Letters from France of

Mark J. Schmitt

Summer 1965

Mark as a teenager

Thanks to Tom for transcribing these. 

During the summer of 1965, Paul and Mark spent time in France living with two different families. Upon their return, their teenage-boy counterparts from these families ventured to Brown Street for a while. (Maybe someday Paul M will provide more details and reminisces). Below are Mark's letters home during his stay. He stayed in Le Vesinet, an upscale suburb of Paris, whose subway stop was the next one beyond where Dick got off each working morning during his Paris assignment, nearly 35 years later.)

(See also Mark's contributions to the family newsletters)

last updated on 26 April 2009

33, Avenue de la Princesse
Le Vesinet
le 16 juin, 1965

Dr and Mrs. F. M. Schmitt
31211 Brown
Garden City, Michigan 48135

Bonjour People,

I arrived safely at Orly Airport last night at 9:30 pm (French Time) and was greeted by the Hamaide family.  We then proceeded to Paris and saw the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arch de Triumph and several other famous places.  We ate in a sidewalk café. (In France, you eat sandwiches with a knife and fork.)

Le Vesinet is 20 minutes from Paris.

Franck is very small.  He (and everyone else in the family) smokes.

I have my own room.  The maid makes my bed, and serves the meals.

I can't understand anything anyone says (except Franck, when he speaks English).

The house is quite large, and very beautiful.  It has a small yard, and two patios.

This morning, I went on a tour of Le Vesinet with Pierre, a friend of Franck.  Franck stayed home and did his geometry homework.  Pierre and I went on motorbikes.

I think I am going to call Paul this afternoon.  Our families got each others' numbers at the airport last night.

This afternoon Franck and I are going into Le Vesinet to see General DeGaulle.

Today we had a two-course lunch with wine (of course).  Pizza was the first course and pork chops were the second.

If you have a picture of Philip to spare, would you please send it.  The family is very interested in Philip.  Also, would Dad please send me about 5 more toothbrushes and some toothpaste?

Au Revoir for now.  I'll write more later.



33, Avenue de la Princesse
Le Vesinet (Seine et Oise)
le 21 juin, 1965
Docteur et Madame Francis Schmitt et famille
31211 Brown
Garden City, Michigan 48135


How is everyone?

Last night (Sunday) I went with Franck and some other kids to Paris to see the Beatles at the Europe Olympia.  We sat in the fourth row.  We also saw the Yardbirds and some other cruddy groups.  After the concert, when we were on our way to the subway, there were all kinds of fights all over the Olympia, the streets, and the subways.  What a riot!  But Franck's friend said that this happens every time the Beatles come to Paris.

Before we went to see the Beatles, we went to a party at Jean-Pierre's mother's apartment.  I think I told you about Jean-Pierre before.  It was a semi-formal party and they had all these icky h'ors-d'euvres (or however you spell it).  I was glad to leave.

When we got back from the Beatles, (about 12:45 am) we went to another party, this one at the tennis courts.  It was a better party than Jean-Pierre's, but we only stayed until 2:00 am.

How is everyone at home?

Would it be possible to send me the Guardian?  I need something American to read.  All day long I read French magazines and listen to French people and radios.

My French is coming along quite well, since I am forced to speak it.  I even think in French, which makes it quite confusing when I try to speak English.  Also, I am starting to speak English with a British accent!  This is because I say English words the same way as Jean-Pierre and Franck, and the English they know is English-English, not American-English, which is very different from English-English.

On Friday, another American boy is coming to stay with the Hamaide's.  I guess he couldn’t find another French home or something.

Will you please buy two potholders or whatever you call them (you know, the things you put between a hot dish and your hands) and put them on my bill?  Mail them to me, please.  Also will you get me a set of salt shakers.  (Make sure the salt doesn't pour out very fast.)  The salt here is in a little bowl, and you put your knife in it and get some salt, and then you shake your knife.  These will be my other gifts to Mme. Hamaide and Amelia, the maid.  Is Jello mailable?  If so, please send me some for the Hamaides.

I called Paul and invited him to dinner.

Would you please send me some piano music?  Those books of Dale Hardin's would be O.K.  The people here are crazy about "West Side Story."

Well, that's all for now, folks,

Au Revoir, avec love,


P.S.  Tell Anne to plant those flowers – fast.

33, Avenue de la Princesse
Le Vesinet (Seine et Oise)
June 26, 1965
Dr and Mrs. F. M. Schmitt
31211 Brown
Garden City, Michigan 48135


I don't know why you haven't been getting my letters.  This is my third one.  I sent others on June 16, and June 21.  They must be on some pigeon's back or something, since I sent them Par Avion.

