Utah Travelers Intrigued By Voyage Over the Ocean
Editor’s note: Here is another letter from Mrs. George H. Hansen of Provo, giving her impressions of a trip to Europe she is making with 36 Weber College and BYU students.
The ocean, the ship, the passengers – what a marvelous experience in getting acquainted with them. We had a somewhat hectic time in getting from our Times Square Hotel to Pier Five in Hoboken, N.J., the harbor. It does seem far away as I sit here in the wicker lounge of the M.S. Sibajak. But when we reach France we will be glad that we purchased our French francs and Italian lira while we were in New York, even though we did run the exchange company short of money.
The crowd of well wishers at the pier contained a few acquaintances. Pat Anderson’s sister Jean with her husband and young son were there, as were my friends, the Tirneys and Siegfieds from Easton, Pa.
The New York sky line and the Statue of Liberty, all colored a pastel green, soon faded in the distance, and our attention was on more liquid matters.
Events on the ship are numerous and varied as the passengers become oriented to their situation which is new to some and regular to others. Finding common ground with a new person is always interesting, and especially so where different nationalities are confined to such a harmonious area.
One group are on their way to the London World Christian Convention. Their many ministers are anxious to have everyone come to their regular services onboard ship. Catholics have their services too. Our own group will have services on Sunday morning and Tuesday evening. The impromptu singing of our group as others join in singing folk songs and hymns on deck each evening is a pleasant event.
Nor do we forget that we are students. Dr. Rogers and Dr. Watkins are well equipped to give us language lessons in French, German and Italian.
A most colorful group of 60 students from the University of Puerto Rico are also studying in Europe. A young junior in college named Huberto M. Vega is typical of our own university boys in the ROTC with the same future.
Book of Songs
Last evening while we were singing on deck, a pleasant lady with reddish brown hair went to her cabin and brought back a book of folk songs for us to sing from. The book was for her married daughter Josepha who lives in Israel. Further conversation led to the discovery that the lady’s husband Jacob Stienhardt is a famous wood-cut and landscape artist who teaches in the Bezalel Art School and Museum.
It seems cloudy this evening. Will it rain? Yes indeed. Almost as soon as spoken, the water of the sky fell on our faces as we sat on the open deck. But we like rain for variation. All night long the heave ho of the springs of our bed told us in languages of the weather that our song on deck was prophetic, Master the Tempest is Raging. As I watch from my bed at a very early hour, I find the colors and motion of the waves most fascinating. The grey sky showering the ocean with rain and the turbulent sea heaving mountains of water toward the sky. Some waves break in a shower of misty spray and others are capped with cakes of foam.
We must contain ourselves inside. Some are more sea sick and some delve more intently in learning French.
While we were in the wicker lounge counting in French a slightly grey haired lady came up and said. “O non non,” and with a wave of her hands told us our pronunciation was not so good. Upon our invitation she gave us 1 1/2 hours of French lessons. She teaches French in a private girls school in California. Shirley Temple was her student for four years. Lessons cost $100 a month.
Upon returning from the usual sumptuous seven-course dinner in the aft dining room, Dora and I stopped to tell the officer how much we enjoyed the meal and the service on the Holland-American ship. Said he, in apparent disgust, “Holland American, oh no! Dis iss da Royal Rofterdam Lloyd.”
Proud of Record
It seems that this ship was only loaned to the Holland-American Line for this trip. The ship’s staff is proud of her record, her crew, and her captain, whose name is DeJong. They can well be proud of the hospitality and generous graciousness they bestow on their passengers. There is no class distinction on board. The staff is mainly Dutch and the interesting service personnel is Indonesian. These small fellows with dark skin and gleaming white teeth (some teeth are proudly capped with gold) wear black velvet caps, black pants and white coats. They speak a local form of native tongue, Maylan. They are most suitable servants as long experience has shown. (Shall I bring one home for you Mildren?) As they were hanging their clothes on the line, we noticed their interesting clothes line. It was two ropes twisted rather tightly together. No clothes pins were used. but opening the twisted rope, they would push a corner of the towel through. When dry the clothes were just pulled from the line. On Monday evening these Indonesian fellows will furnish our entertainment with singing and dancing. On Wednesday we have the Captain’s dinner and the accompanying merriment.
Thursday, we dock at La Havre, France, and take a train to Paris. Ah, Paris. We’ll see you there.
Tuesday, 10 June 1952:
Only half a dozen kids turned out for breakfast. We turned our clocks ahead again, so we lost another hour of sleep. At our 8:30 a.m. French class, we learned the days of the week in a song; Lundi – Monday, Mardi – Tuesday, Mercredi – Wednesday, Jeudi – Thursday, Vendredi – Friday, Samedi – Saturday, Dimanche – Sunday.
After class I really wanted to go to sleep, but I used my will power to get at those letters. Tonight was our farewell dinner and letters had to be posted by 6 p.m. tomorrow.
At 2:30 p.m. I went down for song practice, but it was fouled up by a lady with a violin who continued to play until we had to go to class at 4 p.m. Then that class fizzled out too because we couldn’t find a spot to hold it. So we studied by ourselves for a while.
