illuminated at night by numberless lights. A wonderful show, indeed, but also an illustration of how the colonial powers have to think of the welfare not only of their people at home but of millions of beings scattered over the surface of the globe.
London was the next stop, with the usual approach across a turbulent Channel to good old England, the country where people spoke a language you could understand. Anyhow, you had expected, at least, not to get stuck in conversation with a street pedlar whose cockney did not fit in so well with your slang. Of course, most Englishmen spoke a language which was yours, allowing for the accent which you had so often smiled at on the stage, but, after all, the language from which your own tongue originated. And was it not good that the clerk behind the counter talked to you in words which did not require an interpreter ?
And then the many places which you knew from reading and which so far had been just names, but which here took shape in the dome of St. Paul's, Big Ben, London Bridge, and the Tower. It gave history lessons of the classroom a new reality and made famous men and women seem alive. What a difference between the history of continental Europe, which always would remain mere history for lack of personal interest, and that of Great Britain, which was part of an Anglo-American inheritance! Was this not obvious in Westminster Abbey, where one who thought that he knew American boys' sight-seeing requirements patiently waited for them to come out for an hour and a half, instead of the half-hour he had scheduled. American literary interests were also fostered, particularly on the trip to Stratford-on-Avon. The less interested boys were satisfied by sitting in Shakespeare's chair, but several were stirred by the thought that this insignificant English town had been one of the sources from which a master mind had drawn poetic wealth enough to satisfy a world.
Oxford afforded a contrast between American and English college, life. It was easy enough to watch present-day conditions, but harder to realize that here was a town upon whose students a nation had depended for leadership for centuries. In these crooked streets and somber buildings had studied the boys who afterwards had turned the small islands of Great Britain into the mother country of an empire as great as this world has ever known. Naturally, some boys would roam around the boathouses to investigate shells and oars. To them Oxford meant more as the home town of a famous crew than as the cradle of English education.
Unquestionably there was a familiar atmosphere to the boys about England. It was, thus, much more remarkable that the crossing of the North Sea could bring them to a country where the atmosphere seemed almost equally familiar. Yet that is the way it struck them when they returned to the shores of Denmark. A long tour through Europe could not wipe out the feeling of familiarity in returning to a place where they had been received cordially in people's homes four weeks ago. It was almost like a homecoming. They would probably have felt equally much at home if they had returned to Berlin or Hungary, where they also had host friends; but their trip had started in Denmark, and it seemed natural that it should end there, before they had to go back to the only places which no others in the world could match---their own homes in America.
AT Christmas, 1931, Holland joined the countries which opened up their private homes, and a group of twenty-two boys accepted the invitations. It seemed almost unlikely that any families would wish their boys to spend Christmas away from their own homes, and the fact that they did can be explained only by the supposition that parents and boys alike expected to find in a foreign home the spirit which bespeaks family atmosphere.
Ten days abroad would hardly be worth the trip, from a tourist point of view. Of course, a crossing on the S.S. Europa, the record holder, and a three days' stay in England, when the London fog could be cut with a knife and the theaters were giving their best winter performances, were worth something. However, even a visit to Windsor, where all the King's horses rested lazily in their stables, a glimpse of Eton College, a trip to Stratford and Oxford, and finally all the varied sights and turmoil of London, could hardly be enough to lure a boy away from his family over Christmas. Something more had to be added to make it really worth while.
It was added, and it was explained by the leader's remark while crossing the North Sea: "Tomorrow you will not be tourists any longer; you will be guests." It began in Rotterdam, Holland, on a rainy morning which might have killed all spirit, unless it had been kept alive by the new atmosphere which greeted the boys when they walked through the custom house gates, and which stayed as long as they were distributed all over Holland in the homes of Dutch families. There they were, in The Hague, in Leiden, in Haarlem, in Amsterdam, and in several of its residential suburbs. The tourist spirit had gone. They were guests of the people who were supposed, for a week, to make up for the absence of dear ones at home.
In this they succeeded. No one could doubt it when the boys and their hosts gathered in Amsterdam for a final group program. It was a happy group and the most happy of all were Dr. M. Nieuwenhuis and Mr. Jan Chabot, the two members of the Dutch committee who had had unwavering faith in the outcome of the visit and had made all the arrangements. The group program put a finishing touch to the success of the individual hospitality. What did it matter that the rain was pouring down over the two busses which took them to the most famous points of interest in the city, beside its calm canals, across its bridges, and along modern boulevards? The Colonial Institute showed them how the Dutch., aside from their busy life at home, had organized to perfection a colonial empire far away in the Dutch East Indies, which daily turned riches into the treasury of Holland and gave work to thousands of industrious Hollanders at home and abroad.
