Jim Minn

Elizabeth Bowne's Trip Abroad

April 9, 1951



At 4;30AM the alarm went off.. I had been awake 30 minutes not having left yesterday as planned (because of bad weather all along the way and nowhere to land for gas). I was very anxious. Hugh drove me to the Air Terminal (we saw no cars this time of morning either in Central Park or on 5th Ave).
I left the Terminal by coach at 5:30. It was in the bus that I first began to get the feel of the trip. There is an odor about flying that’s different and I could smell it even in the bus – it’s hard to desrcibe—really more than a leather smell. Anyway after some doubt as to whether there would be “space available”, I finally boarded the plane at 7:00.
The roar of the motors as we took off sounded very good as it told me that at last the long wait was over and at least I was on the first leg of what I expect to be the grandest happiest experience imaginable.
The hour stop in Boston was spent mostly talking to the Kramers on the phone. Then about 3.5 hrs to Goose Bay—here I was so sleepy I stayed on the plane but actually slept very little because of the activity in the plane, cleaning etc.
Then the longest trip-7 hours, 30 min. to Shannon. Very little sleep! Hot chocolate in Shannon. Breakfast of fried potatoes, broiled tomatoes, sausage(?) and bacon, limp toast, marmalade, and hot tea. Called Allnuts. 3 hours non-stop to Frankfurt. Landed and found Frank was coming in from Berlin in 10 min. I was through customs and sitting in the waiting room when he found me. After he finished up details at the field (it was his last flight) we went to his room for me to sleep while he finished up errands, tickets, etc. After a short nap on the hardest bed I’ve ever seen I had a back ache and was very tired. We went out to dinner with some friends and then stayed that night at a hotel in town.
Next morning I slept late, had lunch and went with Frank to a little town (Oberrad) to get a part a man was making for his camera. There were chickens in the yard and the mans work shop was in a little building in the back. We went back by trolley. The weather was cold. We had dinner with friends. Drank a bottle of wine and left on the 10 p.m. train. We were traveling 2nd class but had a compartment to ourselves. We slept most of the night and arrived in Basel, Switzerland at 6 the next morning. The scenery all day as we crossed the Alps through Lucerne and into northern Italy was magnificent. It was a beautiful day!
At Lucerne, a middle aged couple from Boston got on. They were very nice and we enjoyed their company. They suggested that we should see Venice instead of going straight through to Rome. They got off in Milan and we stayed on, however, our ticket not reading Venice caused considerable confusion, especially for the conductor who didn’t understand any English. Finally in desperation, he went off through the train and came back with an elderly Norwegian lady who was conducting a tour of 30 Swedes through Italy. She could speak English so she got it all straightened out and proved to be very friendly and offered to help us out in Venice.
The trip from Frankfurt to Venice took about 20 hrs. When we arrived in Venice, (to them it’s Venezia) there was a great deal of confusion about getting a ticket on to Rome for later and baggage etc. Finally we were in a gondola along with Mrs. Iberson and her assistant, and the gondolier (a very sea-faring looking character). It is true that most of the streets are canals and many front doors open right out to the water. It was quite different and exciting, also cold. We got a room at a very old, stone cold dreary little hotel that had curved hallways and low doors. When we said “The room is cold” the potter said, “That’s because it’s cold outside. Hotels are never heated after the 15th of March because spring should begin then and it should be warm”! The bed was most uncomfortable, but we managed not to freeze even though we didn’t sleep very well.
Next day we moved to another hotel which was slightly better. Venice proved to be very interesting. One of the things we enjoyed most was visiting the glass factory and watching the world famous Venetian glass being made. We also saw a very old church’s lace being made by girls in a Catholic school, and lots of artichokes growing. The center of Venice is a large brick square surrounded by nice shops and restaurants with sidewalk cafes, extending into the square, each with their own little orchestra. The palace of the former province of Venezia, an ornate old church, the water front, etc., are all impressive.
The second day we left the hotel for the r.r. station and the porter asked if we wished to go by boat or by gondola. Those are the only means of travel. There are no cars or buses. The most amusing instance in Venice was when we were told that a good restaurant was around the corner from the church. After going about a block and not finding it, we asked a porter for directions. He said he would show us and that began about 1/4 mile trip through most of the streets which aren’t canals. Down narrow passageways, curved streets, around corners, and our guide walked so fast he usually had to come back to the corner and motion for us to keep following. We finally did arrive at the right restaurant but we still wonder if we were taken around about way or if the person who suggested the restaurant has a poor sense of distance. Anyway, we had a delicious meal of broiled shrimp (about 4 times bigger than our shrimp).
The trip down to Rome was lovely, through the Appenines. We saw many grape wines and olive trees which have silver-green leaves. We had a typical Italian meal on the train which proved to be similar to all the meals we had in Italy. First, you have a starch course (either rice, noodles, spaghetti, or macaroni). In the best restaurant this course is preceded by an hors d’ourves course and a soup course. Anyway, after the starch comes fish or meat and green salad and artichokes with hard rolls and wine. Then some kind of fancy cake, then cheese, then fresh fruit, then coffee or tea. It’s almost impossible to get the latter until you have finished everything else.
