A favourite pastime in early childhood, was to look at pictures in the school geography and any books that came to hand, and dream dreams of the strange peoples and scenes. Later the pictures were augmented by reading, and soon letters of travel and foreign pictures held first place in the choice of entertainment. Sometime in those early years, the decision was reached “I mean to go abroad myself, some day and see for myself.” As the years went by the decision was intensified and strengthened and grew with the years. The opportunity for the fulfillment of the life-dream did not come until 1920 - the occasion, the great World’s W.C.T.U. convention to be held in London in April, of that year.
The Penn. R.R. from Columbus, carried us to the great city of New York and the McAlpine Hotel, Broadway at 34th St. was our home while in the city, and Hessie Leyborne of Toledo our room-mate.
Only a few in our party of 86 had ever met until we reached New York. One afternoon we held a sort of “get acquainted” meeting, in the reception room at 156 - Fifth Ave. and formulated some plans of travel that each one might get all possible out of the trip. No one was to expect or depend upon another for assistance. When on board Ship, if sick, to call the Stewardess; when on land, each one was to feel free to come and go and explore as best suited the fancy. This proved a happy arrangement, for in this large parity many types were represented. There was the one who was always punctually one half hour late. Another with a great faculty for forgetting and losing things. And the usual number of who failed to read instructions carefully and had come on without properly attending to their passports. On the part of some, this necessitated much telegraphing, telephoning, and even trips to Washington before all were ready to sail.
Excitement ran high, and even until a few hours before starting we were not sure that all our party would secure passports, for the Belgian Minister in New York, had grown suddenly very indifferent and was slow to affix his signature and stamp, thus permitting us to visit Belgium. When he did affix the necessary vise, he added “Belgium does not want prohibition. If any of this party are known to talk prohibition, or scatter prohibition propaganda, the passport will be revoked.”
One of the questions on the blank given out by the Belgian Minister was - “Give the first name of your wife.” Naturally, the women did not answer it and were told in an emphatic manner that “Everybody knows the first name of your wife means the maiden name of your husband.”
Fortunately, I was among the number who completed all passport requirements by mail, before leaving home, but did my best, after reaching New York, to help the less fortunate secure theirs.
Among the crowd to join our party were four women from Japan, only two of whom spoke English. I was delegated to accompany one of them to an American bank where she exchanged some Japanese money for American, and I received a taste of the annoyances I would encounter later when I reached foreign countries and desired to change American money.
One of the Japanese ladies was Madame Yajima, 87 years old (the Pres. of Japan’s W.C.T.U.) who spoke no English and was taking her granddaughter (who had been attending an American college) with her as interpreter.
Finally, all details were arranged, and with our passports safely tucked away and our receipt from the Internal Revenue Collector (without either of which we could not have sailed) likewise safely guarded, we found ourselves on Saturday afternoon, April 3rd., 1920, at two o’clock at Pier #61 of the Red Star line, ready for passage on the Steamer Lapland.
We went aboard amid the confusion and bustle, and our baggage was taken to State room #356 where Miss Leyborne of Toledo, Mrs. Sarchet of Cambridge, Miss Hinman of Oberlin and myself, were to be companions.
By request of Mr. Wood the conductor of our party, we were aboard several hours before the hour set to sail.
It was a most beautiful day, clear and sunshiny, and although we were traveling by an English vessel that flew the Union Jack, Old Glory had her place of honor.
With intense interest we watched the last gang plank drawn in and the great cables loosened. With the first thrill of motion of the great sea-palace that was to carry us away more than 3000 miles over the deep blue sea, with our silk flag fluttering in the breeze, we felt ourselves moving out from shore and realized that we were going out as a stranger to a strange land and leaving the greater part of our heart behind.
Soon we would be looked upon as foreigners by our neighbors across the sea. Our first dinner on board was greatly enjoyed for we were hungry, but a light repast was made to suffice for fear of sea-sickness. A walk on deck, some visits from friends, and we were safely tucked into our little bed, berth #3 (an upper berth) high up with no steps to ascend or descend, but with a big port hole, overlooking the water just by.
A fine nights rest and we woke to find a calm sea and realized that it was the glad Easter day. Soon we were dressed and on deck again. By this time we found all our Steamer chairs arranged and marked and our party of 86 were put together. Mrs. Cottingham of Columbus, read the beautiful Easter lesson and we sang Blest be the Tie and Throw out the Life-line etc. A beautiful service was held in the dining room at 10-30 conducted by a Pres. minister on board. At intervals, some very appropriate selections were given on deck - “Glad Easter Morn”- “Flander’s Fields” etc.
We neglected to speak of the piles and piles of Steamer letters from good friends that we found waiting when we came on board. Surely if good wishes can influence our voyage, it will be one of calm deep joy. These bring to mind the good-bye meeting held at Troy mid-year just before leaving Ohio, when such fervent prayers were offered for our safe return and all joined hands and feelingly sang, “God be with you till we meet again.”
We have a steady boat and the sea is running smooth, Everybody is bright and happy. Well, we have had lunch. Wish I could give a picture of the dining room, the flowers, the linen, the silver, the uniformed waters, and the hundreds of passengers from everywhere. Meals are served in courses, with much formality. To-day a little boy who sits opposite me at table and son of a Cong. minister, said - “Mother I am through lunch and I have four forks left.”
At the above mentioned meal each had 5 knives, 5 forks, 5 spoons, etc. They serve wonderful meals. It is hard to be temperate in eating when such a variety of good things are offered and in such a tempting manner. Then at four o’clock comes tea, which if you do not care to go down to the dining room, will be served to you on deck.
There are many kinds and classes of people represented on board, among them the proverbial bride and groom who attract much attention.
Some one told us that sea-sickness was caused by the vibrations in the inner ear etc. and that if we filled our ears with gauze, we would be immune from sea-sickness. Every woman is wearing gauze in her ears. It must work, the first day has passed and nobody is sick.
We are told there is a real live Lord from England on board! He is possibly some innocent, irresponsible little creature.
The evening Easter service in the dining room will long be remembered. The decorations, were American flags and flowers. A Perfect Day, Spring Song etc., played softly. Songs, Scripture reading, prayer and address by the Rev. Mr. Pierce of Indiana and others.