Tales from the Man who would be King

Rex Jaeschke's Personal Blog

Signs of Life: Part 25

© 2021 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.

From time to time during my travels, I come across signs that I find interesting for one reason or another. Sometimes, they contain clever writing, are humorous, or remind me of some place or event. Here are some from a trip to Munich, Germany, with a day trip to Salzburg, Austria.


Herr Hirsch's piano store (Klavier is piano in German). The keyboard faux awnings were a clever touch.


I never did figure out what this sign was trying to say, but it was on the door of a hookah shop.

[Reviewer John said: Perhaps it is a reference to the hookah-smoking caterpillar in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland where he is rude and confusing.]

In any event, A Google search of "come in we're closed" was illuminating.


This plaza floor was a giant sundial with the church steeple nearby casting a shadow to indicate the time.


Would you buy your menswear at a place with this name? Apparently, someone does!


When you are a regular customer at the famous Hofbrauhaus, you keep your beer stein there, under lock-and-key. There were thousands of them in racks in several rooms.


An unusual name for a German womenswear store.


Music, anyone?


Sign outside a candy store.


What caught my eye in this public garden was the prohibition on street musicians and entertainers.


According to Wikipedia, "A love lock or love padlock is a padlock that sweethearts lock to a bridge, fence, gate, monument, or similar public fixture to symbolize their love. Typically the sweethearts' names or initials, and perhaps the date, are inscribed on the padlock, and its key is thrown away (often into a nearby river) to symbolize unbreakable love."


In this neighborhood in Salzburg, all store signs were of the old-guild type, which signify the nature of the product sold therein. No guess as what this one sold.


While I do like my chocolate, I'm not sure I'm ready to go that far!


If you are in a German-speaking area in the weeks leading up to Christmas, look out for a Christmas Market.

"Get your potato slices, chicken wings, sweetcorn, ribs, and hot drinks at this stall!"


In the world-famous Getreidegasse in the heart of Salzburg, Austria, in the immediate vicinity of Mozart's birthplace.


Salzburg, Austria: "A [clothing] collection for women who like fine materials, play with contrasts and enjoy true fashion."


A clash of food cultures!


Odds and Ends: Part 1

© 2021 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.


Thus far, all the essays I've posted on this blog have each covered a single topic. Since I started writing installments, I've maintained a list of potential topics; however, for more than a few of them I'd be hard-pressed to write a whole page let alone 6–8 pages. And then there are the many hundreds of topics about which I could only write a few sentences or paragraphs.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, I spent time going through my bookcases, and I found some long-forgotten treasures. One of these was "Jack's Reference Book for Home and Office: An Encyclopedia of General Information; a Medical, Legal, Social, Educational, and Commercial Guide; An English Dictionary." My copy was published in 1908. I bought it in Australia in the mid-1970's, and it came to the US in a shipping container with my 1,000-book collection back in 1984. [When I went to the Wikipedia page for this title, I was delighted to find an "External link" to a site containing all 1,100 pages of the 1909 edition. Take a look, especially if you'd like to know about proper business and personal etiquette!]

Along with numerous other books, I'd had this reference book alongside my bed for several months, and every now and then when I saw it, I would pick it up—it's very heavy—and browse a few pages. Every so often, I'd come across a new word, a new idea, or some interesting or obscure fact, and for no particular reason, I started making notes. [See my essay, "Books by My Bed," from October 2010.]

In March of 2021, a year into the pandemic, I had an epiphany, which according to Wikipedia, is "an experience of sudden and striking insight." The idea that came to me was, "Why not start a series of installments, each of which contains short pieces about completely unrelated topics?" Not only would I use up some of those many notes I've been making over the years, I'd be encouraged to make even more notes as I read things in future, and I'd have "something for everyone" in each such installment. And with copious links to Wikipedia, the reader might be encouraged to research further.

But what to call the series? I started out with "Bits and Pieces," but I knew that was just a working title. After looking in a thesaurus, I found numerous possibilities, including the following: miscellaneous things, odds and sods, hodge-podge, all and sundry, mingle-mangle, mishmash, oddments, ragbag, remnants, eclectic mix, grab bag, miscellanea, miscellany, omnium-gatherums or omnium-gathera (Latin for a collection of everything), and farrago (a collection containing a confused variety of miscellaneous things). What struck me about the last one was the derived adjective farraginous. I thought, "There's a fine word to inject into a conversation!" "I say, Your Highness, thou art looking most farraginous this evening!" Or, perhaps, "Don't be so darned farraginous!" Try it the next time you are attending a dinner party with guests most of whom you have never met before. By the way, the word means random, miscellaneous, or indiscriminate.

In the end, I settled on "Odds and Ends." According to www.idioms.online, 'Odds and ends probably derived from an earlier term from the mid-1500's, odd ends, referring to short leftovers from bolts of cloth and then later to short leftovers of any material, such as "odd ends of chain" or "odd ends of lumber." By the mid-1700's it had morphed into "odds and ends" and become more generalized, acquiring its present meaning.'

[Another treasure I came across while searching my shelves was a very large Rand-McNally New Standard Atlas of the World, published in 1900, when many national borders were very different than now.]

Here then are this month's topics, all of which have "crossed my desk" in recent times:

  1. Santa Claus is a corruption of Saint Nicholas, "the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, prostitutes, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, unmarried people, and students in various cities and countries around Europe." Having been raised in a British Commonwealth country, my Christmas gift giver was called Father Christmas who has his own tradition. [Regarding Christmas presents, I'm reminded of the story of the father who, early on Christmas Eve, spends all the family Christmas money at the pub, and when he gets home, he remembers he was supposed to buy a present for his son. Luckily, there, right in the front yard was a load of horse manure that had been delivered for the garden. Quick thinker that he was, he got the boy's Christmas stocking and filled it from the pile. The next morning, the son is out playing with the boy next door, the latter of whom says how he got a cowboy costume, complete with toy gun. When he asked the first boy what he'd gotten, the optimistic reply was, "I had a horse, but it got away!"] For more than you ever wanted to know about Christmas and northern winter gift-bringers in various countries, click here.
  2. Nova Scotia is a Canadian Atlantic province. Apparently, some early settlers from Scotland decided it looked a bit like home, so they named is using the Latin term for "New Scotland." As for me, I visited Nova Scotia some years before I set foot in Scotland, so when I was travelling around Scotland, I remarked how it reminded me of Nova Scotia! I've had just the one trip to Nova Scotia, but am very much looking forward to going back, especially to Cape Breton Island.
  3. Lots of people celebrate St. Valentine's Day, but what is it and why? "It originated as a Christian feast day honoring one or two early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine and, through later folk traditions, has become a significant cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance and love in many regions of the world." The date February 14 was set way back in AD 496. Of course, one cannot be allowed to have too much fun; the day is banned in some places.
  4. My mother was quite musical, and among the numerous instruments she played was what I knew as a mouth organ, which, I discovered many years later, in many places, is instead called a harmonica. The early wooden, Chinese mouth organs (sheng) date back to 1100 BC.
  5. Many of us know the tune "Scarborough Fair" made famous by Simon and Garfunkel back in 1966. One of that song's lines is "And tell her to make me a cambric shirt." Just what the heck is a cambric shirt? Apparently, it's "one of the finest and densest kinds of cloth … originally from the French commune of Cambrai." Later, cambric became known as chambray.
  6. There is an old saying that goes something like, "He's as old as Methuselah!" He "was a biblical patriarch and a figure in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam." He was also reportedly the grandfather of Noah, but when you've lived for 969 years, you probably don't remember all the children you fathered! As for the credibility of this age claim, "Bible commentators have offered various explanations as to why the Book of Genesis describes him as having died at such an advanced age; some believe that Methuselah's age is the result of a mistranslation, while others believe that his age is used to give the impression that part of Genesis takes place in a very distant past." Click here to see Methuselah's supposed family tree. The ten oldest people in modern-recorded history are listed here. [It is my understanding that old is halfway between your current age and 100.]
  7. Lewis Carroll is a well-known author whose main claims to fame are his books, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking-Glass." His real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, and he was a faculty member of Christ Church college in Oxford. Alice was a real person, a daughter of the college dean. According to Wikipedia, his pen-name "was a play on his real name: Lewis was the anglicised form of Ludovicus, which was the Latin for Lutwidge, and Carroll an Irish surname similar to the Latin name Carolus, from which comes the name Charles. The transition went as follows: "Charles Lutwidge" translated into Latin as "Carolus Ludovicus". This was then translated back into English as "Carroll Lewis" and then reversed to make "Lewis Carroll"." If you should ever find yourself in Oxford, do tour Christ Church and stop by the dining hall to see the dodos and other characters from Carroll's works pictured in the stained-glass windows, but don't go at lunchtime, as the hall is in use by students at that time. [BTW, that dining hall was the one featured in the Harry Potter movies.]
  8. When watching a movie or TV police show, unidentified men and women, especially dead ones, are often referred to as John Doe and Jane Doe, respectively. Apparently, "John Doe and Richard Roe were the fictitious plaintiff and defendant, respectively, in the quaint system of ejectment procedure that was followed [in England] until 1852 when the legal farce was abolished." Ejectment is a process followed to recover the possession of, or title to, land.
  9. After watching a travel program on the Isle of Man, I went on-line to learn more. It is not part of the UK, but, rather, is a self-governing British Crown dependency. And QEII happens to have the very-Butch title of "The Lord of Mann." (She is also the Duke of Normandy of the Channel Islands, another Crown Dependency.) "In 1881, the parliament became the first national legislative body in the world to give women the right to vote in a general election, although this excluded married women." The island hosts a well-known, international motorcycle race, and the people and their language are called Manx.
  10. Are you up to speed with your vexillology? According to Wikipedia, it "is the study of the history, symbolism and usage of flags or, by extension, any interest in flags in general." I came across this term when I found a book on my shelves that was "all about flags." Who knew there was so much to know about that subject! There are fields, fimbriations, finials, flies, headings, and hoists, and that's just for starters. Of course, the International Federation of Vexillological Associations just had to have its own flag!
  11. Anyone who's seen a British movie or TV show involving a policeman, likely has come across the term Bobby, slang for a member of London's Metropolitan Police, and the distinctive accompanying helmet. The story goes that the name comes from Sir Robert "Bobby" Peel, founder of that force in 1829.
  12. The name William the Conqueror is well known, but was his name really William? Actually, no, but that information had been kept a secret from me until I visited his grave at the Abbey of Saint-Étienne in Caen, France, in 2009. On his tombstone was written Guillelmus, Latin for the French name Guillaume. So how ever did that become William? To learn about the history of the name William, click here. Oh, and more fake news, the Battle of Hastings did not take place at Hastings. Instead, it happened some six miles west at a place that is now called Battle. The 1066 battlefield has never been developed, and one can walk it listening to an audio recording of a re-enactment from the perspective of various participants, including Harold's queen, who was helping the hospital corps.
  13. Here's another word to drop into a conversation, drupaceous, which Wikipedia happily tells you, "of, relating to, resembling, or producing drupes." A drupe is a fruit with a stone or pit, and a drupelet is one of those little outer pieces of a blackberry or raspberry. You can make it sound good or bad.
  14. As for the nursery rhyme, Jack and Jill, some say its origins are from the time of King Louis XVI of France who lost his head (he was beheaded) and his queen who came tumbling after. Also suggested is some connected story idea from Iceland. In any event, mending one's head with vinegar and brown paper was a treatment for bruising, with the paper acting as a bandage. Anyway, when I was a wee lad, I learned that "Jack and Jill went up the hill, to fetch a pail of water. Jill the dill forgot the Pill, and now she has a daughter!" But that might just be the rural South Australian version.
  15. If you know anything about the Garden of Eden, you'll know that Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel, one of which killed the other. It came as a complete surprise to me when I read in Wikipedia that 'A third son, Seth, is born to Adam and Eve, and Adam had "other sons and daughters" (Genesis 5:4).' Now, a question I've had for many years has been, "If there were no other families in existence, with whom did their children beget their own children?" One (unauthorized) lesson I remember from Sunday School was, "How long did Cain hate his brother? As long as he was able!"
  16. The modern meaning of dictator is, "a political leader who possesses absolute power." However, back in the Good Old Days of the Roman Republic, it was a form of magistrate given absolute power for a set time during which they had to account for their actions." BTW, I've often said that I think the best form of government is a benevolent dictatorship. However, most dictators do not start out being benevolent, or if they do, they don't stay that way.
  17. Just where did the English names for days of the week come from? Sunday – the sun, Monday – the moon, Tuesday – the one-handed Norse god Tiw, Wednesday – the Germanic god Woden, Thursday – the Norse god Thor, Friday – the Anglo-Saxon goddess Frīja, and Saturday – the Roman god Saturn. [Numerous Romance and other languages chose instead, to name what in English are Tuesday through Friday, using words derived from Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, and Venus, respectively. BTW, I started my list/week with Sunday. Is that normal? Some cultures start it on Monday.]
  18. Recently, I was rewarding myself with a good-sized portion of milk chocolate with hazelnuts because I'd gone a good long while without having committing any of the Seven Deadly Sins! Apparently, these, are "a grouping and classification of vices within Christian teachings, although they are not mentioned in the Bible. … they are pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, and sloth, which are contrary to the seven heavenly virtues." It seems that a mortal sin is something yet again. [Regarding sinning, in Ireland, two priests—one a Catholic, the other Protestant—worked in the same area and were friends. One day they met, and one saw the other walking. "Where is you bicycle?" "Someone must have stolen it." "When that happened to me, the next Sunday I gave a sermon about the Ten Commandments with particular emphasis on 'Thou shalt not steal!' And lo and behold, my bicycle was returned." "OK, I'll try it." The next time they meet, the priest is riding his bike. "I see my advice worked." "Yes, it did. Just as I got to the bit about not committing adultery, I remembered where I'd left it!"]
  19. A word that is often in the news here in the US is gerrymandering, "a practice intended to establish an unfair political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating district voting boundaries, which is most commonly used in first-past-the-post electoral systems." It's named after an American politician, one Elbridge Gerry, in conjunction with the humble salamander amphibian; really!
  20. Did you ever sit on a divan, a "long, cushioned seat?" Apparently, these seats can be found along the walls in Middle-Eastern council chambers. The word is Turkish with Persian and Arabic origins.
  21. Where did the name "England" come from and when was it first used? "It takes its name from the Angles, a Germanic tribe deriving its name from the Anglia peninsula, who settled during the 5th and 6th centuries." So, England is the Land of the Angles! [I vaguely remember learning about the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes in elementary school.] Related is Anglo, "a prefix indicating a relation to, or descent from, the Angles, England, English culture, the English people or the English language, such as in the term Anglo-Saxon language."
  22. What do you suppose is on the menu at a death café? As Wikipedia states, this "is a scheduled non-profit get-together for the purpose of talking about death over food and drink, usually tea and cake. The goal … is to educate and help others become more familiar with the end of life." I've attended two, and found them most interesting. Most attendees spoke about dealing with their own parents' decline and death. At the first one, there was a couple younger than 40, and the husband was terminally ill. Once they explained their situation, that changed the whole dynamic.
  23. We are familiar with people listing the pros and cons of some approach, but just where did this saying come from? Quite simply, the Latin word pro means for or on behalf of, and contra means against.
  24. On several occasions when spending time in London, I've visited the British Library, which I highly recommend doing. They have developed a system for digitizing various old manuscripts and allowing you to look at them, by turning virtual pages. The one I perused was a notebook of Leonardo da Vinci's. A most interesting thing I learned was that he wrote letters in reverse and words from right-to-left, so you need a mirror to read his writing. Of course, the page-browser reverses it for you. In a separate exhibit, I saw a Lufthansa airline napkin with the original, hand-written words—including edits—of one of the Beatles' songs that they wrote while flying. One time, I attended a series of business meetings at the library, which involved software for preserving documents. I was given a tour of the restoration rooms where people were working on some 1,000-year-old Japanese scrolls.
  25. Countries have national anthems, and that for the UK is, of course, "God save the King/Queen." The US has a well-known song, "America (My Country, 'Tis of Thee)" set to the same tune. Australia used to use the UK anthem as well, until Australia had a competition to replace that song with "Advance Australia Fair" in 1984, after I left. Although I am an Australian citizen, I must confess that I don't know the new anthem. That said, I do remember a version of the old anthem from elementary school, "God save our gracious cat, feed it on bread and fat, God save our cat." Apparently, New Zealand and Denmark are the only countries with two anthems of equal standing.
  26. In modern use, a neophyte is someone new to a particular subject. However, back in the old days, it was someone recently baptized into Christianity. (From the Greek néos [new] + phutón [plant, child].)
  27. When I was a young lad living on an Aussie farm, we kept cows, some of which were Friesian. For many years I was blissfully ignorant about how this breed of cow got its name. Then after a few trips to the Netherlands, and being a map lover, I discovered the Dutch province of Friesland, where the Friesian language is widely spoken (among cows as well as people). [I have to say that the Friesian flag is one of my absolute favorites.] A few years later, I became very good friends with a Friesian couple. Now here's a travel tip: when travelling by train from Amsterdam to Groningen, halfway there the train splits in two with one half going to Leeuwarden (in Friesland), in which case, it's best to be in the correct half! [I've since learned that Guernsey and Jersey cattle come from the Channel Islands of the same respective names.]
  28. If you are trying to find an underground water supply, you might try using a divining rod (also referred as a dowsing rod). Such a rod supposedly can help locate water, mineral ore, oil, and even graves. In the US, dowsing for oil is called doodlebugging.
  29. Rugby is a well-known code of football, especially enjoyed by New Zealanders, Japanese, Samoans, Fijians, French, and Brits, and anyone else wanting to have their nose broken, repeatedly! Apparently, it was invented by a student who attended Rugby School, which is located in the English town of the same name.
  30. Recently, I watched the 1973 Steve McQueen/Dustin Hoffman movie "Papillon" (which is French for butterfly). Late in the film, McQueen is sent to Devil's Island, a penal colony in the Salvation Islands of French Guiana, on the north coast of South America. Being part of France, that territory uses the euro. It is also the launch site for the European Space Agency.
  31. The term Yankee is often heard in movies, especially those set during the US Civil War. It often refers to Americans from the (northeast) New England states. [For many years, my neighbor was a retired US Navy pilot born and raised in West Texas, part of the South in that Civil War. He claimed that he only learned that Damned Yankee was two words when he left Texas!] The contracted form Yank often refers to any American. Back in 1979, after I'd arrived in Chicago to live for a year, I was explaining rhyming slang to someone, and they asked if we (Aussies) had a nickname for Americans. I replied, "Yes, septic tanks, Yanks!" Of course, that is hardly flattering, but if an Aussie really likes you he insults you. Of course, he also does that if he really doesn't like you!
  32. More fake news! For many years, there has been a rumor that Columbus was the first European to discover the Americas in 1492. It turns out that he was well and truly beaten by the Vikings, who set up camp in Newfoundland and surrounds 500 years earlier. You can read all about it here.
  33. Many countries have only one official language (think US and Australia), more than a few have two (think Canada and Belgium), and some even have three or four (think Switzerland). Of course, numerous countries have minority languages. Wikipedia states, "Papua New Guinea … is the most linguistically diverse country in the world. … [There are] 839 living languages spoken in the country." Back in the 19th Century, the northern part, German New Guinea, was a Germany territory. After WWI, it was administered by Australia. The southern part had long been British New Guinea, but in 1905, they handed it over to Australia, as Papua. Both parts continued with completely separate administrative systems until they combined and became an independent country in 1975.
  34. During my first trip to Vienna, Austria, I learned about Friedensreich Hundertwasser, "a visual artist and architect who also worked in the field of environmental protection." He is famous for Hundertwasserhaus, an occupied apartment complex that is one of Vienna's most visited buildings. There is limited access to that, but a visitors' center is only a few blocks away. Do drop by if you are in town, take some photos, and buy the wonderful guidebook.
  35. Many people talk about the country Holland when they really mean the Netherlands. And more than a few Dutch people are sensitive to the difference. In reality, Holland refers to the two Dutch provinces North Holland and South Holland, the former containing Amsterdam. The Netherlands is the largest of four constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands: the 12 contiguous provinces in Europe along with the Caribbean islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba; Aruba; Curaçao; and Sint Maarten. I've had the pleasure of visiting the six Caribbean islands each once, and the home country many times. When asked why I love to go to the Netherlands, I reply, "for the vla!," which is Dutch for custard.
  36. Speaking of "things Dutch," there I was driving through rural Netherlands when I saw a large windmill off in the distance. I got off the main road and went in search of it, so I could get a good look up-close. I finally found it, and it was magnificent, its huge sails turning in the wind. It was located in the village of Breukelen. Before New York City was so named and became English, it was called New Amsterdam, and was Dutch territory. One area, Brooklyn, was named after that Dutch village back in the old country.
  37. When did we start using surnames (that is, family or last names)? According to Wikipedia, "Examples of surnames are documented in the 11th century by the barons in England. Surnames began as a way of identifying a certain aspect of that individual, such as by trade, father's name, location of birth, or physical features. It was not until the 15th century that surnames were used to denote inheritance." Many Spanish family names begin with de/del (meaning of/from): examples include De La Cruz, De Los Reyes, Del Rosario, De Castro, and De La Rosa. Italian names have a similar custom: De Laurentis, Del Monte, and Di Caprio. Some families have compound surnames, that is, names made up of more than one word, which are sometimes hyphenated. Spanish people often have two surnames, the first of which comes from the father's first family name, the second from the mother's first family name. See also Double-barrelled name.
  38. The word nostalgia is Greek for homesickness.
  39. Many of us are familiar with nuns, those women in a (sometimes very strict) religious order. And most often they seem to be Catholic. When the Church of England broke away from the Catholic church under Henry VIII, it retained its nuns. Nuns also exist in eastern orthodox religions, as well as Buddhism. I highly recommend the autobiographies (and other works) by Karen Armstrong, an Englishwoman who left her convent, and has since become a respected authority on various world religions. Perhaps the world's best-known nun was Mother Teresa, an Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic. [I recall that she died only a few days after Princess Dianna, whose death hogged the headlines, sadly relegating coverage of Mother Theresa's life to page 5 or 7!] And then there was the Singing Nun, whose hit record "Dominique" was huge!
  40. I've been known to sprinkle a dash of nutmeg on my pumpkin or rice pudding. That spice comes from the ground-up kernel of a stone fruit, often found in Indonesia.
  41. According to Wikipedia, "Vandalism is the action involving deliberate destruction of or damage to public or private property." It comes from the German tribe, the Vandals who, apparently, went around destroying things (at early-history soccer games, apparently).
  42. Have you ever witnessed someone or something "running amok?" It's not an uncommon term. It's "sometimes referred to as simply amok or having gone amok, also spelled amuck or amuk, is the act of behaving disruptively or uncontrollably. … The phrase is often used in a less serious manner when describing something that is wildly out of control or causing a frenzy." From the Malay language, it means "to go on a killing spree."
  43. A term sometimes used in American film and song is Dixie, a nickname for the southern states, typically those that were part of the Confederacy during the Civil War. It can also be referred to as Dixieland (as in Dixieland jazz). There is no clear agreement on the origin of the term, but one interesting possibility is that it came from the label Dix (French for 10) on ten-dollar bills issued by a bank in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
  44. The title Dalai Lama is "given by the Tibetan people to the foremost spiritual leader of the Gelug or "Yellow Hat" school of Tibetan Buddhism." The current Dalai Lama lives in exile in India, and is well known around the world, and respected by people of all (and no) faiths. Successors to the title are deemed to be reincarnations. Now, there are lamas and there are llamas, and it's best not to confuse the two. The following poem (by Ogden Nash), which I learned in elementary school, will help. "The one-l lama, He's a priest; The two-l llama, He's a beast. And I will bet A silk pajama There isn't any Three-l lllama."
  45. You've probably heard of a vendetta, an on-going feud between two people or families. This Italian word comes from the Latin vindicta (meaning vengeance). A couple of well-known feuds are the Wars of the Roses (England) and the Hatfield-McCoy feud (US).
  46. It is common knowledge that nitroglycerin is a powerful explosive used to make dynamite. But did you know that your heart doctor might prescribe it to you as a medication? (And, NO, I don't mean as a laxative!) It seems to me that taking too much of the stuff for chronic heart failure may well cause your heart to fail catastrophically! So, just who and how did this medical treatment get discovered? Did someone say, "I'm having chest pains. Let's see if things improve if I chew on this stick of dynamite."?
  47. If you know something about WWII in Europe, you likely will have come across the term Vichy France. This was a French state that tried to maintain some French independence and neutrality while Germany occupied much of the country. It was based in the town of Vichy. François Mitterrand (President of France 1981–1995) served under the Vichy Regime.

