21 November 2013

No. 34 -- 11 May 1932

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

My dear Noel,

We were very delighted to get your letter of March 27th written on Easter Sunday. Even though you may have to work on Sundays to earn your living, I imagine that cannot be helped under the special circumstances you are facing. We are very delighted to have your assurance that you have completed satisfactory work over the winter quarter. Perhaps when you write you might tell us exactly what your results have been in all subjects each quarter, and in that way we will be able to follow your progress more easily.

I hope to post more on Noel's school work
soon. Also, see my previous article on
I understand you still have some portion of you high school work to complete. Perhaps you will tell us how far you have advanced with your back work. When will you be accepted in full status as a student?

We are more than pleased to know that you have managed to keep body and soul together and that the work provided for you in the college and elsewhere has been sufficient to meet your actual needs. We will be greatly relieved when we hear that you have been able to cover your needs during the summer vacation. I hope it will be possible for you to maintain your connection with the Fraternity, especially if you get your full status as student this year. While it may cost money to retain your identity with the Fraternity, it has certain social advantages which I know mean a good deal to you. I would hesitate before I decided not to link up as you suggest in your letter.

By this time the weather conditions will have changed for the better and I hope with the coming of the warmer months your clothing may prove to be more suitable than it did over the winter.

24 April 2013

No. 33 -- 27 April 1932

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

My dear Noel,

In my last letter to you I mentioned that we had not received a letter by that mail. It arrived the day after, so that I am acknowledging it now. We did not get a letter by the mail delivered yesterday, although I did receive a short note from Clive Glover.

We are naturally anxious to hear how you got on in the examinations for the winter term. I know it will take a little time before results are made available, but we cannot help expressing a hope that you were able to carry your subjects through successfully.

I rather like the idea of you English paper on "Conditions in England preceding the formation of the Young Men's Christian Association in London." That should give you an excellent background for a study of the inauguration of our work. We cannot appreciate the philosophy of the Young Men's Christian Association unless we have a knowledge of the soil out of which the Movement grew.

28 March 2013

Who was Keith Hughes?

In virtually every letter to Noel, George includes family news about Keith, who is Noel's older brother. When Noel compiled a family history in the early 1980s, he wrote the following biography of Keith.


Keith was born November 5, 1905 in Adelaide, South Australia. In February 1909 the family moved to Dunedin, New Zealand, where he attended primary school. He attended high school in Wellington where he was a top athlete. He was quite skillful in cricket and rugby football and he participated in these sports well into his adult years, and assumed responsible offices in the administration in Australia of these sports on a local and national basis.

Note: While I'm not sure of the significance of 
Keith's first name, I do know that his two
middle names are significant in the 
family history. Willis was a family name
on his mother's side, and Bagot was a 
family name on his father's side.
In Wellington the family lived at Lyall Bay, on the ocean, where he was Captain of one of the Volunteer Surf and Life Saving Clubs.

After high school he was apprenticed to an architect but gave it up following a minor accident where his skull was creased by a piece of falling masonry. March 15, 1924 the family moved to Melbourne, Australia where Keith secured employment with the Texas Oil Company. This lasted until the onslaught of the Great Depression. For the next several years he was unemployed. Fortunately he was able to secure work for short periods with the Texas Company, when a boat arrived from America, and with the Dryfuss Co. and the Wheat Commission during the harvest seasons, exporting grain. He was also studying accountancy. In March of 1934 he obtained a permanent position in the Credit Department of Myers Emporium.

For excerpts that specifically
mention Keith, see
Excerpts: News About Brother Keith
Beginning in 1935 he was keeping company with Ella Heale, whom he had first met in the Texaco Office several years earlier, bringing her home in August to meet Mother and Father. On March 5, 1938 Keith and Ellie were married. The following May, Ellie entered hospital because of a tumor. Five months later, October 14, 1938, son Ian was delivered by cesarean section.

Ellie's health, the outbreak of World War Two and the death of Father in December 1940, all created uncertainty for the future. Keith became a member of the Australian Armed Forces and served in the islands to the North of Australia, with the Air Force rank, FLT. LT.

After the war he secured employment with the Australian Safety Council, Victorian Air Safety Division.

Keith also participated in the Boy Scout Movement as a volunteer executive in the Melbourne Headquarters.

Ellie's health was an ever present concern and it culminated in her death in September 1952. Son Ian was fourteen years of age. Three years later, July 27, 1955, Keith married Doris Garbutt.

In the period prior to his marriage, Keith while leading a Boy Scout hike in Tasmania suffered a coronary he was not aware of, because unfortunately it was incorrectly diagnosed.

