Japan: My Father’s Observations 1922-1923

Garment-Dyed Chest Pocket Cotton T-Shirt in Black 2015In order to begin the documented tales about my father Jim Davey, I flip to my mother’s meticulously preserved scrapbooks. They abound with tales of expansion and exploration, as well as the trauma and triumph within the lives of famous folks of the time – lives that were only one or two levels of separation from our personal.

In 1916, my twenty-9 year outdated father married Mary Binney, heiress of the Binney and Smith Crayola Company, and so they settled in Old Greenwich, Connecticut (then known as Sound Seashore). In response to my Uncle Mart, Mary was “a lovely and cultured lady.” Her father, Edwin Binney, the inventor of Crayola crayons, and his spouse Alice lived proper on the water at Long Island Sound, at the top of Binney Lane. My father and Mary made their residence not removed from them, also on the water, at the end of Sylvan Lane. It was an idyllic setting.

Mary’s older sister, Dorothy Binney, had married George Putnam in 1911. George was the grandson of the founding father of the century-previous G.P. Putnam & Sons, the oldest and largest publishing home on the earth. Its authors included Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allan Poe, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. For his part, George specialized in publishing books about travel and exploration.

Exploration was George’s ardour, and he had several notable Arctic adventures to his credit. He also backed various historical past-making aviation events. His wife Dorothy was an equally avid traveler, in addition to a celebrated hostess to essentially the most stimulating and celebrated adventurers of the day. For instance, Admiral Richard Byrd, pioneering American polar explorer and aviator, was often a visitor. In fact, the Putnams were so well-known for entertaining well-known adventurers that will Rogers – a lot-beloved American actor, humorist, and social commentator within the 1920’s and 1930’s – joked that you simply couldn’t snare an invite unless you had conquered some uncharted territory!

So this was the social world that my father inhabited, and soon he would embark on his own historical past-making excursions all over the globe.

It was in the winter of 1922 that my father and Mary set sail from New York on one of the vital thrilling and publicized adventures of the Twentieth Century. They sailed on the Laconia of the Cunard Line, in the first ever continuous world cruise by an ocean liner since Magellan. This amazing adventure was exclusively chartered by the American Specific Firm to go to waters first explored by Magellan’s fleet four hundred years before, throughout the first circumnavigation of the globe.

Laconia’s 130-day voyage departed on November 21, 1922, and arrived again in New York on March 30, 1923 after calling at twenty-two ports. She first headed westward by means of the Caribbean, the Panama Canal, and throughout the Pacific. Then she came back to the United States by way of the Far East, the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Although the ship might accommodate 2200 passengers, American Specific marketed that membership within the cruise could be restricted to 450, ensuring that only the very best cabins can be utilized.

News media all over the world enthusiastically greeted the “Laconiaites” in port after port. Her arrival was a trigger for great celebration. Here’s how Cunard Line describes this well-known first world cruise: “Elegant manners, eloquent conversation, fancy gown balls and a joyful need to discover got here together to define a traditional voyage.” If readers would like extra information, google Cunard Line, Laconia II, The World Cruise.

I can solely compare it to what I know about Pan American World Airways’ well-known 1935 China Clipper’s inaugural flight throughout the Pacific, which was accompanied by the same frenzied media coverage as the Laconia. The world was opening as much as travel in a manner that stimulated the wanderlust of those that yearned to see the world.

Fortunately, several years ago I received an unbelievably thrilling treasure in the mail from the granddaughter of my Uncle Paul Davey. It was a pack of my father’s unique letters despatched to Paul from his round-the-world trip, stamps and all. I had seen typed excerpts from the letters all my life, however never the handwritten originals. As soon as once more, as along with his highschool books, I felt like I was reaching back by way of time and touching my father.

This was a time period between the World Wars, and lots of the Laconia’s ports-of-call had been recognized by previous names and governed by different nations. In actual fact, charting the voyage was tough for me because of the many adjustments between then and now. I unfold out a big paper map of the world from Nationwide Geographic on the ground, and you may need laughed seeing me scurry from one end of it to a different, trying to plot out the ship’s journey. Then again, between my adventures with the map and the magic of the Web, it turned out to be an enchanting historical past lesson.

Throughout the late 19th Century, European powers have been engaged in a mind-boggling imperialist scramble for Colonial possessions. In consequence, many of these Asian countries bear the footprints of a changing political panorama cast by a series of brutal wars.

Subsequently, what I knew of the world – “Pan Am’s World”- was sometimes very different, and generally a lot the same as that which the Laconia’s passenger knew. My father saw the globe with the eyes of an accomplished tree surgeon and naturalist who was very concerned about issues of conservation. He was also struck by the shocking poverty and desperate hunger of the masses, which left him questioning about the longer term in a really prescient way. It is necessary to recognize that my father was very a lot a man of his time, with the mindset of a white American male born in the late 1880’s.

With that in thoughts, the following are excerpts from his first letter home:

Embossed on the front of the very outdated, very elegant stationery is CUNARD R.M.S. “LACONIA.” Spherical THE WORLD CRUISE 1922-1923. Path OF AMERICAN Specific Company Travel Division.

