11 November 2011

Roundel Nouveau -- George WWB Hughes

Stepping out of the chronology a little bit here, my cousin Alicia Bee has written a poem about George WWB Hughes that will be published in her new book release "The Book of the Dead and Wounded".

Here's what she has to say about the book:

Melbourne writer Alicia Bee’s second collection of poetry captures the limbo left from the grief and funerary process of loosing loved ones, which she likens to an injured state in a hospital.

The Book of The Dead and Wounded celebrates the lives of the deceased in prose, and asks those that are left behind to respond with meditation, tears and anger. Tributes to dead people are boxed in the first book section like a museum collection of lifelike stuffed animals; that remind us that our memories preserve mortality after the grave. The cringe surrounding emotions, fear of discussions of suicide and melancholy, are made taboo in glorious detail in this important release designed to change your reaction to death.

Alicia Bee writes about her relatives, friends and dead pets; exploring aging and the afterlife, in a book that tells us again that it is okay to think about the dead and the lessons they have taught us. If poetry was ever described as depressing the form is taken as strength, for Alicia Bee revels in the dance of macabre arranging this dried flower display as a shrine for your bookshelf.
For more information about Alicia Bee and her book, visit her website.

In the poem about George WWB Hughes, Alicia says she used quotes taken from some of his tributes. Here is the poem.

Roundel Nouveau – George WWB Hughes
Alicia Bee 5.5.11©

A small group of men stood in the lounge of the Sydney Y,
With laughter and bantering good fellowship they farewell,
One of their own returning south after vacation fly,
They were saying au revoir but they should have said goodbye.

Then news that shocked all associations in the commonwealth,
Our friend George Hughes was dead, collapsed at the post where he fell,
Thanks be to Heaven that death was painless from the good life dealt.

His name synonymous with all that noble in mankind,
A leader of world renown has passed from our midst and belt,
The man was laid to rest under a glorious blue sky,
They were saying au revoir but they should have said goodbye.

END. Alicia Bee © 2011.

26 October 2011

David Unaipon

David Unaipon in the late 1920s
(see Wikipedia)
One of the challenges with George's letters is getting through the density of information and trying to make sense of all the names.

Another challenge for me is that I'm not Australian, so I can easily miss some cultural references.

For instance, in Letter No. 12, I totally overlooked a reference about one of the residents living in the YMCA.
"You will remember David Unaipon, the aboriginal who has been living in the building. We have had a splendid lot of service from him in addressing groups of our members. Hundreds of them have been told the story of aboriginal life in the Northern part of South Australia."
It turns out that, according to Wikipedia, David Unaipon was "a preacher, inventor and writer. He was the most widely known Aboriginal in Australia, and broke stereotypes of Aboriginals. Unaipon is featured on the Australian $50 note in commemoration."

David Unaipon on Australia's $50 note.
(see Reserve Bank of Australia)
I only figured it out after reading ahead in George's letters and seeing a reference on 28 Dec 1931 when George mentions that he is sending "Uniapon's book on 'Aboriginal Legends'" to Noel.

Makes me wonder what other gems I'm missing. Should I be Googling every name that George drops? Perhaps.

No. 14 -- 12 Sept 1931

Mr. N.A. Hughes,
C/o Y.M.C.A. College
5315 Drexel Avenue,

My dear Noel,

I expect there will be a letter arriving on Monday from you, but in view of the fact that the mail closes in the early afternoon and I shall be engaged the whole of Monday morning  with the staff conference, I have decided to write to you this morning. It would have been nice if we could have answered any of the matters that may come to us in your letter, but I am afraid that will have to wait now until the next mail.

All the folk at home are well. Most of the colds that they had have gone. Ruth had a very heavy cold and it surprised me how she managed to keep going in her job, but she has managed to throw it off and seems to be in pretty good form just now. She is just as interested in her nursing as ever and I have no doubt in my own mind that she will be able to stand up to the exacting nature of her work.

Mother is also keeping very well, and the kiddies likewise. Keith expects to get a job again with the Wheat Commission and is hoping that he will be able to get into the forwarding and shipping end of the work as that lasts longer then the receiving section.

You will be surprised to hear that Keith received the Cup for the highest batting average in the cricket team for which he played last season. I think he was as much surprised as anybody else. It is a very neat little cup and now adorns the over-mantle in the drawing room.

By the way, I am enclosing the letter from Mr. Fred. Hartnell, Secretary of the Melbourne Rotary Club in Chicago. I am hoping that you will be able to deliver this letter in person and perhaps the folk there may be able to show you some little courtesy.

We also had a letter from May Glover in which she mentioned that they had made arrangements for a certain room for you at the college and that they hoped to be seeing you shortly. They seem to have had a particularly happy time at the Minneapolis Boys' Camp at Lake Independence, Loretto.

John Cook also wrote by this mail. He has had a particularly bad run of illness for some months past. He was hoping that you might keep in touch with him by an occasional letter.

We had a notice from the Lands Department advising us that noxious weeds were growing on the two sections at Burwood, and we were informed that unless the weeds were dealt with in the next three weeks, we would be fined. Keith went up yesterday to investigate the reason for the notice and discovered that there is a great deal of gorse on his section, but your section was fairly clear of it. A pal and he will be going up to the land next week with axes and slashers so as to destroy the gorse. A little later on it will be burned after it has had a chance to dry out. Talking of the lands reminds me that we have received a bill from Messrs. Maddock, Jamieson & Lonie for £3:19:0 being costs of the agreement and Caviat on you account and £2:5:0 on Keith's account. I suppose we did the right think in lodging the Caviat in case of any trouble that T.M. Burke's company may get into. I will pay the account a little later on.

Rex has been away for the past fortnight attending to some talkie installations in the country. We thought he would have returned before this. We have not heard any word from him and expect he will come back to the city this weekend.

You will be interested to hear that Harold Thompson who does the cinema work for the Vikings has been urging the Vikings Club to purchase your amplifier, so that talkie performances can be put on at the Association Building. Ern. Gollan is giving the matter some through and we will bring the machine in for them to try it out at a show they are having next weeks. I do not know whether they will be able to purchase it or not. In any case they will not be in a position  to pay spot cash for it. However, we will do our best with them if they feel to buy the machine. I am getting concerned at our inability to dispose of it as the winter is practically gone, and we may not get the same chance of selling it during the summer months. there is not likely to be the same measure of demand.

This afternoon we are to have a visit from the Ballarat YMCA and expect about 20 to 25 men in the party. We shall have tea together in the Lounge Dining Room, after which there will be matches in billiards, volleyball, basketball, etc. This is one of the attempts to bring about closer relationship between the country Associations and our own. In a week or two, a group of our boys will be visiting Ballarat Association for competition purposes.

By the way, the Queen Carnival is moving along quite nicely and is gathering momentum and interest. I have looked at the figures on the score board and notice that Kath. Lilford is leading with 3079 votes, Lil. Langham second with 2319, and Miss Davis of the juniors, third with 1990 votes. I must say that  we are very pleased with the way our members are responding to this Queen Carnival competition. the Interest has been splendid and a great number of functions has been arranged by each of the committees. We are closing the competition on October 8th, when we will have taken Wirth's Olympia for the crowning ceremony. We are planning a very big gathering with an excellent programme. If this is properly worked we should get a full hall, as the interest should be good. The first part of the programme is likely to be a demonstration of our work by a grand parade of practically all our clubs and classes. We expect to have the help of one or two choirs, brass band, etc. The crowning ceremony is staged on quite an elaborate plan, and I think we shall have an evening of considerable interest and enjoyment. Arrangements have already been made for costumes for each of the queens and we think the ceremony should have some beautiful effects.