Three months after his marriage he suffered a second coronary, passing away October 27, 1955.

Doris was three months pregnant at the time of Keith's death. She delivered a son Keith Thomas Bagot, April 22, 1956.

19 March 2013

No. 32 -- 13 April 1932

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

My dear Noel,

We did not receive a letter from you this American mail, but a copy of the “Collegian” came to hand. We must assume that no news is good news.

Noel from the early 1930s
in Chicago. 
Affairs at home are much the same as I reported in my last letter. Mother is keeping well, and of course, sends her love.

Keith is getting back into his old stride, although the illness shook him up a good deal. He doesn’t expect his present job will last much beyond this month, and as far as we can see, there is nothing ahead immediately.

Ruth is still at home, although she is much better as the result of the rest she has had. We are sending her away next week for a spell, and hope shewill be soon right again.

The two little ones are as usual “in the pink”. 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 on very well together, despite their little disagreements. Edith is making good progress with her music under Miss Marshall. Joy seems to be quite happy at Fintona and is entering into the sport of the school and is, of course, keen on that side of school life.

Rex. is still away in Sydney. We had a letter from him last week in which he stated he would probably be away for another fortnight, but even that is not certain – he may be away longer.

There is not a great deal of home news to pass on to you. Things are much the same as in my last letter. We held the Annual Meeting of the South Hawthorn Presbyterian Church last week, and had quite a good turn out of folk despite the very bad weather. The Church is having its problems as you can well imagine, especially along financial lines. Mr. Baird is, I think, preaching better than he was some time ago and there is good spirit in the Church’s life.

I have been pretty busy as Chairman of the Boys’ Work Committee of the Rotary Club, and just now am up to my eyes in preparation for Girls’ and Boys’ Week to be held April 30 to May 6. I have a very big programme in hand and hope this year will set new standards of achievement. I will send you a copy of the programme in our next letter.

At the Association we are still struggling with the financial problem. It is becoming a nightmare! We do not seem able to improve the revenue despite all the economies that we have effected in expenditure. However, we are trying hard to make changes in our work that will enable us to do more promotional work and in this way we hope to improve the position somewhat. It is clear we cannot continue at the present rate of loss. Our banker will stop us before long. The Board is meeting at weekly intervals to try and see daylight through the number of the issues tied up in our financial situation.

We had a good camp at Manyung during Easter time. While there were only 30 present, Ivor Burge reported that it was the best held in the last four years. There have been further improvements effected and showers have been installed at the camp. Also big improvements were made at Shoreham by a work party which spent Easter there.

We are still about two-thirds full in the Residential Department and the going is hard. Cafeteria has slumped badly during the last two months. We actually have a loss on the first quarter. This is something new for us. We are also trying to speed up revenue in the Billiard room and have re-formed the Billiard Room Committee with that end in view.

You will receive this letter about the middle of May and will then, I expect, be scratching hard in preparation for your final examinations. We know that you will endeavour to make a good showing and we ask you specially to remember the folk at home who are desperately anxious for your success. I know you will not give too much time to other matters and will put your best work into your studies. It is only in this way that you can expect results we all desire.

Please pass on my regards to Clive and May, and also to Foss, Dreaver and others. I must close now.

Yours affectionately,

(Handwritten post-script)
All unite in sending their love.

11 March 2013

No. 31 -- 24 March 1932

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

My dear Noel,

Today, St. Louis is about a five-hour drive down
Interstate 55 southwest from Chicago.
I'm not sure how long the trip would have taken
in 1932.

Since historic Route 66 was opened in 1926,
I think it's fair to say that they would have
followed that route. For a description of the route,
see RoadtripUSA.com.
Your letter of February 24th reached us this week. We were very delighted to get the news it contained. You are certainly a fortunate young men to be able to spend a weekend at St. Louis. It is good that you were able to make arrangements at such short notice, and that there were others who could undertake the jobs for which you were responsible. I know you would enjoy the opportunity of a visit to such a home and with such friends.

I did not visit St. Louis when I was in the States though I had planned to do so, but time would not permit me to make the trip. We were interested in all that happened at St. Louis and thank you for giving us such a full account.

The Central YMCA at 1528 Locust Street in St. Louis.
The building is now called Centenary Tower
and only the bottom two floor are now occupied by the YMCA.
See this history on the YMCA website.

