Trumbull – Dan’s Musings From Home – August, 1939

Dan has been home for slightly less than a week and he has some surprising insights on his sojourn in Venezuela. He is still adjusting to life at home and gives us a slightly different view than we get from Grandpa’s weekly missives.

Trumbull, otro vez

Dan in Trumbull

Dan in Trumbull

August 7 (1939)

Dear Ralfred:

Although I have been home for no more than one week, I look back on Venezuela with mellow kindness! Already I have forgotten the unpleasantness of hot weather, plaga and the filth. I have just finished reading the scrapbook, and regret more than ever that I was unable to get to Pariaguan.

I noticed a statement made about some friend of Barbara’s who works with Socony-Vacuum. He is the same fellow whom I asked you to look up – – – Martin Williams. He was one of the first men at Pariaguan, and knew the camp when it was nothing more than a few dilapidated huts. Last summer he broke his leg and came to Caracas, where he has been since. He is a geologist, rather young (in his twenties) and has been working in your Caracas offices since his accident. I looked him up while I was in Caracas last month, and learned that he was coming to the states for his vacation during the end of July and the first of August. I shall try to see him again before he leaves, and perhaps I can send your dental floss (which has stayed with me since I first arrived in Caracas) and any other odds and ends which occur to me. He tells me that he often sends things out to Pariaguan at the request of the men, and as long as he stays in Caracas, I am sure he would be glad to send you anything you might need.

On my foray to the llanos I reached a point called Palanque, and, in all probability, could have reached Valle de la Pascua, but from there on would have been quite a gamble. The Caracas office, although it was completely civil, did not give me much assistance. I don’t believe that they know much about conditions outside of Caracas.

I am again in a position to give you advice on sailing procedure when you start home. The Grace Line schedule at present runs from New York to Caracas to La Guayra to Puerto Cabello to Barranquilla to Panama, then back to La Guayra to New York. From La Guayra to New York , direct, costs $160. From La Guayra to Panama to New York costs a lot more, but from Puerto Cabello to Panama to New York costs only $10 more than from La Guayra to New York ($170)! In other words, from Puerto Cabello to Panama and back to La Guayra costs only $10 if you continue on to New York. By the time you are ready to come home, however, that might be back on their old schedule. Don’t buy clothes in Panama. You can get better quality and cheaper right in Bridgeport, believe it or not. The things to buy in Panama are alligator goods, perfumes, liquors, ivory and silks. The proper price is about half what they ask if they think you are a tourist. If you can convince them that you are working in Panama, the storekeepers will cut prices amazingly. Ivory is often nothing better than celluloid. If the storekeeper allows you to hold a match to the ivory, the chances are that it is bone, rather than celluloid! I don’t know how to tell pure ivory. I have been told that it is cold to the touch, but I really don’t know. For gifts, buy alligator leather belts, cigarette cases, watch fobs, handbags, wallets etc., imported soaps and perfumes from France or England and silks from Japan.

My impressions of the USA after having been away are rather surprising. Vegetation seems much greener here! The poorest house seems quite nice; the Merritt Parkway looks like the dream of some future Gomez. Everything is so wealthy seeming that I am amazed at not having been more shocked at the poverty of Venezuela when I first arrived last fall.

It seems such a short time ago that I left the states for Venezuela, yet it seems ages ago since I bid you and Bush farewell in Carora last spring! I have seen more of Venezuela and crammed more experience in the last few months since I saw you last, that my whole attitude toward Venezuela has changed. In Caracas I learned to be a spendthrift por necesidad, in Maracaibo I found one of the most interesting cities I have known, with painted Indians and burros rubbing shoulders with Americans and new trucks. Driving from Cabimus to Barquisimeto via Coro along the shore gave me an insight on the highway system (or lack of system) of Venezuela. The brief dash out to the beginning of Los Llanos and the amazing rock crags near San Juan de los Morros opened a new vista of South American beauty. My three weeks at Bobare were spent in high, semi-arid, cactus strewn country comparable to New Mexico. I would never have believed it possible to see so much variety in such a short time.

I have many very fine photographs, and I shall send them from time to time when the weight of the letter permits. Enclosed in this letter is a snapshot which, for obvious reasons, has been censored, and is safer with you in Pariaguan that it would be here at home. I shall try to make it a point to write to you each week, supplementing Dad’s news with my own impressions of Trumbull, or Alaska, as the case may be. I have decided to go to the University of Alaska if they will have me.

