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EDITING BOOKS IS FUN

editedbooks

Some of My EditedBooks

For a time I called myself a Forest Guide, it was a way of explaining editing to new, usually first-time, authors. I would guide them through their forest of words, especially when they had gotten to that place where they couldn’t see the forest for the trees, as the old saying goes. Lately, I’m conceiving of myself as a midwife, who helps in the sometimes torturous process of giving birth. The birthing pains involved in creating a book and then sending it out into the world is a lot like having and raising a child. You’ll always feel attached, much like the author does. But you inevitably must let go of your book (child) to make its way in the world.m

Before I started editing books, I spent years writing and editing newspapers and magazines. Working with words—twisting them around, rearranging, deleting, finding a more concise, more understandable way of saying something was a wonderful challenge. I’ve always loved editing and the more I’ve done it, the faster and more accurate I’ve gotten. I was an early and avid reader, from Nancy Drew stories to fairy tales and then on to the gods and goddesses of ancient Athens and Rome. I remember accompanying my mother to libraries wherever our military family was stationed. I became an early enthusiast of historical fiction.

In high school and college, English (an outdated word for the subject) was my favorite subject. I majored in English in college but managed to take a variety of history courses, a never-ending passion that would lead me to writing Melaynie’s Masquerade when I got older. As a high school freshman, I became serious about writing and I wrote for the school newspaper. In college I continued my reporting for William and Mary’s “Flat Hat” newspaper and was delighted at one of the school reunions years later when I saw a couple of my articles in a scrapbook on display.

Journalism has been a great teacher. It requires precise, easily understood truthful writing to explain: who, what, when, where, how and why to a reader. And the information is provided in a descending order—the most important facts are given in the beginning. Books are usually not written that way, but a foundation in journalism has stood me in good stead for many years.

I’ve edited over 200 books in the past 17 years and each one has been a special journey. No matter how much I’d read of each book in advance, there were always surprises. A book develops a life of its own, which proves the baby analogy I mentioned in the beginning. Because many of my clients were “newbies” to the world of writing, I became a co-writer in many instances.

I have edited almost every genre of book from how to save for retirement to what a young man experiencing the singles scene learns about sexual success and failure. Needless to say, I’ve learned a great deal in the process since my clients have experienced amazing things in all areas of the world.

A few recent books include: Once Upon a Man (dating tips for the single woman) and a spiritual book Where is God by Deborah Pauli, Beyond Time by Carey Jones (simplifying some of the ideas in A Course in Miracles), The Gods Who Fell from African Skies by Dick Mawson (memoir of growing up and living in Rhodesia and South Africa), Parents Take Charge by Dr. Sandy Gluckman (alternative solutions for children with ADHD and the like),  A Nation of Refugees  (fictional story of a couple passionate about finding solutions for the worldwide problem of refugees) and Afterlife (spiritual-what happens when the body dies) by Tim Gurung, and Feng Shui for Career Women by Patt Sendejas. Most recently, I was editing a book about Hitler and Eva Braun, and I’m currently editing a biography about character actor Strother Martin.

For more information about my editing and writing check my website. www.victoria4edit.com

 

US BASEBALL CARDS IN 1950s LIBYA

The world grows smaller every day with the Internet, satellites and other means of communication. After World War II, the US and other countries realized, like it or not, the world was connected, as English author John Donne said way back in a 1624 sermon: “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…”

Wars, ironically, have brought people together, and as the US became more powerful, we sent our military with many of their families all over the world. It was surprising when we discovered people in these various foreign countries knew something about America from our movies and even from our sports teams.

Pete Remmert, who lived in Tripoli from 1958-1962, told me a fascinating story about his encounter and a friendship with a Libyan boy while his family lived in a nice area near the beach, a bit west of the center of town. It’s nice to relate a positive story about the Middle East these days.

“I was eight years old in 1958. Before we acquired (Wheelus) base housing, we lived in Giorgimpopoli and occasionally when I walked alone in the streets of the neighborhood, I would run into a group of Libyan boys (a few years older than Pete was) who sometimes liked to play a little rough. One of these boys didn’t like the way his companions were giving me a hard time, and he pulled me aside and offered me, in very good English, a deal I couldn’t refuse. He told me that he collected American baseball cards, the rectangular ones that came in packs of bubblegum.”

