20 Sept 65 : A big shock from home : Los Angeles, California

Note: Tony’s younger brother Nigel was 17 and had just started college. He and Linda, also 17 and a student, had fallen in love while at school.  

This continues the letter dated 19 September 1965 which began,

Dear family,

Monday 20th September.

Today we went into the main Post Office at Los Angeles and I had your letters giving me the news of Nigel and Linda.

I was stunned by the news as I’m sure you must have been, and I can imagine how you feel. I feel as though I don’t know who to be most sorry for – Mum and Dad or Nigel and Linda. Dad said in his letter that I was lucky to be so far away, but I wish I could be there right now to offer a comforting word especially to Mum.

You both sounded so heartbroken and dejected in your letters that I almost cried too. However, having got over the initial shock, and having thought about it, and talked about it with Colin, I have realised that things could be far, far worse.

Nigel and Linda have been going steady for a number of years now and I have been convinced for ages that they would eventually marry, as did many other people. So they have simply brought forward, through circumstances, an event that would certainly have taken place in a few years time anyway.

We all know and like Linda, and her parents know and like Nigel, and they are obviously very well suited and very fond of each other. The real tragedy is when this happens to a couple that hardly know each other.

You talk of a bleak future and hopelessness. I don’t agree. Going to college isn’t the only thing in life, and quite honestly I don’t think that Nigel would have stuck it. He has far too much drive and energy and determination to be a teacher.

He has proved that he is quite talented by his GCE results, and I’m sure there are many good jobs open to him. He has far more academic qualifications than I, or Colin, so I can see no reason why he shouldn’t get a good job.

He certainly isn’t afraid of work, and with the responsibility of Linda, and the child, I’m sure this will be the impetus to really make him get all he wants. I really admire him (and so does Colin) for wanting to start on his own, right from the start, and I sincerely hope he can, as it’s the right thing to do really, but it certainly will be a struggle.

I know how much you two were looking forward to being on your own, and it could spoil this for you.

I would like Dad to do something for me. If they do find a place and decide to ‘have a go’ I would like you to put the money in my bank account at their disposal.

I don’t know how much is there, but whatever it is they can have, as a loan, to be paid back whenever they can. If they do decide to move in with you, keep it until they do eventually find a place.

Unfortunately I shall be at sea on October 8th otherwise I would have phoned, but I shall certainly be thinking of you all on that day. I wish I could be there just as much as I wanted to be at Carol’s wedding, because I really do like that stupid brother of mine.


Nigel at his sister Carol’s wedding in July 1965



I certainly wish him all the luck in the world and hope that everything turns out alright for them both. If he makes as much fuss of his baby as he did of that tortoise, he should be very happy!!

You made no mention of the date the baby is expected, but I assume it should be sometime in the spring. I expect you have all settled down and got used to the idea by now, and are making plans together. I hope so anyway. This is just one of those things, and has to be accepted. I’m sure that in a few days I will have got used to the idea and will eagerly be awaiting news of all the developments.

Unfortunately I can’t have any more mail (unless some more arrives this week) until we reach Australia. We sail on Friday 26th and arrive in Sydney, 21 days later. So could you from now on write to the Main Post Office there. We spend 5 days there, and then sail to Melbourne and spend 5 days there too, and then on to Auckland. So could you work out the dates and send accordingly.

Our stop in Tahiti is too short (two days) and it would be a bit risky to send it there. In case I miss a letter in Los Angeles could you repeat any important items of news in the Australia letters.


Carolyn - Copy
Tony’s sister Carol married in July 1965


I’m glad to hear that Carol is OK and coping well, I expect you were glad to see her last weekend, and to have a good old chinwag. It sounds as though she may be having trouble with her gas stove from the hair incident! How is my brother-in-law – does he look any different after a few weeks of married life?

Fancy old Smith asking £5000 for his house! That means that yours can’t be far short of that. I hope all your new neighbours will be nice people.

I am having a spell of homesickness at the thought of going to New Zealand. It seems such a long way – five weeks on a boat – but I expect I shall be OK as soon as we are under way. It certainly doesn’t help having all this continual excitement going on at home!


Tony with VW campervan
Tony with their beloved VW campervan


Today we have started the final preparations for leaving the country. We have got tax clearance, and customs clearance for the van, and have been to the docks to enquire about the loading time.

We then drove back to LA and saw John (our English pal) who immediately offered us a job of clearing a plot of ground of weeds, which he has been ordered to do by the Fire Department because they represent a fire hazard.

For this (one day’s work) we got $25 (about £8) which will come in very handy. We are also going to strip down and paint the trailer chassis he has given us, and we’ll stow it in the van for the journey.

We have several other jobs to do before we leave LA, and then we are driving down to see the USA National Surfing Championships at Huntington Beach on Saturday. This is a strange place, a beautiful beach and sea, surrounded by masses of oil wells – all clanking away, day and night.


Huntington Beach in 1956. Photo courtesy Orange County Archives.


We had a bit of trouble at the shipping agents this morning. We were told originally that the van, which is to be on deck, would be covered by a tarpaulin. However, we are now told that this is not so. We are a bit concerned in case the salt water corrodes the paintwork, but we think that, as we are working on the boat, we shall be able to persuade the officer-in-charge to cover it.

We have been told that there is nothing to worry about as the Pacific is very calm. I certainly hope so, mainly for my stomach’s sake!

We find, at the moment, that evenings are a bit of a drag as there isn’t much to do without spending a lot of money. But the other evening we found a cheap source of entertainment.

We found a launderette with a TV, so we went in at 8pm with all our dirty washing, and were there until 1am watching TV. By the time we left everything was bone-dry – and the whole evening only cost 20 cents!!

To be continued… 

Note from Tony:  Unlike today, during the mid sixties, an unmarried couple discovering that they were having a baby was still considered very shocking and a cause for great embarrassment to their families. I’m glad that this stigma is no longer the case.

If you’d like to know more about what happened to Nigel and Linda, read on below the links. Otherwise, please keep following these letters as they arrive…

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More on Nigel and Linda:

In September 1965, as outlined in this letter, I received news which ‘stunned’ me – that my young brother Nigel (ten years younger than me) and his long-term girlfriend Linda were expecting a baby, although they were both just 17 and unmarried.

Unlike today, during the mid sixties, pregnancy outside of marriage was still considered quite shocking and a cause for great embarrassment to a couple’s families.

Luckily my parents were quite forward-thinking, and after a period of adjustment they accepted the situation and invited Nigel and Linda, and eventually the baby, into their home.

As you will read in this letter there was great concern about Nigel and Linda’s futures.

This concern, as it turned out, was unwarranted. Nigel and Linda had a very speedy wedding, then worked hard to make their lives a great success. Nigel knuckled down, studied hard and obtained not one, but two degrees.

He also became a celebrated javelin thrower and represented Britain in many overseas events, and one Commonwealth Games. Throughout this time, he was supported by Linda, who raised their two sons fantastically, and also had her own career at the Inland Revenue.

Nigel was eventually head-hunted by the Australian government, and was invited to become a university lecturer in Australia, teaching sports sciences. 

When he retired after a long and successful career in academia, he and Linda achieved a lifelong ambition by becoming farmers – buying a beautiful farm in glorious countryside about two hours drive from Melbourne.

Nigel and Linda now have grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and happily celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary in October 2018.

I am very, very proud of my little brother and his wife.




4 thoughts on “20 Sept 65 : A big shock from home : Los Angeles, California

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