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Ship Trips In Chronological Order


1. US to India with Phyllis, the baby


2. India to US

Paul:

Coming to US from India when we were kids, before Salem. Little information here. I asked Mom, and she was not even sure whether we came back via Atlantic or Pacific. I think it might have been the Atlantic.

Betty:

No recollections; likely 1 year old??

Phyl:

Ship stories. Let's see. One vivid memory: we were in the cabin below decks and for some reason Grace and I were babysitting. To quiet the fussy baby, I sat with her on the wide ledge below the open porthole and was showing her the ocean, when Mom came in, took one startled look, and grabbed that baby so fast...I hadn't thought of any danger, but a sudden lurch and one of you (Betty?) could have disappeared into the Pacific.

I remember playing deck tennis with those hard rubber rings which kept being thrown over the railings into the sea, so the games had to stop. And deck gulf, like shuffleboard except we tried to hit the wooden disks into circles drawn all over the deck. And swimming, and trying to wash the salt out of our hair.


3. US to India about 1938.

Paul:

We sailed on Japanese freighters because Dad was taking along the black Chevrolet van to India for the mission. American shipping companies charged about $100 to ship it to Japan and another $100 to ship it to India. The Japanese had to charge $100 to ship it to Japan (international trade laws), but were free to charge what they wanted from there to India. They charged Dad $2.00. So we decided we would all go on the Japanese freight ships. These were cheaper than passenger ships. We sailed, I think, first from Seattle on the Hiye Maru. It was full of junk from the smelting in Japan. Later much of that iron was needed by the Japanese in Word War II. This was before radar, so we were caught in the typhoon in the North Pacific. For three days no food was cooked, and we sat on the floor on blankets and played games, sliding from one side to the other, while Dad and Mom were in their bunks very seasick, trying to keep some order. We ate crackers and other snack foods. The captain thought we would sink, but we did manage to pull through. The inch-thick glass plates on the bridge some four stories above sea level were pulverized by the waves. The cars on the windward side were all dented in, and the large derricks were bent double by the force, but our car was on the down-wind side and did not suffer serious damage. In Japan we transferred to the Taio Mary and sailed to India. I'm not sure whether it was to Madras or Bombay. I do remember us complaining all the way across - four weeks of travel-- that all the food had a fishy flavor because the Japanese seamen ate mainly fish.

Betty:

I do recall this trip because of the memorable storm. We were scared. The waves would pound down on the ship - Dad talked of them being 60 feet higher than the deck. I can remember trying to eat a meal in the dining room and all the food slid off the plates and the plates went sliding too, so it all ended in a heap. We were sent to our rooms and told that food would be sent by the waiters. They looked like drunken sailors as they tried to maneuver to our rooms with food. Mom told the story that everyone felt ill from the tossing and Mom asked Dad what he was doing kneeling down--"Praying?"--when in fact he was throwing up. The trunks and suitcases came loose from their storage under our bunks and they were sliding back and forth, so we wedged as many as possible so they had less room to slide. I think it was Paul who fell out of the upper bunk when we tipped so much, and I was asleep upside down with my legs hanging in the rail until Mom saw the situation and rescued me. I don't know why I didn't wake up. It was an awesome experience. None of us liked the food much anyway. I can remember dipping food in a common center pot that held a sauce.

I have some recollections of Japan in that I recall women with kimonos and wooden slippers ( what were they called???). I also remember that I got lost. It was hot and my hands were sweaty, so I pulled them away while Mom shopped. We got separated in the milling crowd, and soon I realized Mom was not with me. It took a while to get back together with the help of a Japanese couple, and the boat was waiting to sail. This was a nightmare for both of us and the family. I also recall going into Singapore harbor - I have recollections of a very clean harbor where you could see the bottom of the ocean. That was something compared to harbors now. I also remember vendors at these harbors who tried to sell things to us while we stood at the rails. Shanghai I recall because Dad took us up and down little streets and Mom was upset later because she said the word was out that Shanghai was not a safe city and that people were murdered for their money. I have recollections of many small stores with little in them I wanted to eat.

Jo:

Mother told me that on this trip she had Gwen and me out on deck one day, and stopped to talk with someone. When she looked around for me, she saw me on the outside of the ship railings. I was less than a year at the time, so not very steady---and very close to the edge of the ship. She said she was so scared, but she thought that if she would call me loudly I would get startled and fall...so she called very quietly, and I turned around and came back to her. Whew---am I glad I did!

Gwen:

I remember standing on the deck of a ship beside Dad, looking out over the water. On my thumb was a wire cage-type arrangement that was supposed to keep me from sucking my thumb! I must have been about two years old.