Tripoli Street- a mix of old and new

Tripoli Street- a mix of old and new

For those old enough to remember, I looked up some of the stars of that era on baseball cards. Though I’m not a typical baseball fan, I still remember a few of them. Stars like Don Drysdale (I saw him play as a Los Angeles Dodger), Mickey Mantle (a Yankee great), Whitey Ford, John Roseboro, and Carl Yastrzemski, are a few examples.

Although he didn’t remember the boy’s name, Pete commented, “He was a couple of years older than me, of slender build and bald as an eagle. He wore typical Libyan clothing: white robes with a multicolored shawl-type wrap during the colder months. He usually wore a ‘beanie’ type maroon-colored cap but on occasion he would wear a fez. I was always impressed with his command of the English language and his knowledge of contemporary American baseball players was vastly superior to any of the American kids I knew. He also introduced me to those yummy dates that we pulled off the date palms and ate like candy.”

Pete continued, “I told him that I was only interested in the gum and that he was welcome to have the cards. From that moment on, he swore that he would be my personal bodyguard. Well, one afternoon he made good on his promise. A group of older kids decided to rough me up a bit, and my young friend immediately took off his cap, bent over at a ninety-degree angle and, like a battering ram, plowed into one of the kids. The boys scattered and never gave me any trouble again.”

A street in Old Town

A street in Old Town

WORLD TRADE CENTER – 9-11 – 15th ANNIVERSARY

September 11, 2001, as other world-shaking events, still seems like only yesterday. Perhaps because the media makes sure we don’t forget our 21st century Pearl Harbor. Today marks the 15th anniversary. Being suddenly attacked, as an individual or as a country, is a difficult trauma to face and overcome in life, and some never do adjust. “Where were you on 9/11?” is a more current version of, “Where were you when JFK was shot?” We all share the tragedy, whether it’s about one person or nearly 3,000. It’s inspiring and heartbreaking to read and hear the real stories and experiences from that fateful day. Today’s Los Angeles Times featured several touching stories, like how the children of those who died that fateful day are coping as they grow up. And an editorial about how our worries about future horrors didn’t materialize as we thought. A new World Trade Center opened with a museum and life in New York City is thriving.  Jeh Johnson, Department of Homeland Security said, “We are a remarkably resilient country in ways that we don’t always appreciate.”

My daughter, Heidi, and I were sharing an apartment in Sherman Oaks, California, that September Tuesday morning, which began in a typical fashion. Heidi was out for an invigorating walk before going to work for a downtown Los Angeles attorney service. At 7:30 a.m., I had spread my exercise mat in front of the TV and turned it on to watch Good Morning America before I had breakfast and started work editing a book. I was sitting on the floor, barely into the exercises, when I saw the footage on the planes striking both the north and south tower of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. It was so shocking I couldn’t absorb it; I was impatient to share the news with Heidi before I broke down completely. Human instinct propels us to turn to others.

World Trade Center before the disaster

World Trade Center before the disaster

A couple of days later, I wrote in my diary, “It was unfathomable to most of us—resembling an especially bad special effect from an action movie, but played hundreds of times over and over.”

That morning I was mesmerized and horrified as I listened and watched the news, which eventually grew to include the Pentagon disaster and the plane that went down in Pennsylvania. Heidi returned from her walk totally ignorant; it was still early and many neighbors were getting ready for work and school. As I filled her in, we watched the continuous replays and news. A good friend of hers soon called and advised her to stay home from work. At that time one of the hijacked planes was supposedly headed for LA—the one that crash landed in the field in Shanksville, thanks to passengers who fought back.

Because of all the uncertainties, downtown Los Angeles was literally shut down. The terrorists had hijacked planes flying to LA because they would have the highest amount of volatile jet fuel to act as a bomb. Airports around the country were soon shut down because of potential danger.

Suzi, a friend of Heidi’s who worked in the travel industry, had driven to work in Culver City and wondered why the 405 freeway was so empty until she heard the news on her car radio.

It was a strange quiet day of little traffic and no sounds of planes: very unusual because we lived fairly close to Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. Many of us felt lost, at loose ends. It was a time of getting in touch with friends and family and watching TV for more news and the scenes of horror over and over again. Shopping centers and businesses closed down all over LA. The scene, the mood, resembled a California earthquake disaster without the physical damage. In this case the damage was emotional.