Travel: Memories of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

© 2007, 2021 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.

After working full time the previous year, I was delighted to be back on a much-reduced schedule, allowing me to take advantage of cheap airfares that came available at short notice. So, when flights to Cancun, Mexico, went on sale, I snapped up a ticket muy pronto (quickly) for a 10-day trip in January, during the northern winter.

[Diary] Flying time was 3:11 hours, mostly over water, the Gulf of Mexico. As Mexican time is GMT-6, I turned my clock back an hour. Although I was tired, and I had a good pillow, my attempt to sleep was unsuccessful. I had a snack and drink, and then looked over my small, but adequate, guidebook, making a plan for where to go from the airport, how to get there, and where to stay. I had no accommodation booked, and it was high season, but I planned to make it up as I went. And, of course, to follow my golden rule, "Always have a Plan B, even for Plan B!"

The plane arrived at Cancun International on schedule. I had filled out the customs and immigration forms that were handed out during the flight, but was given a replacement form as I deplaned. I filled that out while waiting in line. The young passport officer asked if I lived in the land of the "kangaroos." I said that I was from there but now lived in "los Estados Unidos." He stamped my passport, and I was on my way to the baggage claim. My backpack had a priority label and actually came out with the first pieces!

I stopped at a cash machine, but after several failed attempts to navigate it, I gave up and went to the American Express counter. I changed $120 cash into pesos at a rate of 10:1. So, a peso was worth about 10 cents. To make it a bit interesting, the symbol for the pesos is $, the same as for the dollar. On the way to the bus stop, I found another cash machine, and this time I figured out what I was doing wrong. I soon had 2,000 pesos in my hand in a combination of 500s, 200s, and 100s.

Minutes later, an ADO company bus to Playa del Carmen was getting ready to go, so I threw my backpack into the hold and got a seat. It was very comfortable and cheap. However, unfortunately, to compensate for the high humidity, the driver had the air conditioning turned down to freezing level. The movie "The Wedding Planner" played on a number of large screens in English. The 4-lane divided highway was in good shape, so the ride was smooth. The countryside was quite flat and filled with dense scrub. The whole coast relies on the tourism sector, which has only been thriving there for 35 years.

An hour later, we pulled into the Playa del Carmen bus terminal, I bought a ticket to Tulum, boarded another bus (getting the last seat) and we were off, all in a few minutes. The second bus was a notch below the first with respect to quality, but it was nowhere near as cold. I sat next to a very dark-skinned, young mother who had a young baby girl on her lap. The girl's hair and eyes were jet black, and she had a great smile.

Another hour later, when it was well and truly dark, we pulled into the bus station at Tulum. I bought some apple-flavored bottled water and fruit bars. I chatted with a young couple from Berlin, and we agreed to share a taxi to the hotel area on the beach some distance from downtown. The driver was very friendly and spoke basic English, which he had learned in Texas. The place where the Germans were staying had no single rooms available, so I had the driver take me to some other places nearby. I soon found a room at "Cabanas Condesa," and checked-in for two nights. I thanked the driver and gave him a tip for his troubles.

Check-in consisted of my writing my name and nationality in a ruled schoolbook, I paid for two nights, and that was that. Then I got a tour of the shared toilets and shower rooms out under the trees. I was also given a strong padlock and key to lock-up my room, the first time I ever had that happen. On seeing my room, my first reaction was that it was the house of sticks, straight from "The Three Little Pigs." The walls of the room were literally large round sticks, going from floor to ceiling. The breeze came right in between them, as did the humidity. (Hopefully, the Big Bad Wolf wouldn't come huffing and puffing!)

A double bed was fixed to one wall and was suspended from the roof on new strong ropes. It had a big mosquito net, a pillow, and a bottom sheet only. Also provided was an electric fan on a stand. The room cost 300 pesos ($30) per night. Not cheap considering what I got, but it wasn't very far from the pre-Columbian Mayan walled-city Tulum ruins I'd come to see, and it was right on the beach. It was also really quite quaint. The waves crashed all day and night outside my window and off the small restaurant patio.

In the restaurant, I met a French couple who had also just arrived. We got talking and agreed to share a table where we negotiated the menu between us. Between our English, Spanish, and French, plus the occasional bit of sign language, we managed to communicate well enough with the waitress. The food took a good while to come, so much so, that I thought they must have been making it! Anyway, it was plentiful and cheap, and I kept some leftover soft tortillas for emergency rations.

By 9 pm, we said our "bon nuits" (Goodnight in French) and parted company. I took a short stroll on the beach, but found it was strewn with large boulders, and without any light, I couldn't go far. So, I settled into a chocolate bar for dessert. I read the first chapter of a novel by Len Deighton. Lights out at 9:45 pm.

[Diary] I woke off and on throughout the night, which was quite normal for me. However, a pair of dueling tomcats certainly helped disturb me. By 8:45 am, I was wide-awake and feeling refreshed. It was then I discovered that the electricity was off. On inquiry, I was told it was on from 6 pm to 6 am. I also found that the hot water came from solar panels, so the shower might be lukewarm at best. But that's okay as I was on vacation, and it was warm out.

I had my first daytime look around the place and was not disappointed. Apart from some staff, the only other people around were four women guests reading and sunbathing. I shot some photos and video then found the cook and ordered some breakfast. Although I ordered something different to what I'd had for supper the night before, the two meals looked remarkably similar: scrambled eggs, green peppers, rice, and soft tortillas. However, on closer inspection, I found ham.

Mid-morning, I packed my daypack with the essentials: water, leftover breakfast, first-aid kit, toilet paper, novel, and Spanish vocabulary book, among other things. Then I applied a liberal dose of suntan cream, and put on a light long-sleeved shirt and floppy Aussie hat.

The Tulum ruins comprised a wall on the north, west, and south sides, with the sea being the natural barrier to the east. The interior part was at least twice as long as it was wide, and was very nicely preserved with lots of cordoned-off areas to protect the ruins themselves. In fact, tourists can't walk on or in any ruins. There were quite a few iguanas sunning themselves on rocks, in the grass, and on the ruins. I spent several hours walking around and reading all the signage.

The coastline there is very rugged with well-worn cliffs. There was one small horseshoe-shaped beach, although that was closed. A steep set of wooden stairs allowed visitors to get down to another small strip of beach, so I went down to have a look. Well, what can I say? There were all shapes and sizes of human-like creatures sunbathing and swimming, quite a few of whom should never have been allowed out in public dressed as they were. There was plenty of shade and seats or rocks on which to sit, so after I walked all around, I sat and people-watched for quite some time. Since I had nowhere to go, I went nowhere. Mission Accomplished!

Back at my budget haven, I bought a nice cold can of Coke, and read my novel on a deckchair in the shade looking over the blue/green sea whose waves crashed 10 yards from me. It was my idea of winter! I sat there and read until 4 pm, by which time I was tired. After all, it had been a busy day! So, I lay on my bed and had a solid 90-minute nap.

At 5:30 pm, I ventured into one of the shower cubicles. As the power didn't come on until 6, I was a little bit "in the dark" back under the trees. Anyway, the solar heater had done its job and the hot water tap gave off water that was quite warm. The problem I often have with showers when I travel, especially in Latin America, is that they come out the wall at chest height. But this was an exception. Imagine if you will a circular thatched roof hut about 10 feet (3 meters) in diameter, divided into two cubicles. At its peak, the roof reached 18 feet (5 meters). About 9 feet (3 meters) up, a shower protruded, clearing the top of my head by more than 30 inches. I thought perhaps that the water might get cold on the long drop down.

I pulled up a front-row seat next to the rocks and watched the last of the daylight fade. My hair dried quickly and took on a certain rugged, wind-swept look of a beach bum. The dim, red light bulbs under the thatched roof beach shelters came on at 6, and the stars soon came out. Right then, it was just a little bit of Heaven. A party of Canadians from British Columbia came and sat with me, and we exchanged news of travel in the area.

[Diary] The night got a little cool, and without a top sheet or blanket, I improvised with some clothing, which, for the most part, was successful. I awoke for good soon after 8 am. First stop was the shower to wash the fine sand off my feet before putting on clean socks and my hiking boots. Good walking gear is my absolute Number 1 requirement in my travels. I decided to stay a 3rd night, so parted with another 300 pesos, and signed in to the ruled-book register.

After several meals at my place, the very limited menu became quite uninteresting, so I went to the place next door. Their restaurant and menu were many times more interesting, and their prices only about twice as much. I settled into a table in the large circular thatched roof building. Quite a few people sat out in the sun drinking coffee. I ordered a cafe con leche, but this time, enquired as to how it came. My French waiter explained in Spanish that it was Mexican style, not European style. In any event, when it came, it was very strong percolated coffee with a jug of milk on the side, so I've figured out that cafe con leche here is nothing more than black coffee with milk added.

I ordered a ham and cheese omelet, and read my novel. The meal arrived, and the omelet was "to die for." On the side were the obligatory black beans, and two slices of lightly toasted bread. Oh, and a large slice of cucumber; perhaps that's the "parsley garnish" of that restaurant.

I hailed a taxi out front after only a few minutes wait, and driver Jose took me to the Tulum bus station for 45 pesos ($4.50). I asked about his taking me to the ruins at Coba, and he quoted me US$25 each way while waiting there two hours. I declined, and, eventually, he dropped the price to $20, but I still declined.

At the bus station, I negotiated the purchase of a round-trip ticket to Coba with three hours stopover there. Cost was 58 pesos ($5.80), a lot cheaper than 400 by taxi. The first passenger I saw sitting there was a young woman who had sat near me at breakfast. We chatted until her bus to Playa arrived. She'd just finished grad school, and after this holiday, was going back to Chicago to start a job.

My 11 am-bus arrived at 11:15 am, which is "ahead of schedule" for this part of the world. The bus was very comfortable and only lightly air-conditioned. I sat in the front seat, so I could shoot video along the way. The view was pretty much the same all the way: thick scrub/jungle, and wildflowers galore along the roadside. The new two-lane highway eventually gave way to serious road works, and, finally, a rather narrow, but good, road.

It took 45 minutes to get to Coba, and then it took 10 minutes to figure out which way to its ruins. Most people seemed to be headed off in the wrong direction. Although the walk was two kms in and two more back, it was all in the shade. However, I perspired a lot. At its peak, the Mayan city held 50,000 people, and was spread out around several lakes. There were quite a few near-complete buildings and then there was the main pyramid. Its steps went all the way to the temple on top, at an angle of 45 degrees. I climbed it in three stages, with breaks along the way during which I put my heart back in my chest. At the top, there was a small room, which was very cool and dark. The view went for miles with only the top of a much smaller temple to be seen in the near vicinity.

On the walk back to town, I saw a freshwater alligator in a pond off the lake, with some tourists trying to photograph it; however, it went under water. An enterprising young local girl then threw in a fish head on some string to get the gator's attention. It did, and they took their pictures, and then paid her a coin or two.

My 3:30 pm bus was waiting when I arrived in town and left 15 minutes later, right on time. It was First-Class service with light air conditioning. We took about 50 minutes to get back to Tulum, and it rained steadily for the last 15. In town, I strolled along the main street in light rain, and shot some video of life in a provincial town that lives pretty much directly and indirectly from tourism. From across the street, I spied a panaderia (bakery), and was surprised to see so many good things still on the shelves given it was late afternoon. I was looking for something not entirely sweet, and, eventually, found it: empanadas con queso. Although they were a smaller and sweet pastry version of what I knew as an empanada from Central America, they were filled with cheese, so I procured three along with a small carton of strawberry milk. I then ate one and had the milk at a table outside while the world passed me by.

Back home, for some variety, I walked to a different neighboring compound to checkout its Thai restaurant. At a glance, the menu and ambiance looked interesting, so I sat at a table outdoors on a balcony overlooking a pool. The breeze off the sea was wonderful! I order a Tropical Moon smoothie, which consisted of pineapple, mango, and coconut juice blended together with ice, and a large wedge of pineapple. It was just right. Then came four chicken satays grilled on skewers, along with a vinegary cucumber salsa and spicy peanut sauce. It was to die for! Finally, I had a latte to wash it all down. Cost, 154 pesos ($15.40), including tip.

Back home, I stopped by the restaurant to sit and read in the brighter light, but, instead, got talking to two young Brits and a Frenchman. The discussion centered mostly around European politics. We all agreed on the benefit of foreign travel with respect to peoples of different countries getting together and enjoying each other's company even when they agree to disagree on some issues.

[Diary] In a taxi, it was Toad's wild ride from "Wind in the Willows." Soon we were doing 110 km in a 60-km zone, one car length behind another car. If I had to lie in a ditch waiting for an ambulance, it certainly was the right weather for it! At the station, I bought a ticket to Valladolid, a large provincial town in the center of the peninsula. Cost, 50 pesos ($5), with the bus to leave in 30 minutes. The station was quite new and well appointed, with a nice breeze blowing through the waiting area.

After a couple of hours, we pulled into the new bus station in the middle of Valladolid, and I struck up a conversation with a woman from Quebec City, Canada. She had her passport stolen, so had to head back to Cancun ahead of schedule to get temporary documents to go home. In any event, I asked where she'd stayed in town. She told me, and I went for a look. The hotel "El Mason del Marques" was only a few blocks away, facing the large park in the center of town. It had a very nice-looking restaurant and swimming pool, air-conditioned rooms, and even TV. A bank and post office were nearby. Oh, did I mention the free book exchange?

I asked if I could see a room, and a bellman took me on a tour. "Bellman?" you say. What kind of budget hotel has a bellman? While it was much more upscale from my previous very humble abode, it cost only 550 pesos ($55) per night, and I didn't have to haul my valuables with me when I went to the toilet or shower as the rooms had en-suites. I even got a good exchange rate on US$ cash, so I paid for two nights that way.

Check-out time was 1 pm, and my room was not yet ready, so I stowed my luggage there and went out in the street. I found a supermarket in which the piles of boxes were literally spilling out onto the floor. I bought a bottle of grapefruit soda, and found a seat in the shade in the park, where I pulled out my leftover omelet and started to eat. This attracted a very thin, stray dog, which came over to me and sat and begged respectfully. So, I shared my rations after which the grateful thing stood guard in front of me and barked at anyone who came near.

Here's what my guidebook had to say about the town. "Valladolid combines distinguished colonial architecture with the easygoing atmosphere of a Yucatan market town. Whitewashed arcades and 17th-century houses surround the main plaza, and among the town's many fine churches is a fine Franciscan monastery. Right in the middle of the town is a huge cenote (sink hole), which once provided all Valladolid's water, and nearby at Dzitnip are some of the Yucatan's most spectacular cenotes for swimming." While the essence of this likely is true, it conjured up a far more romantic picture than what I'd seen so far.

When it was well and truly dark outside, I ventured out. It was a pleasant evening, so I walked around the main plaza and went into the Catholic cathedral where a service was in progress. From there, I walked the back streets stopping off occasionally to look in some shops. There was a lot of traffic, and whistle-blowing wardens controlled several intersections.

[Diary] It was 10 am when I made my entrance to the hotel restaurant, and a young waiter immediately reported to my table for orders. I started with a nice hot cup of coffee while I studied the menu. I chose one of the combination breakfasts: orange juice, coffee, toast with butter and honey, and cereal, but only if the waiter could heat the milk a little, don't you know! The alternatives to the cereal were boiled, fried, or scrambled eggs. However, since I was in the city and could find snacks at any time, I decided to order so there would be no leftovers.

The juice was fresh-squeezed and wonderful, as were the surroundings. The restaurant was under a verandah, in a square wrapped around an open courtyard garden. A large cascading fountain splashed in the center, and some flowering plants, trees, and vines added contrasting colors to the cream and white plastered walls that lined the courtyard. The walls were lined with large paintings, large ornately carved furniture, clay pots, big brass light fixtures, including a big chandelier. From my table, I could see out the huge wooden double front doors to the plaza across the street. There, the craft markets had been in full swing for several hours. And if all that wasn't enough, the sound of Spanish guitars was piped in to soothe me as I ate my toast and honey. All that and more for a $5 breakfast! I could get used to this.

I walked around the plaza shooting video, and then headed for Cenote Zaci a few blocks away. I paused to look at the birds and animals in a small zoo in the grounds, and then paid my 150 pesos ($1.50) to go down steps, through a tunnel, and into the caves that surrounded the sinkhole. It was very humid down there. I circled the water on a stone path going up and down many steps. It was definitely worth the effort.

I went back to my room to dress for dinner, which involved taking off my socks—leaving hiking boots on bare feet—my wrinkled shorts and T-shirt. Very chic! I stopped off at the front desk, got the key to the book exchange cabinet, and perused the titles. While there were several possibilities, only one jumped out at me, "Mrs. Poliak on Safari," by Dorothy Gilman. I'd read at least one title in this series, and was ready for something a bit light-hearted. And with only 200 pages, I'll be able to swap that over before I left.

In the restaurant, I took the same table that I had for breakfast, and I got the same waitress, Rosa. I asked if she lived here in the restaurant as she was there every shift, but she said that she really did have a home. There were quite a few possibilities, but I finally settled on the fish with rice and carrots. It was served with half a lime, which I squeezed over everything. I also added some of a hot sauce over the rice. "How hot?" you say, "Bloody hot!" Fortunately, I'd also ordered a tall glass of watermelon juice, so that helped quell the flames.

The fish was delicious and filling. So, I paced myself by reading and doing several Sudoku puzzles. By that time, there was almost some room for dessert. Rosa recommended the flan, so flan it was; a small light dish of custard with a burned sugar/caramel topping; a very popular Mexican dish. Of course, I just had to have coffee. Combined, they "took me over the top," and I waddled back to my room after a very civilized 2-hour supper. Back in my room, I started on my new book. Lights out around 11:15 pm.

[Diary] By 10 am, I was ready to eat, so I put on my "Going to Breakfast shorts and shirt," and went down. At the front desk, I extended my stay for a third day, changing $100 into pesos. Although I got the same room rate for the extra day, I noticed the posted rate had gone up 25 pesos/night since I arrived.

Being adventurous, I chose a different table, on the other side of the courtyard. However, waitress Rosa still found me and gave me her big "Buena dias" smile. (I think I was taller than her when I was sitting down.) Not wanting to eat too much, I ordered what I thought was a-la-cart. I started with coffee, and then my two fried eggs "over medium" arrived, along with some local sausage, refried black beans, and some fried vegetables. It all looked just right, but then Rosa reappeared with orange juice, toast, butter, and jam. So, there were leftovers after all.

Out by the pool, I ran into Howard and Val, a couple I'd met the previous day. They were planning their next move, and, like me, were at the hotel for one more night. They had a rental car, and were headed out to Cenote Dzitnup, several kms out of town. They offered me a ride, and I accepted. As soon as we arrived there, some enterprising young boys, of no more that 6 or 7, offered to watch over our car, for the small fee of five pesos. We gave one two pesos in advance with the remainder due when we left. We went down some steps quite steeply, and come out in a large cave. There was a small hole in the roof, but, otherwise, it was rather dark. Howard and Val took a short swim while I shot video and photos. Then we walked through another large cave outside the cenote entrance, and toured the small zoo, which included some forest deer and a family of wild pigs.

