27 December 2012

No. 28 -- 17 Feb 1932

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

My dear Noel,

Your letter dated January 9th which you sent by Air Mail to the Coast, reached us the other day. We were very delighted to get a letter so soon after the last.

I know you will find physiology a difficult subject at the first, but it is surprising how simple the subject can become if you have it constantly in mind and revise it by thinking of your own body, its various organs and their functions. I used to repeat to myself the substance of what I had studied in the text book and apply it to my own body, and in this way got an idea of the relationship of the various organs which I found comparatively easy to memorise.

I am glad that you have such an excellent instructor in English. That is a subject that demands most careful handling on the part of the instructor, for it to become really interesting. Very frequently it can become dry and unattractive -- everything depends on its treatment.

We are all glad to know that you have satisfactorily completed the first quarter's work.

I think in my last letter I asked you to give me some idea of the grading you had received in each of the subjects.

Friar's Balsam medicine bottle,
from the collection of the
Powerhouse Museum in
Sydney, Australia.
Accessed 24 November 2012.
You will need to watch that cold. I know what Chicago is like in the winter and you would be wise to take every precaution to get rid of it as quickly as you can. There is nothing better than to steam your chest and throat by inhaling Friar's Balsam or Eucalyptus, or a similar medicant, in boiling water.

I have not had a chance to see George Briggs, but will ask him to let me see the letter regarding financial needs.

I was interested in your account of the Fraternities. May I express the hope that you will not give Clive Glover cause to feel that you are becoming independent of his help. You know quite well that a great deal of your present work has been brought to you through Clive's kindly offices, and I sincerely trust you will give him cause to feel that you are  grateful to him for what he has done. However, the matter of the Fraternity you join is your own affair, but I hope it will not mean that the Fraternity will occupy too much of your time and keep you away from your college work. It is quite easy to become so thoroughly interested in the social side of college life, that you neglect the very necessary revision and preparation for class work.

I noticed in the handbook that a modified type of warning is given to new students that they should not become too closely related to the Fraternities or feel that they were "out of the swim" if they had not been invited to one or other of them. You must also watch the question of costs on the social side of college life.

What a lot of fool stunts are put over in the American Colleges. Surely to goodness there is much more in life than to gather up a matchbox full to toe-nails!

The summer vacation will need careful thought on your part. Frankly I was hoping that you would take in some time at Lake Geneva, not only because of the credits you can obtain, but also because of the opportunity it gives you to have a very close relationship with many of the leaders of the Movement, and my own judgment is that if it is possible for you to get a job at Lake Geneva, you should take it. Presumably you will get your board and residence and tuition while you are at the summer school. That is all to the good and can be looked upon as savings in that you may not be called upon to expend any sums of money for self-support. The balance of your time I think you should spend, if possible, in work that will enable you to save money in preparation for your next year's college work. You know how necessary it is to have a certain amount of money at the beginning of each term, and in view of this I would urge you to give up the idea of a trip to Los Angeles, and devote your-self to preparation for your next year's work. Not that we would desire you to slave from morning till night, but we think it is important that you should earn all the money you possibly can, especially in view of the depressed conditions in America, which seemingly are likely to get worse instead of better. You must think in terms of "preparing for the rainy day."

At any rate this summer I feel you should give to earning money, and then perhaps after you have become better established in your school work, it might be possible in the succeeding summer to spend time sight-seeing and travelling.

Thank you for the message from Andrew Garrod. I also had a letter from him this mail, in which he stated that he had received a Christmas card from you from Chicago, but that you had not given any address. I imagine he must have located the address or else he could not have written to you as you reported. The kiddies have written to Dorothy Garrod, on several occasions, and will be doing so again shortly.

I was interested in the cutting you forwarded concerning the protest on the part of the hotel proprietors in Chicago, about the Y.M.C.A. having departed from its character building work to enter the hotel business. You know quite well that the Association's explanation is quite valid. If it is true that we make money on our residential sections, it is only that we might be in a position to render more effective service in our programme or in non-remunerative departments. As far as we are concerned it would be impossible for us to carry on our work in the Boys' Department for instance, if we did not make a substantial profit on our residential section. Of course there is a difference between the Melbourne situation in comparison with that of Chicago, but speaking generally I think the argument I have advanced is unassailably sound.

I have not anything further to report concerning home conditions. Everything is going quite well. Ruth spent last week at home as she had a very heavy cold, and the hospital granted her extension of leave so that she might get rid of it. I think in my last letter I told you that she was "peeved" because she could not attend Millie Harris's 21st birthday. This has all been put right, as Millie held her birthday party on Monday evening which was Ruth's night off, so she and Keith went along and had a good time.

Keith's job is still holding, but we do not know for how long. Joyce and Edith, of course, send their love, and when your letters arrive you can be sure they are full of questions regarding Chicago and your doings.

We are expecting Mr. Crosby back from Tasmania this week. We will be glad to have him on the job again. We are to have the annual meeting on the 25th and I am pleased to report that we have been successful in securing one or two new Directors who should be a decided acquisition to our work.

Mother's cold is practically better again, although she is feeling a little depressed that it is hanging around for so long.

I have not heard a word from Clive for months past. Tell him I would welcome a line when he has a few minutes to spare.

This might be one of the "snaps" enclosed with this letter.
It was taken over the previous holidays at Camp Manyung.
Joyce and Edith and Mother are in the front row,
George (Dad) and Kath Lilford are in the back.
I heard yesterday that there is a possibility that Archie Moses, who went to India for us about three years ago, is likely to be sent to America for training by the Indian National Council. In a letter to Trainor, he asked whether any arrangement could be made for him to get part time work at the Chicago Y. I am sure it would be a nice thing for you to drop him a line. His address is A. Henderson Moses, C/o Y.M.C.A., Bombay, India. It would make him feel that there were one or two Australians who would be glad to welcome him should he go to Chicago Y College. Of course, you had better be careful what you say about this in the meantime, as presumably the whole matter is only in its early stages and may not come off.

I must close now as I must run off to attend a meeting of the Rotary Club Boys' Work Committee.

All unite, my boy, in sending you our warmest love and hope that you will be able to throw off your cold, and give undivided attention to your work.

Yours affectionately,

Enclosed -- Snaps 2
Material in Aboriginal Customs & Wit.

By the way -- Kath mentioned she has not had any letters since before Xmas!!!

This is the first indication that all is not well in Noel's relationship with
Kath Lilford. George will usually write about Kath from now on in
a hand-written post-script, since Kath is so closely affiliated with the
YMCA and George's typist, Dorrie Yates, is friends with Kath.

29 October 2012

No. 27 -- 8 Feb 1932

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

My dear Noel,

Your letter dated Jan. 1st reached us last Wednesday. I think you could probably find out when the Australian mails leave if you get Mrs. Glover to ring up the Post Office. They will be able to give you a list of the mails for two or three months ahead, and in that way you could get the information you need.

We note that you had a very busy time during the Christmas vacation. No doubt this all worked to your benefit in that it gave you a chance to earn additional money at a time when probably you needed it.

We shall be interested in hearing a full report of your grades for the Fall quarter. I think you did very well for your first term. There is no doubt it takes some time to get into the run of the regular school work, so as to keep pace with the lectures, demonstrations, etc. as well as with the practical work. We shall be interested to hear your full report of your term's work. I think you were wise in arranging to take two majors for the winter term, although you will have to be careful that you cover the required amount of work so as not to add to your burdens in your last term. You will be wise to make up your arrears of highschool work as quickly as possible, so as to carry your regular schedule and keep pace with the rest of the students.

