One day Lester Beck asked, "Would you like to participate in an international convention on the subject of audiovisual education and information? You have made quite a reputation for yourself in that field and I’d like for you to attend it. It will be in Paris, France."
I was simply enthralled with the thought of going to Paris, and felt very flattered that Lester would choose me. Of course, I would go.
This opportunity came at the same time as one to go to Tokyo, Japan. I wanted Darlene to go with me on both trips, but we knew we didn’t have that kind of money. In fact, if she went at all, we’d have to borrow the money for her expenses. We decided she should choose between Paris and Tokyo, and we’d get the money somewhere for her to come with me.
Darlene decided she would rather go to Japan. I’m not sure why she preferred Japan to France. Maybe she wanted to protect me from the Geisha girls in Tokyo. Bill Blume had warned her about them.
In February 1968, I was off to Paris. The direct flight from Los Angeles to Paris was an overnight one and was fourteen hours long. They served us canned water, which I found interesting. Good grief, why should they want to serve canned water to the passengers? Maybe the water in France was unsafe or something. Coke and coffee was served with the meals. I didn’t like their coffee. The food was just fine, and the service was elegant.
When the plane got closer to Paris, I had an opportunity to see the city itself from above. It was exiting even though I could see from only one side of the plane. The landing was just great. I easily was cleared by customs and picked up my baggage.
There was a light snow on the ground and the weather was cool. But to me everything was beautiful. There were lots of taxies lined on the curb. I took one and went directly to my room, as I had been instructed. I was told that I would be close to the place where the UNESCO conference was to convene.
The next morning, after breakfast I took a short walk. The first building I saw was the Arc de Triomphe. It was a monster! It spanned the Avenue des Champs-Elysees, a very, very wide street that appeared to be miles long. The closer I got to the Arc, the bigger it seemed to be. I simply had to climb up its stairs and over the arch itself. It was an incredible sight.
The Avenue des Champs-Elysees, I was told, was the street where all the military processions took place. My imagination went wild. I could see the thousands of solders marching on that avenue, passing through the arch, and on into the distance.
I easily found the conference site. Inside, I thought I was in the United Nations in New York. There were people of all races chattering, each in his own language. I had trouble finding someone whom I could understand.
Soon, I found a placard showing where the United States delegation was to be seated and sat down. The conference was called to order, and various delegates were given a turn to speak.
I was quite nervous when my turn came to say, "My name is Glenn McMurry from the University of Southern California."
You know I can’t remember now just what I said. I'm sure it had something to do with the merits of audiovisuals to education, and how we had been experimenting with using computers to produce our catalogs, keep our booking records, etc. at the USC library.
The conference ran on for some four or five days. There were coffee breaks, mixers, cocktails, dinners and the like. It was a great meeting. I enjoyed every minute of it.
One day I was invited to go with four others to have lunch in the Eiffel Tower. Rosie, the French lady, was our driver. She had one of those cookie-cutout type cars.
"Three in the back and one in the front with me," Rosie instructed as she packed us in.
Now Rosie and her passenger were quite comfortable, but we three guys squeezed into that back seat felt a little squashed. Rosie was a literal chatterbox and full of information about the sights in and around Paris.
"I collect masks from all points of the globe. I am so happy that I found this African one," as she pointed back of our seat. When we took a look back, there was the most horrible mask one can imagine. As she kept chattering away, we couldn't help but be amused. It was all we could do to keep from laughing and insulting her.
When Rosie pulled her car toward the Avenue des Champs-Elysees, I was stunned. That street was jammed with cars. There must be a parade or something special going on, I decided. There were hundreds of cars and trucks weaving in and out every direction, and there were no dividing lines on the street. Rosie just kept on talking as she shot directly into the traffic and stepped on the gas.
"We'll be there in less than ten minutes," she said. "I hope we don't have trouble finding a parking space."
By this time we three in the back seat were so amused and rather nervous at the situation, that we couldn't contain our laughter.
"Here we are," Rosie announced as she swung her car around nearly hitting several cars. "You get out and I'll meet you at the ticket office after I find a place to park."
How Rosie got a parking place so fast I don’t know, but in no time she was back, saying, "First we'll go to the top, and then have our dinner at the restaurant on the way down."
Unfortunately, by the time we got our tickets, the maintenance crews had closed the very top viewing area. But, we went up to the restaurant anyway. I felt as if I was in a kind of jail cell as we rumbled and jerked around. As we got higher up we could see miles in every direction. Suddenly there was a jerk and the elevator stopped. The gate opened and we were directed to the restaurant.
Rosie advised us to eat quickly or we would be late for the meeting. How I wished we could have gotten to the top and had an hour or so just to enjoy the scenery.
One day as I was eating my lunch at a small restaurant, I was seated near a young family enjoying snails. It was the first time I had every seen anyone eating snails. The kids were eating them with the same enjoyment I get from eating ice cream. However, I nearly gagged watching them. .
On the only Sunday I was in Paris, a group of us went on a three-hour bus tour of the city. We had an excellent guide, and enjoyed the bus ride. However, it did seem that we spent lots of time at traffic stops. Of course, that gave our guide a better chance to answer our many questions about everything we saw, thought we saw, or hoped to see. We passed by the Eiffel Tower, the Seine river, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, and Elysee Palace, which is the home of the French president. We drove down that wide famous Avenue des Champs-Elysee.
The highlight of the trip, and the only stop, was at the Notre Dame Cathedral. It is on a small island in the Seine River. The closer we got to it, the more impressed we were by its enormous size. The flying buttresses built to support the walls were impressive. Spaced around the roof were ugly gargoyles designed to keep the devils away. Inside, the cathedral was more awesome. I have no way to describe what I was seeing. It seemed to me there were stained glass windows everywhere. We were told that the main one was 42 feet in diameter. I was also impressed with the many, many organ pipes of all sizes. What fantastic music they must make.
I hated to leave for home without seeing more of Europe. I began to explore the different routes I could use.
"Yes," the airline agent said. "You have the option to stop off in Madrid. Your ticket will then get you back to England without an additional cost."
I remembered a student from Madrid I had known at USC. It had been my job to show him Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm and other Los Angeles sights. I wondered if I could find him.
When I got to Madrid, by a miracle, I found his name in the phone book. Of course, using the telephone wasn't too easy. There was lots of noise on the line. But by some miracle I found Jose and he came for me and took me to visit his family.
Jose's English wasn't too good and his wife and mother spoke no English at all. I made many grunts and motions and Jose tried to act as translator. A fun time was had by all three of us.
The next day Jose took me to the Prado museum.
Jose told me that the Prado was formally a large natural science museum. Even then, it had over 30,000 species. We had to walk through that part first, and then we came to the art museum.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. So many of the paintings were monstrous, at least 9’ by 14’. The frames were carved and gilded. What impressed me even more was the subject of the paintings. They were either depicting knights in armor or horrible scenes, such as dogs trying to kill people. These caused me to shudder. There were other more calm pictures, many of a religious nature. What a place!
The time went fast and too soon I had to get to the airport for my flight to London and on home. How privileged I felt that USC had given me such a wonderful trip.
To read a news release on this conference, click here.
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