Reminiscences of my 60 years in South America
Trevor Stephenson 1915 - 2015
Arranged by Tony Morrison

The Chalet Booth in Iquitos was the hub of a commercial empire in the upper Amazon. The building was shipped from England in kit form and assembled in the isolated settlement of Iquitos. The Booths needed a focal point for their business in this Peruvian frontier whose only link with the outside world was by river to the Atlantic 3600 kms -almost 2000 miles away. Iquitos is isolated even today. No road has ever been built to Lima the capital beyond the Andes mountains and connections are still by river or the busy airport. The Chalet has gone with the changing ways of a growing city. Trevor was there when Iquitos and the Chalet with its full-size billiard table were fascinating relics of a forgotten empire.

Schoolboy to Apprentice 1931-1936
Maranham 1936-41
Parnahyba 1937 -1943
Homeward Bound 1938
Tropical Troubles 1942
Para 1938/1939 1943 /1945
Amazonian Interlude 1941
Manaus 1941-1942
War time diary 1942
Back to Brazil 1943
Iquitos 1945-1946
Brazil for the second time 1947
On a coffee fazenda 1952 -1953
São Paulo Alpargatas 1953 - 1957
Crossing the Continent 1956
Lima 1957 -1963
Working for myself 1964-1990
Iquitos -1945/1947
"People like to eat them roasted"


The Middle of the 19th Century..a time shift and my next destination

Until the middle of the 19th century, all foreign navigation on the River Amazon was prohibited by the Brazilian Authorities and as a result there were few towns along the river, only Indian settlements, Even Manaus did not exist. By 1851, the Peruvian Government was becoming more and more exasperated by the fact that they were unable to reach the frontier with Brazil except by means of a long and very difficult journey overland via Moyabamba. Protests were made to the Brazilian Government and eventually a treaty was signed in October of that year by the two Governments granting Peru access to their territory via the River Amazon. But there was a price to pay. Peru had to give up part of her territory, the regions of Caqueta and Amazonas.

In 1863, The President of Peru, Grand Mariscal Ramón Castilla, a great patriot, decided to test the good faith of the Brazilians by sending 4 gunboats from the port of Callao around Cape Horn, up the east coast of Brazil and up the Amazon to a small settlement called San Pablo de los Napeanos de Loreto. This settlement had been established in 1757 by some missionaries. It was very small having only 81 inhabitants in 1808. The four gunboats arrived at the settlement on 5th January 1864 and the settlement was renamed Iquitos.

In 1864 the Brazilian Government decreed free navigation for all vessels of foreign registry. Immediately settlers began to arrive along the Amazon. Two brothers, Alfred and Charles Booth started a steamship line in Liverpool to carry cargoes between England and the ports of North Brazil and up the River Amazon to the town of Manaus which had been founded in 1852. Then in 1869 another Liverpool merchant called Singlehurst started the Red Cross line running to Iquitos.

Rubber - the Black Gold

In 1880 the rubber boom commenced. There was a rush of settlers to the region. To Iquitos came Spaniards, Portuguese, French, Germans, Cypriots, Maltese and Tangerians together with some Englishmen. Although Manaus was the centre of the rubber boom, Iquitos was also an important centre and soon 20 firms had been established there all being engaged in some way in the rubber trade.

In 1901 the Booths took over the Red Cross Steamship Company forming the Booth Steamship Co. Ltd. There was a rise and fall of the river at Iquitos of some 40 feet. This caused many problems for the loading and discharge of cargo so the Booths petitioned the Peruvian Government for permission to construct a floating landing stage similar to that in Liverpool. Their petition granted, the Iquitos Harbour Company was formed, A number of English engineers were sent out and a floating landing stage was constructed at the end of Calle Loreto. Ships could then discharge their cargo on to the landing stage. From here the cargo was winched up to the top of the river bank and into Customs Warehouses at the corner of the streets Loreto and Raymondi. Outward cargo was dealt with in the same way.

