Sunday, December 30, 2012

Agnes Morrow Scandrett book

"LIGHTS ARE BRIGHT, SIR!" The tale of two grandmothers cruising the coast of West Africa in a cargo ship. Told in actual letters from Agnes Morrow Scandrett. Published by Howal Stationary & Printing Co., New York City, 1932.

Agnes Morrow Scandrett, 1869-1953, is a first cousin 2x removed of the Ballantyne-Dailey-Uible (BDU) cousins. She is the daughter of James Elmore Morrow, whose portrait unveiling was featured in the blog on Dec. 2. Agnes was a first cousin to Lucie Brown Ballantyne, and thus the 2x generations removed for the BDU cousins.

The Library of Congress has a microfilm copy of this fancy paperbound book but there are no other public library holdings listed.  Most copies are probably now in the private libraries of family members – like us.  Partial transcription follows.

1932 Title page of  "Lights are Bright, Sir!" The tale of two Grandmothers cruising the coast of West Africa in a cargo ship.  Told in actual letters from Agnes Morrow Scandrett.  Front cover design shown from reverse on left side.

First page of  "Lights are Bright, Sir!" X'd out parts possibly marked as parts not to share during a recitation.  The transciption below will also omit the X'd parts.
December 13th [1931]
Dear Family,
Now we are enjoying life and sunny weather – but for ten days we had storms and gales and bounding billows.  This tub has surely pitched and rocked and creaked.  One night everything on the ship seemed to be loose!  Not a bit of land nor a steamer have we seen since we left New York, – nothing but rain and stormy water.  

We have only seven passengers – all white – and no one else is going as far as we are, – all the way to Angola and up the Congo.  If we take on some passengers of color father down they have a different quarter.

It is a great lark for us two grandmothers and we are looking forward to our promised adventures such as riding in a Mammy Chair – a kind of bucket.  And there is even a possibility of an airplane into the interior of the Congo!  Doesn't it sound thrilling?

At first glance our passengers looked to be rather a job lot, but as usual we found them interesting on acquaintance.  Two missionaries – not yet related; an Animal Man who goes every year to bring wild animals from Africa for zoos and circuses; a Cape Verde Island business man – Portuguese, with his little boy (a nice child, though suspiciously dark-skinned).

Pages 6-7  of  "Lights are Bright, Sir!"  Chosen for display because of the Dakar, Senegal connection.
December 14th [1931]
We have furnished everybody a lot of amusement with our appliances.  We use the vibrator every day and the Captain is giving us a room especially for it when the first passengers leave.  I suspect he wants to try it himself!  We are enjoying our wonderful boxes of food, thanks to you all, and for Mary's poetry, too (says one poet to another!)

All these things are a great aid to our popularity.  The Captain gave out a great guffaw when I told him I would bring a Frigidaire the next time!

Every morning we appear at breakfast with the coffee pot and the toaster (everyone likes our toast and coffee), and in the evening with the teapot or the tomato juice.  Did you ever notice that ships never have much use for tomatoes?  In the evenings we have parties with the cakes and candy after we play Bridge with the Captain and the Purser – sometimes the Animal Man.  We have tried Contract, but Allie is a very good player and the Captain has a "system of his own" and so we think he is a good Captain.  Not a bit of liquor has been visible since we sailed, but we do not seem to miss it. 

I really think this trip is much more fun than the de luxe cruises.  The Captain tells a few good stories, – one about the natives' mode of communication.  He said they had a few native passengers, or stevedores, a few days out of Freetown, and they passed close to another ship from which the natives could hail each other.  One thin long chap on the other boat called "Ehe! Ehe!"  The one on our boat called back "Ehe! Ehe!"  That was all.  The Captain said to his boy: "Well, what's the news?  Reply:  "He says Obadiah's wife ran away and married another man!"  And afterward the Captain verified the story and found it true!