We are glad to hear that you received the Money Order safely. We were pleased to know that you had sent so many cards to people in America as well as to those here. I think you are wise to keeop in touch with these folk as they should be of definite help to you in your future.

I am grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Cook for their thoughtfulness in sending their present. By this mail I am dropping them a note and also to Dr. Wilson of the Kenwood Church.

We were greatly interested in the College Handbook, as it enabbled us to visualise conditions a little better and also gave us the opportunity of keeping informed regarding the various terms and the usual college fixtures. The new grading system has a great deal to commend it, although it will be a little puzzling at first to follow the difference between it and the old system.

Keith was delighted to get the extra copy which he is using as a diary, and of course it helps him to pass on information to any of your friends he may happen across.

I must thank you also for the reply regarding Satchell’s parcels which went astray. This information I have forwarded to Plain Clothes Constable Kavanagh of the Police Department, who had the case in hand. It is a mystery which we cannot solve. Nobody seems to have any information concerning these parcels.

The Lawson House YMCA is located in
Chicago's Near North at West Chicago Avenue
and North Dearborn Street. Built in 1931
in the art deco style, the Lawson House YMCA
is 25 floors tall. According to the YMCA of Metro Chicago,
"Today it is the largest single-room occupancy (SRO)
supportive housing facility in the Midwest, providing
housing and wrap-around social services for extremely
low-income or formerly homeless men and women."
An article in the Chicago Sun-Times in 2011
said it was possibly for sale.
Photo by Kim Scarborough via Flickr
(used under Creative Commons license)
The folder and other printed matter concerning the Lawson Y.M.C.A. also came to hand. What a magnificent building it must be! I am making up a small paragraph for “Manhood” giving some of the particulars.

You also were good enough to send a large packet of Conference papers. These reached me the other day and I spent several nights perusing them and endeavouring to catch the atmosphere of the conferences. Months ago I ordered a copy of the finished report, but this has not yet come to hand. However, the papers you forwarded have given me a very good idea of some of the principal findings and I am grateful to you for having sent them on.

We were also greatly interested in reading two copies of the “Association Collegian” of November 19th and December 7th.

I passed your letter on to a number of the staff folk who were interested in your doings. I have not much news to give you concerning home matters. They are much the same as when I last wrote.

We are to have the Annual meeting of the Association on February 25th, when the report will be presented for adoption. I will see that a copy is sent to you without delay.

Your friend, Johnny McRae now runs a motorcar I believe. Rex. has been away quite a lot, but is home just now. There is some talk of him going to Sydney for a couple of months, but whether this will eventuate or not I cannot say.

Margaret Park and Millie Harris both had their 21st birthday this month. Ruth is disturbed that she can not go to either function as she is on night duty.

Edith is greatly elated because she was appointed prefect within a week of the opening of school. She thinks this is a great indication of the confidence her school mates have in her. Joy starts at Fintona on Wednesday. She is full of excitement as you can well imagine.

Mother is in tip top form and so am I. We all unite in warmest love.

Yours affectionately,

05 October 2012

Noel's Commentary on George's Letters, Part 1

Noel in 1982
Since we are 26 letters into this project and have passed the one-year anniversary since the project's inception, I thought this would be a good time to share a document written by Noel in the 1980s.

When Noel was putting together a family history, he used the saved letters from his father, George, as a resource. After the long job of condensing the letters down to just the family history, he was able to look at them anew and paint a general picture of what he saw happening.

I'll only share the first part right now, and save the second part for when we get a few more years into the letters.

Here it as as Noel wrote it:

Commentary on Dad's Letters

The following was written by Noel in 1984 after having read Dad's letters of fifty years ago. There is no intention to be mundane or emotional, but to say it as I see it with the perspective that the years give.

The first several years can only be characterized as very difficult ones for Dad particularly.

Economic conditions were chaotic making the financing of the "Y" almost impossible. The membership decreased significantly, occupancy of the residence declined to less than fifty percent causing Dad untold strain to keep the Association afloat. Salaries were cut several times resulting in a bare bones existence for Mum, Dad and the family. There was a period when the difficulties were so extreme that it was a question whether Dad would continue as General Secretary. However, times became a little better about 1934. The strain of the days showed up in Dad's health. In reading his letters it was obvious that his health had deteriorated considerably, even though he had minimized his illnesses.

Keith too had a difficult time. He was unemployed for most of five years. Fortunately he was able to secure casual, short time jobs with the Texaco Company, the Dryfus company, the Wheat Commission and others which did give him a very limited but undependable income with long periods of famine up to the time he secured permanent employment with the Myers Emporium.

Ruth also had a difficult time when she began nursing -- the long hours, the demands of the hospital and the exacting nature of her work also showed up in the continuous string of illnesses she incurred.

1934 showed the beginning of better conditions and a less stressful living for the family.

Of course Noel in a foreign country, without any financial backing, struggling to make ends meet, particularly in the years 1931 to 1933, and going to college, also caused some turmoil for Dad.

The bright spots in the family during these years were, as Dad characterized them, the "kiddies". They were full of life, vim, vigor and vitality -- shafts of sunlight in the dismal days -- a source of great enjoyment to both Mum and Dad, Keith and Ruth.

Speaking of the two girls, they were opposites in temperament, but in their pre-teen and teenage years pursued similar interests in church and school activities. Edith was more eloquent and excitable, and to quote Father, "Edith is getting more boisterous than ever, greatly to Joy's annoyance. As you know, Joy is much quieter and less demonstrative than Edith, and is consequently reprimanding Edith for her noisiness. However, the two of them get along very well together". "....... going along quietly, that is, as quietly as Edith can go!"

Also, Chas. F. Crosby was a great friend for on many occasions he made his Summer home in the Dandenongs available for the family to have a holiday in the country.

Part 2 to be published at a future date. 

29 August 2012

No. 26 -- 3 Feb 1932

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

My dear Noel,

We were expecting a letter to be delivered yesterday but there has been some delay in the mails from America, and we do not anticipate the letters will be distributed until the afternoon mail. This will be too late to catch the outgoing mail which closes at 2.30 p.m.

We are all well at home. Apart from the fact that Keith has had a very bad face, caused by neglect of his teeth. He had two extractions the other day and this has left a very sore jaw, the cavity not having properly healed. He has had pain for very nearly a week and nothing seems to stop it. The rest of us are in good form.

There is no
royal road
to success
in life, excepting the road of
hard work.
What you do in the next few years
will color
your entire future.
Ruth has written you under separate cover. She is a little bit upset because of the heavy work at the hospital. At present she is on night duty which means that she has to sleep during the day. Somehow she doesn't seem to be able to get into this habit, and consequently just now she is desperately tired and nervy. If she can once get over the inability to sleep she will be alright. I do not want her to become ill at this juncture, as it will undoubtedly put her back in her training. Working all night and attempting to sleep all day does not suit Ruth. She has so few hours in which to do anything else. She is not supposed to leave her room until five o'clock in the evening, and she starts work again at 8.30. Nursing is a pretty hard job.

Joyce has also written to you. Both Ruth's and Joy's letters are in the one envelope.

