Natchez couple shares joy of travelling the globe

Published 12:24 am Monday, January 16, 2012

Eric Shelton | The Natchez Democrat — Jim Crawford, left, and wife Betsy have enjoyed a lifetime of travel. Their most recent trip was to Rome and Venice in November, and they look forward to a trip to Alaska in May. The couple also lived in Okinawa, Japan, where Jim was stationed while serving in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.

NATCHEZ — A rack displaying a collection of 18 demitasse spoons tells a story of plane rides, foreign meals, sightseeing and the military service of Jim and Betsy Crawford.

One of the miniature silver spoons displays an engraved pagoda, a Japanese tower. It was a souvenir from Tokyo, which Betsy collected when the couple lived in Okinawa, while Jim was based there as a member of the U.S. Air Force in the late 60s.

Another spoon, with a floral handle made of Venetian Murano glass, is a reminder of their recent, all-time favorite trip to Italy.

Eric Shelton | The Natchez Democrat — A selection from the Crawford’s demitasse spoon collection from Okinawa, Tokyo, Rome and Venice reflects their travels.

The globetrotting couple is planning a trip to Alaska this May. It will still be a little cool — June is the best time to visit, they said — but nothing like the 200 inches of snow that recently dumped on the state, Betsy said.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska,” Jim said. “Betsy wants to see the whales, and I want to see the glaciers.”

Betsy, 69, who retired this year from teaching school, said teaching her students about the world enhances her passion for travel.

The couple has been on trips to Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Boston, Rome, Venice and Washington, D.C., to name a few, and they also enjoy vacations in Perdido, Fla., nearly every summer.

Not just on the demitasse spoon rack, but all around their house are reminders of their travels.

When The Dart landed on Alta Road Saturday afternoon, Jim was watching the New Orleans Saints ultimately suffer a loss to the San Francisco 49ers, while polishing half-a-century-old chess table that the couple brought back from Okinawa.

“I got the hardship tour,” Jim joked.

“Okinawa is like a cheap Hawaii,” he said.

When Betsy flew to meet Jim in Okinawa, she was the only non-service member on a propeller plane to the island, and the Vietnam War was at its peak.

The flight even made a stop in Guam — one trip that Betsy made without her husband.

“We were babies,” Betsy said of she and her new husband in the late 60s, when they were both 23 years old.

“If you think it wasn’t scary being away from my Mama and Daddy…I was a scared little girl,” she said.

While stationed in Japan, the couple got an opportunity to travel around Asia, something for which Betsy said she as grateful.

“Europe is accessible, but not Japan (and the far east),” she said.

Jim said while he loved the sites and the camaraderie of getting to know his neighbors from all braches of the U.S. military on the 3-mile by 17-mile island, he wasn’t a fan of the Far East food.

At one meal in Hong Kong, the couple sat through a 10-course meal, and Jim didn’t touch a bite.

“I wouldn’t have made it if it wasn’t for the Saki,” Jim said.

“I’m a steak and potatoes type of guy.”

Since they had a weight limit for what they were allowed to bring back from the base, the couple brought back a handful of furnishings and mementos.

The best souvenir, Jim said, was probably their oldest daughter Shannon Williams, who was born in Okinawa.

“I can still hear the ambulance backing up,” Betsy recalled.

Their favorite trip was the recent one to Rome and Venice in November of last year.

They traveled with a group of 13 others from Natchez, including the Rev. David O’Connor. Betsy remarked how special it was to hear O’Connor deliver mass at St. Peter’s Basilica on Thanksgiving.

Jim, who works at United Mississippi Bank, said he will continue to work as long as he feels as healthy and happy at work as he does now, but he eventually looks forward to joining his wife in retirement to be able to do more traveling.

The next trip will likely be out west, to see Yellowstone National Park in Montana and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

Also on the bucket list is a trip to New York City to see a Broadway play and more tours of Boston.

Jim said while he finds his native hometown of Natchez a great place to live, he and his wife love traveling.

“You only have a short time (in this world), so there’s a lot to see that we hadn’t seen,” Jim said.