16 February 2012

Noel's arrival in Chicago

My cousin Margaret recently sent me a copy of a few letters that Noel had written to his sister Edith in the 1980s. In them was a piece titled "A LOVE STORY: Noel Hughes - Kathleen Lilford". 

The piece was Noel's attempt to explain what had happened to his relationship with Kathleen, the girl he left behind in Australia. I'll reprint the entire piece when it is relevant. Right now I simply want to excerpt the part about Noel's journey to Chicago and what he experienced on his arrival. It is one of the few written first-person accounts I have from Noel and it adds a lot to the letters.

Up to
this point
life
had been easy
and exciting,
but now the battle begins. Noel needed money.
$30
was not enough
to carry him
for six weeks.
On June 19, 1931 the Hughes Family together with Kathleen gathered at Spencer Street Railroad Station to bid Noel "God Speed" and a successful college future.

Even now in 1986, I can still visualized the group, and Kath in particular, standing there as the train pulled out of the station. Little did I realize then that the great adventure was going to extract its toll in many ways. Life was going to be a battle -- sometimes existence was more important than education. The great depression was choking the world. I had jumped from the frying pan into the fire. I am getting ahead of myself.

It was an exciting experience sailing across the vast Pacific Ocean. Dad had through the Y.M.C.A. and other contacts alerted friends of his son Noel coming and in Fiji, Honolulu, Vancouver he was welcomed and shown the sights.

En Route to Chicago Noel was to attend the World Conference of Y.M.C.A.'s in Toronto and Cleveland. When the S.S. Niagara left Honolulu a large delegation of young people from Hawaii were on board also to attend the Conference. Noel joined them in all their activities and learned their Hawaiian Songs. This turned out to be very advantageous to him. The group in return for singing Hawaiian songs in Vancouver, on the train to Banff, Lake Louise Chalet, the Banff Spring Hotel, were entertained at these resorts and a special car was added to the train for their exclusive use to Toronto.

Noel was in Toronto for one week, and then taken by auto via Niagara Falls to Cleveland. At the conclusion of the Conference he proceeded alone to Chicago where Larry Bowen a friend of Dad met him. Larry was a Y.M.C.A. Secretary and took Noel to the Lincoln-Belmont "Y" where he was given a room without cost for the six weeks before the College Dormitory would open. This was a "godsend" for all Noel had in the world was $30.00.

Up to this point life had been easy and exciting, but now the battle begins. Noel needed money. $30.00 was not enough to carry him for six weeks. The College came to his rescue and gave him part time typing. Noel earned enough to sustain himself until the College opened.

The College had granted Noel a foreign Student Scholarship which covered tuition only. He would have to find income to provide for expenses, food and rent. Also, it was determined Noel lacked one year of high school credit for admission, so the scholarship was conditioned on his successfully earning the necessary high school credits and carrying a reduced college course load. Noel had two years to remove the condition.

Noel attempted to obtain part time employment, but it soon became obvious that being a foreigner was against him -- times were bad -- he was not even considered, in fact discriminated against. The College was his only source of employment -- janitor work very early in the morning to pay the rent, washing dishes in the cafeteria for meals in the evening. In between times college study, going to evening high school, seeking baby sitting or house work for residents of the community to obtain badly needed money for incidental expenses.

His experiences seeking work, and the limitations placed on Noel by the College discouraged him tremendously. From the very beginning failure was staring Noel in the face, but he had to go on and try to fight it out, and if successful it would take several additional years to graduate.