Brazil has a federal system of States, each State having an elected Governor with power to raise its own taxes. With money pouring into the State coffers, many improvements were made to Manaus such as the paving of the streets, the building of many attractive buildings such as the famous Opera House and Palace of Justice. A water supply, electricity and a tram system was built. Iquitos, on the other hand, was a Province and all the money received was sent to Lima.

It was the wealthy merchants who built luxurious residences and offices for themselves, many faced with colourful tiles from Portugal. One merchant, Anselmo del Aquila, purchased the world's first prefabricated building built by Eiffel and on display at an exhibition in Paris, shipped it to Iquitos and erected it on the corner of the Plaza de Armas. The building consists of metal iron plates bolted together. The upper floor was used as the Iquitos Club whilst on the ground floor was the grocery store of a Sr Borges.

With the collapse of the rubber boom in 1913 Iquitos entered into a gentle decline although it was still visited by the occasional Booth vessel and river steamers of the Amazon River Co of Belem do Para. It was to this town that was now to become home for me for the next couple of years.

A revolution in Iquitos and strange money

In January 1921, there was a Revolution in Iquitos. The rubber boom had ended and there was depression. Funds had not been sent from Lima for the wages of the army and the men were getting upset. A Peruvian Army Captain called Guillermo Cervantes rose up in arms against the Authorities in the town. They marched on the Municipal Offices and took all the money they could find amounting to 10,000 Peruvian Pounds. Then they ransacked the Banco de Peru y Londres taking away 13306 Peruvian Pounds. However, this sum was insufficient for their needs so they made an arrangement with a local printer to design and print their own notes, the low value notes on wrapping paper and the higher denominations on lining paper. They decreed that these notes, known as Cervanteros, were now the only legal tender. At first the business houses refused to accept them but due to the lack of other money, they eventually accepted them. However, members of the Chinese Colony who were mostly small-shop owners stated that they would not accept such notes. Therefore, they were rounded up and placed on an island in the middle of the River Amazon and left there without food or drink. A few days was sufficient and they decided it was better to accept than starve. Meanwhile, troops had been sent from Lima to putdown the Revolution and finally, after several small battles, the ringleaders escaped to Ecuador. These Cervanteros Notes are sought after by collectors.

1945 Trevor arrives in Iquitos

But to continue with myself, on the morning of 18th June 1945, the Panair do Brasil single engined Sikorski hydroplane left Belem on route to Manaus. We flew at around 1000 metres following the mighty Amazon river. This afforded me much satisfaction for I thought that if we had to make a forced landing, at least there would be a chance of swimming ashore always provided that alligators and other nasty animals didn't eat me first.

Looking out of the window, all I could see was a green mantle of the forest with the Amazon winding its way down to the ocean. Occasionally a small settlement could be seen or a straw roofed hut and some naked children waving as we passed overhead. Sometimes flocks of green parrots flew below us. Now and then a small river boat could be seen. Then at midday we stopped at the river port of Santarém for lunch which consisted of a sort of fishy soup, boiled fish with plenty of bones, rice and farofa [a seasoned manioc /cassava flour] followed by goiabada and a banana.

We took off again stopping briefly at Parintins, Obidos and Itacoatiara before reaching Manaus. After a short stop, we left for Iquitos stopping at various small river ports, rather like a milk run, I thought, before coming down at the frontier port of Benjamin Constant where everyone had to disembark to have their passports stamped. Back on board again, the plane taxied across to the opposite bank to Leticia in Colombia where a passenger disembarked. Then on to Iquitos flying over Peruvian territory.

Suddenly we went straight into the worst tropical storm which I have ever experienced. The plane was shaken from side to side. We suddenly dropped earthwards, then we were lifted up as though by some giant's hand. At times the plane was thrown on to it's side. I noticed that none of the other passengers seemed very happy and I can't say that I was particularly. Nothing could be seen out of the windows as everything was white. Then just as suddenly, the plane righted itself, the sun shone and there below us was the metal roofed town of Iquitos. As we circled round ready to land, I could see the floating houses and houses on stilts in the district of Belém.