Mother is keeping particularly well. I think the holiday at Manyung did her the world of good. Edith is greatly thrilled about her new school work at Gardiner, specially with the fact that she is now learning French. Joyce starts at Fintona on the 10th February. Just now she is being rigged out and I can tell you it is some job to supply all that is required at a school like Fintona.

Keith has been playing Cricket for the Y.M. While he has not done anything startling, he has still played a useful innings and has done a little with the ball.

Alec. Moodie has been successful in getting a job with Messrs. Thomas Reynolds at East Prahan. This is the firm with which Mr. T.C. Reynolds and Rod. Macdonald of the National Office are connected. Alec. originally was in the bakery business. In fact I think he served his time at that trade. It was his experience in that connection that made the opening for him with Mr. Reynolds. As you know their product is macaroni and Alec. is to hold down a job in the factory which has distinct possibilities. Now that he is in Melbourne, we are hoping that we shall get some portion of his leisure time in connection with our own work.

Reg. Gray has been appointed to a curacy under the Bishop of Bendigo. After spending a year at the Bendigo Diocese in active Church work, he will likely come to Ridley College in Melbourne for additional training. This is quite in line with Reg.'s desires and I think he should do well in the Church of England ministry.

Ern. Saunders, who was on the staff of Montreal Y.M.C.A., has arrived at Perth where he will probably take over the physical and boys' work. I understand, privately, that Parsons, the Physical Director, is likely to leave the Perth Association and in view of that, I imagine that Saunders will take on the physical and probably the boys' work.

Mr. Crosby's father was buried on the 25th January. Mr. Crosby has not yet returned and I do not expect him back for some days yet. There is sure to be a good deal of business to wash up in connection with the estate.

The "Mr. Lang" mentioned by George
is Jack Lang, then premiere of New South Wales.
He was a controversial figure who proposed
an alternative recovery plan to get out
of the depression. He ended up being removed
from his premiership by the then Governor of
New South Wales.
We closed the year with a deficit of £2695. This is about £300 better than we anticipated. Mr. Hooke is of the opinion that it is not a bad position when all things are taken into consideration. However, it is serious enough and we do not want to face a similar situation this year. I must say there is a very definite "lift" in the financial tension and a more hopeful outlook seems to be abroad. We are not "out of the wood" in Australia as our position is so closely allied to the world situation, and our recovery is dependent upon an increase in the prices of our primary products. However the changed political situation has materially affected the outlook of the people and if we can keep Mr. Lang of New South Wales in hand I think the situation will slowly but steadily improve.

We had a letter from Mrs. Smith of Sutherland Road, Lyall Bay, in which she advised us that Gilbert was married last November. She sent an account of the wedding which was evidently a pretty big affair. She also reported that Stan. Kirk lost his young lady by death.

We were to have had a picnic at Manyung on Feb. 1st, but there was so few who signed up to go that we had to cancel the conveyances as we would have had rather a serious loss to face. However, a number of private cars went down and according to Ivor Burge, they had quite a good day. We were disappointed at having to postpone the picnic but it could not be helped.

I am on the job with the annual report and hope to have it completed in a week or so. As soon as we have copies available we will send one along to you.

Kath. is getting on quite well with the book-keeping machine and we are pleased that most of the back work has been overtaken and from now on we should be able to have accurate daily returns showing our financial position.

Yesterday I had a visit from Sid. Cox who used  to live next door to us when we lived in High Street, Dunedin. Sid. mentioned that his cousin Bernard Cox is a student at the University of Chicago. I understand that Bernard Cox was employed by the New Zealand Government as an engineer on the Otira tunnel and that some little time ago he went to Chicago to extend his experience in engineering. It might be worth your while to make contact with him. I am sure he would be interested to know that you came from Dunedin and that you knew his cousin, Sid.

Just now we have about 25 fellows staying with us, who comprise the Tasmanian Boxing and Wresting team who were over here for the National games. This has been a good lift to us in our dormitory and cafeteria.

We are also co-operating with the Herald Learn to Swim Campaign and quite a number of fellows are making use of our pool for this purpose.

Matron is keeping well, and so is Miss Ray. Bob Way is still on holiday at Shoreham, but he will probable be back at the end of next week.

We are organising a visit to Camp Manyung - weekend Feb. 20 and 21st, with the object of interesting our Business Men's Groups in the camp. This should be a good means of popularising the camp especially the community camp next year.

The following weekend I expect to go to Somers Camp with a party of Rotarians. Our Rotary Club has given a lot of support to the Somers Camp, and I think this is one of the means adopted by the camp authorities to show their appreciation of Rotary's help. By the way, have you made use of your letter of introduction to the Rotary Headquarters at Chicago?

The Minnie the Mermaid record
mentioned by George
could have been this recording from 1930
by the Bernie Cummins Orchestra.
It was a popular song of the time
and was frequently parodied with bawdy lyrics.
Have a listen at YouTube.
I looked over the list of gramaphone records and found that we have 36 records in the case. "Minnie the Mermaid" is missing from the collection, but all the others named by you were in our possession.

This letter should reach you towards the end of your second term, and I suppose you will have settled into your stride and become more accustomed to the routine of college life. I hope, my boy, that you will be able to surmount the programme you have set for yourself and that you will achieve success in your studies. You know all your friends on this side will be greatly delighted to learn that you have done will in your school work. It will not be long before you will have completed your first year's study. I suppose that would come somewhere about June.

We can only hope that you have given yourself application to the tasks in hand and that you have achieved success. There is no royal road to success in life, excepting the road of hard work. What you do in the next few years will color your entire future. Naturally we all want to be proud of you in the work you do in preparation for your life service.

We want to know more about your activities both inside and outside of the college. The details are always interesting.

All the folk at home unite in warmest love, and the folk at the office send their kindest regards,

Yours affectionately,

26 August 2012

No. 25 -- 20 Jan. 1932

George sent a copy of this newspaper, The Argus, to Noel with this letter so that
Noel could read about the heat wave and bush fires.
(1932, January 20). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 7.
Retrieved August 27, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page487326

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

My dear Noel,

Your letter of the 29th November came to hand while we were at the community camp at Manyung. We are greatly encouraged by the continued good news your letters contain concerning your ability to support yourself so admirably. I wrote you a short letter from the camp which I hope caught the mail which left here about ten days ago.

We had a wonderfully good time at the community camp. In all 34 people were present at this camp, although some of them stayed for a comparatively short period. The majority were there throughout the entire time. The weather was all that we could desire. In fact I do not recall any December-January period for many years when we have had such settled and admirable weather. We only had one cold day in the fortnight we were at Manyung, and the days were not oppressively hot, although on one or two occasions the temperatures reached 95 deg. or 97 deg.

We had a good programme, plenty of sea bathing, excellent food and a company of folk who were out to enjoy themselves. All this combined to make the holiday all that we could desire.

Keith, unfortunately for him, could not come to camp as he was hanging on to his job and could not afford to take any risks by asking for time off. His job is still holding and it looks as if he may have an additional couple of months work. Ruth also was greatly disappointed that she could not come to the camp. They were short handed at the hospital and she had no chance of any holiday. The kiddies had a thoroughly good time as you can well imagine and were frequently in the water three times a day.

You will be surprised at the way they are both growing. Edith is shooting up very rapidly and Joyce is developing into quite a young woman, at least in her own estimation.

