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September 26, 1936

In the first issue of The Miscellany News for the academic year, a student and two faculty members described their experiences at the outbreak in July of the Spanish Civil War. Mary Banning ’37, travelling with her mother and brother, was in San Sebastian in the Hotel Maria Cristina—“in which we stayed because we liked its name”—when it came under fire from the Nationalist insurgents. “Since I had never heard shots before,” Banning wrote, “and had been told that they always sound nearer than they are, I thought they were far away and lay and listened. Soon the manager came banging at the doors, shouting at us to pull down our shutters, the hotel was being shot at.” Encountering some soldiers in the lobby, Banning and her brother “were told that they were so frightened they could no longer hold their guns. When we asked which side they were on, one man said that they hadn’t yet made up their minds, but they thought they were rebels.”

Fleeing toward the French border, Banning encountered “trucks full of armed volunteers. Several times I was glad that I had left Mein Kamf in a drawer at the hotel and that I knew the Communist salute. It was the first time that I had ever seen the Red flag used as a passport. Only the cars flying it were let through the barricades unsearched… The next day the Maria Cristina was blown up and burned and the occupants turned into the streets.”

Assistant Professor of Art Leila Barber and Miss James Ross, instructor in history, arrived in Granada on July 19th, the same day that insurgent troops took the city. Pitched battles broke out, and the two Americans didn’t know whether it was safer to stay in their hotel or to seek cover outside. “It takes courage,” Miss Ross told The Miscellany News, “to make the initial run outside.” The city’s open spaces, she found, “were a great improvement over a cellar full of dithering Spaniards praying and carrying on.”

After three weeks, witnessing shootings, bombings and the frequent convoys of rebel soldiers and loyalist prisoners en route to the cemetary for executions, Barber and Ross were flown to safety.

The Years