Clambering up some muddy steps cut into the bank of the river, I entered the wooden airport building where a tired looking Customs man waved my baggage through and an equally tired Immigration man stamped my passport. There were no tourists in those days to liven things up.
A Portuguese man approached me and, having ascertained my name, informed me that he had been detailed to convey me to the Chalet Booth. I was duly impressed with this VIP treatment.

Into a Ford V8

Outside the airport building stood a 1939 Ford V8 touring car looking the worse for wear. Untying a piece of string, the driver removed a couple of nails and lifted the door off its hinges. Bowing slightly, he bid me enter which I did with care for the floor was about two inches deep in water with a film of oil on top. Then I sat down on the springless seat.

As we set off, I realised that Iquitos did not possess paved roads, only large potholes joined by short stretches of earth. As we progressed some of the larger potholes almost covered the street and were full of muddy water as it had recently poured with rain. The driver manoeuvred the car with great dexterity around these potholes although on occasion we were so deep in the water that it came into the car under the door!

I noticed that each house had its own pavement outside the front door. Some were of bricks, some of cement whilst others had just earth raised above the level of the roadway and banked by pieces of timber.

Then we came to the Plazuela 28 de Julio, a large square with a tall flag pole in the centre of a small mound of earth and surrounded by bushes.

Turning right, we entered the main street, Jiron Lima, which although made of earth was more or less devoid of pools of water and had few bunches of grass or weeds. Many of the main business houses were sited here such as Toledano, Morey, Power & Co and Garcia, the baker. Further along we came to the Plaza de Armas with a bandstand in the centre surrounded by plenty of weeds. On one side was the main church and on the corner the only decent café and bar in town, On the opposite side was the Alambra Cinema and the Municipalidad. On another side was the Circulo Militar and opposite that the general store of Borges and the famous prefabricated iron Eiffel building, brought from France, with the Iquitos Club on the first floor, The main street now changed name to Calle Raimondi. Along one side were two lines of bricks where the tram lines used to be. As the road was full of potholes, the buses, taxis and the few cars in Iquitos ran along these lines of bricks. There were no motorcycles in those days.

Chalet Booth

The Chalet Booth was situated on Calle Loreto, leading off Calle Raimondi close to the Custom House. This street had an open ditch running along the centre on either side of which was a muddy track. Into the ditch flowed or was dumped all the refuse from the houses. The smell was quite overpowering and I never did get used to it though I had to walk down the street every day to and from the office. In the ditch were several pigs enjoying themselves. Wandering about in the street were cows, chickens and mules A thin wooden plank was placed at intervals to enable people to cross from one side of the road to the other. Quite a feat and one which I never attempted.

At one corner of the street was\a large wooden house in the doorway of which sat two women, both nursing babies. One woman was about thirty whilst the other could not have been more than fifteen. The driver informed me that both babies had the same father. I spent the rest of the journey to the Chalet trying to work out the relationship of each baby to the other!

Then we came to the Chalet Booth, an imposing building standing in its own grounds full of fruit trees and palms. The building was raised above the ground. I was greeted by TG Parsons who, after introducing me to his wife and 12 year old daughter, Eileen, took me on a tour of the premises. There were five bedrooms, all leading off the main room. Each bedroom in its turn had doors opening out on to a wide veranda. On the outside of the veranda was mosquito netting. The main room had a full sized billiard table at one end. At the other end was a dining table with 8 chairs. There was space for several wicker chairs and a small table where one could sit and have before-dinner drinks. The best part was the bathroom. There was the shower and WC and then a swimming pool. This was supplied with rainwater for the roof was built in such a way that when the rain fell, the water collected above the pool and could be emptied into the pool or out into the garden as required. I made a point of having a swim in the pool every morning after my shower.

Next morning, Parsons took me to the office where he introduced me to the Staff. As the purpose of my stay in Iquitos was to examine the books and put things right, I took no part in the running of the business which was left to TG Parsons.

The Cash was being run by a Miss Aurora, late cook at the Staff House. The Cash was in order so she continued to look after it until one day she resigned. The next I heard about her was that she had married a Booth Line captain and was living in Wales!