We arrived in Rome late in the afternoon and found a hotel near the station and center of town. The station is new (started just before the last war and finished a few months ago. It is very modern and the largest one I’ve seen outside of N.Y.) Traveling on an international train can be very interesting. People from all different countries and walks of life. Our table in the dining car for instance—we all finished eating at the same time—the English woman put her knife and fork straight up and down her plate—the French man crossed his in the center of his plate and we of course put ours across our plates, all having done of course what they had been taught was “correct”.
We enjoyed our stay in Rome very much. There is probably more to see there than anywhere we have ever been. Sunday we went on a tour which included St. Peters during church time. There were large crowds, and the church is just as impressive as I’ve always heard. During our stay in Rome we used 2 days for 4 tours and saw among many other things the following- (There are 120 fountains in Rome, and we must have seen 1/2 of them) They are beautiful. Also many statues in and out of museums. Temple of Neptune, Pantheon, Tiber River, Palace of Justice, Vatican Museum, and Galleries (here we saw Michelangelo and Raphael originals). It was a most wonderful place where one could spend days. Sistine Chapel, Galleries of Tapestries and Maps, Villa Borghese, Opera House, St. Mary Major and St. John Churches, The Holy Stairs, the Old Appian Way (here we arrived just in time to see the finish of a bicycle race) Catacombs (which we went through with a lighted candle and led by a monk). The Aqueducts of Claudius and Nero, the place where Nero played his fiddle while Rome burned. Church of the Capuchin Monks, Borghese Picture Gallery and Museum, Viers of Rome, and it’s 7 hills. Roman City Walls, Colosseum, Statue of Moses by Michaelangelo, St. Pauls church, Palace of the Caesars, Roman Forum, Arch of Titus, Temple of Romulus, Monument to King Victor Emanuel II (This is most ornate and impressive in white marble, and the largest monument I’ve ever seen). We tried to see an opera while in Rome but none were on for those few days.
On Wed. we left on a 3 day bus tour. It took most of the a.m. to drive to Naples. We stopped once along the way at a hotel in Founia with a terrace overlooking the water—a beautiful spot. As was typical of the people on the tour (about 25) the following things were ordered: coca cola, coffee, tea, wine, cognac, cocoa and a liquor. And with these everyone had a salami sandwich made with very coarse bread. In Naples we were put up at a nice hotel, our room had a balcony over-looking an old fort on a hill right on the Mediterranean Sea. That afternoon we went on a local tour. It was a beautiful ride and very interesting as we went up into an old crater that had a new eruption several years ago and 3 or 4 newer ones more recently. We walked right across the old crust and the guide picked up a large stone and dropped it so we could hear how hollow the earth beneath us was. Then we went right up to the edge of the volcano and looked into the bubbling lava which looks like thick black mud and was 500 degrees. There is a terrible sulphur odor and to show how real the fumes were the guide blew at the flame of his lighter and the rocks near by began to smoke. When he put a lighted piece of paper near a hole where fumes were most prevalent they put the fire out. There was lots of bush and wild flowers growing on the crust of the crater which was about 1 mile wide.
When we returned from the tour we decided not to eat dinner at the hotel as I had found a bug in my spinach at lunch, so we took a carriage down the water front to a restaurant right on the water. When we arrived the driver demanded more than he had quoted us and we called over a local cop standing near by also a U.S. Navy Shore Police. This upset the driver considerably and he quickly agreed to take the original price and departed. The cop and the S.P. were very nice and walked with us to the restaurant and stayed awhile to chat. For dinner we had clam soup which was brought to us in very large bowls as it contained, along with a rich soup, the whole clams in the shells. I enjoyed mine very much but Frank only ate about half of his. I later found out that it was because he had found a bug in it. Then we had a steamed fish which would have been good except that they let it get cold while they were heating the butter to go on it. We walked back to the hotel stopping at a jewelry shop to look at the lovely coral. We were followed by the carriage driver trying to get us to ride with him again.
The next morning we left by bus early and visited Pompeii. It was destroyed twice- in 63 and again in 79- both times by earthquakes caused by volcano eruptions. It was a town of about 25,000 and was buried under 75’ of ashes and stone. Most of it has been dug out and is very interesting. All sorts of things were found. Gold jewelry, pottery, glass, paintings on walls, lead plumbing, even loaves of bread were hardened like rock instead of decaying. Bodies were decayed but the bones were so intact that they could tell the position in which they died, with hands over nose and eyes to protect them from the fumes. After spending several hours walking around there and not nearly seeing everything we went on to a village and visited a coral factory. There we watched cameos being made. The fine craftmanship of this work and the products they turned out was well worth seeing. From there we drove into the mountains we saw Salerno (important battleground of the last war). We could see the Sea all the time as we wound around 1100 curves in the mountains along the Amalfi Drive.