I read some more before taking to the streets around 8:15 pm. I had seen an American-chain pizza parlor, but thought that a bit non-native-like, so settled into a local joint at one corner of the main plaza. I ordered a bottle of Coke then pored over the menu, finally selecting spaghetti alfredo with bacon and olive oil. Tortilla chips and a reasonably fiery salsa came as an appetizer. The food was quite good. Midway through, there was a firework show in front of the cathedral just outside the restaurant's front door. The restaurant had a small stage, and a young man arrived with his guitar, hooking it up to a PA system, along with an electronic drum machine. Then he proceeded to give us an instrumental concert. In-between sets, I finished my novel, which was, as expected, rather lightweight, and not at all taxing.

[Diary] In the 400 yards from my hotel to the bus station, I went from being cool and dry to hot and sweaty, because of the hot sun and my packs. I had two choices to get to Chichen Itza: First-Class bus for 36 pesos ($3.60), or Second-Class for 20 ($2). Having been spoiled in recent days, I took the First-Class bus, and while I had plenty of room, the air conditioning was sadly lacking. The 40-minute ride was uneventful, and we stopped in only one town. I got off at the ruin/pyramid site, and soon found a taxi. The driver was very polite and informative, and drove me the three kms to the Hotel Dolores Alba. Yes, they had a room for me for two nights for 450 pesos ($45) per night. The hotel was highly recommended in my guidebook as well as by travelers I'd met.

The main building was concrete with a high roof. Down one side ran a very long and tall thatched roof with the long side open to a swimming pool. This housed the restaurant. Two rows of dark, pink-painted rooms went left and right across the back. The gardens were well-kept and contained lots of bottle palm trees, numerous tropical shrubs, flowers, and some fruit trees. Birds chirped, and butterflies fluttered by, and all was right in the Garden of Eden. There were no serpents in sight. A second pool was built over a large rock formation with all the edges smoothed over the years. This was more of a wading pool. Deck chairs and thatched shades abounded.

I unpacked a few things, and turned on the air conditioning. My room had two double beds, basic but serviceable furniture, TV with 11 channels (three in English; two movie and one news), ceiling fan, and brightly tiled en-suite bathroom.

I sat by the pool savoring a bowl of chocolate ice cream while perusing the menu. As I was a ways out of town and not near the main tourist sites, the hotel restaurant was it as far as meals went. I shot photos and video then settled by the main pool. After a 15-minute workout in the water, I relaxed on a padded deckchair, and "took in some rays" as it were.

Two young women sat sunbathing, and from the sound of their conversation, I guessed they were Dutch. They were indeed, and from the province of Zeeland. [That's the only one of the 12 I've not visited.] The sun was very pleasant; not too hot, not too cold, just right, ala Goldilocks. A few people lazed around the pool reading and sunbathing. A family of black birds came down to visit and sit on the edge of the pool.

For supper, I had fish with vegetables and salad. Surprisingly, I was served both mashed potato and rice. The freshly baked rolls were warm, and the butter melted over them. On the side, I had a tall glass of pineapple juice. The pool pump gurgled in the background while Spanish music was piped softly around the tables and pool.

[Diary] At 8:30 am, the hotel van took five of us to the eastern entrance of the park, where I paid my 125 pesos ($12.50) for admission and for being allowed to use my video camera. A red ID tag was tied around my wrist to allow me to go out of the park and re-enter on the same day.

It is impossible to capture here what I saw. Chichen Itza is by far the best known of the Mayan cities, and its main pyramid is recognized around the world. I started with some of the lesser buildings and temples. The observatory was impressive, and the Maya had an excellent understanding of the seasons. Their calendar was very accurate. They studied Venus and the sun, and like numerous other peoples around the world, constructed buildings aligned with the sun on equinoxes.

The main pyramid had been closed to tourists for some years since one fell from the top. It was in a very good state of repair, and some people were working on it during my visit. There were several cenotes, the main one of which was open to the sky. The Maya played a ball game, and here was the largest arena in the Americas. On occasion, the losing team, or at least its captain, was executed. There was a large temple with two long sets of columns going off in different directions. Many of the columns were covered in elaborate carvings. A prominent figure carved all over the site was a serpent's head.

I took a lot of photos and video, and it took about four hours to cover the whole compound. I had several breaks, during which I recharged my batteries with frozen mango juice and grapefruit soda. I ran into people from all over the world, and spent time talking with Americans, Canadians (both French and English-speaking), and Germans. A particularly interesting couple were from the Seattle area, and had recently spent time in Kenya with the Masai people.

After a rest back at my hotel, at 6:30 pm, the hotel van took five of us to the ruins to see the light show. It was a pleasant evening with a light breeze. Several hundred people attended, and the price was included in the day's admission.

[Diary] It was my lucky day. I waited less than 10 minutes when a Second-Class bus came along. And, don't you know, it was headed all the way to Cancun. The somewhat surly driver sold me a ticket for 91 pesos ($9.10), then took off at speed while I tried to navigate the swaying aisle with two pieces of luggage and a camera bag. Fortunately, my backpack fit in the overhead rack. I got a window seat. The air conditioning was c-c-cold, so I got out my zip-off trouser legs, and zipped them back on, "muy pronto." Then I put on my light-weight parka as well. Between them, they stopped me from freezing over.

Fifty minutes later, we pulled into the bus station at Valladolid. Then three minutes after that, we pulled out again. Such efficiency seemed quite out of place! We took the secondary highway and stopped at quite a few places. Although the second leg took 3½ hours, I was comfortable, and I daydreamed pretty much all the way. We certainly passed some ram-shackled houses and dirty towns, with trash everywhere. Once we reached the outskirts of Cancun City, the commercial activity increased, as did the traffic. Eventually, we pulled into the main bus station, which had more than 20 bays.

I got another 1,000 pesos from a cash machine, and crossed the main highway where I waited in front of the huge McDonalds Golden Arches. Within minutes, a collectivo local bus headed for Puerto Juarez came along, and I waved it down. Cost to the port was five pesos ($0.50). It was a tight fit getting in the little van with my backpack on, but I managed. We bumped along, alternately racing and braking. Within five minutes, we were at the passenger ferry terminal. I paid my 35 pesos ($3.50) for a ticket, and boarded the high-speed catamaran. Seconds later, the crew pulled in the gangplank, and we were off to La Isla Mujeres, "The Women's Island," not far off the coast. My incredible luck with respect to transportation scheduling continued.

I picked up a local map at the tourist office, and enquired about cheap hotels. The streets near the dock were full of restaurants and souvenir shops, and a variety of hotels. At the first hotel I tried, the receptionist had the audacity to tell me he didn't have a room for me. So, I moved to Plan B, which involved walking to the next block. There I spied "Los Arcos," The Arches. And, don't you know, the young woman was happy to have my business, and as I was so cute, she offered me a room with a King-size bed for the price of a Queen.

The room was large with a basic kitchen containing crockery and cutlery for two, a small fridge, a microwave, and table and chairs. The cable TV had some 70 channels, mostly in Spanish, and my favorite, DW-TV from Berlin. There was a wall safe big enough for my camera equipment, and plenty of storage space. The bathroom was excellent and even came with monogrammed towels. All of the counters and cabinet tops were at just the right level for a tall person like me. Of course, there were the usual air conditioning and ceiling fan. Internet access was free. Total cost $65/night, tax included, so I signed up for two nights to end the trip in style.

[Diary] Late morning, I ventured out from my air-conditioned cocoon. It was hot and more than a little humid, so I kept to the shade as much as possible. I went north along the waterfront. Some fishermen were stacking nets into a small boat, the dive and boat tours people were busy, and people were lazing in the sun on the beach. Once I got to the north coast, the hotels went a bit up-scale, with nicer beaches and deckchair and umbrella rentals. I came across a topless bathing area with more than a few women airing their differences.

Over on the east coast, which is open to the Caribbean Sea, the waves were much stronger, and large parts of the beaches had been washed away. Some reclamation was underway. On the way back to my room, I paused for a treat, frozen mango juice covering vanilla ice cream. By the time I was back in my room, I was dripping wet. I switched on the ceiling fan and air conditioning, and, during the next hour, drank several liters of juice and cold milk. I spent the afternoon indoors, watching some news and current affairs programs. I also finished my novel, which turned out to be way more interesting than I'd expected. And I used the free internet access to check-out some newspapers.

The sun was down by 5 pm, so I went for a walk around the north end of the island. Without the sun beating down, and with the cool breeze, it was most pleasant to be out. However, with each outdoor restaurant menu that I looked at, I got less and less interested in eating much of anything. Eventually, I bought milk, juice, and some noodles, and ate a light meal back in my kitchen.

[Diary] Back home in the US, it was bloody cold! With the wind chill, it was predicted to get down to zero degrees F, that's 32 degrees below freezing! Right about then, I was longing for Mexico again.

Signs of Life: Part 24

© 2017 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.

From time to time during my travels, I come across signs that I find interesting for one reason or another. Sometimes, they contain clever writing, are humorous, or remind me of some place or event. Here are some from a trip to San Francisco, California.


Well now, apparently there is a market for everything!


Now don't say that you weren't warned!


Well, if I'm already standing at this point, I guess I'm in danger!


I saw this on a moving van parked at the beach. To be sure, the two (friendly) guys having lunch in the cab looked like Heavy Metal music fans, complete with tattoos.


I guessed that this was one of the poor, homeless people who could barely afford to clothe herself.


Out of all the languages spoken in the SF area, only English, Chinese, Spanish, and Russian were covered by this beach sign.


Sign outside a "Women's clothing & accessories boutique offering flirty vintage & vintage-inspired designs. "


Come on in and bring your pet with you! (And, NO, it was NOT a bring-your-own Chinese or Korean restaurant!)


The name of a company that provides portable toilets.


I have just one question for you: "Is your Mom worth more dead than alive?"

Beware your seemingly well-meaning kids!


As George Orwell might have written, "All drivers are equal, but some drivers are more equal than others!"


"No 3-legged, black dogs allowed!" But perhaps I am being too literal. More likely it means, "No doggies going potty, thankyou."


An up-scale apartment complex, actually called "L Seven" although like you, I first saw what looked like an upside-down 7.

BTW, rent started at only US$3,450/per month!


The first parking meter I recall seeing that took a credit card. At least it still took coins as well, something many no longer do; they just operate via a text message from a mobile phone.


Just the thing to have in your neighborhood when you get arrested. And open all hours as well; very convenient.


What more comfortable place to sleep than a feathered nest!



My Formative Years: Part 3

© 2015, 2021 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.

This is the third part of a series of essays about my life from age 7–16, from 1961–1970. In Part 1, we covered the farm at Nadda and its annual cereal-growing cycle; domestic animals and pets; wildlife, game, and hunting; personal vehicles; the fuel supply; utilities, appliances, and services; and radio, TV, and newspapers. Part 2 covered market day, the farmhouse, the outbuildings, the food we ate, the local towns, church and Sunday school, sports and social activities, and the Big Car Crash.

Pata: 1966–1968, age 12–15

Early in 1966, we moved from the farm at Nadda to Pata, a "town" nine miles from Loxton on the paved road running south along the railway line to Veitch, Alawoona, Murray Bridge, and on to Adelaide. At that time, the general store/Post Office was owned by Johnny Scholz who also had the store/Post Office at the neighboring town of Veitch. Dad bought the Pata business, the attached house, and surrounding land.

The House

The house was huge! The front faced east, and although we never used the front entrance, here's the house layout entering from that place. Facing the front of the house, it was two large rooms wide. Attached to the right side was the store/Post Office. Walking through the front metal gate, one went under a large overhead trellis covered with roses. There was a wide verandah along the front dead-ending on the right at the store wall and around the left-end, all the way back. The front garden had many bushes and flowers.

The front door led into a wide passage. The room to the right was my bedroom, and the one to the left was sister Pat's. The passage ended at a T-junction with another wide passage. The right arm went to Dad and Mum's bedroom and then to the side door of the store/Post Office. The left arm went to a door out to the side verandah. Along the way, another door led off to the right to the lounge room, which had an open fireplace.

On the opposite side of the lounge room a door led directly into the kitchen. A short, narrow passage off to the left from there led to the bathroom and then to a small bedroom that was brother Terry's. (Sometime after we moved in, we installed a hot-water system in the bathroom. I don't recall where we got hot water for bathing before that.) A door from the right side of the kitchen led to a small room that had two refrigerators (and later, a refrigerator and a large freezer). Next to those, another door led to the shop storeroom. Yet another door from that little room led to a very wide passage that ran along to the door leading out to the garage. Off this passage were two large rooms. Mum used the first as an ironing room, while I used the second as a "play" room. The left end of the passage had a door to the outside.

The left-back door of the kitchen led to the long, narrow laundry, one side of which was a long bench that was actually part of the roof of the large, underground, rainwater tank. There were doors to the outside at each end of the laundry.

Attached to the right side of the house was a very large 2-car garage, complete with an in-the-ground pit for servicing a vehicle. A tool bench ran all the way across the back wall.

Not counting doors in the shop or storeroom, seven doors led directly outside; eleven more went between rooms or from passages to rooms.

The Outbuildings and Surrounds

In the immediate back yard, there was a shed that housed a 32-volt DC electricity generating plant, and the back half of the house was still wired for that. However, that served only as a backup, as the house was wired with 240-volt AC mains power. (As such, this was the first time we could have a freezer, and TV-on-demand.) To the right of that room was the toilet. When we first moved there, it consisted of a seat on top of a large container that had to be emptied every so often. Sometime later, we had a flush toilet installed with a septic tank buried out back. Behind these small buildings was a vegetable garden.

Beyond the garden fence was a large, open area with several long, wire clotheslines. Then behind all that was a long row of sheds that housed chicken runs and nesting areas, and chicken feed. Off to the right of those was a large shed built high on stilts. This was used to store 44-gallon petrol (US: 55-gallon gasoline) drums in former days when the shopkeeper sold bulk fuel.

To the left and back we constructed a long row of pigsties from railway sleepers (US: railway ties), each of which had a small run out the back. Then even further left were very large, open yards where pigs could root around. In front of all those yards was an acre of lucerne (US: alfalfa), which we irrigated by a sprinkler that was moved along. We cut the lucerne in one of three ways: with a scythe (which I never was able to master), with sheep shears (small metal shears used for hand-shearing sheep), and later a self-propelled machine that cut a 3-foot-wide swath. We fed lucerne to the chickens and to the pigs. We also had an old, hand-cranked chaff cutter that, as its name suggests, was for cutting chaff back in the old days. It was very efficient at cutting handfuls of lucerne as well.

An old dirt track ran along the south end of the property. Across it was a 5-acre lot of Crown Land that Dad leased from the State Government. We built several large pig yards there with straw-covered roofs.

Later, Dad leased 50-odd acres of Crown Land that lay between the town boundary to the north and the neighboring farm. We fenced that off, got water connected to it, and ran sheep there.

To the right of the house was a large lot that may well have had a separate title. I recall that we had some grapes growing there and some vegetables, but mostly it went unused. I seem to recall that the wastewater from the kitchen and laundry drained away out there.

The Store and Post Office

The business area consisted of a large, long room. One entered from the street up some steep steps onto a stone verandah. The door was in the center. To its left was a window that slid up to deal with the Post Office, although we rarely used that. Inside the door, there was a long counter down each side with shelving going up to the top of the 12-foot ceiling. Immediately on the left side was the Post Office set into a small room that adjoined the outside service window. That room housed a stack of wooden mailboxes. Customers could not access their own box directly; instead, they asked for their mail. The mail came by train several days each week and was in a lead-sealed bag that was put into a locked cabinet at the station across the road. By this time, the area had automated telephone service, so that was no longer provided by the Post Office.

At the rear of the shop was a staff-only area with some cabinets, a couple of work desks, and a filing cabinet for records. A side door led into the house. The backdoor led into a cavernous storeroom that in older times was, no doubt filled up with all sorts of things. For a time, Dad was an agent for various kinds of animal-feed pellets—which were stored there—but much of the time it was empty. It had a very wide door that led outside for loading and unloading.

Operating a Post Office was a serious business, as it was an agency of the Federal Government. So, Mum had to be certified to do that. There was one so-called remote postal area, at Pyap West, that didn't have easy access to mail delivery. As such, Mum had a contract to drive there each Friday to deliver the mail.

Once or twice a month, someone would drive the 20 miles to Berri to a grocery wholesaler to buy goods for the shop. I went a few times. [Frankly, we didn't do a lot of business, as the death knell had sounded for small, rural shops and Post Offices. Besides, my Dad was hardly a businessman, so I doubt that buying that business was a good decision.]

To the right of the shop was a petrol bowser (US: gasoline pump). It was manually operated using a hand pump and could measure out up to five gallons at a time. I remember well one local identity, Vic Pascoe, coming to buy petrol. Vic lived in a broken-down old house a few miles to the south on the Biggins farm. Now although he owned a working Ford Prefect car, it wasn't registered, and I don't expect he had a driving license or insurance. Anyway, now and then, he risked driving his car the few miles on the main road up to our shop to buy petrol. One day as I was filling his tank, he proudly showed me his new "registration sticker." And yes, right there in the corner of the windscreen (US: windshield), where the registration was required to be, was affixed a large Southwark beer bottle label. [At that time, South Australia had two breweries: Southwark and West End.] So, I guess he was registered by the "State of Intoxication!" But that wasn't the biggest surprise. He opened up the boot (US: trunk) and there sitting in the middle of his spare tyre (US: tire) was a hen, complete with eggs! Sometimes Vic would bring his faithful dog, which would wait outside the store on the verandah. Vic would take out his mouth organ (US: harmonica) and play a tune, and the dog would sing/howl along. Much of the time we were at Pata, he had a woman friend living with him, one Sylvia Bartels. The thing I remember about her is that once each month, she'd receive a package in the mail containing one or more packs of cigarettes. It never was clear to me why she couldn't buy them locally for the same price.

Another local identity was Oscar Schroeder, a retired bachelor who lived several miles away on a dirt road. (I don't think his house had electricity.) Anyway, once a week, Oscar rode his bicycle to the shop to get his mail and to buy a few things. To carry them home he had a 10-pound sugar bag tied over his shoulder with a piece of cord. He was quite a gregarious character.

Another local was Charlie Nicolai who with his wife Sarah and son Mervyn farmed just beyond Oscar's place. Charlie's favorite ending to various sentences was "Thank you please." [Charlie died in the room next to me when I was in hospital with a broken leg. See below for more details.]

Pigs, Pigs, and More Pigs

My guess is that at most times, we ran more than 200 pigs, many of which we bred. My job after school each weekday was to feed those pigs buckets of crushed grain. I also had to clean the cement water troughs. This was made a bit more challenging when I had a half- and then full cast on my broken leg.

All the sties had straw roofs and dirt floors, and in the summer, it got quite hot. At the hottest, we had sprinklers in some of the pens to help the pigs cool down.

I remember one particular incident, which happened so quickly, I had no time to think that I was "going to die." As I mentioned earlier, the smaller sties had a small run out the back, and that was reached by a small opening in the wall at the back. Dad wanted to vaccinate (or do something or other) to a large sow, so he told me to bring her into the main pen from the run, and then to sit in that back opening, blocking it as an escape route. Well, the sow knew the opening was right behind me, and when she wanted "out," she put all her force behind her 200+ pounds of weight and fairly well charged pretty much through me. Fortunately, I was pushed back and to the side, rather than being wedged against the opening wall or trampled. Having me sit there certainly wasn't the smartest idea my Dad had, that's for sure!

We used a large tractor-driven hammer mill to crush grain, which then was augured up into a small silo. That was noisy and dusty work, and I sure don't remember anyone wearing earplugs! And anyone who has worked around certain types of cereal grain will know how itchy that dust can be.

I found pigs to be very intelligent and I liked working with them. [To this day, when I'm at a farm or livestock show, I always reach into the pigpen and give one a scratch on the ears, head, and back, just to hear that contented grunt.]

Personal Vehicles

When we moved from Nadda, we still had the 1966 HD Holden automatic. Next, Dad bought a 1967, light green, HR Holden. The following year, he bought a 4-door Holden Torana, GMH's first small car.

For at least half the time at Pata, Dad owned a cream-colored Chrysler Valiant ute (utility vehicle), which he used to drive to/from work and to haul supplies and animals to/from market. At times, he also used that to pull a tandem (4-wheeled, that is) trailer loaded with animals. Later, he sold the ute and trailer, and bought a small, red truck, which could haul bigger loads.

The Town of Pata

Although the township plan was probably a half-mile square, there was only a handful of buildings, and most lots were still owned by the Crown (that is, the government).

Next to the store/Post Office was a large house and side lot used for a garden. At the back of that place was a former tennis court. (Our lucerne patch ran behind this.) I don't recall this place being occupied when we moved in, but not long after, a family moved in.

Across the dirt road, running east west by the store was the Pata Institute (hall that is). It was rarely used even back then, as there were no longer any sporting or social activities left in the area. Everything was done in Loxton, which was only 10–15 minutes' drive away. [The hall has since been demolished.]

On the dirt road leading in from the highway there stood a one-teacher school with an adjoining teacher's house. The old school was no longer in use and was filled with all sorts of junk.

Almost hidden in tall hop bushes there were the remains of two blacktop tennis courts. The neighbor kids and I tried to clean them off to play, but the surface was too cracked and uneven.

Opposite the store entrance was a large weighbridge, which had been built to weigh full and empty trucks back when grain was handled in bags through the railway yards. Although the large open-sided, mouse-proof, wheat-stack buildings still stood there, they had been retired with the coming of bulk handling and silos (US: grain elevators).