In our immediate neighborhood of single-family homes, apartment buildings, a strip mall and a supermarket, most of the businesses stayed open. It was comforting for Heidi and I to walk the short distance to the little pizza parlor in the strip mall. People shared stories and observations with each other as we ordered Italian food and watched the small TV, playing nothing but World Trade Center news. It was a day full of tears and tissues.

Soon-to-open 9/11 Memorial

World Trade Center Memorial shortly before it opened to the public.

A year after the disaster, Una, a friend from Northern California, visited Manhattan and walked down to the site. “I was overwhelmed with grief at seeing the gaping hole, this open wound on the heart of America, still raw, so vulnerable. Walking by the small church next door, posters and photos of missing loved ones were still attached to the fence. It was a heart-wrenching sight to read each plea for help in finding a loved one. The wind whipped up, creating a dusty whirlwind of the ashes and dust in the hole. I wondered whose ashes were being resifted.”

BIG FAMILIES – A JOYFUL HERITAGE

My mother’s family, the Motley’s, was a large and loving one—what a privilege to be born into it! Living my first few years of childhood in their family home in Danville, Virginia, just after the U.S. entered WWII was a great start for my adventurous  life. I can see from old photos how loved I was by Mom’s parents, her five sisters and one brother. All of that joy came back to me recently after talking to my Cousins Jackie and Penny, who still live in the South. I cherish those times, especially now that my grandparents and all my aunts and uncle have departed this world. Thankfully, I have many cousins still around and lots of wonderful memories.

Motley siblings

Motley siblings on the front steps of the Danville, Virginia, Motley home.

I’ve posted a photo of the siblings, in order of age, on the steps of my grandparents’ spacious home on a corner lot in Danville. Years later, on the same steps in the 1950s, my dad took a photo of me and sister Tupper, cousin Jackie and Beth, a family friend, a photo I’ve also posted.

The photo poses the siblings from the oldest on the bottom to the youngest at the top. Inez was not the firstborn, baby Edwin had that honor, but tragedy struck when he was given the wrong prescription for an infection when he was nearly 9 months old. Grieving over her baby’s death, my grandmother, Bertha Jake, wanted more children and Inez came along 11 months later in 1906. She was probably the most serious of the siblings. Maybe it was due to her alcoholic husband, though she was blessed with a son and daughter who were both full of life, intelligence and humor. Her second husband years later, was a theater owner, not a good choice since he was pursued for tax evasion. Inez left this world in 1994.

Louise, on the second step, looks serious in this photo, but I know she had a fantastic sense of humor. She was born in 1908 and was married in 1933. She became a widow too early, but she enjoyed living with her daughter Nancy in Hampton, Virginia, in later years. I got to spend some time with them when I attended the College of William and Mary. I will always remember the laughing fit Louise and I had one evening over something really silly. Louise didn’t stick around very long and died in 1978.

Miriam, born in 1910, became a nurse and married a lawyer. I was told her husband Willie had a nervous breakdown and decided to give up law in favor of owning and running a motel on Daytona Beach, Fla. She had a son and daughter, still thriving. She lived past 90 and died in 2001. I have a fun memory of her as a senior affected by cold, even in hot Daytona Beach. She was wearing a sweatshirt and earmuffs and had taken her false teeth out when I visited one summer, a few years before she passed on.

Above her is Penn (formal name—Pendleton Koons Motley), the male of the female-dominated family. Penn found his mate, Dorothy, in high school and they were married in 1934, when he was only 19. Dorothy, an amazing and loving woman, might as well have been a Motley by blood since she was like a sister to all the other siblings. My cousin Penny, his daughter, always reminds me how much Penn loved his sisters. My sister and I visited Penn in Florida in 1997, and I can testify to his outrageous sense of humor! He didn’t depart until 2004 some years after his beloved Dorothy died of ALS.

Rosebud Peace Motley was an appropriate name for a baby born in December, just weeks after the WWI Armistice in November 1918. Rosie (her appropriate nickname) was like a substitute mother to me for many years, especially appreciated after my own mother died at age 51. She and my mother, Garnette, (on the step above Rosie – note: they both wore polka dots!) were best buddies to the end of my mom’s life. Rosie was volunteering her kidney to my mother suffering from kidney disease in the 1970s. Rosie was there to comfort my brother and my dad in Texas for the last few months of my mother’s life. Rosie and my mother were both married in 1942, but neither of those marriages lasted. Rosie keep up her spirits and was the last of the Motley siblings to pass away – in June 2007. During her last years, her daughter Jackie made sure she was loved and well taken care of. Rosie never lost her sense of humor.

