Remember that Vatican guard? I should have asked her.

Dear Readers,

Today I came home from an afternoon and I felt filled with smiles. Kandy Lippincott, an artist, a good friend and former co-worker, invited us to the art reception she was sharing with Joanna Patterson, photographer. I took my husband and told him that we’d stay only a few minutes. I expected a pleasant event. Instead it was a joyous event.

Many friends who had worked with me in the Camden City Public Schools system greeted me. I can’t help but remark that retirement makes everyone look younger. No lesson plans to be done on Sunday night for Monday morning approval?

I glanced at the laughing and talking crowd and – what! I recognized immediately my dear friend from Rutgers University, Camden. Sue La Pierre! We’d met on the very first morning of college in 1968 and we would share a room for the summer of 1970 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

We hookied one Friday from the University of Lausanne where we were studying French and we flew to Rome for a weekend—the U.S. dollar was favorable forty-five years ago. We walked out of the airport terminal to find the pension where we would stay. Cars skidded to a halt on the streets and men called to us, offering us a ride, “Bella! Bella! Bella!”

The attention of the Roman men was thrilling, but after a while, it became almost scary. I’d never experience that level of admiration again after that trip to Rome. Maybe for Sue—some years later she would win Miss Tall International.

I forgot to ask my friend if she remembered how the guard at the Vatican wouldn’t let us enter—an elderly lady in a black scarf and long black skirt waved her arms, screamed in Italian and pointed to our legs. The guard had to acknowledge sadly that our skirts were short and he turned us away.

Our years at Rutgers Camden, the summer in Europe and many get-togethers in our twenties and thirties had bonded us and the decades in which we hadn’t seen each other evaporated.

I knew that I’d like seeing Joanna’s magnificent photos of Burma and Kandee’s whimsical block prints. But, I didn’t expect to see my former co-workers and to get to hug them and to say how great retirement is. And, I really didn’t expect to see my college friend and fellow traveler there!

That’s what I call serendipity.  Don’t you love it when you have a good time?

Love from Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra, Cramer Hill

Still smiling from such a lovely afternoon


45 years ago? Cramer Hill girl gets on plane

No! It Can’t Be Forty-Five Years Ago!

Dear Readers,

I can’t remember where my keys are, but I remember July 10th is the anniversary of my first plane ride, my first trip to Europe and my first time to live abroad. I found out how terrible my French was! I had the time of my life—a naïve Cramer Hill girl in Europe with the hugest suitcase packed with new clothing, billion-page French-English dictionary and letter paper.

About twenty French students from Rutgers University, Camden, traveled with Madame Alminde and her husband and little son, Russell.  (If you read this somehow, Madame Alminde, I hope that I didn’t give you any gray hair.)  With them, I saw the Alps!  Swiss lakes!  Bluest skies!   Switzerland!  Italy!  France!

I thought that I’d return to Europe often, never thinking that the U.S. dollar wouldn’t always be spectacular, never thinking that life would get responsible, never thinking that I’d get older and never imagining that even summer weeks abroad weren’t going to happen again.  Who would believe that I’d be sixty-five and not wear mini-skirts and not have long hair?

Those six weeks in Lausanne, Switzerland in the Hotel Alpha-Palmiers with my roommates, Sue, Linda and Bonnie, remain among favorite memories. Then, there was a week in France—definitely another favorite memory when I traveled a bit with a French friend.

Sue and I took a day off from our studies at the University of Lausanne to fly to Rome—what jet-setters we were!  (Think–the USD was fabulous then.)   Trudy, Linda and Zana took sidetrips, too, perhaps to Venice? It was a time when the world (at least, I thought so) was safe and all people were good.

The music! of 1970! The Simon and Garfunkel hit, El Condor Pasa, makes me think of the beautiful voice of my roommate, Linda, and how she sang it as we walked to our hotel from a night in a little café. The Beatles’ song, Good Night, brings back an evening in a little disco down the street where we danced innocently with our American and international friends.

I couldn’t imagine then what a pure and lovely time that was and would never be duplicated. We had time to enjoy every moment with friends with no distractions. No one was checking a cell phone or talking on a cell phone. I don’t think that I used a phone once. Letters, however, were important, though. Paper and pen! Stamps and envelopes! Retro, right?

We met kids from all over the world and one of our Swiss friends, Bruno, and his lovely girlfriend, Ruth, have remained my friends. They married and had two daughters. They’ve visited me here in Camden, New Jersey and we’ve stayed with them in Widen, Switzerland. (Widen is nicer—by far!)   We’ve traveled with them here in the USA and Canada so our daughters know each other. We exchange photos of our grandchildren.

Our friend, Stanley Straiges, was on that trip and he was a wonderful part of that summer. He passed away about twenty years ago. I can’t neglect mentioning his name because he made those weeks even more fun with his ready smile and sense of humor.  Like many of us, he became a teacher and he was beloved in his schools in Camden.  The best friend that anyone could want… Miss you, Stan.

I don’t have one of my own photos to post—I had everything in slides. I should go down to the basement and see if I can find one of those slide carousels to see if the slides have survived the decades.  Again, retro…

How blessed I was to have that opportunity. I took a student loan to have that trip and it was the best money that I ever spent. I wish every Camden kid could have that experience.

I don’t know how much French I learned, but I made memories that remain after forty-five years.  Here I am, smiling and smiling, just thinking about that sortie out of Camden and to Lausanne.

AND!!!!!!! Happy Birthday, Linda. How cool it was that we made that trip on your 20th birthday.

Love from Cramer Hill

Enjoying my memories and thinking of dear friends today

Marguerite Wunsch Ferra