25 September 2011

The girlfriend at home and other tidbits

This next letter is the first letter where we see mention of Kath Lilford, who is the girlfriend that Noel left behind and is diligently waiting for him.

The family at camp in Australia. Pictured are
(front, from left) Joyce, Edith, May, and
(back, from left) George and Kath.
The reference is buried in this letter (No. 11 -- 18 Aug 1931) under mention of the Carnival Queen contest. You wouldn't even notice that Kath's name has significance here, but it becomes more obvious as the letters continue and time passes.

In a time-line in Noel's family history, Noel writes that he had a "very close relationship" with Kath Lilford "when he went to U.S.A. in 1931."

The back of the photo. I believe the date
is January 1932, not 1938 as it looks on first glance.
Long-distance relationship have always been difficult, and this one appears doomed from very early on, as Noel meets Marion C. Smith
(whom he will later marry) in the autumn of 1931 (although she doesn't appear in the letters for quite a long time.)

On some issues in these letters I think it will be more interesting to let them play out without any spoilers, but on the Kath Lilford issue, I think it's more interesting if you know this information early on.

Also of interest, once Noel and Kath terminate their relationship, they don't appear to have any contact until March and April, 1986, after Marion's death. While visiting Australia, Noel looks up Kath and has lunch with her and her husband.

Family News

I love the references to Edith and Joyce in this letter. It really paints a picture of their characters, and their attitudes feel very timeless.
Joyce looks at her and just simply says one word -- "mad"!

They were definitely a bright spot in George's life.

Immigration issues

I thought it was interesting to note in this letter the reference to the problems that Noel had with Immigration authorities. George didn't find it surprising, and I don't either, since Noel would be a red-flag on immigration even today -- a 21-year-old with very little cash coming into a country deep in Depression where jobs are scarce.

I wish I knew more of the story, though.

Finances at the YMCA

Also of interest to me were the references in the past few letters to all the pay cuts at the YMCA and how difficult fund-raising has been.

Pair that with all the references to people leaving their jobs at the YMCA, and you see how dire things were. Somewhere in Noel's papers, I remember reading that at one point George almost had to find other work also. I'll post that reference when I find it.

See related post: -- (No. 11 -- 18 Aug 1931)