There was also a fine lot of honorary work done at the camp, especially in the removal of the 1,000 gallon tank to a new site and its re-erection alongside of the lavatories. Already money has been subscribed towards increasing the lavatory accommodation and providing hot showers. This we expect to put in so as to be ready for the next camping period. The new bunk house has been excellently designed and is most comfortable. Another bunk house is in course of erection. No doubt Kath will be telling you something about the camp in her letters, so that there will be no necessity to cover the same ground.

The Boys' Department camps have gone splendidly and all reports indicate that one of the finest camping periods has been experienced. The programme has been good and the weather has made camping a real delight to the boys.

The Y.M.C.A. Scout Troop also held a camp over the Christmas holidays, so that from first to last we have had 7 different camping periods in the senior and junior departments. There were 60 at the senior camp for Christmas and the New Year, and Mr. Burge was highly delighted with the whole programme.

I was very interested in the picture of International House which you forwarded in your letter. It looks to be a splendid structure and should fill a useful function among the students of Chicago. It is evidently in the same lines of the International House in New York. If you have any other information concerning it I should like to receive it so that I may make a paragraph for Manhood. What is its cost? etc. etc.

HOTTEST FOR 24 YEARS (1932, January 20).
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.: 1848-1956), p. 7.
Retrieved August 27, 2012, from
I hope your anticipation to be free of debt by the end of 1931 was realised. It is great to have a clear run ahead without any incubus hanging round your neck. My advice to you is to save every penny you can as there is no doubt that America is going to have increasing difficulties and you will be well advised to have a little banking account in case anything unforeseen should happen and you should lose some of the jobs you at present hold. One is inclined to think that the present affluent conditions are sure to remain, but you know as well as I do that that is an illusion and one should provide for unforeseen circumstances.

I was very interested in hearing of your dinner party on Thanksgiving Day. If you should see Ray Williamson, please give him my regards.

By now you will have begun to realise what a Chicago winter is like. I note what you say about your need of a heavy overcoat, but I am wondering whether you would not be well advised to wear heavier underclothing rather than to purchase a heavier coat. I think the same amount of warmth could be secured in that way, rather than in the other.

Quite a number of people told us that you had sent Christmas cards to them, and I am very glad that you did so.

Thank you for the information concerning the phonograph records. I will check up our records with the list you have provided.

It was very nice of John Cook to send on a small amount to you and to suggest his desire to pay your college expenses. I hope you wrote him telling him that that was not at all necessary, although you appreciated the good will and thoughtfulness of his action.

BUSH FIRES WORSE. (1932, January 20).
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.: 1848-1956), p. 7.
Retrieved August 17, 2012, from
Under separate cover I am sending a copy of today's "Argus" which gives particulars of the heat wave, bush fires, etc., which I thought you would be interested in reading. It was a corker of a day yesterday, with temperature of 108.9, the highest it has been for 24 years.

I have not much in the direction of Association news, as the programme has not yet commenced, apart form some of the gym. classes. We do not anticipate there will be anything much organised during January. We are concentrating upon picnics, river excursions, etc. among the young men. As you know, the Boys' Department will not commence its programme until late February or early March.

We are to have a picnic on Feb. 1st (A.N.A. Day) to Manyung and hope to have a good turn out of Association members.

We closed the year with a deficit of approximately £2700. This was £300 better than we expected so that we feel a little encouraged although the deficit is bad enough in all conscience. It means that we have increased our Bank liabilities by £5000 during the last two years, a position which gives us a great deal of concern.

Mr. Crosby is in Tasmania at present. His father is sinking. We expect any day to hear of news of his death. As you know, Mr. Crosby's father is in his 93rd year, so that his death is to be expected.

Jim. Straton is over from Adelaide, but I have not seen him yet. Conditions in the Adelaide Association are very bad and I should not be surprised if Jim Straton resigns. You will have received the January issue of Manhood, in its reduced form. We were glad to have it in its present condition, although we hate the idea of so many reductions in its pages.

Rex. returned last Saturday, after being away for nearly a fortnight. I understand he leaves again today or tomorrow and is likely to be away for a week to ten days.

We are to have the Senior camp reunion tonight and hope there will be a good turn out of the men.

Mr. Hines is keeping well. Miss Bourchier is away this week, but will be returning  next week. Reg. Gray has not been successful in securing a job, but I understand that Jim Gray is not having too good a time in his little music store at Box Hill. We are likely to employ Harold Greenwood as pianist for the gymnasium classes, but that has not yet been definitely decided.

All the folk at home are well, I am happy to say. Mother is looking particularly well, and is much refreshed in body and mind as the result of the holiday. The kiddies will be writing to you again shortly.

We would like to know fuller particulars concerning your work at the Kenwood Church.

How did you get on with your first term's work? Give us details of the subjects you are taking and of the results of your term examinations.

We all unite in warmest love, and hope that you will have a thoroughly happy time in 1932.
Yours affectionately,

16 August 2012

Jacko the Broadcasting Kookaburra

Advertisement for
the Australian National Travel Association
with a kookaburra sitting on a record album.
(Courtesy of the National Library of Australia
and the State Library of Victoria.
J. Kercheval, photographer.)

In the last few letters, specifically Nos. 22 an 23, it's apparent that Noel is gearing up to do presentations about Australia to various groups in Chicago.

There are references to the famous Aboriginal preacher, inventor and writer David Unaipon, plus various literature about Australia.

The reference that really caught my interest this time was about  the "Kookaburra record" in letter No. 23 from 28 Dec 1931.

"In your last letter you asked me to secure a copy of the Kookaburra record. I was able to get this from the Australian National Travel Association, although I understand that copies cannot be procured in the ordinary gramaphone stores. We tried it out on our own machine at home and it is quite good."

My first thought was of the children's song "Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree." But it turns out that song hadn't been written or recorded yet. That would be a little later in the 1930s.

So that left me puzzled. Fortunately, George mentioned the Australian National Travel Association, and an internet search turned up "Jacko, the Broadcasting Kookaburra." And the pieces fell into place.

It turns out that early Australian radio used to regularly broadcast the sound of a kookaburra, which is a variety of kingfisher bird native to Australia. The call resembles a mad laugh.

The bird that recorded that call also became quite famous and was known as Jacko, the broadcasting kookaburra. He and his exploits inspired a children's book a few years later.

The article I found about Jacko, the Broadcasting Kookaburra, written by Jerry Berg for OnTheShortWaves.com, is very interesting. Here is a relevant excerpt, but I suggest clicking through and reading the entire article:

``In 1933, a children's book entitled "Jacko, the Broadcasting Kookaburra­-His Life and Adventures," was published by Angus and Robertson Ltd. in Sydney, Australia. ... The author is Brooke Nicholls... .

There is an author's note at the start of the book that reads as follows: "This is the true story of Jacko, the Broadcasting Kookaburra, that so many of his fellow Australians have heard laughing over the air from the wireless stations of Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane; and from the gramophone record that was arranged and produced by Mrs. Harold W. Clapp for the Australian National Travel Association. The story begins with Jacko's capture in the bush. It tells of his many adventures, and ends with his home-coming after a four-thousand mile caravan journey along the eastern seaboard of Australia. The illustrations and chapter headings are from drawings made by Miss Dorothy Wall, whose exquisite pen has captured the humorous spirit of the story."

