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Reminiscences of June, a Traveling Grandmother











Pope and June 

(June Receiving Handshake from Pope Paul VI, Vatican City. Rome)


In September 1973, June and Stan flew to Rome ("The Eternal City") and took up residence at the Jolly Hotel at Corso D'Italia

June and Stan were in Rome to attend the 9th Congress of the International Academy of Legal Medicine.

June was Stan's Administrative Assistant in his Forensic Science Consulting business in which he specialized in forensic firearms.

Stan was in Rome to present a paper and a slide lecture at the conference on "Supersonic Gunshot Wounds" and later to visit the Rome Forensic Crime Laboratory.

The actual conference site was the Cavalieri-Hilton Hotel, Via Cadlolo, Monte Mario in Rome.

June took part in a Sunday evening (September 23rd) opening conference ceremony and reception (wine and hors d'oeuvres) at the Capital's castle like Campidoglio – Villa Caffarelli's Terraces hosted by Giovanni Leone, the President of Italy. June and Stan received a formal written invitation from the President of Italy with an embossed seal of his office on the document.

The opening ceremony was also personally attended by His Excellency the President of the Italian Republic, Giovanni Leone. The Campidoglio is located on the top of Capitol Hill in Rome. The reception terraces were located at this historic site on an outside elevation permitting an excellent view of the beautiful Rome/Italian countryside.

On a Tuesday, June visited the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. Wednesday found June at the Borghese Gallery and Villa Giulia Etruscan Museum. June also attended a Wednesday evening Concert of "I Solisti Aquilani" at the Basilica of Santa Sabina.

One of the highlights of June and Stan's 's trip to Rome was an audience with Pope Paul VI that resulted in a handshake with the Pope at the end of the audience. Although June and Stan were not Catholic, a special audience was granted to the Academy Conference members. June's visit to the Vatican and meeting and shaking hands with Pope Paul VI made some of her Catholic friends  just a little envious...particularly her best friend and former next door neighbor Jean Fruzyna. 


(June at Vatican Bronze Doors - for an Audience with Pope Paul VI)


June Berg at the Vatican 1973


Vatican City was founded as the result of the signing of the "Lateran Pacts" between the "Holy See" and the Italian Government on February 11th, 1929. These Pacts were later ratified on June 7th, 1929.

The Vatican's nature as a sovereign State distinct from the Holy See is universally recognized under international law. It is protected by the Hague Convention of May 1954 which refers to the safeguarding of cultural  heritage sites in the case of armed conflicts.

Vatican City is considered the smallest nation in the world both in size and population. The size is a little under 110 acres. The population is approximately 800 people, of whom over 450 have Vatican citizenship while the rest have permission to reside there. Vatican City has it's own flag, automobile license plates, coins and stamps. It is surrounded by a wall accept at the main public entrance area of St. Peter's Square.

St. Peter's Square which leads to St. Peter's Basilica was designed by Bernini and while called a square, it has the appearance of huge incomplete circle. A 6 ton structure called the "Bronze Doors" make up the main entrance to the Apostolic Palace and Papal apartments. "Bernini's Bronze Doors" are guarded by Swiss Guards. 


(Stunning photo of June - Conference Hotel Cavalieri-Hilton)


June at confrence hotel in Rome 1973


It was on the conference's first  week and on a Thursday evening  September 27th, that June and Stan were also to be  invited  guests at an evening reception (7:30 to 9:30 PM) hosted by the U. S. Embassy in Rome.

Again June and Stan had received a formal written invitation. The invitation was from the U.S. Embassy's Minister Counselor of the Embassy, Mr. Beaudry and Mrs. Beaudry.  This invitation also contained a special embossed U. S. Seal.

June and Stan almost missed this special reception as June was waiting for Stan to return from a visitation with the technical staff at Rome's Central Crime Laboratory (Centro Criminalpol Divisione Policia Scientifica, E.U.R. Rome) located on the opposite side of the city. 

Stan was then returning to the Hotel in order to Join June for the reception - unfortunately this took place during the rush hour traffic. Rome's rush hour traffic is unbelievable. The many traffic circles become jammed with angry drivers shouting and shaking fists at one another. The Police are frequently needed to step in to clear the jams. June and Stan were the last guests to arrive at the reception. Fortunately there was still an ample supply of some of the most delicious hors d'oeuvres with fine wine...and all ended well. Mr. and Mrs Beaudry (Ambassador) proved to be gracious and friendly hosts.


The weather in Rome during the conference was clear with pleasant temperatures allowing June and Stan to utilize the many sidewalk cafes for refreshments.

June and Stan also visited the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish steps, the ruins of the ancient Roman Forum and the famous Colosseum.


The Colosseum

The Colosseum was the site of Gladiator combats, chariot races and other games and spectacles. It was also said to be the scene of Christians thrown to the Lions. This sordid spectacle was a part of the early Roman history of the persecution of Christians.

The Colosseum was originally called the Flavian Amphitheatre. The Colosseum is located in the center of the city of Rome and just east of the Roman Forum. The construction of the Colosseum was started during the reign of Emperor Vespasian 70-72 AD and not completed until the reign of Emperor Titus in 80 AD. It was said to originally seat 50,000 people. The Colosseum continued in use for 500 years. It has been estimated that 500,000 people and over 1 million animals and people died in the Colosseum games. How many of these people were Christians put to death by lions or other means will never be known but it is estimated that such a number would be a very small fraction of this total. (The only estimate I have found by any historian is 146.)