Ced is still working with the Tilo Company. We have heard nothing from Rusty for quite a while. Dick is living the life of a country gentleman. Dave is running a close second. I am running a poor third and playing plenty of tennis. Dad is running the town of Trumbull, his office in Bridgeport, and the kitchen here at home. His latest hobby is cooking, and, knowing his propensity for experimenting with foods, you can readily imagine what an opportunity he had us. Biss is still happily married, and Zeke is on good terms with the entire family, for which I am very grateful. I suppose you have heard that you are on the verge of becoming an uncle. I don’t know when, but I suspect it will be before the year is over. The house seems quite empty without any females. There are only five of us. It is the smallest family that I have ever seen in this house.

I don’t get around much yet, due to my lack of foresight in getting my license renewed and Bissie’s lack of foresight in getting Willy-O compromised. I want to see the World’s Fair, Rudolph, Storrs, Carl Nelson’s wife, McCarter and a bit of New York nightlife. I have not found a job, although I have professed a willingness to work for Mr. Skinner when he has work for me.

I am rapidly shaking off my South American ennui, and have surprised myself on several occasions by a spurt of energy. Perhaps my frequent change of diet has held back a more rapid recovery. During the last two months I have completely changed my diet eight times! La Conception, Mena Grande, Maracaibo, truck trip to Barquisimeto, Bobare, Caracas, Santa Paula (the Grace Line Ship) and now home.

Don’t hesitate to write all the Spanish possible. I need plenty of practice, and it won’t hurt you, either. Don Whitney speaks college Spanish, but helps a little. I am trying to teach Dicky to help me.

Adios,  pues

Dan

This letter finally explains why we (or Graqndpa) hasn’t heard from Dan in the last two months. He spent that time exploring Venezuela to his heart’s content. I’m sure he was disappointed in not having reached Valle de la Pascua, but he definitely has a very practical side and didn’t want to “miss the boat”. I hope he keeps up with the letter writing because he and Ced don’t actually leave for Alaska for another year. I’m sure we’ll learn more about their plans – and changes in plans – on a regular basis, from Grandpa.

Judy Guion

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Alaska to Venezuela – Running Into Art – 1940

It is the end of July, 1940, and Dan and Ced have been in Alaska for almost 2 months. Fortunately, they found jobs immediately, but have now found jobs that are much closer to what they had wanted. Ced is working at the Woodley airfield and Dan is working at the military air base.

The following letter is from Dan to his older brother Lad, still in Venezuela. It’s longer than my usual posts, but Dan is such a colorful writer that I decided it wouldn’t be fair to make you wait for the “rest of the story”.

Anchorage

July 28

Hermanito Mio,

Here I be where you might have been, well there you are where I might of been, and opposite sides of the continent, at that! I suppose you never appreciate the present…. Even the future or the past seems more important. At least, that is how it seems to me. Here I am in Alaska, sort of wishing I were home or in South America. When I was home I was wishing to be either in Alaska or South America. When I was in Venezuela I was wishing I were home or in Alaska! And apparently I am not getting over it! I often think of Venezuela with nostalgic yearning. The few times we spent together crop up in my memory now and then…. The first time in Carora, when Carl Nelson was on his way out…. That time you came out to Totuche with news of Ted’s accident…. And later, when you picked me up on the way to Carora, with a bar of chocolate and ”Bush”, and the meal of cheese and crackers in a café…. and the pounding on the door of the hotel Commercio to wake up the mozo who slept just inside the door…. Alas! You appreciate such things only in perspective.

The present soon becomes the past, so it seems most important to make the most of it. The only news you have heard of our present (Ced’s and mine) has come to you, indirectly, through Dad. Naturally the reports have been colored by his point of view.

Here is mine!

We drove, neither loitering nor hurrying, to Seattle in what was not a very interesting trip to make. Uncle Sam’s USA seems rather drab after the exotic atmosphere of Latin America. We saw the plains and the Badlands and the mountains, but for the most part they were very much what I had expected them to be. Further, living in a car is not a very restful experience, so I was glad to get to Seattle and find a few days on my hands in which I could relax. There is a nightclub on Second Avenue called “MUSIC”. It is a beer and dance joint with no cover, no minimum, an orchestra, two floor shows nightly, and the large percentage of sailors on shore leave.

