Fresh . . in the USA-ay

Fresh from the City of Sin and Laughter (Harrismith, Free State, South Africa – you didn’t know?), where I’d spent my first seventeen years, I arrived in New York with Great Expectations.

I was READY – more than ready! – to see the big wide world. After landing we – the gang of Southern African Rotary Exchange students -were bused to a hotel in Queens. Someone – a Rotarian, I guess? – checked us in and then left us to go to bed for the night. Early the next morning we’d be boarding different planes to the various states we’d been assigned to.

Go to bed?! Fuhgeddaboudit!

But most did! I was horrified. “Excuse me, no WAY I’m going to bed. I’m in New York, the city that never sleeps!”. Even in Harrismith, Free State, South Africa I would not have wanted to go to bed in case the Holiday Inn was still open! Only one other guy – was he Gary or was he heading to Gary, Indiana, it’s so long ago now? – joined me and we went to the night porter. “Right! Where can we go for a night on the town, sir? We want to go for a walk, which way shall we head?”
Oh, I wouldn’t advise you did that, he drawled, I’ll get the hotel bus to take you someplace.

So off we went, noses plastered against the windows, fascinated. Our personal chauffeur dropped us off at a brightly-lit truck stop and asked when we wanted to be fetched. “Three Ay Emm” we said, pushing our luck. Check, he said without blinking. So we sat and watched a New York night go by drinking beer and slowly eating a burger n fries till he fetched us as arranged. So on our first night in wildest New York in a dodgy area we’d been warned about . . nothing happened.

After three hours sleep, we were taken back to JFK where we split up. Some of us boarded that huge NY Airways Sikorsky helicopter in the pic for the hop over to La Guardia airport from where I’d be going on to Chicago’s O’Hare airport and thence to Oklahoma City – and adventure! My late night truckstop friend was headed for Indiana – that’s him bustling to the chopper in the top picture.

Sikorsky chopper JFK airport 1973
Inside the 30-seater Sikorsky chopper

In Oklahoma my nearby exchange student colleagues were Evelyn Woodhouse from Durban, hosted by Fort Cobb, Helen Worswick from Marondellas in Zimbabwe, Jenny Carter from Bromley in Zimbabwe. They were in Mountain View and Carnegie. All bustling metropoli like Apache!

Also Jonathan Kneebone from Australia. And then there was the delightful Dotty Moffett from Ardmore in Oklahoma, who had been to Cape Town, South Africa with Rotary the year before.

Dayne & Kent Swanda, Helen Worswick, Jenny Carter, Jonathan Kneebone, Evelyn Woodhouse, Robbie Swanda at Wichita Mountains Preserve
Dayne & Kent Swanda, Helen Worswick (Zimbabwe), Jenny Carter (Zimbabwe), Jonathan Kneebone (Australia), Evelyn Woodhouse (South Africa), Robbie Swanda at Wichita Mountains Wildlife Preserve

We all met at a festive gathering of Rotary students in Oklahoma and then visited each other’s towns whenever we could.

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Red River New Mexico 1973

It’s summer and we’re off to Granma Merrill Patterson’s cottage outside Red River New Mexico with Jim n Katie Patterson. Last year’s Rotary Exchange Student to South Africa from Ardmore OK, Dottie Moffett comes along thanks to Katie’s generosity and insight! Whatta lady, Katie; and whattgal, Dottie!

Granma Merrill's Cottage outside Red River
RedRiver NewMexico 1973 Dottie-001

Jim had a birthday. From the size of the fire it looks like it was a big ‘un!

Katie makes Jim a birthday cake!

There were five jeeps: the Patterson’s Old Red, the Hrbacek’s Old Green, the Payne’s Old White, the Mindemann’s semi-old White and the Manar’s New Blue. We explored the dirt roads and mountain passes in the jeeps with ice-cold Coors and bloody marys in hebcoolers tied to their tailgates.

One night it’s partytime in town! The wicked metropolis of Red River! Jeff Manar drives us there in New Blue. He’s 14, but its summertime, its a holiday town, this is the wild west, no cop would ask, surely? And anyway Jeff doesn’t look 14. He looks, like, 15. At the smoky dance under the loud music in the wonderful vibe in a big barn, we meet a petite girl who asks me n Dottie how old we are and doesn’t believe we’re 18 so I show her my passport: 1955. I ask how old she is and she laughs and shows us her ID: 1946! She’s 27! She looks 16. She’s tiny. She’s dancing on her own having fun, free as a bird! Probly high as a kite? A real-life hippie on the road in the USA. I’m smitten, and I think so is Dottie!

She tells us where she’s staying and says we should come and visit.

The next day Jeff drives us out in the blue Willys Jeep to where she’s staying in the tiny village of Arroyo Hondo in a communal adobe house. I’m really looking forward to seeing her again. I’m like a puppy. We ask  a housemate, a guy on the porch who is watching the Watergate hearings* all day while filing down a Ford flywheel one tooth at a time to fit his Chevy and then hit the road again one day. Coulda been his Chevy flywheel to fit his Ford, of course. He just told me, I didn’t see the car. There’s a sweet herbal smoky smell about the place.

