And physically Rio was undergoing rapid changes too. A second tunnel
connecting Botafogo with Copacabana was completed. The Morro do
Castello was being razed and dumped into the bay to form the new Santos
Dumont International Airport. Who would ever forget going to the airport and
see the Pan Am Clipper or the Condor Dornier taxi out into the bay in preparation for its take-off - before the appearance of the DC-3. And if you
were lucky you might even have seen either the "Graf Zeppelin" or the
"Hindenburg" departing on one of its regularly scheduled flights across the
South Atlantic.
Then came the building of a road through the Corte do Cantagalo, which
made access from Copacabana to the Lagoa much faster.
Or, the extension of the Visconde de Piraja across the canal which divided
Ipanema from Leblon. Heretofore there was only a bridge next to the ocean
on the Vieira Souto and all traffic, including streetcars headed for the beach,
crossed the bridge and then returned inland. The beautification of the canal
which separates Ipanema from Leblon. The building of the Clube dos
Caicaras in the Lagoa. The opening of the Roxy, Ipanema, Piraja, and Metro
(air-conditioned!) movie houses.
And Carnaval! Getting into a big convertible limousine with other friends all
dressed up as Indians, Cowboys or Bahianas and heading downtown to the
Avenida Rio Branco. At that time this was still a two way street and the cars
formed a "corso" which went down to the Caes do Porto and back at a stop
and go pace. Each time the cars stopped we would all pile out to attack the
car in front (or behind us) with serpentina, confetti, and (innocently in those
days) "lanca perfume"! Or if you were ill Petropolis or Terezopolis "charetes"
substituted for limousines.
The other great yearly event was St. John's night in June: Sao Joao! This was
the time for fireworks and setting off hot-air balloons. Fireworks were
purchased from illegal sales cottages, usually located in the back of some
alley. Balloons could be purchased at these locations but it was much more
fun to make them yourself. A standard balloon might run 6-10 feet in heights,
but I remember going to a club where a 30 foot balloon was being filled over
a big bonfire. Then a "buxa" (bucha?) - weighing at least 20 kilos was
hauled in, attached to the bottom, lit, and the balloon lifted off gently into the
night sky, to join the many others floating around. Balloons came in all sizes,
shapes, colors and designs. A beautiful sight, but oh, if a balloon caught fire
and the buxa came down in flames and landed on your property. (I seem to
remember that one of our classmates fell off his bicycle while he had a
pocketful of "bombinhas"!)
Once every other year the Circo Sarasani (although the name sounds Italian I
was always told that it was a German Circus) came to town, set up its
enormous tents on the Morro do Castelo and presented an awe inspiring
spectacle. Would I still be so impressed today?
By the late 30's these things started to change. For one, our small school
moved to its new enormous building in Leblon in 1940, and the enrollment
increased to 150 students. The school had two floors, a laboratory, dining
room and kitchen, a covered recreational area and a field which could be
used for soccer, football or softball. The building stood all by itself,
surrounded by swamp land! Hit a foul ball in the rainy season and you had to
climb/jump over the 2 meter wall to look for the ball in the swamp. In 1940
most of us used the streetcar to come to school - later public buses started to
serve the area. But bicycles were in great evidence.
The coming of the war to Brazil further influenced our lives. More public
transportation became available, but private automobiles disappeared as
severe restrictions were placed on the sale and use of gasoline - all of which
was being imported from the Caribbean. But, the Brazilians created the
"gazogenios" which derived their power from the gases created by burning
charcoal in a confined environment. Normally such cars had two large
canisters on the rear: one to burn charcoal and the other which contained an
endless series of filters used to strain out all particles which might clog the
carburetor. These filters had to be cleaned at least once a day - a messy and
dirty job left to the chauffeurs. And if you were in a hurry it was necessary to
start the fire at least twenty minutes before anticipated departure in order to
assure a good supply of gas. As a result not many people chose to switch over
to "gazogenio" and opted to leave their cars sitting on blocks in the garage.
Rio being an important port was reportedly a good target for any German U-
Boat which dared to venture this far South. So, to protect shipping it was
determined that a brown out was needed: all windows facing the Atlantic
Ocean had to have curtains over them at night. And no cars, buses or trucks
were permitted along the Avenida Atlantica after sunset. This made Avenida
Atlantica an ideal place for lovers to gather and stroll down the middle of the
street. In their wisdom the authorities decided to paint black the inside of
lamps facing the beach, but not the half facing the buildings. As a result the
buildings received light which could probably be seen beyond the horizon!
Life at school in the early/mid forties was also great: there was a school
dance about once a month to which each one brought his/her favorite 78RPM
records. Some people also held dances in their homes. Other activities
revolved around the Country Club in Ipanema, biking, and the beach. The
favorite - and only! - beach to gather on a Saturday or Sunday morning was
Arpoador - right in front of Jack and Jim Frost's house. If the waves were
good everyone would spend the time surfing, otherwise big fortresses were
dug and sand fights erupted. Young ladies just down from the U.S. who
were interested in building up their (natural) tans quickly, used a simple
blend of Johnson Baby Oil and Iodine to protect and tan!
Once in a while a group might get together for a day's outing to Paqueta. We
would all meet at the "barcas" and go for a ride into the bay. On Paqueta we
rented bikes & cabanas; played games; rented row-boats; ate; and late in the
afternoon returned to Rio - Great!
And the girls in school - which was growing every year - also became top
secret agents. All movements of U.S. Navy ships were of course
confidential, yet it was amazing how three of four days in advance of the
arrival of any Navy vessel, each and every girl in school already knew the
name of the ship, the size of its crew, how long it would be in port etc -
Absolutely amazing. But, the coming of the fleet brought one big benefit.
Your girlfriend might surprise you by bringing home a can of Coca-Cola
syrup - here-to-fore unheard of in Brazil! We never asked how they obtained
these "souvenirs".

