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Published: November 6th 2018
1964 Diary Entry "The next morning we got up at about half past six. We then got dressed and went down to breakfast. After breakfast we collected our baggage and were driven to the airport by Auntie Marge and Uncle Eric. Uncle Eric then showed me around the airport. We went up on the roof and found a telescope that needed ten cents to start it. This is a bit silly because the (sic) don't have ten cents in Australia. We then went down into the airport building again. That was where Auntie Marge and Uncle Eric left us. Now was the time to go into the customs building. We went in and found that we had to wait in a kew (sic). When we got to the front Dad gave the man there a form. He took it and we went out of the building again. Then we were called out on to the apron. We boarded the plane and about ten minutes later we took off. We slowly rose to 31,000 feet where we leveled off. By that time we were getting close to the border between New South Wales and Queensland. When we got to
the border we started to see some very barren country. We passed over this country for about two hours. It was a great thrill when I finally saw the Gulf of Carpentaria ahead. When we got to the coastline I found that there were a lot of rivers going into the gulf. We then went out over the sea and about a quarter of an hour later we completely lost sight of Australia. Out over the sea the clouds prevented us from seeing the ocean. When we did get a look through we quite often saw islands as there are a lot in this part of the world. This sort of land and weather kept up for nearly four hours. At the end of four hours we landed in Manila which is a city in the Phillipines (sic). There we stayed for about three quarters of an hour in which Mum bought quite a few things. At the end of our time in Manila we got on the plane and took off this time heading for Hong Kong. At 8.30 pm Hong Kong time we arrived there. Then we got off the plane and went into the airport building. There quite a few things had to be done. First of all a man looked at our passports. Then we went to a desk where we were given some pieces of paper. We then went on to the customs where a lady asked us had we any firearms, spirits or tobacco. We then went out of the building where a car met us and took us to the Park Hotel. There we got undressed and got into bed. We fell asleep almost imediately (sic)."
By now I should clearly have been doubting the wisdom of my parents' decision to freight my textbooks to London, as spelling lessons were definitely in order. I also seem to have had an overly strong obsession with time and numbers. I think I may have inherited the time thing from my maternal grandfather. He ran a trucking company in Geelong, and was notorious for leaving his office if people didn't turn up to meetings with him exactly on time.
Decimal currency was clearly still a couple of years off hitting our shores. I can still remember the tune to the ditty they used to advertise its coming on the TV - "pounds will be dollars and pennies will be cents, on the fourteenth of February 1966".
In-flight movies were yet to hit the skies, but not to fear, Qantas had the entertainment issue well covered with its in-flight magazine which it said had "been designed .... to help to make the time pass more quickly and pleasantly....". I would have hoped that most of its passengers could have managed the fifteen pages of text in the magazine in slightly less than the ten or so hours that this flight took us.
I distinctly remember my father being a bit concerned about the culture shock that he thought probably awaited me in the third world country that was Hong Kong in 1964. He gave me a very serious talk on the plane about the fact that the majority of Hong Kong's residents were refugees from "Red China", and that many of them lived in tin sheds on the hillside and used buckets for toilets. My overriding takeout from this at the time was that I should avoid stepping in or drinking from buckets, but I suspect that I may have missed the point a bit.....
We landed at Hong Kong's old Kai Tak airport, and I remember the runway being lined on both sides by tall buildings that looked to me to be just a bit too close to the plane for comfort. My mother was a very seasoned but nervous traveller. I'm not sure that she'd done much flying before and suspect the thought of this probably scared the daylights out of her. In her mind I'm sure the wingtips would have looked like they were scraping the paint off the buildings. Someone told me years later that pilots needed special training before they were allowed to land here.
It’s good to see that the Hong Kong customs officers were on the look out for contraband, although perhaps slightly worrying that they were checking for "firearms" after we got off the plane rather than before we got on it. How times have changed......
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