2.17 San Diego to London

Kayann, Does the hip in the Velasquez painting remind you of Edward Weston?  Can that have been intentional?  Maybe that’s just what hips do.  His one appreciation of culture in London high society.

I’ve included two maps this week.  The first shows his travels in the last half of 1912 and all of 1913 – about eighteen months.

This second map gets him from San Diego to London by way of Canada and across the Atlantic.  Click the title if the maps do not appear.

October 8, 1913 – November 17, 1913

“This Place [San Diego] is the place I have been looking for all my life.  For some reason the boss seems to like me, and the place is permanent.  It will take something good to get me away from here. I am almost forgetting about Africa even.”

Standard Oil Fire, 26th and Schley, San Diego CA 1913

Marred only by the Standard Oil fire that Hayes says burned 250,000 gallons of gasoline and another 1,500,000 gallons of other oil on October 5, 1913, San Diego is a sleepy little town with soft, balmy air off the Pacific Ocean tempering the heat of the sun.  Sharing a room with Fred Sidler, Hayes cooks meals in a small kitchenette, sleeps well in the cool evening air, and watches a rising sun darken the blue of the sea caressed by the cool morning breeze.

And yet: “Somehow I have a premonition of disaster.  I don’t see what could happen in a place like San Diego, but there is a haunting, sub-conscious warning of evil to come that thrills me like an electric shock.  I wake in the night wondering; I am almost afraid.”

October 20, 1913, the day after writing the preceding paragraph, Hayes received a wire from London asking him to report to the board of the Heart of Africa Mission.  If the interview in London goes well, the board will send him to the Belgian Congo.  “Will I go? Of course.  Perhaps this telepathic warning I have had tells me to stay away.  But it is Africa, and to Africa I will go regardless of warnings and all else.”

Three weeks after arriving in “the place I have been looking for all my life,” Hayes departed San Diego for Los Angeles, arrived in time for breakfast with George Studd, delivered and evening address to “a small crowd … at the big mission hall in Los Angeles,”  and left for Chicago at 9:00 AM on the morning of October 28th carrying gifts for George’s brothers: C.T. Africa and and J.K. in London.

Arizona is desolate; Chicago “is so cosmopolitan I feel a stranger in my own country;” Montreal is so cold with no heat in the hotel Hayes must sit all day in the moving pictures to keep warm.  “It costs five cents all morning, five more until bedtime, with a bit of entertainment between naps.”

Ausonia (1), Cunard line

On November 1st, Hayes sailed out of Montreal aboard the Ausonia, a cargo boat that carried passengers in “knockdown berths.”  Such boats are always full of immigrants on the westward trip, but the Ausonia sails east only half full of a few Russians retiring home to their slums with an “ample competence” earned in Canada and many “British who have failed in the new country.”  As the river widened at Lac St. Pierre the Ausonia stuck in the low water, “then we hauled off and we are on our way again, a howling blizzard behind us.  The men who broke the way into the wilderness of the St. Lawrence were made of sterner stuff than I am.”  Hard to imagine anyone made of sterner stuff than Hayes, but he says “I am getting all the hardships I want as a passenger on the Ausonia.”

Chateau Frontenac, Quebec

At Quebec, only a few passengers aboard the Ausonia “braved the howling gale to look at the city from the deck. The Chateau Frontenac looms high above its neighbor buildings from its vantage point on the bluffs.”  Labrador “is an icy desolation”;  Newfoundland “almost as cheerless as Labrador.”  Waves jumping the forecastle froze “the anchors, forward rigging and rails all [into] a sheet of ice.”  Passing out the Strait of Belle Isle Hayes saw a green and blue iceberg so large it had hills and valleys:  “150 feet in height, covering two or three square miles in extent.”  Leaving the shelter of Canada, the Ausonia’s crew secures the deck in preparation for heavy weather(!)

November 7 1913:  For three straight days a blinding gale rolled the ship on high irregular swells with seasick passengers huddled together for warmth “and on every hand could be heard wails of fear lest the ship be lost.”

But on the 9th, the sun broke forth, the passengers forgot their woes and some even broke out a gambling table in the cabin directly beneath the sign reading “Gabling Forbidden.”  Hayes’ berth mate lost $100 using a surefire winning scheme but Hayes eschewed the table worrying more about the larger gamble of his return to Africa:  “I usually get the bad place, and wonder if this will be an exception.  I hope to accept the result, whatever it may be, with equanimity.”

The Ausonia docked at Plymouth where passengers transferred to trains arriving in London on November 12th.  To economize, Hayes took a room in Edgeware Road, “a slightly dingy part of town.”  But was transferred to the Wilton “not far from the House of Parliament and from Buckingham Palace,” after meeting with James Ingram and Martin J. Sutton, “who are heads of the mission that proposes to anticipate Islam in Africa.”

Priscilla (Stewart) Studd

From the Wilton, Hayes launched straight into the whirl of England’s aristocracy.  First he met with “Mrs. C.T. Studd” and her four daughters (two unmarried) at their home near Crystal Palace.  Hayes writes: “We had the usual pink tea fight, and later came another at the Wingfields at Ashley Gardens in Westminster.”  (I wonder if a reader familiar with the phrase “pink tea fight” might send a definition.)  Feeling very much at sea “among these grandees,” Hayes allows his name to be hyphenated:  “I am now Mr. Hayes-Perkins.  This adds infinitely more tone than to be just common Hayes Perkins, as I used to be.”  At these fêtesHayes can manage English men, but the “primped and bedizened dowagers who stare at one through double barreled lorgnettes give me the creeps” – though “they do have some handsome daughters.”

Venus, Diego Velázquez

The following day Hayes escaped to the Natural History Museum at South Kensington.  “This is more in my line, for I love animals, and saw many, including rare ones now extinct.”  For some culture, he revisited Mme. Tussaud’s wax museum (no longer the wonderland it was for Hayes the 21 year old boy, but “it is still good”) and the National Art Gallery where Velasquez’ Venus slashed by suffragette Mary Richardson alone caught his attention:  the rest “might have been beer chromes as priceless art in my eyes.”

Hayes will be in London high society for another month.  The “handsome daughters” make the time bearable and he attends to at least one practical matter as tantalizing to me, his first cousin thrice removed, as any recorded in his diary:  “This afternoon I was at the Army & Navy Stores taking a course of instruction in photography, for the board wants some pictures of inner Africa.”

Anyone have an idea where those pictures taken for the mission board might have ended up?  I’d like to see them too.

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2 Responses to 2.17 San Diego to London

  1. Deirdre Butler says:

    Fascinating story – thanks for sharing. Any more details on Hayes’ journey from Plymouth to London?

  2. johnmmartin says:

    No Deirdre, Just one sentence on riding the train. Lots more detail about the London slum, and the London aristocracy but nothing about that leg of the trip.

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