We arrived in the town of Amalfi for lunch and went up about 6 stories in an elevator and walked up about 3 more to the top of a hill and an old hotel which used to be a monastery. The view was beautiful—but it had been beautiful all day. A bright sunny day with clear blue water on one side and steep slopes and valleys covered with lemon trees heavily laden with orange- size lemons, olive trees, grape vines and wisteria in full bloom. From Amalfi we drove on to Sorrento, arriving there before dark and were escorted to a lovely old hotel which had a court yard full of well tended flowers on one side and a cliff which went straight down about 400 ft. to the water on the other side. We had a room on the 5th floor which we had to walk up long wide marble staircases to get to. We visited a local shop and found they specialized in inlaid woods and have made linens and had the most beautiful things! Back at the hotel we sat for hours on the terrace overlooking the water and with binoculars watched fishermen coming in and going out; the sunset, and felt the general peace and quiet possible in the world.
Next morning we went down to the water in an elevator and by row-boat to the main dock where we caught a steamboat to Capri. Despite the lovely ride and the music that was played, some people were sea sick, including a few sailors. The trip took 40 min., right after docking we went by row-boat to see the Blue Grotto- which is a cave under a 600 ft. cliff with the only entrance from the Sea a small hole just big enough for a row-boat with the occupants on the bottom of the boat to go through. Inside the roof of the cave is about 20’ and the water about 65’ deep. The sun coming through the small entrance lights it up amazingly well and the water looks a very pale blue. After coming back to the dock we went by car to Anacapri, a village high up in the mountains, for lunch. Afterwards we saw the Villa of San Michele where Axel Munthe lived among some ancient ruins of a fort constructed by the Emperor Tiberius, and where he wrote the Story of San Michele. Then we went back down to Capri and basked in the sun for several hours until time to take the boat back to Naples. It was about a 21/2 hour ride and we had a grand view of Vesuvius (which isn’t even smoking now) also the U.S. carrier “Roosevelt” (which isn’t smoking either).
When we arrived in Naples we went to the railroad station and took the evening express back to Rome. We met a very nice Italian who spoke perfect English and with whom we enjoyed an interesting discussion about the last war. Also he taught us at dinner that we should always take a bite of bread before a sip of wine. “It improves the flavor.” We spent the night in Rome and left the next morning by British European Airways (of all things) and after about 2 hours, a bite to eat and a spot of tea we landed in Nice, France. On the French Riveria and really lovely. After getting a room we went for a walk along the board walk and saw people swimming and sunning, but were surprised that the beach was rocky instead of sandy. We took a helicopter ride along the coast and got quite a thrill out of it. Later we took a bus to Monte Carlo. So far I believe it’s the most beautiful spot in the world. Flowers, lovely houses, cars, the latest fashions and the best dressed people from all over. The famous Casino is very ornate on the outside. We didn’t go in. We walked around town and ate dinner at a little restaurant that didn’t look so fancy but had wonderful food. There was a full moon and after a walk through the park we took a bus back to Nice.
Next morning we left the hotel by taxi and then by P.A.A. when all had been taken care of to get us a 15% fare ticket from there to Lisbon. Frank hadn’t gotten it previously as we had thought we ma take a boat from Naples to Lisbon. However when that proved impossible the plane worked out fine. We landed in Lisbon early in the afternoon. The Co. helped us get a hotel room and when we told the porter to take our bags and get us a taxi he did- however another taxi came up first and the driver started putting our bags in his trunk. This made the porter and the driver he had called mad and they proceeded to take our bags out of the first taxi, as fast as the driver put them in, and transfer them to the second taxi. This all resulted in the loudest telling-off in Portugese, of which we understood nothing except that we were in the middle of what looked like a small riot. Finally our driver, with us trying to look inconspicuous in the back seat, took off in such furor that he forgot to start his meter until he had gone over a mile.
After we got settled in the hotel whose lobby was on the 4th floor, and our room had the first wooden floor we had seen for some time, also very brightly decorated in red; we went for a walk and then took a taxi to a grand restaurant for dinner. It was very ornate inside with much gold leaf and paintings etc. Only one of the waiters spoke English but we ordered a delicious meal. It had been recommended as the best restaurant in Lisbon and one of the best in Europe. This proved to be true both in food and in price. (We had eaten at one especially nice restaurant in Rome. The owner dressed just like the waiters and served the food with great gusto to every customer. When a crepe suzette was ordered he brought it out with the flames high, the lights off and the musicians playing like mad.)
Getting back to Lisbon, the next morning Frank had to get his visa for South Africa so I stayed in bed late. After lunch we took a taxi and drove to the top of the highest hill to see an old fort and a wonderful view of Lisbon. Then we drove down and went to the train station. Portugal didn’t suffer any from the war in fact they made money and we saw very little poverty, no black market and were favorably impressed, over Italy, of general good conditions. The toilet paper was the nearest like American we had seen, and there was soap in the bath rooms, even though it was chained to the sink.