The staff men who were ill, have all returned to their jobs. Alf. Hines' leg is still causing him to limp, but I think it will be quite well again within the next week or so. Bob Way still has some pain from his rheumatics, but he is on the job and getting steadily better. Matron has had a number of her teeth out  and she is not feeling too good as the result of the extractions.

The South Hawthorn Presbyterian Church decided to do without a sale of work this year, and on Tuesday last some of the members of the session, with the Minister, were in attendance at the Church building all day, to receive the gifts of the congregation. A sum of over £70 was subscribed by direct giving. This was an excellent result for such a small church.

Mr. Baird has enquired on several occasions concerning yourself, and we have passed on any information we have had regarding your movements.

We are still finding the financial position pretty difficult in the Association. I think we shall have to face further economies as we cannot hope to continue the losses we are making each month.

This letter should reach you just as you are getting into the collar of your studies. There will be many strange experiences come to you int he next few weeks and you may find it somewhat difficult to set your mind to the steady routine demanded by college life. So many new impressions will be crowding in upon you, all of which have a very disturbing effect. The newness of college life too, will mean that you will require to make a great deal of readjustment in your ordinary habits. I can only express the hope that you will take things as philosophically as possible, and determine to give your best thought to the work immediately in hand.

I am hoping too, that you may have had success in meeting all the requirements of college entrance examination. To start your work without arrears of studies, will mean a great deal to you, but even if you have to make up certain subjects, it is astonishing how quickly the can be disposed of if they are tackled resolutely and with a determination to win out.

I repeat what I have tried to say in other letters, that whatever success you may achieve in your studies, the important thing is that you should recognise that the work of the Association is primarily that of religious leadership. Cultivate a close relationship with Christ through your private study of His word and prayer and service.

We all unite in love to you,
Yours affectionately,

12 October 2011

Missing Noel and other tidbits

George never comes out and says that he misses Noel, but he has written 13 letters so far, even though he has only received five back from Noel. That's 40 type-written pages of letters chocked full of advice and news. He monitors the mail ship arrivals and departures very closely, and even when he says he doesn't have much news to pass along, he can still fill three or four pages.

As he says: "We have had several mails leaving at pretty close intervals recently, consequently you have received I think in all about four letters from me this month."

It must have been very frustrating that this was the only way he could be part of Noel's life right now.

Gymnastic Circus

In letter No. 13 there is a reference that "We held the Circus on Saturday". George doesn't explain what kind of circus it is.

However, while I was researching the last post about the Melbourne YMCA, I came across a library catalog listing for the Official Programme of the Ninth Annual Gymnastic Circus: at Olympia, Wirth's Park, Saturday, 29th August, 1931 at 8 p.m.

It was fun to make that "ah-ha" connection between something random I ran across on the Internet and a direct reference in George's letter.

What I found even more interesting were a few other web pages that gave the history of gymnastics in Australia. These websites directly credit the Melbourne YMCA as being instrumental in the development of the sport in Australia.

According to a site called Australian Women at the 1956 Olympic Games:
"Following World War 1, Australia , like most countries found itself in the grip of the Depression. Unemployment was high, morale was low and many people were left homeless and destitute.

"During this time, many people turned to organisations such as the Y.M.C.A. their local church groups, youth groups and other friendly societies where resources could be pooled, support was on offer and a sense of community spirit developed. It was in this environment that gymnastics in Australia , once again began to flourish.

"As the sport slowly developed competitions began to occur. From the 1930's interstate gymnastics competitions were regularly organised by the Y.M.C.A. The first Victorian Y.M.C.A. State competition was held in 1936 with teams from the Melbourne Y.M.C.A, Wesley College and Geelong Grammar competing."
There are other references I found. I expect that I'll have an opportunity to go into the topic more as I'm sure George will make references to these events in the future.

Joyce's Sweet 14

I think George really comes to life when reading his comments about Joyce and Edith. This one especially cracked me up.  "Of course, we will give her something for her bank account, but she doesn't consider that a present. She thinks that money that is saved is not a present."

And I can't help but agree with Joyce here!

Church Elder Election

Also of note in this letter are George's references to his church. I thought it was amusing when George talked about attending an event: "I went alone to see what the show was like, and was, of course, drawn in to make an address."

He was that used to public speaking, that practiced at it, that he could, off  the cuff "make an address". Granted, it was a father/son event, and George's specialty was speaking to and about youth.

At the end of that same paragraph, George also tells Noel that he has been asked to become a church elder.  "This may involve an election, and it is possible I may not be returned because I am not well known among the Church folk."

I was startled at that statement, as I expected that George, given his vocation, would have been more active in his church before this.

No. 13 -- 1 Sept 1931

Mr. N.A. Hughes,
C/o Y.M.C.A. College
5315 Drexel Avenue,

My dear Noel,

Yesterday I received a copy of the Y.M.C.A. Blue Book giving particulars of the Association at Calgary. This is certainly a fine piece of printed matter, and I imagine was specially prepared to act as propaganda in a financial effort on behalf of the Calgary work. Thank you for sending it on to me.

I am expecting there will be a letter at home giving fuller particulars of your trip across Canada. We have had several mails leaving at pretty close intervals recently, consequently you have received I think in all about four letters from me this month.

We held the Circus on Saturday, and it was a splendid success. The afternoon performance was attended by between 300 and 400 people, mainly at our invitation. We hurriedly arranged to invite the poor children from the City Mission, North Melbourne Mission, Montague Boys, Deaf & Dumb, and a number of other groups of a like character. It gave the kiddies an afternoon's entertainment, and at the same time provided an audience for our performers. You know that the afternoon gathering is never largely attended, and is really more in the direction of a final rehearsal than an actual performance. Next year we intend to extend the invitation list pretty widely, so as to bring in a large number of the children's organisations to see the show. The evening performance went off splendidly. It was quite as well attended as other years, which of course was gratifying to see. We thought that because of the financial depression, there would be a considerable drop in the attendance, but our fears proved to be groundless. I am sending to you under separate cover a copy of the circus programme. I thought that probably Clive would be interested in looking it over. The standard of performance, was, I think quite up to the usual. Some of the items were, in my judgment, a little better than other years. At any rate most folk seemed to be entirely satisfied with the show. Of course,  it is too early to say how much we are likely to clear in the way of financial returns.

On Saturday night we also had a group of about 300 folk here in the building in connection with the Methodist Young People's Movement associated with the Methodist Babies' Home. Matron and her staff had the job of providing supper for the m and consequently could not attend the circus gathering.

Matters in connection with the Queen Carnival are gathering momentum and I think the response on the whole ought to be pretty good. Most of the committees organising the carnival are putting in a lot of time and thought into preparations for raising money and I think the results are proving quite good.

We are considering a big scheme for the crowning ceremony. Tomorrow night the Executive will meet to decide the details. We feel that we can make this crowning ceremony a big feature not only from the point of view of publicity, but also of some assistance in the scheme of money raising. The cards in connection with the Queen Carnival are not quite ready, but as soon as they are available I will send you a copy so that you may see just exactly how the plan is arranged and you will also see the photographs of the folk you know. (Enclosed).

Matron has been busy preparing curtains for the cafeteria and we expect this week to have them up, and we think the cafeteria will look much more homelike and the bareness removed from the walls. We are also putting covers on the tables which should give a very bright effect.

At our little Church we held a Father and Son Sunday, a week ago and had a fine evening service. Keith accompanied the rest of us to Church, and I think enjoyed the service. On the following Wednesday we had a Father and Son "Get-Together" gathering in the Church hall. Keith could not attend, but I went alone to see what the show was like, and was, of course, drawn in to make an address. It was quite a good thing to have the Church folk rallied together in this way, and I think it is likely to become an annual service. Next Sunday is Communion Service at the Church. You will be interested in hearing that I have been asked to become an Elder of the Church. This may involve an election, and it is possible I may not be returned because I am not well known among the Church folk. However, if they want me you can be sure I shall be only too happy to take any part I can in the development of the Church's life.

