I can't recall the first time I opened this divine little leather bound book, but I can tell you it has been in my bedside table at my parents house for years and I have flipped through it's pages after many a cocktail party, dreaming of Belle Epoque Paris.
My great-grandfather, Cator Woolford, is no stranger to these pages, but this book may tell more about him and leave many questions never to be answered.
Firstly, he didn't marry until 1919 when he was 50 and only then, long enough to have two daughters and then he and my great-grandmother separated. Mr. Cator, as he is known to the family and much of old Atlanta, then moved to his plantation in Darien, Georgia, Altama. My great-grandmother was remarried to, from what I hear, a divine man named Arthur Kitchings, hence why we call her Mama K.
My grandmother told me of Mr. Cator's bouts with depression and sadly he even had electric shock therapy. Back in the 30s and 40s there were few options out there.
After I came out of the closet in 1995, my mother started putting puzzle pieces together. A man who loved, flowers, beautiful suits, art, literature and only married briefly. Could Mr. Cator have been gay?
This diary has always been my concrete evidence he was. Written by a nameless friend (A love that dare not speak its name?), this diary chronicles their debaucherous and decadent trip to Paris at the height of its Edwardian grandeur. And boy did they do it up. This gent writes affectionately about Cator and their time together. His vocabulary, penmanship and activities do make me wonder if he could have been a dandy?
How beautiful is this gentleman's writing?
Note the end pages, the flowers are still faintly gold and glittery.
This is Mr. Cator in 1910, a year after his trip. From a scrapbook I have from his time in Maryland at a place that was called 'Camp Woolford'.
One thing I have never done until now was to Google all of these places they frequented. While the hotels have changed names and the Can-Can dancers are long gone, one place mystified me. On their first day in Paris they called upon Paris' most famous brothel. It's most celebrated customer was none other than King Edward himself. Now my mind is spinning. What would two gay men do at a brothel? Maybe he wasn't gay at all.
Regardless, take a moment to read about his trolly ride to Versailles, spending time with Napoleon's guards and poking fun at the plebeian Cooks tourists.
I transcribed as best I could. Even his elegant penmanship confused me several times, especially where I swear he writes about email.
We met at the Hotel d’Athenee, Rue
Scribe at 10:30am and went for a walk down the Avenue de l’Opera to the Louvre.
At an Italian restaurant we
enjoyed a good lunch comprising Maccaroni au gratin!
After lunch rest necessary to
gather strength for night.
Six pomeridian, Dinner at Café
Riche then to Follies Marigny, the site of the splendid girls there making my
friend Cator rather shy!
Notwithstanding he behaves like a
hero shutting an eye but using the other with redoubled visiv vigour!
After 11pm, we made a dutiful call
at No 12, Rue Chabanne, to inspect the bath of Edouardus Rex and the pragmatic
swim in dolce abbraccio, was duly enjoyed.
Intending to be very good we
started out at 9:30 to enquire after letters at Cooks Office and then do our
share of artistic visits in Paris, by day to the only too well known Louvre.
First the picture gallery was
visited and then the sculpture gallery, where my friend considered the never
too much admired Venus of Milo. Simple perfection although without arms.
Three hours of gallery sights made
us pleasantly think that it was time to pay a visit to the best Italian
Restaurant and accordingly we adjourned to Rue Favart. For variety’s sake we
took our Caffe on the lively Terrace of the Caffe Americain on the Boulevard
des Cappucines and then decided on an auto taxi drive through the delightful
Monceau Parc by the Arc de Triumph down the Champs Elysees, the Rue de Rivoli,
Boulevard Henry IV, Place de la Bastille with it’s column, reminding one of the
Revolution of 1789 and Place de Republic and it’s statue. The pleasure drive
and cheerful company having by this time, stimulated appetite being rather rash
with our money at 8:30pm we entered The Grand Caffe, Boulevard des Cappucines.
After a tres soigné dinner it was decided to honor with our presence the BalTabarin and see the high kicking and dancing girls.
What a sight! Never to be
forgotten through our blushes, we managed to go to the end of the performance,
There were some charming high kick
girls who seeing that we were rather shy, encouraged us by honouring us with
their company during intervals. Shiness having disappeared, my friend, natural,
by indulged in a dance, and I growing rather jealous of his splendid
performance and success launched to in the vortex of the dance.
Up at 10:30 am, feeling as fresh
as a radish, we though of redeeming our previous frivolous night at the Ball
Tabarin by a visit to Versailles.
We left the Hotel d’Atheneé at
11a.m, strolled down the Place de la Concorde where we took the trolley car to
There we were met by Napoleon the
thirds Guardsman and coachman. The charming dear old man, offered his services
with his cab, which we accepted, considering his past elevated position,
although both horses and cab seemed of the Imperial Period.
The ex Imperial coachman proved to
be a cheerful and good guide, knowing all the ins and outs of Versailles and I must
confess, even better than myself though no newcomer to that historic place.
We visited the large and small
Trianon, souvenirs of Louis the XIVth, Napoleon the first, Marie Antoinette and
Louis the XVIth. We looked in also at the coach house but there we were rather
handicapped by a rather rough crowd of Cook Tourists led by a still rougher
Guide!! We cleared out at once.
