FIRST ROUND THE WORLD FLIGHT
I had been flying for BOAC for quite some time, travelling to different countries, meeting interesting people. Initially I was the only stewardess on each flight. Out of the blue BOAC decided to put in place a Round the World flight, and I was very honoured to be chosen to be part of this flight’s crew.
We took off from Heathrow mid-morning to fly across ‘the Pond’ (the slang name for New York). We were ‘slipping’ here for a few days (slipping is the name we gave to our stopovers while our plane carried on with a new crew. We would then wait for the next plane to arrive and fly to our next stopover). I had been to New York many times. After New York my next stop was San Francisco. And then on to HONOLULU on the island of OAHU, the capital of Hawaii.
Here I was in pastures new, quite amazing. Our hotel looked straight down to Waikiki beach where loads of surfers were riding the waves a very long way out, other surfers were learning to do the same.
We were ‘slipping’ here for quite a long time. I took off at once to learn how to ride the waves.
My surfboard was enormous; I had a teacher on his board by me. We paddled out a very long way. My instructions were to lay flat, pick up the waves and start to stand up, one knee at a time, slowly keeping my balance and then the wave would take me right up the beach. I made it! The waves here were not enormous but great fun. In the afternoons very fat ladies were having Hula lessons!
Another of the crew like me wanted to see and do everything so we hired a small bright-red buggy that just took two and was open each side with a covering above.
I had heard about the NORTH SHORE, it’s famed for its BIG waves. Perched at the top of a hill I had met my match! ENORMOUS waves. Some time each year serious surfers come here to throw themselves at the mercy of ONE even bigger enormous wave! What I was looking at then was not for me.
Off we set to see what else this island had to offer. PINEAPPLES, oh so many! Some different colours.
As we motored well away from the busy tourist areas we had the peace and serenity of the mountains, the highest being Mount Ka’ala. We stopped at a small cafe to eat and drink something.
Back at our hotel our time here was running out and I knew exactly what I needed to do.
PEARL HARBOR. I went alone and joined others at Honolulu on a very big catamaran which would take us to Pearl Harbor. It was a beautiful day with plenty of wind and our skipper filled us in as to the events ahead of us.
It was a narrow entrance. As we slowed down the Captain took all our cameras away and the flag flying went to half mast. He said a prayer as we stopped over the USS ARIZONA, oil was all around where the battleship lay below us.
On that fateful, cruelest day, December 7th 1941, very early in the morning the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. All the sailors and marines, 1,177, died; very few survived. It was a very, very moving experience. And this was of course the immediate start of America’s entry into the Second World War with us.
But there was a hiccup. For some reason the Captain said he was not taking us back to HONOLULU. He gave us back our cameras and we were put on a bus. The next day our flight arrived. Instead of there being passengers on board, there were 4 sets of crew. They were to be positioned in many places for the Round The World flights.
Our next stop was Wake Island, 2,298 miles west of Honolulu and 1,991 miles from Tokyo where we would again ‘slip’.
Wake Island is a tiny, flat island, a reef that reminds me now of one of my Maldives islands! The Japanese laid siege here when coming in to bomb Pearl Harbor. We stopped to refuel, just a handful of American soldiers were there and they wanted to see a lady! Bad luck, only ME! Wake Island is on the international date line. A tiny shop at the airport had postcards. We all bought some then got them posted out.
This was apparently the very last time our Round the World trip would call here. The flight instead went straight to Tokyo. After Tokyo, which I had been to many times, our Round the World flight with ‘slips’ along the way brought us home! I had been away for three weeks and four days!
I forgot to tell you the official state flower of Hawaii is the Yellow Hibiscus.