Garnette, my mother, always had a sense of style—look at those two-tone shoes! She was named after her mother, Bertha, and the doctor who delivered her—Dr. Garnet. When my stepfather wanted to annoy my mother, he’d call her Little Bertha. After graduating from high school, Mom went to live with some relatives in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and got a job at the nearby Fort Bragg. She met a dashing Infantry Capt. Victor Hobson, a West Point graduate. Their attraction resulted in me. Victor did the right thing and married her not long before he was sent to Italy as part of the U.S. invasion. Their marriage was over at the end of the war, but my Uncle Penn and Aunt Dorothy had already introduced her to a handsome Lt. Darby Williams stationed at Ft Belvoir in the Army Corps of Engineers. My new dad took us both to Murnau, Germany, where he was part of the U.S. occupying troops from 1947-49.

My mother, Garnette, and her youngest sister, Anne, were the adventurers in the family. Mom married twice, both of them Army officers, and we traveled a good portion of the world. Anne married a professor who had his own plane and after teaching in Kansas, Japan and Alaska, they settled in Fairbanks. All the other siblings remained on the East Coast

Anne Motley, the youngest, was a fair-skinned redhead and born in 1926. One of her bosom buddies was Amy Lee (oldest sister Inez’s daughter). My grandmother gave birth to Anne one month before her own daughter, Inez, gave birth to Amy Lee. Aunt Anne and her niece Amy Lee grew up together. Anne was the only Motley sibling who got a college education. She died young of a brain tumor, only 58 in 1984. My mother was 51 in 1974.

Hope you enjoyed my trip down Memory Lane. Below: 1950s photo – L to R: Viki, Tupper, Beth and Jackie with dark hair.

Viki, Tup, Jackie, Beth - Danville

 

 

 

VICTORIA’S FATHER IS VICTOR HOBSON

In anticipation of becoming a “Grandmother” for the first time, I’ve been thinking about my own relatives and what I’ll share with my new granddaughter. I have a preview excerpt from one of my Ebook stories offered on Amazon. Discovering the Victor in Victoria is the true tale of my search for my birth father. I was only a toddler when he went off to fight WWII in Italy. My parents divorced a few years later and both remarried. My mother liked Army officers, hence I had two career military men as fathers. They’d both gone to military colleges: my father was a West Point graduate; my stepfather graduated from the Citadel in South Carolina. At the end of their careers, my stepfather was a full Colonel and my natural father was a Brigadier General. Their lives weren’t easy and full of joy, but it was never boring.

Baby Viki when her daddy went off to war.

Baby Viki when her daddy went off to war.

To check out my books on Amazon, go to: http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

I was 21 when I discovered my birth father was stationed at the Pentagon. On a trip to Northern Virginia right before my last semester of college, I decided to look him up. In those days access to the Pentagon was easy; finding your way around, however, was challenging. (see my Book Cover of the Pentagon created by Hans Giraud, my son)

When the secretary ushered me into his office I wondered: Was this white-haired slender man truly my father? Did I even resemble him? Wasn’t he too old? My step-dad was scarcely gray. But this man’s hair was thick and wavy, similar to mine, and his slightly pug nose looked like mine. He looked at me inquisitively as I stood by his desk, my heart racing in my chest.

“Col. Hobson, I’m Viki Williams,” I introduced myself as he stood up with a smile. I noted he was taller than my dad. He maintained his outward composure, though I could detect the astonishment in his eyes. He knew who I was immediately. Calmly and politely, he told his adjutant to leave the office and close the door behind him. He then directed me to sit in the chair in front of his desk.

“Now, what can I do for you?” he asked hesitantly, still smiling at me, the bomb who had dropped into his life.

What thoughts were rushing through his mind? I wondered as I kept my cool, though I was quaking underneath. Tension and unease hung in the air. I quickly told him I was in my senior year of college and looking for careers, and I needed information for my CIA personnel form, such as where exactly was he born. As he gave me the information about his Alabama birth, we both relaxed a bit.

“I guess you think I’m about the worst man alive,” he offered with a hint of regret in his voice after we had finished the required questions.

“No, I don’t,” I replied evenly, too shy and uncertain to explain feelings I wasn’t even sure of. Even though Army officers weren’t known as “Disney” fathers, I had harbored no resentments through the years that I knew of. I was simply curious and reaching out for clues to my origins.

