Makan – No. 177
This is probably the most northerly point in Australia at which a Makan has yet been written. Bet and I are at present on holidays at Mission Beach, which is about 80 miles south of Cairns. We left Sydney on Wednesday, 23rd August, and had dinner that night with Wally and Freda Eather at Tamworth. We also completed a few more details for the Dinner there. On Thursday we went to Brisbane and contacted Col O'Donnell. He, excellent fellow that he is, took us to Indooroopilly Golf Club for lunch next day. In front of the Club House there is a long terrace shaded by two huge mango trees, and to sit in the shade of them sipping away at a drop of XXXX is just about my idea of heaven. A perfect host. I hope we may soon have the opportunity to offer him our hospitality. On to Bundaberg and Rockhampton, to find Padre Walsh away on annual leave. A stop at Mackay and a phone call to Padre Dolan, only to find he had gone to Sydney on holidays; then on to Bowen to renew some old acquaintances; Townsville, and finally Mission Beach, where today it is 83 degrees - Sydney, according to the radio, is 60°. At the moment we are being eaten alive by sandflies, but reckon it is worth it. What amazes us most, after an absence of 7 years, is the number of motels in and around every town, and all booked out! One has to book ahead, or sleep in the car - we booked ahead. Tourism is really big business up this way now.
The most important point of this Makan is, of course, the Dinner at Tamworth on November 4th. The first place to call at, for all those who have not booked their own accommodation, will be at the R.S.L. We have booked 20 single rooms at the Central Hotel, 20 at the Post Office Hotel, and 10 rooms, each to accommodate 3, at the Motelodge. Once having found where you will sleep, a quick shower and off to the small Town Hall for a Civic Reception to the Battalion through The Old Man. This will be at 4 p.m., but we want everyone there well beforehand, as there will be a guard of honour from the Tamworth Cadet Units for the Old Man to inspect. From there you can meander slowly back to the R.S.L. (it will be a walk of memories for many) for pre-dinner drinks, to be followed by the Dinner. Wal Eather will this year propose The Toast to the Battalion, to which, of course, The Old Man will reply. We will have quite a line-up of guests this year, but you can trust Arch Thorburn to keep the speeches to a minimum.
On Sunday morning we will assemble at a point yet to be decided, for a short march to the R.S.L. Memorial, where there will be a combined service by the Catholic and Anglican padres, and The Old Man will deliver the Occasional Address. This will be followed by a barbecue lunch, which will terminate the weekend.
Admission to the Dinner will be $4.00 as usual. This will cover grog and the barbecue as well. The reason for this almost miraculous happening is that the R.S.L. Ladies' Auxiliary will prepare and serve the Dinner. We may to have to run a small raffle to help out with the barbecue. Bed and breakfast at the Post Office Hotel is $4.00; at The Central, $5.00, and we don't expect the bus fare to be more than $5.00, so you have a whole weekend for only $13.00, plus a little spending silver.
Bob (Talking) Jack and I flew to Tamworth a few weeks ago, and Col O'Donnell drove down from Brisbane, for a weekend conference with Wal Eather. Wal is an absolute tower of strength. He has run these sort of shows in Tamworth before, and has everything at his finger-tips.
Regarding ladies - bring your wives by all means. They will be served dinner in a very comfortable lounge room, just off the main hall, where they will be able to hear all the speeches, but will not actually be part of the Reunion. If you want accommodation booked for yourself and wife, let me know right away - tomorrow may well be too late! There are still seats available on the bus. At present it seems as if the bus will have to make a 5 a.m. departure from town, and Newcastle residents will be picked up at Charlestown. Final details of this will be given in the next Makan. Incidentally, the proprietor has asked that no beer be taken on the bus. He has recently had to re-upholster one bus due to beer damage. Frequent stops at various pubs can, of course, be made en route.
Whilst at the R.S.L. we met the President and Secretary of the Sub-branch, and the President and Manager of the Club. They are all very keen that we should have a successful Reunion. They have just about put the whole R.S.L. Club at our disposal. Everything has been done that can be done to make it a success - NOW IT IS ENTIRELY UP TO YOU! SO GET THOSE BUS SEATS BOOKED!
On Saturday night we went to the hospital to see Bob Gibbs (A Coy.). He had been using a chain saw, and a splinter of wood flew up and pierced his right eye. Fortunately the doctors were able to save it for him. (The splinter or the eye? - Printer.) We have heard since that he was not at all keen to leave hospital. This is not surprising as he had six pretty nurses dancing attendance on him. A couple of them were rather impressed with Bob Jack's rugged beauty (?) and offered him a bed in hospital. They didn't show any interest in Wal Eather or me ...