KOOKABURRA'S LAUGH. (1931, March 28).
The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), p. 4.
Retrieved August 17, 2012, from
This article led me to search online newspaper archives at Trove.nla.gov.au, where I found a delightful article from 18 March 1931 about how the recording of Jacko's voice was obtained and how the recording would be used to promote Australia abroad. According to the article in The Argus of Melbourne:

"After the wax master-disc had been made it was played in the studio for the benefit of the bird, which was still perched on the chair from which it had laughed into the microphone. The first few notes brought a puzzled expression to tho bird's face; then it lifted its beak and laughed so heartily that it fell fluttering to the floor, where it continued to laugh until the record was taken off the machine."
(KOOKABURRA'S LAUGH. (1931, March 18). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 6. Retrieved August 17, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4378978

Since Noel was still in Melbourne and preparing to leave for Chicago at the time this article was published, I'm sure that the recording being discussed in the letters must be this one (and the one referenced in the article about the Jacko children's book). Perhaps it is also the very album that the kookaburra is sitting on in the old photograph from the Australian National Travel Association at the top of this page.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure yet if Noel was ever successful in securing a copy of the record.

In letter No. 22 George worried about his ability to get the record safely to Noel. "The phonographic record I will endeavour to get and send on to you, although there may be some problem in packing it securely for transportation to America. I am wondering whether it could not be procured in the States. I will make enquiry regarding that from the Vocalion people."

Then, in an upcoming letter in March, he acknowledges Noel's report that that album arrived cracked.

In letter No. 31, which will be posted at a future date, George writes: "We are sorry to hear that the phonographic record was cracked when it arrived. I knew the thing was packed securely, as I had it specially done with the object of making sure it would reach you in usable condition. Perhaps it may be possible to get one from the San Francisco office of the Australian National Travel Assocn."

I'll update this post if and when I find more references to it in George's letters.

As a point of interest for any non-Australians reading this, here is an example of a kookaburra's call and laugh from YouTube:

14 August 2012

No. 24 -- 5 Jan 1932

The family and Kath Lilford at Camp Manyung, January 1932.
(Back row, from left: George, Kath, Mother.
Front row, from left: Joyce, Edith)

(Note: The following letter is hand written on Melbourne YMCA letterhead.)

Camp Manyung
Jan. 5, 1932

My dear Noel,

This is just a brief note as we are now at Camp. The Senior Camp had about 50 fellows and now at the Community Camp which lasts for two weeks we expect to have nearly 30. Some are to come in later as the camp lasts for two weeks. At present there are 24 in Camp. We came into Camp yesterday arriving here about 12.30.

Mother, Joy and Edie are with me. Mr & Mrs Burge Sr., Ivor and his wife, the two Laurie girls, Kath & Dorrie, Mrs. Polock & two of her children (two more are coming down tomorrow), Harold Greenwood, Jim Wilson (of Dormitory Dept), J Kenwood, J Wilkinson, J Maides, Harry O'Neill, Eric Dennio, Tom Lynch (Cook) & Bill Burke (Tom's brother in law). Mrs Roberts (Mrs. Burge's sister) will be down on Saturday.

We are a merry party & the weather is magnificent. Last night we had a sing-song followed by a Picture Show. The meals are excellent & I think we shall have a really good holiday.

Unfortunately, Keith could not come down on account of his job. He cannot afford to lose it for the sake of a holiday. Rex is away again in one of the country districts. Ruth does not like the idea of missing the Camp but she hasn't a hope of getting away from the hospital.

We all went in for a bath before lunch -- it was great! The water was warm & smooth. The Girl Guides are on the far shore in Camp but of course they are not allowed even to bathe at the same time as our fellows.

We all unite in sending our love. We are anxiously waiting for letters telling us of your doings.

Yours affectionately,

10 August 2012

Camps Manyung and Buxton (Shoreham)

Melbourne (Point A) to Camp Manyung (Point B)
to Camp Buxton at Shoreham (Point C).
(Map data ©2012 Google, Whereis(R), Sensis Pty Ltd)
The next few letters have a lot of information about the progress of the YMCA camps at Shoreham, and especially Manyung.

It took me a little bit of research to appreciate the references to the camps in these letters. Both camps are on the Mornington Peninsula south of Melbourne, and were quite new in 1931-32. Camp Buxton, which George refers to by its location, Shoreham, is long since closed, but Camp Manyung is still around and is an active YMCA camp.

"The Camp Manyung complex is one of two permanent camps which demonstrates the YMCA's involvement in the welfare of young people and their families over more than 70 years in Victoria," according to the heritage website On My Doorstep. "In its scale and grand vision for future development, Camp Manyung demonstrates the strong commitment of the YMCA to youth camping in Victoria. It is the only remaining early Victorian property managed today by the YMCA as the city headquarters has been demolished and Camp Buxton is now in private ownership."

As George is writing his letters and mentioning the camps, it is around the Christmas and New Years holidays.

Since I'm from the Chicago area, my first instinct is to think of these camps in context of the Northern Hemisphere. I have to remind myself that the Christmas and New Years holidays occur during a hot season in Australia, and there is a strong tradition of going to the beach around this time. These camps offer a cooler summer getaway for the residents around Melbourne.

Camp Manyung

Camp Manyung is still an operating YMCA camp, and is deemed to be of historical significance to the state of Victoria. The YMCA's website is the best place to go for information about its present operations and photos.

In looking up the history of the camp, a name that is frequently referenced in George's letters comes up as being instrumental to the development of the camp -- Ivor Burge.

According to one history about the camp found online titled "Camp Manyung History": "Burge (who had just returned from America) came up with the idea of a permanent camp like the ones he had seen in America. He asked an architect to plan the camp layout and design the bunkhouses. It was decided that the camp would be built by volunteers because the YMCA did not have the money to pay for it."

This volunteer effort is evidenced by frequent references in George's letters.

Also according to On My Doorstep, many innovative programs were developed at the camp, including leadership training and family camps.

In 1993, The National Council of YMCA's of Australia published a book by Ian F. McLaren, titled "Camp Manyung, Mornington: a brief history". It's an 18 page booklet. Unfortunately, I do not have access to any copies here in Chicago, but copies are available in the libraries of Monash University and the State Library of Victoria. If anyone wants to look at the booklet, I'm curious what it might say about the camp's history, especially as it relates to George's time period, the 1930s.

Camp Buxton

Y.M.C.A. Holidays for Country Boys
Gippsland Times (Vic. : 1861 - 1954)
25 November 1946, page 5
courtesty of the National Library of Australia
In Shoreham, on land that is now largely preserved as a forest preserve, was Camp Buxton. Some of the buildings remain, converted into a bed and breakfast. The camp closed after the mid 1970s, as best as I can determine.

"The YMCA Camp, Shoreham ... was in ideal setting, only an hour's drive from Melbourne and five minutes from the beach. On arrival the campfire looked like a tent city with numerous tents and huts scattered all around the central marquee... " This is one description of the camp I found in an article about a retreat at the camp in 1975.

Of course, the best reference I found for information about Camp Buxton is a website written by Robert Pedula, who stayed at the camp in the 1950s. He has put together a nice history and photo gallery, and is the source of much of my information.

No. 23 -- 28 Dec 1931

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

My dear Noel,

Christmas is over and we are back at the office in the interim between the Christmas and New Year holidays. We had a very quiet Christmas both as far as home is concerned and also at the Association. Keith, Mother and the two kiddies and myself had dinner at the Y on Christmas Day, with the members of the staff. Ruth unfortunately could not get away from the hospital so she could not be present. Evidently they are short handed at the hospital and a number of the nurses who expected to get away were prevented from doing so. She was greatly disappointed and did not like the idea of remaining at the hospital for Christmas dinner.