Tonight there is to be held a Minstrel Revue in connection with the Queen Carnival. This will be held in our Social Hall and is being organised by the Y's Men, Residents, etc. The proceeds will of course swell the total towards crowning Kath Lilford as Queen. Mother, I think, will be in to have a look at the show.

I have not much home news to pass on to you, as it is only a week or two since I last wrote. Ruth was out for the weekend. I think she spend practically the whole of the time in bed as she not only had a heavy cold, but was feeling the strain of the heavy work she had been experiencing.

The kiddies are well. Yesterday was Joyce's birthday. She is now sweet 14. I was told last week that I had to provide a cover for her tennis racquet which I think a very modest request and quite in keeping with the times! Of course, we will give her something for her bank account, but she doesn't consider that a present. She thinks that money that is saved is not a present.

Mrs. Harrison is still with us. To be quite frank we are beginning to be a little "fed up" with the rather prolonged stay with us, but of course we are only too glad to help them in their time of difficulty as Harrison has not had too good a time during recent months.

Later: We did not receive a letter this mail, as I had expected. Yet, on second thoughts I do not see just how you could have sent it in view of the fact that you would be crossing Canada about the time the mail left America. In the rush of the Toronto conference you would not have a great deal of time for letter writing.

Tom Laing was good enough to send a postcard from the conference in which he mentioned that the Aussie boys were having a good time, and getting a great deal out of the conference, especially along Fellowship lines. He said that you were busy making contacts to help you later. I am sure you would have a great time meeting the other Australians as the Conference.

We were sorry to learn that Ern. Saunders could not attend and more sorry still to learn that he was to finish up at his Montreal job at the end of August. This will mean another "move on" for him. I hope you kept a list of the folk you met at the Conferences who remembered me overseas, and in America. It would be a great pleasure to receive from you some idea of the folk whom you met.

This letter will reach you just before your College work commences. I understand it is due to arrive in America about the 26th. Allowing several days to cross to Chicago, you should get it just at the time your school work opens up.

From your contacts  with the Springfield boys, you will have gathered quite a lot of information concerning College life and work, and I hope you will put that knowledge to the best possible use.

You will find that it will pay you handsomely to keep in close touch with the men you meet at the Conferences. An occasional postcard or letter will be a valuable means of maintaining connection with them. It is customary for a young fellow to drop a lot of these personal contacts but I urge that you maintain them and keep in frequent touch with the folk by an occasional letter. If you cannot do that, post something to them concerning one or other of the branches of the Chicago Association, reports, printed matter, etc. This helps to keep a closer touch.

Rex told me the other day that the person with whom he was expecting to effect a sale of the amplifier has gone cold on the proposition, so that we are still as far off as ever, as far as disposing of it is concerned. It looks as if in the ultimate we shall have to dismantle it and sell the parts, if we are to get anything out of it at all. Rex is away in the country this week and I have been urging that he should do his best to introduce the amplifier to any folk in the country who may be interested in providing music for dance halls, picture shows, etc.

By the way you will be interested to hear that Williamson, the dentist who lived in the building with us for several years, is leaving for North Western University, Chicago, by this steamer. He will, therefore, be in Chicago about the beginning of October. I have given him a card to yourself so that he may make contact with you shortly after his arrival.

Don't forget to get in close touch with Mr. Norman Weston, Physical Director of the Evanston Y, Chicago. He is a good friend of mine and will help you I am sure. Also Harry White and Laurie Bowen, whose addresses you have. Look them up early.

I must close now. All the folk at home send their love. We hope you will capitalise every opportunity now presented to you. Hard work will bring its own reward.

Yours affectionately,

05 October 2011

No. 12 -- 24 Aug 1931

Mr. N.A. Hughes,
C/o Y.M.C.A. College,
5315 Drexel Avenue,

My dear Noel,

I understand there is a mail leaving this afternoon, so I am taking a few minutes to drop you a few lines. There is not a great deal to pass on to you this mail, as it is only a week ago since we last wrote.

I had a letter from Merle Scott, who was formerly General Secretary at Honolulu, in which he stated that my letter to him advising him of you arrival there, had been forwarded to him at Eugene in Oregon, consequently he was not on hand to welcome you. That explains the reason why you were not met at the boat. The Association fellows at Honolulu did not know because there was not time for Mr. Scott to write to them between the receipt of my letter and your arrival.

We have had good word from Dr. Doggett, concerning the four Australians at Springfield. He writes in the highest terms of the four men -- Evans, McRae, Jones and Laing, and of course asks for more. I think you have got to do your share in building up a tradition in connection with the Chicago Y College. Now that Glover and yourself are in the student body, it is up to you to endeavor to secure the interest of other men so that the number at Chicago may be increased.

We had a visit from the Bendigo Y.M.C.A. Harriers on Saturday last. They ran from Bendigo to Melbourne, a distance of 100 miles in relays, and did the journey in 10 1/4 hours. It was an awful day with cold wind and heavy rain. The fellows had a very trying experience. That they put up such an excellent time is a really remarkable performance, for a club that has only been formed about two months.

We have a visit planned from the Ballarat fellows on September 12th when about 25 or 30 of them are coming down to a series of competitions in basketball, volleyball, billiards, swimming, etc. etc. This is helping to bring the provincial Associations into closer touch with our city work.

Ack Way seems to be doing a good job at Ballarat. I think I told you in my last letter that Alec. Spence had gone from our Leader Corps to the Ballarat Physical Directorship. By the way, I understand that Spence is likely to go to America for training later on.

You will remember David Unaipon, the aboriginal who has been living in the building. We have had a splendid lot of service from him in addressing groups of our members. Hundreds of them have been told the story of aboriginal life in the Northern part of South Australia.

You will be sorry to learn the Miss Ray lost her sister on the 19th August. She has been ill for a considerable time and passed away on that date. Matron and Mr. and Mrs. Pollock attended the funeral. A wreath was sent from the Association staff.

In the Suburban Auxiliaries Scheme, interest is intensifying, and it looks as if the Queen Carnival Competition will be a success. The Boys' Department held a function on Saturday night in which the Fathers' and Mothers' Clubs combined in a Games Night. There were about 130 present and a nett amount of between £3 and £4 was secured towards the Junior Department Queen. The Vikings have outlined a big list of functions, a copy of which I am enclosing. In connection with the Senior Queen (Kath. Lilford) organisation is getting under way and a number of social functions have been arranged. All this is creating considerable interest and I think will result in substantial help to the Association. It is probable that the Crowning Ceremony will take place on Saturday, October 17th, but that date has yet to be confirmed by the Executive.

Mr. Hines returned to work today, after about ten days illness, as the result of the accident to his knee. Walter Muston returned from illness on Saturday, although he is still far from well. George Briggs is still laid up and it looks as it will be some little time before we shall see him about again. Probably it will be the end of the week before he will be available for duty. All of this has thrown an added burden upon the front office staff, as there have been fewer men to take on extra duties.

Ern. Gollan is away at Buffalo with the Buffalo party. There are 22 who made the trip this year. They will return on Friday next.

There is little to report in connection with home affairs beyond what I gave you in my last letter. Keith has been working for the Texaco during the past week, but it looks as if this will finish on Wednesday at the latest. There are other ships to come and I suppose he will handle the cargo as before, that is unless he secures another job in the meantime.

Rex. is still at work, but I think he is getting to the "fed up" stage and I should not be surprised if he turns the job in any day. He states he has another job to go to.