Jan.Eight/23. Off the West Coast of Korea (The Yellow Sea)

After eight days in Japan, the Laconia was now on her option to Port Arthur, and my father wrote of his Japanese experience. Since my father had always needed to check Japanese gardening first hand, he was thrilled that the Cruise Management had organized for them to see the best gardens in Japan.

He writes, “I’ve by no means seen anything as high-quality as one in Tokyo, belonging to royalty. The title ‘flowery kingdom” is actually properly applied for although it’s the winter season I can readily imagine what it should be about April or Might. The Japanese are great flower lovers and really skillful gardeners. They are previous masters in the use of rocks, and their gardens are models in this respect.” He noticed that “they’re planting gingko and oriental plane bushes on city streets to an awesome extent, and the paulownia is sort of a common tree in Japan. Japan seems to be vast awake to the significance of planting; I observed that many of their hillsides have been reforested.”

My father describes Nikko as “the most beautiful spot in Japan, not only because of the richness and sweetness of design of the temples, but most particularly due to the marvelous setting. The cryptomerias (cedars) are 250 years previous and are of nice size as they had been planted soon after the temples had been built. In fact, I feel they make the place. Main as much as the temples is the celebrated Cryptomeria Avenue, twenty-5 miles lengthy, with these fantastic trees planted closely together on each sides. It’s the most spectacular display of trees (man planted) I have ever seen.”

Apparently, my father noted the robust odor in Japan at the moment, which was not true anymore once i acquired there in the 1960’s. He explains, “All human excrement is carefully preserved and carted out to the rice paddies for fertilizer. Owing to the large population and the comparatively small amount of tillable floor it is necessary to lift the maximum amount on their small plots. This methodology of fertilizing is very efficient but, oh boy, the stench! My outstanding impressions of Japan are about as follows – topographically, it is way more mountainous than I believed. Aesthetically, it exceeded my expectations; odoriferously, it knocked us for a goal!”

My father also states that,”In two places in Japan I saw crude makes an attempt at Tree Surgery. It would have been thought-about poor work in 1900 within the U.S. In view of their experience with plants, it’s unusual that they did not develop an art alongside these lines.”

At the chance of offending some readers, I imagine strongly in reporting history correctly and precisely in the voice of people that have been living at the moment. It is vital to recollect how totally different that era was, culturally and socially, than what we know right this moment. In that context, here’s what my father wrote: “We seem to have a national fear that in the future the Japanese will probably be big and sturdy sufficient to constitute a real menace to America. There could or may not be just ground for such fears but I have to say that I like them as people and that they seem to be the most competent individuals in this part of the world to develop alongside trendy lines. Actually, it could be hard to compete with them.”

Taking their go away of Japan, my father writes that “We have been fortunate in having a quantity of good views of Fuji; we saw it by moonlight as we passed by the bottom, going from Tokyo to Kyoto.” How mesmerizing that should have been! He also adds with typical American satisfaction, “It is extremely stunning but did not impress me any greater than our own Mt. Shasta.”

Five years after my father returned from this trip, he started designing and executing the constructing of Binney Park in Outdated Greenwich, Connecticut. It was devoted to the memory of his father-in-law, Edwin Binney, whom he adored. My father was by no means happier than when he could create beautiful and pure environments. Binney Park was modeled on the parks he noticed in Japan, with ponds, foot and road bridges, beautiful bushes and flowering shrubs, meandering walkways and a stone shelter. A 1928 newspaper article claimed that “when the landscaping is completed, the brand new park will current a marvel of scenic grandeur and beauty unsurpassed anyplace in the United States.” In the 1980’s, a television particular, Dorothy Hamill: Dwell From Binney Park, featured the Olympian skating on the pond that was my father’s creation. It’s fun for me to know that it had been Dorothy’s childhood coaching ground. (Involved readers may google Binney Park, Greenwich.)

As I mentioned, it’s essential to remember that my father’s letters were written almost 100 years ago, throughout a cruise that represented an opening up of the world that had never been attempted before. Lots of the ports were still primitive at the moment, and the passengers aboard usually had little or no thought about what to expect. This was additionally virtually ten years earlier than Charles and Anne Lindbergh set out on their world explorations for Pan Am in 1931.

At that time, as you might imagine, travel books had been non-existent. Right now, everyone has seen sights from around the globe in movies, Television, on-line, and in magazines and books. Iconic pictures have captured the essence of the variety and variety of foreign cultures. Many people immediately have skilled their own foreign travels. Moreover, flora and fauna from world wide have been imported for years. World delicacies is acquainted even to youngsters. Iconic photographs have captured the essence of the variability and range of cultures. None of this was true in 1922.

Now, all these years later, I’m struck by the differences between my experiences as a Pan Am flight attendant and people of my father throughout the Laconia’s historic journey. In my subsequent blog, I need to explore those differences. I hope you’ll be a part of me.

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