I was sitting at a table, brazenly sipping a glass of beer and watching the dance. One of the sailors who drift past looked just like Art Mantle! I had heard, just before leaving home, that Art was in Honolulu. Further, I knew that most of his time in the states was spent in San Diego. So I figured it must be a coincidence that a sailor looking like Art, was in Seattle. The dance ended, and that sailor walked over to his table, nodding of greeting to one of his buddies sitting near me. I leaned over, saying, “Pardon me, but what is the name of the fellow who just waved to you?” “Claude Mantle”, was the startling reply. “God!” I muttered, “I know him well!” Then, rising, I picked up my glass of beer and walked over to Art’s table. There were two girls there, one of them just staring off into space, the other, the one Art had been dancing with, was listening to something Art was confiding to her.

Art Mantle, Biss and Lad Guion

Art Mantle, Biss and Lad Guion

“I guess you know me, Art!”  I said mysteriously.

“No I don’t”, he replied truculently.

“Yes you do”, I continued, unabashed.

“The hell I do”, he growled, giving me a hostile stare.

I was a trifle discomfited by this time, thinking I must have changed considerably since I had seen him last. “Ced and I are on our way to Alaska”, I said pleasantly. A look of puzzlement and bewilderment turned to consternation. “Jesus Christ!” He stood up. “I ought to be shot!” He grasped my hand. “Jesus, Dan, I didn’t know you. I ought to be taken out and shot!” He stared at me, worried lest I resent his earlier attitude. He turned to the girl at the table. “Can you imagine that?” He asked her “This is an old pal of mine. He is a good egg. He’s not like you.” She ignored him. He turned to me again. “Christ, Dan, I was just going to take a sock at you!” He laughed a little.

Art was quite put out about the whole thing, admitting that he had been drinking too much beer, and taking time out, now and then, to insult the girl at the table, he asked about everybody, particularly Biss and Zeke, expressing surprise and annoyance to think that they, of all people, had been married. He gave me some lurid stories of the lives the sailors lead, and later we went to the YMCA hotel where Ced and I were staying, to waken Ced out of a sound sleep. We talked until nearly 12:30, then went back to the ”MUSIC”, had another beer and parted.

***********

The boat trip was perfect. There were several young people on the boat who we happened to click with, and we organized what we called “the family”. We visited ports on shore together, Ketchikan, Juneau, Cordova – – and at Valdez the family disintegrated, most of them leaving for other destinations.

Ced and I arrived in Seward on July 2, and came by train to Anchorage. We had a hell of a time finding lodgings, since many of the Alaskans to come into town to celebrate the fourth, and many newly arrived “Cheechakos” had come up from the States (“outside”) to get jobs at the new Army air base under construction. I left Ced guarding the baggage on Main Street while I went from hotel to rooming house, searching in vain for rooms.

At length I approached Dennis rooms, as announced by a sign over the door. I knocked. The door, after a bit, swung open, and a frowzy girl, clad flimsily in a pair of girls overalls, smiled up at me. “Have you any rooms?” I asked. “Rooms? We have no rooms!” She paused, then added, “only girls!” “I beg your pardon”, I apologized. “I’m looking for rooms.”

*************

We searched for Mr. Stohl, and found him soon. Ced asked if he had heard from Rusty that we were coming. “Did Heurlin tell you to come up here?” He questioned rather brusquely. “Yes”, we told him. “Well, I am full at the mine. But you boys won’t have any trouble finding work”. We thanked him, and left.

After trying several places, we learned that the railroad was shorthanded because all its employees had found more lucrative employment at the airbase. The airbase office told us that they were employing only Alaskans. So we decided to wait until after the fourth, then if we still could find no work, we would work for the railroad.

On July 5 both Ced and I found temporary jobs, Ced at a gas station, I at a grocery store. After a week Ced landed a job at the airport as Assistant Mechanic, where he hopes to learn aviation from the ground up, literally! In the meantime, by persistently haunting the office of the Army air base, I was permitted to fill out an application, and, after further high pressuring, I was hired as level man on a survey crew.

I’ll probably stick to this job until the work is done for the summer, because I am being paid well, $1.15 per hour, 52 hour week. It amounts to about $59 weekly, which is more money than I have ever earned. Ced and I are living cheaper than seems possible in a booming town where prices are high. I figured that I shall spend about $15 per week for expenses. Whether I shall go to school this fall at Fairbanks, or work all winter, or return “outside”, I do not know. It depends, of course, on circumstances.