4. India to US. 1941 or 42

Paul:

In 1942 we were evacuated from Kodai by Dad and John Wiebe in that black van. There were so many of us we had to tie the toupees and shoes outside the car. There were two benches and a rug on the floor in the back. Dad and John Wiebe had taken the gas coupons for two mission cars and mixed gas half and half with kerosene, which they could buy unrationed, to get the car to go to Kodai and back to Mahbubnagar, We were then ordered secretly to go to Bombay where we boarded the S.S. Brazil. It was a relatively new ship built as a luxury cruise ship for some 2000 passengers, but now converted to carry about 7000 troops. It dropped the US troops in India, and about 400 missionaries (including Frykenbergs, Carmens, etc) boarded it. We sailed via Cape Town, S. Africa. The freighter behind us was torpedoed, because this was the time of the greatest German U-boat attacks. We spent a few days in Cape Town (where sailors caught a hammer-head shark, killed it, and ate it on board). We went to Bermuda by ourselves, zig-zagging every three minutes during the day to keep subs from lining up to fire their torpedoes, and then making a straight run of it at night because we were fast - maybe near 25 knots an hour (30 mph). We were in strict blackout, and so slept at night on deck. The kids ran around the ship in gangs and had lots of fun. At Bermuda a navy destroyer joined us and escorted us into New York. Several times it thought it heard a sub and threw out depth charges which exploded under water. We arrived in the middle of the night in New York and went to the dorm rooms of NY Biblical Seminary downtown. There Mom went to the automat several times that night for ice-cream. Joanne was sick at this time.

Betty:

This too was a memorable trip for me. We were in Kodai when the Japanese army crossed the border to the north. We had air raid drills often. Each class built trenches in the side of the hill. Our class decided to be especially deceptive and made a trench that zig-zagged. But each time we went into it, we were the last to complete the drill because we got jammed up at the turns. We camouflaged the trenches with leaves and brush. When we heard a plane, we ran for the trenches or had an air raid drill where we sought cover under windowsills or desks. We thought it was fun to get out of school and did not take it too seriously.

In Bombay we boarded a liner that was converted to a troopship. It had thousands on board. The Carmens boarded knowing that a child had measles, and unfortunately the measles took a toll on board and Dr. Carmen worked day and night with the people with measles as he felt bad about the situation. Joanne got measles toward the end of the trip and was so ill she was airlifted to a hospital when we reached New York. She stayed in the hospital for a few weeks while the rest of us saw New York and visited Uncle Clyde and Aunt Heddie (spelling?). I can recall this because they made us eat food we didn't like - like spinach. No sympathy from them. I also recall it because they gave me my first store-bought dress and the first movie I had ever seen.

The ship was under orders to have complete black-out at night. We were awed by the fact that a lighted cigarette was seen several miles away by a friendly ship (or so we heard). It was hot as it was summer and we were crossing the equator. We had to wear lifejackets so much of the time, and they were hot. We had unannounced drills and we were told to go to the lifeboats regardless of whether parents were there. The first time we searched for our parents and we were told in no uncertain terms to head for the lifeboats and meet them there. Each had assigned boats. Like the Titanic, we knew there were not enough lifeboats. It did not take much counting to realize that, and it seemed sad that someone would have to be left behind - most likely Dad in our family. We tried not think of it, but the constant release of depth charges reminded us of this eventuality. I often thought I'd be brave and stay with Dad. I wonder if that choice came up how brave one would be.

The nights were warm and many people slept out on the deck. There were so many people that it was hard to find a space. In the cabins the ship had been outfitted for troops and there were bunks three or four high. Mom was with Joanne all day and night, trying to soothe her feverish body. Many children got the measles.

Capetown was memorable in that we could get off and go on land. I recall getting into small boats that took us to the dock. We had to climb rope ladders. I don't really recall the city much.

About 3 days out of New York we picked up a convoy of ships. I recall a cruiser, a destroyer, two subs and 2 airplanes for support to help us through the waters known to be infested with German U-boats. Depth charges were let go and we zig-zagged all day. We watched as our own ship fired - don't know if they really had a target or if it was practice. We admired the sailors who were on deck.

When the Statue of Liberty was sighted, the deck was crowded and all joined in singing "God Bless America." We had tears in our eyes and nearly everyone was crying out of sheer relief. The hot,long journey was at an end. I can recall sailing by the Statue of Liberty and Dad said to take a look because it would be something to remember, and it sure was. I still get tears when we sing that song.

Jo:

I was only about 5 at the time of this trip, but I remember quite a bit of it. I remember being so hot in our stuffy cabin. At first we could sleep up on deck, but then because someone's cigarette had been sighted by another ship we had to go back down to the cabins. Dad and Mom would let us fall asleep on deck and then carry us down.