Behind the weighbridge was the railway yard. There was a short platform with a shed to hold the mailbag lockbox, and several lines for shunting cargo trucks. There were one or two railway employee "ganger" houses there when we arrived, but they were soon sold and moved. All railway maintenance men came on caseys (motorized carts) from Loxton or Alawoona.

Church and Confirmation

My family attended St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Loxton, usually at 10 am on Sunday mornings. The right-of-passage in the Australian Lutheran church was via confirmation, a yearlong process of religious study usually done around age 11–12. For me that was calendar year 1966. [The calendar year is also the school year, at least from February to December back then.] Each Saturday morning, I would attend confirmation classes at the Lutheran Day School (a parochial primary school that I had attended from 1959–1961) in Loxton. Classes ran for 2½ hours and were taught by one or other of the Lutheran ministers. My guess is that we had projects and reading to do during the week, and we probably had some sort of tests on a regular basis. Frankly, I don't remember much about the classes themselves other than I was definitely there against my will.

At the end of the year, the whole congregation assembled in the church on a Saturday night and we 24–30 students sat in chairs up on the raised area in front of the altar, facing one sidewall. There stood one of the ministers who proceeded to give us an oral exam, in public, the first round of individual questions being done with us speaking into a microphone for all the world to hear! Talk about pressure. [Of course, I don't remember any of the actual questions we had to answer, but I do remember the ones we joked about throughout the year. "When were motor vehicles first mentioned in the Bible? When Moses roared down the hill in his Triumph!" And then there was "Come forth my Son," but he tripped and fell and came fifth! And "How long did Cain hate his brother? As long as he was Abel!"]

All the kids that year passed the test, and so the following morning, there was the confirmation service. All the boys were dressed in black suits and all the girls in white dresses. We walked in boy-girl pairs down one of the aisles and sat right down the front. And when it came time to take Holy Communion, we got first shot at the port wine and wafers. Yes!

I do remember that the main minister was one John Boehm, a very nice man with a young family. The other minister was a quite old Danish man, Pastor Larson, whose primary job was to minister to the residents of the Loxton Riverview Rest Home (run by the Lutheran church) as well as to rural congregations. He had a thick accent, and he always started his sermons "My Dear People."

Once one was confirmed, one no longer attended Sunday School. Instead, one was a full member of the church with all its obligations. The main thing I remember is that each member was assigned a membership number and was given a box of envelopes with that number stamped on the outside. Each time one attended church and the collection (that is, offering) plate came around, one put in one's envelope with one's contribution sealed inside, and the amount written on the outside. Then after church ended, a committee (that later on included my Mum) counted all the offerings and recorded the amounts against each member name.


In the three years I lived in Pata, I attended my second, third, and fourth years of high school. (See "School Days: Part 2" from October 2020 for more details.) To get to school I rode the bus that went out from Loxton to the Pyap West corner and Pata. It was owned by dad's brother, Uncle Paul Jaeschke.

Sports and Social Activities

In the winter, I played Australian Rules Football for the Loxton Tigers Colts team. In the summer, I played tennis for the Veitch club, which was part of the Brows Well league.


For the last year or so in Pata, I got a job after school and on Saturday mornings at Clarks Foodland supermarket in Loxton. In the summer holidays, I also cut and, later, picked apricots.


Well, after riding a bus home from school and walking from the stop, feeding pigs, and then doing homework, there wasn't much spare time during the week. And then on Saturdays, it was sports time. However, I did spend time playing with the kids next door, and I recall hitting a tennis ball against the storeroom outside wall.

My one passion was to own my very own Scalextrix 1/32-scale electric slot-car racing set. I bought a basic set and then proceeded to build a large table from material I "found" around the old wheat stacks in the railway yard. And as the shop storeroom was huge and mostly empty, I built and set up my table there. Now the set ran off a 12-volt power supply, but rather than spend 12 whole dollars on a 240-volt-to-12-volt converter, I pulled one of the cars up to the storeroom door and ran a cable to its battery. After all, $12 could buy 12 lengths of track or a car or two, so no point wasting money on the transformer! Anyway, I acquired quite a circuit complete with outbuildings, crossovers, bridges, and even miniature people. There really was no end to what one could buy or make. Now my good friend and schoolmate, Peter May, lived no more than a mile and a half away, and he had a set as well. However, in his case, his parents renovated an old cellar for him to house his set, and they bought him a transformer as well. We spent time at each other's houses racing and re-arranging our layouts.

My Broken Leg

In 1968, I was in Year 11 at High school, and my football team—the Loxton Tigers Colts—made it to the Grand Final, which was played at the oval in Barmera. In the dying stages of the game, I was running in to pick the ball off the ground when a player from the opposing team, Berri, ran in to kick the ball off the ground. [Nowadays, that results in a penalty and is referred to as "kicking in danger."] He missed the ball and got me right in the shin of my right leg, and down I went. After a brief lie on the ground, with the help of the trainers (the guys who run out onto the field with water, towels, and to help with minor medical problems) I managed to walk off the field. Not long after, the final siren sounded, and we'd won the game and the championship.

As was always the case, at each local sporting event involving bodily contact or other chances for injury, the non-profit St. Johns' Ambulance Brigade always provided an ambulance and several (usually volunteer) first-aid people. They looked me over, put my leg in an inflatable splint, and figured I'd need to go to the hospital to have the leg X-rayed. However, rather than go to the Barmera hospital and possibly stay overnight in a town away from home, they agreed to drive me back to Loxton, and my Dad rode in the ambulance with me. At the Loxton hospital, the X-ray showed a multiple fracture (without any sideways displacement, which was why I was able to walk off the playing field), so the doctor and nurses put a plaster cast on the lower leg leaving the front open to accommodate the swelling. Several days later, they wrapped plaster around to provide a somewhat thin cover over the front.

I stayed in hospital for a couple of nights. I was in a bed right up in the far corner in the large men's ward. Through a door nearby was a room where male patients were put if they were unlikely to survive. I believe it was referred to as the "Death Ward!" Anyway, while I was in hospital, old Charlie Nicolai from Pata was wheeled in there, and his family came to say "goodbye" along with the Lutheran minister. Charlie was on some sort of breathing device that made quite a sound. In the middle of the night, I woke up and heard that sound stop, and I figured Charlie had gone to that great farm in the sky. So, I buzzed the nurse to let her know. The next morning, nurses were wheeling equipment out of that room and generally cleaning it up, but no one would say that Charlie had died; they had to keep up the morale of the other patients, I guess, lest we thought it was a result of the hospital food.

For some reason, the doctor did not put a heel on my cast, which made it difficult to walk. I'm guessing that was the point, to keep me off that foot. Of course, I had crutches, but I still put weight on the foot. Once I was out of hospital, I had checkups at the doctor's office every two weeks. Given the temporary nature of the first cast with the front closed after the swelling went down, and my general abuse of it, that cast lasted only a few weeks, and the doctor replaced it with a new one. But when I broke that—because I was driving a stick shift vehicle and getting around without my crutches to feed the pigs—the doctor put on a full cast, right up to my thigh. That made it impossible to sit on the front seat of a car, let alone drive, so it had the desired intent, to slow me down. Bugger!

I soon got into the swing of using crutches, but it made it awkward to use them and to carry a school satchel the half mile to/from the bus stop from the house, and to get around school with books and such.

To use the ambulance service, one generally became a member for an annual fee, and that entitled one to unlimited usage, as needed. As such, whenever I had to go to the doctor's office, I scheduled a pickup by an ambulance. And some days, the driver would be a bit bored, and he'd use the siren as we drove the couple of miles from the high school through the town. At the beginning, I rode in a special passenger seat. However, once I had a full cast, I could no longer fit there, so they had to open the back, lay me on the bed, and strap me in. It was quite a production when kids saw me being loaded in at the school. I know I enjoyed it. One nice day, when I was done at the doctor's office the driver said something like, "Where to Sir?" and I said, "It's such a nice afternoon, why don't I skip school for the rest of the day, and have you drive me home?" He thought that was a fine idea, and as he had nothing better to do, we drove the nine miles to Pata where he came into the house and had a cup of tea with Mum.

Other Family Members

Dad always had a job when we lived at Pata. Mainly, he worked as the groundskeeper at the Loxton High School; however, that was not a fulltime job. Each weekday morning and night, he drove a school bus for Kaesler's bus service. (The proprietors were Felix and Hilda, with Hilda being Mum's older sister.) On Thursdays after he'd finished the bus run, he'd go to the new sale yards and hose out the pigpens after that day's market. Sometimes he'd pick me up after work at Clarks and I'd help him. Then sometimes on the way home, we'd pull off to the side of the road where wild turnip was growing in big thick clumps, and we'd dig up a whole ute load and take it home to feed the pigs. They just loved it. Other times, we'd pick up all the kitchen waste from a local family restaurant, The Magpie Café. That too was fed to the pigs. And in season, some fruit growers would grow a variety of pumpkins and marrows in their orchards and drill them into the soil for nitrogen or some such benefit. We'd go by and get a load of them for pig feed.

Brother Ken was living in Peebinga and by the time we left Pata, he was married. Sister Dawn was also married and living at the Aboriginal Mission in Hermannsburg. Near the end of 1968, I took the train to Alice Springs and then stayed with her and her family. Afterwards, we all drove back to South Australia, as they were visiting family and friends before moving to Queensland. Brother Terry lived with us in Pata until he was married in 1967. When Sister Pat came back from Renmark, she worked in the store for a few months, but then went to Clarks Foodland in Loxton. After she met Trevor Lange (who lived in the old Pata school), they started dating, and eventually married.

During the Vietnam War, Australia had the military draft for men aged 20, who were chosen via a lottery to serve 18 months National Service ("Nasho"). To avoid the lottery, one could volunteer to serve six years in the Citizen's Military Forces (CMF), which involved training one night each week, one weekend each month, and two full weeks each year. Terry and Trevor joined the CMF!

On the Edge of Loxton: 1969–1970, age 15–16

Once the Pata place was sold, we moved to the edge of the irrigated area of Loxton East. The house was part of a fruit property (called a fruit block); however, we only rented the house.

The House

When the fruit blocks in the area were developed, each came with a 2-bedroom house that was in one of two styles, with one being a mirror image of the other. The front door entered directly into a short passage with the lounge room through a door to the right. To the left was a long room at the end of which was a partition for a small office where Dad kept his writing bureau, and I had a homework desk. Off to the right were doors to bedrooms for Dad and Mum, and me. The front passage led to the kitchen, off of which were a pantry and a bathroom. I seem to recall that the toilet was outside the back door, which opened from the kitchen.

The Outbuildings and Surrounds

When a fruit property was first developed, a military-surplus Nissan hut (US: Quonset hut) was erected. Half of it was lined and divided into several small rooms to make a temporary residence for the fruit grower. The other end was used to house a tractor and various implements used to work the citrus trees, stone fruits, and/or grape vines on the property. Once the main house was built, the fruit grower moved there and then used the Nissan hut as pickers' quarters; that is, to house itinerant workers who came through the area to pick fruit, to prune vines, or do any number of other jobs. During the 1950's and 1960's, most of these people were of Italian or Greek extraction.

From the creation of the fruit properties until the 1970's, irrigation was by way of concrete-lined V-shaped channels that were 4–5 feet deep and probably 5–6 feet across. One of these ran behind the Nissan hut near our house. [In later years, the channels were replaced by pipelines, which eliminated the evaporation.]

Near the house was a large implement shed used by the grower who ran the block. We kept our main car in one of its bays.

The driveway came in from the road and ran past the house, which was on the right. To the left was a long row of very tall Athol-pine trees. The large front yard was covered in lawn around which Mum had some shrubs and flowers.

Personal Vehicles and Driving

We still had the Holden Torana from Pata. Dad must have sold the truck, as I recall his having a grey Holden ute with a canopy over the back. He used this to drive to work, and to drive people and equipment around on the job.

I turned 16 in December of 1969, so was eligible to get my driving license. However, I failed my first attempt at doing so. Basically, the policeman told me to "drive like I'd been taught" and I did! He failed me for speeding and one other infraction I don't recall, so I had to wait at least two weeks to try again. The second time, I passed. [Back then all written and practical license testing was done by the State Police, which had a station in Loxton. Nowadays, it's done by employees of the State Motor Vehicles Department.]


In the year I lived at the house, I attended my fifth (and final) year of high school.

Sports and Social Activities

In the winter, I played football for the Loxton Tigers Colts team. I was also involved with athletics at school and with the Loxton Harriers Club.


I'm not sure that I continued work at Clark's Foodland, because if I did, I don't know how I would have gotten home after work. I was the only child still living at home, I had no driving license, and Dad was no longer working in the town or driving school buses. I might have still worked there Saturday mornings, however.


With Year 12 came a lot of homework, so even though I no longer had any pigs to feed, I doubt I had that much free time.

I do remember that I'd grown out of my slot-car racing phase, so I sold my whole set, in which I'd invested so much time (and a non-trivial amount of money).

Other Family Members

Each day, Dad worked at a huge American-owned fruit property. Then once I finished high school, early in December 1969, I worked there fulltime as well, until I moved to Adelaide in March 1970. Mum was a homemaker.


In March of 1970, at the grand age of 16 years and 2 months, I moved to Adelaide, the state capital of South Australia. There, I worked fulltime, played semi-pro football during the winter, and attended university as a part-time, evening student.

Travel: Memories of Hong Kong

© 2005, 2021 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.

My primary airline, United, offered a great fare to Hong Kong, and since I had nothing better to do, I booked a ticket to go and get some Chinese take-away food. Jenny and I had visited Hong Kong for about four days back in 1979 as the first stop on our 5-week trip from Australia to the U.S. I don't remember too much about that visit, other than it was our first time outside our native country. This time, to prepare, I bought a slim Lonely Planet guidebook as well as a more in-depth book from National Geographic.

The day before I left, I threw together the bare minimum gear and packed it into a medium-sized backpack. I took one pair of footwear—my hiking boots—some all-weather hiking trousers with zip-off legs, a few T-shirts, and some socks and underwear; that's it!

The Trip Over

[Diary, August 2005] I woke just before the 7:30-am alarm. I took care of some business things, got my last lot of email, showered, and had a light breakfast. My taxi arrived just before 10 o'clock.

Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) was very quiet with the morning traffic having already departed. Being a Premier Executive flyer with United has its advantages, including checking in at the first- or business-class counters, which have short lines and plenty of attendants. The agent who checked me in was very friendly and set the tone for the day. I cleared security quite quickly and took the bus to the mid-field terminal, where I went to United's Red-Carpet Club lounge. (I get to use these nice facilities free of charge when traveling on international flights, another benefit for frequent fliers.) I looked over the daily newspapers, had some juice, and cheese on crackers.

Flight UA923, a Boeing 737-500, departed on time for Chicago. Since I get to select my own seats, I chose exit rows all the way. On this flight, I was in 10A, and there was no seat in the row in front of me, so I could really stretch out. During the 2-hour 589-mile flight I worked a bit proofing a manuscript, and had a short nap in the sun as it came right in my window.

I had a 1-hour stopover in Chicago, so stopped off at the Red-Carpet Club there for 30 minutes, and had a snack—English toffee coffee, potato chips, and a banana—and scanned the financial daily newspaper.

Flight UA829, a Boeing 747-400 (Jumbo Jet, 2-aisles and nine seats across), departed on time at 3:05 pm about one-third full, allowing people to take over up to three seats each. I had exit seat 46A. Flying time was predicted to be 15:40 hours, possibly my longest ever non-stop flight. Distance, 7,787 miles. [My previous longest flights were Washington DC to Tokyo and LA/San Francisco to Sydney.] ETA was 7:15 pm the next day.

Hong Kong is eight hours ahead of GMT, while Washington D.C. is five hours behind. Allowing for the 1-hour change for Daylight Savings in DC, there was a 12-hour difference, making it easy to remember the time back home when phoning. I moved my clock onto Hong Kong time, which was then 3 am. The temperature there was 80F (27C), and the forecast for my whole time there was hot and humid with a 60% chance of thunderstorms each day, not something to which I was looking forward! [As it happened, the typhoon that was headed for Hong Kong changed direction, so there was little rain the whole time.]

On these long-haul flights, they have a habit of serving food and beverages on a regular basis, which, coupled with inactivity, requires some restraint. For lunch, I had a salad, beef and vegetables, melon, cinnamon cake, and juice. After that, I started making some plans for activities, at least for the first few days.

Three and a half hours into the trip, I looked out my window to see that we were over the wilds of Canada's Northwest Territories. There were countless numbers of lakes all with bright sun reflecting off them. Although the outside temperature was a chilly -47F (-44C), my window frame was almost too hot to touch.

Two crewmembers sat opposite the exit seats, so I got to chat a bit with a Hong Kong-based Chinese attendant who confessed to not being too proficient with chopsticks; can you believe that? The other attendant lived in Denver, but flew out of Chicago, so had to fly to get to and from work. He was also a fill-in attendant, and had only learned the night before that he was headed to Hong Kong the next day.

After five hours into the flight, we were over the frozen Beaufort Sea just beyond the Queen Elizabeth Islands. Although on a map it might look like one would fly west and then south to get to Hong Kong from Chicago, we flew due north, over the Arctic. Whatever it takes to save money on the fuel bill, which, these days, is very high for one of these planes. As usual, in between movies, route maps at various magnifications were shown to let us know where we were. Seeing the earth from the North Pole perspective is quite different. Somewhere around there, we crossed the International Date Line, and moved from Friday to Saturday.

I watched a movie: Sandra Bullock in "Miss Congeniality 2," which I found most entertaining and as good as the first installment. During that, sandwiches were offered. Later, a boxed snack arrived: cookies, raisins, potato chips, chocolate, and a drink.

I always travel with my own full-size feather pillow. I managed five hours sleep, waking at 4:30 pm, Hong Kong time. We were over snow-covered land, which I guessed was Russia. It was cloudy, and as we were now going due south, the sun was to our west, and cast a shadow of the plane on the top of the clouds below. Due to some odd atmospheric conditions, that shadow was surrounded by concentric discs making up a circular rainbow. We were at 40,000 feet (12,000 meters).

An hour out from Hong Kong, at 6:30 pm local time, yet another meal was served; my body clock said it was breakfast, but I think it was actually lunch or dinner. Around 6:45 pm, it got dark rather quickly, and I could see occasional lights in the Chinese countryside. Soon we were over the former Portuguese territory of Macau, which, as they say, was "lit up like a Christmas Tree," with all its casinos and tourist traps.

We landed, the plane emptied quickly, immigration was a formality, and even though the Chinese were now in charge (the Brits left in 1997), Australians didn't need a visa for personal travel for less than 90 days. I got my luggage, some tourist information, withdrew HK$2,000 from a cash machine at an exchange rate of HK$7.70 per US$, bought an Octopus travel card for HK$150, and boarded bus A21 to Kowloon, the peninsular to the north of Hong Kong island. [The new international airport is about 40 minutes from the city, built on reclaimed land on an island. When we visited in 1979, the old airport, Kai Tak, was right downtown and you landed almost literally near high-rise buildings.] The bus dropped me off on the busy main north-south thoroughfare, Nathan Road, right opposite my hotel, the Shamrock. I had booked a room on the internet, and was pleased to find they were expecting me. Room 204 on the 2nd floor was very nice, having all sorts of electronic bedside controls and energy conservation gadgets. I found a convenience store nearby and stocked my little refrigerator with milk and juice. I unpacked and at 10:30 pm local time Saturday night (10:30 am Saturday morning back home) I phoned Jenny. Apparently, she wasn't missing me, yet!

I checked out the TV, finding various channels broadcasting in several Chinese dialects, one in Japanese, and three in English, one of which was Australia's ABC Asia Pacific, whose programming I came to enjoy. At 11 pm, I was very pleasantly surprised to find they were broadcasting a 2-hour game of professional Australian football (no, not that soccer or rugby crap, I'm talking real Australian Rules football). Lights out at 1 am, local time, 27 hours after I left my house!

[Diary] I was awake at 6 am and feeling okay. It was daylight outside with quite a few people on Nathan Road, which was right below my window. I got my early-morning fix of world news and weather, and showered. Then it was up to the 10th floor restaurant a few minutes before 7 o'clock. The extensive breakfast buffet was included in my room rate of HK$650 (US$84.50). I was politely shown to a table and informed that the food will be a few minutes coming, as starting time was 7 am.

I took my time, spending some two hours eating, drinking, and working on a Sudoku puzzle, which appeared in each day's English paper that was delivered to my room.

Hong Kong Island

I rode the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) Tseun Wan line (subway red line) from Jordan station next to my hotel in Kowloon to Central on Hong Kong Island. I then walked to the Peak Tram terminal. It was quite hot and very humid. There was a long line for the tram, but it moved quickly. The ride was very steep, and I shot video out the rear window. At the top, I walked around to some overlooks, strolled through a small shopping center, and had a milkshake at McDonalds. The views over the downtown area, across the harbor, and on the south side of the island were interesting, but somewhat clouded in a humid haze.

From there, I went back down the mountain to Hong Kong Park, a wonderful addition to the city. There was a huge aviary with many exotic parrots. One walks through it on platforms raised high in the trees. The whole thing was built into the side of a hill. The gardens were magnificent, and contained a large waterfall, some large ponds, wading birds, fish, and many turtles. Next door, there was a museum of tea ware, which I perused a while, as much to get into an air-conditioned place as for the exhibits.

My First Local Host

Earlier that morning, I contacted Hing Wah Chau (or David; everyone here had an English nickname), a local member of my international hosting organization, Servas, to see about getting together. At 3 pm, I phoned David from the Central subway station. (Local phone calls are free from homes, but public pay phones charge HK$1 for three minutes, while my hotel charged HK$3.50.) We met nearby, sat, and talked over coffee. He's a landscape coordinator who was working on the Disneyland Hong Kong site, which officially opens next month. Like all Servas hosts in Hong Kong, he's a day host; that is, he is able to meet for a meal and/or chat, but not to have members stay overnight. We rode one of the famous Star Ferries to Kowloon, visited a very large bookstore, and then he got me to the stop for bus 219X, an express bus to Laguna City some 30 minutes away. Just as we were walking to the bus stop, the Heavens opened, and the rain came down very forcefully, but not for long.