On Boxing Day, Mother and I went to "Manyung" and Shoreham Camps. It was a wonderfully good day and we enjoyed every moment of it. There were between 40 and 50 in camp at "Manyung" and the fellows were having a royal time as the weather has been wonderfully good. There are a number of improvements at the camp which make for ease in handling a crowd. For instance a large 6 ft. range with new brick chimney, etc. has been added to the kitchen and this is a great convenience to the cook and makes catering for a large number much easier than it was before.

Down at Shoreham, we were delighted with the progress made in the care of the equipment. Everything had been freshly painted and grass cut, and the whole place looked splendid. There were 16 boys in camp from the Ballarat Y with Mr. Ack Way also with them. With our own boys there at 75 in all. Both of the camps are looking splendid just now, and we were greatly delighted with them.

We were accompanied by Colonel Lamb of the Perth Board of Directors. He was immensely impressed with what he saw. Messrs. Reynolds and Nevile took two car loads of us for this fine run of about 120 miles. We had dinner at "Manyung" and tea at Shoreham.

In your last letter you asked me to secure a copy of the Kookaburra record. I was able to get this from the Australian National Travel Association, although I understand that copies cannot be procured in the ordinary gramaphone stores. We tried it out on our own machine at home and it is quite good. While at the National Travel Association's office I secured a little booklet entitled "Talking Points on Australia". This I am sending to you under separate cover. It is full of interesting material which you can use in your talks on Australia to various groups. On the back of the pamphlet you will notice that there is an agent at 114 Sansome Street, San Francisco and would suggest that you keep in touch with that office, and ask them to forward to you any new material they may receive. Your information on Australia would then be kept up to date.

I am also sending a picture of the "Koala" which is large enough for you to display as you speak to small groups. That kind of material always helps people to understand what you are talking about, as it visualises the animal.

By last mail I sent to you a copy of Unaipon's book on "Aboriginal Legends". I am also sending a little booklet called "The Song of the Stars" written by Dr. Boreham, the great Australian Baptist preacher and essayist. This is a Maori story, which I think you could also work up into a talk for young people's meetings.

Uncle Bill was over to see us yesterday. He has been having a very difficult time in his business. So much so that he is hardly earning sufficient to pay the rent of his shop. I called in to see him on Christmas Eve, and found that his stock had been greatly depleted in his endeavours to pay his way. He had evidently sacrificed much of his stock so as to keep going.

I think I told you in my last letter that next week we expected to take the two kiddies to the Community Camp at "Manyung". It promises to be between 20 and 30 people at the Camp so that we should have an enjoyable time. The kiddies are looking forward to it with great interest. The two Laurie girls will be in Camp and we expect Kath. and Dorrie also to be there.

I want to ask you to please go back over my letters and answer the numerous questions I have raised in them. While we enjoy reading your letters we want to say that they are remarkable for what they do not say rather than for what they do say. You never refer to the receipt of any letters from us so that we do now know whether they are reaching you safely or otherwise. I think it would be a good plan for you to acknowledge the receipt of the letters giving the dates they bear. I this way we shall know whether you are receiving them. Will you be good enough to look over our letters and give us the answers to the questions we have asked you. You have never once referred to the receipt of your wristlet watch, which we posted to the "Niagara". Did you get it? or did it go astray?

We will write you from Camp but it will probably be a week or two before we write again from the office. If we miss a mail or two you will understand the reason.

We hope you had an enjoyable Christmas, although I can imagine by this time conditions will be getting pretty cold and you will realise how bleak a place Chicago is in mid-winter.

We are unite in warmest love,
Yours affectionately,

16 July 2012

Noel's video illustrations

I don't have any original letters written by Noel during the time period of George's letters, but I do have a different treasure. Among the family papers I inherited were several reels of 8mm film dating back to 1936 when Noel acquired a camera. These films are up to 75 years old, so they have deteriorated.

I have sent many of them out to ScanDigital to be digitized, and hope to do the rest as money allows.

Among the films are some great illustrations of things that Noel (via George) is describing now, such as the Push Ball contest mentioned in Letter No. 22. It's a crazy affair and the video is quite entertaining to watch, I think.

Here is Noel's video of the Push Ball contest from what appears to be 1936 (five years after the one described in letter No. 22).

Also, here is Noel's footage of the Drexel Avenue campus of the Chicago YMCA College, which is soon renamed to George Williams College, where Noel is attending school.

These two clips were part of a longer video that isn't really relevant to the letters right now, but you can view it in its entirety here, if you want.

You'll notice that in Letter No. 22, George mentions that Noel has been doing presentations about Australia while in Chicago, so I think it's safe to make the leap that the video about the college above and the one below are meant to be for presentations about Chicago and George Williams College on Noel's return to Australia after graduation. (Spoiler: Noel stays in the United States and does not move back to Australia.)

Here is that other film I mentioned, a video tour of Chicago in 1936/37. This helps set the scene for where Noel is living and what he is experiencing.

You will probably see me link to these videos again in the future. I can't help it. I think they are fun. And I hope you enjoy them, too.

12 July 2012

No. 22 -- 22 Dec 1931

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

My dear Noel,

Your good letter of 6th November arrived yesterday. We were delighted with the news it contained. We quite understand that you will be finding it difficult to keep your correspondence going, especially in view of the schedule of studies you are carrying and the amount of outside work you are doing.

Thank you for the clippings from the student paper which helped us to appreciate the push ball contest, and some of the other features of college life. We were greatly amused at your account of the push ball contest and of your golfing experiences. It is good to know that there are times when you have the opportunity to “let up” a little and can manage to see the humour in the situations you are facing.

It is fine to learn that you have been successful in securing a sufficient number of jobs to maintain you reasonably well. Between the work in the main lounge and cafeteria, you are practically covering your needs for food and shelter. It was good of Clive to help you secure the other job at the Community Church. This should be quite a good piece of practical work which should stand you in good stead along the line of experience as well as proving so remunerative. I have been wondering how that will work out in the winter months. I hope it holds for you and that you will have other opportunities of similar kind turn up should that not continue for long.

Your medical examination on the whole, I think, is pretty good. You must simply attempt to make up any of the deficiencies referred to in the Doctor’s report, especially in the matter of posture. The others are not so important, although I know that vaccination is required in America, although it may not be necessary in Australia.

All your Christmas cards arrived safely and I am pleased to note that you sent to a number of the Directors as well as to your immediate circle of friends.

Thank you also for the greetings from Tom Laing and Vic. Jones and also from Clive and May. Tom Laing was good enough to drop me a letter by this mail, telling me about the fellows at Springfield and how they are progressing.

Your enquiry regarding David Unaipon raises the question in my mind as to whether you do not already possess a copy of Unaipon’s book . I have a very distinct recollection of handing you my copy. Have you looked through your material? In any case I am sending you another copy so that you may be able to make use of the material as opportunity presents itself. I am afraid you are asking too much to expect David Unaipon to write out anything for you. You may not know but he has been away from Melbourne for the past three months and is now I think in South Australia, so that I am afraid it will not be possible for us to get any material of the kind from him.