Photo by Tom Bastin (Reading Tom) via Flickr
Used under Creative Commons license
I remember very vividly the campaign held some years ago to secure money for the Central building at St. Louis, and for other branch buildings. It was one of the first of the huge campaigns which the Associations organized in the post-war period. St. Louis was followed by the Detroit Campaign and then by the New York campaign. All of these raised new standards of achievement in money raising for local work by the Associations. Thank you for sending me copies of the material you collected at the Central Y. Some of it is very suggestive and I am sure it will be of value to us.

The mail bag of miniature photographs also arrived safely. Ditto the “Association Collegian” on Feb. 16th. While your visit was of short duration, you packed into it quite a lot of sightseeing.

This is the same record I wrote about in
the post Jacko the Broadcasting Kookaburra
in August 2112.
We not that you were to speak on “Australia” on the following Sunday. We hope you got on alright. 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 useable condition. Perhaps it may be possible to get one from the San Francisco office of the Australian National Travel Assocn. At any rate a little pressure at that end may persuade them to get one for you and if you are unsuccessful, please let me know and I will see if I can secure another record.

I quite imagined you would have some difficulty in maintaining your work at the Kenwood Church. In one of my former letters I mentioned I thought this would happen in view of the prevailing conditions. If you are without that source of revenue, you will be facing difficulties, I am certain, unless it is possible to find something else to take its place.

The greetings you forwarded in your letter I will pass of the various persons named.

Mr. Handley, Melbourne High School, has just left for a trip to England, and America, but I do not think he is likely to go inland as far as Chicago. He has made a number of enquiries concerning yourself.

The folk at home are reasonably well. Keith had a very bad illness and lost 1 ½ stone in weight in ten days. He had Pharangitis, and the medical man said it was one of the worst cases he had seen. However, he is back again at work and is slowly picking up.

In my last letter I mentioned that Ruth was having a bad run at the Hospital with illness. We had her examined and I am afraid it may mean that she will have to abandon her hospital training for some time. The prolonged period of night work seems to have upset her a good deal, and she must keep a prolonged holiday. Whether she will return to the Homeopathic Hospital to complete her training is doubtful, as we do not think it will be wise to go back to the place which has proved so difficult. However, that remains for the future to decide, but in the meantime she is home and I am trying to make arrangements to get her away for a spell.

Under separate cover you will find letters from Ruth, Joyce and Edith.

Having these two patients at home has place a pretty heavy strain on mother, but she is bearing up exceedingly well. Fortunately Ruth did not come home until Keith was practically well again, so that mother did not have the two of them simultaneously.

Rex. is still away in Sydney, but we expect he may be back any day now. He has been away for three or four weeks.

The great event in Australia during recent days, was the opening of the Sydney Bridge. I have sent you a number of newspapers including a copy of the “Australasian” in which you will find illustrations of that Bridge and the account of the opening, which may interest you.

I have heard recently from Harry White, and also from John Cook. What has happened to Clive Glover? I have not had a word from him for a long time. Tell him a letter is overdue.

Dick Nitschke of Adelaide called in the other day as he as passing through to Sydney to the opening of the Bridge. He was also over here at the time that Holmesdale Nitschke was playing with the South Australian cricket team against Victoria. Holmesdale was been doing very well at representative cricket this year. Just the other day, against New South Wales, he made 119. Dick reports that the folk in South Australia are feeling the strain financially, specially in finding money for the building Edith is erecting in King William Street, Adelaide. I think he has put between 20,000 and 30,000 into it already and it is not yet finished.

We have had a number of special Finance Committee meetings recently, with the object of trying to find out in which directions we can increase our departmental revenues. I am afraid we have not got far, although various plans have been suggested which might be possible on trial. The Board will never meet our financial needs until they tackle an annual financial campaign. It is the only way to meet the position.

Ivor Burge is expecting between 30 and 40 fellows at Easter Camp. The main party will leave tonight. He is putting a lot of time into camp work and is doing a fine job. The Boys’ Department will not have an ordinary camp, but they have about 15 or 16 fellows who are spending the whole of the Easter period in doing odd jobs to the camp property at Shoreham.

Alf. Hines is still away on holiday and we do not expect him back until after Easter.

I have not been able to get any definite information concerning the Australian exhibit on the Chicago Exhibition, but hope to have it available for you shortly.

Last Sunday week I had a full church when I took, the Cricketers service at our own church. We had a splendid body of young fellows present and on the whole a most enjoyable gathering. Last Sunday I had a Sunday School Anniversary at Coburg. We had the Church packed 10 minutes before time of commencement. Scores of folk were turned away and here again we had a really good service.

I have a very busy time ahead of me in connection with Rotary Club work. We have the district conference at Geelong, April 14 to 18, and then at the end of April and the beginning of May the Rotary Boys’ and Girls’ Week. All of this is consuming a good deal of my leisure, but it is an interesting job, and I am glad to have a share in it. You did not tell me whether you called at the Rotary Club in Chicago. I think it would be a good thing for you to make that contact.