My Second Local Host

I arrived at the Laguna City bus station at 6:30 pm where I was met by Siu Yin Cheung (Iris) and her partner Ken. She was also a Servas day host. We walked to a restaurant nearby where we were joined by her father. We drank several teas; we ate Peking duck; sweet and sour pork; ground beef and eggplant; pork fried rice; and cucumber with spring onion, sweet sauce, and duck slivers wrapped in pita bread. They very generously paid the bill. We talked about many things. At 8:15 pm, they walked me to the Kwun Tong Line (green line) subway station. I changed to the red line at Mong Kok station. Then it was on to the 7/11 convenience store to buy milk, and back to my hotel by 9 pm. I read until 10:45 pm. It was a very good first day.

Around Kowloon

[Diary] I awoke at 4 am for an hour or so, snacked, read, and watched some TV, then went back to sleep. I awoke again at 7:30 am, showered and dressed, caught some news, and took more than an hour to have breakfast. My caloric intake consisted of watermelon, cereal with peaches and pineapple, sausages and ketchup, toast and jam (with butter from Germany!), and hot tea. Back in the room, much to my dismay, I discovered I had forgotten to bring my digital video camera charger cord, which meant I had less than two hours of battery power for the week; bugger!

I headed out at 10:30 am, planning to have a cultural day. I walked the nearby neighborhoods, watching people unloading and loading delivery vehicles, and tailors working. Soon I came to the relatively new Hong Kong Museum of History. I bought a HK$30 (US$3.90) museum pass for six museums over seven days, which was excellent value. I started on the ground floor, watching videos, using computers, and looking at exhibits on geology, plant life, and early peoples. One Chinese woman attendant wanted to practice her English, and asked me a number of interesting questions. (For example, what are the differences between Australian, British, and U.S. English? What does "overbearing" mean? What about "grounding?" After five hours there, I had a very late lunch in the museum cafe.

Next door was the Museum of Science, so I stopped in for a quick look, but was getting tired. I walked back to the hotel through some back streets, which were filled with shops and shoppers. Back at the hotel, I tried to stay awake, but gave up around 6 pm.

[Diary] I awoke at 2:30 am, had a snack and drink, and caught up with some world news. From 3–6 am, I worked, proofing a technical manuscript I'd brought for just such early morning occasions. I never really slept after that, although I tried to for an hour. Up again at 7 am, showered, and watched TV. At 7:45, it was down to the buffet breakfast: watermelon, cereal with fruit, toast and cheese, and tea. And, of course, my daily Sudoku puzzle.

At 9 am, I called Ed Hahn to set up a meeting late Wednesday afternoon. (Ed was an American now living in Hong Kong. He was a member of an organization I recently joined, www.hospitalityclub.org.) Then I worked another four hours.

My Third Local Host

Another Servas day host, Tse Hin Kwong (Julian), came to my hotel at 1:30 pm. We ate lunch nearby at the Spaghetti House—the lunch special was HK$56 (US$7.25) each plus service charge. It included soup, a main course, and a drink. We spent an hour together.

More Time Around Kowloon

At 3 pm, I walked down Nathan Road to the main Kowloon post office where I bought postcard stamps for HK$3 (US$0.39). From there, it was on to the Art Museum on the waterfront where I had a hurried look around; not quite "my cup of tea." However, I did see a nice 500-year-old serving dish that would go well with my Chinese crockery set; also, a bronze jug from the 13th century BC. (I wonder if it said "Made in China" underneath.)

I strolled along the promenade on the south bank of Kowloon, and shot some video and stills of the harbor. I also chatted with a young English couple who had just arrived from four months in Australia. I consumed ice cream while watching the continuous harbor traffic. From there, it was on to the Star Ferry terminal and surrounding shops. Then I went north through Kowloon Park back to my hotel, stopping off to buy some emergency rations. In my room, I snacked and read the daily English newspaper.

Since the room came with a hot-water kettle, I bought a packet of noodles and ate in. At 7:30 pm, I took the subway south one stop and walked to the promenade to see the nightly 8-pm light show on the high-rise buildings across the harbor on Hong Kong Island. Then back home via the subway. I walked 4–5 blocks along the famed Temple Street Night Market near my hotel. There were wall-to-wall stalls selling clothing, footwear, electronics, and bootleg CDs and DVDs. Home by 9:30 pm, showered, and read; lights out soon after.

More on Hong Kong Island

[Diary] I had a good sleep, then showered, ate breakfast, and worked for an hour. At 9:30 am, I headed out for more culture on the Island. First, it was the Law Uk Folk Museum, a restored house from the Hakka people whose village used to be on that site. There are no others left in the whole city. Second came the Museum of Coastal Defense, built into an old gun fortification. It covered various periods, from olden times through the Japanese occupation in WWII and the takeover by the People's Republic of China in 1997. I spent several hours there, mostly indoors in air-conditioned comfort. Then it was back to the hotel for a nap.

My Fourth Local Host

At 4 pm, I took the red line subway to the Star Ferry where I crossed the harbor riding 1st class (which cost a pittance). Ed met me at the arrival gate, and took me on a walking tour of the area around Central. This included riding on the half-mile-long series of escalators that go up the mountainside through shopping and eating areas. We walked down again and sat in air-conditioned comfort in an English pub, the Bulldog. Ed's wife Pat, also an American, joined us for drinks and dinner. I ate Shepherd's pie, which was excellent. Then it was down to Central and home via the subway. Lights out at 10 pm.

A Day Trip into the Countryside

[Diary] I awoke way too early, watched TV, showered, then ate breakfast at 7 am. The plan for the day was to get a day-ticket to Lantau Island, which included return ferry, minibus, and narrated tour to a few tourist attractions.

By 9 am, I was on the red line to Central. From there it was a short walk to Pier 6, the Lantau ferry terminal. There I met a Spanish couple, Manuel and Yolanda, from Valencia, and explained to them about the day ticket. They hadn't known about it, but were interested, so we all bought HK$150 (US$19.50) tickets. We sat in the cafe talking, and I started to remember my basic Spanish.

We rode First Class on the ferry, which was called "Xin Xing," departing at 10:30 for Mui Wo on Lantau island. After a 15-minute wait, the three of us, seven Dutch tourists and their Flemish guide, two Chinese ladies, and a few other couples boarded the air-conditioned minibus and set off.

The first stop was a nice beach, where we spent 15 minutes. (Like most beaches there, it had a shark net around the swimming area.) The second stop was the Po Lin monastery and huge Tian Tan Buddha statue. We consumed an "interesting" vegetarian lunch, and spent two hours there. The final stop was the fishing village of Tai O, where houses are built on stilts over the water. It was rather rundown and much more like what I think of with respect to a Chinese village. Many stalls sold live and dried fish, drinks, and tourist junk. The ice cream and cream soda were definitely the best things in town. The hour there was more than enough.

Back at Mui Wo, we caught the fast ferry at 4:50 pm. Back at the Hong Kong Island ferry terminal, I said goodbye to my new Spanish friends, and headed home on the subway. I rested, watched TV, and read the paper. At 6:30 pm, I went out to eat, but wanted only a small meal. Nearby was a McDonalds, where the food was ridiculously cheap and filling. I ate a McChicken sandwich and fries for HK$13.50 (US$1.75). I watched TV until 9 pm, with lights-out soon after. To be sure, the highlight of the day was meeting the Spanish couple.

[Diary] I slept well until 5:30 am, got my TV news fix, and was down at breakfast by 7:15 am. I managed to go wrong with my Sudoku puzzle, so restarted it just to make sure I got off to a good start for the day. Back in the room, I worked for a while.

Out and About on Kowloon

I hopped on the subway red line and green line, heading for the Chi Lin Nunnery. Built in 1998, in an old style, it has some 85,000 pieces of timber, but no nails! The 25,000 roof tiles weighed some 150 tons. There were some nice lotus lily ponds. Next door was a very nice city garden. It was very humid; I was dripping perspiration.

Back at the subway station, I strolled through a large supermarket, looking at all the things familiar and not, and bought lunch and more emergency rations. In the subway station, I found a bakery with curried meat in flaky pastries that were "to die for!"

I rode the subway back to the hotel, where I ate lunch in my room while watching world news according to the Australian channel ABC Asia/Pacific. Quite unexpectedly, the phone rang; It was Christy, another Hospitality Club member I'd contacted 10 days earlier. She had just gotten my message, and invited me to dinner with some friends. I accepted. It was a pleasant surprise indeed!

At 1:15 pm, I thought I'd lie back on the bed for a short nap, but woke up nearly four hours later feeling recharged. I had a small snack, read, tried a cryptic crossword puzzle, and shaved, in preparation for my "night out."

My Fifth Local Host

At 7:30 pm, I departed for Hong Kong Island and the Fortress Hill station. Christy met me there at 8 pm. Soon after, her friends Rachel and CC joined us, and we went off in search of a local restaurant. (All three were Hospitality Club members.) We ate and talked for three hours, and an excellent time was had by all. Back home, I watched some TV news, but was wide-awake. Lights finally went out at 2 am.

Over the Mountain on Hong Kong Island

[Diary] I had no more than four hours sleep. I watched TV, had a late breakfast, tried napping, but to no avail. So out I went at 11 am, taking the red line to Central, to Exchange Square, and on to the Number 6 bus to Stanley on the south side of the island. I rode in the top front seat in a modern double-decker bus; if you know Kenneth Graeme's story "Wind in the Willows," this definitely was "Toad's wild ride." The narrow road had two lanes with a steep cliff up on one side and another down on the other. At times, I had to close my eyes to avoid getting motion sickness. Seated next to me was a young Japanese couple down from Tokyo for four days. We chatted off and on.

I went to Murray House, a building that has been pulled apart, stone by stone, transported down here from the city, and reassembled. Unfortunately, the records for how to do this were poorly made, and it took three years to figure out how to put it back together. And then they had six large columns spare, so they stuck them out front in a row. I looked in on a small temple, a market, found a place selling ice-cold cans of cream soda and drank one while eating pork, chicken, and beef satays with peanut sauce. From downtown, it was on to the military cemetery, which required a good walk out of town. It sure was humid. Along the way, I stopped off at St. Stephen's Beach where I sat in the shade eating an ice cream and watching the sunbathers and boaters.

Back in Stanley, I caught the 6X express bus, this time going along the south coast and back to Central via the Aberdeen toll tunnel. From there it was on the subway back home to another long cold drink. I read my paper, watched TV, and ate almost all my emergency rations. A 2-hour Australian Rules Football game came on TV, so I watched that. I packed my gear in 10 minutes. Lights out at 9 pm.

The Trip Back Home

[Diary] There was a noisy party in the room next door until very late, but, fortunately, it didn't bother me too much. My wake-up call came at 6 am, at which time I showered and ate fruit and juice in my room, as it was too early for the hotel restaurant. I checked out, getting change for the A21 airport bus. Although the bus stop was only one block from the hotel, as I stepped outside, the Heavens opened, and the rain came pelting down. Fortunately, I was only out in the open for less than a minute before I reached the bus shelter.

I only had to wait five minutes before the bus arrived. It cost HK$33 (US$4.25) one way. A few stops later, a Dutch couple from Rotterdam got on and sat next to me. They were taking a side trip to Nagoya, Japan, to visit friends. [Nagoya is the main city in Aiichi prefecture, the location of the current World Expo.] We chatted all the way to the airport. They were especially interested in things to do and see in the U.S. on a future trip, so we exchanged contact information.

At the airport, check-in was smooth, although I drew the short straw for a random security check of my checked luggage. Then during check-in, the agent asked if I had any matches in my checked luggage. I said I did, so I had to take them out and put them into my carry-on bag, which is permitted to contain up to four boxes! Then it was on to immigration, forgetting to get my HK$50 deposit back for my Octopus card.

On the airport train to my terminal, I chatted with an Australian couple from Victoria. Then I settled into United's Red-Carpet club for a proper breakfast: cornflakes, muffin with cheese, banana, and tea, plus a "USA Today" newspaper, which was filled with pictures and stories about Hurricane Katrina.

I got to board early and settled into a window seat in an exit row of the Boeing 747-400. Two very pleasant American women sat next to me. We had a great Hong Kong-based Chinese cabin crew. Lunch was served soon after. Then I settled into movies (you can watch a lot on a 14½-hour flight). I saw "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants," "Kicking and Screaming," "Monster-in-Law," "Madagascar," and "Million Dollar Baby." Snacks and chocolate bars were served.

The flight home took a different path: out to sea, up the coast of China, over Japan (Kyushu, Honshu, and Hokkaido islands), over a bit of Russia, crossing the International Date Line north of the Aleutian Island chain of Alaska, across northern Canada, and down into Chicago. And as a bonus, we had a short night and restarted Sunday again! Over Anchorage, Alaska, it was -70F (-57C) outside at 35,000 feet.

We landed in Chicago on time, but it took more than an hour to get through immigration. Then I had to ride the train from the international arrivals' terminal to United's domestic terminal, and had a long walk underground from one terminal to the other. I made it to my gate with 10 minutes to spare. We boarded a Boeing 777 for Washington, and during the 2-hour flight, I had a not-very-comfortable nap, my first for the day.

In Washington, I phoned Jenny from the mid-field terminal, and as I walked outside with my luggage, she arrived. The weather was wonderful with humidity and heat gone, and the house windows open day and night. I managed to stay up late in a vain attempt to get on local time as soon as possible.

It certainly was an interesting and enjoyable trip, and I made a number of new friends. I really liked meeting Servas day hosts, so planned on doing that again in the future in other countries. My first experience with the Hospitality Club also went well, and I look forward to hosting and traveling with contacts from that organization.

I shot some digital photos and finished up with a 1-hour DVD of video.

As to jet lag, it would take at least 10 days before I got back on local time. But what the heck, it sure beats working for a living, right? Or does it? The way I felt right then, I'd have to say, "No!"

Signs of Life: Part 23

© 2013, 2017, 2021 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.

From time to time during my travels, I come across signs that I find interesting for one reason or another. Sometimes, they contain clever writing, are humorous, or remind me of some place or event. Here are some from trips to French-speaking Geneva, Switzerland; Washington State, US; and several other places.


I've seen this sign a number of times in French-speaking countries. Who knew that the rules forbad urinating outside the circle!


Some interesting names for musical groups.


Hmm; Hairdresser Antidote. Having a bad-hair day? Perhaps you need a hair antidote!


French for Between us, which made me think of the popular saying, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."


A snows sports equipment store; obviousy!

According to Wikipedia, doodah "is a placeholder name for an object, also doodad and doohickey." I know it as thingamajig.


An authentic Italian restaurant and wine bar in the heart of Geneva. The French translates to "a mouth a throat" while the Italian translates to "a bite a sip."

Perhaps the wine bar was where da Vinci got his inspiration for the Mona Lisa!

The M, that is almost inside a circle, hints at da Vinci's drawing, Vitruvian Man.


The "Red Flamingo" is just the place to buy women's handbags and shoes.


Switzerland has three main languages. This sign is from the side of a train, and contains the abbreviations for the Swiss National Railways: SBB (Schweizerische Bundesbahnen) in German, CFF (Chemins de fer fédéraux suisses) in French, and FFS (Ferrovie federali svizzere) in Italian.


There I was thinking about having a salad, until I saw the price; Holy Toledo!

When I mentioned it to the waitress, she said that it was a misprint ($10.95 instead), but they liked it so much, they left it there to see who was actually reading the menu. And if anyone was willing to pay that much, well, that was OK too!


Toilet signs at a botanic garden.     

The stamen and carpel are the male and female "naughty bits," respectively, involved in flower reproduction.


This advice sounds all well and good in theory, but how would YOU react when faced with a mountain lion?


Come on now; admit it. You actually kissed a dog, didn't you?


"Pizza, panini, salads & breakfast items dispensed in an informal setting."

Personally, I'm leaning towards the pepperoni pizza!

And, YES, the letter i does look a bit like the leaning tower.


What caught my eye was the foundation date, 33 AD, one possible year of the crucification of Jesus of Nazareth.


The father sure seems to be holding the baby at arm's length! Can you say "stinky diaper?"


A sign on the outside wall of my hotel room block in Oxford, England. "A fitting place for Rex," you might be thinking.

In the heart of Oxford sit the remains of Oxford Castle next door to which is a veddy up-scale hotel, Malmaison Oxford, located in what was once "Her Majesty's Prison Oxford." In the main building, groups of four or five adjacent prison cells were combined to form each room/suite. The old stairwells and guard walkways have been preserved.


My Formative Years: Part 2

© 2015, 2021 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.

This is the second part of a series of essays about my life on a 4,000-acre wheat and sheep farm in Australia and in several other places from 1961–1970, from age 7–16.

In Part 1, we covered the farm and its annual cereal-growing cycle; domestic animals and pets; wildlife, game, and hunting; personal vehicles; the fuel supply; utilities, appliances, and services; and radio, TV, and newspapers.

Thursday was Market Day

Back then, Loxton was served by three Stock and Station Agencies (US: farmers' cooperatives): Bennett and Fishers, Elders/Goldsborough Mort (later Elders GM, and now Elders), and Farmers Union (later Southern Farmers). From these, farmers could buy all their farm-related supplies for fencing, shearing, spraying, and so on. These three companies took it in turns to manage the regional livestock sale, which was held every Thursday.

When I was a kid, the sale yards were right in the town on the main road, next to the railway station. [In the late 1960's, new sale yards were built on the southeastern edge of town, right next to the railway line. There was plenty of space and things were quite organized. However, the new place never quite had the charisma of the old one. Sadly, that is all gone now, and the weekly market is no more.]

Although animals probably were shipped in/out by train in previous years, in my time, they were all transported by trucks and semitrailers (US: tractor-trailers), most of which came complete with at least one working sheep or cattle dog (usually kelpies or blue heelers, respectively). There were beef cattle yards and a circular auction place with tiered seats for the bidders. There were many sheep yards with flat planks along the top of some of the fences for the auctioneers to walk along from one pen to the next. There was also a shed with pigsties. Most weeks there were chickens and, sometimes, other birds in cages. Sundries included grain and bits of machinery. A group of women ran the "tuck shop," a small tin shed with a dirt floor and a front that opened up as a serving area. From there, they sold hot meat pies, pasties, and sausage rolls with and without tomato sauce (US: ketchup), cold drinks, and probably buns and tarts.

The weekly market in Loxton was one of the biggest in the region and attracted people from far and wide. Many farmers living more than 20 miles out of town came to town that day for the market, to buy groceries, and to have business and medical appointments. For a kid it was a huge event to witness the sights, sounds, and smells of the old sale yards.

[In 2005, I visited Australia and I spent a great afternoon with one of my oldest cousins, Gordon. Until that time, I probably hadn't seen him more than a few times in my life, and certainly none that I remembered. When Gordon and his older brother Headley lived in Adelaide, during the school holidays, their parents would send them up to our maternal grandparents in New Residence. (They were only about five and seven years old, respectively, and they rode on their own on the tram to the main train station in Adelaide, and then rode a train some three or more hours where they were put off at an unmanned station in the middle of nowhere, to be picked up.) Gordon told me a great story, which I'll pass along here. By that time, our Uncle Gary ran the farm on which Grandpa (and Grandma) lived, and each Thursday, they'd drive into Loxton for the market. On this particular occasion, they took a truckload of sheep to sell, and Headley and Gordon rode on the back with the sheep. Now apparently Grandpa could be quite animated when he talked, and he waved his hands around a lot. When it was time to auction off his and Uncle Gary's sheep, he was off to the side talking with some friends, waving his hands around, as usual. Well, the auctioneer took his gestures as bids, and, Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, Grandpa ended up buying his own sheep! And even worse, he had to pay commission to the auctioneers for the privilege! On the way back home, with said sheep loaded back on the truck, the window at the back of the truck cab was open, and the boys could hear clearly Uncle Gary yelling and swearing at Grandpa for being so "bloody stupid."]

Unrelated to Market Day was a special kind of sale, called a clearing sale. This happened when a farmer or share farmer retired or quit farming. This sale was held on the farm and usually involved the sale of farm machinery, supplies, and, sometimes, household goods and vehicles. It could even involve an auction of the land itself. The seller commissioned one of the Stock and Station Agencies to manage the whole thing for a percentage of the sale price. The seller usually provided an 18-gallon keg of beer, from which glasses were made available free of charge to the patrons. Often, some women's auxiliary group catered the food to raise money for their programs. [When Mum was retired, she and her sister Vera visited numerous clearing sales, not to buy anything, but just to have a look around at so-and-so's house and outbuildings, and to have a free beer and lunch.] These days, sales are much more formal with intending bidders having to register and get some sort of bidding card. And it's been a long while since a beer keg was provided.

The House

The house was large, built of local stone, and faced north. However, we never used the front entrance. Instead, the track coming in from the road ran behind the house to the garage and on to the outbuildings. So, we entered through a backdoor into a short passage. To the left was a narrow passage that led to the small bathroom, which had a wood-fired chip heater for making hot water. Before the bathroom was a doorway to the right that led to the large pantry where all the store-bought (an American term) and homemade things were stored.

To the right of the entrance passage was the doorway into the long, narrow kitchen. First came the kitchen table (we had no separate dining room). And as well as having regular chairs to sit on, on the long side back against the wall was a 3-person wooden bench that we called a form. The sink and some low cupboards were midway down on the right. Opposite the sink was a wood stove with hot-water storage tank on the right side. Once liquid gas in tanks became available, we had a gas stove mounted on a table to the left of the sink. This had two burners and a small oven and was connected to a large gas cylinder by a pipe that ran through a hole in the outside wall. The other door of the kitchen led to the verandah outside.

