About Me

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Author of "Pavlovas to Popcorn". I was born in Melbourne Victoria Australia and fell in love with an US soldier during WWII. I became a Australian War Bride in 1945 and sailed to America in 1946. The story of my adventures during this time is in my first book "Pavlovas to Popcorn". It can be purchased through my website www.ruthfrost.com.au My second book "The Boomerang Returns" will be progressively placed on this blog absolutely free.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Chapter 1 Flying with the Movie Stars

Chapter 1

Flying with the Movie Stars

The Qantas jet plane was waiting on the tarmac at the International Airport in San Francisco for my flight to Australia, the land of my birth. Unaware of the clock ticking away, and agog at the mass of humanity surging through the huge terminal, my fascination became focused on a group of ‘hippies’.

My goodness, they were dirty and scruffy! Their colourful, tattered robes and dirty feet poking out of sandals belied their American accents. I assumed they were what were currently termed the ‘Flower People’. The scene resembled dress-up time with the neighbourhood children in my backyard in Iowa. Curiosity persuaded me to converse with them, to find out more.

They told me they had just arrived back from India and were looking for somewhere to stay. They were hoping I was from San Francisco and might accommodate them - could they crash at my pad for a couple of days till they moved on to an Ashram out west? They were speaking the new language of the fifties and sixties, which seemed to fit their dress code. I had no idea what they were talking about!

“Oh dear! That’s me! They’re calling me over the loudspeaker. Shh! Listen!”

The announcement threatened that it was the last and final call for my flight:

“Would Isobelle Frost please go to gate four, immediately. Your flight to Australia is leaving in five minutes.” The announcement was made twice before I realized that I was the Isobelle so eagerly sought. I am usually known by my second name, Ruth, Isobelle being my official birth name in case I’m lost at sea or wherever!

I stumbled up the gangway at the front of the plane into first class, to be reprimanded by an unsmiling stewardess who led me through the plane to where I belonged – in the third last row of second class. At least I got to see how comfortably the other half flies. Trust me to make a grand entrance!

Because mine was a middle seat, several passengers had to get up and move out into the aisle. I became acquainted with at least twenty people as the plane taxied down the runway. Seated behind me were eighteen Canadian Mounted Police (without their horses, of course) on their way to Hawaii to give a display of their skills in horsemanship. Everyone around me kidded me in a friendly manner about holding up the plane. I could see this was going to be a fun trip!

On reaching Hawaii, the passengers in second class in transit to Australia were escorted to a separate lounge for refreshments while the plane was being refuelled. The conversation revolved around the movie stars who were flying with us to Australia. We pushed our tables together so as not to miss the latest star report.

“It’s Maurice Chevalier. Just remember you didn’t hear this from me!” the stewardess whispered.

The level of excitement rose when the passengers learned that Maurice Chevalier and some of his co-stars from the film Gigi would be travelling in first class. (Such a fuss about movie stars! They’re just doing the job they love. I really don’t understand why people put them on a pedestal.)

As only about twenty second-class passengers boarded the plane again, the steward had made up a bed for me over three seats. I thanked him for being so thoughtful, but instead of sleeping, I joined a group of six others in the back of the plane. I didn’t want to miss one minute of this trip. The steward obligingly turned some of the seats around so we could face each other, and after introductions I asked them their reasons for travelling to Australia.

Two of the fellows, Tony and Carl from New Mexico, were with the Ford Motor Company and were on a mission to build a racing car in a secret location. They figured Australia was ‘way down under’ on the planet, where no one would think of looking. Their secret would be safe.

Pete and Joe from New York, two ex-servicemen who fought together in the European theatre during World War II, were hoping to migrate to Australia with their families. They had done their homework, reading up on the opportunities that were available to them, and were looking at the possibility of becoming restaurateurs in Sydney. At least they thought the pace may not be quite as demanding as New York. I could have used these two fellows on my lecture tour when I was hoping to get people in the Midwest interested in investing or migrating to Australia. Maybe I should have talked to the people of New York?

The fifth male in the group, Rodney was a tall Texan, already dubbed ‘Tex’. Cowboy boots, a five-gallon hat, and a western-style navy suit trimmed with white arrows looked elegant on his tall frame (and very expensive!). He spoke with a drawl that made me yawn waiting for him to finish a sentence. Tex was going to visit a friend who’d bought a property in northern Queensland. His friend was a Texas rancher, raising Brahman cattle in the ‘wild outback’ of Australia. His friend enjoyed the challenge of the untamed country.

Chantel, a very attractive French Canadian young woman from Montreal, acted coy, refusing to tell us her reasons for going to Australia. When we all feigned disinterest in her refusal, she decided she wanted to capture everyone’s attention: “All right! I weel tell you!” she trilled in her delightful French accent. “I’m looking for my boyfriend. He went to Australia nearly two years ago and wants to leeve there. Chantel said. He thinks it’s wonderful. I am going to surprise heem.” I picked up on the fact that she may not have his present address when she said ‘looking’. It’s possible that he doesn’t want to be found.

“I do have the address of a very good friend in Manly who will help me find him,” she added, before we could broach the next question.

Then it was my turn to tell my story - of how I tripped Bill, an American soldier, on the ice rink in Melbourne in 1942, married in 1945, sailed to the US in 1946 on an army transport with 300 other war brides and 106 children.