I must close now. You have our united love my boy. We sincerely hope your second term’s results will satisfy you. Please let us have all details as soon as you can. Time is slipping by very rapidly and it is difficult to imagine that you have been away over 9 months. We look forward to your letters with eagerness.

With much love from us all,
Yours affectionately,

25 February 2013

No. 30 -- 16 March 1932

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

My dear Noel,

Your letter of Feb. 9th reached me this week. We are sorry to hear that you have had the 'flu. Snow is very beautiful as you suggest in your letter, but of course the experience of long walks in the snow can only be carried out when you are properly booted and equipped for it. You probably did not have any of the necessary equipment to face such an experience.

Winter in Chicago is a pretty desperate business as I can well recall. It was February when I visited Chicago the last time, and the cold was intense.

I am sorry that you had to miss some of your school work but I guess that cannot be helped under the circumstance.

Lake Geneva is a lake in Wisconsin just north
of the Illinois border. A campus there was part
of the Chicago YMCA College, later renamed
George Williams College. According to a
history of the college found on the
Aurora University website
: "The roots of
George Williams College run deep
in the YMCA movement of the 19th century.
In 1884, leaders from America’s “western”
YMCAs gathered on the shores of Geneva Lake
in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, to attend a
summer training program. Two years later,
the camp was incorporated, and the first
parcel of the current Williams Bay campus
was purchased. Since that time, “college camp”
has been a source of inspiration, recreation,
education and renewal for thousands of
guests and students."
I am glad to hear that you have placed an application with the College for a position at Lake Geneva, and I sincerely hope it will come your way. I am surprised to learn that there will not be a Summer School this year. Is that because of the depressed conditions? I do not recall any similar occurrence in other years. What will actually take place at Lake Geneva during the summer? It is usual for quite a number of Summer Schools and conferences to be scheduled over the months of July and August. Presumably there will be a number of such conferences and you will be attached to the staff if you get the job.

The World's Fair mentioned was the
1933 Century of Progress exhibition in
Chicago. It was a major event in Chicago
history and will come up again in future letters.
We note your suggestion about the Australian Exhibit at the World's Fair in 1933. I will make some enquiries on this matter, but I imagine that most of the actual arrangement will be done by our Australian representative in New York. Anyhow I will make some enquiries and will let you know, if possible, by the next mail.

The Washington stamps mentioned likely included this
stamp, issued in 1932 as part of a bicentennial
celebration of George Washington's birth 200 years
previous. A whole series of stamps was issued, but this
was the most popular.
Thank you for the Washington stamps which you enclosed. I have already received a number of used stamps of the same issue which I am carefully keeping.

I hope your Fraternity dinner passed off satisfactorily. It seems a pretty expensive affair, when it costs 35/- for all expenses!

Since my last letter, Keith has been exceptionally ill. We have had the Doctor to him practically every day for a week. We thought it might be diphtheria and a swab of his throat was taken and examined, but the result was negative. He has had a very bad attack of laryngitis. The Doctor states it was one of the most severe cases he had ever handled.

Ruth also has been out of sorts again and I am beginning to wonder whether after all she will be strong enough to continue her training to the end. Today she is home and is very much out of sorts and I shall have to apply for further sick leave for her. The work is so desperately heavy and the hours so long that only the strongest can stand up to the work.

I am sending you a short printed article that appeared in the magazine section of the "Herald" which describes the Sydney Bridge. This, I thought would interest you. Great preparations are in hand for the official opening which takes place next Saturday. A tremendous number of people from all the States and from overseas are visiting Sydney, and I imagine there will be quite a big round of festivities. It is likely that several of the illustrated papers will bring out special editions on the Bridge, and if so I will endeavour to send you one or two so that you may have all the details.

The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954),
Monday 14 March 1932, page 10

I'm not sure if this is the specific article that George
included in the letter, but it fit the description.

The Vikings went away for their Weekend Conference last weekend, and had a good time at Beaconsfield.

We had a work party of 10 fellows at Camp Manyung and they did splendid work which Burge estimates worth about 60. They have erected showers, laid concrete, made drains, and quite a lot of other useful work.

Rex. is still away in Sydney and we do not know exactly when he will return. I should imagine he will not be back until after next weekend at the earliest.

We are having special meetings of the Finance Executive to discuss whether we can increase revenues in the different departments and sections of the work. In the face of the depressed conditions it will be hard going to raise additional money, but we must do so or else make further economies. It is obvious we cannot continue to lose money each month as we are now doing.

