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 3 Meeting the Politicians

Chapter 3

Meeting the Politicians

Auntie Lila set a tray of poached eggs, a small jug of tomato sauce, tea and hot buttered toast in front of me while I was still in bed it brought back to number 34, where I momentarily dreamed I was performing as a teenager.

“Your cousin Len is already here waiting for you. He’s in the kitchen.” (Anyone connected to my biological side of the family was strange to the women on my stepmother’s side of the family, the Littles.) “Is he a jockey or something? He’s a strange little fellow! You know, Ruthie, there are a lot of our neighbours anxious to see you; they keep asking after you. What can I tell them? Where are you off to today?” She sat on the side of the bed till I finished my breakfast.

“I’m here for several weeks, Auntie Lila. Tell them, in about a week I’ll be able to talk to them - after I get this chartered plane business organised.” Talking of charter planes was way above Auntie Lila’s head. She threw up her hands, then wiped them on her apron and took the breakfast tray back to the kitchen.

Len and I spent the day sightseeing, revisiting some old haunts that still existed but looked the worse for wear, or had been replaced with apartment buildings or an office block. Melbourne had changed so much!

I had been invited to speak that evening to The Australian, Canadian and American Club (ACA) at 8.oo pm. The club’s membership consisted mostly of parents of children who were now living in North America. There were enough members, numbering in the hundreds, to be able to charter at least two planes to the States and Canada each year.

Being introduced as an American was a ‘first’ for me but a good opening for me to tell my audience that I would most likely always be known as an Australian in America, and an American in Australia, because of my natural ability to pick up accents. I continued to fill them in on some of my lighter moments on being accepted as a war bride in the States, and how I travelled and lectured about Australia. After my new country adopted me with open arms, and my in-laws welcomed me as one of their own in the States, I had top billing wherever I travelled throughout the Midwest. American people were keen to engage me as a speaker to tell them all about Australia.

My immediate audience, many of whom had daughters married to GI’s, could relate to my stories and were as eager as I was to help get a charter plane organized. I had been advised that representatives from the airline were in the audience and I knew I had to convince them, more than the ACA Club, that a four-way charter for the club and the war brides was an excellent way to double their revenue. That was my selling point.

I spoke of the work we had already done during the past three years, through the Cosmopolitan Club in the States to promote chartering a plane for Australian war brides. However, we had had to switch from a 707 jet to a DC4 as we could get only 60 passengers. Just one day away from meeting the plane in Chicago, we all received a telegram from the Aeronautics Board in Washington DC cancelling our flight. They would not allow a DC4 to fly the Pacific; that plane was almost obsolete.

European, French and English brides were able to have at least two charters a year. I appealed to the airline representatives to make it happen for Australian war brides. We were counting on them and the ACA Club! My plan was to convince them that, if they took a planeload of parents to North America, brought a load of war brides home for a visit, returned the brides to North America and then brought the parents home, it would double their revenue.

I received all the encouragement I needed from the members of the club during question time, but when it was the airline’s time to answer the call, we were all devastated to hear their refusal to even consider the proposition. Even the Club members were perplexed at their attitude. The airline’s answer was very simple: they did not find a four-way charter viable. The two gentlemen from the airline left without another word. We found out later that the airline had other commitments to fill after they delivered the club members to their destination. We did not understand why they couldn’t have explained that at the meeting.

After my presentation at the ACA Club, I realized we didn’t have such a good track record with the Cosmopolitan Club. After four postponements for a charter, then a transfer from a 707 jet, requiring 89 passengers, to a D C4 with only 60 passengers, we would have had to work doubly hard to go back to filling a 707.

My audience didn’t want to let me go. A voice from the back of the auditorium shouted, “Mrs. Frost! We haven’t had such an enjoyable speaker for a long time. Several of us with daughters in the States would like to hear more. Would you mind if we extended the question time over supper? Were there many Australian girls living close to you?”

“Oh, yes! I recall the day when my Brisbane girlfriend, Hazel Bachman came to visit us in Manson from their farm six miles away, two weeks before we were scheduled to take off on the charter flight to Australia. Her husband Elmer came storming through our front door, arms flailing while he paced back and forth.”

‘My wife is not going to fly to Australia in a DC4! You can’t even get parts for those planes any more!” He was most upset.

“Well, if Ruth is crazy enough to fly in a D C4, then I’ll go with her!” Hazel said.

“Hazel! You will be flying the Pacific - nothing but ocean! How on earth do you expect to be rescued if no one knows where you are? The search planes couldn’t find you in thousands of square miles of ocean if something happened to that plane!” Hazel’s husband was a crop duster who owned and flew his own plane, so he did know what he was talking about when it came to the issue at hand.

Hazel and I were undaunted. She had waited two years to be on that charter plane to go home and see her family in Queensland.

Since I had been writing my column, Up From Down Under, for the Cosmopolitan Club (the club for international war brides with mainly East Coast members), the Club had gained several more Australian members, and my mailbox was loaded with letters from Aussie girls. I was hoping that a familiar name would appear from one of the girls who came over on the SS David Shanks with me. I thought I had bonded with several of those girls and believed it would have been a lifetime commitment. My letters to them continued but few returned the compliment. Eventually I stopped writing, accepting that it meant they were all happy and contented, as I had become.

The girls’ letters of 1956-1959 had spoken of the homesickness they felt in the beginning; by the time they had their first child they were mostly over it. Now, after fourteen years, the girls were feeling the pangs of homesickness again. Their parents were getting older, some members of the family had died, and the distance between the two countries was causing considerable heartache. They had children to show off to their Australian grandparents. Some desperately wanted the trip and were willing to take off in anything with wings!

I wanted to make that trip for different reasons: seeing my younger brother Peter would be worth every penny I saved, and admittedly the adventure of the trip itself was a great draw card, also.

Always searching for a solution, I looked to the members of the ACA Club while we talked over cups of tea. One of them mentioned Donald Chipp, a very active politician with many far-reaching ideas. Something clicked in my brain! Why not try the political arena! I wrote down his city office address and was on his doorstep first thing the following morning. What could he do? I had no idea! I might be clutching at straws but I would at least try my luck.

Cousin Len, my chauffeur, sat in the waiting room of Donald Chipp’s office as I was ushered in.

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