FBoF. . . Retour à 1 9 6 9 . . .

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When I was searching for a link to the University of Paris at Nanterre for reference in an earlier post, it brought back memories of a previously turbulent time in our world. As I write this, honestly, my breath stops . . . because it seems like we have returned to the turbulent 60’s and 70’s.  It is often that I read and view nearly the very same thing happening today. My home town of Seattle is no stranger to unrest.

I may not have mentioned this on my blog . . .

My father was a Seattle police officer during those times.   . . . and yes his life and health were under threat . . . more than once.

He was a member of the police drill team, who performed in community parades unarmed. Who had to arm themselves the summer of ’67 due to threats similar to today. When my dad left for work, I feared for his life.

He was spat on, had rocks and bottles thrown at him during the “peaceful” protests.  I remember when the Seattle police were issued their first set of “riot” gear. Dad was very unhappy. He told us he was now going to look like a soldier instead of a  policeman.  They were also issued big sticks. He said, ” this stuff is going to translate terribly on camera.” “The press is going to have a field day with this.”

daffodils

The first big protest at the UW that year was during daffodil season.  He and his brothers and sisters attached “daffs” with rubber bands to the ends of the sticks, in an effort not to look intimidating. They hated the riot gear.  Working the protests was not fun. It was the first time dad heard pretty young co-eds hurling the F-word along with rocks, bottles and spit.  It all made him sad and worried about where our world was headed.  My dad was called a “PIG” and my brothers and I were called “Narcs” when we were in high school. We didn’t whine about the name calling. We just took it in stride.  Like most of life’s tougher experiences, it makes one stronger and more aware.

1969 1

In the summer of 1969, I participated in summer study program in Europe. We attended classes at several colleges. One of the colleges where we attended school was Paris West University Nanterre La Défense.

1969 2

Before we entered the campus, our advisors / chaperones informed us that the students on this campus were very angry at America and Americans. They informed us that the buses carrying American students that had arrived before us, had been hit with molotov cocktails. You could tell the advisors were masking their fear as they calmly spoke (warned) us. We were told to be friendly and go about our business, and to try our best to avoid confrontation.

When I entered my assigned dorm room, above the bed was ugly graffiti . . . an ugly statement directed towards presidents Kennedy,  Johnson, and Nixon involving three swastikas used as “plus” signs . . . yes swastikas . . . ending in an ugly answer to the equation. This was scary stuff for a seventeen year old far from home. I promptly unpacked three posters purchased along the way and covered up the wall. This was not a hotel. I couldn’t request another room. It was going to be my residence for a short while.

We had just left Strasbourg . . . just one week prior,  I had walked among ruins of WWII. I was not going to sleep beneath a swastika.

When we weren’t in class, we took the train to play in Paris.  Our visit timed with Bastille Day, where I stood with my friends on the edge of the Champs Elyesee . . . where I craned my neck to see the recently retired Charles D’Gaulle and the new president, Georges Pompidou.   I was living in world history. It was a dream come true.

I had my picture taken with a French police officer. I did this in each country I visited, to make a little photo album for my father.  Police love a handshake and a photo. Not one turned me down when I told them the photo was for my father who is a police officer in America.

When we would return to the dorm at night, the French students would harass us. We would smile, offer a friendly nod, and move on to gather in our hallway to sing songs like the “Love Theme From Romeo and Juliet”, and “Leavin’ On a Jet Plane”,  accompanied by our newly purchased  Melodica’s, (travelling keyboards), before retiring for the night.

One night, the students seemed a little friendlier. We stopped to talk. They spoke perfect English.  We told the students that we were here to study because we wanted to see their country and learn more about their history and culture. We decided, instead of avoiding one another . . . we should spend some evenings in the lobby to getting to know each other.

nanterre.jpg

On the next evening, after Paris, coffee was brewing in the lobby of our dorm. The French students awaited our return.  We talked, shared world views, talked about where we lived in America, and shared that we too, did not always agree about the choices of our government.  The ritual continued until we departed. After our stay, the French advisor told our advisor, that the French students enjoyed our visit.  Our advisor told us he was proud of us. He said that we were the first group of American students who visited without retaliation. He told us we were wonderful American ambassadors.

