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World travelers just down-home folk
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World travelers just down-home folk

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There may be a magical magnetism between "fly" boys and girls. Meaning airplane pilots or those who have been connected with flying. Maybe because we are all "airheads." (No offense.)

To continue the river trip: Folks from throughout the states gathered and were waiting for rooms to be assigned in an Amsterdam Hotel. Among the "getting acquainted" one small and lively group seemed to be long-time friends. They were. Both friends and relatives. A group of eight travelers from Seattle. Two of the fellows, Rex and Dave, were retired pilots. Rex from the Navy and Dave, commercial. Both married to and still traveling with air line stewardesses. (Now known as air line attendants.)

The women, Andrea and Kathy, bright, beautiful, vivacious, still flying for overseas airlines (When not vacationing.)

Like many Westerners, (especially Montanans) the entire group was friendly and welcoming. They were out to relax and have fun.

Besides the fellows entertaining each other with tales of flying, our ship board friendship also flourished because of a dance. Some of you know how much I enjoy dancing and moving to music. (Another reason Dick and I married - besides his swimming pool.)

The ship was headed up river. (Last week's column said "down." I was corrected.) It was the first happy hour in the large Latitude 52 degree, lounge. Tables surrounded a small dance floor. A musician on the keyboard in the corner. The dreamy, rather doleful dinner music was difficult to hear through the loud conversation and laughter of the crowd. During an interval, I spoke to the music maker, thanked him and asked if he knew something more lively. He seemed a bit indignant and declared (with a heavy Dutch accent): "I can play American too!"

He hit the keys and burst into that great tune: "In the Mood." (We were. And we did.) I kicked off my shoes and Dick and I "swung out" and "cut a little rug". (Using a bit of slang from the jitterbug days.) Just like at our own Center on a Saturday night. Suddenly there was clapping and cheering. Until the music stopped, I didn't realize the applause was for us. Near the end, we were joined by another couple, Lucy and Howard from Pennsylvania. (More polished and sedate.)

From then on, we were known as the "dancers from Montana." Our action also encouraged others. Some evenings, many were moving to the music, especially "American" tunes. Gene and Charlotte, also with the west coast group, enjoyed trading partners, just like home.

Many people from the east and south, thought we were ranchers. Must have been my hat. I wore it so Dick could keep track of me if I got lost in a castle or among the cobblestones.

Some of our new friends were also acquainted with Montana. Kathy had a son, who had resided in Great Falls. Her mother also lived in a retirement home in Missoula for a time. A couple of the fellows had been on hunting trips in the state.

There were more folks from Florida on the ship then any other state. Many of them wealthy widows. (I assumed.) One sophisticated lady I noticed very early, I decided she would be most unfriendly. (A mistake. Won't I ever learn?)

I was surprised one afternoon as Dick and I sat having a beer in the street of some ancient, German town. This beautifully groomed lady, loaded with shopping bags, limped to our table and asked Dick if he could loan her enough "Euros" to buy coffee and a snack. She only had large bills and would pay him later! (He kidded her with the description of "the woman, who asks for money in the streets.") Thus, we got to know Maureen McKee, more informally known as "Tinker" a vivacious and fun-loving person.

Similar to "flight" folks (not flighty), those of us in the news business also share much in common. Another chance meeting at a dinner table: Patrick and Peggy O'Donnell from Orange County, California. He is a longtime news photographer, she is a journalist.

During his career, Patrick has had the privilege of photographing several presidents. He said the meeting with President Bush Sr. was especially memorable. He took photos of Mr. Bush when he came to California to celebrate his 80th birthday by jumping out of an airplane (with a parachute.)

After taking numerous pictures the president said to Patrick:

"You never get your picture taken," so he posed with Patrick and had others snap the photo. (The photographer has it displayed in his office at home.)

Like a snap shot, this column is only a small picture of the folks we met. Shipboard friendships that make life worth living. All things bright and beautiful come to a conclusion.

Another star in Missoula skies went out with the death of Shirley Smuin. She will be missed.

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