Mrs. Harrison is staying with us again, but I do not know how long she will be with us. The kiddies are well and so is Ruth. Ruth said she would drop you a line by this mail. I hope she was able to do so.

You will receive this a week or so ahead of the time you commence work at college. I hope, old chap, that you have been well received and that you enjoy the prospects ahead. I sincerely hope a job has been found for you on a part time basis. From all I hear, conditions are not too good in Chicago, but I trust that a way will open so that you may find something that will "keep the pot boiling". Let me know immediately if you are in monetary difficulties.

We all unite in sending our warmest love,
Affectionately yours,

The Melbourne YMCA

The YMCA letterhead from 1931, scanned from one of George's letters.
The Melbourne YMCA is such a prominent character in George's letters, but frustratingly, it isn't easy to find a significant summary of its history on the Internet.

The eMelbourne website, which is an online encyclopedia of Melbourne, includes this information:
"By 1924 Melbourne boasted the largest YMCA in the southern hemisphere. Its new premises opened in City Road near Princes Bridge in 1925, and a decade later membership stood at over 2000 men and boys...

After a long period of decline, the Melbourne YMCA closed down in 1980, many of its functions being taken over by the Victorian State YMCA." 

Note that the "decade later" statement above refers to the 1930s when George was general secretary and writing these letters.

The Melbourne YMCA in 1974
(Original courtesy of Lindsay Bridge via Flickr
and edited version courtesy of Michael Williams via Flickr)
The YMCA building where George worked was located near the Prince's Bridge in South Melbourne. A contact on Flickr, Michael Williams, who lived at the Melbourne YMCA in the mid 1960s and has a photo set devoted to his time at the Y, remembers the address as 2 City Road.

Regardless, the building was demolished during the development of the nearby Arts Centre complex.

The Prince's Bridge area in
South Melbourne, 1945
(courtesy of the
University of Melbourne Map Collection)
The Prince's Bridge area in
South Melbourne, 2011
(courtesy Google Maps)
(A) denotes approximate location of YMCA

I was able to find a Melbourne Argus newspaper article from 12 Nov 1926 noting the opening of the then new Melbourne YMCA building. The article, about the YMCA's Armistice Day observances, notes that the association's new building stood as "a perpetual reminder of the splendid work done by the association during the war, and of the hundreds of Y.M.C.A. members who had served with the A.I.F."

Clipping from The Argus (Melbourne) Friday 12 Nov 1926
Courtesy of Australia Trove digitized newspapers and more
In this case, "perpetual" means only 54 years, which is actually a good run for a building in a thriving city in the 20th Century, I guess.

On a personal note, I remember touring Melbourne in 1980 and visiting what was, I think, the YMCA building, and being told it wouldn't be around for much longer. I remember being shown George's name on a wall placard somewhere. I wish I'd paid more attention, but I was only 11 years old then. Maybe a search of old family photos will turn up something. 

I also found it interesting to note that an Internet search of "Young Men's Christian Association of Melbourne" turns up many Y publications that exist in library collections today, which is consistent with repeated statements that George includes in his letters about distributing the publications and donating them to libraries.

25 September 2011

No. 11 -- 18 Aug 1931

Mr. N.A. Hughes,
C/o Y.M.C.A. College,
5315 Drexel Avenue,

My dear Noel,

Your letter written just before your arrival at Vancouver together with four pages of diary, reached us a couple of days ago. This completes your journey up to within a day's run of Vancouver.

We were all delighted to hear that you had had such a splendid time at Honolulu and that the folk there had been courteous in their treatment of you both. My own visits to Honolulu have always remained a very vivid memory as I recall he way in which the Association men looked after me during the day spent there.

I was not aware the Mr. Scott and left Honolulu. Presumably the letter I sent to him had been forwarded to America or they would have met you on arrival. However, it was fine to know that Ralph Cole was available to show you some courtesy. I met Cole in 1919 when I passed through San Francisco. He was then State Secretary for Boys' Work in California. He is a first-class fellow and I am glad that you were able to make contact with him.

We were all deeply interested to hear that you had the company of the Honolulu delegation to Vancouver, and presumably you crossed Canada in the same party.

I passed your diary around among a number of the Association staff, so that they might learn of your doings.

I also had a letter from Mr. R. Glen Nixon of Vancouver Association, advising me of your safe arrival, and also informing me of the difficulties you had with the Immigration authorities. You know, I have always feared the possibility of trouble in that direction. I know how stringently America is enforcing her Immigration laws and this made me feel that with your limited capital there might be trouble with them. However, I am glad to learn that it was satisfactorily adjusted.

Mrs. Mackinnon, May Glover's mother, came in the other day and was good enough to let me see a letter May had written to her describing the camp where Clive and she are spending their summer holidays. I suppose you heard from Clive on arrival at Vancouver, and he may have been able to do something for you in connection with a job.

Mr. Nixon mentioned that you would probably visit the Winnipeg Boys' Camp an one or two other camps on your way across Canada. I hope this was possible.

During the Conference at Cleveland, we had a cable appear in our papers here drawing attention to the discussion that occurred at the Conference with regard to war Guilt, and how that the German and French delegates were at loggerheads over this matter.

We are all waiting with a great deal of interest the arrival of you report of the Conferences. You will have received my former letters asking you to send on full reports and copies of any important papers and findings.

There is not a great deal of Association news to pass on to you, apart from the ordinary programme matters. In the Suburban Auxiliaries Effort we are conducting a Queen Carnival with three Queens -- Miss Ruby Davis representing the Junior Dept., Lilian Langham, the Younger Men's Department, and Kath Lilford representing the Senior Department. We expect this to run until the end of September, and hope by this means to secure additional income. The various events in connection with the Suburban Effort have, so far, not proved very remunerative, although we are hoping next month that quite a number of functions will be held and the result may be worthwhile.

Mr. Hines is unfortunately away ill. He was jumping for a tramcar and fell off the car and injured his knee very badly. I do not expect we shall see him at the office for a week or ten days. Mr. Jenner and I went out to see him today and found his leg in a very bruised and sore condition.

Bob Way has also been ill with rheumatics, and George Briggs is at present away with a very heavy bronchial cold.

Alec. Spense, one of our Gym. leaders, has been appointed Physical Work Director at Ballarat, and has taken over his new duties and seems to be giving satisfaction.

I suppose you have heard that Mr. Trainor has received an appointment with the Aspro Company and that he will be severing his official connection with the National work a the end of September. He is giving part time at present, but will relinquish all official connection on the date mentioned. However, we are hoping he will maintain an honorary relationship to the National Committee's work, and in this way his experience will not be lost to the Movement.

Frank Woodcraft leaves this week for New Zealand to help the Wellington and National Committees in financial work. He will probably be away for about three months.

Jim. Straton was over from Adelaide last week, and I had the chance of a long chat with him. Conditions in Adelaide are very "blue". In fact it looks as if either Massey or Straton will have to finish up at the end of the year. Straton was over investigating the possibilities in his father's business in the expectation that he would probably leave Association service temporarily until the depression lifts somewhat.

I have not anything very great to give you as far as the other Associations are concerned. The National Convention will be held in Melbourne, November 21 to 23, when we expect to have a small but necessary convention. With the changed relationships of Frank Trainor, it will be necessary to legislate with regard to the future of the National work, and what plans can be effective for the supervision of the whole field.

Now just a little home news. We are all well at home  I am happy to say. All of us have had heavy colds, but we are alright again. Mother had a few days in bed, but she has completely recovered apart from a few pains which do not distress her overmuch.