The annual convention of high school boys and girls invited the group to its opening session. Without any hesitancy the boys reveled in piles of sandwiches and the famous Dutch coffee, piping hot, and mingled with the native students, discussing school life in Holland and America. They followed the teams to the field hockey games and withstood the rain and the mud as well as any Hollander, showing that it was not difficult to feel at ease among contemporaries whose interests they shared.
In the afternoon a tea-dance in Amsterdam's finest hotel united boys and girls in high spirits, without a sign of restraint. If an outsider had watched them, he might have believed that it was a family party. That was the way the farewell banquet looked, too. It was given by the Netherlands-America Chamber of Commerce in one of the finest restaurants in Amsterdam and was attended by Mr. Hoover, the Consul General of America, and Mrs. Hoover, and by representatives of the host families. It might have turned into a solemn affair if the spirit of the home life and the group activities had not carried the whole party over any dead stages. It turned out to be a celebration for all who realized the power of unrestricted international mingling. There were only two short speeches, one by Mr. Chabot and the other by the leader; but there was a constant flow of individual conversation, interrupted only by the lusty cheers of the boys in gratitude for the opportunity of spending Christmas with people who had given them a happier Christmas than they could have had anywhere except in their own homes.
The evening finished with a, reunion with the high school boys and girls. When the American boys entered the hall they were greeted most cordially. They were not strangers any longer, nor foreigners. They were boys of another nation, with much in common with the Dutch. The saying goes that God made the world, but that the Dutch made Holland by conquering it from the sea. On this occasion it could appropriately be added that they made Holland for the Hollanders to share it with their American friends.
The following night the group left Holland by train, and it was a lively scene on the railroad platform. Families were there to see their guests off, and both parties were loth to separate. Never have any boys regretted that a Christmas vacation was so short. Their only consolation was that Holland remained across the ocean with its canals and dikes, and above all with its hospitable people.
A morning in Paris spent on a bus ride through the city could add only a tourist touch to a Christmas trip, which had been too short but for the fact that friendships would outlast its shortness.
"WE liked you last Christmas; come and see us again during the summer!" This is a fitting introduction to the 1932 hospitality trip to Holland. The departure from New York promised a hot trip, in the literal sense of the word, and the tropical heat of the American continent turned the giant S.S. Aquitania into a boiling pot which was not made any cooler by the temperature of the Gulf Stream. Nor did the dancing with attractive tourist girls cool anyone off. To say the least, all were warmed up for activities abroad when they settled at the Royal Court Hotel for a three days' stay in and around London.
The continuous happenings in England started with a whole day's trip out into the country to Windsor; to Eton College, where you wondered how top hats and tail coats agreed with the study of Latin and Greek and with the students of those subjects; to Stratford-on-Avon, with the newly built Memorial Theater, whose modernism was so little reminiscent of Shakespeare's day; and to Oxford, where only the college buildings indicated that any scholars had ever been in the town, as the students were away on vacation. Then came two days of sight-seeing in London proper, on the traditional round to famous places and sights, one of which was the change of the King's Guard, which looked very impressive but nevertheless prompted the question: "Isn't it a waste of money?" The ride down the Thames presented landmarks like Cleopatra's Needle, the monument of the Fire of London, the site of the Old Globe Theater, and the Tower; and a stroll through the streets finished up at 10 Downing Street, with all its memories of England's outstanding Prime Ministers.
Could these sights, however, compare with the visit to the Houses of Parliament under the hospitable guidance of a real "M.P."? Was it not there that Britain had made her decisions about her relationship with the United States from colonial days through the Revolutionary War, and since that time up to the hour when England went off the gold standard and worried the financiers in the rest of the world'? And the House of Lords with the Wool Sack? "I wish they could refill it with cotton," whispered a Southern boy, who knew that trade below the Mason-Dixon Line needed every possible boost. For an hour Mr. Alfred E. Brown, M.P. of Leith, Scotland, showed the group through at least one hundred of the eleven hundred rooms of the vast buildings. The liveliest moment was when he let them re-enact an actual parliamentary vote---taken by filing through the voting lobby. The "ayes" had it for a vote of thanks to Mr. Brown for his courtesy to foreign boys, and these thanks were repeated when he arranged for them to watch the day's opening procession of the House. What a sight---the entering of the Speaker, surrounded by silent attendants in quaint garb and wig, with ceremonious bows and measured steps, and finally the repeated calls through the corridors: "The Speaker is in his seat!" It was worth a whole trip to Europe to view this truly dignified spectacle of the ancient customs of the mother parliament of all parliaments.