Note: This total death estimate does not seem at all credible to me. This total would mean an average of 1000 persons per year and 2000 animals per year for 500 years.  

The Colosseum ruins were inhabited by a large number of stray homeless kittens at the time of June's visit. June of course was concerned about the welfare of the kittens.


(Photo below shows June and Stan at the Colosseum)


June and Stan Rome Sept. 1973


Tacitus (55-117 AD) an early historian wrote of Roman Emperor Nero blaming the Christians for a large fire that destroyed a portion of Rome. (1/10th of city plus Nero's newest Palace -July 64 AD.) Nero was said to have been the cause of the fire but chose to blame the Christians for the fire. It is said by Tacitus that Nero arrested many Christians, had many put to death, some crucified and some were killed by dogs after having hides of beasts attached to them.

Almost every other early historian (including Josephus 41-100 AD)  disputes this story with no blame on the Christians for the fire.

This fire of Nero is the source of the saying "Fiddled as Rome Burned." Actually the fiddle or violin had not yet been invented. Nero was said to have played  a Lyre which is a stringed instrument resembling a small harp. History records two other major fires in early Rome. One fire was in 69 AD during the reign of Emperor Vespasian and the other more major fire was in 80 AD under Emperor Titus rule. The Christians were not blamed for either of these fires.

This in no way disputes the periods of Christian persecutions in early Roman history but no historian connects the persecutions to Nero's fire except Tacitus. What is clear however, is that what ever part Emperor Nero had in the Christian persecution it was not related to the Colosseum which was not constructed until after his death. (Nero 37 - 68 AD - Emperor 54-68 AD when he died of suicide.)


The Forum buildings in Rome


June Berg at Forum

(June Sitting Among the Forum Ruins)


June and Stan also visited the famous Roman Forum. This is a large area of ruins that date back to the 7th century BC when it emerged as the political and economical center of Rome. The Forum maintained this era of importance up into the Imperial period, when it was essentially reduced to a monumental area. It was mostly abandoned by the end of the 4th century.

The importance of the Forum area is indicated by the presence of many of the early political, religious and judicial buildings in Rome.  The Forum is located in central Rome not far from the Colosseum. The Forum is in a valley between Capitol Hill on the West and the Palatine Hill on the south.

It is said that the current image or the makeup of the Forum is as a result of changes made by Julius Caesar, which included the construction of the Basilica Julia, the building of a new Curia and the renovation of the Rostra, the speakers platform. Caesar did not live to see all of his plans completed prior to his death. Many buildings and structures were finished by his successor Augustus which included the Temple of Divus Julius, dedicated to Caesar.

The Forum suffered damage and destruction repeatedly during its history. Political strife in early Republican times deteriorated into violence and the Forum was regularly the scene of fierce fights between rivaling factions. This was often followed by destructive fires. Parts of the Forum burnt down several times with the worst fire in 283 AD. Later the Forum suffered destruction at the hands of invaders. Most of the building on the Forum site were destroyed completely in 410 AD, when the Ostrogoths of Alaric sacked the town. Many religious sites were abandoned and fell into ruin after the ban of non-Christian cults in 394 AD. Following the fall of the western Roman empire, the area was abandoned.

Archaeological excavations began in the 18th century. The site of the Forum is still subject to excavations, and some parts of the Forum cannot be visited. The whole area has the status of an archaeological site and most areas are open to visitors. 


After a week in Rome, June and Stan flew to London on a British Airways flight to spend a second week in June's favorite city London.


Again the Strand Palace Hotel was June's and Stan's home away from home while in London. The week in London was spent sight seeing, shopping and spending time with the Bruce family.

The occasion also included a picnic hosted by the Bruce's. As was June and Stan's custom, they reciprocated by having the Bruce's (Joan and Gord) as their guests for dinner on a Wednesday of the week at their Hotel.  The meal turned out well and was described by the Bruce's as: "The meal was marvellous, quite the best we have had in any restaurant."

(June and Joan Bruce - Bruce home, Bexley, Kent)


June and Joan 1973


Joan and Gord Bruce have the following memories of this visit by the Bergs: "Recollections were the time June and Joan were talking together in the back of the car and June mentioned seeing signs saying "Boot Sale" and wondered what it was. (She apparently thought it concerned the sale of boots.) In fact, it referred to sales of items from the boot of a car.  (Equivalent to your trunk of a car.) As you may also know, over here the hood of a car is called the bonnet."

"Later when you and June were traveling down to us on the train from Charing Cross, you had seen the sign "Take Courage" and you had thought it was a hangover from the Second World War. (It was actually a beer advertisement by the Courage Brewers who were responsible for a different form of hangover!)" 

The Bruce children were involved in collecting various shoulder patches and memorabilia from Police Departments in the U.S. and other locations.  June and Stan were able to add to their collections by gift materials from the Minneapolis Police Department and others. The Minneapolis Police Chief at the time, Gordon Johnson, kindly assisted us with this effort. Included was a gold colored badge from the Minneapolis Police Department. A letter from Joan and Gord Bruce reads..."They (children) certainly cannot get over all those badges and forms which you brought!  They will be writing letters of thanks to Mr. Johnson this weekend."