“I’ve thought about you a great deal all these years,” he added softly. “You look very much like your mother, except taller.”

Check out my book for more details on the real story. The book cover shows Victor holding Victoria as a baby.

Discovering the Victor in Victoria#1

WHEELUS AFB TV PROGRAM

My starring role as Louise

My starring role as Louise

Wheelus AFB in Tripoli, Libya, had a TV station back in the 1950s-1960s with some imported programs from the US and some local American talent from the base and in town. I was picked for a few moments of fleeting fame on American military TV long ago. Perhaps a few hundred people actually saw the program broadcast.

Since Hollywood didn’t come knocking on my door with a contract, I chose a writing career instead. No big script or book deals or a big budget movie, yet…alas. Although I did make some attempts to get my screenplay about Sir Francis Drake produced then ended up writing an historical fiction novel about him: MELAYNIE’S MASQUERADE.

My “starring” role on TV was to portray the fictional “Louise” while Joe, a talented pianist and airman played the song of that name. Maurice Chevalier, French actor and singer is known for singing the song at least 50 years ago. Two of the lines are:

Every little breeze seems to whisper Louise.

Birds in the trees seem to twitter Louise.

Joe (I can no longer remember his last name) had a half-hour TV program, which featured him playing piano. It was broadcast in the evening to every home with a TV set at Wheelus Air Force Base. I don’t remember if I even knew when or how often, but I did save the photos taken for the special occasion. My family had not brought a TV to Libya so Mom and Dad did not catch my debut.

Keeping his program unique was probably a challenge for Joe. One day he came up with the bright idea to play famous songs named for women: “Marie,” “Charmaine” and “Louise,” for instance, and have a girl in the background who represented each particular song.

He would play five songs. He already knew two Italian girls to feature, but he needed three more females to represent all the songs he had in mind. Apparently reasoning that the high school physical education program would provide him with the best choices, he came out to the Wheelus tennis courts one morning. The male mind is always intriguing! Maybe it was our grace hitting a tennis ball during physical education classes, or perhaps what our legs looked like in shorts that influenced his choices?

I had never considered myself a talented tennis player, although I did improve over the years. I was still in the hitting-the-ball-too-high stage, and lucky to make it over the net. My legs, however, were shapely.

Joe picked me, Judy Jones, and Vicki Scola and we all agreed to face the cameras. I was supposed to be a French Louise and had to find a beret and a scarf since my portrayal was a variation of the famous French Apache dance (based on Parisian gang culture and named for the US Native American tribe). I’ve still got the now tattered beret and the orange scarf.

I don’t recall that we did much if any rehearsing since we simply had to sit or stand, as the case may be, and look sexy. When Joe played each song, the camera panned from his playing to the appropriate girl and the painted background scene behind each of us.

No lingering fears of cameras linger; I don’t think I was nervous. One of the young Italian girls apparently did get the jitters; her underarm perspiration shows on her pretty dress.

Was that my “15 minutes of fame?” Fame is so ephemeral.

Between the two Italian girls, I'm in beret and scarf. Judy and Vickie are on the right. Joe's at the piano, the star of the show.

Between the two Italian girls, I’m in beret and scarf. Judy and Vickie are on the right. Joe’s at the piano, the star of the show.

 

BOOKS BY VICTORIA GIRAUD

Mel book cover #1
What’s a girl going to do when she wants adventure in her life, and men have all the fun? Melaynie Morgan is an independent-minded young woman in Plymouth, England, but it’s the 16th century, and women are expected to dress elaborately and attend to womanly duties. Forget about doublets, swords and sailing ships.Melaynie refuses to let her conventional background deter her. She disguises herself as a captain’s boy and signs on with privateer Francis Drake to plunder Spanish treasure in the exotic Caribbean. In the chess game of Renaissance politics it’s an undeclared war of opposing religions, but Queen Elizabeth’s Protestant England and King Philip’s Catholic Spain are maintaining a guarded peace. Into that mix comes Plymouth’s Drake, waging his own private war with Spain.

