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PAGE TWELVE. . . done before the following Tuesday (this was on Thursday), and that then it might not be returned before the ensuing Saturday. The government had decreed four holidays.
Christmas in Australia: December 24 ~ 25 ~ 26
Freeman came in just before six (December 24), and we started to look for a cocktail bar. Found one in the hotel, but it was jammed full. A grinning, Irish captain saw our predicament as we were leaving and took us under his care. Introduced us to three girls and then got a table for all of us. He was Capt. Sam Gilliland, AUS. He was quartered in the hotel three rooms from mine.
The six of us spent all of Christmas eve together. Gilliland, being on duty, had to remain in his room all night. Freeman and two of the girls went to the Princess to dance. The other girl and I went up to Sam's room. Later, we joined the others at the Princess, but didn't stay long. Went back to keep Sam company. There was a US major with him. I stayed until about midnight. It had been a long day -- 3:30 A.M. to 12 P.M., with a very tiresome and uncomfortable plane trip, plus considerable Scotch and champagne. However, all told, it was a swell day.
Up about 7:45 Christmas morning (December 25) after a good night. Felt fine, notwithstanding the fact that I should not have. Breakfast wasn't bad, but the Australian coffee tastes like ether. Wandered around town for more than an hour looking for a Major Strode for whom I had a message from Col. Connally. By the time I found Strode he was a Lieutenant colonel.
Back to the room to write a story. After finishing it, Ham Freeman phoned and asked me down to cocktail lounge to meet some one who wished to meet me -- Captain James A. Geyer of Grand Rapids, Mich., a P-38 Fighter Pilot who had been fighting at Guadalcanal for many weeks We talked in the cocktail lounge until three -'clock -- too late for Christmas dinner. Geyer had to leave; so Ham and I went on a search for a steak. Took a tram to King's Cross, where we found our steaks. It was my third meal in two days.
December 26 was what the Australians call a "sticky" day. Took my story to the censor, and then started for the Botanic Gardens. Stopping in hotel to leave raincoat ran into Sam Gilliland who called me into his room for highballs. Ham joined us for lunch. Failing to dig up a fourth for bridge, we went to Sam's room and played poker until dinner time.
They had "austerity" rules in Sydney for food conservation. The price of each article on a menu was given in shillings or pence. There was a maximum price of four shillings for lunch and five shillings for dinner. It was also the minimum price. One had to order accordingly. In Roman's, a swank restaurant, they beat the game by establishing an oyster bar in a separate room. After ordering a five shilling dinner in the main dining room, one could go to the oyster bar for oysters, returning to the main dining room later for the five shillings worth.
There was another regulation covering sale of drinks in hotel cocktail lounge. One had to be a guest of the hotel to be served at all; but could, of course order drinks for one's own guests even though they didn't live at the hotel. The result of this was that along about the cocktail hour, the lounge filled up with Australian girls with thirsts. there was also a sprinkling of American army nurses. No introductions were necessary.
One afternoon Ham saw three very attractive American girls sitting alone at a table in the lounge. He dared me to go over and ask them to come to our table. But this was at a later date. There seemed to be a lot of . . .
Flying into Wartime Sydney, Australia
ERB Interviews a P-38 Fighter Pilot
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