Photographer Jean Sherrard packs Paul Dorpat’s 1955 photos for inspiration on a summer trip abroad.
Through its 37 years, this is surely the farthest from First and Yesler that our weekly Now & Then feature, ordinarily about regional heritage, has ventured. Reaching 443 feet above the River Thames is the Elizabeth Tower. In both our “Now” and “Then” photos, this neo-Gothic landmark has been exceptionally dressed for makeovers.
Two of the four faces for its tenants, the Great Clock and Big Ben, perhaps the world’s most-famous chiming-and-yet-cracked bell, can be seen through the restoration scaffolding of 1955. That was one year before the creation of London’s Clean Air Act.
I remember pointing my borrowed Leica to record this London landmark 63 years ago. I was touring Europe with 16 rolls of Kodachrome slide film, donated by a Spokane drugstore merchant, and about 35 other Northwest teens, “donated” by their parents. We were all delegates headed for a 10-day YMCA-YWCA conference in Paris. We were selected by discerning adults who were especially encouraged by other adults: those who could afford to send us, our parents. The conference responsibilities were preluded by a five-week tour of Europe that began in London.
Dodging some overhanging foliage, Jean Sherrard recorded his splendid “Now” portrait of Big Ben from nearly the same spot where I had photographed that chiming clock more than six decades earlier.
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If memory serves, in 1955, it took us 21 days aboard the Orsova, flagship for Orient Lines, to reach London from Vancouver, B.C., via the Panama Canal. I remember the two on-deck swimming pools. Also, any passenger could enjoy teatime tables slathered with pastries and the sometimes-splashing tables of the captain’s cocktail hours. The freedom and frivolity of this drinking were entirely new to us Northwest innocents, who were more likely to find our guarding chaperones in attendance than the Orsova’s smiling captain.
The Paris Conference itself was often neglected in favor of an inexpensive attraction: walking the streets of Paris. On his current sojourn with students from Bellevue’s Hillside Student Community School, where he teaches writing and drama, Jean has with him one or more of my Paris pictures from 1955 for possible updating.