I fired the accountant

The Accounts were in a mess so I fired the accountant and took over the books myself. There were a number of peculiar items such as 'Old Bottles Account.'The Manager, JW Massey, heard that as the river was lower than usual, new bottles for the local beer factory were unable to be brought overland from Lima to Yurimaguas and then by river steamer to Iquitos. Thinking to take advantage of this and earn a fortune for the firm, he encouraged all the little boys in town to bring him all the empty beer bottles they could find for which he paid them a few centavos a bottle. Then when the shed in the garden was full of these old bottles, a ship arrived bringing a consignment of new beer bottles. The old bottles Massey then had thrown into the river but numbers floated and little boys continued to fish them out and bring them to the office and demand payment.

There were also large stocks of things like Nails, Screws and Washers. I sold these as quickly as I could.

In Iquitos at the time was the American Rubber Development Corporation engaged in collecting rubber which they shipped out in Catalina flying boats to Lima run by the American Air Force. Booths were Agents for the Cia de Petroleo Ganso Azul which had oil fields in Aguas Calientes. The petroleum products were shipped in barges to Iquitos pushed by tugs in the command of Peruvian Naval Officers. Upon arrival in Iquitos, the oil was pumped into large tanks at Punchana. Booths were in charge of registering the amount of oil received into the tanks. We sold the aviation petroleum to the American Air Force for their Catalina flying boats. Kerosene was sold either in cans or empty coca cola bottles. These latter were used by the local Chinese merchants who on-sold them to housewives.

The American Air Force personnel were also engaged in building an airport so that land planes could be used in the future. However on VJ day,[Victory over Japan] orders were received that the personnel were to return to the States immediately. Although the runway was not complete, a thin layer of cement was laid down on the uncompleted part and the Americans departed. Immediately afterwards a Catalina flew in to Iquitos with Elmer Faucett, head of the company which had been servicing the planes for account of the Americans, Messrs Truslow and Hess of the Rubber Development Corporation, Mr Clayton of Ganso Azul and a few others plus JW Massey. In a Peruvian Air Force plane arrived General Melgar of the Peruvian Air Force and sundry officials. Everyone lined up on the air field and the local army band played several tunes.

The Handover

Then Mr Truslow made a speech after which General Melgar handed over a One Silver Dollar coin after which Mr Truslow solemnly handed the airport to the Peruvian Government. Then there was a short ceremony and General Melgar announced that the airport would be handled by Booth & Co (London) Ltd as Agents for the Government airport agency CORPAC.

All the Catalina flying boats were either loaned or sold to the Faucett Company. The owner, Elmer Faucett, informed us that henceforth Booths could sell passages from Iquitos to Lima. There was an immediate rush of requests for passages and as the Catalina flying boats only had 6 seats we asked Lima what we were to do. The reply was that we could load the planes up to such and such a weight, whether freight or passengers. We decided that we would only sell passages at the airport. Once we knew the total weight of the cargo, then we knew how many kilos we had left. Then first come, first served, passengers and their baggage was weighed and passages issued until we reached the maximum weight. When word was given to board, there was a wild rush to get on board and secure a seat so we agreed that only the first 6 passengers to be ticketed could board first. All the others entered by the cargo hatch and had to make themselves comfortable on the floor. In spite of this we always had far more requests for passages than we could accept. Faucett adopted a similar plan for passages from Lima to Iquitos. When a plane arrived from Lima, 6 passengers would emerge. Then the cargo hatch would be raised and we could see passengers huddled on the floor of the plane too frozen to get up for several minutes.

Slavery 1940's style

One day I saw a number of Amazonian Indian [forest tribe] boys and girls being herded through the main street by a number of men. I have an idea that they were all naked. I asked someone who was passing who and what they were " A group of men have been up-river and attacked an Indian tribe.. They killed most of the men and captured all the youngsters. They are going to be sold." He continued "The average price, boy or girl is S/.60.00 But if the men can get them over to Lima , there people will pay S/.500.00"

Booths were the agents for Faucett airline. That same afternoon we receiced advice from the Captain of the Port that no child under the age of 18 was allowed to travel by 'plane unless accompanied by a written permit signed by the Captain of the Port. 'Just as well as that same afternoon a man entered our office with a request for a passage for himself and three child passsages.