At the R.S.L. we met Eric Jenner of the 2/15, who was just leaving to back his horse which was running at Tamworth that day. Bob and I each invested $5 on it, and the little beauty came home at 6 to 1, which paid for our plane fares.
Most of you will have heard by now of the death of Frank Ryan. Frank was an A. Coy. corporal. A good friend of mine and Sammy Hall. A very quiet fellow, he was well liked by all who knew him. He was among the top advertising men in Sydney, and at the time of his death, was the Advertising Manager for Arnott's' Biscuits. The sympathy of us all goes to his widow and family.
The Old Man has sent me a cutting from an English paper, which I quote in full:
"The Union Jack carried at the surrender of Singapore in 1942 by the late Col. Cyril Wild of the Oxford & Bucks Rgt. - an old Carthusian - was dedicated at Charterhouse on Saturday and now rests in the school chapel.
"For over three years Col. Wild and his fellow prisoners hid it from their captors and when the Japanese ultimately surrendered Lord Mountbatten asked him to hoist it outside Singapore's Municipal Buildings.
"But after the British left it was relegated to the basement whence it was retrieved and given to the Imperial War Museum, already well supplied with flags.
"Col. Wild's brothers, Patrick, who with the Headmaster, Mr. Oliver van Oss, performed Saturday's Ceremony, and Richard, an Eton House Master, thereupon pulled strings and had it given to the school - 'A perpetual reminder of brave men far from home'."
I am not sure that this is entirely correct. I was under the impression that it was first flown from the gaol tower when Nippon surrendered. I wonder if anyone knows precisely where it was first flown?
I almost forgot - Bess Ellis has threatened to tear me limb from Limb if I don't tell you to order badges and ties from her and, of course, no one should be without a set of cuff links.
I had a note from Mrs. Jenkins, who was the President of the wartime 2/30 Comforts Fund. Every year since the way she has organised a Christmas party, and has asked to have the following paragraph put in the Makan ....
"The Purple and Gold Club, the old time 2/30th Battalion Comforts Fund, will hold their Annual Party at the Aranda Room, Anthony Hordern's (near Goulburn Street) on Thursday, Dec. 14th at 3 p.m. Marguerite Jenkins (who was President of the Comforts Fund during the War years) will be the hostess, and glad to meet members and friends who will each receive an initialled handkerchief, and a posy of flowers from her garden. Please ring 96 2249 (her number) if you care to be present."
Now, what nicer party could you wish for than that. Get with it, girls, make your shopping date the 14th December, and ring Mrs. Jenkins and tell her you will be there.
(For Athletes-Only) Neil Huntley recently climbed Ayres Rock without using the guide chains, in under normal time. More of his letter in the next Makan.
The remainder of this Makan is an excerpt from Stan Arneil's American travels, which needs no comment from me......
Stan wrote this in March this year .. and here it is ...
"Some people are born lucky, some are born rich, but me, I was born so lucky I feel rich.
A few years ago, I travelled overseas and wrote a little of my impressions and you said you liked it. I thought that in my spare hours I would like to jot down a few thoughts because it is good to share things with others.
I am on my way to San Francisco with my wife beside me. Thirty seven thousand feet above sea level, smooth as a whisper and feeling better than a millionaire because I am not one and a millionaire could do no better than I am doing now.
We are en route to Madison, Wisconsin via - and our first via was for two days in Honolulu where we saw many wonderful things. Some of the things we saw intrigued us, the beautiful Chinese and Japanese children, like little cuddly dolls. They are so beautiful. Honolulu City was far too crowded for us. There were funny things there like cars driving on the wrong side of the road, scores of retired American people coming to Honolulu to recapture the ecstasy of years which have gone so long ago that they are just old people in a different place. Waikiki Beach - no surf - old people - no kids - hotels right down to the beach and owning the beach. The view from the beach is entrancing with Diamond Head in the distance and tropical waters so blue.
We toured the island with a Japanese friend, a credit union man previously known to me. He showed us many places of interest - at one place he took us to a cliff and told us in great detail of a battle in the last century between the old Hawaiians and a group of invaders. The victors were the invaders, and in the custom of the time, they bound the royal family of the old house and threw them from the cliff, thus establishing a new dynasty.
We saw Pearl Harbour and the memorial built over the battleship Arizona in which 3,000 American sailors lost their lives.
We also saw the national military cemetery where sleep the heroes who lost their lives in defence of their country and its ideals. The Americans spare no expense for their veterans; it was a beautiful cemetery.
