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 bussed 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 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 eating burgers n fries till he fetched us as arranged.

After three hours sleep, we were taken back to JFK where we split up. Some of us boarded that HUGE helicopter in the pic for the hop over to La Guardia airport from where I would be going on to Oklahoma – and adventure!

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, Jonathan Kneebone from Australia. And then there was Dotty Moffett who had been to Cape Town, South Africa the year before. She was from Ardmore in OK.

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, Durban), Robbie Swanda at Wichita Mountains Wildlife Preserve

We all met at a festive Rotary student gathering and then visited each other occasionally.

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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).