The phonographic record I will endeavour to get and send on to you, although there may be some problem in packing it securely for transportation to America. I am wondering whether it could not be procured in the States. I will make enquiry regarding that from the Vocalion people.

I am very delighted to hear that you have been giving addresses on Australia, so as to give you more material that you may be able to use I am sending to you a copy of “Australia Today.” This is a splendid magazine published by the Commercial Travellers’ Association and is full of interesting information concerning Australia.

I was very delighted to get the copy of the Association College Bulletin with the picture of the student body and faculty and also a small group of foreign students in which both Clive and yourself appear.

Alec. Moodie returned to Australia a fortnight ago. He has an offer open for me to return to Honolulu to a position with Ralph Cole. Unfortunately, however, there does not seem to be any possibility of us “wrangling” his re-entry to Honolulu on account of the stringency of the immigration laws. We have tried in several directions to get the American Counsel here to stretch a point in his favor, but there seems to be little chance of this being done from this end. If Moodie could get action taken at Washington in might be worked that way but it doesn't seem very hopeful. When Moodie got to Sydney he was advised by the Brisbane Association that his position on their staff was closed. Evidently before he left for America there was some understanding with the Brisbane Board that he should take a position abroad if one opened up. During the time that he was away conditions at Brisbane became exceedingly difficult and the Board felt that they could not re-emply him on his return – So that Moodie came straight on here to Melbourne and did not return to Brisbane. His wife is staying with her people at Geelong. Alec. is now looking out for another job, and there seems to be precious little opportunity for anything in Association work so that he will have to return to business again. It seems an awful pity that he cannot be fitted into Association work especially in view of his recent experiences and the wealth of information he has obtained concerning the Association in Canada and America.

By the way, we had a letter from John Akau, Junior, one of the Honolulu delegates, in which he wished to pass on to you his greetings. He spoke very highly of the enjoyable time he had with the Australian fellows en route to Toronto.

Keith sat for two subjects in his Intermediate Accountancy, namely, Commercial Law and Auditing. He was very unfortunate in just missing a pass in both subjects. He got 58 in Commercial Law, two marks below a pass, and 60 marks in auditing, five below a pass. However, he is not very disturbed about it as he now feels hat he can do much better in the May examinations. It would have been a great thing for him to have secured these two subjects at this examination and would have made it easier for the May examination. Now he will need to take five subjects in May. This will be a bit of a hurdle for him, but he feels pretty confident that he can do it.

You will be glad to hear that yesterday he secured a job with Louis Dreyfus & Co., Grain Merchants, 465 Collins Street. This will probably see him over the next few months while the wheat season is on. He also has prospect of another job and is nibbling it so as to discover whether it will be a better one than the Dreyfus job. It is a great relief to know that he will be employed during the next few months at any rate.

Ruth was home today on her usual day off. She is still in the surgical ward, but expects that she may have to take duty in the Children’s Ward before long. She is still happy in her job although she finds the long hours a heavy strain, particularly since the motor accident I referred to in my last letter. Evidently this shook her up more than she thought.

Edith was not successful in securing a Scholarship at the University High School, but she did obtain a free place at Gardiner for the next two years. Joy unfortunately failed in arithmetic, consequently did not secure an additional two years free place. She will probably go to Fintona or Presbyterian Ladies' College in the New Year. They were both greatly delighted with the postcards you sent along and of course at the news contained in your letter.

You will be  glad to hear that Mr. Handley of the Melbourne Boys' High School, has accepted a position on the Boys' Work Committee. He is very keen and has been exceedingly useful. Mother went along to the High School Break-up and he then spoke to her about the time you were at the High School. Evidently he has a warm pot in his heart for you.

Nearly all of the wind-up social functions have been held at the Association building. The Vikings' Dinner was held last Thursday with about 100 fellows present. It was a great turn-out. Jack Brideson was awarded the McRae Cup and Len. Lacey came second.

Last night we had a combined Senior Activities Dinner at which the "13" Club and Mrs. J.R. Nichol's helpers were guests. This was also a good affair with about 90 to 100 present. The diplomas won by the Educational students were distributed and Frank Trainor gave a splendid address.

I think in my last letter I told you that we would probably have to close down on "Melbourne's Manhood". We now think it is possible to continue it in a re-organised form. Our printer has undertaken to publish it without cost to the Association. We shall have to reduce the number of pages and print the magazine on different paper so as to reduce costs. You can be sure I am delighted that we are able to continue it.

Laurie Bowen wrote me the other day and in his letter narrated the difficulties the Association Movement was experiencing on account of the depression in America -- how impossible it was to find jobs for men in Association work, as most of the larger Associations were reducing staff rather than increasing the number of their employees. I can quite understand the situation as we have had to reduce our own staff pretty drastically during the past year.

I have nothing further to add regarding the amplifier excepting that Jack Walsh had an enquiry a little while back for an amplifier. He is endeavouring to get the enquirer interested in your machine. Rex. is similarly endeavouring to place it with some of the country picture shows.

Under separate cover I have sent to you a copy of each of the "Argus" and the "Herald" giving the election results. You can see as you peruse the papers how wonderfully the commonsense of the Australian voters has manifested itself in the swing away from some of labor's wild-cat financial schemes. This result should help to re-establish confidence in business circles, and perhaps help in the reduction of unemployment.

We are expecting fine attendances at all of the camps. At Manyung we expect about 60 for the young men's camp and between 20 and 30 at the community camp which follows it. At Shoreham we are expecting the following attendances at the four periods: 70, 60, 70 and 35, but in the last two it is likely that the enrollments will be considerably higher than the figures given, as the entry dates do not  close until some time in January. The Scouts are also holding a camp so that we shall have 7 camping periods before the firsts week of February.

I am endeavouring to get away for the Community Camp at Manyung, and hope to take mother and the two kiddies along for a fortnight's spell. Mother is keeping very well, I am happy to say.

Well, my boy, we must express our delight that you are managing to maintain yourself and I hope, studying hard. I quite understand that you will not find it easy to carry your schedule, but I know you will do your best to stand up tot he strain and that you will capitalise every moment of your time and make it contribute to your success. Don't become too seriously involved in the social life of the college at the detriment of your school work. That is the common error made by students in their first year. There will be ample time for social life when you have demonstrated your ability to carry your schedule with honor to yourself and to Australia. We are all greatly encouraged by your last letter and we wish you every blessing and success in the New Year. Naturally we shall want to know how you got on with your first term's work and we hope you will keep us posted with the results of any tests.

Don't forget to keep close to the Source of all strength; you will need His continued guidance and blessing in all that you undertake.

With our united love,

Yours affectionately,

(handwritten postscript) The Staff send greetings also McDonald (of N.Z.), Trainor, Jenner, Nichol, Hooke, and heaps of others.

06 June 2012

No. 21 -- 7 Dec 1931

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

My dear Noel,

Your letter dated October 28th reached me this week. You then reported that school had been in session for about two weeks and that everything was going well. We were interested in hearing of the subjects that you are taking during your first term. I think you will find it somewhat difficult to carry 2 1/2 majors plus the four units that are required for your entrance status. However, no doubt you will be able to plan your work in a way that will carry this schedule.

We were delighted to hear that you had such a thoroughly happy time during Orientation week. I know it is necessary for you to become associated with one or more of the fraternities, but I would urge that you do not spend too large an amount of your time in that way.

I suppose the Initiation was the usual type of affair in which the  Freshman perform all kinds of stunts for the benefit of the seniors.

