Research Document #31
The Helen Day Letters
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Fred Noonan wrote many letters back to the States during the World Flight. Many were written to his wife, Mary Bea. Others went to friends scattered about the country, including Helen Day, of Coconut Grove, Florida. She kept the letters her whole life.
Helen Day’s son, Jim Bible, has been gracious enough to scan the original letters and send the scans to us for use by researchers. To aid in comprehension we are including a transcription with each image.
Each letter has its own page. Scroll to the bottom of the page to access the other letters.
The last letter, written from Koepang, Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) is a travelogue and full of praise for Java.
Koepang, Timor Island
If you are living the normal life a nice young girl should live you are in the deepest of slumbers now – while trying to estimate the probable date you would receive this letter I noticed that although it is a quarter to six Sunday morning here in this out of the way corner of the earth, it is a quarter of five Monday morning in Ye Little Woods.
We arrived here about noon from Surabaya, Java, with intentions of going on to Port Darwin, Australia, but upon arrival received a weather report indicating head winds of about forty miles per hour lay ahead of us. As Port Darwin time is two hours ahead of
local time – that is – the sun sets there two hours earlier than it does here – we decided not to risk landing at a strange airport after darkness had fallen.
So here we be – in a town without hotel accommodations – for the night. However, it is not as bad as would appear at first sight. Throughout India, Burma, Siam, and the Dutch East Indies, the various governments have established what are known as “Rest Houses” – rather comfortable habitations erected to take care of the infrequent travellers who drop in unexpectedly.
Native cooks and servants set an astonishingly splendid lunch before us within a quarter of an hour after our arrival – and now – because we are arising at four to-morrow
and so must be off to the Land of Nod early – they are preparing our dinner.
We spent considerably more time in Java than we expected to – had some minor, but important, instrument adjustments to be made, and as the Dutch Line is using the new DC3 Douglas – equipped with similar instruments – we decided to have the work done in their shops at Bandoeng, Java. We remained there from last Sunday until yesterday – Saturday. Took off once and got as far as Surabaya – about three hundred and fifty miles – only to have the instruments fail again – so returned to Bandoeng. They are functioning perfectly now, thank goodness for the Dutch mechanics.
So to-morrow we hope to
take-off for Port Darwin – the next day for Lae, New Guinea, and then to the three long over water hops – Howland Island – twenty six hundred miles – Honolulu – eighteen hundred – and Oakland – twenty four hundred and ten.
We had a most enjoyable time in Java – visited a volcano – made a trip to the capitol, Batavia, where we were entertained by friends of mine and the American Consul General – and made several sight-seeing trips to nearer places.
While in Java we partook of the famous Javanese meal – Riza Katofel – first a helping of rice – and then about twenty seven different dishes – some of each being added to the original rice dish. Quite a dish!! Each dish is served by
a different boy – they line up – twenty seven of them – and appear over your left shoulder in a seemingly endless string of silver dishes and brown hands. Everything is piled on the plate before one commences to eat – and, as you can imagine – the resultant heap presents a rather formidable appearance. But – believe it or not – I cleaned my plate!! I will admit I did not ask for a second helping – although I understand the Dutch frequently do. I am glad I did not do so – or could not – as you will – because my stomach served the playground of hundreds of little imps playing around with tiny – but sharp – pitchforks all the night of that
Java proved for the most interesting and beautiful country we have visited – terraced rice fields climb the hillsides to heights – and at inclinations – almost unbelievable – and they afford a pretty picture – patterned in all hues of tans, browns, greys, greens and yellows. In between the rice paddies are large areas of beautiful woodlands – and the entire island is a succession of low, level coastal plains – high plateaus, deep and beautiful valleys, rolling hills and towering, rugged mountains – many climbing to more than thirteen thousand feet. The days are not too warm, and the nights are delightfully cool – a veritable paradise. The natives are gentle, friendly
people, very industrious, and, in contrast to other places in the far east, the men seem to do most of the work.
The cities are numerous, fairly large, and almost without exception, very clean and truly beautiful – paved streets, good street lighting, pleasant substantial homes set in nicely – but not too formally – landscaped grounds.
I hear the dinner gong or its equivalent – and Amelia is calling – so I must close.
With kindest regards – and the hope I shall be back in the not distant future –
My kind regards to your Mother and Frances please.