Peter E. Sayers’ Travel Diary

In 1959 Peter E. Sayers, a serious young man from St. Kilda East, and nine other ‘young Australian ambassadors’ embarked on an amazing 3-month ‘grand tour’ of the USA.  They saw the best and the worst of Cold War America, which Sayers faithfully recorded in his travel diary (which runs to approximately 25,000 words).  Each student in my Popular Art, Architecture and Design course was assigned a different entry from Sayers’ diary in order to create a postcard based on that day’s events.  Here are a few examples (both postcards and their accompanying diary entries):

Kim Peeters

Weather: Fine.  This morning we went by bus to the General Electric plant about eight miles from the hotel. Statistics are 23,000 employees, approximately 100 acres of factory space and 1,000 acres of grounds. The car park had approximately 9,000 cars in it.  We saw the washing machines being made.  A point about production: When a machine is liable to cut a factory worker’s fingers off, they make him push two buttons, one for each hand, which are located above his head.  Later we saw some modern home settings featuring G.E. appliances.  When washing dishes in a dishwasher do not take the fat off the dishes as it combines with the detergent to do the job of washing the dishes.   We came back to the hotel for lunch then we went out to Brown Forman Distillers to see how they make Bourbon whiskey.  Taxes make up 65 percent of the cost of whiskey, which amounts to $500,000 in taxes per day.  An interesting point to note is that the law forbids the process for making Scotch whiskey in the U.S.A.

Alexandra Wall

The Australian flag flew at the hotel today. Had breakfast in the hotel’s drugstore.  First thing after breakfast we were shown over the hotel, including $150 per night penthouse. In the morning we went to the University of Houston, after having our photo taken in front of the hotel’s diving board.  The Chancellor [President] of the University [General A.D. Bruce] welcomed us and then we met the sports boss and talked on his subject (Allen Lawrence from the university had just become the two-mile world record holder the day before.)  We had lunch in the cafeteria and met one of the Australian summer scholarship boys.  Then we saw the University’s film unit, TV studio and radio station. (Some of the paths around the University were made of seashells.)  We left after 3.00 P.M. after thanking our host, the Head of Languages. We returned to the hotel by bus (same way as we went).  We then went out to the Rue Ranch (2,000 acres).  It is owned by A.E. ‘Snake’ Bailey who breeds French cattle (whitish colour, noted for quick growth).  When we were being driven round by ‘Snake’ in his $10,000 325 horsepower Lincoln Continental Mark III (a Caddy only costs $7,000) he shot off the road after a jackrabbit (hare).  We slithered and slid over damp pastures for about a quarter of a mile chasing it.  We went out to the ranch in two cars.  The first was driven by Mr. Paris (the manager of the Shamrock Hotel).  He had a unique pair of cufflinks: one was the workings of a watch and the other was the face of a watch.  The hotel’s public relations man drove the second car, a Ford Country Sedan.  We had to teach him how it worked because he did not usually drive this car.  (Doors that open by button in car.)  I went out with him.  ‘Snake’ has a project underway whereby people lease an acre lot of his ranch and become a member of his club, which has a livery stable, etc.  One bloke at the stable had a gold $50 (Mexican) piece as a figure on his tie (cowboy type).  We all had a ride on the horses.  [Richard] Blaiklock fell and so did a girl (the horse fell and hit its head and lay on her leg.  I think both came out OK, although when we had tea in the club (steak, etc.) she was chaired out.  When we came home at 10.00 P.M. we ran over a skunk.  I met at club Mr. C.A. Carter [President of Tex-Tube Inc.].