Thank you for the letters.  They both arrived yesterday, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon.

I have a friend in Le Vesinet named Eddie.  Eddie has an older sister, and an American girl is staying with her.  Anyhow, yesterday Eddie and I and this kid (I'll tell you about him later – David) went on the train and the subway to Paris to meet her (Cheryl) at Eddie's dad's office, right by the Arc de Triomphe.  Then we went sightseeing.  First we went to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, and you'll never guess who we saw!  Mary Jane Sly!  (You know – Patty Hammer's friend)  She sat next to me on the plane.  Anyhow, she was by herself, and so she joined us on our walk to le Louvre.  When we were walking down the street to the Louvre, we stopped at a famous café, stopped at the  Paris Lido and saw some pictures of the Folies Bergere (or however you spell it).  David (David Van Note is an American boy who just got here yesterday morning and is staying with the Hamaide's until his family returns from Africa.) and I went out in the middle of the Champs Elysees to photograph the Arc de Triomphe.  That was very dangerous, but we lived.

There we were, four Americans and one Frenchman, walking down the Champs Elysees.  When we were about halfway to the Louvre, we looked at the time, and it was four o'clock.  The Louvre closes at 5.  So, we didn't get to the Louvre yesterday.  (It took us an hour and a half to get halfway there.)

Since we didn't go to the Louvre, we decided to go to Sacre-Coeur at Monmarte.  It is a very beautiful church.  I think it is even more beautiful than Notre Dame.

Thursday night I went to Notre Dame with the Hamaide's to see "Le mistere de la Passion."  It was a massive (huge) passion play in front of Notre Dame.  It has a cast of 1,200.  It was very beautiful.

I can't think of anything else to write, so I'll leave it at that.



(postmarked Etel Morbihan)
July 2, 1965
8:00 p.m.
Dr and Mrs. F. M. Schmitt
31211 Brown
Garden City, Michigan 48135

Dear People,

I am writing this now, but I don't know when you are going to get it, since I'm at the camping place now.  We just arrived at about 4:00 this afternoon, and we just finished supper.  I don't exactly know where we are, but I'll find out for you, later in this letter.  OK?

Since I wrote you last (I don't know if you got it) I've been all over France.  Monday morning we (Madame Hamaide, Franck, David Van Note, Manuelle [14-yr old sister], and I) left Paris for Lyon.  Upon arriving in Lyon that night, we ate dinner at Jacques and Maggie's (house guests of the Hamaide's last week) apartment.

After dinner, we went to Vienne (find on map, it's just below Lyon) to sleep at the house of Madame Hamaide's mother and sister.  The next morning, we left for the French Alps.  The Hamaide's are building a weekend home at St. Gervais (find on map), near Mt. Blanc (famous mountain). We went to St. Gervais, Chamonix, Grenoble, and several other towns that day.  That night (Tuesday), we went back to Vienne to sleep at the Grandmere's house.  The next day we had a picnic at this swimming pool near Vienne, and I have a real nice sunburn to prove it.  We also slept at Grandmere's that night.  Thursday morning we left (at 6:00 am) for Le Vesinet, and arrived around 1:30 pm.

So yesterday (Thursday) Franck and I packed, (I brought a suitcase camping!  What a scorn!) and this morning, at 7:00 am, we left for where we are now, in Britanny, on the coast of France.

Dave (I told you about him before) is leaving Le Vesinet Monday evening to meet his family in the French Alps.  He's going on the train.  He is really a cool guy, but we didn't help each other with French very well.  We spoke American all the time.  I hope he makes out OK.

We are going to be here until July 20th, when we will go back to Le Vesinet and see Paris (by night).
8:00 am Saturday
July 3, 1965

Right now I am on cooking duty and am waiting for the milk to boil.  I think we are going into town, so I'll finish this letter.

Keep writing to me.  Everything at home sounds interesting.  Keep me up to date.  Well, the milk is boiling.  I'll write you in a couple more day.



(postmarked Etel Morbihan)
July 7, 1965
9:15 p.m.
Dr and Mrs. F. M. Schmitt
31211 Brown
Garden City, Michigan 48135

Dear People,

I got the letter yesterday.  Madame H. forwarded my mail here.

We are near Etel.  It is on the West Coast.  For easier finding on the map, it is near the big cities of BELZ and LORIENT.  Etel is 550 kilometers from Paris (I think).

The group I am camping with is a Catholic group, and a priest is staying with us for ten days.  I still don't know the purpose of the group, but it must be working on farms.  Monday, Tuesday, today, and tomorrow, we work at farms.  Monday and Tuesday, we did the haying.  Today we dug potatoes, weeded onions and beans, and did some more haying.  Who knows what tomorrow?

