Late in 1949 my mother began to reflect back on her early life before migrating to Canada with two of her sisters in the early 1900’s. Her eldest sister had migrated to Canada about a year earlier and her letters encouraged her younger sisters to make the trip and join her in Canada. My mother, Sarah, settled down in Saskatchewan Province, which was a western prairie province constituted in 1905. It was a top-class grain-growing area. She met my Dad, Walter, in North Battleford and they married in 1915. Dad worked on the railways, probably the Canadian National (CNR). Later they went to Fort Frances where Dad’s family had trekked up to from Iowa with Dad and his six brothers somewhere around 1900. They made the trip from their Corydon farm, Dad’s birthplace, and travelled through Minnesota to Fort Frances in Ontario after crossing the Rainy River. The men were all handy with the axe and worked as lumberjacks having secured the contract for cutting the poles for the telephone line. Many tales about floating the logs.
I remember in the 1940’s looking through Mum’s postcard albums and many cards were postmarked Fort Frances, Ontario, with pre-World War II dates. She had cards with embossed bluebirds and robins with snow scenes and fir trees. I would like to have had those cards now to look back on them, but the albums were ruined when a cyclone hit Kalgoorlie and a storeroom was flooded out.
My parents eventually settled in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where my elder brother, Cecil Everett Cash, was born in 1916. I was born in Gladstone, July 15th 1919. Dad was then a grocer. My wife, Joan, and I went to Gladstone in 1974, walked around the town area in 10 minutes, talked to the locals, including the local paper editor, and caught the Greyhound bus back to city. Small town but big farms. Alice Blanche, our sister, was born in 1920 at Deloraine, where my Dad and Mum managed the “Hotel Deloraine”. I have a picture of our early Model T Ford outside the hotel, which had three floors, and was very popular with the travelling salesmen. Liquor could only be served to travellers, and it was O.K. to have a few hands of poker at night. These short-stay customers knew that good cooking was the way to go, and overnight the salesmen who did not book up were happy to sleep on beds made up on the billiard tables. Those were the days (or nights). My mother used to laugh about it all.
Our family moved to Vancouver and ran a teashop in Elizabeth? Street till we were ready to transfer to Australia some months later. Late in 1923, or early 1924, we sailed for Sydney via Honolulu, Fiji, and New Zealand, on the RMS Niagara. Our younger brother, Roland Murray, was born on the 24th December 1924 when we lived at Glenfield near Liverpool (NSW).
In World War II Roland (now Murray to many) served with the RAAF and then with the RAF as a Lancaster pilot. He came home in 1946. During his war service in the Royal Air Force, Roly did get leave breaks from flying, and he took the opportunity to visit Uncle Herbert’s home at Dosthill near Tamworth, which is about 14 miles from Birmingham. My uncle was a manufacturer and involved in the war effort, so much so that later he was offered an MBE but a modest man, he declined. Roly had told our mother about visiting Uncle, and this brought back family memories to her. Uncle died soon after the war ended but she wished to meet his family, and also to return to her own birthplace in Lancashire.
My mother had been a reader of the “Christian Science Monitor” which was a religious doctrine of faith-healing, founded by Mary Baker Eddy in the USA, and taught by her in the USA from 1886 till her death in 1910. The “Monitor” was posted to mother by Canadian relatives, for years. She may have had a premonition of the future when after all these years she wished to go home to England. A trip was planned for her but Dad could not go because of the many commitments in Kalgoorlie. It was necessary for someone to accompany her, so I did. Bookings were made for a departure late in February 1950 on the P & O ocean liner, “Strathnaver”. It was fortunate that we all knew how to run a business such as ours, otherwise I could not have gone. Joan’s mum and dad, and Joan herself, made it all possible. It was still the small shop.