Going straight ahead in the back entrance, led one to the large lounge room, which contained a fireplace that we used each autumn (US: fall) and winter. On the left wall was a large, high sideboard, a nice piece of furniture in which Mum kept her good china and cutlery, and fine linen. On top on the left sat a set of Arthur Mee encyclopedias in a wooden stand that brother Ken had made in woodworking class at school. On the right top sat a Kreisler Radiogram (combined AM radio and record player). It was powered by a huge, rectangular 9-volt battery, and played records at a number of different speeds. We had some 45-rpm singles and 33-rpm albums. I don't recall we ever had any 78-rpm records or a player for such. Under the window stood Mum's Singer treadle sewing machine. In the left corner was a door that led to the bathroom.

Along the right wall of the lounge room was the door to the girls' bedroom. Sister Pat slept there and Dawn too when she visited us. For a term or so, soon after we arrived at Nadda, the Nadda schoolteacher boarded with us and shared Pat's room.

Running towards the front of the house from the lounge was a passage on the left of which was Mum and Dad's bedroom. My bedroom was on the right. Each of the three main bedrooms had a fireplace although we never used them as such. Each fireplace had a long mantelpiece. The one over the lounge room fire held Mum's chiming clock.

The ceilings were quite high, which helped keep the inside cool in summer. A verandah ran almost around three sides of the house and on its edge was the toilet, which had a flush system out to a septic tank. The toilet was a popular place for me to sit and read while Mum was waiting for me to come and dry the dishes. If I waited long enough, she'd either run out of room or patience, and she'd start drying them herself.

The roof was made of corrugated, galvanized-iron sheets. [When I've mentioned this to my American friends, they've often asked, "Isn't it noisy when it rains?" To which I reply, "We didn't get much of that in a 10-inch rainfall area, and when it did come, we were more than happy to hear it!"]

Facing the back entrance, two rooms had been added on to the right. Adjoining the kitchen, but only reachable from its own two outside doors was the laundry. This housed the washing machine, wash troughs, and hand-operated wringer. I remember a later-model washer had a kick-start motor like a small motorcycle. Hot water was boiled in a copper—a big copper tub that hung over a wood fire inside a cast-iron frame—in the back yard. Against one wall stood a very large, old clothes closet whose side panels had large rectangular holes cut in them. These were covered over with fly wire (US: wire screening), which allowed air to circulate freely in and out of the cupboard. This is where fresh and cured meat was hung; we called it a meat safe. Next to it, was a large, wooden table on which we cured hams and bacons for smoking, put meat through a grinder, and filled sausage into casings (made from cleaned animal intestines). On another table sat the separator, used to separate the cream from milk.

The final room was the older boys' bedroom where Brother Terry lived the five years I was there, and where Ken stayed when he came home. It had one door, to the backside of the house and I'm sure the room was quite a bit smaller than the one I had all to myself. I remember being in there with Terry when he had a crystal radio set. Then later, he had a small portable radio and eventually a small reel-to-reel tape recorder.

Whenever we had a house with a verandah, we always had a single bed out there where one could lie and read or sleep on a hot summer's night. I also slept out there some winter nights, wrapped up "as snug as a bug in a rug" with dog Ringa lying down near my feet. I recall that he was not at all fond of lightening or thunder, and when they occurred, he wanted to get in bed with me. I remember that some of our heavy blankets were really 180-pound wheat bags sewn inside cloth covers.

One fine day, I got it in my head to paint my name on the outside windowsill of my bedroom. [It must have seemed like a good idea at the time!] 30 years later, when I visited the farm on a trip back from the US, there it still was, "Rex J" in large, white letters!

The Outbuildings

A private dirt track came from the public dirt road, on the south side of the farmhouse. To the left was the back of the house, which we used as our main entrance. To the right was the stand-alone garage. Right next to that was the doghouse, and behind were the remains of an old mallee stump wood heap. Next up on the left was an overhead diesel tank and a ground-level petrol tank. Opposite and a bit further down was a long, stone implement shed with several walled bays and a galvanized-iron extension on the eastern end that covered the header (US: combine harvester).

Opposite the implement shed was a shed that housed bags and bins of grain for feeding domestic animals. On the south end of that was an open-fronted blacksmith shop. Although we didn't use it as such—there was no forge or bellows—that's where Dad kept most of his tools. It had a dirt floor. Beyond the grain shed was the duck pond and chook house (US: chicken coop) and large, fenced-in run. Opposite was a large stone water tank with surrounding horse trough. Another small shed was next to that, and that held stuff for the pigs, which were in large sties behind the tank.

After the implement shed, the road through the home yard forked with the left branch going to the shearing shed, and the right one going out towards an area of the farm called "Hollywood" for some unknown reason. (Located there was another wood-and-iron shed, set off the ground and insulated to keep mice out.) On the south end of the shearing shed was the cow barn with feed stalls.


We had limited refrigerator space and no freezer.

Back then, farmers were self-sufficient in every way. And being descended from German stock, the men in my family all learned how to kill and butcher animals and poultry. And as we always ran sheep, there was no shortage of lamb, or more probably, mutton. [I ate so much of it that, to this day, I am not fond of lamb or even the smell of it cooking!] Many times, I helped Dad kill and butcher a sheep; however, I never did get to do it myself. On the other hand, Ken started out butchering quite young and got very good at it. Terry learned too but didn't get too much practice before he left the farm.

We had a smokehouse, made from an old, galvanized rainwater tank. A door was cut into the side to allow one to climb inside, and a small hole was cut into one side next to the bottom. That hole was connected to an upside-down metal, sheep water trough that formed a sort-of tunnel that looked a bit like the entrance to an igloo. Near the open end of this tunnel, we built a fire and fed it with sawdust, so it would smolder and generate a lot of smoke over a number of days. The smoke went along the tunnel and into the tank where hams, bacons, and sausage links were hanging on wooden racks. Prior to smoking, the hams and bacon had to be "cured" with a brine solution, and I often operated the hand pump used to inject that solution into the meat.

Mum often used an axe (US: ax) to cut the head off a chicken and scolded the chicken in boiling water to pluck it then dress it. When we needed a large number prepared, there was a production line: someone killed them, the next person dunked them in the open copper of boiling water just long enough but no longer, the next person plucked, the next one took out the innards keeping the choice bits, and finally, I singed off the pin feathers over a flame burning in a metal lid containing methylated spirits.

We had a large vegetable garden and quite a few fruit trees and grape vines. I remember helping Mum preserve (US: can) fruit and vegetables. As my hand was quite small, I could get it completely inside the tall glass jars. Later, when I got bigger, we both slid fruit halves down a ruler to put them in place. Mum made up a large supply of sugar water, which we used to top-up each jar before applying a thick rubber ring, metal lid, and metal clip. A dozen or so were then put into the Vacola preserving unit, which stood on the wood stove in the kitchen. We also made lots of jam, especially apricot.

In the case of vegetables, I recall helping Mum fill jars with sliced tomatoes. Oftentimes, she added in some sort of pasta tubes and pieces.

Like most good German stock, my family was right into dilled cucumbers and cauliflower pickles, neither of which I cared for. For that, we needed a supply of dill (which we got from somebody who grew it) and fresh grapevine leaves.

Whenever we had dairy cows, there was fresh milk twice a day. When we didn't, we made milk from powder that came in large tins. We only had cream when we were milking.

I vaguely recall turning the handle of a butter churn, but that was early on. We always had chicken eggs, and Mum kept the excess for up to six months in a cool, dry place by putting a layer of Keep-Egg preservative on each one. These eggs were only good for cooking/baking, not for frying and such.

As explained above, Thursday was Market Day, and that's when farmers went to town to do their shopping. We bought the following: salt, spices, sugar, flour (back then, Loxton had a big flour mill), tea, and coffee. Regarding coffee, unlike the US, Australia did not use ground coffee. Instead, until instant coffee was invented, we poured boiling water onto a teaspoon of coffee-and-chicory essence, which came from Bickford's and was in a tall, dark bottle. Tea was in 1-pound packets and was usually Red-Signal or Green-Signal, with an Indian brand name of Amgoorie. [A 100 or more of these packets were packed into a tea chest, a thin plywood cube that was much sought after for all sorts of uses, including storing clothes away from silverfish.]

Our bread came on the train several times a week; I don't recall Mum ever making any at home, although she made plenty of cakes and biscuits (US: cookies).

Like all rural residents, we shopped at our local store, where we kept an account that was paid at the end of each month. [There are almost none of those country stores left now in the Riverland area.]

The Town of Nadda

Calling Nadda a town is being generous. Although a township had been surveyed, when I lived in the area Nadda consisted of a combination general store and post office with a house attached, some outbuildings, the public Institute (hall, that is), in which school was held, two tennis courts, and a railway siding. [In much earlier times, there was an Australian Rules Football oval.]

The store-cum-post office was owned by the Zimmermann family, and the wife ran the manual telephone exchange.

Nadda had a tennis team in the Browns Well competition.

Although the railway siding was unmanned, a train with freight wagons, one or two passenger carriages, and guard's van (US: caboose), came through several times a week. Machinery and fertilizer were shipped in, and bags of grain were shipped out. A locked box was used to hold the mailbag that the postmistress put there for collection and recovery. Bread also came several times a week with unsliced "sandwich" and "hi-top" loaves roughly sewn into one or more 180-pound wheat bags. At one end of the rail yard stood a locked phone booth that train staff could use. The school was just across the road, and we boys hid our fags (Aussie slang for cigarettes) around the back of this booth. One year, the grain trains were so long and heavy that we put pennies (large coins Australia used before decimal currency came along in 1966) on the rail to see how thin and spread-out they'd get when 100–200 trucks of wheat had run over them.

The Town of Taplan

Before bulk handling of grain and silos (US: grain elevators) were introduced, Taplan had huge wheat stacks where many thousands of 180-lb (82 kg) bags were piled high. In the railway yard, there were several "ganger's" houses, which were occupied by railway workers from time to time.

Mr. and Mrs. Hammond owned the post office with a small shop. In 1965, I was in First Year at Loxton High School, but unlike the other local kids, and like Terry and Pat before me, I boarded in Loxton during the week and rode the bus in from Taplan on Monday mornings and back home on Friday nights. Sometime in that year, the main street in Taplan was paved and there was a lot of large gravel left lying along its edges, including right in front of the post office. Local identity, Gus Vogelsang, a friendly chap, was "deaf in one ear and couldn't hear out of the other." He drove an original Model T Ford, and he wore an old felt hat. As kids, we were dropped off the bus at the Post Office and we waited there to be picked up to go home. As Gus climbed up the steep steps to the Post Office front, one of us boys put some pieces of gravel on the top of his hat without his knowing. When he went inside, he always took off his hat for Mrs. Hammond, and the stones went flying on the floor. She'd get cross, but he always laughed it off.

Just east of the railway crossing, on Hampel's farm, there was a sheaf-tossing rig where competitors used to try and out-do each other by tossing a sheaf of wheat over a bar. Although I never saw it in action, I understood that much fun was had by all competing.

Bob and Dot Lindsay ran the rabbit-buying business and had a refrigerated chiller out back. In the later few years I lived at Nadda, I trapped rabbits on a regular basis, and Bob would come by before I went to school to buy what I'd caught. For a young boy, there was serious money to be made from rabbits. And from time-to-time, we'd go spotlighting, catching up to 100 pair a night. Bob's chiller was also the place to store an 18-gallon keg of beer until the evening of an after-football or 21st-birthday party.

[Taplan has its 100th anniversary in 2013.]

Church and Sunday School

My family attended St. John's Lutheran Church in Taplan, usually at 10 am on Sunday mornings. It was a nice stone building with pine trees shading the west-side parking area. At that time, each service saw 20–30 adults and children. Most weeks we had a lay reader; oftentimes it was Gus Zimmermann. [Gus was one of four bachelor-and-spinster siblings who lived together their whole lives. The two sisters taught Sunday School.] Sometimes, the lay reader was my brother Ken. Mum sometimes played the organ. Once a month, a Lutheran pastor conducted the service, usually with Holy Communion.

Back then, the Australian Lutheran Church was divided into two distinct groups: The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia (ELCA) and the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia (UELCA). Taplan was UELCA, and I well remember that each Sunday, the Nitschke family—who lived near the church—drove past it on their way to the ELCA church in the neighboring town of Nangari.

Early on, Sunday School was held in the church vestry. However, during my time there, the church bought a small, transportable building for use as Sunday-School rooms.

Each year, we had a Sunday-School picnic, and the ones I remember were held in the mallee scrub on Sunset Station through the border in the state of Victoria. We had footraces, egg-and-spoon races, three-legged races, sack races, a potato race, and other events. Winners, second place, and third place got a silver coin, probably a shilling, sixpence, and three pence, respectively.

Every Christmas, we performed in a Nativity Play, and all Sunday-School students received a book of fiction. [I still have several of mine.]

The Graue family went to that church, and the father, Elmore, drove what I recall being a Ford Customline car. In any event, what I remember about him is that he was the only person I ever saw that wore a car coat, a holdover from the days of early autos when the doors and windows didn't seal particularly well, and the dust came inside.

Taplan also has a cemetery. I don't recall ever having attended a burial there, but a number of my relatives are interred there, including my paternal grandparents.

[The Taplan church closed in late 2000, and was offered for sale.]

Sports and Social Activities

One of the places I went to often was the Taplan football oval. Ken was secretary for some years until he moved away. He and Terry both played.

A retired couple, Jack and Nita Hamdorf, lived opposite the entrance to the football oval, and on home-game days, Jack was the man in the suit at the entrance with his leather cash bag collecting the entrance fees. When I was 10 or 11, I served as boundary umpire, for which I received 5 shillings (50 cents), a game.

Taplan won the Browns Well League competition two consecutive years during which I lived in the area.

About once a month, after a home game, the club hosted a pasty supper and dance in the Taplan Institute. Kids were invited too, and it was in that era that at about age 10, I learned the Military Two-Step, the Evening Three-Step, the Progressive Barn Dance, and various waltzes. After every three or so dances, Floor-Speed (a commercially packaged kind of sawdust) was sprinkled on the dance floor and us kids pulled around a heavy sack to re-polish the surface. Ken was often the Master-of-Ceremonies (MC) and he even had a set of fancy dancing shoes, called pumps. I seem to recall that no alcohol was allowed within 100 yards of the hall, and that there was no shortage of beer bottles being passed around outside. At the end of the evening, there was a late-night supper (US: desert and hot drinks), the highlight of which I recall being cream puffs.

While the men played football on Saturday afternoons in winter, the women and girls played netball right next door.

Although Taplan had a tennis team in earlier days, it no longer existed in 1961.

Each year, the Taplan Strawberry Fete was held in the institute.

From time to time, a traveling show came to town. The one I remember was the Harold Raymond Concert. Harold was blind and played violin, and he sure could make that fiddle "talk."


Even though I was one of five children, I was five years younger than the next oldest, and for the most part, three of my siblings lived there not at all or only on occasion. As such, I really was like an only child. The nearest neighbors with a kid of my age lived about two miles away.

So, what did I do for fun? A popular activity for rural boys was bird nesting, which involved the climbing of trees and the taking and blowing of their eggs (removing the contents through a small hole by blowing) from bird's nests to make an egg collection. Sparrows were rife, and Dad encouraged me to destroy their nests at every opportunity. Many nests were at the top of stone walls of various implement sheds just beneath the corrugated-iron roofs. One summer's day, I put my hand in such a nest to remove any eggs when something strange touched me. Then out popped the head of a rather large snake that had somehow gotten up to there to eat the eggs. After that, it took me a while to get up the courage to put my hand back into that kind of nest. Magpies didn't take kindly to having their nests robbed, and they would often swoop down on the heads of anyone climbing up a tree to their nest. And their beaks were sharp. Other birds that had nests were crows, tomtits, and pigeons.

We had a large stone tank, which was surrounded by a wide, stone horse trough. In the summer, we could sort-of swim in the tank. One summer, I took swimming lessons in Loxton.

Terry had outgrown his Meccano construction set, so I inherited that, and I loved it. [I would have absolutely loved Lego if it had have existed back then!] As well as the usual metal struts and plates, it had a clockwork "engine." I also collected stamps and coins and listened to several kids' programs on the radio. I loved to read comics, mostly WWII Commando, The Phantom, and stuff from Disney. From time to time, I built a fort or a treehouse.

To earn some serious pocket money, I trapped rabbits, although I seemed to have a problem remembering exactly where I'd set all of them, so sometimes I came home one or two short. When I had traps set, I had to get up early and go around them, especially in summer, to make sure the rabbits didn't die of heat. On school days, this meant a very early start.

I also shot a .22 rifle at birds. At that time, we had an 11-shot Browning automatic that one loaded from the back of the stock up a long cavity.

One summer, before Ken was married, I stayed with him in his old caravan in Peebinga, burning brush and porcupine bushes on newly cleared ground where he share-farmed.

The Big Car Crash

It was 1962, and it was a Thursday, Market Day, and when I got home from school, I was on my own. No doubt, I had chores to do, but then it got dark, and still no one came. Quite some time later, a neighbor came to tell me that my parents had been in a car accident, and that I should go with him to his family's place nearby to stay the night. I did.

As it happened, Dad had driven the Ford Zephyr right up the back of someone's truck on the dirt road not far from the turn off to Nadda, a bit more than three miles from home. One corner of the truck's tray top came through the passenger-side of the windscreen and went into Mum's neck. The accident occurred more than 25 miles from the nearest town and ambulance service (in Loxton), and by the time someone got to a telephone and notified the police and ambulance, and they arrived on-site, Mum had lost a lot of blood.

Mum spent quite some weeks in Loxton hospital. A hole was bored through her wrist bone, and that arm was hung up via a metal piece through that hole, attached to a rail over her bed. She never was able to lift that arm very high again and was permanently disabled in other ways. It certainly was a tragic event. Many years later, she told me that Dad was driving drunk!

One or other young women lived with us to help Mum after she came home from the hospital.

At that time, we had an old pickup truck, which we used to drive to Loxton to visit Mum in hospital. One night as Dad and I were driving in, a wheel came off the truck and rolled off into the dark along the side of the road. Some of the bolts had sheared off the hub. I found the very-hot wheel off in the bushes. Somehow, we must have repaired things to limp into town, but I have no recollection of how.


While living at Nadda, I attended Primary School at Nadda then at Taplan. (See my essay from July 2020, "School Days: Part 1" for the details.) In my final year on the farm, I attended Loxton High School. (See my essay from July 2020, "School Days: Part 2" for the details.)


Stay tuned for Part 3, which covers my life in the village of Pata, and then on the outskirts of Loxton.

My Formative Years: Part 1

© 2015, 2020 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.

After having worked in various laboring jobs, my father, Wally, decided to try his hand at dry-land farming. As such, he signed a 5-year agreement with a Dr. Lyons to share farm (US: share crop) Dr. Lyons' 4,000-acre farm at Nadda, on the southeast edge of the Riverland district of South Australia. We moved there around April/May 1961, when I was seven years old. My dad was 37, my mum (US: Mom), Esther, was 44, my oldest brother Ken (18) and sister Dawn (17) had long ago left home, my brother Terry was 14, and my sister Pat was 12.

Today, whenever I hear a local farmer here in Northern Virginia say their farm is 50, 75, or 100 acres, for example, I smile and say, "You call that a farm! Down Under, my dog was kept in a pen bigger than that!"

This is the first part of a series of essays about my life on that Australian farm and in several other places from 1961–1970, from age 7–16.

The Farm

The official name of the property was Border Park, and its eastern boundary was the state border (US: state line) between our state, South Australia, and Victoria. Across the border lay a very large (as in tens of thousands of acres) sheep property called Sunset Station. Between the two was a substantial fence that stood about six feet high, which was originally intended to be kangaroo- and emu-proof. [Today, that station is Murray-Sunset National Park.] Running from the west through the farm to the state border was the dog-proof fence (not to be confused with the Dingo Fence, which was much further north).

The farm was three miles from Nadda, eight miles from Taplan, and 30 miles from the county seat, Loxton, in the heart of the Murray Mallee. Most of the farm was in the southeastern corner of the local government area then known as the Loxton District Council. The rest was on the other side of the dog-proof fence, in Browns Well District Council. [Today, the former Councils (US: counties) of Loxton, Browns Well, and Waikerie have combined to become the Loxton and Waikerie District Council.]

Like all the other farms in the area, the business of the farm was to grow wheat and barley, and to raise sheep for wool and meat. The average annual rainfall was 10 inches (250 mm), which made it marginal country for cereal growing, and a lot of fertilizer was used. (See Goyder's Line.) On average, two out of each five years were droughts. There was no irrigation. However, we did have a public water supply (from Loxton's pumping station on the Murray River), so pipes ran to each paddock (US: field) to provide water to sheep troughs. [Significant parts of neighboring Browns Well Council relied on (sometimes salty) water pumped from the extensive artesian basin via windmills.]

Much of the farmland in the Council area had been cleared of mallee trees many years earlier, so was easily tilled by farm implements. [This was in contrast to parts of the neighboring Browns Well Council area, which were still being cleared by bulldozer and chain, and fire. Brother Ken's first-time share farming took place in Peebinga some 30 miles to the south in that Council area on land that was known as new ground, having just been cleared of mallee scrub.]

Most farms were about the same size as ours, and the distance between the houses on neighboring properties was usually one or two miles. In our case, we had two neighbors: a cousin, Margareta, and her husband Cliff and their young children, and the Cockshell family, who's youngest, Gary, was a year older than me.

The Annual Cereal-Growing Cycle

Each year, approximately 2,000 acres were planted in wheat and barley. To raise a crop, a farmer had to make multiple passes over the same land: till the soil at least once, sow the seed, spray with chemicals, and harvest. For 2,000 acres, that requires a lot of time and diesel fuel.

