Friday, 9 September 2011

Home to Canada

In September of 1965, the fifth anniversary of my trip to Australia came and passed and I began receiving hints in letters from Mom that it was time that I returned home.

At that time all of the banks had an in-house travel agency so I made inquiries at the bank that I used and was directed to their travel department. What was shown to me was very intriguing so I booked a fare on that trip and began paying for it by installments.

The itinerary was a sailing from Sydney to Manilla, Hong Kong and Singapore, train travel to Bangkok, a plane over Burma to Calcutta, a trip up the Ganges to Benares and then across to Mumbai (with a stop in Agra along the way). In Mumbai I would join a bus camping trip through Pakistan, Iran. Jordan, Syria and Lebanon to Turkey. In Istanbul we would have boarded the Orient Express for the ride to London. From London by ship to New York and then by train to Montreal and across Canada to New Westminster. In the Middle East I would have seen Isfahan, Qom, Petra and the Arab controlled portion of Jerusalem. A dream trip to end all dream trips!

I was at work on November 17 when I received a message that there was a telegram waiting for me at the boarding house. I telephoned there and asked Fred Carroll to open and read the contents to me. It contained the news that Dad had died suddenly. He had not been well earlier in the year and I understood that he had recovered (he had returned to work). During the earlier illness the doctor had discovered an aneurism in his body but the technique had not been developed by which to excise it.

He had been at work - on the afternoon shift - the day before, had come home and went to bed. Mom and Dad had an appointment in New Westminster the next morning so she got up early to go downstairs to put on the coffee and to begin breakfast preparations. She went back upstairs to waken Dad and discovered that he was dead. My kid brother, Danny, was sleeping in a neighboring bedroom so she woke him to ask him to check what she had found was correct. Dan, who was just a teenager - 16 years old (he passed away suddenly in 2008) - confirmed what Mom had discovered to be true.

When I read the telegram I remembered a dream that I had had the night before. In my dream I had gone to the home of friends where I visited frequently. In the dream I was alone in the living room when there was a knock at the front door. I opened it, Dad was standing on the stoop, wordlessly we hugged and the dream ended. A few years ago I was in correspondence with a Canadian author whose books are compilations of Canadian 'ghost stories'. I told him my story and he replied that that phenomena is not at all uncommon.

Word of my news spread rapidly through the office and the Office Manager urged me to go home for the day. At the boardinghouse I read the telegram and then I went over to Kedron Methodist Church where I saw the Rev. Mr. Morton. Upon hearing my news he immediately (as there was no hope of me being home for the funeral) began planning a Memorial Service to be held on Saturday morning to coincide - as close as possible - with the time of the funeral at home. There were about 50 people at the service (including a dozen or so from Dunlop Rubber) and I was very touched.

My first task on Monday was to go to the travel agency to cancel my reservations for the overland trip and to book an air ticket home. However, as I could not make it in time for the funeral, I delayed my departure until Friday, December 17. In the meantime I was feted by various groups of people and given a number of lovely gifts. I will be forever grateful for all of that love.

Jets were a new means of transportation at that time. Trans Australian Airlines had purchased some 'Whispering T-jets' which were the latest wonder. I flew on one of them from Brisbane to Sydney. The word 'whispering' was an anomaly - they were, with the engines located above the back of the plane, very noisy.

As jets that were able to fly nonstop for long distances had not yet been created, I had to travel 'hop, skip, and jump' to Vancouver. My flight on to North America did not leave Sydney until Saturday evening - which was the first of two Saturdays that I lived through in 1965. I spent the day by visiting all of my haunts when I lived in Sydney. "Down Memory Lane" so to speak.

The Qantas flight left Sydney late Saturday evening, landed at Nandi International Airport in the Fiji Islands for refueling (and the Duty Free Shop) and then went on to Honolulu. Shortly after leaving Nandi we crossed the International Date Line and landed on the second Saturday morning (I had lost a day while crossing the Pacific on the SS Iberia in 1960).

In Honolulu we had to clear US Immigration and Customs. As luck would have it, we landed around the same time as aircraft from Manilla and Tokyo so had to queue with passengers from those aircraft in order to gain clearance to enter the U.S. In front of me was a late middle-aged American woman who was attempting to bring home, from Tokyo, what looked like the contents of a nursery. Naturally, practically all of the shrubbery was banned from the United States. The woman was so indignant - after all, she WAS an American!

In Honolulu I had an entire day to kill so I took a tour out to the newly completed 'Polynesian Village' on the north side of Oahu. The village - built by the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) - was a collection of 'villages' depicting all of the island cultures to be found across the Pacific. It was fascinating.

My flight onward was supposed to be a Canadian Pacific Airlines flight from Honolulu to Vancouver. However, it was outbound from Amsterdam via Toronto and Vancouver to Honolulu and was delayed for upwards to twelve hours. As I had written home the details of my itinerary I was concerned that my folks would be at the airport to meet me at the time I mentioned in my letter to them. Therefore I arranged for a different flight.

This one was via Northwest/Orient Airlines to Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington (the aircraft was going on from there to Minneapolis and New York City - talk about a milk run!) and then another transfer to a United Airlines flight for the final hop to Vancouver. When I arrived in Seattle, I telephoned home - and learned that my letter containing my itinerary had not arrived. Dan was not yet old enough to drive so they had to scramble to find somebody else who could drive them to the airport. They located two cars and drivers so they could meet me and bring me and my hand luggage home.

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