*************

Rusty has not told us when he will come to Alaska. I have written to Jim Shields, asking him to come up and join the boom. He has always wanted to go to Alaska. He and I used to discuss the possibilities by the hour in Totuche and Bobare.

*************

I have been disappointed in many ways in Alaska, mostly because it is not sufficiently different from “outside” to be interesting. I make an exception of the scenery. I suppose that by comparison with South America it seems to commonplace. I wish, and even hope, that I might get down to see you before you leave Venezuela permanently (if you ever do).

Whether you “have time” or not, I insist that you escribame pronto y mucho. Se puede enviar cartas por avion o por correo ordinario. No importa. Y ahora, yo espero,

Dan

Tell me, was it worth the extra 500 words?

Tomorrow, we’ll have another Guest Post from gpcox. I think you’ll gain a new perspective with this one. Send the link to your friends so they can enjoy it too.

Judy Guion

Life in Venezuela – Lad – In the Beginning… (5 of 5)

This the last of the newly discovered letters written by my father shortly after he arrived in Venezuela.He learns plans are changed and he will be staying at the Camp his brother Dan is at. Lad will have the opportunity to really learn to converse in Spanish and spend extra time with his brother.

March 13, 1939

Dear Dad:

and, of course, anyone else who is interested. As Bill Rudolph went out to supper with G. Maxudian, he told me to be ready to leave at 4:00 a la Mananita. I am supposed to

Lad Guion

Lad Guion

take some money to the camp to quiet the peons who are raising quite a ruckus because they have not been paid for three or four weeks. I don’t know where Max is getting the money, but he says he is getting some, so I am supposed to go but I have to wait until I hear from Bill upon his return, to know definitely. I will be gone probably until this Sunday, March 19. I should return with more interesting news of the trip and of Dan. Today I have done very little except wait upon T.H. and help him take a bath. The tub is dangerous for even a man who can move freely and quickly so he was afraid he might slip and I helped him get in and out. He has been up most of the day, doing some reading and walking around the hotel, but doesn’t look very tired at all. His strength is returning exceptionally fast. The doctor says he must be a horse.

I saw “The Citadel” last night and enjoyed it but was disappointed with the ending which seemed to fall flat.

Lots of luck and love,

Laddie

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

Tuesday

March 14, 1939

Dear Family:

Due to a hold-up of some kind I did not leave this morning but I also learned that I am to go to the camp to stayI sent a wire to Cecilia as soon as I learned of it and asked her to notify you of the new address. It will be the same as Dan’s for a few weeks and then we are supposed to change our headquarters from there to Cabimas. Cabimas is located on Lake Maracaibo on the opposite shore and South a number of miles from Maracaibo. Of course your letter to Dan concerning the question of a map came to me in duplicate so I have been trying to find one around here and have been unsuccessful thus far and will probably not be here long enough to look further. Bill just told me that he was not sure that I would leave tomorrow morning but he thought so.

Some time may elapse before the next letter which will probably come from Carora. That seems to be about all, so, love to all –

Laddie

Tomorrow we’ll get back to rotating the different story lines and hear from Biss in St. Petersburg, Fl, after her mother died.

Click Here    to read an article just published in New Inceptions Magazine about how my grandfather said “No” to John D. Rockefeller, Sr.

Enjoy and don’t forget to leave a comment.

Judy Guion

Life in Venezuela – Lad – In the Beginning… (3 of 5)

This letter gives an outsiders view of an event from a different perspective than a native. I wonder if his speculations about the attitude of the “Powers That Be”  in the area are correct.

February 20, 1939

Dear Dad:

The holiday proceedings yesterday were accompanied by a rather severe tragedy as you may have seen in the papers if any news got out of Venezuela. About 2:30 yesterday, as there was a crowd beginning to gather again after lunch and just a few minutes before I reached the spot, a large tree just toppled over, for no apparent reason and injured a number of bystanders plus pinning the busload of people and killing, as I heard, three or four.

Apparently from what I could make out, the driver had seen the tree start to fall and jumped out, letting the bus continue on under the tree. The bus got far enough under the

Lad Guion

Lad Guion

stump before being hit to have the hood practically unscratched, but starting at the base of the windshield and going half the length of the body, there wasn’t a piece of the seats left. The floor looked as if someone had taken a large scythe and just cut the body off at the floor level.

