three and not a care in the world
three month leave, my first since working in Brazil, was coming to an end. At
a party I met a pretty Canadian girl named Barbara Rowley. When I told her I was
shortly going back to Brazil, she suggested that I return via Montreal and New
York adding that I could stay with her parents. I liked the idea so I decided
to go to the offices of the Canadian Pacific Steamship Co to enquire about passages.
The Duchess of York was sailing from Liverpool and I reckoned that if I
sailed on her and spent a few days in Montreal I would be able to catch the
Benedict from New York and arrive back in Brazil within my time limit.
price the clerk quoted me for a first class fare was far too much as I had spent
quite a lot during my holidays. However, when I mentioned that I worked for the
Booth Line and would be returning to my post in North Brazil, he told me that
if I obtained a letter from Booths that I was their employee going back to their
North Brazil Agencies then they would grant me a 50% discount. Delighted at the
prospect, I immediately went to the Booth office and proposed to the manager,
Mr Deyes, that he wrote such a letter. I was not expecting his reaction.
"My dear boy, we cannot possibly do such a thing. Booths never request favours
from other firms. Why don't you return on one of our vessels to Brazil which will
cost you nothing.?" I replied that for personal reasons I wished to travel
via Montreal and that if I could not get a discount, then I would travel steerage.
Mr Deyes almost exploded. "Travel steerage! Whatever next. You would be letting
the side down. Remember your family, the firm, your friends."
in August 1938 I travelled on the good ship Duchess of York in steerage
class. Actually the accommodation was very good. I had a 4 berth cabin all to
myself down in the bowels of the ship. The food was very good, actually better
than on the Hilary and we had space on deck where we could enjoy the fresh
air and the view. Even saw some icebergs. THE REST OF THE STORY IS MY CANADIAN
INTERLUDE TO READ NOW
so back to Earth
next day I embarked on the s.s. Benedict and the following morning we arrived
at Philadelphia [USA]. Then on 2nd September we set sail for Brazil. The weather
was perfect as I wrote in my diary at the time
have been up on the promenade deck reading and sunbathing. The sun is shining
and there is a gentle cooling wind. The sea is like highly polished glass and
the ship seems to be the only disturbing influence. Its bulk and momentum shattering
the crystal water into thousands of fragments. The only sound is that of the soft
strains of church music floating idly around the dazzling white deck of this noble
ship coming from that marvellous invention of man, the radio. I have no further
desire to read. My one wish is to lie perfectly still and quiet and let my thoughts
wander like a beauteous Morpho blue butterfly flitting from flower to flower.
All the while the ship is gently moving with a slight seasaw movement almost imperceptible
to the human being. Then, at midday, the silence was shattered by the sound of
eight bells.[12.00 hrs[ I descended to my cabin. There on the table rest the remains
of two half eaten plums and a third so far uneaten. My clothes are scattered around
in disordered array tho' their very colour and arrangement adds to the charm of
this floating home of mine for the next 9 to 10 days. Happiness truly is upon
me solely because of these wondrous works of nature which I see all around me."
voyage progressed and finally on 14th September we arrived at Belem do Pará.
Charles Booth Junior came off to the ship to meet me. He informed me that the
sub-manager, Mr. Harrison, who was on leave in England, had been taken seriously
ill and therefore I was to take his place in Pará instead of going on to
Maranhao as I had expected.
office was in an old Portuguese mansion built on the side of the river bank facing
the river on Rua Gaspar Viana. Just
inside the massive wooden front door was a magnificent wide wooden staircase leading
to the upper floor where was the office. Being built on the river bank, the back
office was on the ground floor. Stairs led to the first floor where was the Junior
Staff House. This consisted of a large living room with billiard table, dining
room, two bedrooms, kitchen and bathroom. There was also a small airy room under
a sky light which we used for taking breakfast.
had not been there long before I began to explore the staff quarters. In the breakfast
room was a large cupboard fitted into one wall. I opened it to find it with several
completely empty shelves. Then I noticed that the wooden panel at one side seemed
to be loose. I pulled it away and was amazed to find a narrow flight of steps
inside the wall. Being curious, I climbed up the steps and found myself at the
top in a small, very dusty room. There was a small window in front of which was
an old chair, also covered in dust and a lovely brass telescope trained on the
river. I mentioned this to Atahualpa Purcell who was sufficiently interested to
ask me to accompany him to this room. It was his opinion that the room must have
been used my his father when he was Manager of the Agency towards the end of the
19th century to monitor the arrival of Booth vessels.