I've always thought that one of the times we went to the lifeboats there had actually been an enemy sub sighted. In the back of my mind I can remember Mom and us kids getting ready to get into a lifeboat and Dad standing away from us with tears coming down his cheeks. Doesn't anyone else remember that? I remember that as being the only time I saw Dad cry.

I do remember Capetown because we went into a gigantic modern store and it was the first time I ever rode on an escalator. I LOVED it! I also remember what Betty talked about---getting to America. Dad carried me up to the deck as we went past the Statue of Liberty, and everyone was singing "God Bless America." I'm like Bets--it still makes me emotional hearing that song.

After we got to New York I was in the hospital with pneumonia. Mom was going to give blood for my transfusions, but on the way to the lab mentioned that she was pregnant so they took Dad's blood instead. I would hear the creak of the blood transfusion machine coming toward my room and would start screaming. Once in awhile it went past and I was so glad. Uncle Clyde and Aunt Heddie gave me a panda bear, which I treasured for years. I was glad when that episode was done and we were all at Mt. Lake, even though then I had to take my turn rocking Margy in her buggy up in the parlor. (Margy, if you ever dream about being jerked around in a small enclosed place, I'm afraid you have me to blame.)

Phyl:

Of course there was the storm you have all written about. The voyage during the war was also dramatic. There were the nights we older kids didn't go below to the cabin as it was so hot, but went hunting about in the dark for an empty berth--one deck had been fitted with canvas berths four deep--I felt about until I found one, climbed up with clothes on and went to sleep. I guess folks had enough on their minds with Jo sick with measles to worry about us.

I remember a few of us girls formed a club which met on top of one of the stacks of life rafts on deck. We even wrote a journal...there was only one copy and Clarice Manly got it. The meal lines were hopelessly long, up the stairs and halfway down the deck. One either had to shuffle along for an hour, or go down an hour early and sit in front of the door. We used to play Scissors, Rock, Paper while we waited. We ate in the soldiers' cafeteria, which meant eating standing up with our trays at waist-high long tables. I remember trying kidney stew once...NEVER again.

Also on that boat trip I kept an eye out for a certain James Cook whom I had seen in the Bombay place where we were all waiting for the boat--never spoke to--but had a crush on him. In New York I realized I would in all likelihood never see him again and might as well give it up. (I was 13.)

One other thing: in India I had made a paperdoll with many, many clothes, which I unwisely showed to a girl on board, who expressed a wish to have one like it; and then she got the measles, so I spent unwilling hours copying for her not only the doll but all the clothes. I wonder where mine went.

I remember Dad getting us up early to watch in the dawn for the first sight of the Statue of Liberty.

Gwen:

I also remember returning to the U.S. during the war. I distinctly remember standing on the deck of the ship with Dad, looking out at the New York skyline at dusk as the planes circled overhead, keeping us safe until the next morning when we could safely enter the harbor. When we disembarked, the Salvation Army women had tables set up and fed us DONUTS. They tasted so good! That was a difficult trip for our parents but for us children it was fun to play with all the missionary kids on board all day and no school imposed on us. I recall standing on deck beside our lifeboat while Dad and Paul stood at the front with the other men and boys (not enough life boats to go around). I also have a picture in my head of the small cabin with the porthole tightly shut, the only light from a dim blue bulb in the hallway. My memory is that we slept on the floor near the air vent because the army bunks were stacked so closely. Being summer and crossing the equator, it was very hot. We were allowed to sleep on deck until a woman smoked a cigarette and we were sent below after that.

Of course, my family's memories of me and voyages are of me throwing up endlessly. I started when we left France and stopped the day we docked in New York (1952). Betty read The Yearling to me out of pity. I was so grateful to her as it took my mind off of wishing we would just sink--the storm was so bad and we spent two extra days waiting for a sinking freighter's crew to decide whether or not to abandon ship.


5. US to India

Paul:

We boarded the U.S. Marine Swallow in San Francisco in 1947 to sail to India. We passed under the Golden Gate Bridge, which was enshrouded in fog. We landed in Yokohama 2 weeks later and then went on to India. The Marine Swallow was a small troop ship hastily built by Kaiser Ship Company and it had no stabilizers, so it was very unstable and rocked a lot.

Betty:

I think of this trip as the "Save Gwen" trip. Gwen became seasick when we got out to the ocean past the Golden Gate Bridge and stayed sick until we hit land. I read her the book " The Yearling" to keep her mind occupied, and we were told to keep her in sight at all times because she seemed to get desperate and Mom worried she would fall overboard. I had to quit when my voice gave out.

I was an adolescent and "loved" Leroy, our neighbor boy in Reedley. I did not want to part from my home and cried a lot the first days. I wrote a diary about this trip. I wonder where it is. I recall that some of the girls were lovesick over the sailors. They hung around them every chance they could.