Little Edith has started elocution and she is, to quote herself, "having a gorgeous time". She is "thrilled" with her new instruction. Already she is expecting to take part in a concert at the end of the year, when the pupils will display their ability. Joyce looks at her and just simply says one word -- "mad"! Edith is working hard at her pianoforte, as she anticipates sitting for an examination late in the year. She is always startling us with her questions at the table, some of which are absolute posers. The other night while we were having tea, she said "Dad, is it true that God and Jesus and the Holy Ghost are one? How can it be? How can Jesus be his own father?" Of course this was a poser, and Dad had to confess himself stumped!

Joyce will be 14 on the 31st of the month and she is naturally getting excited and wants to know what we are all going to give her. We tell her that times are too hard to give birthday presents. Of course, that doesn't satisfy her.

You will be glad to hear that Rex is still at work. This job seems to be holding better than the others preceding it.

Ruth was home for the weekend. She seems very much interested in her nursing work. I had a talk with Mr. Bennett, the Secretary of the Hospital, the other day and he told me that they were very satisfied with her, that she did her work well and was popular with both nursing staff and the patients. I suppose this means that she will see it through.

The other day I planted two peach, one nectarine, and one orange tree. These will just be about in good bearing by the time you come home! We now have 30 fruit trees in -- so hurry up with your course and come home for a good feed of fruit!

I am enclosing a number of unused American stamps which  I have collected. These might be of some  service to you for postage purposed.

Before I forget it, I must tell you that Harry Joyce left the Association's employ on the 31st July. We made him a presentation and wished him good luck for the future. I don not know whether he has been successful in securing a job so far.

We are all wondering just what is happening to you just now. We hope you have been placed in a job. From all I can hear, there are not too many jobs available in Associations, but I sincerely hope that my friends have been able to help you by providing a post for you.

Rex has not yet been able to dispose of the Amplifier, although we have had one or two fellows along to see it. I should not be surprised if in the end we have to dismantle it and sell the parts separately. I hope this will not be necessary.

I think mother will be writing to you by this mail, and probably one or two other members of the family.

With warm love from us all, and hoping we shall hear soon of you experiences in Canada and U.S.

Affectionately yous,

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)

21 September 2011

No. 10 -- 3 Aug 1931

Mr. N. A. Hughes,
C/o Y.M.C.A. College,
5315 Drexel Ave.,

My dear Noel,

We received your letter dated 8th July and posted I presume at Honolulu. Also your diary up to July 6th. As requested we passed this around the staff folk and other friends so that they may know of the happenings on your voyage. Naturally they were pleased to hear of the record of your doings.

We were all sorry to hear that you did not have a daylight trip to Suva, but that could not be helped. Mr. Barker I think I told you in my last letter, wrote to us and gave us some details of your visit to Suva. We hope you had a good time at Honolulu. My visits to Honolulu are very fresh in my memory as I had such a remarkably good time on each occasion.

I am sorry I forget to get the letter for the Rotary Club at Chicago. I will get into touch with Mr. Hartnell, the Secretary here, and endeavour to get a letter for you.

Under separate cover we are sending the two copies of the Annual Report so that you might have one to give away if you feel so disposed. I note that you expect to change your itinerary a little as you cross Canada. You must not forget that the C.P.R. people wrote ahead so as to reserve accommodation for you. If you did not turn up, it may occasion a little kick from the hotel folk with whom reservation was arranged. I think you were wise to extend your time at Winnipeg. I hope you had a good chance to make contact with Archie Kirkpatrick.

Movie poster for the 1927 film "Wings",
a silent film about World War I fighter pilots
and the first winner of the
Academy Award for Best Picture.
(Source: Wikipedia)

We were all glad to hear that  you had made such excellent friends on the ship. I hope these young fellows may be of some help to you in giving you wrinkles on travelling in Canada.

You will by this time have finished up at Toronto and will be turning your face towards Cleveland. I need hardly say that I hope you found the Toronto meetings very helpful. Those at Cleveland should be even more so because of the remarkable collection of young people, as well as seniors you will meet from the different nations. Such an opportunity for personal contacts should mean a great deal to you in the future. By the time this letter reached you conference will have receded into the background and you will be looking forward to your new experiences at Chicago College.

I am hoping that you made contact with a number of my own personal friends at Cleveland. Mr. F.J. Chamberlain, the National Secretary of the British Y.M.C.A., said he would be on the lookout for you as he would be attending the conference. Mr. Harry White, National Council's representative in the Foreign Division at Chicago, also wrote that he would be making contact with you at Cleveland. He had written to you personally, and also to Mr. Fred. Smith at Toronto Central, and Mr. John Geldart. These good friends should have been exceedingly useful to you.

I also had a letter from Mr. Harry Lang, who used to be National Secretary of the Y.M. in Australia, and also from Mr. Sid. Peck, of the San Francisco Y.M.C.A.; both of these men said that they would write to you personally. I hope they did.

Now just a little news of the home folk. We are all keeping very well, apart from colds which most of us have had. Joy and Keith have had very heavy colds which they have not yet been able to throw off. Ruth was home for the weekend from the Homeopathic Hospital. She seems to be enjoying her work there and likes it much better than her job at Danks. I think she will fit into the hospital work and enjoy it. She is having a pretty "lean" time financially. She will not be paid for her first month's work, and then will have to wait until the end of the second month before she draws any pay! In the meantime I have got to keep her going in pocket money. However, that is not a serious matter as her needs are not very great. Keith has not yet struck anything to do. Rex has been doing "off work" and has had three or four jobs since you left. On Saturday he told me that he had a good chance of selling your Amplifier, but of course we have nothing definite to go upon, apart from his statement.

Uncle Will was in over the weekend. He is having a particularly bad time and is making very few sales and consequently is hard up against it.

We have not heard much from the Sydney folk during the past few weeks. Little Edith has taken a great spurt with her piano playing. She has determined to sit for an examination and is now putting in 3/4 hour every morning before breakfast at the piano. I wonder if she will be able to keep it going?

Now a little about the Association. We are still having a pretty difficult time financially and there doesn't seem to be any lift in the depression. Harry Joyce finished up last Friday and we farewelled him at afternoon tea and made him a presentation. There were about 30 present. The Navy work has now to be handled by Reg. Gray, and the Matron, and the  bookings are done at the front office counter. Harry Joyce, as far as I know, has no work to go to, so that he might have quite a bad time during the new few weeks. We have tried in certain directions to get him a job but without success.

Most of the departments are going well. We averaged 75% of occupancy in the Dormitory Dept. over the 6 months instead of our usual 95% to 98%.

The Suburban leaders Corps is going well with over 40 fellows enrolled. I commence a series of six talks tomorrow evening.

The Suburban Auxiliaries Plan proposed by Mr. Crosby has not developed as we had hoped it might, but some money is coming in and if a few of the special functions arranged in the future turn out trumps, we should nett a few hundreds of pounds from these events.

We had a great night here on Saturday last, when the final Basketball Games were played. There were about 200 present.

The Residents have been having some good meetings in connection with their dinner functions and there was a first-class social with the "13" club a week ago. This was quite a good affair and went off excellently.

I told you in my last letter that other reductions in salaries were contemplated. Since then there has been a further cut, and the average works out at about 25% all round. Actually in the last 11 months we have had three cuts and the total reductions in salaries represent over 33%. That of course includes those who have left the Association's employ, such as yourself and others. Despite all this reduction, we cannot make up the loss in revenue we have experienced. I think we shall probably be in the neighborhood of £1900 down on the seven months work.

We are all wondering just how you have been getting along since the conferences, and eagerly await news of your doings. I hope you will keep us fully informed.

The Wireless Club is going well. Last Thursday night they assisted the Vikings in the Picture Show and provided an excellent Amplifier to broadcast the musical part of the programme. They will be able to render very effective service in jobs of this kind. They are meeting regularly twice a week and seem to be an interested group of fellows. At the Picture Show referred to, the Vikings put on the picture "Wings" and had over 200 present.