By the time the bus stopped moving, the tree had gone as far as the center of the body and from there it tapered up to the original height just in back of the rear wheels, which left the rear seat and the one on each side of the body just in front of the rear one unscathed, but all the rest heaped in a pile over the rear axle.

Where the trunk was resting, the frame was bent so that it was touching the road, but, odd as it seems, there were no flat tires. However they were nearly flat because of the load. To show the inefficiency of the people here it took the police and fire departments nearly 3 hours to clean the tree off of the bus so that it could be moved out of the center of the street. At 9 PM the street was still closed.

I also believe that if the bus had been equipped with power brakes, the driver could have stopped before he got to the tree. There had been a bus in back of him and he swung to the left side of the street and only got hit by a few light branches that just scratched and dented the hood in a few places.

During the time I have been here there have been a number of branches have fallen, and a couple of them have been too close for comfort, but I don’t think that even after this accident there will be an inspection of the trees. Some of them are in very bad shape though, and should be chopped down before any more damage is done.

When I arrived at the scene the first ambulance was just leaving and there was a second coming from somewhere in the distance. Within 15 minutes there were thousands of people viewing the scene with more or less interest. The accident had been broadcast over the radio and for a couple of hours Special Police kept busy trying to keep a lane open for the trolleys, because, due to the narrow streets, they were doing more to block traffic than anything else. It happened at the busiest corner in Caracas, I believe. Here goes the dinner bell, or rather lunch, so more anon.

Back again. Had a fine lunch and feel fine after it. As yet, Mr. Human has not returned from Carora but he should be back this afternoon with Dan‘s Camp Boss, Mr. Rudolph.

The Carnival is a very festive affair and is held once a year. It usually lasts for one month and the last four days are the high spots of the whole proceedings. The people from the little babes in arms to the old men and women are apt to be dressed in any kind of a costume that they can find, make or borrow. That is about 70% of those I saw yesterday.

Among other costumes there were cats, mice, donkeys, dogs, Indians, cowboys, firemen, Russians and clowns. Of course there were just the plain masks and fancy clothes also. It is a Halloween of Venezuela, only it lasts four days instead of only one evening.

From nine in the morning until 11 at night there was a band playing continually in the Plaza and people dancing and making whoopee and enjoying themselves. The children from about five years old and up were all dancing, so that accounts for the fact that they are such good dancers when they reach their teens.

A few of the men were drunk but only a very few. Nothing like one would find in the states on so celebrate an occasion. Today has been a holiday and tomorrow will also be one, although some of the stores are open in the morning. Even now people are starting to appear on the streets in their costumes. By seven or eight o’clock tonight things will be in full swing.

What do you think was just handed to me? A letter from that surveyor son of yours and he says that two of men have gone to Carora with the fever and that as soon as Carl Nelson returns, in about a week, he is to be advanced from topography to transit man. He seems to be getting a thorough knowledge of surveying and when the job is done, he should be able to hold down any kind of job, anywhere, as long as it deals with surveying. He is fine and each night they all say their prayers with a devout “God bless Maxudian”, but now and then, he says, they are apt to get “bless” spelled damn, but who cares.

Wednesday I guess I’ll start to work on the company truck, and will stay in Caracas for a few days more at least.

Tell the members of the family, excepting Dave from whom I have already heard, that I would like to hear from them also.

Well, Dad, I can think of nothing more. I have no more news about the money but I’ll have to see T.H. for that.

All the luck in the world —-

LOTS OF LOVE

Laddie

Grandpa was rreally lucky with this letter. He ended up getting news of both of his sons. I doubt that happened very often. Lad and Dan didn’t see each other very often, even though they worked for the same company, although, as you just read, they did communicate by letter. I think our family is blessed with a rich history because everyone wrote letters back then. Even the boys tried to write one letter a week, although some were better than others at times. The number of letters increases dramatically by the time all five sons are involved in the war, and my mother, Marian, joins the family and starts writing to her father-in-law even before they’ve met.

Issue 3 of New Inceptions Magazine has just been published and you can read a story about my grandfather and John D. Rockefeller, Sr. What might have been. Here’s the link. You can get a free DOWNLOAD.

Click Here 

Judy Guion

Life in Venezuela – Lad – In the Beginning… (2 of 5)

This is the second letter recently discovered, written shortly after my father, Lad, arrived in Venezuela. You can read about his trip to Caracas in previous posts – Life in Venezuela (Part 6) On the Road to Caracas (published 10.06.12012) and Life in Venezuela (Part 7) Caracas (published on 10.20.2012).

