Wednesday, November 18, 2015

52 Days on a Freighter from L.A. to Buenos Aires

     Do you ever get a whiff of something that brings up a memory from your childhood?  My daughter, while visiting recently, suddenly exclaimed, "I smell Gramma's house right now!"  She was standing in the hall, outside our bedrooms; 550 miles from her G'ma's house.  "That's so amazing," I said, "because I sometimes smell my gramma's house here!"  Cozy, warm, happy-memories was what we were both smelling.
My dad must have taken this of me, (nearest the water) mom, and fellow ship-mates.
     The olfactory sense can easily evoke memories.  I remember first learning about that after a childhood ocean voyage.  My family of five made up half of the passengers on a freighter bound from California to Argentina in the 60s.  We stopped at many ports along the way.  The smell of docks and diesel brings up for me, to this day, so many exotic memories of that trip.

     Sometime during that almost-2-month floating sojourn, I gained the camaraderie and confidence of the steward.  Bill Hawkins, a kind and patient man, knew I was fascinated by the ringing tones of his four-bar hand-held instrument that summoned the passengers to meals. Wherever we were on the ship, those chimes, with a pavlovian effect, would bring us hungry diners eagerly up and in to the dining room. The silver sound tubes and their charming chimes were pure magic to me.  I longed to feel the instrument in my hands and the vibrations they made.  Such power it held----to call people forth with its tonal patterns reverberating down the hall!

     Thanks to Bill, the steward, I was allowed to "help" with that part of his job.  I became the dinner bell ringer.  I struck the bars of silver that brought the happy, hungry diners to mealtimes.   My 11 year old self reveled in the pleasure and power of it all.

     When the freighter delivered us to our final port, I had to give Bill back his chimes.  It wasn't long though, until another instrument won my heart: my first guitar which my mother helped me find and buy in a music shop in Buenos Aires.   I've loved playing the guitar ever since.


  1. What a happy memory! I wonder if the chimes were like these:

  2. Yes!! How nice to hear those charming tones again---Now I want dinner! :)