Chantel interrupted, “You are going back hoom to visit your fameely? How wonderful!”

“Yes, it’s my first trip back in fourteen years. I hope to arrange a charter plane for Australian war brides while I’m in Melbourne, so they can have a trip home, too.” I didn’t bother to explain that my family ties were loosely woven. The most important family member I wanted to see was my youngest brother, Peter.

Turning to Tex, I asked him what Texas was going to do now that Alaska had been admitted to the Union and was declared the largest State. Texas had always been known as the largest State. “Well! (A long pause) Texas will still be the largest State. What do you suppose will happen when all that ice and snow melts in Alaska? All they’ll have left will be a handful of dirt. We won’t ever be worryin’ in Texas. We’ll always be the largest State.” From then on, Tex was the brunt of most of the jokes. I never knew that there could be so many Texas jokes in the world. Some were blush-worthy.

The men suggested Chantel and I were the obvious ones to meet Maurice Chevalier, and they were egging us on and laying bets. Chantel bragged that she could converse with him in French. So what! I could converse with him in Australian! A Frenchman needed all the help he could get in Australia.

Chantel may have had the looks, but I had the edge, having already been given permission to go forward to the cockpit to have the pilot, Captain Gray, re-thread the movie film in my camera. I disappeared and headed for the cockpit while Chantel was still promoting her numerous abilities.

“Ha! Mrs. Frost! You will have to watch me very carefully when I turn your film over,” Captain Gray instructed. “Mr. Chevalier wants to come up to the cockpit as we approach the coastline of Australia, so we’re going to have to hurry. We’re getting close now.”

“Captain Gray, I have a confession to make. I already know how to turn the film over and reload it. This has been all a ploy so I could come up here and meet you and all the crew.” The crew in the cockpit laughed and congratulated me on my ingenuity. Captain Gray allowed me to pass the message to Maurice that he could come up front in ten minutes.

As I left the cockpit, the gentleman sitting next to Maurice got up and crossed the aisle, joining the other actors and crew. Maurice was humming a tune as I sat down in the seat that had been vacated. “Are you practising, or are you just happy to see me?” He turned, smiled at me as I spoke and took hold of my hand and patted it. Such concentrated attention was more than I expected! As blasé as I am about movie stars doing their job and my not being impressed with all the hype of Hollywood, I was enjoying all this attention!

I passed on the message from the Captain for him to go forward in ‘twenty minutes’ – granting myself an extra ten minutes, of course! We talked about his busy schedule in Australia. He and his entourage would be appearing in Sydney and Melbourne, and he wasn’t looking forward to any more plane trips after such a long flight from the States to Australia.

“That is enough about me, let’s talk about you!” He was looking right into my eyes as he spoke, still holding my hand. What a charmer! “Are you travelling with your hus-band, or with your family?”

“No! I’m travelling alone. Did you have something in mind?” I couldn’t resist that cheeky remark. “Someone had to stay home and take care of our four children.”

He laughed so hard that everyone around us was amused at his reaction. Frankly, I was being cute but I didn’t think it was all that funny. “I was born in Melbourne. I’m going back for the first time in 14 years.”

“Ooh! That must make you ver-ee hap-pee! Tell me, how did you meet your American hus-band?”

“I tripped him on the ice rink in Melbourne and have been keeping him on ice ever since.” There was another outburst of raucous laughter from Maurice. He was a good ‘straight man’ for me and, I imagined, a very bored man on that flight. It only took one laugh to set me going. I adored capturing the spotlight. I know, I am such a ham!

He beckoned to his manager and introduced me. “Give him your name,” he instructed. “There will be tickets waiting for you at the theatre when we appear in Melbourne. By the way, what do they call you?”

“They call me Frosty! Do you mind if I call you Maurice?”

“That, is my name!” he said with a wink.

I stood up when I saw Captain Gray approaching; I wasn’t too anxious to leave. Maurice was still holding my hand; he raised it to his lips and kissed it. I didn’t want to give my hand up right away. I’d played the part that he wanted me to play for his audience in first class, I understand only too well about the ‘star ego’. I’m sure that meeting me was the best part of his long trip. Who else would approach him as I did?

“You are a fascinating woo-man. You luv life and I am sure you make many people hap-pee.” Maurice kissed me on the cheek.

“I couldn’t wish for a nicer compliment - thank you, Maurice. I know a couple of fellas in second class are going to be very, very hap-pee I met you. I just won a $500 bet for them.”

Once again,

Maurice’s uproarious laugh put a smile on several faces. I walked backwards up the aisle as I waved my ‘kissed hand’ to everyone in first class.

On this occasion I was certainly the star, not Maurice! I returned to second class with my right hand extended - the one I vowed not to wash for a week, relating my story as the bets were finalized. Meanwhile, Chantel pouted two rows away.

After landing in Sydney, Tony and Carl invited all of us to join them at their hotel, The Australia for lunch to keep me company until my flight was due to take off for Melbourne six hours later. They said it was the least they could do for me. In the hotel lobby I wrote postcards to the family telling them I had met Maurice Chevalier. I was sure that Bill would get a lot of mileage with that postcard back in Iowa.

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