As mentioned earlier, the low rainfall and poor soil were not especially conducive to the growing of cereal crops. As a result, a significant amount of superphosphate fertilizer (or more simply, super) had to be applied. Prior to the availability of bulk handling equipment, this was all done by the manual handling of 187-pound bags that were delivered to Nadda by train from the state capital, 160 miles away.

Farmers kept seed from each harvest to use to plant the following year's crops. A South Australian entrepreneur, Alf Hannaford, developed a machine that pickled this seed grain in order to prepare it for seeding. This was done by machines mounted on trucks that moved from farm to farm around the state. The plant operator generally stayed overnight with the farmer.

Many kinds of weeds grew, especially turnip and saffron thistles, and if they weren't dealt with during the growing stage, they flowered and were mixed in with the grain during harvest. [If grain containing black saffron seeds was milled, the resulting flour would be substandard, thus reducing the grain's value.] Of course, weeds stole moisture from the crops.

More than a little crop was lost through pests, such as rabbits, birds, and in some years, mice. In some areas, farmers laid poisoned carrots to kill the rabbits. An extreme measure was the introduction of myxomatosis to the rabbit population, which resulted in their going blind and starving. Another source of damage was herds of emus wading through a crop, knocking it down.

Grain was harvested by a header (US: combine harvester) pulled behind a tractor, and, until the introduction of bulk handling, the grain was offloaded into 180-pound bags. The process of carrying such a bag on one's shoulder was known as lumping. Bags had to be sown shut by hand, and that was an art in itself, especially as each bag had to be rammed as full as possible. This was done with a bag needle, bag-sewing twine, and a tall, metal funnel rammer. [I remember Grandpa Jaeschke sewing bags for us one year.] To keep bags off the ground (where they might get damp) they were stood on top of logs, called dunnage. These bags were loaded into a truck using an elevator and were taken to the train station where they were offloaded for transportation to the state capital, Adelaide. Bags not loaded immediately on a train car were arranged into stacks inside mouse-proof walls and were often stacked 50 feet high! With the advent of bulk handling, each farmer had a bulk bin on the back of a truck, which was filled directly from the header using a belt-driven auger. When full, the truck was driven to the nearest silo (US: grain elevator) where it was dumped. Our nearest silo was at Meribah, some 7–8 miles away. Some farmers had field bins, large bulk bins on wheels that could be used for temporary storage in the field while another person drove the truck bulk bin to the silo.

It's important to know that there could be at least two droughts in each five-year period. This means that after spending all that money on fuel, fertilizer, and chemicals, the harvest might be less than the seed used to begin with, or even none at all. And unlike Europe and the US, Australia has no history of farm subsidies.

Back then, state and/or federal government agencies had a monopoly on the purchase of cereal grain. So much so, that it was illegal to sell most wheat and barley privately. Under this system, growers were paid a big part of the selling price at the time of sale and then smaller, partial payments over the following four years. This helped with planning and cash management across the drought years. [For better or worse, that system is long gone.]

Domestic Animals and Pets

At any time, we probably had 500–1,500 sheep, and these needed regular attention, especially in summer when blowflies would strike them by laying eggs in wet and manure-stained skin around their rear end. For this reason, lambs had their tails cut off quite short within days of birth. And apart from annual shearing for the wool, sheep were crutched, which involved clipping the wool from around their hindquarters. I remember helping with the shearing, sweeping up the fleeces from the floor, packing them into large bales, and filling and emptying yards of sheep using our sheep dog Ringa, a male Border Collie. The shearing stand was driven by a petrol (US: gasoline) engine that powered two stations, one per shearer. The farmer's wife delivered morning and afternoon tea to the shed, and everyone drank hot tea even in the hot weather! It was backbreaking work with a good shearer shearing 200 sheep per day at a rate of £10 (AU$20) per 100 sheep. The wool was sorted on a large table and then pressed in a bale using a mechanical ratchet with long metal handles. Finally, each bale had "Border Park" stenciled on one end. Each worker in the shed had access to one or more water bags, canvas bags with ceramic spouts, which kept the water cool. Unlike cereal grain, the sale of wool was not controlled by a government agency. Instead, it was handled by a number of Stock and Station Agents, of which the area had offices for three companies at that time.

Another sheep-related activity was treatment with chemicals to get rid of lice on their skin. Traditionally, this was done by running them through and down into a sheep dip, a deep channel filled with chemical-laced water through which they had to swim. This was known as dipping, and the sheep dogs were thrown in as well. Later, the same affect was achieved using spray guns mounted over, under, and around a pen of sheep.

At times, we had 4–8 cows that we milked by hand each morning and night. I only milked in the afternoons and, as my cow, Peggy, stood still anywhere without having to be tethered, I milked her out in the yard. I recall our having an engine-powered milking machine at some stage. Now after the morning milking, the cows were let out to graze all day in pasture, so each afternoon I had to fetch them with the dog. That often involved walking a couple of miles. Once the cows were milked, the cream had to be removed by a separator, a hand-turned machine made by Alfa-Laval that was very intricate. After each use it had to be completely broken down and sterilized, and that task took as least as long as the separating itself. We used the milk in the house and any excess was fed to the pigs. One way of earning money was to sell cream, and one could buy a stainless-steel cream can for that purposes. However, without refrigeration, this had to be kept in a cool place until the can was full and then taken to the railway station for shipment to an agent some 60 miles away.

We raised pigs, and as I got older, I got more involved in feeding them and cleaning their water troughs. I found them to be very intelligent animals and I enjoyed working with them.

Another chore I recall having was feeding the chooks (Aussie slang for hens) and collecting their eggs. From time to time, we raised new broods of chickens—which arrived on the train as day-olds in a cardboard box with air holes—under a heated device called a brooder. Like cream, eggs could be sent by train, for sale, and they were packed in large wooden crates with 30 to a layer. I also remember Mum delivering eggs to clients each time she went to Loxton. Hens that got behind in their laying duties finished up in the cooking pot.

Near the henhouse, there was a pen with a small cement-lined pond in which we sometimes kept ducks.

At various times, we had one or more farm cats, which lived in the outbuildings where they had to fend for themselves. Occasionally, we gave them a saucer of milk.

As I mentioned earlier, we had a sheep dog, Ringa, and he was my good friend.

Many people kept caged birds and we often had a budgie, short for budgerigar (US: parakeet).

Each time I've seen an episode of the popular TV series All Creatures Great and Small, I've been amused as how the farmers call in a vet for all kinds of domestic-animal situations. As best as I can recall, in all the years we had animals and birds, not once was calling in a vet or taking an animal to a vet ever considered an option. Farmers simply expected to care of their livestock themselves. In fact, I doubt there was even a vet in the whole county!

Wildlife, Game, and Hunting

The neighboring Sunset Station provided a great habitat for wildlife, and whenever these animals could get through or over the fence separating that property from ours, they did. After all, we had juicy cereal crops to eat! The two large kinds of animals that did this were kangaroos and emus.

As emus are diurnal, they are rarely seen out at night. Often, they moved in large groups and with their large size and very strong legs, they could knock down a large swath of cereal crop as they waded through a paddock. Of course, chasing them through a crop made the damage even worse. When we could get up close to them by chasing them in an open paddock in a ute, short for utility vehicle (US: coupe utility, such as the Chevrolet El Camino), we killed them with a 12-guage shotgun. Back home, we cut them up with an axe and fed them raw to the pigs, which loved them. However, due to the presence of parasites in and on the meat, we had to remove the bones and feathers from the pigsties within a few days.

While kangaroos were sometimes seen during the day, they seemed to be more common at night. Most years, rabbits were also plentiful, and I earned non-trivial pocket money by trapping them. Bob Lindsay ran the local rabbit chiller (a refrigerated room), and he'd come by early each morning I had traps set, to buy my rabbits. Occasionally, we saw a hare or a fox.

Hunting was done at night, from the back of a ute, with a spotlight powered from the ute's 12-volt battery. This was known as spotlighting. It was best done on nights without a moon. The idea was to drive around looking for kangaroos, hares, foxes, or rabbits. If a kangaroo was spotted and it sat still and it was no more than a hundred yards or so away, the ute was stopped and the shooter used a high-powered rifle. Oftentimes it was a .303 army-surplus gun that could be bought quite cheaply (for less cost than a box of bullets, actually). [In previous times, people used to have one of a number of breeds of hunting dogs, which chased down kangaroos.] Foxes were chased and shot with a shotgun, which required us to get quite close; likewise, for hares. In the case of rabbits, when they stopped, using a .22 rifle a shooter shot into the ground very near the rabbit's head, which deafened temporarily the rabbit while a runner ran in the dark and came in from the side to grab the rabbit and to wring its neck. By not shooting the rabbit directly there was no damage to the carcass, which was essential if it was to be eaten or sold. The rule was that once a shooter had shot, they never shot again unless the runner called them to do so. That way, the runner was not in danger of being shot (which could easily happen when a trigger-happy guest was invited to join the hunting party). I very much appreciated this rule, as I was most often the runner.

Chasing a fox or hare involved very quick changes of direction and driving fast in loops and circles. My Dad, who drove the ute, had the uncanny ability to know exactly where he was in the paddock even on the darkest night, as it was important to know where the fast-moving ute was in relation to fences and rabbit burrows.

When we killed kangaroos, we took them home and after cutting them up roughly with an axe, we cooked them in one or more oil drums around which was burned a fire of mallee-tree stumps. The pigs loved the resulting kangaroo soup/stew. Occasionally, we ate a kangaroo steak, which was fried in a pan along with bay leaves. [At that time, kangaroo meat was declared unfit for human consumption, and when hunted for sale, was used in pet food. Many years later, it was offered for sale to humans in butcher shops.]

Occasionally, we'd see a wedge-tail eagle, and even one of their nests. They had a huge wingspan and were capable of carrying off a newborn lamb, as were foxes. As such, the farmers in the local region formed the Border Fox Club to which they could each pay a certain amount for each 100 sheep they owned. Then when they killed an eagle or a fox, they presented the eagle's head and legs or the fox's scalp to the club's secretary/treasurer, who paid them a bounty.

From time to time, feral goats passed through the area, especially in the dense bush of Sunset Station.

There was no shortage of birds, the most common being crows, magpies, and galahs, the latter being a large pink and grey parrot. [Apparently, at one time, someone considered them rather stupid, and the term galah entered the vernacular in that context, as in, "He's a bloody galah!"] Because they could be taught to talk, it was not uncommon to find galahs as pets. Another, more beautiful, cockatoo was the Major Mitchell. Except in certain years (possibly wet ones), these were far less common.

I remember one year that we had a budgie plague. And although budgies sold in pet shops came in a variety of colors, these wild ones were always green and yellow.

Birds in the area nested in open or closed nests made in trees, or in the hollows of tree brunches and trunks. The Murray Magpie made an open mud nest on a tree branch, and it was not unusual to see emu feathers embedded in the mud. Birds from the kingfisher family lived in burrows, usually near bodies of water. One particular member of that family is the kookaburra, also known as the laughing jackass. [If you watch old movies set in the jungle, you will often hear kookaburra calls despite the fact that those birds don't live in such places. It just makes for an impressive noise.]

A rare bird was the Malleefowl, which made a nest on the ground and buried its eggs. I don't believe I ever saw such a bird in the wild, but I did see several nests, which had grown very large over many years of use.

Personal Vehicles

When we moved to the farm, we had a Ford Zephyr. However, that was destroyed in a car crash (as will be described later). I also remember a large pickup truck (perhaps a Dodge or Chevrolet).

As best as I can recall, after that we had a sedan, possibly a Holden FB. The reason I remember that car is one day Dad, Mum, and I drove it to Adelaide, where we were involved in an accident. I must have been sitting in the front either in the passenger seat or between Dad and Mum. I was taken by ambulance to the Adelaide Children's Hospital where I was treated for an obvious injury, a gashed mouth caused by glass from the broken windscreen (US: windshield). When the Doctor asked me if I hurt anywhere else, I just happened to mention that my right shoulder was a bit sore. Once they got my jumper (US: sweater) and shirt off they found a good-sized gash there where the rear-vision mirror stem had penetrated. So, they stitched up both wounds.

After one especially good harvest, one day, Dad came home with this enormous, light-blue, 4-door Chevrolet Bel Air, direct from America. It was one of only two in that area. I expect that he really couldn't afford it, but that was Dad being Dad. Immediately, that car had an unexpected impact. At the front of the garage sat the 32-volt home-generating plant, but as the new car was so long, it wouldn't fit into the shed. As a result, the generator was moved to the front garden into a shed that was erected for that purpose. [In recent years, my sister and I found that we both remembered the night we thought we were going to die in that car. It was the days of 6 o'clock closing for drinking at bars and clubs, with the wife and kids sitting outside in the car waiting for the husband to come out at 6 pm and go home. This night, Dad had met up with a former neighbor who asked Dad to bring his family home for the evening meal. As that was on our way home, Dad agreed. However, some hours later, the two men had a major disagreement (about what, I have no idea), and we left with Dad in a vile temper (which, unfortunately, was one of his trademarks). Of course, sensible people know not to drive when they are very angry and/or have been drinking, but drive we did. And not only did we go fast on the dirt roads all the way home, but once when I looked over the front seat, I saw the speedometer read 100 mph; I kid you not!]

After a year or so, my guess is that Dad couldn't keep up the payments, and he traded the Chevy in for a new, smaller, cheaper, maroon Holden HD hydromatic. It was one of the first models to have an automatic transmission. [In the early 1900s, Mr. Holden had a coach-building business, and when General Motors (GM) opened up operations in Australia, they bought out Mr. Holden's business, becoming General Motors Holden (GMH). They developed their first Australian model, the Holden FX, in 1948.]

When we moved to Nadda, brother Ken owned a Ford Prefect. That was his first car, and it was light brown. Then he bought one of the most popular cars GMH ever made, a 1964 Holden EH 179 sedan. A unique feature he purchased with it was that in the center of and on top of the dash, there was a (rather large) transistor radio that could be removed and used as a standalone portable that ran off its own batteries when disconnected from the car. It was in this car that I had my first driving lesson, and I remember well sitting on a pillow looking through the steering wheel over the dashboard as we drove on the main dirt road near the farm. It had a column-mounted, manual, 3-speed gearshift (US: stick shift) and I used only first and second gears. I must have been 11, which is about the age when big boys started operating equipment around the farm.

Brother Terry got his first car, a used, bluish Holden FB. He mostly drove into Loxton to work and to football practice. Then he bought a new 1965 Holden HD sedan. It was light green and had what we called wheel spats, semi-circular covers over the back wheels, which were "all the rage" back then.

The Fuel Supply

The farm tractors ran on diesel, which was stored in an overhead tank near the house and filled into tractors by gravity. We could also take 44-gallon drums (US: 55-gallon, as the US gallon is only 80% of an Imperial gallon) of it on the back of the ute out to where tractors were working and pump it by hand.

We also had a ground-level petrol tank with a hand pump. All car, truck, grain elevator, and shearing engines ran on that.

We used kerosene to run refrigerators and to help light wood fires.

The use of propane gas in cylinders was new, and, eventually, we used it for a small kitchen stove.

Although a great deal of land had been cleared many years earlier, there were still large heaps of mallee-tree stumps in the area, and these were cut by hand axe and used in wood stoves and lounge room fireplaces. [In the late 1990's, during a houseboat trip with my Mum and all my siblings, Mum told us that when Terry was young, he told her, "You only had me to chop wood!"] I put in my time chopping stumps.

Utilities, Appliances, and Services

As I mentioned earlier, we had mains water, which we referred to as river water. Most buildings in the state had, and still have, gutters and rainwater tanks. In my day, tanks were circular and made of galvanized iron. [These days, they are often green, plastic, and cube shaped.] It was common to have a leak or overflow at some point near the top of such tanks, and we had a passionfruit vine growing to take advantage of the drips. Some older farms (including my maternal grandparents') had cement-lined underground water tanks and an old-fashioned hand pump.

Rural electricity was produced on-site by a petrol engine that charged a series of batteries to provide 32-volt DC power. This was really only good enough for lighting although a few 32-volt appliances could be found. We got our first TV while at Nadda, and that was 240-volt AC. As such, we needed an inverter. While the batteries stored enough power for several days of lighting, the generator engine had to be running to watch TV. Instead of using a petrol motor, some people had what we called a free-light system, a 3-bladed propeller high up on a tower that was driven by the wind.

Rural electrification came to the area in the early 1960's, but property owners had to pay a significant amount per pole to have it routed across their property to the house and outbuildings. It did not come to our house. In any event, it magically worked on a single-wire system, and was 240 volts, 50HZ (unlike the US, which is 110 volts, 60HZ).

Each room in the house had a light bulb set in or hanging from the ceiling, and these were switched on and off via a pull-cord that hung just inside the entrance. As this was often not near the bed, enterprising lads like my brothers and me tied one or more old neckties to the end of the cord and over to our bedhead, so we could switch the light off and on while we were in bed.

For heat, we burned mallee-tree stumps in fireplaces or the kitchen stove. Stumps were also used to heat water for bathing. I remember one near disaster when Mum pumped fuel from a drum labeled "kerosene" into a glass bottle for use in the bathroom to start the chip heater fire. Unfortunately, the drum actually contained petrol, which is highly inflammable. Of course, when Mum poured some over the fire it exploded. She raised the alarm, and Dad, who just so happened to be nearby, came and knocked out the bathroom window and dragged through it a garden hose to put out the fire. One whole prefabricated wall of the bathroom was singed black.

I've already mentioned using kerosene-powered refrigerators.

We had telephone service via a large, walled-mounted, hand-cranked phone with hand-held earpiece and fixed mouthpiece. This connected us with the Nadda Post Office. It was a so-called manual exchange, whose hours of operation were weekday business hours. Outside those hours, you could try to place a call, and if the operator was there and you agreed to pay an opening fee, you could do so. The phone was powered by a pair of huge non-rechargeable batteries. Unlike some areas, we were not on a party line; that is, one on which other subscribers shared a single line and anyone on that line could listen in.

We collected our mail at the Nadda Post Office. I remember the introduction of Decimal Currency (1966-02-14). In preparation for that, the Post Mistress took delivery of some new decimal coins, and I got to look at them before they went into circulation.

Radio, TV, and Newspapers

Back then, a radio was actually called a wireless, because it was, well, wireless! We had several in the house, and one in the car. At that time, Australia only transmitted on the AM band. [FM was introduced around 1976.] Because of the remoteness of many of the country's people, the Federal Government provided rural coverage through a series of radio and television stations run by the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC). The local ABC radio station was 5MV. The local, independent station was 5RM, which Mum couldn't stand (and incorrectly called it "Renmark" even though it was transmitted from Berri, not Renmark), as it played that modern stuff that really wasn't music, at least not in her humble opinion.

There was a small radio on the top of the kerosene refrigerator in the kitchen, and around lunchtime each weekday, Mum sat with a cuppa (cup of tea, that is) and listened to a 15-minute episode of "Blue Hills, by Gwen Meredith". There was also a radio play, "Pepper Young's Family" broadcast around the time of the evening meal. Late afternoon, 5MV had a radio show for kids that involved games, puzzles, and serialized stories one of which I recall was called "The Country of the Skull." There was also an early-morning program featuring "Curtis the Cat and Marmaduke the Mouse." One time, I entered a competition by sending in a letter, and lo and behold, I got a letter back—signed with cat and mouse paws—with some sort of a prize. I kept that letter for years! I recall that some nights, I'd lie in the dark in Terry's bedroom and we'd listen to an episode of the American radio play, "Randy Stone's Night Beat."

When TV first came to the area, it was in black and white, and there were three channels: 2, 7, and 9, and they were often quite snowy. After all, we were 150-odd miles from the transmission towers up on Mt. Lofty. Some years later, Channel 10 was added. For some odd reason, all TVs came with a channel 5A on their dial. [Some 20 years later, the ABC built a relay antenna just outside Loxton, and it transmitted on that very channel. Color television didn't start in Australia until the early 1970s, and it used the PAL system.]

Loxton was the only Riverland town to have its own newspaper, the Loxton News, and that came out weekly. The regional weekly was the Murray Pioneer, which is still operating and based out of Renmark. These came to us via the mail along with two agricultural publications, the Chronicle and the Stock and Station Journal.

[Unlike the US, Citizens Band (CB) radio came much later and was nowhere near as popular as in the US. In the 1980s, some people used VHF for on/near-farm communications.]


Stay tuned for Part 2, which covers market day, the farmhouse, the outbuildings, the food we ate, the local towns, church and Sunday school, sports and social activities, and the Big Car Crash.

Travel: Memories of Finland

© 1992, 2018 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.

[This diary was written by hand in a spiral notebook during the trip in 1992. Now, I've transcribed and edited it.]

I was on my way to St. Petersburg, Russia, to give a series of lectures, and my wife, Jenny, and my 8-year-old son, Scott, were with me. We spent time in Finland at the start of the trip and then again at the end. This was our first trip to either country.

[Diary] Neighbor Joe, drove us to Washington National Airport (DCA). We stood in line quite some time at a counter at the new Delta Airlines terminal, waiting for an international check-in agent. Two young Italians were behind us, and they had just completed a vacation out in the Wild West. They had purchased a brand new anvil and were taking it home to Milan as excess baggage! [When was the last time you saw anyone traveling with their own anvil?] We also met an American couple who had recently visited Australia.