The title of our summer program was . . . Travel Study International / Student Ambassadors to Europe.  I know most in our group embraced the term “ambassador”.  We felt very “cool” representing our country abroad. We felt very proud to have brought our best (American) hearts to  Nanterre.

I hope you don’t mind. . . I  just needed to write it down.

Sending my best heart to France . . .

w / L

13 Comments Add yours

  1. Oh Lynne, I am glad that I caught this post. As you know I was traveling in Italy and PARIS when this was posted. What a story you have to tell! This is rich history indeed. Being an ambassador is an honor. It’s funny you should mention that. Any time my husband and I travel internationally we tend to see ourselves in that light, though we’ve never used that term for it. Being in Paris, especially during the tragedy in Nice, made us want to smile bigger, offer kind words and comfort to our french friends. We are all citizens of the world, right? Lovely post,
    xx Heather

    1. Hello beautiful Heather! I was praying for your safety the whole time you and Scott were in Europe. I was in Paris on Bastille Day in 1969, and it is quite special. I so wanted the two of you to enjoy it safely. Sadly Nice took the hit this time. My heart is broken about the priest in Normandy. I hold Normandy as a sacred place . . . a symbol of freedom. On a lighter side . . . It is fun to watch you delve into your business. I can only imagine how your travels inspired your already keen fashion sense. Before Chrislyn and Jay were born, my career was in the fashion industry. Like motherhood, I miss it every day.
      Best of love to you and Scott!
      ~Lynne

  2. Jane Lynn says:

    Wow….very powerful and moving. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you for popping in, Jane!

  3. These are indeed scary times and they remind me of the stories that I have heard from my relatives about the unrest in the 1960’s. My grandparents owned a mens clothing store in the inner city of Milwaukee, they were held up one day and my grandmother was made to lay on the ground with her German Shepard next to her and they asked her who she thought they would shoot in the head? They put both heads next to each other and shot the dog head off.

    My mother was shot at when she was 8 months pregnant in 1965 while protecting her parents at the same store.

    All of the protests and unrest bring back bad memories for my family.

    We need to ALL pull together and realize that ALL LIVES MATTER! No just Black or Blue. ALL! We are all important.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    1. Dearest Elizabeth, I am so sorry your family has to re-live such terror. I believe many were living in La La Land when all of this horror was going on in the 60’s. Milwaukee has suffered greatly. Heartbreaking.

  4. Marsha Scott says:

    Seriously, I don’t remember a time as bad as these we see today. I pray for all of us. I want to go see the new Jason Bourne movie when it premiers here in Houston, but movie theaters are big targets, aren’t they?
    This is why I think we need big change.

    1. Beautiful Marsha. I really believe we can end this horror. I wish politics would get out of the way.

  5. marcia at home says:

    It’s good that you can write. All I can do is cry. Thank you for sharing, L.
    xo

    1. Oh Marcia. I have cried too.
      May God bless you.

  6. Botanic Bleu says:

    Lynne,
    Thank you for writing all this down. We need to remember our own histories and how they fit into the larger landscape of the history of our times. We also need to remember our successes to remind ourselves we can make a difference. You continue to make a difference with your life with every blog post you write. Blessings to you, your family, our French friends, and to everyone struggling to make a positive difference in our world.

    Judith

    1. Blessed my your encouraging words and your amazing friendship, Judith.
      ~L

  7. Chère amie, write. Write it all down. Write down, as you have done here, concrete moments. Make a list. Then let that list tell the story.

    I am at a loss for words right now, but I am abundant in imagery. The photos that have been circulating, one in particular of a slain infant….

    Peace to you. Peace to your loved ones, peace to those around you who do not understand.

    We need to find someone outside of our “tribe” and love them to the truth. Thank you for visiting my blog! I don’t know why but my photos suddenly enlarged!I need to find someone that can help me for I don’t know what happened! Did you notice? Anita

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