Caracas, Venezuela

January 31, 1939

Hotel Aleman

Dear Family:

I am back in Caracas again, none the worse for the trip to the “bush”, as the men out here call it. Because a description of the trip will require too much paper, I am writing an

Alfred (Lad) Peabody Guion

Alfred (Lad) Peabody Guion

account which will be sent by regular mail. I had a good time but have decided that Caracas is not such a bad place after all. In fact I think it’s the best damn place I’ve ever been. I will write a letter to Cecelia so you need not show this to her, but the account of the trip I would like her to see. I saw Dan, of which there will be more in the trip account, and he was well. I received your letters and one from Helen Plumb, so I shall try to see her while she is in Caracas. Thanks.

Tell Dave that even though the trip down here was smooth enough, the trip to Coro would have made anyone seasick, and as yet, I have staved off the ill effects. Also, I hope his sled works all right.

The country around Caracas is quite smooth and nice if compared with the inland topography of Venezuela and the Andes Mountains. Some of the sights are very pretty but would not show well with the camera and would not be believed unless seen, but, of course, you all have seen the toy tunnels for trains. They are very true representatives of some of the mountains and some are worse, steeper and far more rugged. In some places they look just as if it were a relief map on a very large scale. Some of the short grades are so steep on the road that we had to get out to help the trucks make them. This only happened on two or three, but these looked about the same grade as one would find around the edges of ta sandpit. I’ll go on now to the trip so too-dle-doo until –

Love,

Laddie

Caracas, Venezuela

February 12, 1939

Dear Dad:

Enclosed I hope you found a couple of sheets from the New York Times Magazine section. This paper reached here about last Tuesday and in looking through it I saw this article on Venezuela. It is not a very interesting or detailed account but it is true in the statements that are made. The picture of Caracas is really only a small section of it and since most the dwellings (90%) are one-story affairs and its population is 136,000, nearly equal to that of Bridgeport, it nearly covers the whole valley in which it is located. The picture shows a small part of the center and only office buildings are located in this section. The people all live outside the center of the business district and the more wealthy ones live in very nice districts. While I have been here I have noticed a lot of new modernistic homes that were not here at first and there are more going up all the time. Even the stores in a few cases have been remodeled in the six weeks I have been in the “bush” and there seems to be a trend toward a general cleanup throughout the whole city. They’re doing a great deal of patterning after the stores in the states as far as I can see. The picture of the woman is one of the common type of woman peon and is not to be found generally in Caracas. The real ladies in Caracas are not seen as a general rule except on Sundays at the bullfights or at the racetrack. During the week they stay at home, I guess.

Mr. Human left for Carora (Dam’s Camp) today and with him went your letters, and a few notes and articles from me. He is expecting to be back here on Tuesday, so long before you receive this he will have returned.

The Fair people are kicking that they have me on their payroll when they did not request me, so I guess shall be sent out to the “Bush” with Dan in Rudolph’s Camp for a month or two. That won’t make me too mad anyway, and I can learn Spanish out there quicker than here, I believe.

I do not remember whether I told you that I was in bed or not but I seem to have had some sort of stomach trouble but I felt really all right today so I got up for lunch and had been up since. I was attacked with very acute pains in my stomach and intestines which would last for only a few seconds, 20 or 30 at most,  and then peace and solitude for sometimes 20 or 30 minutes and then pains again. Just about the time T. H. had decided to call a doctor the pains started to diminish and now they have completely disappeared.

Money matters seem to be getting  nearer and nearer to being straightened out and T. H. slept quite well for the first time since I have been here, the night before last. I believe there was a phone call from New York shortly before we sat down to supper and I know that he seemed to be in a lighter frame of mind for the rest of the evening. That was also when he decided to go to Carora. Cheer up Dad, I don’t think it will be long now. Lots of luck … and

Love,

Laddie

Dear Ced:

Let me hear from you about your trip and how your old “new car” is behaving.

I don’t remember whether I told you that the oil I found to be the best was Conoco and probably Cliff Wells can get it for you if you so desire. Even with a little off, perhaps.

The battery is an extra-large Shepherd and if you take it around to them once or twice a month they will service it for you free of charge and in that way, if anything happens to it, they will have no kick about improper service. The guarantee is not expired as yet, I believe.