Melaynie finds more than she bargained for during her year in the tropics serving Drake – from disease, death and danger to a romance with a Spaniard and a friendship with an ex-slave. She returns to England wiser but secretly pregnant. In volume 2, Melaynie’s daughter Joan grows up unaware of her true parentage until the Spanish Armada brings a bittersweet and surprising reunion. To order these books, go to Amazon: Victoria Giraud Books

An Army Brat in Libya Ebook cover

An Army Brat in Libya Ebook cover

An Army Brat in Libya is a memoir chronicling the adventures of living in Tripoli in the 1950s. World War II was over and the world could breathe again for a while. Libya was ruled by King Idris, and the US Military held sway at strategic Wheelus Air Force Base. Attending high school amidst sand and palm trees, camels and donkeys, in a small cosmopolitan city along the Mediterranean was about as unique and full of contrasts as an American teen could get in the mild 1950s.

American teenagers sported jeans while Libyan women were covered from head to foot. Americans brought their cars; most Libyans rode bicycles. Despite the differences, East and West cohabited peacefully for the most part. It’s a new century today, but the American military still has a presence in these exotic areas of the world.

Weird Dates and Strange Fates#1

Weird Dates and Strange Fates features two unusual but true short stories. Sandy’s blind date serves her brunch while wearing a French maid’s costume, a blond wig and 4-inch heels in A Single Girl’s Guide to Cross-Dressing. She’s even more puzzled when he changes to a G-string and a lacy negligee. In The Dark Side, Barbara meets her perfect man, but one day he disappears from his apartment, leaving a downloaded computer and all his business attire behind. She could hardly believe the secret he was hiding.

Pink Glasses

The divorcees in the chic Los Angeles bar/restaurant were attracted to Will’s spirited zaniness, which mixed well with his gentle nature. They had no idea what mental turmoil it masked. He was a Viet Nam vet, a Navy pilot, and far from rich. Will had to rent a room from one of his new friends, yet he bought a brand new Porsche and kept his old one. What was he concealing?

TRIPOLI & THE OTTOMAN BASHAW

Tripoli's Bashaw Castle

Tripoli’s Bashaw Castle also known as Barbary Pirate Fort

The past can be very nebulous – one day it will seem like centuries ago, other days it was only yesterday in my mind. I looked for perceptive quotes about the past and found two intriguing ones. The first is a Chinese proverb: Consider the past and you shall know the future. The other comes from American author William Faulker: The past is not dead, in fact it’s not even past. I think both quotes apply to current life.

The Internet can easily make sure you don’t forget the past. I’ve been blessed by the adventures I had as an Army brat growing up, and the current continual growth of my connections with other military brats and citizens from around the world because of my Words on My Mind blog. Many of these connections have come from my three years living in Tripoli, Libya, in the mid 1950s.

Starting to thrive after the bloody North African fighting during WWII, in 1951 Libya was granted by the United Nations the status of Arab Kingdom, an independent state to be ruled by King Sayed Mohamed Idris el Senussi. I was there to witness the early blossoming, and so were a lot of Americans. Several of them, including me, have written about their experiences and had them published. I’ve read and will report on some of these books concerning Libya.

Tripoli has a tumultuous past that goes back to the Phoenicians and the Romans, and it was part of the Ottoman Empire for several centuries. Libyan Fadel Eswedi sent his friend Giuseppe Scalora (an Italian born in Libya) a fascinating book about Tripoli in the 18th century when the Turks still ruled Libya. Tully’s Letters was written by a Miss Tully, a young British woman who was part of the British consulate and wrote about her life experiences in Tripoli.

Reading the introduction page tells a great deal. The story comes from “letters written during a ten years’ residence at the Court of Tripoli, published from the originals in the possession of the family of the late Richard Tully, Esq., the British Consul, and it contains authentic memoirs and anecdotes of the reigning Bashaw (a high official in countries ruled by Turkey, as in the Ottoman Empire, which existed from 1299-1923).” It is also an account of the domestic manners of the Moors, Arabs and Turks.

According to this book, “Tripoli’s importance was derived from its link with Egypt and its geographical position on the great Hajj route from the west to Mecca, and the trade routes between Africa and Europe.” Miss Tully’s life in Tripoli began in 1783 during the time of the pirates, a famine and then a plague. As the book introduction quotes the reigning Bashaw’s words to the British, Dutch and French consuls who protested a Venetian ship that had been seized: “The Barbary Corsairs are born pirates, and not able to subsist by any other means; it is therefore the Christian’s business to be always on their guard, even in times of peace.” It doesn’t seem that much has changed in the world!

