Deb's wonderful meme, which she goty from Mimi, prompted me to see what the fourth photo in my fourth folder in my photo folder might be, and I was very pleased to discover it was of Prince Afrasiab Assad Bakhtiary of Iran, because this photo comes with the very interesting story of how he courted my mother.
Prince Afrasiab Assad Bakhtiary ("Afool"), Teheran, Iran
Mom wrote about her relationship with the Prince in connection with a college class assignment in March of 1945, when she was 21. Here are excerpts:
When Afrasiab Assad Bakhtiary first pulled into New York Harbor [that would have been in 1943], he had a number of reasons to offer for coming to the United States from his home in Iran. I prefer to believe his first excuse – he wanted to marry me.
Even though I had invited Assad to visit me, I cannot say that I was actually expecting him to show up. After all, had I not, during the past eight years, invited scores of men from all over the world to drop in – any old time?
Of course, I had always asked my mother’s permission, and there was really no excuse for her amazement. I can remember distinctly when she said:
“Afrasiab Assad – is he your Persian, dear? Of course, invite him anytime you want to. It’s perfectly all right with me.”
The whole thing started in a high school French class when we all wrote for correspondents in another country...
My mother's foreign correspondence grew from there. She began writing to some of her classmates' pen-pals as well as to her own. Then after America entered the War in 1941, and her soldier correspondents began showing her picture around, letters "started coming faster as the American Army spread. Africa, England, France, India, Hawaii, the postmarks on my mail listed countries all over the world." They all read the same: "I met a boy over here who knows you and he gave me your address. Your picture is very beautiful. Will you write to me?”
I'm guessing this is the photo she had sent people. And as you can see, she wasn't exactly blonde, although she looks more blonde in some other pictures.
Mom, of course, didn't yet know her Persian correspondent was a prince. Her narrative continues:
Afrasiab was the only correspondent I had who went beyond the limits of a polite friendship. I can’t say I discouraged him, when I told him I had never visited Iran, but since I had such a charming friend there, I certainly intended to.
“Ah, my dear Barbara,” we wrote. “I think of you all day long and all night long when I am awake, Your picture is hanging near my bed. Tell me, do you the same?”
That was a little too much. I told him frankly no. He wrote and invited me to Persia. “With your blonde mane and blue eyes, you will get along very well here,” he said.
The Prince (Seated)
Next he said he was coming to America to see me. I told him I would be married by the time he got here and sent him an invitation to the wedding. One year later, he arrived, telling the Red Cross motor corps women who met him on Ellis Island that he wanted to go to Barbara Hafford’s house in New Jersey.
Mother met him in New York a few days later to politely explain that I was in Oklahoma, with my husband. He didn’t understand English quite as well as he spoke it, and insisted on going shopping with her. The day ended in a night club with my father grilling him with questions.
He lived in luxury at one of the New York hotels. Not being able to make anyone understand him, he had gone without food for two days until he called the Iran embassy.
“I ask where I can eat,” he explained, “but they jut say ‘huh’. In Persia we kill a man like that.”
The crowds bothered him, too. He had to walk between my parents, because it frightened him when anyone bumped into him on the street. “In Persia we carry a knife for anyone who bumps into us and does not apologize.”
When his story came out, my parents discovered that he was a prince, Prince of Bakhtiary, where his grandfather had been chief chief. His grandfather was the man who overthrew the old king and replaced him. His stories about that varied, but the Persian consul confirmed the gist what he said, warning that he did like to talk. He was never serious, and his sense of humor would make the Mona Lisa giggle.
The Prince's Grandfather, who Overthrew the Old King, With Entourage
I didn’t meet Afool (as he preferred to be called) in person until September, 1944, the day before I was to return to school. It seemed as though we had known each other for all of the eight years we had corresponded. I ached from laughing before the day was over. We had lunch at the Waldorf, where Afool decided that we should talk in French for the rest of the day. It was easy – he didn’t know any more words than I did.
Afool has two ambitions now. The first is to become an American citizen; the second, to marry an American girl. Any girl will do as long as she has blonde hair and blue eyes. She should be short too, for Afool comes just to my shoulder.
He had been the only one of my foreigners I never wanted to meet; now I shall probably know him all my life. He has not yet found the girl he will marry, but he is well on his way towards becoming a citizen. In October he entered basic Army training. After the war he hopes to live in New York where he will go into importing and exporting.
I still have a beautiful Persian tablecloth the Prince gave my mother; it is silk, with a lacy center in which Adam and Eve are embroidered with gold thread. (No, not gold gold; I mean that is the hue of the embroidery.)