We had dinner with our Japanese friends in a real Chinese restaurant. I won't tell you what we ate, it would take too long, but the dishes were placed on a large revolving piece in the centre of the table. The revolving part squeaked when turned and every time it did so, the kids nearly fell off their seats laughing. Our friends were the Tamuras, Margaret & Fred, and their lovely children, Sarah, Julie and Calvin. The Tamura kids, like all schoolchildren in Honolulu, start school at 7:30 a.m. and work until 4:00 p.m., when they go home and do their homework.
In Honolulu we met a young Catholic priest returning to Ireland after a lecture tour in Western Australia. We began talking to him at a bus stop and found by coincidence he was a credit union man, was President of the Dublin Chapter, and was a new friend of the Tamuras. We spent all of our time with him and before we left had a swim with him at Waikiki Beach.
San Francisco: You never ever saw such a city. We stayed with our friends, the Larsons, whom we had entertained in Australia last year. They live in Berkeley, a suburb of the city of Oakland, a city adjoining San Francisco, just across the Bay. You might have heard of the University of California in the news lately. It is in Berkeley. The reputation of the university is being tarnished by a multitude of unwashed beatniks, masquerading as intellectuals. They spend their time protesting - about anything - provided a television camera is handy. Oakland, by the way, has an association with Australians as it was from this airport that Kingsford Smith left the U.S.A. on his trip across the Pacific.
The Larsons live in a fairly typical "middle class" area.
They have a two-storey house, centrally heated and very comfortably furnished. Central heating is essential and costs them about $14 a month. It is not necessary to wear warm clothing in the house although outside the temperature in this city was 46 degrees. The council rates of the houses in this area, exclusive of water, include cost of local education and are based on the value of the house. Average cost in this district was $600 - $900 per year.
The first night we arrived we attended a small dinner party which they had previously arranged, not for us but for others, so it was quite a surprise for the other guests.
The evening was typical of Australian dinner parties - plenty to drink, lots of nice food, and lots of laughter. Adele Larson, who is just the sweetest thing, found an old "tea bag" of Chinese tea and produced a pot of tea in our honour. We straightened her out the next morning on this point, and we laughed about it.
To see a strange city one really requires the assistance of a local resident, and we inspected almost every brick and stone of interest in San Francisco. Ed arrived home at 11:30 and we shot up to the top of Grizzley Peak in his Thunderbird and took photographs of San Francisco Bay from 1,300 feet above sea level. We visited Jack London Square, from where the adventurer sailed years ago and snapped Dorothy feeding the scores of tame ducks in Lakeside Park in Oakland. The ducks and pigeons, geese and swans are so tame they can be picked up and are all as fat as butter.
We visited the credit union centre where the manager of the Central was so intrigued with the fact that we have six children that he loaded Dorothy with pencils, "play dollars", piggy banks, to such an extent that we had to cry halt.
Adele took us to San Francisco the next day. We crossed the Oakland Bay Bridge, miles longer than our own and parked near a square-rigged clipper, the last of the Cape Horn fleet. We looked at the wonderful maritime museum, then took the cable car "downtown". The cable car is an institution which must be preserved to allow grownups to remain as children. They are straight out of the storybooks. The motorman wears big yellow gloves and pulls his brake lever with great strength. The other official is a conductor who, for some reason known only to the gods, pushes a lever every time he takes a fare and every time he does so there is a most infernal ring, which can be heard a block away. Added to this noise is the continual clanging of the warning bell to any who might try to get in the way of the cable car. The train climbs at angles of up to 70 degrees on hills 500-600 feet high and the tourists turn white when they look back.
In 'Frisco we wandered through Chinatown, inspected hotels and stores, drove down a corkscrew which is dignified by the name of Lombard Street; it takes ten turns to descend one block, and drove home over the Golden Gate Bridge, past San Quentin prison, where we read the next day that a racial riot was taking place as we drove past.
'Frisco is reminiscent of Sydney, but foggy and cold. The people are jammed together in apartments on the impossible hills and there appears to be no family cottages as we know them, in 'Frisco itself.
We left the next day for Los Angeles with regret at leaving our good friends. They drove us to the airport and in all ways were kindness itself.
At Los Angeles, we were met at Pomona Airport, about forty miles from the city, and spent the night at a motel. I was able to talk about credit unions to the California Credit Union League and following our negotiations, the Managing Director, Will Wyatt, drove us to Los Angeles to the Mayflower Hotel. Will is an enormous man, gentle and charming. He took us to lunch and laughed at our accent.