I am sorry to hear that you have not been able to secure steady employment, but am encouraged by your expectation that something will turn up in the near future.

I have been thinking a good deal about the Amplifier and I do not feel that it would be wise to carry out your suggestion and pass it over to the Radio Club.  At any rate I will not do that until I have exhausted every possibility of a sale.

We were all glad to hear from you, although you must remember we were kept waiting for a letter for nearly six weeks. I think you should endeavour to write at least every other week.

Keith was glad to get your message concerning his birthday. I passed your letter around for the members of the staff to read and they all join in regards to you. Kath. was disappointed that she did not get a letter this mail. In fact I think her last letter was dated the end of September.

By this mail also we received the Panoramic Picture of the Chicago skyline. It is a splendid picture, and we are grateful to you for sending it. We shall have it framed and put with the other panoramas we have.

The folk at home are all well. Edith was greatly excited yesterday. She paid a visit with her school to the Electricity Commission's place at Yallourn and had a great day. She characterised it as "gorgeous". We were rather amused in finding her last Will and Testament, which was dated 17th November and addressed "To the people I love". In this she left her clothes to the poor, £10:0:0 to her brothers in America, £7:15:0 to be divided between Mum and Dad; her pearls to one of her friends and her bangle to another and her desk at school to still another! She is a queer kid. At the bottom of the will which was witnessed by two her her friends she had a sentence to the effect that the above will had to be considered in the light of any subsequent wills found. You can imagine that we have had quite a lot of amusement over this find. Joy looks unutterable disgust and simply says "mad".

Keith has another ship coming in this week which will give him a further extension of his job. This is helping to give him some pocket money at any rate, although we will be very delighted when he is able to secure a constant job.

Rex. Baker has been away a great deal, and is away again this time for about 10 days.

Ruth was knocked down by a motorcar in town the other day, and was severely bruised, but apart from that no ill effects have shown themselves. She refused to proceed against the motorist, although he was obviously in the wrong, but I think the police are insisting upon action being taken in the matter. Just what will happen I do not know.

Uncle Will has had to leave his place in Swanston Street and he could not continue there on account of the difficulties he was experiencing. He has shifted out to the corner of Lennox Street and Bridge Road, Richmond. Poor Bill is having a very hard time.

Mother and I went along to the Sunday School picnic on Saturday, October 28th. The day was beautifully fine and the affair went off splendidly. Everybody was quite happy and of course the two kids were in their element.

The same day happened to be Henley Day. The Vikings had their Viking War ship on the river and got a great amount of publicity in the illustrated papers. They were also successful in securing a special prize of £3:0:0 for the best decorated boat.

This practically paid for the boat which they purchased for £5:0:0 a week or two before. They now have this boat available for picnic gatherings, etc., and I suppose it will be kept at the Canoe Club House  at Studley Park.

We are commencing the usual round of Christmas socials and dinners at the Association building. This week we had the wind-up function at the highschool group and of the Workings Men's College group, and others will continue right up to Christmas. There is a big range of them this year.

Yesterday we had afternoon tea to say farewell to Reg. Gray, and made him a small presentation. Reg. finishes up today, although we expect we shall be able to make a good deal of use of him if he stays in Melbourne, in some forms of Honorary Service.

Arrangements for the camps are well in hand and we are expecting big enrollments of both seniors and juniors.

You will be surprised to learn that Alec. Moodie is not returning to Brisbane. I had a letter from him this week and also from Ralph Cole, in which they both ask me to see what I can do towards securing a permit from the American Consulate here for Moodie to return to Honolulu to undertake a job for the Honolulu Y. You can be sure I will do my best in this direction, but I am of the opinion that we will not be successful in securing  any special arrangement without a great deal of pressure. Of course, if we cannot secure the necessary permit, Moodie will probably have to seek a job in business or elsewhere.

You will be glad to hear that the 12th National Convention went of splendidly. There was the usual long debate concerning the National Committee Finance, but in the end the matter had to be referred back to the Associations for further consideration. Personally I do not think that the Associations can hope to provide more than about £250 a year towards the support of the National work. Frank Trainor will finish up his part time arrangement at the end of the year and will continue to give some degree of supervision to National Work in an honorary capacity. Frank Woodcraft will be retained on the National Staff, but of course will be required to raise his own budget and more.

We had a splendid discussion on the questionnaire "Our purpose, our youth, our times." This was the bright spot in the convention proceedings.

Mr. Thomas Thomas has resigned the Chairmanship of the National Committee after 15 years' service, and Mr. R.W. Nevile, of our Board, has been appointed National Chairman. Mr. Thomas will still remain on the National Committee and will give service as Honorary Secretary of the Executive. A little later on, when the full report of the Convention is available, I will send a copy to you.

The Prefects had a splendid conference at Mr. Crosby's house at Tremont, and have made a fine lot of suggestions for the better working of the Boys' Department. The Fathers' Club also had a weekend Conference at Shoreham. The Leaders of the Viking Club are to have a conference next weekend. The Gym. leaders held theirs a little while back at Manyung. I was down at Manyung a week or two ago and was interested to see the developments that have taken place in the camp. Both properties at Shoreham and Manyung are in excellent condition, mainly through the fine service given by the work parties of members.

This letter should reach you just about the beginning of the New Year. All the folk in the Association and of course the folk at home, join in hearty good wishes to you, and hope that you will have a season of good times.

We would like you to let us know a little more about your college life, especially whether you are living in college or elsewhere. Please pass on my regards to Mr. and Mrs. Glover and of course to Dean Foss at the College.

Now, my boy, we earnestly hope that you will be able to carry your schedule of work in a way that will do credit to yourself, and honour to Australia. You of course must feel the sense of responsibility to worthily represent the country from whence you came.

With our united love,
Yours affectionately,

03 May 2012

George is feeling testy?

George doesn't usually express much emotion in his letters -- his language is always so civilized -- but in this letter (No. 20), a little testiness and frustration leaks through. It's subtle, even if George does come close to swearing at one point.

"I wish to goodness we could do something with that blessed amplifier, but seemingly it is impossible to dispose of it."

You could hardly blame him, though. The letter if full of examples of how the Depression is hitting the family. Keith and Rex are barely able to hold onto jobs. George is hoping that Joyce can stay in a free school, and is having to drop piano lessons for the girls. The YMCA's finances are a mess.

And here is George's youngest son, half a world away. He knows Noel is extremely low on funds and he hasn't heard from him in two months. George scrapes together $10 to send to Noel, and laments that he can't liquidate the amplifier, which is worth about $300.

The Argus (Melbourne),
Tuesday 17 November 1931, page 7
But that's not the only example of testiness. When talking about Henley Day, George issues a rare complaint.
"I personally would rather have gone to Henley-on-the-Yarra, but mother has determined to go with the kiddies so I suppose I will have to do likewise."

Of course, I had to look up Henley Day, and it turns out the Henley-on-the-Yarra was a huge regatta on the Yarra River, attracting up to 300,000 in 1925, according to a history site about the Yarra River. It was also a major social event.

So when you consider what an avid sportsman George was, it seems only natural that he would complain about missing a major sporting event.

Maybe I'm just getting better able to read George now that I'm 20 letters into this project, or maybe the stresses of the time are getting bad enough to bleed into the letters a little bit.  I'll be interested to see what other frustrations leak out in future letters.