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Notes On Tourists, Students, Francs, and Politics

Letter From France

By Robert W. Morgan jr.

The Government is running five converted troopships to and from Europe to carry primarily students and displaced persons. On the Marine Jumper en route to Le Havre I met, in the student category, Quakers, Youth Hostelers, Adventure Trailers, one delegate to the World Council of Churches, and huge numbers of young tourists going abroad ostensibly for study in London, Paris, Copenhagen, Geneva, and elsewhere. Their groups held orientation programs on the ship 25 hours a day, passed out reams of literature, held foreign language courses daily, and generally showed their eagerness to promote International understanding and prevent future war. All these idealists, unhappily, seemed naively unaware of the economic conflicts which will probably cause another war. The pamphlets dealt with racial and religious misunderstandings, not with oil fields in Arabia.

Havre is largely is ruins, although new docks and a new railroad station have been built. These are modern but of small capacity. Paris, on the other hand, seems untouched by the war. The food situation looks good. Ration stamps are unnecessary for a brief visit and gasoline is the only big black market commodity today. French cigarettes, bread, beer, and coffee, reported to be the most unsatisfactory items for tourists in Paris, are being widely enjoyed by Americans here today.

There are over 30,000 such Americans in Paris now. At the Sorbonne, where vacation courses are being held in French Grammar and Civilization, the traditional starving student from the provinces has been replaced temporarily by the seersuckered foreigner, and Harvard club ties are seen flashing around old stone cloisters.

One can live more or less comfortably on thirty dollars a month. This means living in a student boarding house in the Latin Quarter. It also means that plenty of veterans are living like kings on their G.I. checks. Unfortunately a lot of them only go to school once a week and commute to the Riviera, and the U.S. Embassy is very slow to catch on.

By way of comparative prices, a meal of shrimps, wine, tomato and potato salad, more wine, steak and, of course, French fried potatoes and more wine, and cheese for dessert costs a dollar at any of the restaurants off the large boulevards. Movies range from a dime to a dollar, the opera four times a week can be enjoyed for thirty cents, the Folies start at sixty-five, and exhibitions for five run around a buck and a half each. These are computed at the legal rate of exchange of 3000 francs to the dollar.

One gets the impression that France wants Truman's reelection, that Frenchmen like Americans more or less, although they can't comprehend our affinity as they see it for putting American girls on the well known pedestal: and that all Parisians are anarchists at heart: without policemen, traffic lights, or government, life would go on almost unchanged.

Note on existentialism--it is the basis for vaudeville, newspaper, and radio jokes here now. There are many existentialists in Paris but they dwell in their clubs. Those cafes are the product of Time magazine.

(This article is reprinted from a special Freshman issue of the Crimson.)

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