Letters from Australia

This document was last updated on 08 April 2002 (Ver. 1.0)

Wednesday A.M. Feb. 26 [1958]

Dear Folks:

In 25 years of teaching, this is the first time that I have ever felt that I could, with a clear conscience, write a letter during the time that I am at school. But this is Australia. On Wednesdays, for instance, I have but one class. It is the first two periods in the morning and so after 10:15, I am off for the rest of the day, when I am [not to] check swimming rosters at the pool in the afternoon. Sooooo this morning I do really have a few things I could do, but I prefer to just sit and type a letter and so with much difficulty and a few words that might lack a few letters I shall do a little epistle which I should have done weeks ago.

Well, to begin with, the queen mother has come and gone. Australians of course went wild with a queer mixture of patriotism and reverence for the Crown. The Queen mother arrived at the Airport some 6 days ago and Marie and the children went out with the Edmunds--you will remember that he is a bachelor minister (Unitarian) who is here with his mother. They are nice people and we enjoy them. David and his mother then came to the house and took Marie and the kids out. The kids skipped school for the afternoon but so what--the Royalty was in town. They got some good glimpses of her and did enjoy seeing her come in from her "Triumphal" visit to Queensland and Brisbane. They didn't get any pictures of her that day last week so we spent some time Sat. downtown standing in the hot sun, being jostled about waiting for her to put in an appearance, etc. We did see the Government house and some of the beautiful grounds surrounding it but when she did show, she was in a closed car travelling at such a speed, we got a poor picture I think, so we spent the rest of Saturday roaming around downtown going up into the top of the Harbour Bridge Pylon and taking some pictures there. We took a trip on the ferry across the harbour, note that spelling, to Manley beach where they were having a surf carnival and we did get a glimpse the QM there as she came on board a navy boat on her way back to this side of the harbor. We stayed over at Manley beach which is sort of a holiday pleasure resort with a rather festive, holiday, merrymaking atmosphere, until late in evening and then boarded the ferry, the electric subway and reached home about 10:00 tired and ready for bed but Marie and I stayed up and watched T.V. for another hour.

Greg and I left the house about 9:00 Sunday morning in further search of good pictures of her Majesty as she was going to Church at a large Church of England Cathedral downtown, we waited there in the hot sun for about an hour and finally she drove up amid wailing of children shouts of adults and we did get some very nice shots of peoples arms being waved and peoples hats being knocked off. Each occasion I held Greg on my shoulders and he took the picture, what we got in the picture is problimatical but we tried. Greg and 124,999 other children went by special train and special busses to the large Cricket and show grounds yesterday to see her. Greg of course had seen her several times previously and so he said he doubted it was worth the effort yesterday standing out in the heat and being jostled in the crowds not to mention the fact that the train signalling system broke down and all trains had to be hand flagged to the airport so that delayed them several hours. When he got home about 4:00 we took a drive out to the airport to see her leave the state and we did get some pretty good pictures I think, in spite of the fact that it was getting to be about 6:00 o'clock in the evening before she was scheduled to arrive at Mascot Aereodrome--Airport to you Dam Yankees. We did get some good views of her and I must say that I thought it was well worth the effort as she is a charming person, so poised and beautiful. She is in a remarkable state for her 58 years but of course she has never had any of the every day workday worries we all seem to possess. She was vivacious in her pale blue Chiffon dress with matching hat accented with a three-strand necklace and wore a broach of diamonds and rubies a gift of the Australian people. She took off to go to Canberra for another round of social engagements today and will leave for parts unknown later on in the week. I am not real sure how much the whole trip cost the United States but probably if the truth were known we all paid for it. The whole affair has been televised and so we will see it all rehashed for weeks now on films.

Sunday afternoon we went to Woolongong, which is a nice seaside city about 75 miles south of Sydney with George and Clair. We went down to see his mother and several of his sisters. They are a very nice family and seemed glad to meet us and we of course did enjoy meeting the;m. They had a very nice "tea" for us--that's supper--and we left for Sydney about 8:00. Right after the TV show "Leave it to Beaver". They have a very nice home and nice things quite like an American home except of course the plumbing as far as a stool is concerned is outside. Many Australian homes are that way--they have a nice bath but it contains only two pieces--the rest is out behind. City sewerage in much of Australia is non-existent. We were in the subject-masters home about 5 months ago and in spite of the fact the home is 20 years old, the stool is still missing. I guess we Americans are pretty soft. In most places I know of, it is not possible to live in a house unless it is attached to a sewer. In Alliance for instance, the sewers and water are laid down before the lots are opened up for building houses on. George drove so fast over the hilly, crooked roads that we were all a little woosey when we arrived but we soon got over it and did enjoy visiting with his mother who is 83 and quite deaf but still is very alert and in spite of her diabetes and hearing and other complications does manage to keep going and enjoy life.

Several Weeks ago we were invited over to one of the teachers homes and his two children did so want to stay up until we got there so they could see what Americans looked like. They wondered if we carried guns or wore feathers in our hair. We were sorry to disappoint them by wearing neither. In fact it occurred to me that we looked quite like most people in the room. Such disappoints these Americans are. The program for the night at the teachers house was pictures a doctor friend had taken on some of the trips he and his family had taken to the mountains and so on. Most of the places we had seen but we enjoyed it anyway. At a late hour we had "supper" which always consists of a large assortment of gooey sandwiches with open faces, dainty little cookies, called biscuits, and then an assortment of cakes. Most of the cakes have a very unpalatable thick and hard frosting on which makes the cakes look beautiful before they are cut and look like a grasshopper under a steam roller after being cut. So the hostess always brings out the cake before it is cut because any similarity between the before and after is not only incidental, but impossible. They do decorate cakes beautifully but I could do with a little less fanciness and a little sugar in the cake and icing. Sometimes they don't even cut the prettiest cake but sit and drool and eat another stand-in model. It is sort of having a cake and eating it too sort of thing.

The weather has been hot and sticky, if you will pardon the expression. It is about 80 degrees temperature and about the same humidity. It gets down to 65 degrees during the night. We do sleep with a woolen blanket over us however. They say that the summer weather will last until about the last of March and then it will gradually get cooler and finally when winter comes we will know it. Well, we knew it last August when we arrived. It is so damp and cold and no place to get warm. They have little two-bit heaters electric and fireplaces or gas logs but you roast on one side and freeze on the other. They say there is no need of furnaces in Australia but I can't imagine Americans being uncomfortable for three months out of the year and not doing something about it. We planted a garden, Greg and I but it was a race between the blight, mold, grubs, worms, drought, flooding rains, weeds and as a result we lost a good fight. We did get enough tomatoes to get our seed back and we did harvest at least a half dozen cucumbers and we have one green pepper on a bush. The total monetary value of the crop barely paid for the seed but we had fun trying. I think the soil need fertilization but inasmuch as we were to be here such a short time I just let it go--as they say here "We gave it away."

There have been several interruptions this morning and I must run now as it is time to go home. Such is life I will finish later.

(BEN.580226)Greg Cutting 28 June 1990        A letter from Byron Nelson to his parents.

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