07 July, 2011

A Walk in the Rain

For quite some time I have been trying to get my hands on a copy of a book that was first published in 1930; "Au Service D'Une Milliardaire Américaine, Lettre Ouverte À Mme Edith Rockefeller. Souvenirs De Son Chauffeur." (The English version was published in 1932: "Seven Years' Service with Mrs Edith Rockefeller: Memoirs of her Chauffeur.")

Émile L. Ammann wrote his 220 page tell all after serving Edith during her years in Europe. Copies of the book exist in a few libraries, and while it is not tremendously difficult to find, it has proved a challenge for me in obtaining my own copy. I've been able to read a few excerpts, and there is one in particular that I find fascinating and quite telling as the the character and will of Edith.

In 1915, Émile took leave from the Swiss Army (which was neutral during WWI) and became Edith's chauffeur in Zurich. Evidently Edith was quite demanding of her chauffeur; in the course of two years Émile wore out a Renault, a Fiat, a Lorraine, a Rolls Royce and a Delage.


Edith taking a stroll in Chicago; August, 1922.


As I've mentioned previously, Edith was both a patient and the protegee of Carl Jung during this time. Émile Ammann would drive her every morning to Kusnacht (a suburb of Zurich) for her time with Dr. Jung, and following that appointment she would usually walk back to her hotel. (With Émile following her in the auto at a leisurely 4 mph.) Once day stands out from the others, when her walk was interrupted by a rainstorm. Ammann writes:

"She turned around, looked angrily at me and placed her finger on her lips. That was my signal that she did not want a ride...Slowly the cloudburst became more and more intense. The gutters swelled to brooks and lakes...I could see her hat melting down. how the light, drenched dress clung to her like a bathing suit...! How Madame began to shiver and shake, but with what imperturbability she strode through puddles...!"

Edith, (not one to make excuses) offered this as her reasoning: "Today I forgot my umbrella, which I usually never leave behind. Logic told me that the most important thing was to walk back to the hotel. That I ended up in a cloudburst is regrettable. But you are not supposed to...you may not change your habits. What could have been the deeper motive for my forgetting?"

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