The Cookey’s so frightened us that
we decided to return to Versailles at once and take refuge in the best
Restaurant, situated behind the Royal Chapel, sure not to be pursued there as
general by such crowds frequent secondary establishments.
We were safe, so we restored
ourselves quite Royally. After 2:30p.m. we decided to visit the immense Palace,
and as my dear Cator is rather a connoisseur and lover of Art, our visit lasted
nearly 3 hours. Our old driver, who had been waiting for us, drove us to the
station, wishing us an Imperial fare-well with a mighty
At six p.m, we were once more
home. Oh Paris! We will see more of thee by night!
To have a glance at the middle
class Parisian, who always enjoys a good dinner we sallied forth and went to
dine at Duval. What was next to be done?
Real life in Paris does not begin
before 10 p.m. and never finishes before 3 a.m., so to while away the time we
went in for a second edition of Marigni’s Café Chaubant, this time, my friend
Cator keeping both eyes open.
At 11 p.m. we were off to the Bal
Moulin Rouge, where we spent a few hours before proceeding to the Restaurant
were after a fine supper we were guided by two Stars to Heavenly regions!
Oh! What a surprise, after the
wonderfully good resolutions of but a few hours ago! Man is fragile!
Thus ended our third day in Paris.
Having had some little business to
attend to, I could only meet my dear friend Cator, at 11 a.m. – We decided on
Friday to be very good, as seen by our programme of the day.
1st Tour for several
house and visit to the Hotel des Invalides, Napoleons Tomb and the Church of
2nd Lawscourts, Gallery
of St. Louis and Pas Perdus, Chapel of St. Louis and the Pantheon and the crip
with its tombs immortalized by famous men. This last visit was weary and we do
not recommend it.
3rd Visit to Notre Dame
de Paris and one hour in the Louvre Picture Gallery. Four hours sight seeing,
being quite enough, my friend Cator, whose kind thoughts are always with his
friends at home, decided on a souvenir shopping expedition.
To end our day without breaking
our good resolution, we retired early.
We started from Cator’s Hotel
about 10 a.m. and went over the other half of the Louvre Picture Gallery not
yet seen. We lunched at the well known Restaurant, Leon, just opposite the
Louvre. We made a dash for the Goblin Factory, but Alas! We arrived too late!
To make up for it we decided to see some of the most interesting parts of the
We walked through some very dreary
spots and often saw sign boards in the shape of casts of horses heads,
suspended on butcher’s shops plainly telling that horse and mule flesh is sold
there, only. The sign is imposed on them by the French Government, to
distinguish equine butchers from others. We returned home Via Pont Neuf about
5pm, and rested our wearing bones for a couple of hours.
Being the eve of the Fourth of
July of course, one dines that night at the Restaurant des Ambassadeurs and one
listens to open air concerts.
At about eleven we were off again
to the Bal Tabarin, as it generally is the finish there, that night of the year
as the American fete recurs. Cator wanted his National Anthem played! The
band-master complied immediately. At Midnight the cars made their appearance
and the sigh was really very grand. The movement in the place resembled that of
an enormous lively bee – hive.
Supper in four, at the Taverne du
Capitol made the entrée to the already far advanced 4th of July. After
adjourning to the Hotel Foubert we went home at 4a.m.!
Fourth of July!
Of course we did not go out before
1130 a.m. and then paid a third visit to the Egyptian Scribe in the Louvre and
a few other rooms. Not feeling inclined for lunch, we enjoyed an early Tea at
Rumpelmaier in the Rue de Rivioli, we went again to the exhibition of French
Costumes and Furniture. As it was raining hard we both retired to our homes for
a well deserved rest.
We started at 11:30 and lunched at
the Rouillon Charties (?) a place patronized by milliners, dressmakers and
midinettes, shop girls, so called, because they have half an hour for lunch at
midi. The sight is worth seeing. During that half hour all is gaiety and
bustle. After lunch by the taxi cab went to the Gare de Vincenne and by train
to Nogent sur Marne and Joinville, on the river Marne. We had a very pleasant
row on the river, Cator being a splendid oarsman.
We then refreshed ourselves with
tea by that time our number having increased from two to four!
By trolly car, we returned, in the
evening, to the Gare Vincennes an from there by the subway to the Tuilleries
Station. We had dinner at Pavillion Charties (?) and again our number had
doubled into four. We paid a pleasant visit close by to the Grotto of Venus,
and ended our seventh day by going home and to rest at 1130 p.m.
I only saw my friend at 11 a.m.
and strolled to the ‘White Star Line’ and the agent secured a berth for Cator.
From thence we proceeded by the Rue Favart and had a good lunch at the Italian
At about 2 p.m. we left by taxi
motorcar and went to see the most interesting Museum Cluny in the picturesque
Latin quarter. My friend being a great lover of fine Arts, enjoyed this visit
immensely. The Museum contains wonderful collections of wood-carvings, lace,
faience and Email (?!) from its earliest origin, besides a unique collection of
shoes and boots beginning by the most remote Egyptian Greek and Roman sandals down
to our times. Particularly interesting are the Roman baths and amongst the
curious are to be seen the medieval chastity belts.
Thus ended our visit to Paris. The
best friends must part, and I had to say goodbye to my dear friend Cator, feeling
to have secured in him a true and constant friend, after spending in Paris in
his charming company, right of the happiest days of my life.