One day in the early fifties, while living in England, I came across an advert in The Ramblers’ Association magazine suggesting that readers join the Globetrotters’ Club and learn how to “travel on a shoestring”. Now, over forty years later, this is hardly possible. Nevertheless, the Globetrotters Club is still an enormous help to its travelling members and an inspiration for armchair travellers.
At that time a well-known author of travel books (on a shoestring!), Gordon Cooper, was our President. Norman Williams was London Meetings Organiser and the monthly meetings were held at the Royal Scottish Corporation Buildings with the result that lively Scottish music often wafted into our meeting room. Globe was run off on a Gestetner and a working party would meet early at a London meeting to assemble it.
My travels took me on YHA trips to Europe and various parts of the British Isles, and each time I regretted having to return home. Eventually in 1956, I set sail from Tilbury on the SS Kenya Castle bound for Mombassa, Kenya, and thence to Mwanza, Tanganyika (now Tanzania) where a job awaited me.
I was to go for two years; however fate stepped in and I met a young ex-Merchant Navy Officer homeland of Kenya. Tony and I were married and lived for 18 happy years in our beloved Kenya. During these years we sailed round Lake Victoria (my ‘seasickness’ proved to be morning sickness!). We did safaris of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and spent three months in South Africa, as well as dutifully returning to relatives in the UK now and again.
We Became “Famous”!!!
There were no local GT’s to form a branch of the Club, but we became “famous” as so many GT’s called on us and mostly stayed a while, usually en route North to South or East to West of Africa. We had many interesting and fun times with Globetrotters.
I particularly remember Grace Stevenson, a lovely Australian lady who hailed from Longreach, New South Wales, which she laughingly demonstrated at the dining table! We met Grace at Nairobi railway station.
From the far end of the platform crowded with the usual African paraphernalia of people, baggage, baskets of vegetables, fruit, live chickens, etc. came a loud “YAHOO!” from a broad, smiling face of a small blonde with a pack almost bigger than its bearer! Grace needed help to get it on her back and then managed it easily. Kenya was the 100th country she had visited quite a feat especially in those days and there were great celebrations at our home and at the Aussie Club in Nairobi.
Grace’s travelling wardrobe presented her as a rough and ready traveller, but way down at the bottom of her pack under her spirit stove and iron rations was a black bag with an uncrushable evening dress, a fur stole and jewellery to take her to the smartest places! Quite a character!
Our GT Visitors.
Our GT visitors in Nairobi included Millie Casson, Catherine Malcolm, Martin Johns, Dick and Din Feldman, Bob Bailin, Denise Hooper, Vivienne Wober and family, Ian Harrison, Valerie Newman, Barbara and Ivor Francis, Peter Hulme Cross, Andy Blackburn, David and Mary Nairn and Sara Jane, Max Altmann, Edna and Chris Egemeier, Ken Follett, Vicki Prosser and Jo Hanson. GT’s often camped in our garden; thanks to the delightful Kenya climate it was easy.
Towards the end of our time in Nairobi, Bryan and Jo Hanson were living in Lagos, Nigeria. They would tell travellers to look us up and we’d send people to them. It was some years before we actually met Bryan and Jo. When we decided to emigrate to Ontario in 1974 it was the Hanson’s who helped our family of six while we were in limbo in the UK waiting for our papers to get into Canada. Paddy Conway, a GT who was warden of the London YHA at that time, also helped us a lot.
Our first GT in our home in Mississauga in 1976 was our old friend, Fernand Bartlett! Later we formed the Toronto Branch of the Club, the first meeting being held at our home in April 1978. The Club still meets bi-monthly in Toronto.
Tony and I retired this year and now live at Meaford, a small community on Georgian Bay in Lake Huron. What did we do to celebrate our first summer here? Had a GT Picnic! A good time was had by all, with croquet, horseshoes, swimming, good eats, a travel quiz and lively conversation. We may not have travelled too far on a shoestring, but we have many happy memories of Globetrotters both past and present, and say “Thank you” to all!
Vera Blowers, Ontario Canada