That afternoon we took the train, a 30 minute ride to Estoril, the lovely beach spot and casino for Lisbon. It was equally as pretty as many spots in Italy and we saw more flowers in the park leading up to the casino than I’ve ever seen anywhere. It was many times as big as the one in Rockfeller Center. We spent the rest of the afternoon, walking, sitting on park benches, taking pictures and sipping tea on a terrace overlooking the beach. We took a train back to Lisbon and got to bed early as the next leg of our trip would be the longest.
Next morning we left about 10:30 and about 6 hours later after flying along the West African coast and over the Sahara Desert which even with binoculars proved to be nothing but sand (no sign of the least bit of vegetation); we landed at Dakar, Senegal, for 1 hour. Here we saw the blackest boys dressed in white. It was about 80 degrees and there was an odor of damp humid surroundings. We were served something to drink and just lounged around. Our next stop was 3 hours later at Monrovia, Liberia, for another 1 hour stop. It was dark by then so we couldn’t see the jungle. We were served cold coca cola which tasted grand. It was a cool evening for there (down to about 90 degrees). Here again we were waited on very black boys in very white clothes who lined up on the ramp ready to descend on the airplane to give it the once over. Frank thinks they are dressed in white not to repel the sun but so they won’t be hit by airplane propellers at night. About 4 hours later we landed at Accra, Gold Coast. The restaurant there is very nice, like a club room attractively decorated. This is the British Dominion that has the richest gold mines in the world. (We were told that Monrovia was principally a Firestone Rubber plantation).
From Accra it took the rest of the night about 6 hours and across the Equator to Leopoldville, Belgium Congo. We had breakfast at the restaurant there. Ham and eggs, hard rolls and tea. It was very hot but there was a great deal of activity. Before we could get out of the plane the health officer came aboard and sprayed the plane then examined everyone’s yellow fever certificate.
Here I saw the first native woman dressed in varied color materials carrying a baby on her back. I was to see many others later. The only time babies are carried any other way is at nursing time when they are strapped on the front. We left in about an hour, and even so early it was obvious that it was going to be a very hot day. It took us 7 hours to Johannesburg. We were surprised that after we got away from the equator the land is mostly plains with only patches of trees here and there. Johannesburg is built on a plateau 6,000 ft. above sea level, as we approached the city we saw large hills of white which are the slag dumps from the gold mines. It was late in the afternoon and very clear when we landed and the land was flat and it seemed that we could see in every direction for miles. The weather was perfect-the warmth of the sun and yet slightly cool air so that we felt neither hot or cold but “just right”. The P.A.A. station manager got a room for us at the Luthjes Langham Hotel and drove us into town. We had dinner in the hotel dining room which is very nice. Here you can order anything a-la-carte but the dinner which is 10/6 or less than $1.50 and is 6 or 8 courses with variations in every course. One can eat some of everything on the menu (if he can hold it) and it’s still the same price. You don’t get a bill with a dozen items to pay for as is so often the case in Italy. Also no service charge is added and you are expected to tip very little. We had a delicious dinner and went to bed. It had been a very long trip.
Our first impressions of Johannesburg-its new and more American than any place we had seen. People are pleasant, friendly, alert, and progressive and interested in America. There are many American cars and other such imports. The main subject of conversation is politics, and the main problem is the racial issue. In all the Union of South Africa there are only about 2,000,000 whites, and about 1,000,000 colored people (these are the half breeds-mixture of white, various nationalities, and black) and over 9,000,000 natives. There is at least one murder in the paper every day-often more. The white group is divided in 2 groups-the African (mostly descendants of the Dutch), and the English (mostly from Britain). The Africans are now in power and are very nationalistic and against everything liberal, progressive, British, or helpful to the natives. The languages spoken are English (with a British accent), African (which is a bad Dutch), and each native tribe has it’s own language. The money is S.A. pounds, same value as English pounds as it’s in the British Commonwealth. There is an Anti British feeling and a mixed feeling about America- but everyone wants to at least see it.
On Thursday morning we walked about town and stopped at the City Hall to see Pamela Solarsh (sister of a friend in N.Y.) who is secretary to the mayor. She was very nice and invited us to her apartment for the evening. We spent most of the afternoon relaxing in the sun and she picked us up after dinner in her little British Ford. She lives in a 4 room apartment in a modern apartment building with her mother and her sister, Fay. However that evening they had various friends in and another sister who has the unlikely name of Tamara. It was a very nice evening and they served tea and cakes. The furniture was rather conventional and the decorations rather drab-strictly a British influence.
Friday morning we went to Pam’s office for tea at 11:30. She works from 8 to 5, 5 days a week, but has tea at 9:30 and 11:30, lunch from 1 to 2, tea again at 4. Of course salaries are much less here but so are prices. Friday afternoon we made arrangements about a trip on Monday into the Game Reserve. Friday night we went to a movie. Movies are very popular here, there are only 2 showings a day and certain seats are bought instead of general admission. There are a great many theaters and they are usually full. Saturday morning we went to (of all places) the zoo. It is very pretty, trees, flowers, etc. and beautifully kept. We walked around making a mental note of all the animals we should see in the Reserve, and later Pam and Fay joined us for lunch at the Zoo Lake restaurant. This was another lovely spot and after they left us Frank got some exercise rowing us around the lake. Later we laid on the grass in the sun until time to take a bus back to town. Our travels had been so rushed up to now it was wonderful to just take life completely easy. After dinner that evening we went to see the University Players in “The Lady is Not For Burning”. It was very good! Afterwards Pam and her friend, Gerard, picked us up and took us for a drive to North Cliff where we got a grand view of the city lights. We went to a club there for something to eat. I had a fruit ice cream dish which had “passion fruit” just on it, also______to drink.