As Assistant Manager I had to tell the man that I waS sorry but unless he produced written permission from the Captain of the Port, I was unable to let him have them. I do not remember whether any of the children were bought in Iquitos though it is quite possible as several families had child servants.

The Booth business

One of the Agencies obtained by Massey was Ventura Wines who also sold soft drinks though these were not very popular. A bottle of their Cola would sell for S/1.50 and when the purchaser returned the bottle he received S/0.50 back. It was very warm at the airport so Booths brought a large tin container filled with cracked ice and bottles of Cola. We sold these to those at the airport for S/,2.00 and the empty bottles had to be placed in a bin but there was no refund of any money! At the same time, the water supply was shut off! We made a nice profit.

One day a young lad approached me at the airport asking that I speak to the Captain for his permission to go into the cockpit whilst flying over the mountains so that he could take some pictures. I spoke to the Captain who was adamant that no passenger could enter the cockpit. I conveyed this to the young lad and thought no more of it until, on the plane's return to Iquitos two days later, the Captain took me to one side.
"Remember that lad that wanted to take pictures from the cockpit? Well, shortly after we left Iquitos, he had the cheek to tap me on the shoulder and repeat his request. Do you know what I did? I opened the little door to the hatch in the nose of the plane where the co-pilot stands when we land in the river to grab the mooring rope and told him he could go there and obtain magnificent pictures of the mountains. I shut the door and locked it. Then I took the plane up to 20,000 feet and he froze! When we arrived in Lima they had to take him out by crane. I guess that is the last time he will want to take pictures of mountains."

On another occasion, some time after the Catalina plane had left for Lima, we received urgent messages enquiring the whereabouts of the plane. We had no idea. It later turned out that the plane had landed at Pucallpa. The Captain told the passengers that he was going fishing and to return to the airport next day. Next\day he sent word that as he had caught nothing, he was going to try again and to return the following day! Because it was so difficult to find pilots capable of flying these Catalina flying boats over the mountains, the Captain got off with a simple warning.

My professional driving licence

Faucett supplied us with a lorry to transport freight and a Ford Station Wagon to take the Authorities and ourselves to and from the airport. We only had one driver so I decided to obtain my driving licence. Then I could pick up the Authorities and take them to the airport thus leaving the driver to handle the lorry. I still had my English driving licence of 1938 which I presented to the Authorities but they told me that as I would be carrying passengers, I had to have a professional licence. Accordingly, one afternoon I picked up the Driving Inspector and drove to the airport. He made me drive along the runway and reverse which I did without too much trouble. Then he said he wanted to test me on the mechanics of the motor. I opened the bonnet . He pointed to a certain part and wanted me to say what it was and did. I had no idea so I told him that I knew the word in English but that my Spanish was not good enough to say what it was in that language. He said "Carburador?" "Aha! Yes that's it", I replied. Then he pointed to something else. Again I said that I only knew the part in English. He said the word in Spanish which didn't mean anything to me but I still said "Oh Yes that's it" He must have felt this was getting nowhere so he told me to drive him back to the Police Station. Twenty minutes later I was given a lovely blue and silver Professional Driving Licence. Years later, this licence enabled me to obtain an ordinary driving licence when I came to live in Lima without having to undergo any driving test!

Booths were also Agents for Panamerican, Braniff, Panair do Brasil and Transportes Militares. The last named line ran sea-planes to several towns in the interior of Peru. I recall one occasion when the plane made several unsuccessful attempts to take off, Then the plane taxied to the landing stage, a member of the crew threw several suitcases on shore, then the pilot made another attempt which was successful. It was several weeks before the owner of the suitcases returned to Iquitos to reclaim them. Faucett soon handed back to the American Air Force the Catalina planes replacing them with DC3s