It was a welcome break in the day to gather at the crowded Lyon's Piccadilly Corner House for a big steak with all accessories, and find out that Londoners had not forgotten the importance of a hearty luncheon. It was still better, however, to set out on expeditions---a couple together, or five or six in a group---and discover typical English street scenes , such as people in evening dress on busses and subways. "If that could be done in Boston," said a Harvard fellow, "we could have dates every other night. Nothing but a taxi will do with us." A group found its way to the Croydon Airdrome and took in the sights from the air, while others gathered at the Hyde Park Corner, with its mass of Londoners around "soap box" speakers. What an experience to listen to subjects ranging from the lack of lifeboats on Atlantic liners to the abolition of slavery in Central Africa! "Oh, they are just a bunch of fanatics," was the slighting remark of one of the boys; but it did not prevent him from entering into the argument, and so temporarily attending this popular "training school of demagogues." Evenings they would come back to the hotel, rich in new experiences, and often gather at the "hot dog" stand in Sloane Square where, however, hot dogs were unknown, while kidney pie was the favorite dish. Here they heard real cockney from casual customers and discussed everything under the sun with them. Boys have a certain knack of getting close to realities, whether with a Member of Parliament or a street loafer.
A crossing under a starry sky over the dreaded North Sea, as calm as the proverbial mill pond, and Holland stretched out before the sleepy eyes of thirty-five boys. There were needed two factors to promise the success of this visit, and they were both on hand. One was the rays of an early Sunday morning sun which glittered on the waters of miles of canals, and the other was Dr. M. Nieuwenhuis, the untiring chairman of the hospitality committee of the Dutch Association for the Interchange of Youth. The sun revealed Holland's scenery at its best, and Dr. Nieuwenhuis produced the best of all Holland---twenty-four of its finest homes to entertain the boys.
What a treat for one who knew, but how peculiar for those to whom the procedure was new, to see the boys with their grips dropped from the train at the platforms in various cities. Everywhere representatives of the host families rushed up to them, shook hands, picked up the grips, and before the train was on its way to the next station they walked down the platform chatting and disappearing in taxis., trolleycars, or private machines to the various Dutch homes.
For five days the group as a whole did not see or learn much of one another. Of course, the eighteen fellows in The Hague would meet in the streets, the five Leiden boys would meet often, as would the few boys in Rotterdam and Utrecht; and the boys in Amsterdam run across one another when they came to see the leader in his hotel headquarters. It even happened that one of the Utrecht fellows met the Amsterdam fellows. He wheeled into the city with his host's son on twenty-mile bicycle ride, which proved that it had not taken him long to "go native" as far as bicycling was concerned.
The big day came when they met again as a group. It was The Hague, and it was arranged by the boys themselves. They had invited to luncheon, at the Oranje Hotel, one of the biggest hotels at the famous Scheveningen, a North Sea beach resort, the members of their host families, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, two or three guests each. What a round of introductions and what a mass of proud faces, each boy prouder than the other. In all formality they said: "I want you to meet my host and hostess," but then in a whisper on the side: "My! Doc, I have the swellest family in all Holland!"
They looked like friends, the one hundred and thirteen Americans, and Dutch seated at the luncheon, and they acted the part as the conversation flowed across the tables. It was almost a pity to have so much intimate friendliness interrupted by any formal speech-making, but, as long as this was in line with the spirit of the party, every one appreciated a few words from Dr. jur J. Kalff, Jr. As a member of the board of directors of the organizing association, as a governor of the district of Holland of Rotary International, and moreover as a host of two of the boys, he could truly interpret on behalf of all the Dutch their gratitude in being invited to the party "as guests of their own guests." As a Rotarian he was happy in seeing the Sixth Object of Rotary so successfully put to the test, and in conclusion he expressed the appreciation of everybody in having so efficient and so charming an organizer of the entertainment as Mrs. Nieuwenhuis. This occasion gave the leader an opportunity to let the individual families know his appreciation of the faith they had in the aims and methods of MY FRIEND ABROAD and in the boys. He had no doubt following the visit, Holland and the Hollanders would stand the boys as the best of Europe; and rightly so, until others them whether there was anything better. It was an intellectual pleasure to hear Miss J. A. D. Verhoop, a student of the University of Leiden, in beautiful English express the delight of Holland's boys and girls in mingling with the youths of other nations and their desire to cooperate with them along a path of understanding and friendship. No wonder that the occasion called for an expression of "organized" American enthusiasm! Like the people of other European nations, the Dutch found the boys' cheering the most amusing feature of their oral ability.