Claire Welsh

Weather: fine.  We got up at 7.10 AM and at 7.50 AM had breakfast with the manager and another fellow who used to live in Melbourne and Sydney.  At 9.00 AM the Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company were our hosts.  They took us in two station wagons firstly to their training centre where we saw people learning to use lathes and do maths, etc.  Secondly, we went to their private airport where we had a ride in a helicopter that seated three and the pilot.  We flew over the town of Hartford, the capital of Connecticut.  Then we went by station wagon to the main plant to have a look, it was filled with precision tools and had great security regulations.  Then we had lunch in the ‘Junior Executive Dining Room’. I had a V-8 cocktail, roast loin of pork and a butterscotch sundae.  After lunch we went to the experimental station where the boilers and pipes and control panels were gigantic.  At 3.00 PM we were at the airport again and at 3.30 PM we left by Convair (one of the company’s private planes) for Boston, 120 miles away, it only took half an hour.  Only us and one other chap was on the plane.  We took a taxi to the Statler Hilton hotel, not as good as the Statler Hilton hotel in Hartford.  I received a letter from Midge, one from the U.K. and a duplicate of Mum’s New York letter.  Tonight I had tea in a cafeteria and washed, wrote diary and letters.

Neo Fu

We left the hotel for City Hall (a great building) where we met the Mayor of Los Angeles [Norris Poulson] and I presented him with some brochures about Sydney.  This was shown on C.B.S. [Commercial Broadcasting System] at night.  We saw the council in session and then the view from the top of the building. In the morning reps of McDonnell Douglas picked us up and took us about 15 miles to their aircraft plant where we saw two types of jets under construction.  After lunch we watched two films: one on the naval jets we saw being built, which were for a big aircraft carrier, and the other on the DC-8.  McDonnell Douglas then drove us to N.B.C. [National Broadcasting Company] studios in Burbank (it took about an hour along freeways).  At N.B.C. we saw The George Gobel Show, the best TV show I’ve seen.  George is a great comedian; not corny.  Nat King Cole was the guest artist.  The nationwide program ran for an hour.  Then half of us came home by two buses via Hollywood (for about the eighth time).  We had tea and packed and wrote in our diaries.  P.S. On our travels we have seen trains with up to 120 carriages.

Lavanya Arulanandam

Fine. Today was another full day in the bus (8.30 A.M. to 7.00 P.M.).  When we left Charleston (Capital of West Virginia) we followed a valley which contained chemical factories and the such for some time.  Most of the rest of the way we went through hillbilly country, timber is the main industry in the area.  Then towards Richmond (Virginia) the country became hill and dale.  The bigger hills today were real ones, bigger than yesterday.  We booked in at the Richmond Hotel and had tea.   Jim and I are in a two-bed room.  I write this at 8.40 P.M.  I will now start letters.  [Break in time.]  I thought I would, but I did not.  As per usual at these big hotels there was a convention and this was no exception, except it was the High Schools of Virginia ‘Beta Club’ (80 per cent grade and over in form work).  Well, to cut a long story short, we went to their dance at the John Marshall Hotel.  After I danced with two or three other girls I met Freda Ashworth (near 17) from Rocky Mount. Before the dance John Hammond talked over the phone to a woman who used to live in Perth.  They danced a little jive, a Paul Jones and two or three modern waltzes.  Freda was a good dancer.  We were at the dance from 10 to 11 (the Beta Club members had had dinner beforehand).  When they announced that the Australians were present we got a very warm clap.  After the dance I went with Freda up to the 11th floor to the Rocky Mount High School rooms for a party.  We sat around on beds, etc. and ate brownies and drank soft drink.  I told them about Australia.  Before I left at 12.30 A.M. Freda gave me her little red and white cap and I gave her a Qantas flying Kangaroo pin.    I got lost on the way home and after about 10 minutes I got a lift to the Richmond Hotel with a chap who was picking up his girl there. (He was only my age and had a new tank.)  By the way, at the Richmond Hotel there were a lot of the Beta Club members.  Anyway, to cut a long story short, I found myself sitting in amongst a group of students in our passage about 17 to 18, about 15 girls and 3 boys telling them all about Australia.  Then later the other boys that went to the dance (6 of us) came out of the lift to go to their room (they had been put out of the other hotel at 2.00 A.M. by the cops) I called them up and we all had a talk.  The hotel detective had came round earlier, we softened him up but at 3.00 A.M. the manager in a rage sent us to bed. Some of the other kids went to the students’ rooms first off but unluckily I had gone to mine and was trapped with the manager outside my door so I went to bed.  Some of the others got to bed at 6.30 A.M.  P.S. The bandleader in making his speech at the dance thought it was very good that no one had made a number request (eg. Sweet Georgia Brown).  He did not appear to like brash music and was glad to see the young people were not that fond of it request it.  P.P.S. The road for the great part of today was only one lane each way.

