National Geographic : 1946 Dec
Paris Lives Again BY M. O. WILLIAMS ON a "Conference de Paris" postage stamp, the peace dove is pictured with nervous wings. You will know, better than I do now, whether the timid bird has again escaped the outstretched hands of war weary man. I can only testify that the crowded French capital, playing host to 800 delegates from 21 victorious nations with happiness and good will, provided a favorable atmosphere for that fateful assembly. This was no carefree thoughtlessness on the part of a city which escaped the horrors of war. It was, rather, the optimism which comes when, having survived the worst, one finds himself not only alive but facing the future with high hope. Misery still hides in Paris: the misery of those who lived with proud independence and now must conceal their poverty; the misery of thin-legged children who can still smile but have no strength for boisterous play; the misery which becomes despair when money loses value and goods are scarce. Said my chauffeur, in a talk which con tinued after the fare was paid and the meter stopped, "If America, the richest and best governed country in the world, still has its difficulties, how can we be blamed?" Lovers Stroll and Diplomats Dispute Behind the cautious debates in the Luxem bourg Palace was the sheer delight of a beau tiful city whose own citizens fought the op pressor and can again buy food and other necessities of life in reasonable measure. One had only to leave the somber Hemicycle of the Senate, where the plenary sessions were held, and gaze down on the bright Gardens to see the hopeful dreams of diplomats already realized by the trustful youth of Paris. Around the central basin little girls wheeled their love-worn dolls. Beside it small boys launched white-sailed boats. Close to the haughty statue of Marie de' Medici, Floren tine queen of Henry. IV, shouting children helped direct the familiar buffetings of the Punch and Judy show. Beside a statue to Minerva I saw a softly smiling mother knitting baby clothes. Near a shady pool a loving couple, intent on each other's charms, ignored those of a marble Galatea on the Medici's fountain. Here, under the horse-chestnut trees, happi ness is a tradition. Here Rousseau strode, declaiming bucolic verses to the trees. Here the children of many an American in Paris have jumped rope or rolled their softly tinkling hoops. This city-set garden of sweet leisure is an oasis of joy. Under German occupation the Luxembourg Palace was headquarters for the hated Luft waffe. During the Peace Conference hundreds of correspondents thronged its halls, discussed world affairs, juggled transcripts, rattled type writers, or dashed to specially installed phone booths to spread the unrestricted news. Wearing a much-coveted blue button bear ing a dove and olive branch above the words "Conference de Paris, 1946," I stood in the Court of Honor as a bullet-proof Nervastella, formerly used by the President of France, ground to a stop. From it stepped a figure in gray with smil ing but sad-shaped eyes and a jaunty cheer fulness. If any worries obsessed Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, one could not guess it from the snap of his hat brim or the zest of his stride. Then two powerful Cadillacs and a big Packard rolled up. Not since Republican Guards paraded their white breeches and high crested helmets beneath the red velvet and massed flags in the Rue de Vaugirard had so much splendor brightened this somber pile. Accompanied by natty officers of the Red Army was a spectacled statesman who seemed to me so like Teddy Roosevelt that I listened -in vain-for a wide-toothed "Dee-lighted!" In capitalistic comfort, Vyacheslav Mikhailo vich Molotov, chief of the Soviet delegation, returned to the fray. To the right, two impeccable lines of police funneled distinguished delegates and journal ists toward the Grand Staircase (pp. 768-9). In Marie de' Medici's former bedroom, charming secretaries welcomed the visitor, provided information, dealt out cigarettes, planned week ends at Deauville or Cannes, or reserved soft club chairs for the current revue. Hips, But No Hooray Farther on, a rich parlor opened on the ostentatious Conference Hall occupied by the Committee on Procedure, pondering the rules under which this fateful game was played. Its ornately gilded walls were covered with Gobe lin tapestries picturing mythological beauties in a simplicity of costume seldom seen in public, but never out of style. Said one irreverent journalist, "With all those hips, what this Conference needs is a rousing 'Hooray'!"