The famous old castle those of us who lived in Tripoli easily recognize was a dominant feature in the 18th century city. There were courtyards, and passages on different levels separated by heavy iron doors. The Bashaw lived there with his staff, his guards, his wives and his concubines, who lived in a harem in the depths of the castle. He had two sons with their families who also lived in separate guarded quarters within the castle.

Tripoli in those days had a slave market that sold off Christian slaves, and primarily Neopolitans, Spaniards, and Blacks from Fezzan and Bornu. A city of 25,000 population, 5,000 of them Sephardic Jewish refugees from the Spanish Inquisition, it was a rough and rowdy. According to the intro, the city was “a rabbit-warren of narrow lanes, arched bazaars and overhanging buildings.” Very few windows faced the street. Despite about 20 mosques, Tripoli wasn’t peaceful; those wealthy enough hired guards for their protection from the brutality.

On a positive note, east of the castle and extending along the bay for 10 miles was Menschia, a narrow green oasis full of palms, vegetables and peppers and gardens of apricot, orange and pomegranate trees. This area was the location for the summer homes of Tripoli notables. In modern times, and in the years I lived there, I will always remember the lovely bougainvillea vines that seemed to grow from every flat rooftop.

My thanks to Fadel Eswedi of Tripoli and Giuseppe Scalora, once a Tripoli resident and now a citizen of Los Angeles, for the use of this fascinating book. It was first published in 1846 and then again in 2002 in London. For those interested, the ISBN number is: 1850779279. Darf Publishers in London published the current edition.

50+ YEARS IN LA

Me & the Mustang in North Hollywood

Me & the Mustang in North Hollywood – 1965

I arrived in Los Angeles in May 1965. I was newly married and my husband and I had driven across country from New York City in our brand new Mustang. We found an apartment in North Hollywood, just a few miles from where I now live! The landlord told us we were neighbors of Bob Hope, just a few miles away in swanky Toluca Lake!

What a difference the last 50 years have made in my chosen hometown. More freeways, more people, more museums, more traffic. Disneyland is bigger, movie and television studios are larger and are located almost everywhere. Warner Bros Studios was only a couple of miles from where this photo was taken. I haven’t missed much adventure in all those years and still find the life here exciting.

In the mid 60s, there weren’t a wide variety of interesting and well-paid jobs for women, even if you did have a college degree. My bachelor’s degree was in English and I loved writing. I didn’t want to be a teacher but I could type. Secretarial jobs, though not always interesting, could lead up the corporate ladder to something better.

I was hired by the Los Angeles Times shortly after moving here. My husband, who was a civil engineer, worked for the LA County Sanitation Department. It was convenient for me to work at the Times. It was only two blocks from my husband’s job; we could ride to work together and save money by not needing a second car. We didn’t even consider public transportation. Southern California was the land of cars, lots of freeways, and an inefficient bus system. Now we’ve got subways!!

Though I’d been a reporter and editorial assistant for my college newspaper, that didn’t qualify me for the same job, even at entry level, for the LA Times. Educated women could aspire to a career as a teacher, a nurse, or a secretary. A popular joke related that women went to college to get their Mrs. degree. I was hired for the secretarial pool to type envelopes or letters from the Dictaphone machine. We were also used as substitute receptionists or secretaries.

Los Angeles wasn’t the city of high-rise buildings it is now. City Hall, at 32 stories, was the tallest building in town. The impressive Music Center was under construction until 1967 and the fabulously modern Disney Hall designed by Frank Gehry wasn’t even a dream in those days. My desk in the secretarial office was on the fifth floor of the LA Times building. I worked there less than six months, but 1965 was a memorable summer.

From the many windows, we could see the smoke and fires from Watts, a few miles south of us, now infamous as the Watts Riots. It was a frightening situation, especially to relatives of mine who lived in the East and just assumed everything was close-by in Los Angeles.

Several reporters for the LA Times were honored with a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the bloody and destructive Watts Riots and its aftermath. One positive highlight of my short stay there was the week I worked as a receptionist in the LA Times executive offices, occupied by the Chandlers, Norman and Buffy, the owners of the newspaper. Dorothy “Buffy” Chandler was enjoying her success as the primary fundraiser for the new Music Center that was being built nearby. A photo of part of the Music Center is below.

