Childhood Memories Friday: Sound of America European Tour

Sound of America 1983

My review of a fun travel book earlier this week got me thinking about my first trip to Europe, back when I was just 18. I traveled with the Sound of America band and chorus in 1983. Ever since my elementary school days, I had really wanted to visit Europe. It was one of my many “things.” I diligently saved my babysitting money for a trip, but then when I graduated, my parents surprised me by paying for the trip as my gift. They could  not have chosen a better one!

All of us band and choir members met first at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania for a few days of rehearsal. I just loved the music we played (some Wagner pieces, a Porgy & Bess montage, etc) and still can hum almost any of the pieces now, 34 years later. It probably helps that we played them many, many times between all our rehearsals and our performances in Europe. In the photo above, you can see me front and center, with the dark hair. I was the only oboe player, which I loved, and the conductor was very complimentary of me, giving me solos, etc. I was totally in my element.

During our time at the college, we attended lectures by professors on the art and architecture we would see in Europe. This was like heaven to me! After I returned home, I wrote a paper (I think it was on Christopher Wren and the architecture of St Paul’s in London) and submitted it for college credit.

In Europe, we toured and performed in seven countries. One night, while in our Paris hotel, there was a knock at the door. I was very surprised to find my third and fourth grade teacher at the door! She had read an article in the newspaper about me going to Europe that summer, and she figured out that she and her husband would be in Paris at the same time — and at the same hotel, even! It was a wonderful small-world moment. And looking at that picture, I remember that nightgown I’m wearing. You can probably guess that I made it. I loved the little animals it had all over it.

Another wonderful happening on the trip was meeting my Italian pen pal, Monica, for the first time. We had been pen pals since high school (which I guess wasn’t all that long when I was 18). In one of my letters to her, I told her about my plans to go to Italy with Sound of America. We weren’t going to Florence, near her home, but she offered to drive up to Venice so we could meet. Remember, all these meetings were arranged and happened in the days before cell phones and the internet. It’s amazing that everything came together. In many ways, we all had to work harder back then.

So, Monica and I met somewhere in Venice. We climbed the steps up to the top of St Mark’s, and that’s where this photo was taken. Yes, I made my “flag top” and loved it. Do I look too American? Well, maybe the Princess Di hairstyle gives me a bit of a British flair. ha 🙂

Heidelberg Germany McDonalds

I am currently converting my photo negatives from this trip to a digital format, and I’m realizing how bad most of my photos are. But I go easy on myself. After all, I took the family camera along. Those were the days of cameras with no instant preview screens. You basically didn’t know how anything turned out until you got your film back. When it was time to change the film, you’d try to move to a dark place so the film wouldn’t be exposed. You had to remember to advance the film after each shot. Etc. Not easy! And certainly not like today, when everyone seemingly has great cameras in their ever-present phones.

I was always fascinated by what some might call the mundane — for instance, this McDonald’s in Heidelberg, Germany.

This is long enough, but there are so many memories. I may have to revisit the trip later. Do you remember a trip in your youth that made a major impression on you?



5 thoughts on “Childhood Memories Friday: Sound of America European Tour

  1. These pictures are really pretty good for the way cameras were in those days! Technology can be quite annoying at times, but the new cameras are wonderful. I loved hearing about your walk down memory lane, because I knew that you had made that trip with Sound of America at a young age but I’d not seen your pictures before. Seeing you in the middle of the front row as the only oboe is neat! No wonder you got the wanderlust after that good experience.

    My wanderlust was inherited from my Father around the age of 8 or 10. Our 30-day camping trip to CA when I was 10 will never be forgotten by me! My July 8 birthday happened in the Rocky Mountains of CO where I made and threw some snowballs to celebrate. To this day I still have that little black and white photo in my Autobiography scrapbook. While that was not the real highlight of the trip back in 1950, it is forever stamped in my mind. Traveling has always been a thrill for me most anytime and anywhere. 🙂

  2. Nice memories. I’m glad that was a nightie…lol… I wondered. (Sorry–you know me!). I love your very Princess Diana sailor top. I’d have been in heaven in that group too. Not too much call for bass clarinets though!

  3. Since I was in Africa while you were on this trip, I’ve never heard as much detail about your trip as I’ve just read. Thanks so much for including this in your childhood memories section. Please elaborate even more in coming days.

  4. I enjoyed this blog so much. I just loved hearing about your accomplishments, your trips, your pen pal, etc. Like Elaine, I’d like to hear more and see more pictures. I think the pictures are just fine considering what cameras and film were like back then. So many of my pictures from the 80s are fading badly.

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