If you sell the car make sure to get plenty for it, if sold fully equipped. The extras on the car could not be replaced for less than about $75 or more so it would not pay to give them away. These include: heater, radio, carburetor, Mallory coil and condenser, Briggs clarifier, trip safety light, and fog light. That is all I can recall, there may be more.

You probably say the radio is no good but I was told by supposedly one of the best in Bridgeport that it is the car and not the radio. He had taken it out and it had played very well giving some of the newer sets excellent competition. He also said that if the Mallory were taken off it would improve the reception about 60%. By the way, I believe the old coil and condenser are down in the toolbox on the workbench in the cellar.

What have you been doing? What has the town been doing, etc.? I hope the world is treating you squarely, if not fairly, and that you will get good service out of “Packy”.

Remember me to all and if you behave yourself, the Lord will find it out someday. So long now.

Laddie

In his attached letter to his brother Ced, Lad shows his attention to detail – to the point of telling Ced where he had left the old coil and condenser in the cellar. I am continually surprised by these small details are perfect examples of how they are all trying to live an ordinary life. I really appreciate all the comments you leave, telling me your stories and memories because they provide a fuller picture of the time.

I’ve included links to two articles I’ve had published in New Inceptions Magazine, an e-magazine. Issue 1 tells the story of my grandfather, AD Guion discovering his true love in an instant. Issue 2 tells of spirited bidding at an auction between my grandfather and Mrs, Vanderbilt.

Issue 1     Click Here

Issue 2     Click Here

I hope you enjoy them.

Judy Guion

Life in Venezuela – Introduction to Camp Life

My uncle, Daniel Beck Guion traveled to Venezuela with his uncle, Ted Human, at the end of October, 1938. They, along with my father, Alfred Peabody Guion, known as Lad to family and friends, had been hired by the InterAmerica Oil Company to build a road across northern Venezuela, from Caracas to Columbia. Ted Human fills the role of Project Manager, Dan is a surveyor, helping to plan the route of the proposed road and my father, an auto, truck and machine mechanic, will be arriving in early January, 1939 with his tools and equipment to maintain the vehicles at the Main Camp.

I have recently acquired letters written by Dan to his father, so we will be jumping back a little bit in time in my Life in Venezuela posts, until Dan’s letters reach late spring of 1939, where we are with my father’s letters. Whereas Lad’s letters are filled with many minute details, quite often in chronological order, Dan is more expressive, using the Spanish he is learning throughout his letters. Because he is “out in the field”, and a definite outdoorsman, he spends any free time he has exploring the countryside and I expect to find in his letters descriptions of the flora and fauna he encounters on trips to Lake Maricaibo and other locations. This is the earliest letter I have from him, although it  isn’t his first. Read on to discover what life is like in the wilds of Venezuela over 70 years ago.

December 4, 1938

Dear folks,

Things are rather rushed, now, as we approach the deadline for November. We have worked every day, rain or shine, and the field work is virtually finished, although there is plenty of office work to be completed before December 4.

Dan Guion in Venezuela

Dan Guion in Venezuela

Thanksgiving Day was quite wet. I ran levels during the daylight and plotted notes after supper. We had purchased a turkey, but did not use it on Thursday because Bill Rudolph (Chief of Party) and Dr. Bashnakian were absent. The only thing of note on that day was the killing of a rattlesnake and the discovery of a bee’s nest (honey). Incidentally, I have lost Jesus! I am ”in the field” for a rebirth.  Jesus was given to the cook as a helper, but developed a bad cold and had to be sent to Carora until he recovers. He might come back this weekend. The cook does not like Jesus’s substitutes and has given us two-weeks notice. Mr. Human brought him from Caracas with excellent recommendations, and the fellow is a marvelous cook (home-made bread, biscuits, pies, cake etc.) but he doesn’t like the weather and the unfavorable labor conditions. He was satisfied with Jesus, but Jesus left, and the cook tried two or three other peons who either quit or were fired. (* Mr. Human says tell the cook, he (Mr. Human), will be at camp in about two weeks and to stay a while… Don’t leave till then.)

Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were days of work without respite. The first three days were showers, wet feet from daylight to dark.

It has occurred to me several times that I have never told you the details of camp life. Just how much would prove to be interesting, I don’t know, but here is a partial story, at least.