We walked through downtown Los Angeles. It's pretty tawdry really, with accent on "girlie shows", loads of pornographic literature and ornaments on public display in the shop windows, and people everywhere all night apparently.
Disneyland was wonderful. Marvellous entertainment and everything in perfect taste. It is a demonstration that people can do and do enjoy, entertainment which does not include "off colour" varieties.
Australia could do with a Disneyland.
We went on most of the trips at Disneyland. They included a river steamer of Mark Twain days, a Santa Fe Express, and a mining train. Our favourites were "It's a Small World" and the Tiki Room. The former was a boat trip through many countries with animated dolls and animals all singing to the accompaniment of the music of "It's a Small World". The Tiki Room was unbelievable. It was built as a replica of a Pacific Island Room with over a hundred stuffed birds hanging from rafters and perches. Bunches of artificial flowers hung in baskets from the roof and the supporting beams and pillars were carved like Maori totems. The birds, flowers and totems gave a concert with beaks and petals opening in perfect time to the music. We were surprised that there is very little concession prices for children at Disneyland.
It rained on Sunday morning and we were both drenched going to Mass to a little church in the city. It was our first bad weather.
We arrived at Dallas, Texas on Sunday night, and were met by friends at the airport. We enjoyed their company at dinner at a "barn style" restaurant where "southern fried chicken" was a specialty. We were surprised that the "bus boys" - boys who clear the tables - were dressed as farm labourers of the past century. It seemed to us to be an insult to dress them up as morons or low-class labourers even though it had been done to accentuate the "Southern-style" restaurant.
After dinner, we went to the credit union league manager's home and renewed acquaintance with Jim Barry and wife, Marjorie. We had a lot of fun and were returned to our hotel about 12 at night.
We spent the next day in Dallas. I was working whilst Dorothy went visiting. We saw the spot where poor President Kennedy was shot and saw the window from which the assassin fired. The Texans are very conscious of the assassination and at least five people asked me whether Australians blamed the Texans. They all assured me that the assassin had, only lived in Dallas for one month and was not a Texan.
Dallas is a wonderful city, but is completely man-made. There are really no beauty spots as far as we could see. Everything built must be the biggest and the best. The place is riddled with wealth and at a small dinner at which I attended one of the guests gave my friend a $70 Stetson because he said that it wasn't quite comfortable.
One matter did make Dorothy and me smile a little. It was the fact that for no apparent reason, one of the main streets of Dallas just sank into the ground a month or so before we were there. Perhaps it may not be unusual for a street to collapse, but the amusing part to us was the Texans could find no reason for it and that makes them real mad. The sinking of the road adjoined a multi-million dollar building project, which has had to be suspended until the reason for the road collapse has been found. All the traffic through the centre of the city has had to be diverted and they can do nothing about it.
New Orleans was a city we liked a lot. We were there during final preparations for the Mardi Gras and saw some of the first processions, one of the Choctaw Indians.
It is really a beautiful city with wide streets and gracious homes of the deep South still being used and still being built.
The old French quarter is the big tourist attraction. It covers a large area of the city, and is preserved and restored as it was two hundred years ago. The little shops are all adorned with our own "Sydney Lace" grille work. The streets are cobblestones and the three-story shops and houses have their own courtyards filled with flowers and ferns.
The French quarter is a haven for beatniks and for artists and we bought some water colours from an artists in the Pirates Alley, a haunt of pirates a couple of centuries ago.
We also went through Bourbon Street, a street which makes Kings Cross look like a revivalist area of the old style. It is a most famous street in America and beside the "girlie" shows attracts the best jazz musicians in the world to appear in its clubs.
The coloured population of New Orleans appeared to us to almost outnumber the whites. We thought they seemed to treat one another as equals but we did not see one white girl or boy with a companion of a different colour. We noticed this because we noticed in Los Angeles that the young people appeared to mix together no matter what the colour of their skin. We may have gained the wrong impression, but this is how we found it.
We had trouble getting to Madison, our destination, because of the great snowfall at Chicago, so we went through Minneapolis where we spent a night at the airport and arrived to find Madison a beautiful fairyland covered with six inches of snow.
Madison is beautiful. It has four big lakes and some smaller ones, all of which are covered in ice at least twenty inches thick. The city has one of the largest universities in the world with a normal population of 35,000 to 40,000 students. The students come on scholarships from all over the world and the university has one of the best academic reputations in the United States. Last week a group of beatnik-type students, probably not more than 60 or 70, staged demonstrations with resultant bad publicity for the university.