We rode a Boeing 727 to the JFK airport in the greater New York City area. It was an uneventful flight, and on landing we went straight to the gate of our international flight, where we had an hour's wait. During that time, I watched all the planes coming and going. They included the following carriers: Aeroflot, Pakistan International, Swissair, Lufthansa, Air Lingus, El Al, Tower Air, Varig, British Airways, Iberia, KLM, Alitalia, Air France (including a Concorde), Lan Chile, Egypt Air, LTU International, LOT, Garuda, Ladeco, Austrian, Dominicana, Air India, Turkish, Mexicana, Argentina, Czechoslovakia, plus seven US-based airlines. It was quite a collection, and that's just the ones I could see in one hour. Many planes were Boeing 747s, with some Airbus and Boeing 767s as well. It was a colorful and impressive display. To demonstrate how JFK is at a major international crossroad, the airport map/guide stations were presented in nine languages, including Russian.

It was a hazy day, but from the terminal, way off in the distance we got a glimpse of Manhattan Island. Scott could just see the Statue of Liberty, and he quickly identified the twin towers of the World Trade Center, and the Empire State Building. We boarded Delta Airlines Flight DL042, an Airbus going non-stop to Helsinki, Finland. However, once we were all seated, a 1-hour delay was announced, as there was bad weather out over the Atlantic Ocean.

Once we were airborne, we flew northeast over Boston; the coast of Maine; Nova Scotia, Canada; just south of Iceland; and across Norway and Sweden. Not long after we boarded, dinner was served, and we had a choice of Filet Mignon or Coq au Vin. Scott and Jenny had the beef, while I had the chicken. I enjoyed the meal, except for the part where I got icing from my dessert all over my jacket! The menu was printed in English, Swedish, and Finnish. [Officially, Finland is bilingual with both Swedish and Finnish being taught. In Finnish, Finland is called "Suomi," and in Swedish, it's "Finland."]

At 7 pm, EDT, we were informed that as Finland's time-zone was seven hours ahead, perhaps we'd like to advance our clocks. We did, jumping to 2 am, Monday. How time flies when you are having fun! We all tried to sleep, but I got only an hour or so. C'est la vie!

[Diary] Out the window, I watched the sun come up not too long after it set, but, of course, it was summer, and we were flying at a northern latitude. Scott finally fell asleep and lay across my lap for a couple of hours. I studied my Finnish-language phrase book, but only a few words looked vaguely familiar given my exposure to German and Spanish. It was hard work, and I came away remembering only one word, Kiitos, which means "Thank you," a good phrase to know in any language. Then I got sidetracked in German—the book covered 14 different European languages—where I felt much more comfortable.

We landed at Helsinki Airport (HEL) about 9 am, local time, a little ahead of schedule. It was overcast with low clouds, and the countryside was damp from early-morning rain. My first sight of the country from the air was of forest. [Paper and lumber are big industries in Scandinavia.]

Soon after, the sun came out, and once we cashed a US$100 traveler's check, we headed for downtown Helsinki—Helsingfors in Swedish—in an airport bus. (Like everything else in Finland, the commission on that check was expensive, at 25 Markka (FIM), about $5!) The bus tickets for Jenny and me cost FIM19 each, while Scott rode for free. We got off at the main train station. A young Russian woman, originally from Moscow, but now living in New York, needed some help with her luggage, and being a Good Samaritan, I gave her a hand. I phoned several youth hostels until I found one that had a family room for two nights. Then, rather than trying to figure out the tram system, we took a taxi.

The Eurohostel was very nice. Our room on the 6th floor had three long, single beds, a table with chairs, shelves, and lots of lockable storage. Best of all, there was no curfew, so we could come and go at whatever hours we liked. Also, we got a room right away, for FIM210/night, about $50. Sheets and down covers were provided. Each floor had a kitchen area with hotplates, sink, microwave oven, and refrigerator. The fridge contained small, lockable compartments, one per room, which was a great idea. [Don't you just hate it when strangers steal your food!]

At 11:15 am, we all climbed into bed having set the alarm for 3 pm. However, it took a long time to get Scott awake when the alarm sounded. The hostel was only a kilometer from the house of a woman, Leena, who we'd be hosting a month later. [The American Host Program allowed English-speaking teachers and librarians from numerous countries in Europe to visit the US during the summer holidays and to stay 10 days with each of three host families. From 1988–2000, we hosted 12 times.] We'd corresponded some time earlier, and she was due to meet us later that evening.

Late afternoon, we strolled around the neighborhood, which had newly renovated apartment buildings. We were located right next to the cruise-ship terminal that serves the major Baltic Sea ports. We found a small supermarket and were surprised at how expensive many things were. For example, a not-too-large bag of potato chips (my essential food) cost $4! Back in our kitchen, we made chicken-and-vegetable soup, which we ate with bread rolls. We shared the kitchen with a large group of Latvians, who'd brought a lot of supplies with them on the ferry (probably because of the high local prices). They all seemed to have US$ bills, which apparently was the "real" currency in the emerging Baltic nations.

At 8:30 pm, the sun was still streaming in our room window at an angle of 30 degrees! All of a sudden, a hot-air balloon soared above the rooftops nearby, and Scott followed it with his binoculars.

At 9 o'clock, Leena arrived. She was a delightful woman who described herself as bohemian. [She spoke six or seven languages, including Latin!] Basically, she does what she wants, when she wants! I could see right away that she and I would get along just fine. We walked around downtown Helsinki for two hours, stopping at Café Engel for cups of hot chocolate and dessert. At 11 pm, it was still quite light out although the sun had set. We were back home and in bed soon after.

[Diary] I woke at 3:15 am, and couldn't get back to sleep, so I went to the bathroom where I could read without waking anyone else. Outside, it was already daylight. Scott woke around 5 o'clock, and Jenny at 5:30. So, we decided to have an early breakfast of sardines on rolls, yogurt, juice, and hot tea. Other guests started surfacing soon after. In the kitchen, I met a woman from Estonia (a ferry ride to the south); she spoke a little English. She was making some very strong coffee that looked more like mud! To stop water wastage, the showers automatically switched off after only 15 seconds, so one had to keep pressing a button. However, there was plenty of hot water.

We left the hostel around 7 am and walked along the waterfront. All the ferries were out at sea. We came across a large open-air market that had lots of flowers, vegetables, and fish. One booth also sold furs and reindeer pelts. As it was overcast and cold, and my ears were quite exposed, I bought a multi-colored "Made in Finland by local craftsman" hat. The women working at the stalls were very pleasant and happy to talk to us. We bought some sweet pastries, as well as some containing potatoes and onions. We sat down to have a snack and saw that it was only 8 am! The city was waking up and traffic was increasing, but the main shops were still closed. Nearby, we saw an enclosed yard for people to let their dogs run free.

At 8:30, we headed to the main railway station to exchange our travel vouchers for tickets on the new Finnish train to Russia. [Although Russian trains ran regularly and were much cheaper, we had it on good authority that they were not at all comfortable.] We also bought an 8-day Finn Rail pass that would start upon our return from Russia. As the cost of the pass was less than one round-trip ticket up north, it was very good value. By mid-morning, we were starting to fade, so we headed back to the hostel and slept soundly for 5½ hours!

Early evening, we walked to Leena's house where we met her mother, a delightful lady who was a retired English teacher. We had coffee and blueberry pie. When we left at 8 o'clock, the sun was still streaming inside the windows although it was quite cool outside. We walked around the neighborhood with Leena and came across a public rug-cleaning place. There were large wooden frames on which to drape rugs for beating out the dirt. There was also a large deck floating in the water with wooden tables for washing rugs. We watched several people hard at work. As we have wall-to-wall carpet back home, the idea of cleaning rugs was quite novel to us.

We ate a late supper at a German restaurant. We shared a Weiner schnitzel, veal cordon bleu, and vegetables, while Scott had a bowl of Hungarian goulash. We ate and talked for 90-odd minutes. Leena walked home with us and came up to see our room. We said "Good night" at 11:30 and were in bed by 11:45. The alarm was set for 4:45 am!

[We spent two weeks in Russia. See the September 2020 posting, "Travel: Memories of Russia."]

[Diary] Back in Finland, we got off the train at Riihimäki, the final station before Helsinki, where we waited for the 22:17 train that ran to Rovaniemi, at the end of the line, just south of the Arctic Circle. Except for a few short stops and one long one, it was straight through, arriving at 9 am the next morning.

After a night with little sleep, we were sitting up by 8 am. The countryside rolled past, but we couldn't see much for the dense forest on each side of the track. There were only a few low hills, and it was rather monotonous; flat, with trees, trees, and more trees, with an occasional lake and some houses.

We arrived in Rovaniemi at 9:20 am, about 15 minutes late. Rain clouds threatened. We left our big/heavy case at the station luggage office, and set off for the youth hostel a km away. Light rain fell as we walked. We got to the hostel at 10:05 to find it closed at 10 o'clock. (Don't you just hate that when that happens!) Fortunately, there was a bell, and a staff member let us in, got us registered, and gave us a key to the room and front door, so we could come and go at all hours. Once inside, we rested a while, unpacked, and headed out in light drizzle to explore the town.

On the first corner we found a bank, so we changed US$500 in travelers checks to Finnish markka. By this time, Scott was dreaming of a home-style breakfast, and we found a nice little restaurant nearby. As it was close to noon, we had brunch. Scott had a double-decker hamburger with extra ketchup; Jenny had lasagna, and I had strips of reindeer, mashed potato, and some kind of berry sauce. We finished off with tall glasses of milk.

We toured a supermarket and checked out the prices. Most things were quite expensive, but unlike in Russia, at least they were available! We finally found the tourist office and got a map and information from a nice young woman whose English was excellent.

The town is at the confluence of two large rivers, and we went to the bank of the main one. The water was flowing very fast and was very cold. The skies cleared a bit and the sun tried to shine through. Every so often, a delta-winged fighter jet flew over. Presumably there was an air force base nearby. We crossed the river on a very interesting, new bridge. Scott and I climbed on some rocks, and visited a nice, sandy beach. We also came across an 18-hole mini-golf course.

Afterwards, we sat in the sunshine at an outdoor mall eating pastries and drinking a liter of milk. We watched the locals until the dark clouds returned, at which time, we moved indoors. Right then, a folkdance presentation began, so we sat down to watch. There were singers, and players of violins, bass, cello, and clarinet. Almost all musicians were no older than 15, and the dancers probably around 9–11. They were of Czech descent and that was their theme. After 45 minutes, a Malaysian dance troupe performed. At a supermarket, we bought hot food as well as supplies for breakfast the next day.

We managed to stay awake until 8 pm. Unfortunately, the drapes didn't block much of the daylight!

[Diary] We all slept soundly until 8 am, and then ate cereal with peaches and milk. We then prepared to catch the 10:05 bus to Santa Claus Village. The trip was only 10 km, and took us right to the Arctic Circle. The bus left from the railway station. We were joined en-route by two elderly Australian women.

The weather alternated between sunshine and dark clouds, and was quite cold. Scott spent much of the day on the inside and outside playgrounds. We browsed in tourist shops for several hours, and saw lots of interesting things made from reindeer hide. There were also many knives of all shapes and sizes. One could even buy reindeer paté! Scott visited Santa in his house, and bought some Christmas tree ornaments. Santa said he received 500,00 letters each year from children in 150 countries! At a table, I made a picnic of bread, cheese, ham, and salami. We washed that down with cups of hot tea. Everything on sale was quite expensive with sweaters running US$100–400! And the beautiful leather coats were outrageously expensive. The best part of the leather store was the log cabin in which it was housed.

We rode the 4:30 bus back to town, and toured a bit. Then we bought hot food at the supermarket for supper: spaghetti for Scott, and ground beef with cabbage for Jenny and me. We finished off with a bottle of Pepsi we'd brought from Russia. [Click here to read about the rivalry between Coke and Pepsi, especially in the Soviet Union.]

[Diary] We were woken at 5:30 am by guests in the next room making noise. After I knocked loudly on their wall, things quietened down, and we slept some more. At 6:20, we checked out and walked to the train station. I managed to check the large case through to Helsinki where it would be stored until we got there some days later—at least we hoped so—as the luggage attendant spoke little English. Anyway, he sent it off somewhere, but the claim check he gave me said "Helsinki Station," which was encouraging. We boarded the 7-am train and spread out over four seats, two lots of two facing each other. We had brought our own breakfast, so I set up my kitchen. There was cereal with milk and peaches, ham, cheese, salami, and bread. Morning tea followed later with sandwiches and a banana.

At 9:30, we changed trains at Oulu, from where we raced south down the center of Finland through the lake district. While Jenny napped, Scott and I played the UNO card game in the café car. He and I shared a Finnish-made Texas-style pizza and a bottle of Coke, and talked about all the food from back home that we were missing!

The day passed rather quickly, and it rained a lot. Finally, the thick forests gave way to more open country and lakes, more people, and buildings. At 3:30, we transferred to a bus for the 2-hour ride to Savonlinna. In the process, we discovered that the train ticket did not include the bus portion! Although the bus was a luxury coach, we started out in the back row and got a little queasy from the motion, so we moved nearer to the front. We arrived in Savonlinna in light drizzle. Our guidebook said there was a tourist office at the train station, so we went there to find it had been closed; bugger!

Although the town had a population of 20,000 people, it was quite compact and walkable. Once we found the new location of the tourist office, we booked a room at a hotel/youth hostel a short walk away and right next to the town's main claim to fame, Olavinlinna Castle, built 500 years earlier for Sweden by a Danish knight. [We had no idea that we'd arrived in the middle of the town's busiest time of the year, so getting a room at all was surprising, let along one so central!] I located a supermarket and stocked up on supplies. The prices were very expensive!

The hostel had men's and women's dormitories with eight single beds in each. Scott and I shared with two young Frenchmen from Paris and two others from Dresden in the former East Germany. I got a little German workout. The kitchen was small, but adequate. All the staff and guests were very friendly. Our dorm had 15-foot ceilings with large windows and no drapes, so the room never ever got dark at night! In any event, our fellow guests were very considerate, and it was quiet during the night. After a walk around some islands and the castle, we went to bed around 10:30 pm.

[Diary] We were up at 8:30 am and joined other guests for breakfast. At 11:15, we left the hotel to find it was raining. We joined a 12-o'clock castle tour in English, and had the guide to ourselves. He had been to Adelaide, Australia. The castle courtyard had a permanent framework on which is suspended a roof that is removed in winter. Now, the annual opera festival was in full swing. (In August, there would be a big beer festival.) The castle was impressive, and was warmer now there was built-in heating. We ate our picnic lunch in an indoor café, and accompanied that with hot tea and pastries. The rain continued.

From the castle, we set off on a walking tour of several small islands with bridges, that led to some casinos. At a supermarket, we bought a few things for supper. Back home, we ate minestrone soup with potatoes, a jam roll, and tea. As I started food preparation, other guests arrived at the hostel. Troy was from Calgary, Canada; Gabriel was from Vienna, Austria; Margaret was from Townsville, Australia; Pam was from San Francisco, USA; and Mary Anne, an older Finnish woman (who according to her roommates, "snored something fierce"). There were two other young Finnish girls who kept to themselves. We all joined forces in meal preparation and sat together eating and talking from 6–10 pm. Everyone swapped travel stories and gave suggestions for what to do and where to go next. It was a great evening, just what hosteling is all about!

Scott made friends with two elderly Finnish women. And as there was a piano in the hotel dining room, and he told them he could play, they asked him for some entertainment. He obliged.

[Diary] I started getting breakfast at 8:30 am, and other guests joined me in the kitchen. Most of them were leaving that day. We paid for another night. Scott played piano for some guests, and generally entertained them with stories, games, and a puzzle.

At 10 am, we left for the marketplace, where we strolled among the stalls. We bought several small pizzas and a large pastry before boarding an old steam boat for a 1-hour cruise of the castle islands and around the town. As it was cold outside, we sat in a lounge cabin and I worked on this diary. Scott went off to explore the decks and to chat with anybody and everybody. The cruise was pleasant, and the rain had stopped. We sat in large cane chairs hanging on the aft deck, and chatted with a very nice lady from Antwerp, Belgium, who lived in Paris.

We went back to the hostel for afternoon tea, and found a playground on the waterfront. I left the others there and went back to the hostel to fetch the makings of a tea party, which we had while sitting on the edge of a large sand box in which Scott was building a castle, complete with moat.

In the evening, our Austrian friend returned, two nurses from Stuttgart, Germany, checked in, as did three English girls, and an American guy from Honolulu, Hawaii. We all got along well. As we planned to take a 7:50-am train next morning, we packed our gear before going to bed.

[Diary] We were up early and out the door at 7:20 am, and thanked the young woman at the front desk for all her help and kindness during our stay. She was married to a Bulgarian, and they spoke English at home. Besides Finnish, she spoke German, Swedish, and French.

The train was right on-time, and the weather was really nice, but, unfortunately, we were leaving the area, bugger! After an hour, we changed trains to an inter-city express. Although we had no reservations, there were plenty of spare seats. At our seat tables, we ate cereal and fruit after which Scott and I played cards and read. A nice Finnish lady who spoke German sat next to Scott, and joined us for some cheese. The train trip was interesting now that we could actually see something other than forest. There were fields of yellow mustard, and lakes, lakes, and more lakes.

At Helsinki central station, I managed to locate the case we'd sent along for storage some days earlier, but I left it there. I called the hotel we'd stayed at on arrival, and we got one of the last rooms for the night. We rode a tram there, and unpacked, and had a lunch of sardines with bread and cheese, hot tea, and chocolate.

Late afternoon, we sat at the waterfront near the main produce market. Nearby were four huge cruise ships tied up, along with smaller passenger and car ferries that serve the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The hydrofoil from Tallinn had just docked. Tourist passengers were all around us.

I wrote three postcards, including one in Spanish to a friend in Chile. Then two men walked by, and I recognized them from the hotel. They were from Czechoslovakia. One spoke Russian and Greek as well as Czech and English. As we sat there, seagulls flew around us when suddenly one dove down and stole a large hamburger from a patron's hands just as he was about to take his first bite! However, as the food was too large to hold, the bird dropped it. The guy was furious, as he'd paid quite a sum for the meal, and now it was all over the ground!

We headed off for the narrow park that runs through the town, looking for a place to eat. We came across a group playing steel drums for a large audience. At a McDonalds, we had our first "real" French fries in three whole weeks! We walked back home via the cruise-ship terminal stopping at a playground for Scott. Back home, it was lights out at 10:30 pm.

[Diary] I woke at 8:30 am, and read until 10, when the others woke. After a breakfast of cereal, tea, and cheese omelet, we packed for the day's adventure. It was raining quite hard, and was overcast; a rather dreary day, in fact!

As our rail-pass ended at midnight, we decided to take a train to the port city of Turku to the west. We rode the tram into the city, then walked through a mall to the railway station. We caught the noon train, and the ride lasted 2½ hours. We found a carriage dedicated to kids, which had a playroom with Lego and toys. There was also a change room for babies. We read while Scott played. As we left Helsinki, the weather improved, and soon was quite warm although threatening clouds stayed around.

We arrived at Turku at 2:30, and walked to the tourist office to get a map and some brochures. We bought drinks and pastries, and sat on the banks of the small river that ran through the town, feeding our faces and some birds. Then Scott and I went to a large playground while Jenny went to a craft market to watch craftsmen at work. Next up was the large cathedral, for the Lutheran Church of Finland. Then it was on to the main plaza where a large market was in full swing. It had fruit, vegetables, coffee, pastries, and many flea-market-type stalls. Oddly, one was selling sew-on patches for Northern Territory and Ayers Rock, Australia!

We found a large supermarket that sold hot food, and we settled in for a good feed of spaghetti, rice, and pork. We worked our way back to the train station to catch the 7:35-pm train back to Helsinki. Scott got hungry, so we stopped at a Pizza Hut where he had an expensive slice of pepperoni pizza (costing around $6). We rode the tram home, and after a late drink and snack, we hit the hay at 11 o'clock. The hostel was full of many noisy students.

By the way, the Turku Cathedral clock tower had only an hour hand on each face. Curiously, it was designed that way.

[Diary] We were up at 8 am, then showered and packed. We finished off most of our food and gave our leftover groceries to other guests. We caught a tram for the railway station where we'd catch the airport bus. I retrieved the case we'd put in storage the week before. On the way to the airport, we saw many police near several buildings. A big international conference had begun the day before about the future security of Europe, and many heads of state, including President George H.W. Bush, would arrive the next day.

At the security place, we were subjected to the most thorough and long check ever! The stated problem was that we'd left our case in storage for a week and only that morning had retrieved it. Plus, we'd been in Russia. In any event, I had to empty the large case and it was X-rayed empty. The security guy checked our hand luggage, and X-rayed the cassette-tape player and camera, after taking out the batteries. It was quite an ordeal, all conducted in a space way too small for all of us. Disorder continued at the gate where we were supposed to be kept separate from the incoming flight's passengers, supposedly for fear that we'd exchange something illicit with them.

As a result, we took off an hour late, but the trip was uneventful. I slept a bit and sat behind Jenny and Scott. The man next to me didn't seem to have ever flown before, as he had no idea how things worked, including his seatbelt, and he spoke no English. The food was very good and the service outstanding. By the time we got to New York City, we had made up most of the lost time, and customs and immigration was a formality, especially as they allowed Green-Card holders like us to go through the citizens' line. However, we waited a good while for our luggage.

By the time we got to the gate for our domestic flight, we had an hour to spare, during which time Scott and I played UNO with another young passenger. The flight to Washington National Airport (DCA) was on-time, and we landed at 7 pm, local time. The temperature and humidity were high! Unfortunately, our luggage was delayed 30 minutes by the fact that a checked luggage carrier got jammed in the carousel.

Neighbor Joe was there to meet us and to drive us back to Reston. It felt good to be home. Of course, we were all dog-tired, but Scott was determined to stay up and watch TV, having had none for more than three weeks.

[Diary] I was wide awake at 4 am, and soon after I got up and went to the local supermarket to shop. Surprise, I was the only customer at that hour, but there were a number of workers stocking the shelves and baking pastries. I gleefully bought all the things I'd been missing, including potato chips, cream soda, and sugar-coated peanuts. And best of all, the prices were much cheaper than in Finland!