Mr. Hines is away on holiday and will not return until after Easter.

Ernie Gollan is to be married on Saturday March 19th to Lilian Langham.

George Briggs was offered the General Secretaryship of the Y.M.C.A. at Port Pirie, but he turned it down, so that he might continue his studies and afterwards go to the States. I think he was wise.

E. C. Parsons, late Physical Director at Perth, passed through here yesterday. He is returning to England.

Well, my boy, I must close now. I am off to Rotary Club luncheon. I sincerely hope you have completely recovered from the 'flu and that you will be successful in your second term's exams.

I had a fellow in the other day to look at the Amplifier but I do not expect a sale will eventuate, although he looked the machine over and said he would keep it in mind should an opportunity occur to dispose of it.

All the folk at home unite in warmest love.

Yours affectionately,

(Handwritten post-script)

Ruth's birthday card arrived yesterday. Thanks! She will acknowledge.

Kath sent you a sweater.

I was amazed to hear that you hadn't written to her for months!
What's up?

26 January 2013

Noel's Account of Crossing Canada in 1931 - Audio

When I first wrote about Noel's crossing through Canada on his way to the YMCA conferences in Toronto and Cleveland, I didn't remember that I had more first-person information about the trip to share.

In 1982, when I was only 12, I made an audio tape of my grandfather, Noel, recounting some family history, including a story about his trip through Canada with the Hawaiian delegation on the way to the YMCA conferences.

It's been a learning process for me to get the recording off the cassette tape and into a digitized format that I can share, but I'm finally finished with it.

So, below is a YouTube video link of Noel telling the story, plus a transcript of the recording. I hope you find it interesting.

Noel: "In 1931 when I came over to America, when we arrived in Honolulu, about 30 young Hawaiian boys got on the boat. They were going to the World Conferences of YMCAs in Toronto and Cleveland. And so, I being by myself, I joined them. And, they were singing Hawaiian songs and everything on the boat from Hawaii to Vancouver.

"And, when we got to Vancouver, I stayed at the same hotels they stayed at. We were invited to a basket-- a baseball game and we sang at intermission -- at half time we sang Hawaiian songs in the stands.

"And then, we traveled on the same train, the Canadian Pacific into the Rockies, and I traveled with them. And we sang in the First Class section to amuse the First Class people on the train. And we got into the observation cars, you know, with the glass roofs.

"And then, when we got to the station for Lake Louise, we got off there as guests of the management, and we stayed one night at the Chalet at Lake Louise. In return for that, we sang on the terrace at sunset."

Haley: "And by then, you knew all the Hawaiian songs."

Noel: "That's right. And then the next day, we all piled into a bus, and they took us the 40 miles to the Banff Springs Hotel. And we stayed overnight there and in return for that we sang on the terrace of the Banff Springs Hotel.

"And when we continued, then, we had a special car on the train for us all the way to Toronto."

22 January 2013

No. 29 -- 2 March 1932

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

My dear Noel,

Your letter of January 26th with its supplementary material dated 30th January, came to hand by the last mail. It was read with a great deal of interest. We were all delighted to know that you are still managing to pull along quite satisfactorily.

I was interested in your acknowledgment of my letters!!! I have not checked back the list, but I imagine it must be fairly correct.

This long paragraph devoted to Noel's
involvement in the "playground movement"
had me intrigued, so I did more research.
I don't know Noel's specific involvement,
but the movement to create playgrounds
to keep kids off the street started
in the 1890s and seems to have
still been going in the 1930s in Chicago.
It was a movement championed by
progressives and social reformers,
and with Noel attending a social-
service centered college and his
involvement in the YMCA, it seems a
natural fit for him. My interpretation of
this paragraph is that Noel might have
had a job running some of the
playground programs, and George is worried
about the loss of income, so is urging
Noel to keep in contact with the parent
members so they don't drop the program.
For more about the playground
movement in Chicago, see this article.
Do you know anything about the Playground
Movement in Chicago during the 1930s?
Or the YMCA's involvement in it?
I'd love to hear about it.
I am sorry to hear that your playground movement is not being maintained at the old levels. I quite imagined that there would be a dropping off as unemployment increased and conditions became harder. It is unfortunate that you are not able to make more definite contacts with the parents, so that you may be able to keep your members. While you may have sufficient coming in to carry your incidental expenses, you must not forget the fact that you have a long period of vacation when your living expenses will be required. I know it is difficult to maintain your college schedule and do everything that is necessary to maintain your grades, and at the same time do interviewing work of this type, but it seems to me if it is at all possible for you to squeeze in occasional visits to the parents, it would pay you in the long run. I know that immediately the vacation period comes round, and the college closes, you will be faced with the problem of maintaining yourself, and I would urge that you give very careful thought to this matter well ahead of the time so that your plans may be in hand for your maintenance during that long period.

