S.S. Brazil


Jinny Quering's First Letter to her Friends Describing the Voyage


Mom kept carbon copies of all her letters, so our family is very fortunate to have them today. 

We arrived in Rio de Janeiro after traveling aboard the S.S. Brazil.  The first letter on this page was written shortly after we arrived.  Mom described the trip down and later mentioned that our school, the Escola Americana do Rio de Janeiro, was "supposedly illegal" and about the "wonderful the little potties for boys." 

 October 23, 1956


Haven't written you a letter as yet, so here goes. August 30, 2:30 P.M. we boarded the S.S. Brazil and at 5 we sailed from the pier. The band was playing, streamers flying, people waving and shouting, and the Querings standing in a little group just a little bit afraid of the new venture that lie before them. The lowest feeling was when we passed the Statue of Liberty and saw her fading into the distance.

There were 112 children aboard under 16 - they ate 1 hour before the adults except for the buffet luncheons which were served on the Promenade deck, then they ate with us. There were 12 people at our table including one officer of the ship - a Mr. Davis. We were all close to the same age, really had some good times at dinner. All of the meals were fabulous and half of the food we had never even heard of but we tried it anyway. The papaya juice was delicious and palmetto (heart of the palm tree) boiled or in soup. Breakfast was served 9 - 10:30; we usually went on deck after this for swimming, deck shuffleboard, table tennis or sunbathing. At 11:30 A.M. consomme and crackers were served; 1-2 deck luncheon; 4:30 tea and cake or cookies; 7 - 9:30 was dinner and 11:30 was the midnite snack. That included all kinds of cold meats, lobster and crabmeat salad, hot dogs, hamburgers, pickles, etc. Is it any wonder Walt put on weight.

 In the day classes were held in dancing and languages; there were lectures on S.A., movies for the children and parties. In the evening there was a floor show, movies, horse racing, bingo, and every night dancing from 11 until 1. One evening they had the Champagne Hour given by Marlene and Michael (dance team). They, Marlene and Michael chose a partner from the audience for the Rhumba, Samba, Polka, Waltz, Cha Cha Cha, Foxtrot, and Jitterbug. Marlene chose Walt for the jitterbug and he won the 1st prize, an Oscar that is inscribed with "Moore and McCormack Champagne Hour."

On Sept. 5, we came into Trinidad - Port of Spain. Had a 20 minute ride from ship to shore in a launch. This island is extremely beautiful but so very hot! I don't often complain about heat but this was too much. Here, the kids and I saw our first palm tree and the kids saw their first mountains. We hired a taxi and driver who stayed with us for the five hours we were there. He took us sightseeing, shopping and even looked after the children while we shopped. There are a great many Hindus here; we saw the women with jewels on their faces, veils over their heads and lovely long gowns. In Trinidad as in Brazil the houses, stores, etc. are wide open. Usually one side is all windows or french doors. Had lunch in a hotel half way up a mountain where we were entertained by Calypso dancers and singers.

September 6, we arrived in Barbados, about 150 miles north of Trinidad. This climate was cooler, the island was beautiful; in face Walt and I have just about decided to retire and live here. The flowers on these islands were so brilliant in color and so huge. We saw ever so many Poinsettias in bloom - they are just beginning to bloom in Rio. Again we used a launch - this time only a 5 minute ride. From the time the ship anchored until we left (7 a.m. to 7 p.m.) boys were diving for coins. We stayed in the shopping district in Barbados and went to the Accra Beach Club for lunch. Went back to the ship by 3:30.