Shortly after the handing over of the airport, my three months came up and I prepared to return to Brazil when suddenly word came from Para that I was to remain and Parsons would go to Para. Massey had brought back with him from Lima, Agencies for Venturo Wines, Fenix Insurance and some small ones which I cannot remember. Having put the Accounts in order, it was now left to me to handle almost all the work of despatching planes, looking after the Ganso Azul business and the despatch of tugs and lighters to Pará. I saw that it would be too much so I requested that young Sidney Reade be allowed to come and help me. He was young and a bit wild but I had confidence in him and knew that he would be a good right- hand man for me. Accordingly, he arrived and the two of us made a good team. Aside from work, Sidney liked to drink on his own and would go to the Restaurant at the corner of the Plaza de Armas and sit at a table drinking. All went well until one day he got the idea of having a cocktail made from all the bottles on the shelf. Unfortunately one of the bottles contained Flit [Ed: insecticide] to kill the flies!

A death threat and some ants

Sidney was a bit of a lad with the girls. One day he made love to the girl friend of General Morla. A few days later, we had a visit from an army sergeant to say that the next time Sidney even spoke to the General's girl friend, he would be shot!

One day after a heavy rain storm, I noticed some little boys picking things up from the road and popping them into tin cans. I was intrigued. "What are you doing?" I asked them. "We are picking up some ants." "And what are you going to do with them". :We are going to sell them in the market." " What for?" "Because people here love to eat them roasted." I promptly bought a tin full. Back at the Chalet I gave them to the cook who said she would roast them for me. When they were ready she told me to pick each ant up by the wings, dip them in salt and eat them. They were quite large ants about a centimetre in length. She said I would find them delicious. She was quite right!

On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, a popular pastime was to ride round and round the town inside the buses which each had a small band of musicians playing popular music as loud as they could.

A Carnaval fight

During my first Carnaval in Iquitos, I was invited by the head of the Navy to attend a luncheon party aboard the navel vessel Amazonas. A large table on deck was filled with sandwiches and sweets. Jugs of fruit juices and Pisco [a Peruvian alcohol] were served. There was a small group of ladies in their very best chatting by the side of the table and drinking fruit juice. Suddenly one of the ladies turned to speak to another lady and her elbow knocked the arm of another lady causing her glass of juice to spill over her dress. Without a moment's hesitation, the lady grabbed a jug of juice from the table. Pulling the front of the other's dress, she poured the whole jug full down the front. Then battle commenced. Drinks were hurled in people's faces, over their coats or dresses. Cakes were squashed in people's faces. Then the sailors opened the valves and squirted water from the fire hoses over everyone. The event was declared a fantastic success!

One day we received advice from Head Office that some influential persons from Standard Oil of New Jersey were coming to Iquitos to find and appoint an Agent. We were recommended to do everything possible to obtain the Agency. Two officials together with their wives arrived. Massey had a long talk with the two men, later taking them round the town and to the Oil Tanks in Punchana. Meanwhile I was detailed to show the two wives the main street with the stores and the main square. Massey invited them all to dinner at the Chalet. He was determined to put on a good show and he, Sidney and myself dressed in our clean white suits with black bow tie. After drinks, we sat down to dinner. First course was turtle soup which they seemed to like. Then in came the maid Exilda bearing a large dish covered with a silver dish cover. Massey stood up carving knife in one hand, a carving fork in the other. As Exilda whipped off the cover, Massey asked one of the ladies "Do you prefer an arm, leg or breast?" There was a sudden silence, then both ladies followed by the husbands stood up. Apologizing that they were all on a diet and saying goodbye they left. On the dish was a roasted monkey, a delicacy in Iquitos, lying on it s back with its two arms crossed over its breast. Just like a little roasted baby! Strangely, Massey did not seem to understand why they had left. Needless to say Booths did not get the Agency.

