Train through Glen Ellyn, 1950

This one-minute clip was copied from an original reel of Kodak film. The movie was taken in the summer of 1950 by Dudley E. Wells (b. 1914) from a Union Pacific streamliner, City of Portland. First segment: the train itself and its crossing of the Mississippi River; second, rolling through Glen Ellyn, Illinois (hometown of R. Wells, b. 1942, who was aboard); third, arriving in Chicago. At this time the Korean War had just started. A note on the train’s British-like use of the left side: the Union Pacific used the tracks of the Chicago & North Western Railway, one “known for running ‘left hand main’ on double track mainlines due to the original placement of stations on the Chicago-bound side.” Wikipedia, Chicago_and_North_Western_Transportation_Company. Accessed 2014.

Amsterdam Clips May 2014

In May, 2014, Randall flew to Amsterdam for a reunion with Richard Collin, who had retired to Yorkshire, England. Former professors at Coastal Carolina University, they have been pals since 1988. During this two-hour tour of harbor and gracht (canal), despite the ceaseless wine and magical scenery, they were unable to fall in love.


Waterhouses. Next to? Made of?


Randall dancing solo at Keukenhof. The two guys were spending the day at this world-class park and flower show as guests of Richard’s friend Ilham. Richard had filmed such terpsichorean spell in front of Rijksmuseum (to the music of street musicians), and Randall had sent the clip to his dancer-daughter Katie. She replied, “Please dance again!” Right after Richard took this video, Randall did a little two-step with the woman who appears at the end of the clip.


Bike into window. The evening of my arrival, I was walking around alone after visiting Anne’s house and finding nobody at home. Outside a bar I asked a number of people if they would step a few feet down the sidewalk so I could film a bicycle disappearing into a plate-glass window. Luckily for me, the group was in a jolly mood and seemed to welcome my company. Employees of Danone (European spelling of Dannon), they all hailed from the UK except for one who literally walked into my life, and who was originally from Durbin, South Africa. After a merry drink inside, the group disappeared like the cyclist. I made my way to Hotel Avenue, site of the next clip:


Giants walking past buildings.


Samuel Hope Wells playing the .... Lamp by Susan Icove.


To Julien Vasaune on his Third Birthday
               April 2, 2013

Julien woke and wailed, lost
In darkness. Grandpa carried fear
Outside to calming sunlight crossed
Through space to convex lunar mirror.

Toucan with its puppet beak
Tried to grab him by the arm,
Then to give his neck a tweak,
But Grandpa said, “Don’t do him harm!”

“Take the end off!” Beaded string,
Tight-plugged, of patience little trace.
Refused, he gave an angry swing
And whacked his brother in the face.

Toddler loves his “pennies” —fakes
From Mommy’s daddy’s dad, now missed,
Coins for games. He guesses, takes
The silver out of Grandpa’s fist.

What’s sticking out of Julien’s ear?
“I hope that penny didn’t hurt!
And look down by your button—queer—
Another pokes out from your shirt!”

He laughed and took a coin and stuck
It in the mouth of back-flip dog,
Then took it out and, shades of Puck,
Replaced it with a leapless frog.

“Say ‘Go,’”—he did, and off it rolled
The Grandpabarrow—gravel, grass.

Julien knew the sides to hold,
Heard the leafy footsteps pass.
Goldenrod would brush his hair
As facing backward up the lane

He rode the wheel until where
The fence said “Stop.” Too plain:
The cows were nowhere. “Want to climb
Back out?” Why, sure, and then he spots

The stowaways, the ants, no time
To flee the thumb that makes them blots.
Wait to see a leaf down glide.
He doesn’t catch it, autumn’s clock.

So let’s trundle on another ride:
“Whacha see up there?” “Big rock.”
“That’s so big it’s called a boulder.”
Grandpa couldn’t add “Erratic,

Source unknown and nothing older,
Kept for you in nature’s attic.”
A stop unscheduled: “Look for berries!”

In weedy brown he spies a bunch.
Grandpa comes back with the fairies’
Or the birdies’ orange lunch.
“A moon!” Same finger-pointed words

His dad-borne toddler-mom had said.
The sky was empty save for birds.
Oh, Gigi’s crescent nailed to shed!


For Samuel Hope Wells

August 2015

Grandpa sits behind the wheel
Car in shady trees;
Baby nods in strap-in seat
Sleeping in the breeze.

Boy takes breaths without a sound,
Rain-like chirping all around.

Corkscrew moths flit to and fro
Swish goes Bessie’s tail;
Birdy scissors ‘cross the road
Butterfly’s a-sail.

Boy takes breaths without a sound,
Rain-like cheeping all around.

Buzz goes bug, already gone—
Speed, it knows, makes sense;
Weeds lift sunny yellow blooms
Birdy takes the fence.

Boy takes breaths without a sound,
Rain-like cheeping all around.


Hansel & Gretel

“Fourteen angels watch”?
Don’t be tricked by Humperdinck’s
Phony euphony.

map of England

A Child Evacuee Becomes an Unknown Casualty of World War II

Interviewee: Norah Mitchell, born Cahill (CAH-hill), Dec. 12, 1931, Guildford, Surrey, England. Died May 2016, Floyd, VA, USA.
Father: Joseph Robert Cahill. Mother: Florence Ellen (Smith)
Interview: conducted December 26, 2014, in Floyd, Virginia
Interviewer and editor: Randall A. Wells, b. 1942. Retired Professor of English & Speech, Coastal Carolina University. Former Director of the Horry County (SC) Oral History Project

Italicized parts added by Norah to indicate memories evoked by reading the original interview.

I was raised in London. My earliest memories— my father would bring piecework home and the children and my mother would sit around the table threading nuts and bolts and screws, and we would do it together [illustrates with stretched-out arms]. Another: going to a Shirley Temple movie. Strangely enough, I can remember the address: 16 Bayham St., Camden Town, London [a borough that forms part of Inner London]. Maybe I can remember because my family was together. I had one brother and a sister at that time.

In September, 1939, England was preparing for war. I remember barrage balloons—great silvery, gas-filled balloons that they would float up to keep aircraft from coming down. [Sometimes called “blimps,” they were tethered with metal cables.] Also there were searchlights that would come on for practice [motions]. The lights would sweep across the sky and also bounce off the balloons. One night my mother sent me down to the bakery to get a loaf of bread, and it was after dark, I will always remember it was Hovis brown bread. When I was going, it was the first time that they had decided to test the air raid sirens. I had no idea what it was. I screamed and screamed and ran home terrified and my Mum explained what was happening. Continue reading