I must finish off now, as the mail is due to close at 2:30 p.m. I can tell you my boy, that all the folk at home send their love to you. We hope you will keep us regularly informed of your doings.

Pass on my regards to Professor Foss, Dr. Dreaver, and of course Clive and May. Any of my pals whose names I gave you and who are located in Chicago, will be glad to meet you.

Let's hear how you get on as you contact with them.

Affectionately yous,

Who was George WWB Hughes?

Geo. W.W.B. Hughes in an undated photo. Location unknown.
Now that we are almost 10 letters into this project, it seems like a good time to give some biographical information on the author: Geo. WWB Hughes, also known as George Wall Wall Bagot Hughes.

As an overview, I'll quote directly from Noel Hughes, who wrote this about his father:
"George W.W.B. Hughes was one of the outstanding leaders during the early 1900's in both New Zealand and Australia. He was a Christian Gentleman who believed there was good in everyone. He was close to his church but preferred to work through a lay organization for the common and individual good. He was a friend to everyone he met, never uttering a harsh word in criticism.

"He availed himself of every opportunity to reach and serve people, occupying church pulpits on Sunday when asked, leading community singing, serving on committees and with all groups concerned for the public welfare. ...

"He became known throughout the world as one of the leading men in the Young Men's Christian Association, the lay organization to which he had devoted his life."

In the early 1980s, when Noel put together his family history, he didn't have the advantage of the Internet for research. So, I've borrowed liberally from his research, and added some of my own.

The Early Years in Adelaide

1878 -- George is born in Adelaide, South Australia, to Mary Ellen Hextell and George Wall Wall Bagot.

1880 -- George's mother marries Samuel Christopher Hughes, and George starts using the surname Hughes.

1882 -- George has a little sister, Edith Eleanor Hughes.

Sturt Street School in Adelaide,
where George attended school
in the 1880s. (Courtesy of
About Time: South Australia's
History Festival via Flickr

George is educated at Sturt Street School, which was constructed in 1883 and is one of the oldest primary schools in South Australia still operating today.

He continues his education at Angas College, described as "an interdenominational missionary training school" in a Wikipedia article about Australian Lutheran College, which operates at the site today.

Angas College was the first Bible college in Australia and was established in Adelaide in the 1890s by Presbyterian minister, Rev W Lockhart Morton, according to the Ministry Blue and SA Memory websites.

George is a sportsman, participating in activities including swimming, cross-country running, football, lacrosse and tennis.

His first occupations are in the printing trade with the "Advertiser" office (presumably the newspaper The Advertiser in Adelaide) and publishers Vardon & Pritchard in Adelaide.

It may be at Vardon & Pritchard that George formed his connection with the Young Men's Christian Association, as Joseph Vardon also had a connection with the YMCA, serving as its president in Adelaide from 1904-08, according to his biography.

Settling into a Career and Family Life

1903-1906 -- Now 25 years old, George begins his career in the YMCA, working as the Assistant Secretary of Our Boys Institute, Adelaide. According to Wikipedia, it was a junior branch of the YMCA with programming for boys ages 13-18.

1904 -- George, at age 26, marries Harriet Adelaide May McLaughlin, referred to as "May", at the Flinders Street Presbyterian Church in Adelaide.

Throughout his life, Geo. W.W.B. Hughes lives in:
(A) Adelaide, South Australia, (B) Dunedin, New Zealand
(C) Wellington, New Zealand, and (D) Melbourne, Victoria
1905 -- George and May's first son, Keith, is born.

1907-08 -- George works as the Physical Director at the YMCA in Adelaide.

1907 -- George studies at the University of Adelaide. According to the University Calendar for that year (found online on Google Books) he is listed as a non-graduating student, which I'm guessing means that he wasn't in a degree program.

1907 -- George and May's first daughter, Ester, is born. She dies that same year.

The New Zealand Years -- the Family Grows

Clipping from the Evening Post (Wellington)
25 Oct. 1913 found via Papers Past.
1909 -- The family moves to Dunedin, New Zealand, living at 368 High Street, and later on Russel Street and then on York Place.

1909-17 -- George works as the General Secretary for the YMCA in Dunedin, New Zealand.

1909 -- George and May have another son, Noel.

1912 -- George and May have another daughter, Ruth.

1917 -- George and May have another daughter, Joyce.

The Great War

Geo. W.W.B. Hughes (front row, far right)
is pictured outside the Shakespeare Hut
in London c. 1918. The Shakespeare Hut,
15 Gower Street, was the headquarters of the
New Zealand YMCA
in London during World War I.
(See this old newspaper clipping.)
1917-19 -- George, at age 38, travels to London, England, and takes a position as Supervising Secretary for the New Zealand YMCA Army Work during World War I. During this time he travels British, Canadian, New Zealand and American war fronts, even coming under shell fire.

1918 -- George is awarded the honor "Member of the British Empire" by King George V of England for his service to the New Zealand troops in England and France.

Clipping from the Fielding Star
24 May 1919 found via Papers Past.
According to Wikipedia, the honor was created in 1917 because King George V "wished to honour the many thousands of people who had served in numerous non-combatant capacities during the First World War. Originally, the Order included only one division; however, in 1918, soon after its foundation, it was formally divided into Military and Civil Divisions."

In a Supplement to the London Gazette, 7 JUNE 1918, page 6730, found online here, George is listed under "To be Members of the said Most Excellent Order:"

Return to New Zealand -- the Family Grows More

1919 -- George returns to New Zealand following his work in Europe, and the family moves to Wellington, residing at Lyall Bay.

1919 -- George travels New Zealand, giving lectures and presentations about the YMCA's work in Europe to support the troops.

1919-24 -- George works as the National Secretary for the New Zealand YMCA, Wellington.

1920 -- George and May have another daughter, Edith May.

On to Melbourne
A clipping found online from
The Argus (Melbourne)
10 Nov 1924, page 7.

1924 -- George, now 46, and his family move to Melbourne, Australia, living temporarily at Toorak, and Burke Road, Camberwell, before finally taking up residence at 33 Currajong Road, Hawthorn.

1924-40 -- George works as General Secretary of the Melbourne YMCA.

1938 -- George is the first speaker to the youth of Australia on the first "Carols by Candlelight" broadcast on national radio. According to Wikipedia, "The first ever such event was held in Alexandra Gardens the following Christmas, 1938, and was attended by around 10,000 people." Carols by Candlelight remains a popular Christmas tradition today in Australia.

1940 -- George dies of a heart attack at age 62.

In the family history there is an undated obituary clipping from an unknown newspaper. Under the headline "His Work Endures", it attributes Mr. Leslie Jenner, president of the Melbourne YMCA, as saying about George:
"Mr Jenner says that he never knew him to say one unkind word. That is something worth living for, enhancing the value of all his wide influence on the lives of boys and youths among whom he worked in Melbourne. ...

"'There are 2000 members of the Y.M.C.A. who will sadly miss his friendship, but there are a great many more than that, who have come under his inspiring influence, and who will forever be grateful for his friendship. That is his finest memorial.'"

With the wealth of information available on the Internet, I know there is more out there to be found about George's life, especially with his work related to World War I. Expect future posts.

Geo. W.W.B. Hughes (back row, second from left) outside
the New Zealand headquarters in London, c 1918.

12 September 2011

No. 9 -- 21 July 1931

Mr. N.A. Hughes,
C/o Young Men's Christian Association College,
5315 Drexel Avenue,

My dear Noel,

By yesterday's mail we received your letter posted at Suva, in which you describe the happenings at Auckland. We were very glad that Mrs. Kirk established contact with you and showed you some courtesy.

