Across the pond with Rex Wailes

September 17th 2019 by Nathanael Hodge

In 1929 Rex Wailes, aged 28, went on a business trip to the USA and Canada - taking every opportunity to research mills on the way. This weekly series of blogs will showcase his diary of the trip, which he began the day he set of to cross the Atlantic.
Poster Image

 S.S. Aquitania. Image from the Library of Congress



Saturday 27.4.29

Left home on the 8.26, Mother saw me off. After some hectic minutes at the office I went with Dad to Euston, where he and Heywood saw me off on the boat train at 10.20 a.m.

Euston Station. Photo Ben Brooksbank, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0

I was among some young emigrants in the coach. They were off to Canada, and most of them hoped to get into U.S.A. eventually. They were all very cheery, with an accordian and a ukelele. One – an Irish Cokney – whom I talked to, ran down everything British and glorified everything American. Another – an Essex lad from Halstead – was just the reverse. They had all been at a training camp at Benefield for four months and seemed to have had a good time. One American fellow passenger who was returning with his wife and daughters and looked very prosperous, told them of the glories of Detroit and Henry Ford. We waited on the boat for an hour and a half before she moved at 4 p.m.

I was tickled when we dropped the pilot. He was dressed just like a city man, complete with bowler hat and attache case.

Promenade on the deck of the Mauretania, c 1905. Photo from DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

The deck steward was not in evidence, so I stood about and talked to a couple of Americans, or sat on a capstan and read the Forsyte Sayer, until dinner. I was cold (45° F) and was glad of the liner of my coat and gloves. One American (resident Honululu) is on a round the world trip. He has been nine months at it already (with wife and daughter) and had 3 months in India. The other American looks like an old Quaker and talks a lot about nothing. They are both Massachusetts born, and both claim English ancestry (all this within the first half an hour). There are only about 30 Tourist Third passengers at present, but as we call at Belfast at 2 p.m. and Greenock (for Glasgow passengers) at 6 p.m. tomorrow, we shall have a total of 60 I am told. We are also calling at Halifax to set down emigrants, so I shall not get to Boston until the night of Monday – May 6th or Tuesday, May 7th.

My cabin is an outside one on deck D starboard side. It's lucky I'm to myself for there is only room for two cases. The deck space is very limited - the cabin passengers have most of it. I kept outside until dinner as the lounge and writing rooms are so hot. They have a vile H.M.V. electric reproducer with remote loud speaker for dance music, and it's going as I write. We passed the I.O.M. at about 8.15. and I had to tell the Americans all I knew of it. In the writing room is an etching by Frank Dicksee dated 1913 and called "The Mill". It shews my beautiful Great Bardfield Mill, Essex – a cheering sight!

 Great Bardfield Mill, Arthur Lowe Collection

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