Sunday morning, Fay and her friend Charles picked us up and we went to Durban Deep mines to see the native dances. Each of the various gold mines provide a small arena and most every Sunday there are dances at one of the mines. The different tribes that work in one mine dress in their native dance costumes and dance their special kind of ceremonial dances, with or perhaps without musical accompaniment. These instruments are home-made and crude. Drums are made out of hollowed logs with goat skin stretched over the ends, a xylophone type instrument and a flute are the most popular. Also jingling things are usually tied to their legs. All the dances were too different and too spectacular to describe but they were very energetic, and required amazing stamina and muscle control. The average native miner is fairly tall and has a wonderfully built body, he has no beard or any hair except very short kinks on top. Some let it grow longer and dye it with red clay or plait it in many tiny plaits, but most look as if they have just shaved their heads. I hope Frank’s color pictures of the dances come out well, as they were most colorful. Afterward we went back to Fay’s and she and Pam took us in their car to the Bar-b-que Ranch for lunch. This is a delightful spot where people go for the weekend or just for lunch or the day. It’s vaguely like a dude ranch out west. There are horses to ride, an orchestra, dancing on the terrace, large fireplaces, a rustic effect, thatched roof huts for overnight guests, native girls wearing only a heavy wool blanket and wide gold bands around their necks and legs, making bead work. After lunch we drove to Pretoria, capitol of S.A. near there we went to see the Vortrekker monument, which was built in honor of the African’s who moved north from Capetown when the British took over S.A. and thus developed more of the country, discovered gold etc. Actually it’s a symbol of racial hatred as it’s a constant reminder to the Africans of their real reasons for hating the British. Afterwards we drove back to the hotel for dinner and then we went to bed early.
Monday morning at 8:15 we were picked up by our guide (whose name is Noel Coward). He is a tall, nice looking young fellow with red hair. Then we picked up the other passengers a Swedish fellow and his mother whose name is Andrason. The mother spoke no English, so she said very little the entire trip. The man spoke a little English, Noel was of British descent and we all got along nicely. We went north, and as we decended to near sea level it was hot and hard to stay awake. The first rest stop was in Pretoria where we saw the government buildings etc. and went on the Machadodorp for lunch. Native children along the road will dance when they see a car coming to try to get people to throw them pennies. We arrived at the Mtimba Gate entrance to the Kruger National Park, late in the afternoon. The Park is about 300 miles long and 40 miles wide only the lower part of it being open this time of year. The rest opens 15 of May as winter begins then and its cool enough for people to enjoy seeing it. The park has no fence around it but very few animals stray out of it as they are safe from being killed by people; in the Park, nature takes its course and each animal either eats grass or bush or another animal. We drove around about an hour the afternoon we arrived and saw gnus, impala (antelope), kudu, jackals, hyena, etc. The Pretorius Kop rest camp is a group of little thatched roof huts with a fence around them. The gate closes at 6 p.m. and every one had better be in the enclosure by then. In other words it’s not the animals but the people who are fenced in. No one is supposed to get out of the car outside the enclosures, as one never knows what’s behind the nearest bush. Actually the terrain looks very harmless. It isn’t thick jungle as I expected but instead fairly flat country with a hill here and there, few big trees, sparse brush, and a good deal of high (2 or 3 feet) grass. There are only narrow dirt roads that criss-cross all over the park.
Our thatched roof hut which was round had a Dutch door, one window (no screen, as very little danger of malaria) 2 cots, one table, 2 camp chairs, a small round wash stand which just held a bowl on top, a pitcher of water on the shelf underneath, and had a little pot under the stand. There was an electric light which hung from the roof, which was turned off at 10 p.m., and a lantern. The huts were built in a circle with a wood stove and table and benches in the center, for people who wished to do their own cooking. The bath house, the dining room and the little curio shop were across the circle from us. After a nice diner which is served only between 7 and 8, we looked around in the shop. It had everything from coca cola, to books, native wood and ivory carvings and skins. We went to bed about 9:00.