to the docks a large building was being built. I was told that it was to be the
new Booth Office and senior and junior staff quarters when finished.
afternoon it seemed to rain in Para and it was the custom to arrange to meet someone
'before' or 'after' the rain. It certainly refreshed the city as it was inclined
to be very warm and sticky between 1 pm and 3 pm.
was not given any information as to what I was supposed to do so the first day
I just sat at Mr. Harrison's desk going through sundry papers. Then Mr Macrae
threw a bunch of bills of lading to me saying "Check the freight rates and
calculations". A few days later, the telephone on my desk began to ring.
I lifted the receiver to hear someone talking in Portuguese. As I didn't understand
a single word, I said "I don't understand. Speak English, please." Then
the door of Atahualpa Purcell's office opened and an irate General Manager shouted
at me "Put down that phone, you idiot, I am speaking to an important shipper
and you keep saying "I don't understand"
Maranhao we only had one telephone and very seldom received or made calls. I put
the telephone in one of the drawers of the desk and shut it. A little while later,
Atahualpa was passing my desk when he exclaimed "I thought there was a phone
on your desk!" A pause and then I said, rather sheepishly, it is in the drawer
as I am scared of telephones." He was not amused.
months later, Mr Charles Good arrived for his 6 month spell as General Manager.
I knew Mr Good very well for he lived in Meols and I was friendly with one of
his daughters. He invited me to have lunch one day at the Senior Staff House,
This was situated on Rua Sao Jeronimo, a lovely tree lined avenue with tram lines
down the centre. It was the custom to always have Portuguese red table wine at
the Senior Staff House. The lunch was delicious. There was roast sucking pig.
At the Junior Staff House, I used to have a short siesta always after lunch but
this day I had to accompany all the managers back to the office. There Mr Good
asked me to take down a letter he wished to dictate. He started of with the name
of the firm to whom he was writing, then he said "Dear Sirs." The next
words I heard were "Yours faithfully". I turned to Mr Good saying "That
is a peculiar letter you have written. "Dear Sirs", then "Yours
faithfully". Mr Good looked puzzled. "But I have been dictating for
almost 20 minutes. What have you been doing in the meantime?" "I'm very
sorry, Sir, but I have heard nothing more." There was a pause, then Mr Good
repeated what he had said. When I left the room to type out the letter, he gave
me a rather peculiar look.
another occasion, Mr Good asked me if I thought I could take down a letter in
Portuguese. "No problem, " I replied without giving it a second thought.
I took down the letter writing the words I didn't understand as near as I could
to the sound. As the letter didn't mean sense to me, I took it to a Sr. Gouveia,
an old but very learned Portuguese. "Please help me", I asked him, "Mr
Good has given me this letter to type but I don't know how to spell certain words".
Mr Gouveia wrote the letter out in his beautiful handwriting and I dutifully typed
it out. When I handed the letter to Mr Good, he read it and remarked "I never
knew I could write such a flowery Portuguese" then he looked at me. I felt
I could not lie so I confessed what I had done.
got the opinion that the firm were not too happy with my work for on 13th February
1939, I was despatched back to Maranhao. My next spell in Belem do Para was in
May 1943 when I arrived from Parnahyba serious ill. When I finally left hospital,
the firm decided to keep me in Head Office. I suppose to make sure that I really
was better and not liable to have a relapse. This was one of my best periods of
my time with Booths in Brazil. We had already moved into newly built offices with
both Staff Houses on the top floor. On the first floor were the official offices
of the British, Colombian and Venezuelan Consulates.
TREVOR IS SENT TO THE BOOTH OFFICE IN MANAUS ABOUT 1000 MILES UPRIVER AND
THERE ARE SEPARATE CHAPTERS WITH HIS EXPERIENCES
August 1942 a German submarine sank seven Brazilian merchant vessels so Brazil
immediately declared War on the Axis. The United States was invited to set up
bases at various Brazilian sea ports including at the air base of Val de Caes
in Belem do Para. The British Government also sent a small number of air force
personnel to Belem as well. Then, although it is not widely known, Brazil despatched
a brigade of Brazilian troops to Italy where they fought under General Mark Clark.
