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* Minneapolis to Paris Orly to Djibouti and beyond! 1966

November 13, 2017

I was a big bad 3rd grader. Well big for my age anyway. Kind of like now I guess!

My family and I were on our way to Madagascar for the first time and everything was a Commissing parents (2)bit bewildering for me, anyway. We’d started out in Minneapolis with a flurry, as my grandma Eide, who worked for what was then Northwest Orient Airlines, had gotten to the gate too late to see us off, so she’d talked the ticket agent into coming onto the plane to see us off (before security, but still quite a thing to do!). And almost flew with us as by the time she turned to leave they’d shut the door and were not happy about having to reopen it! But God bless her, she’d given us a box of Fanny Farmer chocolates which would save us boys later in the flight.fanny farmer

Later in the flight. It was now very late for us to be eating (7 pm?) and still no food. And then, with the flourish only Air France could make with what was airline food, it came. Fresh salmon. First, I’m not sure we’d ever even eaten salmon and B. it was cooked in some obscure fashion I’m sure the French enjoyed. Us little guys, however? Not so much. So enter Fanny Farmer chocolate to the rescue!

And then we got to Paris where we fortunately had an overnight in a hotel (airlines used to just give these to you back then). I don’t remember much as I’m pretty sure I spent most of the time sleeping. But there are a few things.

plate of beets

The funniest was when we went for supper, where my parents, who didn’t speak French, pointed at something on the menu, hoping for the best, which turned out to be beets. Just beets. Not our favorite food. They then ordered something else that worked much better as someone spoke enough English to see us through to something less beetish.

And then, on our way down a hall, maybe to our flight(?), I grabbed my little brother Johnny B’s arms and he fell down. On his chin. Blood everywhere. And a big cut. So then we soins medicauxwere all off on an unanticipated (and so much preventable–naughty me!) adventure of trying to find somewhere that could deal with this injury at Orly airport. For a family which spoke no French. Thankfully, there was, though instead of stitching up the cut like they probably should have, they put a big bandage on it.

The next thing I remember was flying through the night in what was either an Air France 707 or DC-8. What was magical was the blue “stars” (lights) the plane had on theb.1770 ceiling. What was awful, in those days before there were even no smoking sections of a plane, was the air was so smoky it was blue on that long flight. A fair amount of it I assume from the infamous Galoise and Gitanes cigarettes. Small, white and strong. Very strong. And a French movie, one of those I most likely wouldn’t have understood even if it had been in English. Of course, I was only a 3rd grader.

Foreign Legion

And then a middle of the night stopover for fuel in Djibouti, which was still a French Territory in those days. As we landed the windows totally misted up as the outside of our plane went from well below 0 to the “cool” 110 degrees it was there in the middle of the night, blocking our view of most of the little which was visible. Getting out, we walked over to a one-story building that wasn’t so big as I remember it which may have been the airport in those days? Walking up the stairs I remember staring up at two very big men with big boots with carefully rolled socks, short pants and holstered pistols. And to literally “top” it off, some of the funniest looking hats I’d ever seen–the French Foreign Legion, providing a lot more security than was usual in those pre-hijacking days. I have no idea why they were needed?

The only other things I remember from the flight was first the hot towels they gave us in pain aux choclat (2)the morning as we flew on towards Madagascar. Heavenly! And the food which wasn’t so much heavenly. French food, which back then I didn’t enjoy. Thankfully I liked a French breakfast better than whatever we had for supper on that flight. And the strangest water. Spring water I assume. In little plastic cups with a plastic cover. I suppose we didn’t realize we could have requested plain old water. And oh, yeah. It began a love affair with pain aux chocolat which has lasted a lifetime–the coffee came quite a bit later. Ah yes, the joys of travel!

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