Ryan Hajeb

At about 9.15 A.M. the whole group set off in a limousine for the Town Hall where we met the Mayor [Sarto Fournier] who gave two of the boys a pair of cufflinks to give to Mr. Menzies and the Mayor of Sydney.  The woodwork in his office was carved out of teak.  Over here in Canada it appears that woodwork inside is a feature.  After that we went in our limousines to the St. Lawrence Seaway and a look around town then we went to the Mount Stephen Club (where Princess Margaret had a meal) a very reserved club with beautiful wood panelling and stained glass windows where we had lunch with a firm of advertisers connected with Johnson & Johnson after which we went to the International Civil Aviation Organization (U.N.) and sat in the meeting chamber where we met the president and told all about the organization and Australia’s part in it.  Our chauffer today was a walking directory of the history of Montreal.  Sixty-five percent of the population of Montreal are French, but in the heart of Quebec the figure is nearer 80%.  At the seaway they had to raise or convert some bridges that crossed the St. Lawrence.  Crosses are about every [?].  At night I went to the home of Mrs. Elizabeth Somerville (Haig) Hall (Ma’s cousin) at 4358 Coalbrook Avenue, Montreal where I met her, her daughters Violet and Alison Hall who live with the mother.  Also the youngest of Mrs. Elizabeth Hall’s family Kenneth Hall and his wife Margaret and their children David 13 and Margaret 8.  Kenneth Hall lives at 5253 Trans Island Avenue N.D.G Montreal, Quebec, HUI-4278.  I had tea and talked till 12.00 midnight.  I came and went by taxi.  People in this of Montreal are mostly English speaking.  The Halls are Presbyterian.  Kenneth would be about 45 I should think. Mrs. E. Hall is just 88 years old. Kenneth is a strict father, more English than me.

Maria Haenichen

Weather: Cloudy.  At about 8.30 AM we went by taxi to the wharves to be shown over the fastest ship afloat, The United States.  (It only has the butcher’s block and the pianos made of wood.)  It is streamlined and mostly made of steel.  It was very nice, but I prefer the Queen Mary. We then had out picture taken outside two good picture theatres in New York.  Then we went via the Waldorf (and recorded an interview with the Voice of America for Australian radio) to Colgate Palmolive (just over the road) for a very nice private luncheon (very high standard).  I had my picture taken with the boss.  An Australian representative of Colgate Palmolive was present.  We were told that some products would be sent to our homes when we got back to Australia.  At 3.00 PM we went to the QANTAS-BOAC booking offices and saw the very large booking offices.  The advertising of Australia in the QANTAS section was mostly photograph enlargements (very good).  At night I went to Some Like it Hot starring Marilyn Monroe (free) with Jim.  Had tea at 9.30 PM then came home and washed and wrote.