We boarded the P & O (Peninsula and Orient) liner “Strathnaver” at Fremantle early in March. We were in separate four-berth cabins, a bit crowded really, but comfortable enough. The voyage to Southampton took about 23 days. We called in at Colombo for a day or two and took a tour to see the sights. I remember going up to Mount Lavinia and looking back at the city. On the way back we were shown the racecourse with its gardens and other surrounds. Our next port of call was Bombay (now Mumbai). We came in alongside the wharf lined with big tin sheds, and saw the heaps of mail bags stacked on the wharf, waiting to be loaded for the UK. The formalities were few and we soon were off for a walk around Bombay City and a mingle with the big crowds in the streets. People were everywhere.
We were heading back to the “Strathnaver” at a leisurely pace, when a young adult local came alongside and started to talk with me. “Where are you from?”. “West Australia”, I replied, and then more questions: “Are you married”, “How many children?” “What is your wife’s name”, “Do you live in Perth ?” and so on. “Are you going back to the ship?” “Yes”. He then disappeared. We went on walking to the wharf when just before we got there we were approached by someone else. “I tell you your fortune, yes?” “No!”, “I tell very good, Doug”. “How do you know my name”. “You have two children and your wife is Joan”. Then the penny dropped. There were two of them and the first got my details then took a speedy short cut and arrived at the wharf before we did. My details were passed on and rehearsed by No.2. We gave them 5/- for their trouble and they had to be happy with that. Not amused.
We boarded ship and soon we were out to sea heading for the Red Sea and the port of Aden. When we hove to at Aden our ship was surrounded by small local craft of the traders. They would hold up their goods and bargain with us. We would lower a basket with our money and then pull up our goods. No cheating. All went well. We were away once more and into the Suez Canal on the 100 mile journey to Port Said on the Mediterranean. Built 1859-1869 by de Lesseps the Suez had a minimum depth of 28 feet and had a width of 150-300 feet. It was lit at night and took about 18 hours to reach the Mediterranean and Port Said according to ship notice. Along the Mediterranean we passed Gibraltar and the Rock. We were then into the Atlantic Ocean and heading for the Bay of Biscay.
We had to heave to there with the ship’s head to the wind while a vessel came to meet us and take off a coffin with the body of a person who died on board. It was rough but soon we were on our way for Southampton, and everybody felt better after that. When we arrived in port we disembarked with our luggage and passed on through the customs and went up to London on our own. We stayed for a couple of days or so at a hotel not far from the Windmill Theatre, which never closed during the War. We did go to the show one night and found it was a bit of everything like the Tivoli shows were in Sydney and elsewhere. The comedian, dressed as a Spiv with a wide-brimmed hat and a long wide multi-coloured tie, wide trouser cuffs, and telling jokes was a young Arthur English. We spotted him in later years as the dour janitor/floor filler, stock organiser or whatever, in “Are You Being Served?” on ABC TV.
We went up to Birmingham, about 100 or so miles north-west of London, by train two days later and we were picked up by one of the Dean family. Auntie Dorothy welcomed us and after a cup of tea we were shown to our upstairs rooms to freshen up and unpack. We now had to get accustomed to high tea at 4 pm and dinner at 8 p.m. The next day we awoke to a light snowfall. Looking out from the upper windows it was a sea of white on and around the many trees. We rested indoors for a few days getting our land legs after 23 days on board ship. My mother was happy to talk with Auntie about family matters. We were taken out to local places of interest from day to day, weather permitting. One night we were taken to the local speedway (likely Perry Barr Stadium) to watch dirt-track motorcycle racing. Many years later I was to meet a new friend in a Probus Club (Rotary sponsored). He was Fred Nicholls and he used to ride motorbikes there. The speedway fans were all walking around eating icecreams and this surprised me. It was bitterly cold that time of year by our standards when you went for Peters’s icecream on warmer days.
We were taken out to look at castles and gardens when the weather was favourable for walking about. Once or twice we were driven to Birmingham, 20 miles from Dosthill. We had cups of tea in real English tea-shops all prim and proper. If the weather was bad we just stayed in and read or wrote letters. The house had a large storage area for keeping a six months supply of essential foods. There was a need to have a full larder if they were snowbound.