The luncheon turned out to be a great success and on a par with the other happenings of the day. It had started with a visit to the Binnenhof, the. Houses of Parliament of the Netherlands. Its location in The Hague, surrounded by canals, and the construction of the most attractive buildings left the impression of neatness which is typical of Dutch architecture. It was followed by an enjoyable reception by Mr. Swenson, the Minister of the United States to the Netherlands. The more thirsty members of the group have enjoyed most the amount of orange which was served on the lawn of his beautiful home in The Hague, but they appreciated, too, the deep thoughts behind the Minister's message to them. Here they were abroad to contribute towards still closer relations between Holland and the United States. They were right in turning their minds towards serious things, right in studying themselves as well as others, in order to go back with more energy, new impulses and vision, and in the future to exert their influence nationally as well as internationally. They had been exceptionally fortunate, because the Dutch hospitality had enabled them not only to study the exterior of Holland but to look inside, to live in the homes with the people. The Minister finished his message by thanking the Dutch families on behalf of the United States. The boys could not have been greeted in more fitting words, and it was with sincere gratitude that Nelson Farquahr of Harvard University responded on behalf of the group that their stay in Holland and their contacts with its best people had been facilitated greatly by the Minister's success in preparing a fertile soil for friendly relationships between the Dutch and the Americans.
In the early afternoon one group visited the Peace Palace, while another went to the Dutch Colonial Exhibition, and all gathered again :it a tea dance given by the boys at the Kurhaus on the beach. One saw plenty of signs there of friendliness, carried on to the tunes of a wonderful orchestra. "But why did it have to stop?" asked one of the boys when they filed out on the board walk and scattered in cars and trains to the homes. Of course, only the dance had stopped. The friendliness still continued, even after the group that early morning hung out of the windows of the departing train and for the last time shook hands with the people whom they had met for the first time only a week ago on the same platform. Now it was Jack and Bill, Jan and Pieter, and Margy and Betty. Instead of, "I am glad to meet you, Mr. eh-ah-eh," it was, "So long, Mr. and Mrs. -----"; and here came, with distinct Dutch pronunciation of even the longest and most difficult sounds, the family names of the leave-taking fathers and mothers.
A Saturday afternoon at Koblenz on the Rhine placed them in the midst of German vacation life. At rest on a hotel balcony overlooking the river, they saw the Germans flock to and fro. Motorists in small and large cars were on their way to a mountain automobile race near by. Bicyclists wheeled leisurely by with their camping outfit strapped to the bike, and groups of boys and girls hiked past with haversacks on their backs and flags waving. Most of them clustered along the banks of the mighty river, all put at rest by the murmur of its ever-flowing waters and the peace of the somber mountain slopes. How peculiar that such a restful vacation life could exist in what was supposed to be a politically turbulent Germany! Not one harsh word was heard, not one unfriendly gesture seen, not a sign of disharmony noticed---just hundreds of Germans, apparently contented and happy and never noisy.
You felt an urge to mingle with them, to join them on the moonlight boat ride up the river past the castle ruins illuminated by flood lights, to stroll along the promenade, and to gather, with them at the Wine Festival in the neighboring Weindorf park restaurant. How pleasant to find regular citizens, men and women, old and young, sipping their wine to the tunes of a native band; to listen to their sentimental and jocular songs, and to see them enjoy the entertainment on the small stage! The toastmaster was the personification of German Gemütlichkeit. He caught sight of a dozen of the boys and put them into the limelight with the remark: "We apparently have a group of American athletes with us tonight!" They did not know where he got the "athlete"' idea; but they felt that they were welcome in the party, and the Germans got a cheer---a regular one entirely unintelligible to them, except for the final words "Auf Wiedersehen!" At this, big smiles illuminated the native faces, and several repeated "Auf Wiedersehen!" Certainly, the boys wanted to come again and enjoy with them whatever is left of happiness for the Germans.
