Jon Crispin's Notebook


Posted in Family, History, Travel by joncrispin on 09/08/2010

Since my mother died in March of 2009, I have been going through lots of her things.  She seems to have been a saver of many of the same kind of momentos that I favor.  I have always been interested in “official” documents, and when I saw this passport, I knew I wanted to keep hold of it.  Yesterday I started thumbing through the pages, and it is so filled with information about a specific time in my family’s life that it really hit me.

For reasons that I have never fully understood, my father, who was a professor of German at Allegheny College went to Innsbruck, Austria sometime in the Summer of 1956 to spend several months studying or teaching at the University of Innsbruck.  The plan was for my mother, sister, brother and me to come to Europe in December of that year to join him for the holidays.  These are the first two pages of the passport.  I like that the “Foreign Address” given was c/o American Express, Innsbruck, and that in case of problems my grandmother was to be notified.  I remember her house on Torrey Road in Grosse Pointe very well.

Two great signatures on the above pages; Vera Louise Crispin and John Foster Dulles.

I like the above pages the best.  The photograph was probably taken at the Stanton Rand Studios in Meadville.  That’s me on the bottom right.  I am surprised that the immigration stamp from our return into the States is on this page.  All other stamps are on the next page.  Interesting to note that travel to Hungary was right out.  We would be in Austria, which in 1956 was still occupied by Soviet troops (more on that later).

I have always loved rubber stamps, and these are full of information.  Since there is no stamp for our departure from New York City, I can only guess at the date.  I actually have a dim memory of leaving from the Meadville train station sometime in late November of 1956, arriving in New York and checking into a hotel for the night.  We boarded the USS Constitution the next day.  I have a few memories of the ship; swimming in the indoor pool, sneaking into First Class, throwing ping pong balls over the rails, and celebrating Bob’s birthday on the 2nd.  Before arriving in Genoa, we stopped in Casablanca and since my mother was travelling as a single mom, one of the ship’s officers offered to take us to the big hotel for part of the day.  I remember sitting on a balcony overlooking the harbour and drinking Coca Cola out of bottles where the logo was in Arabic.  I was scared shitless that the ship would leave without us.  Nest stop was Messina (Sicily)  of which I have no memory.  We finally arrived in Genoa (Genova) on the 10th, where my Dad met us.  We got on a train the next day, and went through customs at Brennero (Brenner Pass) and entered Austria.  Innsbruck was totally cool.  We stayed at Pension Bender on Dr. Glatzstrasse which was directly across the street from a Soviet Army post.  We used to look out the windows in the morning and watch them march around the compound.  Weird to think about now.  I remember eating lots of soup.  For Christmas, our family and lots of Dad’s friends went to Lermoos in the Alps.  (I know this is getting a bit long, so bear with me.  It seems kind of self-indulgent to be doing this; it is mostly for my brother and sister and their families.)  So, after Innsbruck, a train out of Austria through Germany.  Arrived in Holland on 25 January at Venlo Station, left on a ferry from Hoek the same day, and arrived in Harwich, UK on the 26th.  While in England we were in London for a few days staying at the Ivanhoe (which is now a dump, but used to be nice), and then we went down to Redruth, Cornwall to visit my dad’s family.  The triangular stamp at the bottom tells of our departure from Southampton on the SS United States on the first day of February, 1957.  We were delayed by a day due to “heavy seas”, and arrived in New York City on the 7th in the middle of a tugboat strike.  The captain of the United States docked the ship without any tugs, and it was huge news in New York.  Made the front page of the Times.

9 Responses

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  1. Peter said, on 09/08/2010 at 7:30 pm

    Really enjoyed this post and the photos of your mother’s passport.
    It reminded me of my travels as a boy with my Mom and brothers in the 50s and 60s. We did several tans-atlantic crossings by boat.

  2. Kara della Croce said, on 13/08/2010 at 1:39 pm

    Jon, so great reading these! keep the posts coming.

  3. Hannelore said, on 26/07/2012 at 8:39 pm

    Thanks for your memories of the SS United States. I was on the same trip and experienced the immense storm. I have searched for a while and have not been able to confirm that there was this delay in the arrival until I came across your info. I ‘ll take a look at the passenger list of my crossing… Might find you there.

    • joncrispin said, on 27/07/2012 at 6:18 am

      Hannelore. Thanks so much for your comment. Amazing we were on the same voyage. I am interested in the passenger list. Where would I find something like that? Best, Jon

  4. Plant « Jon Crispin's Notebook said, on 04/12/2012 at 6:59 pm

    […] The picture in the background is my mom and was taken in 1956 in Lermoos, Austria.  Here’s a link to a previous post about that […]

  5. Photobooth Journal said, on 05/12/2012 at 1:45 am

    Great story and love the passport photo and stamps. I have a few old passports in my collection of ephemera. WIth the lack of stamping these days they are becoming lovely historical pieces and collector’s items. Do you know why the passport would have been marked Not Valid for Travel in Hungary?

    • joncrispin said, on 05/12/2012 at 9:48 am

      Katherine, Thanks for your comment. I can see how it ties in with your interests. In answer to your question, Hungary in 1956 was going through pretty rough times with its relationship with the Soviet Union. The Soviets were harshly cracking down on the Hungarian independence movement. So I assume the US government didn’t think it was a safe place to travel. Best, Jon

  6. […] Karen Miller, my friend who is using the cases and their owners as a basis for writing amazing poems was in Rotterdam with us yesterday, and she and I realized that we were both passengers on the SS United States in 1957.  She was on her way to the UK to live there for a year with her family, and I was returning from some months in Europe and the UK with my family.  I posted about that trip here. […]

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