Document – Notes on the History of Tamworth Castle. Source: Doug Cash Collection
One fine day we were to drive up to Peterborough to look over the golf course and gardens. The Deans had a big Lagonda and they had it out in the driveway preparing for the trip. Their driver, uniform and all, was putting all sorts of things into the luggage area and I watched with some surprise as there was no end to it. I asked the chauffeur how far it was to Peterborough and he told me it was only 70 miles. We were halfway there when we stopped for lunch at a tearooms style place. Rationing was still on and menus were short. We could get a bowl of cabbage soup and a bun. Cups of tea – no shortage if you liked weak and black. We were soon off and finally reached Peterborough. My cousins on board took me to the golf course to show me all about golf. There I was, a temporary golfer – my score? – not for publication. However, we had a good day out and I still remember it well.
Meanwhile we were getting letters with the latest news on Joan and the children, and all the other relatives. Everything was going O.K. at the shop but we all wished we were back together. Mum was not tied to a schedule and Auntie Dorothy was going to take her into Lancashire to see the area where she was born. It was at 16 Browning Street, Hoddlesden. She was a daughter of John William Dean and Jane Dean, formerly Ellis, and was born in 1889. She was confirmed at the family church, St. Barnabas’, at Darwen, on 8 March 1903. Dorothy was to decide when to drive up.
With Mum happy to stay there till she was ready to come home, I booked an air ticket to fly back to Perth via the USA I said my goodbyes and thanks to Dorothy and family, gave Mum a hug and a kiss and was off to the station, and on my way to London. The airport then was probably the Gatwick Airport. We took off with a full passenger list on the BCPA Strato-cruiser “Discovery”. It had an upper deck with four sleeping berths. Our first stop – all out if you were not occupying a sleeping berth – was in Iceland. The airport was at the capital, Reykjavik. Back on board after a short break we headed over the top for New York. (NOTE: Doug does not talk about flight costs but it would not have come cheap. BCPA (pre-Qantas) one-way flights from Sydney to San Francisco in 1950 cost 200 pounds which would equate to around $10,000 in 2021. It seems unimaginable that Doug could afford such a flight)
Landing in New York I stayed overnight and took time out before leaving to see Broadway, Wall Street and Fifth Avenue by day and Times Square by night. Its attraction was a latest news display system with the words appearing to run around the upper part of the unit in continuous movement. The electric light globes were set in a framework of different coloured neon tube lights. Next day off to Honolulu where I stayed overnight at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. A short tour of the sights filled in time till take-off. On to Sydney, crossing over the equator during the flight, and getting a big certificate signed by the Captain certifying that I did the deed at 4.20am on the 2 May 1950. Our DC-6 landed at Sydney airport some hours later. I stayed two nights in that city where our family stepped off the “RMS” Niagara in 1923, and where I first went to school. Off again on the 4 May flying aboard the Convair “Matthew Flinders”. We flew at 12,000 ft. The flying speed of Convairs was around 260 mph at that height, and we arrived on time at Parafield airfield just after 1pm. It was 15 miles from Adelaide. The flights to Perth were now blessed with a Douglas DC-4 Skymaster? and off we went same day via Forrest, Kalgoorlie and Perth. Home again. It was 5 May 1950 (less than two months later a DC-4 was making the same route in reverse and crashed after leaving Perth and killing all 29 on board).
West Australian, Wednesday 28 June 1950, page 4 – Skymaster Crash. Source: Trove
Document – H M King Neptune, Crossing The Equator Certificate on The R M Airliner Discovery. Source: Doug Cash Collection
Document – TAA Trans-Australia Airlines, Official Flight Log – Royal Mail Airliner ‘Matthew Flinders’, Sydney to Adelaide. Source: Doug Cash Collection