Sound: war brides going to America

At a reunion in New York in about 1987, Roy Murphy interviews New Zealanders who married American servicemen. Listen to a war bride talk about travelling to the United States to meet her husband after the war.


War bride: Because I didn’t have any children we were given inside cabins with no windows. Anybody that had children had an outside cabin with windows – they felt that anybody that didn’t have children could always get up on board the ship. It was still suited out for transporting troops, so it wasn’t any luxury liner like it had been before the war, and it took us I think five days to go from Auckland, New Zealand to Sydney, Australia, and they had a train coming from Perth with war brides, so we had to wait one week there. I was fortunate because I had relatives [and my mother?] and since we were under the jurisdiction of the navy my relatives had to come and sign me out to say that they would be responsible for me while I was in Sydney, relieve the navy of the responsibility. And I was able to go and stay with them, and that was very nice. The people that had to stay on board the ship found it very tedious because they were just on board ship, there wasn’t anything much to do, and there were a lot of people on board ship so that there wasn’t any room to move around.

Interviewer: What about on the trip itself, going across the Pacific?

War bride: They had Red Cross personnel there and they were going to teach us New Zealanders how to knit [background laughter]. And they had activities and they told us what we should and shouldn’t wear when we got to America. I tell you the New Zealanders were seething, because we were used to dressing up when we went out with our gloves and hat on, and when we did get to America we saw all these middle-aged women running around with bobby socks and jeans on. We thought, where are all these dressed-up people these Red Cross people seemed to think we were, you know, going to have to keep up to date on? Anyway they were there to entertain us and keep us entertained and there was a lot of people that had children, now their lifestyle was completely different to ours – they had to turn up at a certain time to get their bottles for their babies and their diapers. One officer said we must have left a string of disposable diapers all the way from Auckland, New Zealand to Australia, from Australia to Hawaii and then to San Francisco, because they just threw them out the porthole.

Some of the people remember coming into San Francisco and how rough it was. I don’t remember that, all I remember is looking up at the bridge and saying, ‘It isn’t gold, it’s just orange paint’. Well I didn’t expect the streets to be paved with gold like so many people did when they came off Ellis Island – that’s what I understood they always said, people thought the streets were going to be paved with gold – but I thought they could have rustled up a bit of gold paint for the Golden Gate Bridge!

And we did file off onto to the train – the train was pulled right alongside on the wharf there – and we filed off onto the train and then the train started this – it was four nights and five days for the people that came all the way across America – and I was let off at Cheyenne, Wyoming, because that was the nearest point that that train was going to go to to Fairbury, Nebraska, which was my ultimate destination. From Cheyenne, Wyoming, I went to Denver, Colorado, and from Denver, Colorado I went to Fairbury, Nebraska, and I think the train came in March the eighth 1946 about, what, nine or ten ’clock at night, in the middle of a snowstorm and I’d never seen snow. And Lewis met me there, that’s where we met.

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