In my last letter I mentioned how necessary it would be to think in terms of the amount you will require to start your next year's College work, with text books and other incidental expenses. Quite a few pounds must be in hand to start the year with.

I hope you will satisfactorily carry out all the tests required when "hell week" comes round, so that your initiation into the Fraternity may be in order.

All this talk about money had me curious
so I did some searching. I thought
about inserting images of currency from
the 1930s, but instead opted for this video.
It's very catchy, plus explains the system
of pounds, shillings and pence used in
Australia at this time. Enjoy!

The dollar bill you sent, came safely to hand, although it was quite unnecessary for you to send it. We are only too happy to forward the material you asked for. I will retain the bill as it may be of some value in paying accounts a little later on when I shall require to send money to America. I will give the kids 1/- a piece so that they will feel that we have not taken something from them about which you wrote.

I am greatly encouraged by the fact that you are getting into your stride in your studies and that you are able to cover the work. Don't forget that it doesn't pay to do without sleep for too long. You can maintain that for awhile, but nature after a time asserts itself and when the testing time comes, such as examinations, etc., the mind refuses to work in the normal way.

We note your request for a snap of the family. We will endeavour to send something along, better than the one forwarded in the last mail.

Too bad the diary has been lost over the years,
but this did remind me that I have other
treasure related to Noel's crossing of
Canada. This post was my initial piece
about that crossing
, but there is also an
updated post with an audio recording I made in
1982of Noel recounting his Canadian crossing.

It was originally recorded to cassette tape,
but I've digitized it.
We were very glad also to get a further consignment of your diary. It helped us to understand just exactly what you have done on the trip across Canada. You certainly had a wonderfully good time. We shall look forward to receiving the balance of the diary.

Ruth is keeping quite well apart from a cold which has now practically gone. No ill effects came from the accident, worth talking about. Edith is getting along quite well at school and also in her music and elocution. She is expecting  to have a test in music shortly, so as to find out whether she will be fit to take her first examination in May. Joyce has started music again. We felt it wise to leave her to make her own decision in this matter. Whether she will continue it or not remains to be seen.

I am rather amused at your reference to "make them study". I wish to goodness I could have drummed the same thing into your head when you were here! I tried hard to get you to realise that you were taking things far to easily, and trusting to pot luck to get through on the American end. Now you realise how essential it is to have adequate preparation so as to get advanced standing.

All the family read the letter and I also passed on your regards to those mentioned in your letter. Joy is enclosing a letter with this.

Mother is keeping in excellent health and so is Keith. He had a good deal of trouble with his teeth, but that seems to have straightened out alright. Rex Baker left on Sunday for Sydney, where  he expects to remain for about three weeks installing some talkie apparatus.

Under separate cover I am sending you a letter which arrived here just about the time the last mail left, and which unfortunately, I forgot to forward at that time. It is from one of your friends, a Czechoslovakian who met you at the conferences. I will acknowledge the letter and will send him a little material on Australia. You should answer it at your first opportunity and thank him for the snapshots, etc. It will be a good thing for you to maintain your contact with him.

You will be glad to learn that we had a very successful weekend for our Business Men's classes at Camp Manyung. Forty-five of them attended and they had a thoroughly happy time. We plan to hold a weekend camp every month during the year. This month we shall have one on the weekend 12th, 13th and 14th March and then the Easter Camp, 25th, 26th, 27th and 28th March. Ivor is featuring this in his Physical Department programme throughout the year. Incidentally he is making money which will be turned into new equipment at the camp.

We had a Rotary weekend at Camp Somers last Saturday and Sunday. About 50 Rotarians attended the camp and we had a really happy time together. Next Saturday I am organising a picnic for 40 of the Montague Club boys who will be motored to Eltham by the Rotarians, given refreshments and a good time. This is part of our policy in connection with the Boys' Work Committee of which I am Chairman.

I am enclosing a copy of the Educational Department folder, which will help you to see the new classes we are organising this year. There are others we have in mind for later in the year.

Y.M.C.A. (1932, February 27).
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.: 1848-1956), p. 25.
Retrieved January 22, 2013, from
The Annual Meeting was held on Feb. 25th and went off quite well. A copy of the Annual Report has been sent to you. Three new Directors, Messrs. F.W. Bond (Magistrate), A.E. Pascoe and Fred. Walker, both Rotarians, have been added to the Board. They will strengthen us a good deal.