Our Year Book contains the following Dedication:
"We, the Class of 1947, wish to dedicate this book to the splendid city
which has been our home during our high school career: Rio de
Janeiro. Wherever we may wander in future years, we will always
cherish the memories of the many happy times we have passed beneath
your blue, tropical sky, with the Pao de Ašucar, Corcovado, Dois
Irmoes, Gavea and Dedo de Deus in background. As a parting gesture
we wish to express our gratitude for your friendly hospitality. We
sincerely hope that you will continue to grow in splendor and
prosperity throughout the years to come"

Had you let your imagination run on that day in June 1947 and if you had
even attempted to reach out to 2003 who would ever have come up with what
Rio is today. And, had you tried to describe your vision to any of your
classmates they would have judged you not to be worthy of a Diploma:
A city with a population of 6,000,000 inhabitants, 30% of whom live in
favelas. A city no longer the capital of the nation - this had been relinquished
to Brasilia in 1960 - a city which today has a population greater than Rio had
when we went to school there. You would still see Corcovado, Gavea, Pao de
Ašucar and hopefully on a clear day the Dedo de Deus. A city of skyscrapers
in the city dwarfing the Teatro Municipal; Flamengo and Botafogo extended
200 meters into the bay with six lane expressways; elevated highways in
various sections of town including the length of the Caes do Porto; Avenida
Brasil reaching out to new highways leading to Petropolis and a direct
highway to Teresopolis; a subway system; new highway tunnels providing
direct and rapid access to the various bairos; a bridge over the Baia da
Guanabara linking Rio to Niteroi and Cabo Frio; major highway along the
coast leading to Angra dos Reis and beyond; a new International Airport
located on Ilha do Governador (where?) with hundreds of domestic and
international jetliners taking off and landing daily. But, most of all
construction. New construction. New buildings - everywhere. Not only
Copacabana, and Ipanema, and Leblon, but stretching to Gavea and beyond
Joa to Barra da Tijuca, Jacarepagua and Recreio dos Bandeirantes. And
traffic. Traffic everywhere, all domestically produced cars, trucks and buses.
With so many people crowding the beaches, Copacabana and Ipanema
become a heap of newspapers and garbage on a Monday morning. Even the
Escola Americana has moved and grown to giant proportions.
Yet, in spite of all these changes, this is still the place where we grew up. A
warm, friendly place - filled with happy thoughts and memories about a
carefree era which we were fortunate to be part of. Let's not mourn, but let's
remember all our friends and classmates who made this all possible.

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