Beverly Almond – an Ageless Adventurer
Michael Henderson reviews Anne Hamlin’s book about her mother, Beverly Almond.
As befits a long and bold life 'Beverly Almond – an Ageless Adventurer' covers a wide canvas. Her memory is still prodigious and so her daughter, Anne Hamlin, has had a fascinating amount of detail to draw on in fashioning her biography. This includes her growing up and her secret service in World War II as well as her struggles with faith and her devotion to the countries of the Middle East. Sixty one of those tumultuous years she shared with her husband, Rev Harry Almond.
Bev comes from a background of privilege and deep roots in American history. Forbears on both sides of the family, Kitchens and Rodmans, were White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, true WASPS. Ancestors on the Rodman side were descended from two Mayflower pilgrims and several from both sides fought in the American Revolution so she qualifies as a DAR, Daughter of the American Revolution.
Her parents were early adherents of the Oxford Group, now Initiatives of Change. Her father, Vic Kitchen, wrote a popular book about its effect on his Life, I was a Pagan.' He was an early pioneer of Alcoholics Anonymous. In 1934 her parents decided to work full time with the Oxford Group. Her father was in advertising and used to publish pithy sayings and good advice which he called 'Time Bombs', one of which is reproduced in the book: 'If your children turn out to be bad eggs, maybe it’s because you sat on them too long.'
In 1941, after the United States was attacked, Beverly sought adventure and went to Washington DC, wanting to do something for the war effort. She tried the Red Cross but found it boring. Knowing this, an uncle in military intelligence asked if she would like to come and work at the Pentagon. He spoke to the colonel in charge of the special branch of Military Intelligence and vouched for her. Thus Beverly began a life which nobody knew about until long after the war was over.
Anne describes how her mother did not hesitate when she was invited in 1943 to go across the Atlantic at the time of the worst Allied maritime losses and the bombing blitz on Britain. She was to become secretary to a senior officer at a place we have learned about through films and many books – Bletchley Park – but can even now get a different perspective through this new one. The truth came out only when son-in-law Bryan was reading a book about it. On a visit to her home I could see the proof of her achievement in the testimonial which she received from the British government. Her name is also on the role of honour at Bletchley Park.
It was on that journey to England that another unusual strand of her life began. On the neutral ship was a young Harry Almond, going out as a missionary to the Middle East. As she was playing ping pong this stranger asked if he could join a doubles game. Before they reached Europe the two were engaged. Separating in Portugal, she continued to England and he went round the Horn and up to Basra. They didn’t meet again for three years. That was wartime, after all, but then they were married for 61 years. They celebrated their golden wedding by staging a ping pong match.
I won’t take more of your time describing the family’s adventures in the Middle East where their children grew up, their work at and through the conference centre in Caux (the Initiatives of Change conference centre in Switzerland), the pride she has in her children, grandchildren and great grandchild and the pace she sets in the high nineties and her involvement in her rural Massachusetts village. She is often teased about her correspondence around the world, that she singlehandedly keeps the US Postal Service in operation due to the volume of her writing.
She is still bold. She phoned up her family to say, 'I have just had one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.' She told son-in-law Bryan that she had just been having tea outside when a black bear walked onto the patio right by her and walked round her chair and to her annoyance attacked the humming bird feeder. As they talked, Bev exclaimed, 'Oh, he’s coming back!' Bryan quickly made sure she was safely inside. But what struck him most about the conversation was that 'her reaction to this event was pure delight and wonder, and no fear at all.'
This story is an enjoyable read that also gives some of the history and scope of Initiatives of Change with personal stories and humour.
Beverly Almond – an Ageless Adventurer is published through Create Space and can be ordered directly from their website here.
In the US, the book is also available via Amazon.com, $10
In Europe, the book is available via Amazon, £7, or 9 Euros for the print version.
Amazon also has an e-book version available on Kindle.