CHRISTMAS 1942 WITH ED BURROUGHS IN AUSTRALIA
The oldest correspondent of WWII on R&R from reporting duties
in New Caledonia
1019: ERB: The War Years
1035: ERB: Illustrated Timeline 1942
1046: Edgar Rice Burroughs in Australia
December 24, 1942 ~ January 10, 1943
Christmas Eve 1942
arose before dawn on the Christmas Eve morning of 1942, admiring the Southern
Cross on his way over to the kitchen where he cajoled the cook into opening
a can of tomato juice. An army truck took him to the airport where he joined
a dozen service men in boarding a DC3 marine transport bound for Sydney,
Australia. It was a tiresome and uncomfortable eight-hour trip. Because
of the onboard auxiliary fuel tanks they were not allowed to smoke. The
passengers were hungry and cold and many of them had to lie on the floor
as there were not enough of the notoriously uncomfortable seats for everyone.
Upon arriving at Sydney's Mascot Field they boarded a navy bus for downtown
Sydney. The bus came to a sudden stop, however, when the baggage that had
been stowed on the roof -- including Ed's typewriter -- fell off onto the
concrete pavement. The hotels were packed, but with the help of the billeting
officer, Ed and his friend, Ham Freeman, each got a room at Usher's Hotel.
Ed's room had a bath and lavatory but no W.C. Ed reported to the
Public Relations Officer, who telegraphed General MacArthur's HQs to check
for mail. There was none. He was expecting a letter from Ralph Rothmund
with information about which banks held ERB, Inc.'s frozen Australian royalties.
The PRO invited him to a nearby office where Australian officers and civilians
were being treated to piles of great food and Scotch. Ed returned
to the hotel to pass his laundry on to the "housekeeper" but she warned
him that it probably wouldn't be returned for almost a week because of
the Christmas holidays. Ed and Ham joined an Australian captain and three
girls for Christmas Eve drinks and dancing at The Princess.
Christmas Day 1942
Ed had an early Christmas morning Australian breakfast -- everything
passed the test except for the coffee which tasted like ether. After a
walk around the city to deliver a message he returned to his room to write
a story. He spent the afternoon in the hotel lounge chatting with a P-38
pilot just in from Guadalcanal. Ed and Freeman then took a tram to King's
Cross for a Christmas steak supper.
Boxing Day 1942
Day was a hot one. Ed delivered his story to the censor and was about to
visit the Botanical Gardens when his Australian captain friend invited
him and Ham for highballs and lunch. They spent the afternoon playing poker
as they couldn't find a fourth hand for bridge.
Sydney had "austerity rules" for food consumption. Restaurant menus
had a maximum price of four shillings for dinner and five shillings for
supper as well as minimum prices. Some swank restaurants such as Romano's
got around this restriction by establishing an oyster bar in an adjoining
room. The diner could order the five shilling meal, go to the oyster bar
for oysters, then return to the main dining room for the five shilling
meal. In hotel cocktail lounges the drinker had to be a guest of the hotel
to be served but they could bring guests. Usually an abundance of thirsty
Australian girls and nurses showed up at these lounges around the cocktail
hour. Ed noted that even though there was an abundance of drinking during
these war years, he seldom saw anyone who showed the effects of having
too much. He felt that "there must be some psychological explanation
for it that had to do with the effect of the war on the nervous system.
Perhaps a subconscious awareness that one must always be ready for any