THE SUMMER OF 1938
Freudenstadt, which lay about 90 miles south of Heidelberg and 150 miles south of Mainz and the girls, was the next major stop on the SITA itinerary. It did not belie its name; it was a beautiful little town in the center of a resort area that abutted on the Black Forest, mercifully free, it seemed, of gauleiters and demigods and so a welcome relief from the Bacharach ordeal. The only person we told about our Bacharach adventure was Hilda, who by now was our trusted confidant, and we hers. At the outset, she had been disgusted at our seeming political insensitivity and ready acceptance of the Nazi regime, our Sieg Heiling all over the place and the like until we told her about our briefing in London. After that she never missed a chance to describe the horrors that had befallen Germany, the wreckage of the universities, the carnage among German intellectuals, the assault on the Jews and any other minorities not measuring up to the Aryan image. She told us for example, about how in her army of occupation in the Rhineland after the Great War, the French had deliberately included battalions of Senegalese soldiers, black as the ace of spades, as an affront against the Germans, and how Hitler’s first act after becoming Reich Chancellor had been to exterminate the issue of the inevitable union between the Senegalese and German women, including every mother he could get his hands on. When she described the rape of human dignity, her frail body shook with fury. She loathed the Nazis with a pure passion, and now, after Bacharach, we had a common bond.
But this was Freudenstadt, under a glorious summer sky; there was a large swimming pool to which we had access, there were soccer games at which we tried our hand, there was the Forest itself, with its inviting paths. But best of all there was an abundance of young people, some on holiday, some as members of a Hitler Jungend troop on its annual summer encampment, some, like us, just plain tourists, so the evenings were alive with singing and dancing and tall steins of beer.
Harry and I found a riding stable, and we invited our tour group to come along as we demonstrated the art of horsemanship a la Texas. We mounted our horses in the indoor arena, for the proprietor wanted to observe our proficiency before turning us loose, but, alas, we could not get those animals to budge an inch. We jiggled the reins, we patted their necks, we prodded their jowls, we swatted their rumps, we whistled, but those dumb animals just stood there as though cast in concrete, and our spectators were bent over with laughter. Finally a stable girl took our reins and began to lead us slowly around in a circle, and even she joined in the merriment. We were without question the most embarrassed Texans ever to set foot on German soil. When she finally handed the reins back to us and the horses still refused to budge, we surrendered. But all was not lost.
The stable girl, Herta by name, even in her bib overalls and mucky boots, would turn any young man’s head. She finished her chores at noon, and yes, she would join us at the Schwimmbad after lunch. She brought along her older brother and his girlfriend, both of whom were at the youth encampment, and we all got along famously. So Harry and I again found ourselves as part of a five-some.
We decided that next day we would take a picnic lunch into the Black Forest, and we spent a lovely afternoon hiking and lying in the grass watching the clouds. Harry and I tried to explain American university life and that, yes, we really could ride horses if they spoke English. They all wanted to know about Hollywood, of course, and Helmut, the brother told us about the Hitler Jungend and what a wonderful opportunity it was for city kids to get out into the countryside, do some hard physical labor, and learn to enjoy nature.
That night we all went to a bierstube that catered to our age group, and we sang and tried to dance the polka and had such a good time that on parting, we agreed to repeat the program the next day. After our picnic in a sunny little glade we had discovered, Helmut took his leave, saying he hoped to join us that evening, and the rest of us hiked and then went back for a swim, the only sad note being that Harry and I had to leave with our group at noon the next day. It was another fun evening, although Helmut did not show up.
The next morning Harry and I went to the stables to say our good-byes to Herta, and we asked her to tell Helmut how much we had enjoyed his company. She then explained his absence: he was a reserve sub-lieutenant in a Waffen SS company and yesterday had received his orders to active duty. Herta kissed us warmly with tears in her eyes, and after leaving her we were walking along a narrow foot path towards the town center and our bus. We looked up and saw a young officer, resplendent in his black uniform, coming towards us. It was Helmut. We were all smiles, but he approached us without a tint of recognition, staring straight ahead, and when we did not make way for him, he put out his left arm and without a word pushed us aside. Apparently, we were now the enemy, and when we later told Hilda about it, she merely spat and replied, “Now you’ve seen it again. When those animals put on the uniform, they are insufferable. There is no limit to their arrogance.”
INDIA (1966-1969) A CHANGE OF PLANS
Mid-January is really not the time to fly to Washington from Delhi via Moscow. I can never remember a rougher transit, and how our Air India pilot found the Moscow runway in the middle of that blizzard is still beyond me. So Ninotchka gathered the passports from a thoroughly terrified and grateful list of passengers. The estimate on deplaning was that we would be grounded for at least three days..
I managed again to be the last to deplane, and as I handed her my passport, she smiled and said, “You see, comrade, I have found time for us. Wait at your hotel, I bring warmer clothes.”
With that we were bussed into town to a very spartan tourist hotel used by Air India in such emergencies. Fortunately it had central heating. About two hours later, around seven, there came a little knock on the door, and in she came with a huge overcoat, a bearskin hat, and gloves.
Putting her finger to her lips, she wrote on a piece of paper, “First, I show you the bugs.”
She pointed out three in the light fixtures and one very cleverly concealed in the headstand of the bed. She then produced from her satchel a transistor radio, found some music and went up to the headstand and turned the volume up to maximum. “That really drives them crazy!” she laughed, and we could now converse shielded by the volume of her radio. “Put these on,” she said, motioning to the cold-weather gear she had brought. “Very, very cold outside, but we take a walk.”
USC WITHOUT FOOTBALL?
“John McKay had been the head coach for a long time. He had winning teams, and he was pretty much left alone and allowed to manage his teams as he saw fit,” John Robinson remembered. For a while, Robinson was an assistant coach under McKay, and it was on Jack’s visits to the practice field that he began to notice Robinson. Jack liked the way Robinson handled his responsibilities as a coach and as a teacher.
“When McKay left USC, I was then an assistant coach with the Oakland Raiders and very much a dark horse,” Robinson recalled. “I received a phone call from Jack during a layover he had at Dulles Airport. He told me I was his guy and asked me if I’d be SC’s new head coach. ‘Hell yes!’ I said. Jack said we’d work out the details later. He continued on his trip, and I made plans to return to college football.”
“Generally speaking, the alumni were incredulous about Robinson’s selection as coach. “Who is he?” was the general reaction. The letters poured in criticizing Jack for hiring this unknown coach. “Then we played our season opener against Missouri,” recalled Robinson.
““I thought I was a gonner after that first game,” Robinson said. “We were expected to win without much resistance. We were favored by 7 and we were playing in the Coliseum.”
“Missouri led the Trojans 30-10 at the half and ended with a 46-25 victory over USC – the worst drubbing in USC’s history for an opening game. It was also the most points scored against the Trojans in an opener (Schrader 1976).
““In my office after the game, Jack and Bob Fluor were white faced and in shock,” Robinson said. “We all just sat there for a long time waiting for everyone to leave – until we thought it was safe to go outside. The only thing I could say was that this was my fault, and it would never happen again.”
“Angry letters now poured in. One particular letter summarized them all. It spoke of the idiot of a coach and of the even bigger idiot who had hired him. One sports writer wrote: “How could one man ruin a team so fast?”