However, at the same time Brazil was becoming very nationalistic. Many foreign
firms were taken over including the Port of Para and the Amazon River Steamship
Company as well as the Amazon Telegraph Co.
were put in charge of attending to the American troop ships which called in at
Belem to take on stores and water before proceeding to Africa. There was a large
PX store at the air base and at the suggestion of a US officer whom I knew, I
went there and purchased two pairs of army issue khaki trousers and shirt. To
this latter I attached my "wings" which I had earned at the Aero Clube
A trip to the Police
1944, the British companies Para Tramways and Para Light & Power
were being harassed by not being allowed to put up their tariffs in spite
of spiralling inflation. As a result we were experiencing black outs and trams
suddenly stopping. Both firms were constantly being violently attacked in the
local press. Once Booths had a voyage with lighters being towed to Iquitos to
fetch cargo for the war effort in Europe, held up by red tape for so long that
in the end the cargo was shipped by some other line. The Authorities even tried
to stop tug and lighters taking cargo from Parnahyba to Tutoya for shipment to
a steamer for Europe alleging that it was 'cabotagem' or coastwise traffic. Strict
exchange control was in force as well as censorship. One day I got into trouble.
I had written to my father telling him that everyone now had to pay a percentage
of their salaries for some savings scheme and that this would be repaid at the
end of the war with interest. I added that it was just a wheeze for the Government
to get more funds. I was taken to the Police Station and charged with having insulted
the Government. Judging that the Officer in charge was not well up in English,
I replied that on the contrary I had praised the Government for having thought
up such a wonderful idea. "Wheeze", I said, was another word for "Brilliant
Idea" I was released but took care to mind what I wrote in future. Incidentally,
the guy at the post office who denounced me was the son of our cook!
and German Intruders
US Air Force took over the Grande Hotel and the ballroom was used nightly for
jitter-bugging by the soldiers and airmen. As an unofficial member of the US Forces
I was given my USO membership card which meant that I too could go dancing although
I never did manage to jitter-bug. Belem was full of American airmen and when a
troop ship called and the troops had a welcome day or two ashore whilst Booths
arranged for food and water to be put on board, Belem seemed to be full of Americans
day we heard a rumour that a German submarine had entered the Amazon river and
was on the surface when an American plane appeared. Before the Americans could
drop any bombs, the submarine fired first and downed the plane and then disappeared.
We never heard whether this was just a rumour or not.
my 21st birthday, a banker friend of my father had given me a small roulette set
and his scheme for winning. He told me that I had to stick very strictly to the
rules and as a result would almost always win a small amount but never lose more
than CR$50.00 I decided to try this out in Belem as a Casino had opened. Father's
friend was correct. I won CR$20.oo and still had my original CR$50.00. After that,
when not at the cinema or dancing at the Grande Hotel, I would go to the Casino,
play for a while, then take my winnings and buy some beer. I never became rich
but at least I paid my expenses in food and drink.
Company had a beach house in Chapeu Virado which we could use whenever we wished.
Sometimes I would go with Macrae. We would take a river steamer to Mosqueiro where
we would catch a small tram which ran along lines in front of the beach house.
From time to time the tram would come off the rails. Then everyone had to get
off and lift it back on again. The house had wicker chairs, a table and simple
beds with mosquito netting. The bathroom contained two simple showers. A resident
watchman lived at the back with his family. Suitably warned beforehand, the wife
would prepare a simple meal of shrimps with rice followed by the eternal goiabada
jelly, [guava paste] banana and cheese. We would swim in the brackish water in
front of the house, then back for iced beer and lunch. Then a siesta followed
by the return to the boat for Belem.
day Bishop Evans of the Falkand Islands arrived to inspect the English church
which was run by Padre Moss. The latter was an old time resident who earned a
little extra selling paintings of moths and butterflies to tourists on the "Hilary".
Atahualpa Purcell invited the two Padres , Macrae, the Booth Engineer and myself
to spend the day there.
was married to a Scottish lady from Abroath. She disliked Brazil. She would travel
out once a year on the "Hilary" then spend some days with Macrea in
Para. But when the "Hilary" returned from Manaus, she would hop on board
and sail back to the UK. Then on one trip, she caught a fever and died. About
the same time, the British Consul in Para also died. Not long afterwards, Macrea
asked me to be 'best man' at his wedding to the Consul's widow. It was a small
and quiet wedding. However, Padre Moss who officiated was getting very old and
he started saying the burial service. In a loud whisper I had to say to him "You
are not burying them but marrying them."
early in 1945, an auditor from Price Waterhouse came into town to audit the books
of the Para Tramways. Atahualpa invited him to have lunch with us one Sunday.