Friday, we are making a pilgrimage to St. Anne d'Auray.  It is (supposedly) about 23 kilometers from here (Etel).  We're walking all the way.  That's about 12 or 13 miles.  But it'll be nice, anyway.

I don't know if I'll see the Oldenburgs or not.  I'll be here until the 20th or 21st.  I would like to see them.  Even if they go to Le Vesinet, I don't believe they'll find anybody until then, anyways.  Madame Hamaide went to Italy with Katryn (18 yr old) as a "cure" for her rheumatism, (I think it's just another excuse to spend money.) and they return the same day as Franck and I.  That leaves M. Hamaide, who is at work until 6:00, Manuelle, and Amelia (the maid).  I do hope I see them, anyhow.

I am enclosing a list of names for which I would like addresses.  Please fill them in for me.  Also add any other people who you think I should write to.  Thanks.

I also got a letter yesterday from Father Cantillion.  It's about our choice for the end of the trip.  Nothing important.  I'll write more about it later.

I will write you more soon.



PS.  Thanks for the pictures of Philip.  What should I bring him from Europe?

(postmarked Etel Morbihan)
July 10, 1965
10:00 a.m.
Dr and Mrs. F. M. Schmitt
31211 Brown
Garden City, Michigan 48135

Dear Folks,

I've got a lot of time to waste, so I thought I'd write to you.

Yesterday, we went on that pilgrimage to St. Anne d'Auray.  I am now a pilgrim.  It was really terrible!  We left here (Etel) at 3:00 in the morning, and began the walk to St. Anne, which was supposedly 23 kms.  Well, it wasn't.  It was more like about 35 kms, since we took a wrong turn.  I don't know how you can take a wrong turn when you are walking and ten people are reading signs, but we did it.  We finally got there, about 7:45 am.  It was so funny.  We were broken up into 3 or 4 groups, and were walking down this deserted road (about 6:00) quite near the church, and every time we'd hear a car coming around a curve, we'd get down on our knees and pretend we were going to the church on our knees.  It was really funny.

After we went to the church and heard Mass, we took a bus to Vannes (find on map) and took a boat ride all along the bay.  It's really beautiful.  We then hitch-hiked back to Etel.

I just finished washing my clothes.  They're not very clean.  I much prefer machine-washed clothes.

The country around here is very picturesque.  All the old ladies wear black and wear starched hankies on their heads.  On the farms, the house is attached to the barn.  What a mess!    It's not very sanitary.  The kitchen is in the barn. 

Well, I can't think of anything else to write, except that I'm not going to tour Paris with the group.  I decided to stay that one more day with the Hamaide's, since I will already have seen all Paris by the end of the trip, anyhow.

I'll write more later.  Love, Mark
11:20 am

I just thought of more to write.

I haven't heard from Paul.  What is he doing?  How long will he be at his camp?  When I get back to Paris, I'm going to try to get together with him.

How is the yard?  Is Michael doing a good job?  There's just one thing I don't want him to do – the edging.  Save it all for me.

One year ago today, I got my driver's license.  Isn't that exciting to remember?  I still have a perfect record.  Great, eh?  HaHa

Which reminds me – I used to think some of my friends weren't very good drivers.  Well, compared with the French drivers, my friends deserve "Safe Driver of the Year" awards.  You really take your life in your hands when you get in a car in France.

A little minute ago I spoke of washing my clothes.  Well, where we are camped, we are 1 ½  minutes from the nun's convent, and we use their stuff (sinks, etc) to wash our clothes.  Now they said we can use their clotheslines, too.  When I was hanging up my clothes, I don't know why, but I felt kind of funny hanging men's underwear from a nun's clothesline.  But, this is France.

That's all for now.

Tell everyone that I said "Bonjour."



33, ave. de la Princesse
Le Vesinet (S. et O.)
July 13, 1965
Dr and Mrs. F. M. Schmitt
31211 Brown
Garden City, Michigan 48135

Dear People,

Here I am writing again already.

I wish to inform you that Franck and I are safely back in Le Vesinet.  We didn't stay at the camp for 20 days.  I'm glad to be back, because it was pretty boring there.

Please send me Dr. Guy's address.

What year and kind of pick-up did Mr. Milton buy Kaye?  Is it an old heap that he's going to fix up? (joke)

I'll bet those wall shelves really look nice, especially in the upstairs hallway.  I've always wanted shelves there.

Today I got a card from John O.  He is in Chamonix!  I wish he would have told me before, since I went through Chamonix on that trip with Mme. H.

If he's so far down south, I hope the Oldenburg's come to Paris to see me, anyhow.

In the last letter you sent me, you said something about boiling the milk at a boy scout camp.  We did at ours, but I don't remember telling you about it.  Maybe you're getting my letters mixed up with Paul's.