Tuesday morning we were up and having a cup of tea at 5:30. The gates opened at 6 and all the cars in camp (about 10) were waiting to dash out in the direction that we had heard a lion roar about 5:15. We couldn’t seem to spot him however and so drove on toward the Sabie River. Our driver spotted a lion crossing the road about 100 yards ahead and we rushed up and got a fine view of him before he went into the bush. Then we went on and Frank spotted a giraffe so close to the road that we almost missed him. His legs looking like small tree trunks near by. The driver stopped so quickly when Frank called out I think it frightened the giraffe and he quickly disappeared. Near the river a native stays, (going to work on a bicycle) with a rifle. He leads people down a narrow path beating the bushes on either side with a stick, watching for snakes: to the river to see the Hippopotamuses. We saw 8 crowded together, with just their backs and heads out of the water. Other things we saw that morning were bustards, a cobra, eagles, another lion, lizards (2 feet long), antelope, and baboons. It got very hot by noon and we returned to camp for lunch. After lunch we rested until 4 as it was still too hot to be out. The Swedish people didn’t go out with us that afternoon but Frank and I wanted every possible minute to look as we found it very exciting. We met one car on the road and asked what they had seen and they said “nothing down that road”. We drove on however and less than 1/2 mile I spotted a lioness lying in the sun on a large rock. We had an excellent view of her and she made no move. We watched her for a long time and then drove on. Later we saw a lioness on the prowl. A herd of wilderbeast were annoying her as they would run toward her to tempt her and then run quickly away. She didn’t try to catch them as they are much too fast for her. The impalas are the most prevalent, but they are also fast and a lioness’ best chance of getting her meat is to slip up on her prey and leap on it from behind. It would have been exciting to have seen her make her catch but I’m not sure I would have liked it so it’s probably just as well that she wandered out of sight. On the way back to camp as we came around a curve we saw a large lion right by the road but he raced away after only one look at us. Also that afternoon we saw a cobra in the road, which held its head up nicely for Frank to take a picture. But the black shiny thing made my blood run cold. Again that night after dinner everyone went to bed early. However I didn’t sleep too well as someone had told me at dinner that thatched roofs are favorite places of cobras.
Next morning we were again out of the gates by 6:00 and one of the first things we saw was 3 cheetahs having their breakfast on an impala. We were very lucky to see these as it isn’t often that anyone sees the animals eating and even less often that cheetahs are seen. It was made even more exciting by the fact that 2 jackals were very anxious to share the remains and were constantly chased away by one of the cheetahs. Later on another road, many cars were lined up watching 4 lionesses and a lion sitting together. We didn’t have a very good view as we were the last car so Frank was sitting in the window looking across the top of the car with binoculars. I had just remarked how interesting it would be if another lion appeared from behind, when one walked out of the bush not 50 feet away. Frank scrambled into the car but got some close-ups of the big fellow as he crossed the road right behind our car. About 2 minutes later another lion came from behind the same group of bushes and crossed at the same place. The other 5 that had been together got up to follow but by that time there was such a mad scramble of all the cars coming down to where we were that it was impossible for them to cross there and they all went off in another direction. In all, while in the Park, we saw 12 lions. I was most anxious to see an elephant so we went in search of them in the section where they are usually found. However all we saw was some of the largest trees in the Park which had been pushed over by elephants. The obviously just like to test their own strength. Our guide was not too anxious for us to find one, however, as there have been cases where a curious elephant put a foot up on the hood of a car and smashed the whole thing in.
About 8:30 we went back to camp for breakfast and to get our baggage and then drove around another hour or so; ran over a mamba in the road, saw many more of the birds and animals we had seen. It’s only during the heat of the day that you drove over a mile or 2 without seeing some animal. We drove on out of the Park over a few hills to the Sabi River Bungalows, a most delightful spot, for lunch and the rest of the day and night. There was a beautiful, leisurely atmosphere about this place that was most intoxicating. We would have loved to have stayed here for ages! Again we had a round hut with a thatched roof, but furnished more “elegantly” than the one in the camp. Also this had a bath attached. However the funny thing about the bathroom was that it had a tub and a lavatory but no toilet. Those were all in another building a short walk from us. We strolled about and down by the river we found a tree with green fruit about the size of large oranges. Noel climbed the tree and picked 2. We broke one open and it smelled like a melon. We took the other one back to camp with us and found that they were called “monkey apples”. It’s so hard I doubt that a monkey could bite into it. We spent most of the rest of the afternoon playing ball with it. That evening we danced awhile to music from some very old records.
Next a.m. we left about 8:30 and drove along rather uninteresting dirt roads until we arrived at Tzaneen for lunch. This is a small town, but we got a good lunch at the old fashion boarding house hotel. From there we were in the hills all afternoon and the scenery was pretty. We saw sub-tropical fruit trees growing and some farming. Early in the afternoon we arrived at Magoeba’s Kloop, which is a hotel situated on the top of a mountain and is a lovely quiet place with a beautiful view.