This time we sailed for 7 days without stopping. The two weeks we were sailing, saw only 2 ships, no planes, one whale was sighted, no porpoises. Sept. 7 was Walt's birthday - the chef baked a cake and when the waiters brought it they all sang "Happy birthday" - we also had champagne. Never saw so much champagne in all my life - it flowed like water. Some one said if the sea would every dry up the shipping lanes would be well marked by the bottles that were thrown overboard. Our household goods (TV, washer, dryer, refrigerator, china, mattresses, springs - hollywood legs for all the beds so we wouldn't have to buy head or footboards, linens), and the car were all in the bottom hold of the ship. The two Walters went down to one of the holds but our stuff was just too far down for any passengers to go. Went up to the Bridge one afternoon - was particularly interested to see if the radar was working - it was, and we saw a rain squall approaching on the screen. Saw all kinds of gadgets and equipment, international code flags, machines for measuring depth (at that time it was 12,000 ft. deep), the distance was 600 miles from shore. When we went across the mouth of the Amazon the ocean was sort of yellow in color - took a good many hours to cross it. The 9th of Sept. we crossed the Equator and a good time was had by all. King Neptune boarded the ship the night before and warned everyone to beware. The next day when he held Court the poor unfortunates had a miserable time. They were lathered with soap, covered with spaghetti and rinsed off with a hose - the Royal Bath. The Querings have their certificates but if King Neptune decides he wants you to go thru the whole thing again when we cross the equator the certificates don't mean a thing. Oh woe!

The 12th we landed in Bahia, Brazil - our first contact with Portuguese. This city was dirty, we landed right in the docks. The city was in two levels, the newer part was reached by a cable car or an elevator. We took the cable car and walked around the shopping district for a while. Also went to see some of the very old churches - saw one that had a golden altar that was really gorgeous. Went ashore with a family of 5 from Wilmington, Del. Liked them a lot, too bad they were going to Buenos Aires. Met so many interesting people on the ship from all walks of life and from all over the world.

The morning of the 13th was the only foggy weather we ran into - the weather was perfect all the way except for a few rain squalls. This was the morning we came into Rio. What we could see of it was lovely. There were 103 passengers to disembark here so the immigration officials boarded the ship one hour before we docked to examine passports and health certificates. After we landed of course we had to go through customs - 5 hours of it. Now I know what the foreigners feel like when they come to the U.S.A. The only thing I was afraid of was the 4 cartons of Camels I bought on board for 15 a pack, but they came thru okay. Walt bought a case of Scotch and a case of whiskey in Trinidad for $25.50 per case. There wasn't any duty on that but the little that they do charge it would be well worth it and much cheaper than buying it here. Jose Batista met us when we landed and had a desponshonti with him. Jose is Pancho Hernandez right hand man and Pancho is mainly responsible for Caulk's coming down here. The desponshonti is necessary for getting through Customs and he is also handling the household goods and car.

Jose took us to dinner and then to the Hotel Regente on Copacabana Beach. The food and hotel were a terrific let down after the ship. The beds consist of a mattress, no spring, and straw pillows, and every bathroom in S.A. has a douche something or other right beside the john. They make wonderful little potties for boys. We had ten thousand questions from the kids about them! [NOTE: These, of course, were bidets, and us kids used it to wash the sand off our feet from the beach and we enjoyed turning on one of the faucets just so we could watch the water touch the ceiling.] The next day after a good night's sleep (regardless of the beds) everything looked much better. Rio is beautiful with all the mountains and sea, the tiled pavements, and some ultra modern buildings. Of course there are bad sections as in every city and it may not be very clean compared to some standards but we all like it. The children started to the Escola Americana (American School) on Sept. 19. Ginger and Walt get a lesson in Portuguese every day, Linda, Mother and Daddy are picking it up slowly but surely. The school is supposedly illegal and for that reason whenever an inspector comes around the teachers start teaching in Portuguese until he leaves the building again. Everyone knows it is an American school but just to make everyone happy they do this. This is a private school but there are Brazilian, Chinese, Japanese, and several other races, but mostly Americans.

Pancho took us up to Corcovado and the Statue of Christ the Redeemer. Could see all of Rio from there. We haven't been up Sugar Loaf as yet but will go one of these days. The weather is generally good, warm enough to go on the beach during the day, and cool enough for a sweater at night. Get along fairly well with the language, as I said we are picking it up slowly and with hand motions make out. Have met quite a few other Americans. The other language we run into quite a bit is German. That is the only one I ever had in school so at times I do better with that than anything else.

