Dedicated to the memory of Ruth Tremaine Giambarba, 1932-1978.
1948, My first year as a private, 2-1/2 ton truck and jeep driver.
During this time my young wife Ruth and I improved a small "starter home” we bought, and then sold, to finance an extended trip to Europe. It allowed us seven months to explore countries west of the Iron Curtain and for me to discover my roots in Italy where my family has lived for centuries (Hannibal parked his elephants nearby during the Second Punic War). From 1955 through 1960 we managed to travel, live and work in Europe, for a cumulative total of two years or more, interrupted only with trips back to Boston when funds were in need of replenishing.
Ruth studied French and Italian by listening to Assimil phonograph records.
Then she subscribed to the French edition of Elle to be au courant with the language.
"Dans le vent," she said.
I was a cartoonist contributing to national magazines such as Sports Illustrated, and freelancing graphic art for advertising agencies and corporations such as Polaroid with whom I had a 25-year career as a designer and consultant. I was inspired by the Belle Epoque we experienced in Europe, what we now know was a Golden Age of design: from the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint to the Neue Haas Grotesk typeface and Braun household applicances. In the mid-1960s inflation would cause the following decades to be manipulated by bean counters with little feeling for creativity unless it related to their accounting practices.
Most of my drawings during our travels were made with a No. 1 Rapidograph fountain pen using Pelikan black fountain pen ink on the quadrille pages of a note book bought in Goteborg, Sweden. I drew from memory the images that I recalled seeing that day. I worked in my lap or on a table usually provided in the pension where we were staying.
Then, one night in Nervi on the Mediterranean coast, just east of Genova, I managed to refine many of the original sketches into the drawings that also appear here, working with the same pen on thin sheets of Italian air mail paper, bound in pads, that is purchased in tobacco shops.
That was over fifty years ago, and I have never been again so prolific. It’s obvious that I was critical of many Europeans. Perhaps it had to do with years of living in Boston where Anglophiles are a resident majority. Or maybe it was my response to the caustic cartoon wit of Ronald Searle and Tomi Ungerer who took such delight in savaging the residents of the United States they had observed in the same period of time.
Christmas dinner, Saint Christof am Alberg in the Austrian Alps, 1959.
Young Swedish couple
Mother and daughter, Goteborg, Sweden
Teddy boy, London
Soviet GI, who called me "comrade" when we passed him in their zone of Austria.
Two Brits we met who were taking great delight in disparaging all things American. The toff and his missus weren't hesitant at all in enlightening us with what was really wrong with our country. Or for that matter, the Irish, Scots (who wanted their damn Stone back), Jews, Italians, those damned froggies across the Channel, Bolshies, Atlee and Labour, and the Americans who come over with more money than brains or good taste, and . . . oh, yes, let's do have another round. Jolly good and thank you very much.
"I say, where are you from in the States?"
A younger version of the previous couple, on the Lido, Venice.
A couple of older Germans on the Lido, Venice.
Danish couple watching the cars go by, somewhere on the island of Jutland, near Aarhus.
The original ink drawing from which the painting in casein, above, was made. I like this much better.
This is the original page in a notebook where I had drawn a Swiss couple in Geneva braving a cold wind blowing in off Lac Léman. From it I later did the small gouache sketch below in another notebook.
A high point of our trip was our first visit to France.
This is a preppie American kid wondering what to do with himself in a Paris restaurant.
Meanwhile, out in the November cold, a North African sold chestnuts he roasted out on the sidewalk.
Other colonials arrived up from Le Metro carrying their worldy goods.
And dirty old men tried to sell postcards of nude women.
And women of the night practiced engaging smiles.
In Vienna, they appared to be much older, more tired.
Younger women worked their charms on jaded men in coffee bars.
Street walking was the tried and true means even in the outskirts of town.
The sketch from which the image above was made.
German motorcyclist approaching customs with his doucments or carnet.
Soviet officers working their own zones. The guy at the top kept me for an hour in the Soviet checkpoint at Helmstedt, Germany, then refused to let me drive on to Berlin. The other two were seen in Vienna showing off their shiny boots and tailored Class A uniforms, in stark contrast to the shabbiness of their enlisted men.
In Italy there seemed to be a dozen uniforms for every service branch. The troops with feathers in their caps belonged to Alpini, or Alpine regiments, officers in the Italian navy wore shorts out on the town in summer.
Former military men wore bunches of fruit salad on their lapels.
Men weren't the only ones checking themselves out in shop windows.
Young Italian men were well-tailored with excellent haircuts. Of course, farmers and older men seemed not interested at all in fashion.