1 Jan 65 : Happy New Year! : From Nassau to Virginia

January 1st 1965

Dear Mum, Dad, Carol and Nigel,

It is now 9:30 on New Year’s Day and we are speeding north once more.

This is our third day on the road and we have spent two nights at motels, and by tonight we should be home. The weather is steadily becoming colder and we have donned sweaters once again, and now have blankets on the beds

We left Nassau at 5 o’clock on Tuesday evening (29th), and arrived in Miami at 8:30 the next morning after a pleasant trip.

It was a good night on board and there was a good dance and lots of stupid games. The duty-free liquor was flowing and everyone was whooping it up. We made lots of friends and have received invites to dinner at various places.

I made friends with a young teacher on board, and she has insisted we go to dinner at her parents. She lives in Philadelphia which is where we shall be for a week. Another family have extended a wonderful invitation for us to stay with them in Oklahoma City, and will show us around.

Dec 64 local fishermen in Bahamas
Local fishermen’s boats in front of the SS Yarmouth

On Monday night we went with three girls from the ship on a tour of nightclubs and ended up at the ‘Drum Beat Club’ where we saw an excellent native show – the usual thing, bongo players, fire eaters, women who dance on glass, the inevitable limbo dancers, and calypso singers – it was very good and we stayed there dancing until about 2 am.

(NOTE: On Youtube, I have found some wonderful cine footage shot by another visitor to Nassau in 1964, called Bill Kendall. You can watch it HERE. It’s lovely and has some wonderfully atmospheric shots of 1960s cars and fashion!) 

On Tuesday we went to the public beach and sunbathed and swam and went back to the boat for lunch, and spent the rest of the day on the top deck of the ship in deck chairs, as we had to be on board by 4:30 pm.

I slipped out to the native market and bought a few odds and ends to send to you as Christmas presents (when I get the chance).

We all decided the trip was excellent value for money and we’re all most satisfied although we did have one spot of trouble which upset Vi a little, I think. We had a table for four for our meals, and one waiter was most surly, and I thought ignorant. He was very offhand and abrupt, although as Vi pointed out he did his job well enough, but we didn’t like his attitude at all!!

Now, tipping here is a very big thing and people expect (and get) tips for everything. But we decided we didn’t want to give this fellow a cent.

Vi didn’t believe us until we actually left the table for the last time, and was a bit annoyed when she realised we meant it. To make matters worse this waiter approached them and demanded they make up the loss, but luckily Herb and Vi didn’t give him any more, but were very embarrassed.

Vi says it is the policy to tip ALWAYS but our policy is, and always will be, tip if we are satisfied. Vi has the money to splash it about- we haven’t!!

Dec 64 Tony Herb Vi Bahamas cruise
Herb, Vi and Tony

She has had a wonderful time and has really enjoyed it. We have had a few nasty moments though. She has decided, as a result of this trip, not to marry Herb and he has been quite upset.

I can see why she has changed her mind, as he doesn’t smoke, drink, or do anything, and even worse he goes to bed about 9 o’clock and also sleeps a lot during the day. He’s a real wet rag and as Vi says ‘He doesn’t want a wife he wants a nurse’.

So on the boat she used to say to Herb, ‘let’s go to bed at about 8:30’ – and then go to her cabin, change, come and join us in the bar, or at the dance.

I finally decided I didn’t like Nassau too much. The sun and sand and sea are great, but Nassau itself isn’t too great. So if you hear of anyone who is going to, or has been to Nassau, don’t be too impressed (although Paradise Beach was excellent).

When we arrived back in Miami (Weds 30th) we phoned up the people who had invited us to dinner to try and cancel it so that we could set off right away, as it meant hanging around all day, but they were most insistent and said we were to go straight around and stay for lunch instead.

So we had to go into the toilet in a garage to change, and in doing so my sunglasses fell out of my shirt pocket and fell down a very dirty toilet!!! A few minutes later I could be seen in the hilarious situation of having a magnet on the end of a piece of string (which the owner of the garage gave me) trying to fish them out. I was successful but for some reason I haven’t worn them since!!

We went to lunch and met the son and daughter of the family. They had a beautiful apartment overlooking the bay, and both son and daughter each had a Volkswagen which their father had given them (daughter is only 15). The mother owns art galleries in London and New York and Miami but is divorced from the father.

We had a good lunch, and said goodbye, and met Vi and Herb outside and set off.

We stopped after a few miles to see the famous Hialeah Race Track. This is a combination of beautiful gardens, tropical birds and a racetrack (horse racing) and a horse racing museum. There was an exhibition of horse drawn coaches from England, and one had been used by royalty as recently as 10 years ago.

The most spectacular view was the racecourse, which had in the centre a large lake in which there were thousands of pink flamingos (another local bird). Herb took quite a bit of movie film of these as they were taking off and landing.

Hialea racetrack 1960s
Hialeah Racetrack photo from the 60s (photo from eBay)
Flamingos at Hialeah (photo from https://thenewtropic.com/hialeah-park-history-horseracing/)

We drove for the rest of the day and stopped at a motel in Jacksonville for the night.

During the evening we drove to Cape Kennedy and also Daytona Beach, and, also whilst Colin was at the wheel we were pulled in by the police and Colin was booked for speeding. It’s just as well we finally stopped as the cop was heavily loaded with guns and bullets and had a badge on his shirt stating he was a revolver marksman!!

Yesterday was uneventful. We drove and slept until 11:15 pm, and went into a beautiful motel for the night. We decided to see the New Year in with a drink, so we went up the road to a bar (dragging Herb along with us).

It was a lovely place and inside was the wildest party I have ever seen. The noise was unbelievable – everyone had rattles and hooters and toy trumpets and everyone was very drunk!! It was mostly people of our age, and, to add to the noise, a terrific rock group was playing.

The landlady knew we were strangers and invited us to join the party (Herb stayed outside) so we went in. The landlady asked us where we were from – and we said Liverpool!!

She immediately went to the mike and announced that three people from The Beatles’ city were here. At this point there was almost a riot, and we were dragged to the stage to say a few words.

We each wished them a Happy New Year and were immediately surrounded by people all wanting to shake our hands and speak to us. The only snag was that their accent was so Southern we couldn’t understand a word!!

The next thing was that they all decided that as we were from Liverpool we must be able to sing, and we were almost torn to pieces in their attempts to get us to the mike. I was insisting that Colin was the one who could sing – and he was doing the same to me.

Vi was constantly being pestered by a fellow of about 25 stone who wanted her to ‘shake’ with him, but she couldn’t dance for laughing, because when he ‘shook’ he really ‘shook’!!! We weren’t there long but we really enjoyed it.

It was in this state (Virginia) that the famous illegal moonshine is distilled. This is a VERY high powered whiskey and very difficult to obtain. However we finally located a fellow who said he would get us some. We told him where we were staying, and he said he will come at 6am the next morning with it. He didn’t turn up however! So we didn’t get any moonshine.

To be continued…

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Dec 64 Tony Herb Vi Bahamas cruise - Copy
Close up of Herb, Vi and Tony in Nassau (from photo above)

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