The Captain’s dinner was at 6:15 p.m. That was a clue to get decorated (dressed up). Everyone came in their best or near best. There were beautiful souvenir menus for everyone with pictures of the different Indonesian Islands. I would have liked one of each of the pictures, but I only managed to get away with four of them. Earlier I had thugged one of the menus when the head Indonesian waiter was folding them before dinner. Some of the kids helped fold menus which he seemed to think was really great.
Dinner was a sumptuous affair according to my standards. The omelette surprise was quite a shock, filled with ice cream no less. So far as I had time to notice, I think almost everyone had second helpings. The napkins and linen were spotless, brand new, I do believe. I managed to crawl back to the bunk after dinner. Although, I’m sure I could have rolled back instead.
Brrr. It was zero weather in the cabin, so I attempted to shut off one of the fans. For some reason I couldn’t locate the switch. Unsuccessful at finding the switch, I ended up with a bloody hand. It was a rather minor injury, but the band-aid made it look rather major.
Henry emceed our talent show at 9:30 p.m. in the aft lounge. Mrs. Rogers sang a French number and Homing to make us all homesick. Florence sang and Henry, Kay, Margaret and Nelda did a really cute version of Little Nell. Lucy sang My Task and did a good job of it. Betty Page and Pat Anderson, decked in royal robes of bedspreads and bathrobes, did an original song about the tour and BYU. Then Hermine, Joyce, Bev and Betty Lou performed a clever song and dance routine with pigtails, freckles and patches. Herr Watkins and Rogers did a juggling and harmonica act which was superb. Quite a few visitors came in for the program and we ended the evening by singing.
Afterwards we crawled up to the fore lounge to watch the show there. The ship’s violinist-drummer was putting on a show by squeezing music out of every conceivable type of equipment: plates, bottle, old wooden violin, and bells. He was a one-man show.
Thereafter we watched the show that was put on by people and their various styles of dancing. Frenchie or China Doll as some of the kids called her put on a terrific show tonight. She was all decked out in an atrocious red creation that was cinched too tight at the waist. Her hair was done in the latest gay 90’s style which was pulled over to one side.
However, the Puerto Rican dancers were the most interesting. They really know how to dance and seem to enjoy it so much too. We lost another hour that night, so we gave up and went to bed about 2:30 a.m. or so. Dick has sworn to wake us all at 7 a.m.
Wednesday, 11 June 1952:
Sure enough—bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang—7 o’clock. At 7:30 a.m. as the chimes were ringing, I crawled out of bed. I gulped breakfast, jumped in the shower, washed my clothes, and cleaned up for class at 10 a.m. We received last minute instructions at French drill. All business with the purser had to be transacted that day.
Oh, what a beautiful day! The sun was shining and the sea was as smooth as glass. But we still had two kids tossing their cookies: Carmela and Cherie. They must have been overeating, because surely no one could be seasick on a sea as smooth as a pond in your backyard. It was such a wonderful feeling to have old mister sun beat down warmly again. We sighted a little fishing vessel, so we figured that we couldn’t be too far from land. I have to keep my trusty notebook close to write my impressions as I receive them.
Carol and I went to the bridge to visit her new boyfriend, one of the ship’s officers. The visit to the bridge proved interesting as we spotted four ships on the horizon. We, also, saw the speedometer that the water clock was connected to which gives a reading on the ship’s speed.
After lunch I went back on deck to continue writing madly. Why do I leave things till the last day? I always hate myself for it afterwards. I still have to write Aunt Carolina and Aunt Anna. Thank goodness choir practice was canceled at 2:30 p.m., because the Puerto Ricans were participating in a class in the dining room.
I had time to go to the purser’s office where I got in line behind a character with tons of big and little envelopes. I wrote another letter while I waited to buy stamps in order to mail my other letters which I had already written. Looks like I’m going to miss class at this rate. Finally, his turn was finished and then I had mine.
I dashed off to catch the last end of class. When I met Herr Rogers, Watkins and Henry on the stairs, I knew I was too late. I discovered later that class consisted of picture taking. Everyone was there except me. Well, I imagine I’ll still have plenty of opportunity to get pictures of the group. I returned to my mad letter writing! I got a letter off to Craig and Loy before the purser closed. But I still have to write to Aunt Anna and Carolina. Then I horsed around in the cabin till dinner.
This is our last dinner on the boat. I guess we’ll have breakfast tomorrow and that does it. The sea is just like glass now and has been growing steadily calmer all day. As the sun set the water and horizon seemed to blend together. This is quite different from a couple of days ago. I could hardly believe it was the same body of water.
After the last delicious dinner, I returned to the aft lounge to scribble in my wee notebook and write letters. While I was writing in the aft lounge after dinner, Bill Borcherding came by and we chatted about the boat trip, Europe, and things in general. I wonder how come I hadn’t done as much reading as I planned. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t seem like I have done hardly any reading. Girl, you have to organize yourself and your time. Amen.
Back in the cabin, we read Fielding until late, trying to cram in a few last bits of information before our first contact with a new world.