Autobiographical Essays

Beate Caspari-Rosen, MD (1910 - 1995)

By Car from New York City to Miami and Back

The American Public Health Association held its  yearly meetings at the beginning of May, for one week. Since my husband was the editor of the American Journal of Public Health, he had to attend all the sessions, from the very first to the final one. This rigiorous schedule was necessitated by the fact that many of the lectures would be printed in the Journal. I rarely was able to accompany my husband, because I was unable to have released time from work. But in 1961, the meeting was held in Miami and George and I decided to travel to there by car, and on our trip visit some southern cities as well as Civil War battle fields.

Two days before we left, I went Downtown [Manhattan] to refurbish my summer wardrobe. I went to Altman’s, a fashionable department store at 34th Street and Fifth Avenue [Now the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.] Looking at some light blouses suited for southern weather I placed my handbag on the counter and turned to a mirror holding up a blouse against my body, while a salesperson looked for additional items to show me. When I turned around I discovered that my handbag was missing, and I saw a woman walking rapidly towards the exit. Before disappearing through the entrance, she turned around and our eyes met and I knew that she was the thief. Not only did I lose my favorite handbag, money, my driver’s license which I needed for our trip, but also all my charge cards, including my American Express card. The saleslady gave me a dollar so that I could pay my fare home and packed up a blouse for me. When I returned home I immediately called the stores at which I had charge cards to inform them that my cards had been stolen. However, I could not replace my driver’s license. Thus, my husband would have to do all the driving.

The next afternoon, after work, we departed. On the way to Washington, we stayed at a motel situated on the New Jersey Turnpike. The following morning we set out in earnest for Miami. We wanted to take three days, which would give us enough time to sightsee along the way. Among our planned stops were Civil War battlefields; we decided to leave visits to towns, like Charlestown, for the return journey. It was surprising how many small battlefields there were the farther south we drove. What really amazed us was the proximity of the battle lines, sometimes only the width of a road or a narrow river separated opposing sides. And nearby there were cemeteries. Did these young soldiers really know what they were fighting for? The Southern army fought for their way of life, their present existence, but did the Northern soldiers really want to give up their lives to free slaves so that blacks and whites would be equal?

The last morning of our trip we got up early in the morning so that we would be able to reach Miami by early afternoon. But when we hit the road we found a row of truckers in front of us. The road was narrow and we could not pass them. So we settled behind the last truck which was open and had long tubes extending out of the back that swayed back and forth. As we approached that truck, we realized that the tubes were actually three elephant trunks which turned in various directions, apparently to catch morning breezes. The trucks carried an entire circus; they were travelling from one circus ground to another. We followed them sedately, until they turned off at a town, where apparently they were scheduled to  hold a show.

We arrived at Miami Beach and settled in at the Hotel Fonntainebleau in a room overlooking the ocean.

Two days later we got a telephone call from my daughter Susan. A parcel had arrived for me containing the contents of my handbag, with even the smallest most insignificant items that had been in the handbag: hairpins and a soiled handkerchief. Even my driver’s license and credit cards were included, but my wallet and money were missing and of course the beautiful handbag.

On our way back we stopped in all the historic cities; but I will save my impressions of them for another report.


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