Arroyo Hondo adobe.jpg
Summing like this, but right on the street

“Sally? (or was it Cathy, or Janis? True love fades) Oh, she hit the road. Hitched off to California early this morning to go catch a rock concert out there”.
Oh! Darn. My heart broke, but I was fine a few seconds later.

Off to Taos and the Taos Pueblo where Dennis Hopper hung out.

Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

Hopper starred in Easy Rider, filmed here and elsewhere in 1969:

Taos NM - Easy Rider.jpg

Hummingbirds at the cottage; Walks in the Sangre de Cristo mountains; Drives on the jeep tracks, Fly fishing in the streams:

At Granma’s cottage, Red River
Heb coolers filled with ice, Coors & bloody marys
Dottie Moffett & Jim Patterson, Sangre de Christo mountains, NM
Dottie Moffett & Jim Patterson, Sangre de Christo mountains, New Mexico

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* The Watergate hearings were on TV from May 17 1973 to June 27 1974, broadcast live during the day on commercial television; Some 319 hours were broadcast overall, and 85% of American households watched some portion of them. They led to President Tricky Dick Nixon’s resignation on 9 August 1974 a step ahead of being impeached.

I Saw Joan Rivers Live . .

. . . in Las Vegas in 1973 ! Whoa! Can that be true? Joan Rivers Zapiro

She was 40yrs old already – and she was delightfully rude. She and Petula Clark were double-billed at Caesar’s Palace:

joan & pet 1973

Hollywood Reporter – August 1, 1973 – Bravo Sid Gathrid of Caesar’s Palace for giving the summer crowds one of the freshest, brightest and most entertaining bookings of the year in the lady stars Petula Clark and Joan Rivers. Destroying the old hand-me-down Strip myth that two females are artistically incompatible and or have ineffectual drawing power, Pet and Joan’s opening string of standingroom-only crowds found the duo irresistible. There’s a delightful mix-up of interplay of the stars’ talents; Petula does comedy bits and Joan sings! The “raid” on the other’s forte only adds to the evening’s abundance of style, polish and charm.

Songs Performed: Color My World / You Are the Sunshine of My Life / Don’t Sleep in the Subway / Beatles medley: Something / Penny Lane / All You Need is Love / You and I (from Goodbye Mr. Chips) / I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love / Your Cheatin’ Heart / You’ve Got a Friend / I Don’t Know How to Love Him (from Jesus Christ Superstar) / What the World Needs Now / Downtown

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I went with wonderful Oklahomans Jim & Katie Patterson (magnificent host family) of Apache Oklahoma and very special lady Dottie Moffett of Ardmore Oklahoma (who had been a Rotary exchange student to Cape Town the year before).

RedRiver NewMexico 1973 Jim Katie RedRiver NewMexico 1973 Dottie

Dottie Moffett

RedRiver NewMexico 1973 Dottie
Dottie Moffett, Red River, New Mexico 1973

As a sad postscript to my reminiscing about this wonderful year, I found out way after the fact that Dottie Moffett Butler died unexpectedly at her home in San Diego, California, on Wednesday, July 5, 2006.

I also learnt that Dottie was born July 8, 1955, in Daytona Beach. At the age of seven her family moved to Chickasha and then, several years later, moved to Ardmore. Dottie graduated from Ardmore High School.

During her junior year she was a Rotary Exchange student to South Africa. I met her after that when she was back in OK in 1973. She returned to South Africa to earn her bachelor’s degree from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, where we met up once when I traveled to Cape Town in my mother’s borrowed car as a student in Johannesburg.

I found out she had gone on to earn her master’s degree in psychology from East Central University in Ada. Her obituary read: As a psychologist, Dottie was a compassionate and caring counselor whose gift for helping others through difficult times will long be remembered. Dottie is survived by her husband, Dr. Harrison Butler, San Diego; her mother, Dorothy Moffett McCall, Durham N.C.; her sister, Dale Moffett, Cary, N.C.; two brothers, David Moffett and his wife Mary, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Denny Moffett and his wife Mary, Tulsa, Oklahoma, as well as several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her father, Dr. J. Denny Moffett Jr. (I see her mother Dorothy McCall passed away more recently in 2014, aged 88 in Durham N.C).

Remembrance services for Dottie were held in San Diego and on Mt. Desert Island in Maine, where Dottie and family had vacationed. (This information was provided by Haigh-Black Funeral Home).


Devastated. Too soon! Dottie was a very special lady. I knew her only for a couple years, in Oklahoma, in Cape Town, and on a trip through Canada with her twin sister Dale and her very good friend Sherry Porter, but she was unforgettable – her heart, her sincerity, her joie de vivre, and that wonderful laugh!

RedRiver NewMexico 1973 (10).JPG
Dottie with Jim Patterson of Apache OK in the Sangre de Christo mountains NM 1973

Dottie in Montreal 1973

Dottie in Montreal (I think - Ottawa?)

(PS: Dottie’s Dad, Dr Denny Moffett sent me a book on the Wichita Mountains and the Native American people. I must find it).