On a bus ride along the Rhine and also in Heidelberg, with hundreds of visitors around the immense Castle ruin, there was the same rest and peace. Even among the university students, order reigned in spite of their reputation for rowdyism and riots, and one was impressed with their pleasant sincerity and intellectual curiosity when a dozen of them accepted the invitation to be the boys' guests at a dinner party. Mingling at small tables there was opportunity to discuss the differences between German and American education, to learn about the changes from days when beer and beer again had been the key word of German students, to present days when national and international affairs were on their minds, and life in the open was preferred to rackets in restaurants. It was well expressed by Mr. Dorbritz, student of law, in his talk on "What We Want." He presented all the difficulties they have to encounter in the present political upheaval, their ambitious, and their desire to better their conditions in cooperation with other nations. His thoughts were far from the spirit of supremacy over others which had a estranged Germany from other countries before the World War, and his political sincerity was an eye-opener to many of the boys. Their cordiality and naturalness appealed, on the other hand, to the German students. Nothing could have topped off this get-together better than the singing of German and American songs. When they wandered together out into the streets of Heidelberg, past the students' prisons, where the rowdiest of them used to repent their pranks, it was with a changed conception of one another and with a great deal more of mutual respect.
It is elating to notice the effect which the grandeur of scenery has on fine boys. It grips them and holds them---not for long, to be sure, because they live in the moment, but its hold is firm as long as it lasts. This was evident as the group gazed over the blue expanse of Lake Geneva from the hotel windows at Lausanne and viewed the tops of the Alps. At that moment dozens would have been willing to exchange all of Europe's scenery for this Alpine beauty. In the morning to see the lake emerge in sunny splendor below streaks of clouds around the mountain peaks increased their sense of scenic beauty and made Switzerland the byword for it. It sowed a little seed in fertile minds---a desire to let lovely lands be a part of their realm of living.
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Quite different was the effect of the headquarters of the League of Nations in Geneva. It was just an ordinary building, with nothing about it to merit admiration. On its wall, however, was one small, impressive thing---a white tablet with the inscription in French: "A la mémoire de Woodrow Wilson, Président des États-Unis, Fondateur de la Société des Nations. La Ville de Genève." The boys, fellow countrymen of the man in whose honor the tablet was dedicated, recalled only that he had been president of their country. It took imagination on their part to appreciate the importance of his real task---the creation of the League of Nations, the greatest international institution ever known. But those who did realize his greatness left Geneva with a conception of the beauty of nations united in close cooperation.
Naturally Paris excited them, as it has thousands of Americans. The aim of the leader was to do his share in order that it should live up to its reputation. Comfortable hotel rooms with private baths were a good start, and delicious meals a good continuation. It was not amiss either to call attention to the architectural beauty of the city on a leisurely stroll, first through the narrow streets, then along the Champs Élysées, winding up with the unmatched view from the top of l'Arc de Triomphe. But here came the first accident. One of the group, ignorant of the photographic regulations of the French Government, was seized upon by a guard, who told him with a flow of rapid words that it was prohibited to take pictures without having a permit. Of little avail was the boy's classroom French against this torrent of colloquialisms; and his polite words of "Merci, merci," in his Americanized pronunciation, sounded very much like "Mercy, mercy!" Quite fitting, because one would have mercy on travelers in Paris unless one were familiar with the fact that a tourist is a legitimate source of income to quite a number of Parisians. A little pecuniary squabble like that would easily have been forgotten, had it not been revived when peaceful contemplation in the park of Versailles in innocent-looking chairs was interrupted by a woman with a handful of tickets, and her obvious ire over the fact that American boys did not know that they had to pay for park seats.
Illuminating were the boys' reports from visits to favorite show houses like Folies Bergères or Casino de Paris, and the comparisons between them and the shows in big American cities. Opinions differed; but one thing was sure---in America you can pass an usher without a bad conscience. That was impossible in Paris. Taught by experience, no boy would ever attend any Paris theater without changing bills, into plenty of small coins. It was enough to have been stung once by the disappearance in an usher's hand of a fifty-franc note, with no change returned. "If Paris hadn't been so overrated," said one boy, "it would have been all right, except for the constant practice of tipping here, there, and everywhere. That's what got me!" But, after all, that's a small thing in view of all the big and beautiful things in Paris.
It was a happy crowd which left Paris and boarded the S.S. Veendam of the Holland-America Line in Boulogne. It felt good to get on a Dutch steamer; it was almost like coming back to hospitable Holland. But best of all was to get back to America, and, as one boy said, "to be in a place where you can read the signs and understand them."
The following three chapters give individual experiences in the private families who entertained the boys, and the effects of them on the boys, their parents, and the headmasters; in addition, the effects on the host families and the attitude of the public, as found in newspapers and magazines.
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