When your letter came, Keith was very wrath that you did not give any particulars concerning Stan. Kirk. He was naturally anxious to know where Stan is and what he is doing.

I also had a letter from Mr. Drew telling me that you had gone through the building and had met a number of the staff men. I, too, am sorry that you did not meet George Adair. George is one of the finest fellows in our Movement in the Dominion and is doing a remarkably fine piece of Boys' Work, perhaps the best in the Dominion.

We had a letter from Cli. Willis and also from Irven Herbert. They gave additional particulars concerning your time in Sydney.

You will be surprised to hear that the Herald published your photograph on Wednesday of last week, together with a paragraph informing folk that you expected to land in Canada on Friday or Saturday last. We have had quite a number of comments from various folk who saw the paragraph.

Mr. Barker of Suva was good enough to send me a letter also, in which he mentioned that you had visited the Guild Meeting at the Mission and also that you met Mr. McMillan. I am glad you had this opportunity of meeting these good friends as they are splendid folk. McMillan is an exceptional man, and I am very sorry that he left our Movement, to go into Government service.

It is hard luck that you did not arrive at Suva until dark. I had a similar experience on my first visit there, but tried to make up for it by seeing all we could in the few hours at our disposal.

The kiddies, of course, are just full of questions regarding your trip and eagerly await the arrival of your letters. I think they will be writing you by this mail, so that you may have quite a budget from the members of the family.

Ruth started at the Hospital on Wednesday, the 15th. She is enjoying the work, although the hours are long and the work exacting. A rather strange incident occurred on her first day in the hospital. Someone went through her purse and stole her money, and a string of beads, so that I was surprised to find her at the office the next morning asking me for money as she was stony broke. I suppose it is a good thing, as it will make her careful with regard to the disposal of her goods. She will perhaps put things away in future and not expect everybody to be absolutely honest.

Rex has been down Gippsland installing some talkie apparatus, but this week is unemployed again. He is, however, expecting to start on Monday of next week.

I had several letters in reply to those I had sent to America. Stanley Brent of Vancouver, regretted he could not see you, as he would be out of Vancouver, but he was making arrangements for someone else to show you courtesies.

R.L. Ewing, of New York, forwarded letters from Mr. Brentley, Activities and Personnel Secretary for New York. Bentley said that he would do all that he could to help you find an opening and he thought it wise for you to keep in touch with Chicago, as that would be the logical place for you to locate. Mr. Ewing evidently wrote to Mr. Glen. O. Pierrel, Assistant Secretary, Y.M.C.A. 19 South LaSalle Street, Chicago. Pierrel said that he would do his best to help you, although he was not very hopeful of locating anything, because of the fact that the Chicago Association is already over-manned in relation to the funds they have to spend. He would make enquiry especially among the Camp Directors, to see whether they might use you, and at least provide room and board.

Naturally I am hoping that Laurie Bowen and Clive Glover have been able to do something in this direction for you. I think it is quite probable, Noel, that you will have some difficulty in securing remunerative part-time work, if I judge correctly the tenor of the letters I have received. I do think, though, that you should concentrate upon the Chicago situation, because of its possibilities for the future during your college work. With a few good friends such as those to whom I gave you cards, I think you should be able to locate a useful job.

Ralph Cooke, a the Chicago Men's Hotel, will I know, do his best to assist you.

Now, just one or two things concerning the work here. We had a wonderful night on Saturday, when the Suburban Clubs had their "Get Together" social. There were about 475 present and it was a great show. I am enclosing a copy of the programme.

The Suburban Club Leaders' Training Corps is doing splendidly and we have over 40 fellows enrolled in it in preparation for service in their own Church Clubs. I think you will find this to be something quite out of the ordinary and not many of the American Associations are doing similarly.

The Suburban Scheme for raising finance, instituted by Mr. Crosby, is steadily gathering momentum, and I hope it will be useful to the Association in providing additional revenue.

I would suggest that any copies of printed matter we may send to you might be useful to the College Library. They always seem anxious to get samples of this kind and I would suggest that perhaps it would be helpful if you passed it on to the Librarian after you have finished with it. The July issue of "Manhood" was sent direct to the College. The careful perusal each month, will give you material for talks, especially as you speak at groups in the Associations. It is by this means that you may be able to pass on to other Associations some of the matters which may be of interest to them, seeing that the work describes conditions in Australia.

Mr. and Mrs. Harrison left us on Sunday, after some 6 1/2 weeks with us. He has secured an agency for Gippsland, and will be travelling in that area. It is possible that they may return to us again a little later on.

Keith tried yesterday for a job with O.Gilpin who advertised for a Customs Official. There were about 100 after the job, including in the number some who were licensed agents, so that Keith does not imagine he has much chance of securing the job.

I hope you have not forgotten to send your address to the College authorities, so that mail matter can be forwarded to you, and time saved in that way.

We have not yet been able to dispose of the Amplifier, although we have had one or two nibbles, but nothing that we could finalise upon. By the time this reaches you, you will be well on the way towards entry to College.

I hope it has been possible for you to continue some degree of study in preparation for the entrance examination the College authorities will require.

Many new experiences have fallen to you in the past few weeks and you may now be feeling the strain of continuous travel and the high pressure of the Conferences. A week or two in a Boys' Camp will be splendid preparation for your entry to College. I hope it has been possible for some of our friends to make an opening for you in this direction. Please be good enough to secure a complete set of the reports of the three Conferences and post them to me without delay. I will see that you are reimbursed for the cost of postage, etc. Maybe you have thought of this, while you were at Conference, but if not, be good enough to secure copies and send them on to me. See that they are securely packed, otherwise they will reach here in a very dilapidated condition.

And now, my boy, we all send our loving regards. We are not forgetting you before the Throne of Grace. We sincerely hope that you will capitalise every opportunity presented to you and make it count in the preparation for your future life work. So much depends upon your ability to do this if success is to be achieved. You know I have constantly spread the gospel of "hard work" as the main condition in achieving success. I am confident it still holds good. You are not likely to have too much time on your hands at College, seeing you have got to earn your way through.

If you are stuck at any time, of course you must let me know and I will do my best to help you, but in view of the further reductions we have just had here in salaries, I do not want you to make any claims unless you are really in need, but if you are in need, please cable immediately and I will do my best to help you.

With warm love from us all,
Yours affectionately,

Transit time and amplifiers

The last two letters really show the lag-time in communication. Noel was in Suva on 30 June, and George received the letter on 20 July. As George is writing this letter, Noel is still in Canada, yet it's addressed to Noel in Chicago, allowing for about a month of transit time. In an exchange of letters, a question posed could take two months to get a reply.

There were faster ways to communicate, but they were more expensive. In upcoming letters there is mention of Noel sending a letter via airmail to the West Coast to try to speed things up, and also of an occasional telegram or cable.

About the Amplifier:

Tubes as used in a tube amplifier.
Courtesy of Mikah Taylor via Flickr
On ongoing topic in many letters to come will be George giving status updates on their efforts to sell Noel's amplifier.

I wish I remembered the story better, but I think Noel built a giant tube amplifier that was used in movie theaters to amplify the soundtracks to films. In 1931, we are right in the transition from silent to talkie films. The way I remember it, he would use the amplifier to play a recorded score to a silent film, but it was probably also used to broadcast the sound for a talkie.

In reading the letters, it appears to me that Rex is a friend of Noel's who was also interested in movie theater sound systems, with references to Rex having jobs for radio corporations "testing speakers", and "installing some talkie apparatus". Rex will also be mentioned a lot in future references to selling the amplifier.

I'm sure Noel had a lot of money tied up in such a large tube amplifier, and with money so tight, they were eager to sell it.