I'll save the other stories for another time.  Take care of the cat and the dogs.  And get ready for the leopards!  I'll promise to bring no snakes!!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  – Mother

Dakar, Senegal
December 16th [1931]
One of our freight ships going home is in port, so after all I ventured only two letters by air mail, as they told us these planes go over the Riff country and are frequently shot down by bandits.  Consequently it is the custom to duplicate all letters and trust to Providence only the hasty ones.  I admit I always have felt that way about air mail anyhow.  (Don't show this part to Charles and Anne [Morrow Lindbergh]).

This place was quite a surprise to us, with its up-to-date docks and quite extensive harbor, with many French cruisers anchored here.  Senegal is under French dominion and the headquarters of the French West African Army.

We enjoyed our stop here very much.  One novel sight was the mountains of uncovered peanuts on the docks, with paths and ramparts of filled bags of peanuts on which the natives walked to empty their loads.  A flock of birds perched on top would frequently and suddenly rise when disturbed by a boat whistle or other sudden noise.  We discharged a large consignment of gasoline (essence!), oil, and tobacco at this port.

All hands went up to town to get some money and helmets.  The Captain took us around and went with us for a drive to Cape Verde, the western outpost of Africa.  Just two very disreputable looking taxis were available.  I chose the open one, and my choice was surely fatal (though no one can every prove to me that the other one would have gone any better!)  We really had a walk for our money, as our car wheezed out and died after we had walked up numerous hills, Captain and chauffeur pushing, and we finally had to be brought home by a stranger, – a kind French lady driving with her baby and her dog.  My French went away up on the top shelf of my mind and she looked quite started and amused when I thanked her.  My memory seems to tell me that I said "Bon Dieu" instead of "Merci."

After this episode, or adventure, we sat at a sidewalk cafe and absorbed some atmosphere to the tune of a brassy band.  It was all very gay and Frenchy and the air was mild.  Beautiful Senegalese maidens were flitting about the table selling peanuts instead of the usual cigarettes.  Many French officers were sitting about, as this is the headquarters of their African army.

We had a delicious dinner in the Cafe de Palais.  The cafe is quite a building with a lofty domed ceiling painted sea green, with voluptuous mermaids swimming about.  One dish was that nice lobster crayfish we had so often in Panama, and we had some real Sauterne.  After dinner we went to a cabaret open to the sky; some of the pillars were the trunks of trees whose tops were green.  It was quite attractive and some pretty white girls (probably slim young devils!) were dancing and singing naughty French songs, dressed at least as modestly as the ones I have seen in New York.  Our purser, who had dinner with us, brought two boys from the other ship, so we were well escorted.  These boys sailed at one o'clock that night, and most of our letters went by them to Boston.
Last page (34) of  "Lights are Bright, Sir!"  Top part of page and part of previous page transcribed below.
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On  the High Sea
February 25th  [1932]
Dear Rebekah et al:  [her daughter, Rebekah Scandrett Greathouse 1893-1957]

Here we are on our last lap, sailing with a romantic and aromatic cargo.  We are laden with cocoa beans, palm oil, huge mahogany logs, and ginger.  The ginger is right in the hatch by our door, so we are enjoying the scent mixed with the sea breezes.  Quite an improvement on the gasoline and oil we took down, but that was enclosed in drums and did not annoy us over much.

. . . . In Freetown we lost our noisy, useful and amusing Kroo men.  They lined up for the health officers in all kinds of wearing apparel from undershirts and shorts, overalls, to derby hats and shirttails out!  Then they worked like Trojans loading on ginger and at midnight departed in a weird line of boats attached to the lighter, and vanished into the solemn darkness.

Our Animal Man, whom we left in Freetown, came out to see us.  Already he has 400 animals, including snakes, an ant eater, and over a hundred monkeys or baboons and chimpanzees.  (I must say that I am rather glad he and his animals are not going back with us!)  He was very glad to see us....  I decided not to bring home the baby leopards after hearing from you all.

. . . . Farewell to Africa!  – Mother

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