At the camp, we always had this cider.  It's really hard cider.  I guess that's the kind of cider they make in Britanny.

Mary Kaye and Rick are getting married in Kalamazoo, aren't they?  I suppose Mary has to work that day?  I hope not.

I'll write more later on.

Love, Mark
July 14, 1965
9:00 pm

Today is the big day in France.  This morning Franck and I went into Paris and saw the parade and General DeGaulle.  The parade was quite a show of military strength, but I wasn't very impressed.  The Champs-Elysees was just packed with people.  From the sounds of things I think about 1/3 of the people were English and American tourists.

The Hamaides have a television now, but just for the "Holidays."  They have this philosophy that, if they had a T.V. during schooltime, nobody would get any homework done.  Anyway, it's a pay T.V.  I get such a kick out of it.  We'll be sitting around watching something very leisurely, and the T.V. will suddenly go off.  Then it’s a mad scramble for money.  Finally someone finds a franc, and then it's on again.  I crack up every time it happens and they don't know what I'm laughing about.

Right now we're watching the "Marriage of Figaro," and I'm really lost!  It's in Italian with French subtitles! (That's why I'm writing now.)

Tomorrow Franck and I are going to "Les Invalides," the tomb of Napoleon.  It ought to be good.  I can't think of anything else, so Love,


July 15, 1965
9:20 pm

I haven't had a chance to mail this yet, so I'll add a little more to it.

I got your letter today.  Also Anne's.

I see I had Mary K and Rick's wedding a week later in the first page of this letter.  I'm glad it was nice, anyway.

We didn't go to "Les Invalides" today.  We went to Notre Dame.  It's so beautiful, but I can't imagine why those poor people wanted to build such a big church.  After we had seen it and were on our way out, we were "trapped" inside because it was raining "cats and dogs" out.  So I know Note Dame pretty well.

Thank you for the addresses.  Who went to the school, Dale or you?

I have just taken inventory of my mailing list and have counted 68 people.  I have already sent 49 postcards and 12 letters.  The postage for the letters was about $3.60, and for the postcards, $3.95 (This, of course, does not include the price of the postcards, which is outrageous)  And I still have 11 or 12 days left!

What day are the Oldenburgs coming to Paris and what Hotel are they staying at?  I hope you know.  The Hamaides want me to invite them here.  I want to, too.

I was just (last night) going through the mail I have received and was reading your first letter to me.  I found things on the back page that I was wondering about.  I'm glad you're saving the local papers for me.

Are Milton's new fake whitewalls skinny or fat?  I hope they look good.

Who was kind enough to send me Sharon R's address?  It was very nice, but I've already sent here a card.  (Please, don't give her my address)

Ever since I've been here, the one I've had the hardest time getting through to was Emilia, the maid.  Today, I found out why.  She just came over from Portugal at Christmastime, and didn't know a word of French before she came.  Today Franck and I were talking with her fiance, and he is from Spain!  Oh Brother.

Well, I'll try to mail this tomorrow, but I may add a few lines first.  With this letter, you just can't tell.

Love again,


33 ave de la Princesse
Le Vesinet (S+O) 28
July 20, 1965
Dr + Mme Francis M. Schmitt
31211 Brown
Garden City, Michigan 48135


It's a very nice day here, and kind of hot, which seems to be quite rare weather for here.  (Franck has informed me that this is the worst [rainiest + coldest] summer in 100 years) (I think that is B.S.)

I don't know where Paul gets his information, or if he makes it up himself, or what, but he is off.  Franck is definitely staying with us for the whole six weeks.  David isn't going to have anyone stay with him.

Today Franck and I climbed up to the 2nd level of the Eiffel tower.  It's not really very far up, since I counted only 761 steps.  Whew!  But it's really a gorgeous view.  We also went shopping at one of the better Paris stores.  I bought millions of $$ worth of perfume.  (In Paris stores, if you pay by Traveler's checks, you get a 20% discount)  Now I really have to watch my money.
July 21, 1965
11:00 am
Good Morning

Now it's only a week and a half, and I'm home.  Write more details about Dad's plan for New York.

Madame + Catherine return tomorrow.

In the past few days, Franck and I seem to have gone museum crazy.  We've been to the Louvre, Palais de Couverture, Musee d'homme, Musee de Marine, Musee d'Arts et Menager, and one other that I can't think of.  Some of them are interesting, though.

Sunday Frank, Monsieur, + I went to a real beautiful chateau at Chantilly.  It had an art museum inside it.  The chateau was really gorgeous.

Well, I'm going to go right now and mail this – I'll write more soon,  Love, Mark