During lunch I happened to remark that it would be no use auditing our books since
we didn't keep any. I explained that we only had a loose leaf Cash Book and at
the end of each month, we sent the pages with the respective vouchers to Liverpool
where the accounts were kept. The auditor was horrified saying that if the Brazilian
Authorities discovered this, we would be liable for a terrific fine and possibly
thrown out of the country. "What do you suggest we do?" asked Atahualpa.
The auditor replied that first thing on Monday we should purchase a full set of
accountancy books, have the Journal registered at a Notary and immediately initiate
double entry bookkeeping. Atahualpa asked me if I thought I could look after the
work. I told him I had obtained a certificate of bookkeeping in Hoylake in 1935
and had spent a year in the Accounts and Brazilian Accounts departments in Liverpool
before I came to Brazil so I thought I could do the job.. I was taken off all
my other work and I set to. Apart from setting up the Accountancy in Para I also
had to give explicit instructions to the other Booth Agencies so that they could
follow suit. This was a little difficult because none of the British staff knew
anything about accountancy. However, eventually they all followed my instructions
Auditor also pointed out that all salaries of the British Staff would have to
be paid in Brazilian currency in Brazil. Atahualpa, Macrae and myself had a long
talk about this and finally we agreed that we would take a certain amount in Brazil,
more or less in accordance with general salaries in North Brazil, and the balance,
kept secret, would be paid in the UK as before.
end of the War - celebrations
7th May news was flying around town that the Germans had surrendered. The people
of Belem went wild with delight. Rockets were fired off and groups of school children
paraded through the streets, singing and waving the Brazilian flag for, of course,
the Brazilians were in the war too. At the office we were still at work although
little was done. Then at 4.10 pm The British Consul came into the office to advise
that the Germans had finally surrendsered and that the war was finally over in
Europe. However, this would only become official on the next day, the 8th May,
as Churchill would only announce it officially on the 8th May. Atahualpa Purcell
went up on to the roof and hung out the American, British, French, Polish and
Booth flags. In the evening, Atahualpa held a party for all the staff a nd tenants
of the building. There was a lot of excitement . Later that evening a meeting
of the local Red Cross was held of which I was a committee member. It was decided
that a dance should be held on the Saturday. Next day was an official holiday
so at 5.30 Atahualpa held a cocktail party for all the Booth staff.
Girls... and more...
was the Red Cross Dance in the Teatro de Paz. I was asked to do something
so I went up on to the stage and gave a recital of "Albert and the Lion".
The rest of the time I enjoyed myself dancing with as many of the girls as I could
including with my favourite, Helen Pickerell. Later she asked me for the words
of "Albert and the Lion" I was very struck with Helen but unfortunately
I had a lot of competition and even worse, I was shortly afterwards sent to Iquitos
in Peru , almost 2000 miles upriver so I never saw her again but she always remained
in my thoughts and in later years we kept up a correspondence with each other.
Such is fate!
I had been successfully doing the accounts in Pará and had managed to get
the Agencies to properly set up their accounting, Liverpool office wrote out that
they were worried about certain things which were going on in Iquitos. It seems
that the manager, J.W.Massey, had requested permission to visit Lima for two weeks
to see what Agency husiness he could get for the company. When Head Office asked
him who would be in charge of the Agency during his absence, Massey replied that
a Miss Aurora would be taking his place. Liverpool were puzzled over this. A search
of the list of staff employees in Iquitos turned up that Aurora was the cook at
the staff house! They requested Atahualpa to investigate. He asked me to accompany
him to Iquitos with a stop at Manaus [Ed:often seen as the centre of
the Amazon] to see how they were doing with the new accountancy, and then
go on to investigate things in Peru.
the last moment Atahualpa was unable to go so. The Iquitos manager, J.W.Massey,
was authorized to go to Lima for up to 4 weeks. In his place T.G.Parson was to
be transferred from Manaus to Iquitos for that time and I was to go there as soon
as I could hand over my work at Belem, to remain for two months and make up my
report. Finally I handed over and left on the 18th June for Iquitos.