30 May 65 : Luxury, poverty and rain : Mobile, Alabama, USA

This continues the letter dated 27 May 1965, which began:

Dear Family,

Sunday the 30th of May

As I told you earlier, we were going down to the coast for the weekend. Well, the motel we planned to stay at was fully booked (it is Memorial Day this weekend) so we couldn’t stay there. That was an island south of Mobile called Dauphin Island.

So instead we went to a place called Gulf Shores. This is a small resort area near Mobile. When we got there we found that the place was almost solidly booked, and we ended up staying at a cheap and nasty little motel.

We went down to the beach which was almost pure white sand and I had my first dip in the Gulf of Mexico. I was amazed – it was terrifically warm, the warmest sea I have ever experienced.

We decided that we didn’t like the place too much so we went back to Mobile on Saturday morning, and stayed at a very nice motel here instead. We have seen pictures of Dauphin Island and are very keen to go there, so we have booked up for next weekend.

1965 05 Ramada Inn Mobile Alabama postcard.jpg
Tony’s postcard of the Ramada Inn, Mobile, Alabama


We have had a lot of rain in the last few days which has made everyone jump for joy as there has been no rain for months. We have had some heavy thunderstorms and it has been very humid. We haven’t bothered to look around Mobile too much as we shall be here later to do a job – so we have been taking it easy by the pool.

We have just experienced a touch of real luxury. It is Sunday morning and we decided to have our breakfast by the pool. So we went out and had a swim and then picked up the poolside phone and ordered breakfast – and a few minutes later it was delivered by a waiter and we ate in grand style.

We are making the most of our last few weeks of high living. We have decided that when we finish this job we shall go and spend three weeks with Vi, as she has said we can come and stay with her whenever we want to.

This is the time in between ending this job, and meeting the Hs (Colin’s parents) in New York. We will try and find work for this time and then move up to New York and stay with the woman I worked with in New York who has also offered us accommodation.

We shall stay there until the Hs have left New York, and then we shall head west staying for five days in Colorado Springs with Mrs Smith, the lady we met on the boat coming over. All in all it has worked out very well.

Yesterday in Mobile we saw a Volkswagen with English number plates and registration, and we followed it for a while but lost it in the traffic. We searched around for a while but finally gave up. Went back to the motel – and lo and behold it was there!! There was no sign of the occupants so I left a note on the car asking them to ring our room.

It turned out to be a woman of about 23 who has been in England for two years teaching on an American airbase and is from Mobile. I had a long chat with her on the phone and she said she had loved England, and especially the climate, which surprised me as most Americans laugh at our climate. She loved it because it was ‘cold in the summer’ – she doesn’t like the heat in the South here.

Coming down to Mobile we passed an old man driving an old four-wheeled cart drawn by two mules, and with him some old Negro women dressed as you always imagine them to be – polka dot turbans and flowery dresses. They had been in the fields I think, and were on their way home.


1965 05 Alabama horse drawn cart
Tony’s photo from Alabama


We stopped and I asked them if I could take a picture, and they were obviously very pleased and spruced themselves up for the picture. It is scenes like this that amaze me about America. It is so advanced, and at the same time so backward.

We saw the site of the old slave market in Mobile yesterday, and it said that the last ‘shipment’ arrived in Mobile in 1859 – just over a hundred years ago, which isn’t really very long is it?

1965 05 27 Slave market mobile alabama from internet.jpg
Slave Market in Mobile, Alabama (modern image)

To be continued… 

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