Next day we returned to Johannesburg in a larger car, with 3 English and 1 Irish lady, and a different driver. During the morning we passed quite a few farms which had peanuts growing. I remarked that I would like to see a bunch to see if they were like GA peanuts, so the driver stopped the car and climbed the fence and had pulled up a bunch when another car stopped and an old farmer with a big mustache, a 10 gal. Hat and khaki clothes got out and said it was his farm and wanted to know what we were up to. The guide explained and he was delighted to meet some Americans and asked us all to come home with him for morning tea. We accepted and were delighted with the experience. He showed us all around his farm-his new banana trees-which I didn’t know before only bear one bunch of bananas per tree and then have to be cut down so the roots will give more life to the new sprouts, which comes up and bear their bunch after about 2 years. He also had avocado, mango, and paw-paw(papaya) trees to name a few. He pays his native help about 15 cents a day for stacking peanuts, then when they are dry about 50 cents per large bag for picking them off the vine. He had a new peanut shelling machine of which he was very proud. After we saw his farm, and his family and we had tea, he gave me a bag of peanuts and we were on our way again . Another instance of interest was when the car in front of us hit a bush-buck which dashed across the road. Our guide killed it and brought it home with him in a large bag on top of his car. “Wonderful venison” he said. Later we stopped and the guide asked a native girl if Frank could take some pictures of her. She was shy of Frank’s camera with the telephoto lens nearly frightened her away, but we were able to coax her back with some money and candies. We were very tired when we arrived back in Johannesburgh so went to bed early.
Next morning we had some errands to do in the morning and then we went to the Zoo Lake Restaurant for lunch and after a restful afternoon of rowing around the lake and lying in the sun, Pam and Fay joined us for tea and then drove us around to sightsee. We had dinner at the Ballilaca, a lovely night spot in the suburbs. Then we came back to the hotel as Frank had to pack to leave the next day. We went to the airport on the Pan Am bus next morning at 8:30. There was no chance of my getting on and Frank was going as extra crew. Pam and Fay were to come out to see him off but they didn’t arrive until the plane had already taxied out. However they brought me back to town and really kept me busy all day. First we drove up to North Cliff, one of the very nicest sections to a beautiful home where Fay saw a friend about having her maid make some bead earrings for her. This lady suggested we stop to see her daughter whom Fay knows and who lived near by. She had a lovely modern home built on the side of a hill and a lovely view. They were also obviously wealthy. The wife wanted to come to America but her husband wouldn’t let her as he dislikes America very much and definitely had some communist ideas. One was that America would certainly start a 3rd World War, otherwise we would have an economic collapse because we couldn’t successfully slow up production! Anyway, they served us lemon squash, (a soft drink) and we left before I completely lost my temper. Next we went to Pam and Fay’s where we had delicious steak for lunch. Then at 1:00 Fay and I took her mother to a Hebrew wedding. I was fascinated by the synagogue, the chanting, the music, the fact everyone stood up the entire time and all the men kept their hats on, including the groom. Afterwards we went to the reception which was held at a large banquet hall. The place was filled with beautifully decorated tables, a dance floor and an orchestra. To eat, we had sandwiches, cakes, cookies, candy, fruit, orangeade, champagne, and a delicious congealed cream dessert and tea. It was all most elaborate and there must have been at least 500 people there. The thing that amazed me most was that the men all put on their hats before the rabbi prayed but continued to eat and talk while he was praying. Later he chanted, then the girls father chanted and Fay said to me “Let’s go before all the speeches and ceremony starts”. So we left her mother there and went out of town to the most gorgeous estate where we had been invited for tea. The people were very nice and everything was very elegant indeed! The tea table cloth was beautiful linen embroidered flowers all over it. After tea Fay showed me around the grounds and we saw the younger son’s (21) new English Convertible which he carefreely drives about at 100 miles per hour.
After we left this lovely place and queer assortment of guests Fay and I went to a cocktail party a family was having for their daughter to announce her engagement. Here we had more to eat. After that we went back to the apartment where Pam had fixed dinner but Fay and I couldn’t eat a bite. After a rest and the others had finished dinner we all went to Gerard’s home for the evening. Gerard is Pamala’s friend who lives with his parents in a lovely home overlooking the park and lake. His business is making South African phonograph records and he gave Frank and me a set of native music. They invite friends in every Sunday evening and show a movie. That night they had a British one with James Mason. Afterwards an elaborate evening tea was served. Delicious and tempting cakes and warm from the oven. I guess the servants had been baking them while we were watching the movie. Everyone here has at least one servant! It was really a full day. I don’t think I ever did as much or ate as much in one day as I did that Sunday.
Monday morning Fay told her boss that I’d like to visit his factory so he invited me to come and he took me on a conducted tour of the whole place. It’s actually more than one factory. They make rubber boots and tennis shoes, and tents and all sort of canvas goods, also various other weaving such as bedspreads etc. It was all most interesting as I had never visited a factory of that type. After the tour I had tea and a nice chat with Mr. Wrighton in his new office. Then as it was nearly lunch time I stayed and shared Fay’s lunch. All the girls sit together on the grass in front of the factory to eat their lunch. I had dinner alone that night and went to bed early.