Their spacious offices, which included a bathroom and shower, were paneled in oak and the windows overlooked downtown Los Angeles. Although impressive to work there, it was very boring–not many visitors or many phone calls. To look busy, I read all the material on the wealthy and enterprising Chandler family and on all their business ventures. I used the typewriter for personal letters and even had the time to type all the addresses in my new address book. I once noticed the handsome silver-haired Norman Chandler, who was very conscious of his weight, downing the diet drink of the day—Metrecal—for lunch. Dorothy Chandler was in and out of the office. Since she had issued an edict that female employees of the Times must not wear sleeveless clothing and definitely not utter the word “OK” while on the premises, I avoided her.

Funny how the 1960s were both rebellious and repressive at the same time. Life is always full of contradictions.

I still drive a Mustang, but a bit newer (1998) with a hardtop. It’s still my favorite car.

 

 

MAKING MOVIES IN LIBYA – THE BLACK TENT

A couple of years ago, Terence Sharkey, who had been a teenage British actor in the 1950s, sent me an entertaining story of his adventure at Wheelus Air Force Base in 1955. He meant it as a Comment, but it was too long and too interesting not to include it as a blog, and I’m publishing the story again. I made a few minor changes (like American spelling) for clarity.

Terry told me: I was a guest at Wheelus almost sixty years ago and I still recall the warmth of the welcome which matched the 90 degree heat everywhere. In 1955 food-rationing from WWII in England had only just ceased, and for an English youth, my eyes had popped out at steak sizes I’d never seen, breakfast portions undreamed of, and chocolate bars in abundance. (I’d never heard of Hershey bars –but I soon learned). Suddenly England seemed even more austere when I saw the goods on offer in the commissary.

Terence Sharkey, teenage British actor

Terence Sharkey, teenage British actor, with actor Donald Sinden.

I was sixteen and had gone to Libya as a young actor for desert location scenes for a movie (The Black Tent) we were making at Pinewood Studios back in England. A couple of days after my arrival at Idris airport, the once daily flight from London’s Heathrow ended in tragedy when a BOAC DC4 Argonaut crashed in flames on landing, killing fifteen and badly injuring many of the forty-seven on board. Idris facilities were about what you’d expect of one of the world’s poorest nations with an international terminal that looked like it was the film set from Bogart’s “Casablanca,” and the boys and girls at Wheelus had mobilised immediately, with helicopters ferrying the injured to the military hospital.

A few days later, at a break in the filming schedule, I visited the base with Rosemarie, a young woman survivor of the crash. American helicopter pilots honored her with a bouquet. Their tears turned to laughter when Rosemarie discovered the bouquet was swarming with ants, which had joined the consignment somewhere locally. (Where had they had come up with fresh roses in such a desert?).

The base was enormous. I had been fearful that the sight of aircraft so soon after the tragedy at Idris airport on the other side of the city would be upsetting, but my companion was enjoying the tour as much as I was. At one stage our jeep rattled its way over the tarmac beside twenty or more very business-like looking fighter jets with US Air Force emblazoned on each silver fuselage together with the big white star. “F-86 Saber jets” our driver told us proudly. “See them swept-back wings? They’ll take on anything those Commie bastards can throw at us – they’ll out-maneuver any of Joe Stalin’s boys.”
Stalin had died two years before and his successor, Nikita Kruschev, had appeared to adopt a more conciliatory attitude towards the West in an attempt to end the Cold War. Our driver, if he knew of the demise of the despot, cared little for the changes and continued to extol the superior virtues of the Saber jets over the Russian MiG-15s, which he told us he had seen in dogfights in the Korean War a couple of years before.

An international incident was narrowly avoided when this naïve British visitor took a photograph of his beautiful companion. I had not noticed that the background included some tents and several large aircraft. I still have the Zeiss camera, which I had bought cheaply a couple of days before, just a museum piece now in our age of digital photography, but I will always remember that day when I had to hand over the film to the fierce military policeman declaring us off limits.

Actually, he turned out to be quite an affable sort who, having executed his official task, seemed more than happy to assist my companion, who had discovered that the ants were now invading her blouse. Uncle Sam’s Military Police are clearly up to anything the day throws at them and the fellow produced some magic mosquito cream, which he applied liberally to her neck. His enthusiasm for the task knew no bounds and soon it was the turn of the female visitor to gently point out what was off limits.

Apart from the loss of my pictures it was a memorable day with hospitable hosts, an air-conditioned day that offered a welcome contrast to the sweltering Sahara filming days that lay ahead.
Happy days! More are captured at Terence Sharkey memoir-Love, Life & Moving Pictures

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