There is a large canvas fly for the cocina (kitchen). The cook has a small tent for sleeping. There is a large tent with mosquito-bar sides for the office. We use this tent for dining also. Our sleeping tents ar two-man tents, containing our clothes, personal belongings and cots. Under a second canvas fly are stored the extra supplies (tools, instruments etc.)

Our camp personnel (at present we are short-handed) includes Simon (the cook), Bill Rudolph (Chief of Party), Dick Wimberly (draftsman), Fred Chion (transit-man), Dr. Bashnakian (all-around engineer, College Professor, geologist etc.) and myself.

We employ about 16 peons of varying intelligence and worth, ranging from Jesus (a young fellow of exceptional brightness) to Primitivo (appropriately named “dolt”,  who is willing but not able). Some of these men are bright enough to read numbers and even do simple work with the instruments, but many can neither read nor write, and none of them are ambitious enough to report to work on time.

At 5:30 AM we are awakened by the kitchen staff for a cup of coffee (myself excepted), following which we arise, perform our ablutions, and have breakfast at six. We start to work about 6:30, and, since no arrangements have been made yet for horses or mules, we walk. Upon arrival at work, (Incidentally, I have developed a system of protection from insects which includes a pair of gloves for my hands and a handkerchief hanging down over the back of my neck from under my hat, leaving only my face exposed) we labor until noon, take half an hour for lunch, then more work until 3 PM or 4 PM (depending upon distance from camp or expedience for other reasons).

Back in camp, we change into lighter clothes (after a dip in the river) and have supper. More work in the office follows, with perhaps, a conference on work, past and future. We retire early in preparation for an early start manana.

The month of November has been particularly trying, due to our short handedness, the rain, and the deadline set by agreement between Bill and Mr. Human. In the future we shall probably get back to camp by 4 PM, leaving a couple of hours for relaxation before supper. Also, in the future, we should have Sunday to ourselves, or the “ministerio” will get after us for breaking the law.

We are in the mountains now, and the scenery is boundless. The sun is hot, the nights are cool. Songbirds and foliage reminded me of early summer. There are no sunrises or sunsets here, due, I believe, to the fact that the sun is high and its rays are not refracted.

One of us is going to Carora on Sunday (December 4) so I shall add more to this letter then….

Mr. Human mentioned the possibility of having Aunt Helen here at camp for a while…. What an idea! Yippee !!

I went to Carora Sunday and here is the story:

In order to finish our quota by December 4 it was necessary to work all night Saturday (office work). I was selected to go to Carora, and had to go to bed about 10 PM while the others toiled. They were to work on into the night until the job was done, then wake me, give me the papers, and say goodbye to a month of strenuous labor.

My job was to climb aboard a nag and set off towards the truck, then by truck to Carora where the plans would be given to Mr. Human.

I was aroused at 3 AM and by 4 AM I was fully dressed, had received final instructions, and left camp with a horse, to peons and a lantern. One of the peons set off into the night carrying the lantern, I followed on my horse, and the other peon carried the plans while riding a burro. As dawn turned into day, I pushed on ahead to the truck and prepared it for the trip to Carora. The two peons arrived, and we set off for Carora. On the way we stopped once for more peons, once for gas (at the old campsite), a couple of times for repairs on the tire chains, once at Burere, to pick up  our trunks from the “deposito” and take them to Carora , and once just this side of the Rio Burere for sufficient reason, said reason being  M U D  at the bottom of a flood-river. The truck did it’s best, which was half of what it should have done, and it’s best was it’s all, for it would go neither ahead nor back. It was necessary to rush the plans to Carora, still 15 km away, so I had the peons remove the trunks to higher ground in case the river rose at night, then set out for Carora “a pie” which means nothing more delicious than walking. It was a   l o o n g  15 km, and would have been even longer if a small truck had not chanced upon us and taken us to Carora. We arrived at the hotel Commercio (Company Headquarters) at about 6 PM and met Mr. Human at the door.

At supper, later, we discussed ways and means to extricate the truck “manana”, and this letter will have been mailed by then.

As I write this letter it is still December 4, I’ve been up since three this morning and I’m planning to retire early in preparation for the trip back to Sucare, where the truck is stuck. Incidentally, going back with me is another engineer to help us on the job. I forget his name, Myers, I think.

More next trip to town.

Dan

Did you notice the difference in Uncle Dan’s  style of writing? I’d love to read your comments. I’m looking forward to transcribing more of his letters as we experience life “out in the field” through his eyes.

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Judy Guion