Next morning at 7:20 Mrs. Solash and another one of her daughters and I went in a party of about 15 other people on a tour of a gold mine. It was an hours drive to the mine and when the cage (which is triple decked) came up to take us down our feeling of uneasiness mounted by the unloading of a stretcher case. Before going down we were all outfitted with a coverall, heavy shoes, a rubber belt with a battery attached and the cord going up to a light which was attached to a metal helmet. Each group of five had a guide and we went down about 3,000 feet and walked about 2 miles underground; we learned about the different formation of rock, how it was extracted, the whole system of what happens underground. It seemed fantastic that much work would be necessary to only get 6 pennyweight of gold out of every ton of rock. But we hadn’t seen anything yet-the refinery process is last, the sorting and crushing and recrushing of the rock and then the soaking in various solutions, washing , draining, mixing, baking, etc., takes dozens of buildings and acres of land and finally we saw a gold brick weighing 60 lbs and worth about $33,600. Next we visited the compound and saw the living conditions of the worker, both native and white. The natives live about 18 to a room in cement bunk houses and use a couple of thin blankets to sleep on. There is a center wood stove which they keep a fire in all year. There are ventilation openings but no windows. Every effort is made to keep the natives healthy but they hate vegetables and to get them to eat them they grind them up and make a stew with meat. There is a porridge made of corn meal and a fermented corn milk. This is their main diet and several times a week they get raw meat to cook on their own stoves and some “Kaffir beer” which is also made from corn. Everything is steam cooked in large vats in a huge kitchen. There is a hospital and classes in First Aid, also an outdoor theater for their dances and a movie once a week. All this is free and their salary is between $4 and $8 a month. Then we saw the club house and recreational facilities for the whites. They were lovely and we had a delicious lunch there as guests of the Mining Co.
We arrived back in town late in the afternoon and that evening Fay and I went to see the Italian Opera Company in Il Traviatore. It was excellent, the singing very good and I felt that it made up for having missed seeing an opera in Italy. Afterwards we had tea in “His majesties cellar” which looks just what the names suggests.
Wednesday morning, I went to P.A.A. office and was told I could get on Thursday flight as far as Roberts Field, Monrovia, Liberia and I’d have to take the chance of getting out of there. I had lunch with Pam in the staff dining room in the City Hall. I rested in the afternoon and took a taxi to their apartment for dinner. Afterwards Fay and I went to see “Quartet” which was very good. I packed when I got back to the hotel and got to bed about 12.
Thursday morning I had breakfast in my room at 7 and took the P.A.A. bus from the town terminal at 8:20. Pam and Fay saw me off. Mr. Orr, station manager, who had been so nice to us, was taken to the hospital with pneumonia , so I didn’t get to say goodbye to him. The plane left at 10 a.m. and 2 of the crew, I had met on the mine tour. It was 7 hours to Leopoldville and it was very hot there, just before we left there it began to rain. We made a dash for the plane and all got wet. It had stopped before we took off. A lady got on there whom I met later and who was a Presbyterian Missionary there in the Belgium Congo, form the Southern Presbytery. Our next stop was Accra. It was night then and there was a dance going on at the hotel. We were served orange squash (I was dying for a coke, it was so hot). When we left there a British fellow had gotten on there and had the seat next to me. He worked for Soconey Vacuum there and was very interesting. We discussed everything from the weather there to the British foreign policy in China. I was awake most of the night worrying about whether I’d get all the way through. After we left Roberts Field, the Captain told me he had trouble talking the station manager there into letting me stay on, and he was afraid there would be even more trouble out of Dakar. But he was able to manage it and I stayed on.
We arrived in Lisbon about 2 p.m. and learned there would be a delay to fix an engine, so P.A.A. chartered a bus and took us all on a tour of Lisbon. It took about 2 hours and I saw many things I hadn’t seen before. These included a lovely new stadium, old church, a museum, and a collection of old royal carriages. When we returned to the airport the plane still wasn’t ready so we had dinner at the restaurant there. We finally left about 6:30. Our next stop was at Santa Maria, Azores. We had tea and after an hour left. Everyone was very tired by now, even the people who had gotten on in Lisbon. Next stop was an unscheduled one in Gander- more engine trouble and couldn’t make N.Y. We had to wait there for several hours until planes came through from London and Frankfurt. Then they divided us and transferred us to those planes. I had a seat in the downstairs lounge with 14 other people. The other plane scheduled to stop in Boston left first and I gave the Missionary some change and asked her to call Frank when they landed in N.Y. and tell him to meet the next plane. However when we landed in N.Y. 4 hours later, I found that the other plane had been delayed in Boston so Frank wasn’t there to meet me. It was over an hour getting through customs before I could call him. He said if I had called a minute later he wouldn’t have been home, as he was about to go out for several hours. He came right out for me. We were so glad to be home together!
About the time we got home the phone rang and it was a reporter from Associated Press wanting to know if I had met Mrs. Pearl Mesta (U.S. Ambassador to Luxemburg) on the plane down from Gander. I had not met her but realized she was someone important as she was photographed when she stepped off the plane. Then he told me why he had called me. Mrs. Mesta had given up her berth so as to make room for 2 other girls and myself, traveling on vacation tickets, who would otherwise have been left in Gander, because of a lack of enough seats. He wanted to know if I knew this and had met her and what my reaction to her had been. I was sorry to be no help and even sorrier I hadn’t met her. I could only reflect what a variety of interesting things happen on vacations!