The Chinese colony

There was quite a large Chinese Colony, mostly from Shanghai, who possessed British passports and were duly registered at the Consulate.
One of these by name of Jose K Wong had a small shop above which he lived with his Peruvian wife. Most Sunday afternoons there was a dance at the local club to which, in spite of the terrible heat, I used to go. One day Wong asked me if I would mind dancing with his wife as he did not dance. Naturally I obliged and she turned out to be a lovely dancer. I danced with her on several occasions. One day she confided to me that she was Wong s 20th wife. I asked her about the other wives. " Oh they are all in Shanghai and he considers me to be his first and best wife"

Another colourful character was Victor Israel from Tangiers who was also the Chinese Consul. Victor owned a large building on the Malecon overlooking the river. On the first floor was the so-called luxurious Hotel Palace whilst on the ground floor was Victor's general store. One day Victor's partner caught Victor's son stealing some watches from the counter. He immediately complained to Victor who asked his son why he was taking the watches and what he was doing with them. The son replied that he was selling them on the street. "For how much?" Victor wanted to know. When the son told him that he was selling them for S/20.oo each, Victor replied "Son. Go and take some more. I sell them in my store for S/ 15.00. We will split the difference."

On another occasion, the head of the Dutch Oil Co, El Oriente, came to the Consulate to complain that the water had been cut off at the Hotel and guests were only allowed one bucket of river water. We immediately demanded an explanation from Victor Israel who told us that he had received an urgent request from Sr Chenivesse, owner of a large saw mill, for a powerful pump. He explained that the last one had been sold some months previously. Chenivesse implored him to find one urgently as he had a large consignment to fulfil. Victor then remembered that he had a similar pump used by the Hotel. "I sold him the pump as he offered me three times what a new pump costs. I could not resist!"

Evangelise Evangelise!

Another extraordinary character was an American lay preacher called Pent. He ran a small brick factory and at the same time he would evangelise the people of Iquitos, One day he invited me to attend one of his church services held in a partly built church. After the sermon, he sent round the collecting bag. When it came back, he counted out the money. Then he announced that he was very disappointed with the result which was composed mostly of small value coins, and that at this rate the church would never be built. He said that he was going to send round the bag once more and this time only paper notes, preferably of high denominations, would be accepted. The money he raised he used to buy the bricks from his own factory!

There were two markets in town. One was in a purpose built construction with a metal roof where fruit, vegetables, fish and meat was sold. The other was an open air market in the Belem district consisting of numbers of stalls. I enjoyed wandering around these seeing all the peculiar items being sold such as Monkey Meat, Turtle and pieces of Palm tree known as Chonta. The heart of the palm was pulled into thin strips and eaten raw. It was also very nice as a souffle. There were also bottles of coloured liquids, some herbal and some alcoholic, as well as many handmade items. There was also Paiche, a delicious very large river fish. At the Chalet we ate Paiche at least three times a week. There was of course plenty oi pork but after seeing them wallowing in the sewers and ditches, I lost my desire to eat pork. The chickens were plentiful but as they seemed to spend most of their time leaping into the air to catch midges, their legs became very stringy.

The district of Belem was the poor part of town and many of the houses were of wood built either overhanging the river bank or floating. These floating houses consisted of a wooden platform built on logs with three walls of cloth and open in front. All the children from a very early age could swim which was just as well.

Finally arrived the time of my leave. As it was still difficult to get to England, the firm recommended that we spend our leave in South America. As I had a full three months, I decided to travel around South America. A CPV vessel, the Ucayali, was leaving Iquitos for Belem do Para so I reserved my passage as soon as possible as she only had one cabin, a four berth one. As I was friendly with the local Agent, I arranged with him that no other passenger could use the cabin unless I agreed. About a week before sailing date, a Peruvian lad whom I knew, asked if he could share the cabin with me. Naturally I agreed adding that we would not allow the other two berths to be used by anyone else.

Sharing cabins..