It was on this ship that we did the "Howdy Ma, Howdy Pa" performance that won us a first prize. I hope someone can write out the whole skit for us. This trip was in general more enjoyable than the others for me. We were able to fish off the side of the boat (swordfish) and sometime we put the fish in the saltwater bathtubs and the captain or bursar sent an order to quit because people couldn't get their baths.

I also recall how hard it was to pack . We each could pack what fit in one foot-locker, so we had to make hard decisions. Life in a footlocker, I used to think. No continuity because you had to get rid of things you cherished. A book or a dress?

Yokohama I recall because a group of poor people raided the garbage put ashore by our ship and they fought each other for the garbage. It was not a pretty thing. Women no longer wore those wooden shoes and kimonos.

In Shanghai I bought a wooden carved chest - a small one and I still have it. I also have a larger one - may have been Mom's and then passed on to me. I don't recall buying it. I think chests were shipped back to the US for Phyllis and Grace. I think Paul bought a chess set. I recall watching the young children swim in the harbor as people tossed them coins from the ship. I marveled at their abilities to dive and stay afloat for such long periods of time. The harbor in Shanghai was a colorful sight with all those little boats and people. Did anyone take pictures?

Jo:

I remember that it was really neat when people went across the equator for the first time. The old-timers smeared them with spaghetti and threw them off the diving board into the swimming pool. I wanted to get thrown in, but we'd already crossed the equator.

One disappointment of this trip was when we got first place for our "Howdy Ma, Howdy Pa" skit. We got some kind of fruity cookies; 2nd place got GUM---clearly much better than our fruity stuff. Bets, I remember most of this skit and will try to get it to you.

Dad always got a bunch of games for our ship trips; these were neat to have. I didn't often get sick so I had lots of fun.


6. 1950 India to US

Paul:

In 1950 I came back by myself on the British ships Canton and Stratheden. In changing in England, I spent two weeks waiting for connections, along with Bill Rambo and Bob Phelps. There were no missionary families going on furlough that year, so we were three early hippies bumming our way around England for a couple of weeks. In New York we went to Coney Island for the evening and then split up, and I went to Mountain Lake.
(I think Paul had his winter coat stolen when he was in England--didn't you, Paul? - Jo)

Betty:

The family returned to the US when Dad was picked to be president of Tabor. I hated to leave because it was my senior year. I had finished my requirements, but needed to take American Government by state law before entrance into college. I had to come back and do a final semester of high school. However, it must have been fate because I met Carl in classes.

We sailed through the Suez Canal and docked at Aden. That was interesting. I recall seeing many travel by camel along the dusty roads near the canal. We bought "Egyptian" purses etc. at Aden.

We landed in Southampton and went to London and took a sight-seeing tour as a family while waiting for the Ile de France to take us to the US. I can recall how thirsty we got and no one had good water. Dad finally asked the engineer of the train to get boiling water from the engine, and we cooled it down. To give us all pop would have been prohibitive. We saw the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey etc. and then sailed across to the Netherlands. We went to see Mom's cousins in Germany and went to Switzerland, Paris and then back to London, I think. Ferries and trains were our mode of transportation. I recall that we took down the wrong name of the hotel and hunted long and hard with a very expensive taxi drive. The hotel had a tiny elevator.

The Ile De France was a grand ship and we would walk the decks to get sight of the rich (if you were doing a walking circuit you could go on the deck where the rich were). We flirted with sailors and in general were obnoxious adolescents. We enjoyed tea in bed in the early a.m. - felt so luxurious to get tea brought to the room. We ate pancakes every morning for breakfast when we could have had our pick of gourmet foods. We were assigned to a table with a British lady who took it on herself to help us get better manners.

I recall being able to visit the boiler rooms. This was a neat ship - good library, lots of food, etc. We all speculated about Hillsboro and when we got here found it very small and different than we imagined - no trees was my complaint. I was used to Kodai.

Jo:

It was hard to leave Kodai--and especially David Lockwood, even though he didn't know I existed. It helped a bit that there were some interesting single guys at the Mennonite Center in Germany---a bit old, but male. Dad did something that we griped about then but I now appreciate immensely; he spent time the night before we went to places like Madame Tussoud's Wax Museum, the Tower of London, the Palace of Versailles, Lucerne telling us what we were going to see. I remember so much more about those places because of this.

I was really shocked at the way Germany looked. There were still so many blocks of bombed-out areas. I remember Germany smelling like factory smoke. It was neat to visit our relatives there. Remember how cold it got at night with no central heat---only fluffy blankets? Since it was nearly Christmas, they gave us Christmas presents. I hope I said thank you.

The Ile de France was a great ship---I felt rich being on it. My main memory of it is that Gwen was always flirting with the deck hands and going on walks with them around the deck. I was too proper a girl to do that....and very jealous.

Hillsboro? I wanted to go back to Kodai!