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,

1931 -- Setting the scene

Since we're exploring all these letters written in 1931, I thought I'd set the scene a little bit, with a little help from Wikipedia and What Happened in 1931.

We've come out the Roaring 20s, when women's clothing styles dramatically changed to be shorter and more revealing. Prohibition of alcohol in the United States is still in full effect, but has become unpopular. Chicago mobster Al Capone is convicted and sent to Alcatraz, and Nevada legalizes gambling.

We are between the two world wars, with the Nazi Party in Germany rising to power, but Adolph Hitler is not yet president.

1931 was near the start of the Great Depression, following the New York Stock Market crash of 1929.

Since Noel has just finished a trans-Pacific voyage, I found it interesting to note from the What Happened in 1931 website: "As the great depression spreads world wide thousands of British ships are rusting in harbors because there are no goods to export." 

The unemployment rate in the United States was 16.3 percent that year, reaching 8 million. This underscores all the quotes about the job market that George relays in this next letter, No. 8.

Average prices in the United States, according to the What Happened in 1931 website, were
  • Average wages per year -- $1,850
  • Average cost for house rent -- $18 per month
  • A loaf of bread -- 8 cents
  • A pound of hamburger meat -- 11 cents

In popular culture, the movies "Frankenstein", "Mati Hari", and "City Lights" were popular, as was the song "Just One More Chance" by Bing Crosby.

In New York City, construction of the Empire State Building is completed, and the George Washington Bridge opens.

In Australia, the prime minister was James Scullin; in the United Kingdom, the prime minister was Ramsay MacDonald; and in the United States, the president was Herbert Hoover. 

In Australia, women have had the right to vote since 1902. In the United States, since 1920.