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My « Geneva » time

  • The beginning, I come to the « Ferrari's ».

  • The years « 33 ».

  • Week-ends in « Oberkulm ».

  • A house in «Chamoson ».

  • An apartment in « Meyrin ».

  The begining, I come to the « Ferrari's ».

It was June 27 Th 1971 when I took the train Meppel - Geneva, in order to go to a new position with the American company « Control Data », computer manufacturer, who had an activity at the « C.E.R.N. » site, in Meyrin, close to the Swiss - French border.    It was the next day as I arrived at Geneva railway station Cornavin, and that without any useful knowledge of French.    Lucky enough that Geneva was and still is an international town and I could make myself understand with some German and some English.    It was then the afternoon of the same day that I phoned the responsible person of « Control Data » at « C.E.R.N. », who came to pick me up the next day.

After we have gone the the « C.E.R.N. » site for the presentation, one of the staff members helped out to look for a furnished room, which he found at the Ferrari's, who lived at the house shown on the right.

The family Ferrari rented already other rooms to people of « C.E.R.N. ».    Besides my room, there were three more rooms rented out to people of « C.E.R.N. ».    I had the second room from the left side with the open windows.

The fourth room was occupied by the couple Ferrari them selfs, even then when the husband slept frequently in a corner of his workshop on the first floor.

The garage in basement was furnished as a room where the whole family lived during daytime, unless they had to work in their workshop on the first floor.    Then they had there an high precision turning workshop.

The second photo is taken from my window and shows a part of the city of Meyrin.

Once I have asked them whether they had any family link with the famous Italian automobile constructor, but they answered that they would have liked that that was the case, but unfortunately NO.

The third picture show the Ferrari's turning and mechanical workshop, it was there where they worked during the day-time and it was, as you can see on the pictures, even for 1971 not very modern.

  Les years « 33 ».

This number is a little special.    For those who did live or still do live in Geneva, this was the number of the trolly-bus line Geneva - Cointrin.    For me on the other hand, this means Hôtel - Restaurant 33.    Then one of our secretaries found for me a two room unfurnished apartment in the building next to Hotel 33, which became already quickly my meeting point for all the people living in the near.

This picture shown here is a more recent one, but this hotel had already the same aspect as in the time I lived next door.   

A lot of people, as well the ones who lived in the near, as the people working at the airport, and the other people working at companies there, were getting their noon dinner here.    I was working that time very often evening shift from 4.00 pm up to 01.00 am, and it was also here that I took usually my noon dinner with the other people.    I had a lot of friends there and knew also a lot of other people, and it is from this time that I have my best souvenirs of my Geneva time.

When it comes to souvenirs , then I do have a very special one.    One day, August 16th, 1977, I came as usual to take my “renversé” (read half milk, half coffee, in a big glass) and read the Swiss-German scandal newspaper “Blick”, did I find the waitress down in cries.    What happened ? she just haired the announcement hat Elvis died.    Even when this was not so very good news, but this should not be a reason to break down in cries.

When I came very later back here to see a friend of mine, I have haired that the family « Dupont », where maman ran the business with her son and her daughter, had sold the hotel to a big holding.    The result; nothing left of the old times, no friends, nobody, nothing.    Since then, I did not return to the area where I once used to live.    What is left now, are the souvenirs, all the stories told by a man with a surname of « Rocambole », the ladies hairdresser surnamed « Pénélope », who came always to say us hello and to drink her tea with-ice (yes you read correctly, hot tea with ice cubes in it!!!) in a hurry.    And not to forget the afternoon card players, with of course « Rocambole », who did not need to work all the afternoon, « Fritz » an employee of the airport postal service, the local postman from whom I have forgotten the name and « Patricia » a good looking representative in the twenties, who lived with her boyfriend in the same building as I did.

  Week-ends in « Oberkulm »

It was during the period I was living aside « 33 » that I came across some Swiss-German magazine, which had some strange questionnaire in it, and which happened to be a computerized partner search thing.    Those things who were supposed to find you the ideal partner.    Ok so far, I did fill in this crazy thing, sended it to the indicated address with a dozen swiss-francs.    Thereafter was nothing left than wait and see.

Yes indeed did I receive a list with a dozen names, addresses, and so on.    First I contacted some of them, most of them were of the Zurich region and the surrounding regions, but nothing serious came out of it.    It was a lot later, when I decided to send the everyone of the list a new years wish card.    The result was that with one of them a more and more frequent contact has build up.

