John’s First Trip Abroad September 09, 2011
I am John Gregorian, and in 1959 my father Arthur convinced me, a 17 yr. old high school kid who loved summers working and playing on the Cape, to go with him to Turkey and Persia (Iran) in search of Oriental Rugs. Not what I had in mind! The first problem we ran into was that he couldn't get a visa for Persia with his US passport because he was born in Persia and therefor considered an Iranian (He came to America as an emigrant in 1919). My Dad had as a customer and friend Leverett Saltonstall, former Governor and (current) Senator from Massachusetts. Through this friendship we were able to get the necessary papers to go.
Did this ever open up my world! We left N.Y.on a SAS prop plane landing first in Scotland and then on to Istanbul where the chaos of the middle east began. At customs they went through everything, questioning why we had this and that. We had lots of film as well as a 16mm movie camera, and they suspected we were spies. This required us to show our US government letter (courtesy of Senator Saltonstall) that we had from the State Department, introducing us as business ambassadors and to requesting every courtesy be shown to us.
In hindsight, without this letter we couldn't have accomplished much. Dads US passport showed his birth place as Iran (Persia became Iran in 1934). We stayed with a Turkish friend and went the next day to the bazaar, the definition of cacophony. Dad quickly made friends with Armenian merchants, who were only allowed to do business in the bazaar through an Islamic merchant. At that time, Armenians were a very disliked and disapproved of race. In hotels where we stayed we were registered as Mr Arthur and Mr John-nobody wanted Armenian names in their registries.
We were able to buy many old village rugs, and In the bazaar it was very hot-over 100f. I saw a man making lemonade stirring the pot with his hand and arms up to his arm pits, but being hot, young and naive I drank a long refreshing draft. Poison!!! I was wretchedly sick for several days and finally had to fly to Persia ,the land of my fathers birth. Mysterious and exciting, full of the stories my father had told me of his youth growing up in his remote village in western Persia and his flight with his family in 1916 from raiding Turks, Kurds and bandits in a wooden cart pulled by Water Buffalo.
NEXT....Persia--The Paris of the Middle East,where I learned the mysteries of negotiating deal making and having fun.