Rebecca De Haas

Down for breakfast with Mr. and Mrs. King and two sons at 7.30 A.M. in the Hilton hotel where we were staying.  The Chamber of Commerce then supplied a bus for us to see the old town, army and navy installations, university, hospital and medical centre, etc.  Most architecture was on the Old Spanish line (with flat roof).  Saw Australian girls today for a few minutes at bus depot before they left, which was just before we left at 11.30 A.M. The country on the south side of town is much more fertile looking than the way in with trees and ordinary hilly country then we went into semi-flat treeless country for most of the way to Roswell (we had lunch at a small town on the way).  We spoke to two typical teenagers 16 and about 14 on going steady, etc.  At Roswell two girls in a car tried to pick up some of the boys.  Left Roswell at 5.10 P.M. after being in the town for one hour and twenty minutes.  We now passed through quite humble farm homes in the valley we passed along then dark came.  When we got to El Paso we were amazed at its size as I expected a small town. We booked in at Hilton hotel and three of us had tea at a restaurant (café type) at approximately 10.30 P.M.

Katie Miller

We left El Paso about 8.00 A.M. (I felt bilious all day.)  We had lunch at Pecos at 1.40 P.M., just outside the town, but I did not eat. We got to San Antonio at 10.15 P.M. and went straight to bed at the Hilton hotel.  The country we passed through was most interesting in as much as it was varied.  We had at the start semi-desert with sand laying about some hilly country, somewhat like New Mexico hill formation type.  Great fairly well grassed cattle country with slight dips and rises.  And towards the end of the long day’s trip we went through (in the dark) country that was hilly and well watered (I think).  San Antonio is a city of about half-a-million people.  It has many tall buildings.  It has a river flowing through it (like Venice). Three people were in my room, which was overlooking a waterfall that could have kept you awake if you were not tired.  P.S. In most parts we have been to, static electricity has given us a few jumps.

At 9.00 A.M. we rose to the sound of bells all over town playing something from the Desert Song.  We had breakfast downstairs (I was much better this morning).  I posted the two El Paso papers and returned to hotel (with Jim).  On this walk I observed better-dressed friendlier people, better dress shops (in other words, I approved of the town).  After lunch at the Menger Hotel (100 years old 3 days ago), which was near the Alamo (we had a good look at that).  I missed out on seeing the Old Spanish village just behind.  The weather has been as good as gold.  We set out again by bus at about 3.15 P.M. for Corpus Christie on the Gulf of Mexico.  The country was generally lightly wavy with scrub or none but all was quite green as the country was apparently in a wet spell.  Other was just at dust we saw a house (?) on fire.  We had tea at another ordinary restaurant you expect over here. Got to White Plaza Hotel about 8.00 P.M.  Jim and I in a room.

Sandra Mrowetz

Weather: Fine.  Rose about 8.45 A.M. and after breakfast in drugstore Scott and I went to the White House.  We went in the long file that the ordinary public go in, filing through the Red room, the Blue room, the Ballroom and others (the number of visitors passing through the White House must be great, thousands a day, four days a week).  After that Jn and I went to the Museum for a short time and had a look at the weapons of natives from the Pacific Islands and Australia.  After lunch at the cafeteria next to the hotel, I took a rest, I didn’t like doing it, but I needed it.  After tea in the coffee house in the hotel all of the boys except the two Jns went in two taxis to the home of one of the girls that we met at the Richmond hotel (Beta Club) and had a party with some of the girls. The party comprised of 8 boys (us), about 10 girls, Cokes, Pepsis, potato chips, records, dancing, and charades in a basement very tastefully finished in an air force man’s nice home. The hosts took us home at 12.30 A.M. and I got to bed about 1.15 A.M.

Amanda Tan

Church at St. Bartholomew’s just across the road from the hotel at 10.45 AM.  It is an unusual dome type church, big inside, but it was full today.  The ushers wore morning suits.  The service was very similar to St. Mary’s except the Psalms and the responses were spoken.  After lunch outside the hotel with Jim, he and I went to the International Car Show at the Coliseum.  We left the hotel at approximately 4.40 PM for the bus which ultimately got us to the Statler Hilton Hartford, a very modern hotel, at 9.30 PM where our photos were takes as per usual.  I am with Scott in a room on the 18th floor.  This hotel is what experts come from all over the world to see, it’s the most efficient hotel with no comfort sacrificed, only 2 years old.

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