To make long story short, her name was « Susi » and she lived in a village called « Oberkulm » (map on the right), where she helped to take care of her parents farm.    Her father was that time a cattle-merchant and had himself also important cattle too.    Their farm looked a lot like the ones we usually see on postcards.

It is like this that I was spending during nearly a year very often the week-ends in « Oberkulm », to be with her.

She did leave me a souvenir that I will not easily forget, than one day our postman knocked at my door with a very urgent parcel, coming from the “canton Argau”.    Inside this parcel I found, after opening it, a fresh baked bread, like the ones she used to make.    She made me a bread and did sent it by express mail, so I could get it the same day !    That she could do this, that surpassed me completely and still does now.

After a while it became slowly clear that certain incompatibilities existed, specially the fact that even then that I was a farmer sun, I was not a farmer and I did not feel like becoming one.    Besides the fact that her parents preferred rather a local farmer instead of me.    We decided then to stop this relation, we promised to keep contact, but I stayed without any news from her, and I did not do any better, she stayed without news from me to.

  A house in « Chamoson ».

It was in the same period of time that I and some other colleagues started to, more or less seriously, look for some house for sale.    Some for permanent living, and some others just for the week-ends.

One day I have got across an add in a specialized newspaper, offering a “chalet” (mountain-house) to be finished (picture on the left) in “Chamoson” in the “canton du Valais”.    It was rather expensive for me, but one could finish it either immediately, but of course also finish it later.

So the decision was taken, and after a lot of financial struggle, I finally succeeded in buying this “Chalet”.    Now I had to finish it somehow.

On the moment I bought it, most of my colleagues thought that I have become crazy, but time showed that this decision has been the right one, especially when the house was finally finished in 1980.

I lived up there from 1980 to 1985 only the week-ends, and full time, since 1985, the time I have taken a job as systems analyst at E.P.F.L. site in Lausanne.    I lived there up to the time I have left Switzerland for “La Normandie” in France in 1995.    In other words from 1980 to 1995, making up a total of 15 years.

But « Chamoson » remains a story on itself who has the merit to have it's own web page, but for the moment being the first priority was to gather enough money to finish my house little by little, so far my financial situation would allow it.

For a rather long period I have been working nearly exclusively the evening shift, my colleagues from whom I had taken over the evening shift preferred in fact to work only day shift, and I preferred the evening shift because of the shift allowance. (I did not need to get up early!!!).

Anyway what was looking to be, at least in the eyes of my colleagues, a big mistake, showed to be a good investment, which was good to have when I badly needed it.

  An appartment in « Meyrin ».

After 6 years I did quit the apartment aside « 33 » and changed for an other apartment a little further on for a couple of years.    One day I accidentally came across a new building at « rue des Bugnons », still under construction, where visited a show room apartment.    There still were some two room apartments left, which I could offer myself with my modest budget I had.

It is like this that I have bought a two room apartment on the 12Th floor.    But I did unfourtunaty not live there for a very long time, then the time to work in Lausanne as system analyst was about to come up.

I have still lived in my « Meyrin » apartment for some time, but I was most of the time already physically living in « Chamoson » where live was (and still is) more pleasant as it is in a 13 stories building.

The building was initially ran by an “sindic”, as sort of representative of co-owners, but after lots of struggle of any kind with those people, we, the co-owners decided that we would do this our selfs, and that with considerable money savings.

It was a lot later, somewhere in the year 1986, that I rented this apartment out to « Petra », a colleague's daughter, who needed an apartment at that moment being.    I was living in « Chamoson » for most of the time anyway, which became hereby my permanent residence.

This situation remained until a had to sell my « Meyrin » apartment, around the end of 1989, the year « Control Data » decided to close his agencies in the French part of Switzerland.

It was with the sale of my « Meyrin » apartment that my

« Geneva »

time has ended.

  Some important events of that era (de 1968 à 1986).

  • First man on the Moon.

  • Elvis Presley died.

  • Egypt attacks Israel by surprise.

  • No car driving at Sundays.

  • I.B.M. announces a « Personal Computer »

  • Sadat goes to Israel.

  • Camp David.

  • The killing of Sadat.

To know more about:


Oberkulm (Or the way of live in Central Switzerland)


The cantonValais

Hôtel « 33 »



Click on the links.

Wolter Smit, Freelance Computer Engeneer
15 Rue du 13 Août 1944
27940 Courcelles Sur Seine - FRANCE