Apartment hunting started the Saturday after we arrived. It is terrible, the prices have increased 100% since June. The dollar is now worth only 65 cruzeiros. The rate of exchange varies daily, in Bahia it was 71 and since we have been here it hasn't been above 70 so it is never wise to exchange too many dollars at one time. Have seen some very beautiful apartments but they were much too much. Oddly enough whether they are large or small all have maids quarters, a bedroom and bath consisting of a shower and a john. All bathrooms and kitchens must be in tile and all floors thruout the rest of the apartments are the most beautiful hard wood that you can imagine. Anyway we finally settled on an apartment in Leblon. By the way, the much publicized Copacabana Beach is not at all desirable for living or for bathing. It is crowded, too commercial and the sewers drain into the ocean. Our apartment is new, 3 small bedrooms, living room, kitchen, bathroom in a horrible blue, maid's rooms, and a laundry area. All laundry areas are open usually around a circle. They have a built-in tub of sandetono. This apt. has a hook up for an automatic washer, hot water in bathroom and laundry but none in kitchen! Very few apts. have closets and ours doesn't either. Anyway we have this on a 6 month's lease so I can look further. It is close to school (2 squares), it is new, buses run out in front also Bondes (trolleys, open air) all rooms open onto a beautiful view of the mountains (Corcovado and Statue of the Christ), are on the 8th floor and a roof garden is on the 9th, and we are in the back of the building. Kids love the automatic elevator. It is Cr. $11,000. approx. $150 per month. Our stuff came off the docks last week - everything was fine, only one broken handle on a copper bottomed skillet. Expect to get the car in about 2 more weeks - minus the aerial, Bel Air insignia on fender, possibly the hub caps. Have been down to Sears and bought a dining room suite and living room, both go in the same room. Bought a dryer in Milford from Sears and the store down here never even heard of one, so far have not been able to get it hooked up. Also have to filter the water and for a while will boil it just to be on the safe side.

The poor people live on the side of the hills or mountains. Make their shacks out of any kind of wood they can find. I often wonder how in the world the shacks stay put, but they do. These are also the people who believe in Voodoo. We have seen quite a bit of it. They make fires along the waters edge and it burns for hours and still no one ever sees who lights it. On street corners one may come across a candle, a bottle of wine and a dead chicken. No one ever sees them placed there. Have seen the signs on buildings. Have heard that if you get a maid who doesn't like you she will put a curse on you. By the way, I don't intend to have a maid, not for that reason but we can use the extra room and bath. They cost $20 to $25 per month, but I just want one to do the ironing and possibly a day's work once a week. [NOTE: Shortly after this letter was written, Mom did hire a live-in maid.]

Have completely forgotten to tell you about our last night at sea. It began with a cocktail party given by the Captain at 7. At 8 we were down to dinner and the dining room just looked like New Year's Eve. Balloons heaped on every table, horns, rattles, flags on every table. The band played the Brazilian Carnival and everyone danced around the room between the tables - similar to our Congo line. Then we sat down to eat while the orchestra played all the State's Songs, College and Service Songs. After dinner we had a floor show in the lounge and finally all stood in a circle, joined hands and sang Auld Lang Syne, then another Brazilian Carnival. Allowed the kids to stay up on this night. Before they went to bed, our steward Mr. Chee, looked in the stateroom every so often to see if they were all there and hadn't fallen out of the porthole.

Last week we went to a cocktail party and buffet supper at Pancho's. All were Americans except the Cuban ambassador and his wife. Met the pres. of Pan American Airways, several dentists, v. pres. of New York Bank, and some others, but the funny thing about this group was how they talked about the fleas and other bugs that had invaded their homes at one time or another. Houses and apartments have to be sprayed every 6 months or a year to be free of the pests. You can pick up fleas anyplace, particularly in the movies, so we will put off that pleasure for a while.

Walt is having trouble getting equipment and may have to import a lot from the States. It is tough trying to get anything into Brazil - even individuals can not mail packages back to the States, nor can we receive them from the States. He went to Sao Paulo last week to try to get some things, but did not have much success. Will take quite a few months before he can actually get into operation.

Expect to leave the hotel tomorrow - don't know where the trunks will go but we have been living out of suitcases and trunks since August 25 and are slightly tired of it to say the least.

        Our address is:    Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva, 926

                                         Apt. 802


                                         Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

                          B U T

    Send to this address:   Industrias Dentarias Caulk, S.A.

                                               Rua Correa Dutra, 126

                                               Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

The mail isn't so good and all our mail has been coming through at the office so we better let well enough alone.

                                                            Write soon via airmail

                                                                        Love to all

                                                                                Jinny and Walt and Etc.


(Music on this page is "Luz do Sol")


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