Then I received a visit from a messenger from the Captain of the Port who, after paying his respects, said that a Naval Officer and his wife would be travelling to Callao and would I kindly give up my cabin to them. I told the messenger to tell the Captain of the Port that I had reserved the cabin as soon as the ship arrived at Iquitos and that I had no intention of giving it up. Three days later I received another visit this time from the Air Force. This time it was an Air Force Officer travelling with his pregnant wife. Again I said No. On the day of sailing, after saying all my good-byes, I went aboard and placed my luggage in the cabin and went up on deck. There was some other luggage in the cabin . A man approached me and after a few pleasantries, told me that his daughter had just got married and was travelling to Callao with her husband on their honeymoon. I immediately stopped him saying "You want me to give up my cabin so your daughter and …………" He cut me short. "Oh no. Of course I do not want you to give up your cabin but you will understand that being just married, the happy couple would like a little time to be alone. Perhaps you could arrange for them to have say a couple of hours alone in the cabin." I thought this over. It seemed reasonable so I replied "Well dinner is at 6 pm so how about if they use the cabin from 7 pm till 9 pm? But after 9 pm I will probably wish to go to bed" "Excellent", he replied "I will tell them accordingly. Thank you so much." And so we travelled to Belem, my friend and I sleeping in the bunks by the port hole and the bridal couple having the bunks opposite. My friend and I got up first in the morning leaving the couple to get dressed afterwards. It all worked out very well and we became very good friends of the happy couple.

After my leave during which I travelled all round South America, I returned by one of Faucetts' DC4s. The Captain was called Reeves and an Australian like Biggs I believe. He invited me into the cockpit. The sky was a bright blue. Then straight ahead was a large white billowy cloud. Reeves told me that normally he would fly either round it, above or below it. " However, the passengers have just been served coffee so this time I am going to fly straight into it. You are going to roar with laughter", he said. The plane suddenly dropped towards the earth, There were screams from the passengers. Their coffee had spilt all over them. Some had coffee streaming down their faces!

We met on a train......

Leaving Iquitos on holiday in 1946 I travelled around South .America. When I got to Lima, it was my idea to travel overland to Iquitos following the footsteps of a friend of mine. This entailed travelling by train to La Oroya, then by bus to Tarma, bus again to San Ramón where I would contact a German who was friendly with the Indians. He would arrange for an indian to take down river by canoe to to Pucallpa and then to a Booth-run ship to Iquitos.

On the train were three girls. One of them asked where I was going etc. Then she said if you change your mind ring me at Huancayo At La Oroya I left the train, took the bus to Tarma. There I was told a huayco [landslide]had destroyed the road to San Ramón. Then I decided to go to Huancayo and look up the girl.

We met next morning when she and her brother invited me to a lunch party with dancing. In the evening we went to a chifa[ Chinese restaurant]. There I asked her to marry me. "Marry you, she said. Why we have only just met." Next day I returned to Lima. Next morning as I still had five days left of my holidays I decided to return to Huancayo. I bought my ticket and was seated in the train when suddenly I thought. "You fool. Running after a girl whom you have only just met and who has turned you down."

I got out of the train, sold my ticket and spent the rest of the time enjoying life in Lima. Once in Iquitos, a friend of mine asked what I had done on my holidays. I mentioned the girl on the train and said her name, Helena . "Why I know her family well. I am going to Lima tomorrow. I will send her some flowers in your name." Now the problem was how to maintain contact. I knew little Spanish at that time so another friend said he would write letters which I could copy. I remember one..... "I will get on my horse and gallop over the mountains until I have you in my arms"

Then my boss said that his son had just got married and as his wife knew Helena's ' family, he would invite her to go with them to Iquitos on their honeymoon. Helena came to Iquitos and I proposed again. But she said she would not live in Iquitos. Then the firm offered me a position in Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil. So on my way there via Lima we got married. We have now been married 65 years!!!! [2012]

By this time the Booth Line had been sold to the Vestey Organization of London together with Lamport & Holt Line. We received a visit from the General Managers of Lamport & Holt from Rio de janeiro, New York and Buenos Aires. Afterwards, the Rio Manager, W.Shortland, told me that they were going to open an Agency in Rio Grande do Sul in South Brazil and he offered me the position. Realizing that Iquitos was not an ideal place to spend a married life not to say bringing up a family, I accepted and put in my resignation from Booths. I arranged that when my 3 months notice was up, I would proceed to Lima where I would get married and then to Brazil. This was what happened and so I left Iquitos and Peru as I thought for good but fate thought otherwise and in 1957 I returned to Lima to work and live there until 1990.

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