At Madison I saw a small memorial plaque depicting the first radio station in the world. It went on the air in 1917, and is still in existence and I have been watching an interesting session each morning on the early days of Christianity.
On Sundays in Madison the children skate on the small pools and the older boys and girls spend their time in skiing in the surrounding districts. One sport which I really think is most tremendous if ice boating. These are sailboats which ski across the ice of speeds up to 75 miles per hour. Other locals chop holes in the ice and the great fat perch practically leap on to the fishing lines.
The Americans are the most courteous people to whom I have ever spoken. It is pleasant to be greeted by perfect strangers as a friend. If one speaks on the phone you feel also that they speak to you as a friend. Everybody appears to be courteous to one another if it is a business, then it is a friendly talking business.
Washington, the capital of the United States, is a city steeped in history and has a similar atmosphere to Canberra. We stopped there for a week during one of the biggest snowfalls which they had ever had, and it paralysed the city for a couple of days. My wife saw more than I because I was working, but we still saw lots of places together. We both went to the top of the Washington monument, a granite monolith 200 feet high. I took movies of Dorothy feeding a squirrel in front of the White House and she toured the White House.
We saw President Kennedy's grave and were told that on an average Saturday or Sunday 50,000 people visit the grave to pay their respects to him. Speaking of President Kennedy, everywhere we went in America we saw souvenirs of John Kennedy and his wife and family. They are not really sold as souvenirs, but as something to remind Americans of their late President. However, nowhere in America did we see more than one or two pictures of presidents other than John Kennedy. I'm told this causes a little embarrassment or hard feelings, but this is the position, the people still revere him. At one meeting I attended, 300 people stood after the meeting and sang "God Bless America" as a mark of respect to John Kennedy. I thought this was good.
We had trouble in New York, which is the most unfriendly city, perhaps one of the only unfriendly cities on the North American continent. We took a train from Washington to New York and arrived at the Pennsylvania station from which it took us a lot of effort and $9 to get to a hotel. You know if you don't tip in America you can expect to have your throat cut, but this night was too much.
When a coloured lad tried to charge me $1.50 to procure me a taxi I asked him how much his false teeth had cost him. He said he didn't have false teeth and I told him he would need them if he insisted on $1.50. He backed away fairly quickly.
We arrived just after the devastating storm which had paralysed Chicago. It was hard to imagine that one of the modern cities in the world, New York, could be in such trouble as the result of a snow storm, no matter how big. Snow was piled as high as 12 feet in some of the streets and cars had been covered not in snow, but in ice for as long as eight days when we got there. The filth of the snow in the city and its depth made walking extremely difficult, but it was by walking that we wished to see the city.
We had some fun even though it was cold. We walked into Times Square, which is extremely beautiful at night. It is just a fairyland of coloured moving lights. We though the Empire State Building was something which we should see and from the platform on the 100th floor we were able to see the whole panorama of New York and New Jersey with the Statue of Liberty showing up quite clearly in the bay. We went for a bus ride around Central Park and walked through St. Patrick's Cathedral. This is a most beautiful cathedral and each side of the cathedral is covered with small altars to various saints. It is a very large cathedral, but was quite dwarfed between the huge buildings on each side. We saw the Rockefeller Centre and children skating on the pool there. One thing which disgusted us in this wonderful country was the open display of the filthiest merchandise and pornographic literature on display in the shops in Times Square. It is difficult to understand why this is allowed and children of impressionable age would have little chance to resist this type of merchandise.
I think this is allowed because there is such an outcry here against any type of censorship, but of course this freedom not only gives liberty, it gives licence and I hope that such filth will never be available for sale in Australia.
We stopped at the Americana, which is a very nice hotel in New York. Whilst we were there one of the innumerable conventions was being held, this one was for dentists, I think.
The convention is an institution in American society and obviously much good can come from it through the exchange of ideas, but I rather think from looking at the mountains of luggage, golf sticks and the like, which many of the connectionists had with them, that considerable time is held in activities not for which a convention was instituted.
From New York Dorothy returned home travelling through and stopping at Mexico en route. For me, I am back at Madison working hard and learning more about credit unions and how they can benefit Australians.
At Madison the countryside is a white and beautiful fairyland & if it is strange and different to me it is a haunting strangeness with an appeal which few could resist.
I go from here to Canada for a special course, then to Mexico and to home.
I pen these thoughts in the hope that you may share with me some of the beauty of the country and the pleasure of meeting a warm and friendly people.
Just a few words from S.F.A.......
See you in Tamworth.......
Don’t forget the Diner and Reunion and book your bus seat now!!!