Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Robert L. Nichols
NICHOLS: It didn't seem to, except when I came back to Washington, I served a couple of months in the Agency at 1776 Pennsylvania Avenue in the area office, I sat on the Indonesian desk while a colleague who had been in Indonesia sat on the Philippine desk. It didn't seem to make much difference, I mean, where you'd served. I filled in temporarily until I went to Milan.
TRANSFER TO MILAN
Q: Sophisticated and bustling Milan, Italy, was a far cry from your one-man post in the Philippines.
NICHOLS: It sure was. It was a very different experience. It was a four-American staff post, and I went there as the information officer. It was a completely new experience, different than being in the Philippines, certainly. One of the first things I had to do was contend with another language, Italian.
Q: Had you known any Italian before?
NICHOLS: I had two weeks' training in Washington. That's all they gave you at that time. I arrived in Genoa by boat, drove my car from Genoa to Milan, and had to find a place to stay. I got a good introduction that way. I worked with a staff in Milan, where the meetings and everything were conducted in Italian. The PAO was Marjorie Ferguson, who always conducted her staff meetings in Italian. So I had to learn the hard way.
I commuted when I was in Italy. I lived in Como, and I commuted to Milan by train, which was a marvelous place to have my daily Italian lesson.
Q: The type of staff in Milan was quite different from what you had been accustomed in the boondocks in the Philippines?
NICHOLS: Very much so, although I had a couple of very well-educated staff members in the Philippines. But in Milan, I had people with doctorates running sections, the press section, and what we called the social-economic section. A man named Arturo Bassi, who was a very impressive individual. Then there was Giovanni Pini, another impressive individual, the former editor of the leading socialist daily paper in Italy. So this was a new experience, and I was still pretty wet behind the ears.
Q: Who was ambassador at the time?