Matron is away on holiday in Sydney. Miss Ray is carrying on. The Boys' Department programme commences this week, and we are now getting into our stride for the winter's work.

I have not heard a great deal from America recently, apart from a letter or two from Harry Holmes and Ned Brownell. Mrs. John W. Cook wrote to Mother and gave news concerning Mr. Cook and herself.

For more about Noel's grades, there will
be a future post looking at Noel's
transcript from the YMCA College
in Chicago. I'll put a link here when I have one.
By the time this letter reaches you you will know the results of your second term's work. We shall all be delighted to hear how you got on.

Alf. Hines goes on holiday immediately after the Board meeting. Most of the others have had their holiday, so that we shall soon be settling down for the year's work. There will be considerable addition to our Boys' Department membership, especially from the Working Men's college. If we could take them they would be able to send us 300 boys, but on account of the difficulties of fitting that number in on the same day as we have the high school boys present, we cannot take more than half that number.

I must close now. We all unite in warmest love. Kind regards to Clive and his wife.

Yours affectionately,

10 January 2013

Noel's College Journey

In pursuing this letters project, I’m constantly trying to unearth the back story that makes the letters more interesting. And because the letters are only one side of a conversation, I sometimes have to search a little to make sense of the conversation.

In several of the recent letters, George has commented on Noel’s school work and grades. Luckily, Noel left us some clues on those subjects in some of the papers he saved.

Some of those papers help paint the picture of the steps Noel took to attend college in the United States. More of those papers show how he did when he actually got to college. In the next two posts I will try to paint some of this back story, and then fill in the other side of the conversation.


If I were writing Noel's story as a novel, there are a couple moments that strike me as being a great place to start the book.

Noel identified one of those moments himself when he wrote, later in his life, about his relationship with his former girlfriend, Kath Lilford:
“On June 19, 1931 the Hughes Family together with Kathleen gathered at Spencer Street Railroad Station to bid Noel ‘God Speed’ and a successful college future. Even now in 1986, I can still visualize the group, and Kath in particular, standing there as the train pulled out of the station.”
Another place to start the story would be only six days prior to that departure, 13 June 1931, when Noel received word that he had officially been accepted into the YMCA Training College in Chicago.

It's the telegram that seemingly set everything in motion: "HUGHES ADMITTED UNCLASSIFIED STUDENT".

The time up to that event must have been filled with tremendous uncertainty. A letter from the YMCA acknowledging Noel's resignation from his position there is dated 10 June 1931, before the confirmation telegram even arrives, so there might have been an indication that the acceptance was coming. Or the letter is dated wrong.

Regardless, his immigration visa in his passport is dated 15 June 1931, and George's first letter is dated 19 June 1931, the same day Noel boarded a train for Sydney.

All this paints a picture of a very stressful and hasty time planning a life-changing decision to travel half way around the world to attend college.  What would Noel have done if he hadn’t been accepted? Would he have made the journey to attend the World YMCA conferences in Toronto and Cleveland anyway, and then returned home? Would he have attended university in Melbourne and pursued a career in the YMCA? Would he have married Kath Lilford?


Why did Noel choose to go to school in Chicago?

From the letters, it’s apparent that some Australians who were serious about a career in the YMCA sought training in the United States.

As best as I can tell from the letters and a little online research, there were two YMCA training colleges in the United States that the YMCAs in Australia tended to use. One was in Chicago (The Young Men’s Christian Association College, later George Williams College, and today part of Aurora University) and the other in Springfield, Mass. (Springfield College). 

According to a History of George Williams College on the website of the Kautz Family YMCA Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries:
"In 1890, when full-time YMCA work was becoming professional, requiring more intensive training, a year-round 'Training School' was established under the same leadership. The new school was located in Chicago, Illinois and was greatly influenced in its human service mission by the social and educational changes going on in that rapidly growing, industrial city.

"While evangelism and 'Christian work' was clearly at the heart of both the YMCA and the training school, the work of the association was never dissociated from a social service purpose. The service mission was one of sensitivity to problematic social situations young men faced as they migrated from the rural families and communities to an urban industrial environment."

If Noel was intent on pursuing a career as a YMCA secretary, like his father, the two training colleges in the United States seemed like good options. But the Melbourne YMCA experience with Springfield College seems much stronger.

Ivor Burge, a colleague of Noel's at the YMCA of Melbourne, had just returned from Springfield a few years prior.

