“O WHAT A LIFE”
Continuation of excerpts from the diary of John Barclay MAYON on his 1939 visit to his 80 year old mother for the first time since they emigrated from Liverpool UK in 1910, he to Sydney and his mother to Vancouver BC.
My stay in Vancouver came to an end on August 30 when I set sail again – headed for Australia aboard the SS Aorangi after the saddest part of my trip, having the say Goodbye to my 80 year old mother knowing I would not see her again – but worth it because of the pleasure of seeing her again after 30 years. God Bless Her. The boat cleared the wharf at 10.45 am after bidding farewell to a great number of friends both old and new. After a pleasant journey through the narrows, Victoria, Vancouver Island, was reached at 4.30pm. I was met at the boat by my nephew and niece, also my old cabin mate on the outward trip. Just enough time was available to run into town and have dinner and back to the boat to sail again at 6.30pm. The remaining hours of daylight was very pleasant sailing through the Straits of Juan-de-Fuca then to bed after a very eventful day. August 31 was spent mainly getting to know the passengers and this juncture I do not think that they will be as happy a crowd as the ones on the “Niagara”. The “Aorangi” is a much more modern ship than the “Niagara” but I think I prefer the latter. The usual games and dancing on deck were partaken of. Landing papers were filled in for Honolulu also boat instructions – these were more strict owing to the anxious war moments. On this day I received messages aboard, wishing me Bon Voyage from my people in B.C.
Friday, September 1
Quite a stir this morning on reading the Daily Newspaper re hostilities between Germany and Poland – it became the topic of the ship for some hours. The sea, so far, has been like a mill pond but not much activity amongst the passengers. A picture was shown at night “Damsel in Distress” featuring Burns and Allen, Fred Astaire and Joan Fontaine, not much chop. Dancing on deck till 11pm.
Saturday, September 2
Looks like another quiet day – the morning opened up in calling together a meeting re a Sports Committee to be held later in the day. A party of young girls travelling to Honolulu are holding a sports competition this evening. Ships’ crew are now busy shielding deck lights so as to have a blackout during the night. Rumoured that the ship is under admiralty orders – all precautions are being taken.
Monday, September 4
Company gave special dinner – Souvenir Menu. Saloon nicely decorated flats, balloons, bunting. Fancy Dress Ball at night in semi-darkness. Ship now traveling throughout night without light of any description to be seen. All passengers have been requested to refrain from smoking on open decks and also asked to obscure any lights seen or to report to ships’ officers.
Tuesday, September 5
Very warm night. Weather now tropical. Have learnt that ship has been miles off usual course, zig-zagging in all directions. 12 midday. Land of the Hawaiian group now sighted. Great to see land again. Passing several small islands 3.30pm. Nearing Honolulu now – quite close to land. Now turning around Diamond Head – said to be the second Gibraltar. Palace and Hawaiian Hotels can been seen in the background of Waikiki Beach. Not many breakers today, the water is very quiet. 4pm Pilot coming aboard now, also two Customs boats to follow ship in as usual. Immigration Officials are also aboard – ship is almost at a standstill. All passports to be stamped prior to landing. The waterfront of Honolulu now very plain – all the usual landmarks are to be seen – being my second visit, I am able to explain same to others. Tied up 5pm. Special precautions are being taken – no visitors allowed on board. Great rush to buy papers. Took walk ashore, sailing time not specified but requesting all passengers to be aboard by 11am following day. Sailing time left to discretion of Captain. Saw all shops closing so returned to ship for dinner. At night, drove over to see the Punch Bowl volcano – still active, but very quiet – the heat is quite easily felt. Returned to city and saw Honolulu again at night time Wonderful. Back to ship – many lei sellers were encountered and the fumes of Frangipani almost became sickening.
Wednesday, September 6
Up to see Honolulu at dawn. Its situation is grand. Everything is so peaceful. Ship taking on its oil and water. Breakfast 7.30am. Ashore again, away to Waikiki for a surf – back to town and rushed about to do some shopping, then back to ship 10.50am, feeling very warm. Many new passengers bound for Australia and New Zealand cancelled their passages preferring to travel on American ships. Jim Londos – World’s Heavyweight Champion Wrestler also remained behind instead of traveling through to Aussie. Very few send offs took place owing to the uncertainty of sailing, however the ship slipped out very quietly at 12.10pm. The usual welcome to Honolulu by the wonderful Silver Band and Singers did not take place owing to them – the players – being on vacation – sadly missed by all. 3pm now out of sight of land and headed for the Fiji Islands. Rumoured that the Australian Cruiser “Perth” is to pick us up as convoy. Remains to be seen. To be continued Don’t forget to contribute your memories and also any old photographs that you would like to see published in this magazine’s “AS WE WERE” section.