During the spring of 1966 my wife, Karen,
and I studied in Vienna, Austria, with about
40 other UPS students and professors John
Magee and Warren Tomlinson, both superstars
among Puget Sound faculty. We took our degree
courses from Magee and Tomlinson right where
we lived at the Pension Andreas—a kind of ur-
ban slum building—in Vienna. We also sat in
on courses at the University of Vienna and were
registered there as students. Several of us sat in
on a course on logotherapy given by Professor
Viktor Frankl, whose book,
Man’s Search for
is quite well known.
Sometimes on weekends we would tour
around, either in groups of students or by
ourselves. On one occasion Karen and I and
14 other Puget Sound students accompanied
Professor Tomlinson on a bus trip from Vienna
to Budapest, Hungary. The Cold War was rag-
ing at the time, and the border between Austria
and Hungary was part of the so-called Iron
Curtain separating the West and Eastern Bloc
countries. Vienna, in eastern Austria, is only
about 50 miles from the Hungarian border, and
about 150 miles from Budapest. We thought it
was mighty exciting to venture into Hungary,
a country under Soviet control back then. We
had, after all, spent our childhoods diving un-
der school desks so the Soviets’ atom bombs
wouldn’t fry us.
At 7 a.m. on Saturday, May 14, we set off.
The Hungarian border, near Mosonmagyaróvár,
consisted of an unfriendly looking fence with
tall guard towers and a no-man’s land. About 60
miles down the road toward Budapest our bus
stopped in the small town of Tata so we could
rest and stroll around a bit.
When we got off the bus we spotted a con-
voy of military vehicles in the town. Soviet
army trucks were rolling down the street and
others were stopped by the side of the road,
with soldiers milling about. This was cool, and
I aimed my camera at the convoy and took a
photograph. I was excited that my camera had
captured the image of a soldier, who was clearly
an officer, striding right toward me. I was a little
nervous, but he just passed me by and didn’t say
a word.
A few minutes later a nervous young Russian
soldier approached me. He knew a little German
and so did I, so that’s the language he used to try
to get across to me that I was to come with him
to the
station because I wasn’t supposed
to be taking any pictures and my film would be
confiscated. The soldier was polite, but he had
been ordered by the officer I had photographed
to haul me in. So Karen and I went with him to
a desolate building where upstairs we found Cal
Peterson ’67, another member of our student
group. Cal also had been hauled in for taking
pictures of the soldiers and their vehicles. Quite
a few of the other students from our group
were there with us for moral support, and soon
Professor Tomlinson arrived to find out what
was going on.
When Cal Peterson was taken into the of-
fice of the local police chief for interrogation,
Professor Tomlinson demanded to go in, too.
Poor Cal was lucky to have Tomlinson with
him that day. Our prof had a Ph.D. from the
University of Berlin and taught history, German,
and political science courses. He was a world
traveler and knew precisely what was going on
in that little Hungarian town. He was Cal’s sal-
vation and mine, too, and he never said to either
of us, “You idiots!”
After an hour of ins and outs and running
around on the part of various soldiers and
police in their dealings with Cal and Professor
Tomlinson, it became obvious that the officials
had forgotten about me. During a lull in the ne-
gotiations Professor Tomlinson sidled up to me
and murmured, “Why don’t you slip on back to
the bus while I stay with Cal?”
When the police chief demanded that Cal be
detained, I merged into the middle of the pack
of students who returned to the waiting bus.
The heat was off me. And I still had my film. We
continued toward Budapest.
But Professor Tomlinson was not on the bus
with us, nor was Cal Peterson. They were taken
two and a half miles down the road to the town
of Tatabánya, where Cal’s film was confiscated
and supposedly developed.
In the history of photography there were few
films more difficult to develop than Kodachrome.
It was a very exacting process. Did Tatabánya,
Hungary, have a Kodachrome color processing
facility? Maybe, but I doubt it. In any case, Cal
lost his film. He and Professor Tomlinson were
finally released, and Tomlinson demanded they
be taken on to Budapest but was refused. He
then demanded that their train fare to Budapest
be paid, but they were again refused. They paid
their own train fare. We on the bus arrived in
Budapest at 2 p.m., but Professor Tomlinson and
Cal Peterson did not arrive until much later. We
were greatly relieved to see them.
When the two detainees described their expe-
rience, the Hungarian officials who hosted us in
Budapest were outraged by the treatment we had
received at the hands of small-town officials. We
learned that the people of Hungary did not like
being dominated and controlled by the Soviet
Union or the Hungarian government the Soviets
had installed. Only 10 years earlier, in 1956, the
people had engaged in a spontaneous revolution
in which 2,500 Hungarians died before the revolt
was suppressed. In Budapest we saw the bullet
holes in the buildings.
To young students from the University of
Puget Sound the Hungarian Revolution was
ancient history, but in fact it was still going on
in the course of world events. And we were right
smack in the middle of it and the Cold War. I
wrote in my journal that day: “The affair points
up the tension between the Russian authorities in
this area and the Hungarian officials themselves.
Formal complaints are being made all over the
place, and the matter is not closed. One poor,
bungling, small-town police chief is in for it,
as the whole tide of Hungarian receptivity and
warmth toward Western visitors is against this
small-town autocracy.”
The Hungarian people were wonderful, as
were the lower-rank Russian soldiers we met.
This kind of experience and understanding are
why students do and should study abroad. In
Budapest the food was great and the hospitality
gracious. We saw much of the city and returned
to Vienna the next day after an enjoyable over-
night stay. My life as a Cold War spy was brief
but exciting. I decided I wouldn’t take any more
pictures of the Red Army. But I treasure the one I
have, the one I took in Tata, Hungary, that day in
May 1966.
Facing page, starting at upper right: This is the
photo that got our author in trouble. The Soviet
army officer in the foreground had young Mr.
Finney hauled into the police station for taking
this picture in Tata, Hungary, May 14, 1966.
Below that: the Iron Curtain between Hungary
and Austria, near Mosonmagyaróvár. Left: An
old trolley trundles Budapest citizens about the
city. All photos by John Finney.