More tellingly, George writes in Letter No. 12:
“We have had good word from Dr. Doggett, concerning the four Australians at Springfield. He writes in the highest terms of the four men -- Evans, McRae, Jones and Laing, and of course asks for more. I think you have got to do your share in building up a tradition in connection with the Chicago Y College. Now that Glover and yourself are in the student body, it is up to you to endeavor to secure the interest of other men so that the number at Chicago may be increased.”
With such a strong existing relationship between the YMCAs in Australia and Springfield College, I’m not sure why Noel chose to attend school in Chicago. Perhaps it was because of Clive and May Glover and the fact that Clive was studying in Chicago. I haven’t determined the relationship the Hughes family had with the Glover family, but based on passing references in the letters, there seems to be a family friendship, and the Glovers were a tremendous help to Noel on his arrival.

So, that’s the best I can determine at the moment as to why Noel chose Chicago.


Noel also left us some clues as to what he had to do to get accepted into the college.

A copy of a letter from Melbourne High School
that Noel used in his admission packet to college.
Noel was not an exceptional student in high school. According to a letter of reference from Melbourne High School, he achieved a Sub-Intermediate rating on his completion of school. 

In the unsigned copy of a letter from someone at Melbourne High School, that person explains, “The standards are – Sub-Intermediate, Intermediate, and Leaving Certificate, in that order, a pass at Leaving qualifying for entrance to the University.”

The Australian high school tradition and the U.S. college admissions didn’t even seem to speak a common language when it came to evaluating students and their academic achievements, and translation had to be done.

“This is the nearest approximation I can make to your system of ‘credits’,” writes the Melbourne High School contact.

It appears that Noel only had 2 years of high school, which may have been fairly normal at that time. I’m not sure. But it seems short, especially for someone who was college bound. The family moved from New Zealand to Melbourne in March 1924. Noel would have been 14 years old. He attended Melbourne High School in 1924 and 1925, which means he would have been 16 at his completion.

According to his recommendations from the Melbourne YMCA, he worked with the YMCA for over four years before he left for the United States in 1931. So he started that affiliation probably in 1926.  

Letter No. 1 from Stott's Business College
He attended Stott’s Business College in Melbourne 1926-27, where he studied bookkeeping, shorthand and typing. According to his reference letter from CH Holmes, the principal of the college: “I might mention that we always found Hughes to be a well conducted boy, and well liked by both his fellow students and teachers.” 

In 1931 he started studying with George Taylor & Staff. According to the letter from Geo. Taylor: Noel “has been doing revisionary work with us during the current year in Arithmetic, Algebra, History, Geography, and English with a view to attaining the Intermediate standard of the Melbourne University in these subjects.”

Letter No. 2 from Stott's Business College
The letter from Stott’s Business College is dated 5 Feb 1931 and addressed specifically to the Chicago Y College. The letters from Melbourne High School and George Taylor & Staff are both dated in April 1931. 

It’s clear Noel started exploring the decision to go to Chicago by early 1931, but he also might have had an alternate plan to pursue admission to Melbourne University. 

Letter from George Taylor & Associates
But even though Noel was accepted to the Chicago YMCA Training College, there was still a lot of uncertainty about his education when he left for the United States. On his arrival he had to take an entrance exam. In George’s letters to Noel as Noel is making his journey to Chicago, George frequently reminds Noel to study for that exam.

And despite all of George’s connections with the YMCA, he did want Noel to succeed on his own. In Letter No. 15 --  29 Sep 1931, he writes: 
“I have not written to the College authorities regarding yourself, because I felt that it was not right for me to use my position in any way to secure additional recognition for you. I will, however, write them shortly. By now you will have had your entrance status determined, and your plans laid out for your school work.”
Chicago Y College Certificate of Admission
How did Noel do with his entrance exam? It was determined that he lacked one year of high school credit, so his scholarship was conditional on him completing four units of high school work within two years.

In Letter No. 29, George makes a very telling remark in response to Noel’s advice to his little sisters: 
“I am rather amused at your reference to ‘make them study’. I wish to goodness I could have drummed the same thing into your head when you were here! I tried hard to get you to realise that you were taking things far too easily, and trusting to pot luck to get through on the American end. Now you realise how essential it is to have adequate preparation so as to get advanced standing.”

All this leaves me wondering:

Can anyone offer insight into how the high school certification program in Melbourne might have worked when Noel attended in 1925? What does it mean to be Sub-Intermediate? To finish when you are 16?

How does one apply to a college half way around the world when mail moves at the speed of a ship?

And do I have to go through the University of Minnesota Libraries to view a Chicago Y College Catalog from 1931?

Coming soon: Noel's coursework and grades