As with most things in my life, it all begins with Sydney.
During World War II, a handsome American soldier arranged to meet a girl at The Strand Arcade, a glorious Victorian building in downtown Sydney.
Unbeknownst to him, there are two entrances to the Strand Arcade. Perhaps that girl never showed, but legend has it that he was waiting on the wrong side of the building. When the girl did not show, the dashing soldier headed to a nearby dance hall. There, he met a beautiful Australian girl who was attending the dance with her sister. After a brief courtship, the two married before he returned to the United States.
After a year of waiting for the war to end and to be reunited with her husband, the waters were finally deemed safe enough for civilians to cross the Pacific Ocean. Ships full of Australian war brides began the journey across the sea. However, some enemy ships had not yet gotten word that the war had ended, so precautions had to be taken. At night, no lights were allowed, even the glowing embers of a cigarette were forbidden, for fear of being spotted and mistaken for a combat ship.
After weeks crossing the ocean, the ship finally arrived in San Francisco Bay. What a splendid scene it must have been to see all these couples reuniting beneath The Golden Gate Bridge after months and sometimes years of separation. .
The couple in our story were together again and began a cross country roadtrip to the East Coast. The new bride had glamorous visions of life in America from the movies, but that glamour was short lived. She soon arrived in a small farm town in Georgia, but being the brazen Aussie that she was, she hunkered down and made the most of her situation.
This brave woman was my grandmother and the dashing soldier my grandfather. They soon left the small farm town and had a baby girl, my mother. My mom spent much of her childhood in Sydney as the family moved between the two continents every few years. The family added another daughter and a son and eventually settled in Savannah, Georgia criss crossing the ocean every few years to visit my grandmother’s family.
But my connection with Sydney does not end here. During one of the family’s voyages to Sydney aboard the ship Oriana, my mom met my dad who was in the process of emigrating to Australia.
Why was he emigrating from the United States you may ask? This is how the story has been told to me over the years …
After passing his physical to join the Air Force a few weeks prior, my dad failed his draft physical due to a mistakenly identified heart murmur. He still planned to join the Air Force, but a fateful meeting with a friend changed the course of his life. The two ended up at a bar together that night. Upon the discovery that both of them had failed their draft physicals and after the consumption of a few beers, the friend stated, “let’s move to Australia” to which my dad replied, “no, let’s move to France”. Not deterred, my dad’s friend asked, “do you speak French?” to which my dad replied “no”, so his friend simply stated “then we are going to Australia!”. And that they did.
In those days, the Australian government was paying half the passage for people to come and settle in their country in order to increase their population. My dad and his friend got all of their affairs in order and booked passage on the ship Oriana. My parents noticed each other before even boarding the ship, but it would be a couple of days before they actually spoke to each other. Two weeks crossing the ocean and a few months dating in Sydney was all it took for my parents to know they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together.
However, it was not that easy. My mom was scheduled to return with her family after their three-month visit. Before my dad could follow my mom back to America, he had to repay the Australian government for the share of his passage that it had paid since he was no longer staying there. Additionally, my father had to save for a return trip before he could be reunited with my mom. If you think an airline ticket to Australia is expensive now, imagine how expensive it was for my dad to save for his first ever commercial airline flight on a teacher’s salary during a time when there were far fewer flights to this land across the Pacific. If time could be measured in pages, these letters would certainly convey the eight months it took my dad to make his way to my mom. Like her mother before her, my mom waited for love half a world away.
I have always been in awe of these stories and how easily it would be for me not to be here. My grandfather could have ended up anywhere in the world during the war or on the correct side of the Strand Arcade! My intrepid father could have had his draft physical conducted by a more capable doctor or could have committed to his original plan of joining the Air Force to propel him towards his goal of becoming a professional pilot. Instead, he made a spur of the moment decision to emigrate from his homeland. How adventurous it was of my mom and grandmother to let themselves love not knowing exactly where the path would lead. They could have chosen an easier route, but they followed their hearts. Like them, I too followed my heart and was engaged to my husband Rob after a short time together. He asked me to marry him two days before he deployed to Iraq, so like my mother and grandmother before me, I was separated from the man I wanted to spend my life with for months on end. Although our meeting does not involve Sydney directly, I was intrigued to find out when we met that he had studied abroad in Sydney within a couple of years of when I had lived there with my sister.
Sydney is truly intertwined into all aspects of my life, including the creation of this website. I viewed many website themes in creating this page. Never having created a website before and not being a technical person, I knew that I needed a lot of hand holding. When I stumbled upon an attractive theme called Sydney and all of the online tutorials that accompanied this theme, I knew I had found my match. Fate has brought Sydney into my life once again. Today, I start my blogging endeavour with Sydney because after all, it all begins with Sydney …