UPDATE 4/26/12: I found an audio tape that I recorded in 1980 in which Noel explains his relationship to Rex Baker and how the two of them got into making radios and amplifiers together, plus what happened to the amplifier. See Treasure! Rex Baker and the Wireless.

06 September 2011

No. 8 -- 9 July 1931

Mr. N.A. Hughes (of  Melbourne, Australia)
C/o Central Y.M.C.A.
2200 Prospect Avenue,

My dear Noel,

Your two letters from Sydney and Auckland reached us safely, also the wire which you forwarded just prior to sailing. Naturally we were glad to hear that you had had such a thoroughly happy time in Sydney and that the Herberts and the Willis's gave you so much of their time.

I am very delighted to know that you were met at the station and that right through, the folk in Sydney were cordially helpful. It is also cheering to know that the "Y" folk looked after you so well.

We quite expected that you would have a rough trip across to New Zealand. There happened to be a very heavy Nor'easterly blow which we knew you could not escape. However, we were pleased to learn that you successfully negotiated the trip without seasickness.

I am sorry to hear that Alec. Moodie had such a bad time, but he quite expected the sea would upset him. In a letter I got from him he said he hoped you were a good sailor as you would then be able to look after him!

You evidently did not have many on the ship with only 26 in third class.

I hope you had a good time at Auckland, Suva, Honolulu, and at the other places you called at. Naturally, we are awaiting eagerly the news of your experiences at each of these places. I am afraid the account of your eating on ship board indicates that the Union Company are not likely to make anything out of one passenger at any rate -- Perhaps between Moodie and yourself, it is about equalised.

I was very glad to hear that you were able to get some solid study in on the way over to New Zealand, and hope that you have been able to continue that with some degree of regularity.

Under separate cover I am sending to you a copy of a letter from Edith. I think you will be able to follow it all right. Joyce will be writing to you shortly and of course so will the others, as soon as we get your new address.

You will be surprised to learn that Ruth has already received her call to the Homeopathic Hospital. She leaves business today, and commences at the hospital on Wednesday next, the 15th inst. She will spend the few days completing the making of her outfit and getting everything in readiness to move out.

By the way you did not say whether you had received the watch I posted to the "Niagara". I registered it so as to be sure of its reaching you.

Miss Pollock has given me the names of a couple of her relatives who are in California. I am enclosing the names so that if you ever get the chance of making contact with them, I hope you will do so. At any rate, I think it would be a good thing for you to drop her a line C/o Ballarat College, Ballarat, thanking her for her thoughtfulness. It is possible that Miss Pollock will be making her way towards America next year.

I had a short bout of illness and was away from the office for a week and a half. The old trouble of last year asserted itself and I felt the wisest thing was to go to bed, and the Doctor confirmed the wisdom of having done so, otherwise I might have had another bout of pneumonia. I came back to work on Monday and am steadily gathering strength. I lost a good deal of weight again, but that is to be expected.

Keith has not been able to secure anything so far, although he has been following up a few advertisements and making contacts with firms. Mr. and Mrs. Harrison are still with us and this makes the fifth week, I think, they have been staying with us. He has not been able to land anything yet, but has one or two prospects which he hopes will t urn out alright.

We have not been able to sell the amplifier. Jack Walsh had one enquiry, but the fellow sheered off and did not come down to brass tacks. I know how important it is that we should dispose of this machine as quickly as possible, and you can be sure I will do my best to see that it is sold, and the proceeds forwarded to you.

Rex finished up at the Radio Corporation last Friday, and procured another job at the Eclipse Radio, where he was testing speakers. He has just called in to say that he was paid off this morning, so that he is again out of a job.

I have had several letters from some of my American friends, advising me of the desire to help you secure a job immediately after the conferences. John Cook has I think already written to you C/o the Association at Vancouver, outlining the steps he took to endeavour to help you. I hope something may have eventuated from his overtures. I should judge that there will not be a great deal of hope among the Eastern Associations, but something may have eventuated from his letters.

I also had a letter from Laurie G. Bowen, Boys' Work Director, Lincoln-Belmont Department, (Y.M.C.A., 3333 North Marshfield Ave., Chicago, in which he states -- "it may be that we can use him here  for a short period in August, and then send him out to camp with some of our boys for a period or two. College does not open until about the 3rd week in September so that we will have to hustle around and see if something can be secured for him through September. The employment situation in Chicago for the past year has been terrifically bad, and a good number of men had to leave College because of retrenchment plans made necessary by the abnormal depression. We have one graduate in our building who is only too glad to get a job as night Secretary at the paltry sum of 100 dollars a month. His duties consist of a period on the desk, followed by a period on janitor work, and supervision of the boiler room". Laurie ways that he will write you at Vancouver.

Mr. Ralph W. Cooke, the Assistant Secretary of the Young Men's Christian Association of Chicago, in a letter dated June 5th, said -- "We will be very glad to serve him in any way possible. On account of our enforced staff reduction, we may find it difficult to place him in the Association, but I will ask Mr. Hatherway and Mr. Pierrel of our General Office to give the matter attention in the hope that we can be of some service. Please say to your son that I shall be most happy to meet him."

Fred J. Smith, of Central Branch, 40 College Street, Toronto, said -- "I assure you I will do everything I can to make his stay in Toronto pleasant, and if there is any possibility of having him work in for a month or so on our desk, it will be done."

Mr. R. L. Ewing, Activities Director, William Sloane House (Y.M.C.A.), 356 West 34th Street, New York, wrote under date of June 4th. "I am immediately taking up the matter with the Personnel Secretary, New York City, and have written to Mr. Glen. O. Pierrel, the Activities Secretary at Chicago. I will also send a letter to the General Secretary at Cleveland, Mr. A.G. Knebel."

I have sent you these quotations, so that you might understand the situation, and that overtures are being made on your behalf. If I might express an opinion, I hope it might be possible for you to get a job in the Chicago Associations as that will not necessitate additional expenditure in travelling.

Then again, if you could get a job in Chicago, it would help you to become used to the conditions prior to your College work, which will be of distinct advantage, and it might also be of further assistance to you in securing a permanent job at one or other of the Associations.

Matters here at the Melbourne Association are moving along much the same as before, although there is no change in the financial situation. To the end of June, we have gone back £1720 which is, of course, far worse than any experience we have had hitherto. There are sure to be further reductions in some of the salaries, including my own, but this we cannot avoid in view of the difficult situation the association is facing.

All the folk at home are well, I am thankful to say. Mother is keeping up splendidly, although this morning when I left she was feeling a little out of gear, but I hope that will pass away quickly.

I must close now. You will be finishing the last of the Conferences shortly after you receive this letter. I sincerely hope that the way has been open for you to fit into a temporary job. I know it will mean everything to you to get a good start.

I have not communicated with the College, but I presume you have done so. I you have not, I would suggest that you write them as soon as you know something pretty definite with regard to your movements. There will be a number of matters which, of course, will be necessary for them to attend to in receiving new students, and I think you should keep them fully advised.

I have not heard from Clive Glover, but hope that he also has been on the lookout for a job for you.

You will soon finish up with all the excitement and the big meetings, and will have to face the future as a single individual. I know, my boy, that this will be a time of particular difficulty. If no job turns up, I would suggest that you make your way straight to Chicago and keep in close touch with Clive Glover, who may be able to advise you the best lines of procedure.

Pass on my regards to Alec. Moodie, and of course to any of the men whose names I have given you and you have met during the Conference. I am just aching for additional news, and will be very glad to hear that everything has worked out satisfactorily for the staring of you College work.

You know our love is yours. We are all praying that you might be wisely guided in any difficulties you may meet.

With warm love from the family and from myself,