Margit Elbow (whom I had met previously in Tahiti while returning to Australia from Los Angeles) met me at the Airport Bus terminal. I had a brief encounter with a US Customs official at the airport. He told me I was over the quota for the amount of liquor which could be brought in. He said I was half a litre over. I said “Well I will sit here and drink it”. To which I received the usual American reply: “Oh you Australians. Come in. Enjoy your stay.
“Margit met me at the Airport Bus terminal and took me to her lovely home in Granada Hills, Los Angeles, where a surprise awaited me. Margit kept 8 cats inside her house and fed 3 more outside. They were lovely cats and I can understand why Margit loved them. Luckily they took to me and we got on famously. I sensed Margit was a little relieved at my acceptance without question her love of her cats. She had a large cat toilet in one of the bath rooms and there seemed to be no problems at all there. I remember going shopping with Margit and he forking out 60 US$ for cat food and “Treats”.
Margit was Private Secretary to the Export Manager at Universal Studios and she arranged an extensive tour of the studios for me. The tour included the famous scene from the film JAWS where the Shark jumps out of the water, horrifying all of the spectators. Margit also took me to the huge Forest Lawn Cemetery where I stood at the foot of Marilyn Monroe’s grave and saw the huge painting of the Last Supper.
Her friends also had a dinner to meet me. One of her friends (a Los Angeles Barrister) accompanied me on a trip up the river past the big jail, San Quentin. While I was in the Los Angeles and Francisco area they had a street riot in which a lot of business premises were trashed; they had an earthquake and an execution at San Quentin jail. The huge destruction of the earthquake was on display by the devastation of huge concrete girders of the previous roadway. I joked that maybe they should pay me to stay away from the area.
I attended the big Farmers’ market. While visiting Los Angeles I decided to go to see the magnificently paneled hotel just out of San Diego where the US has a huge Naval base. I traveled to San Diego by Amtrax rail – magnificent carriages of a bygone era but a most inefficient railway which consistently ran late and with what were dirty carriages etc. I have always regretted not going to see the late and great Peter Allen – a fellow Australian who lay dying (from AIDS related complications) in a San Diego hospital at the time.
I went down to Tijuana right on the border with Mexico and then returned to LA being met by Margit even though the train was several hours late. Margit’s friend was Walter Classman who lived in the Mission District of San Francisco and she arranged for me to go visit Walter who worked in an executive capacity with the Bank of America. Walter used to go off to work each day leaving me to care for his pet dog. Walter was a great host. He took me over the Golden Gate bridge several times and to the Great Trees forest near San Francisco.
I decided to go to Lake Tahoe, Nevada, and stayed overnight at one of the great Gambling Hotels there. I went by bus to the state Capital, Sacramento and then on to Lake Tahoe. I remember going to the top floor of the hotel for breakfast. I have never seen such a spread of every dish imaginable. I knew of the American tradition for fine food and lots of it but this was really over the top. I remember on our way back to San Francisco we stopped at a roadhouse and I ordered a beer and received the usual half warm horrible brew which I objected to to the barman and received the usual comment: “Oh you Australians!”.
I used to go with Walter to his work and loved the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transport) train. I used to catch “The Muni” tram from the Bay area terminal to the Mission (Upper Middle Class Area). The first couple of times I used to walk up the hill to Walter’s house then I learned to get off the tram at the top of the hill and walk down.
I kept in touch with Margit and Walter after returning to Australia and Walter and a fellow banker visited me in Kiama. I arranged for them to having morning with the then Kiama Mayor Sandra McCarthy and the two Americans had a wonderful time visiting Kiama.
Sadly, Margit died soon after moving to Sequim (Washington State) where Walter had moved and lived and where he had property. He still lives there and we keep in touch. I was struck by the great hospitality extended to me by my American friends and also the great affection Americans had for their “flavor of the month” Australians.