20th vs. 21st Century International Travel


First Class Childrens’ Playroom of the R.M.S. Empress of Japan,  courtesy Wikimedia Commons


I found  my father Hans Pederson’s,  childhood home after a tiring trip to Denmark during the summer of  2018. My husband drove me to Portland, Maine about 8 a.m. where I caught the 11:30 bus to Boston’s Logan Airport. I reached the international terminal about 3 p.m.

Rolling my luggage to check in for my flight, I lined up to be x-rayed and patted down as  I watched TSA workers paw through my belongings. Wending my way to the plane, I settled into my end seat which allowed ample room for my 5’3’ frame. Then taking pity on my 6’7” neighbor in the cramped center seat, I traded places with him.

The red-eye flight to Amsterdam arrived the next morning about 8 local time. I met Ellen who had flown from Los Angeles and at  11:30 we boarded our final flight to Copenhagen, ready for bed and prepared to face several days of jet lag.

The trip brought back memories of my early childhood in prewar Shanghai, Manila, and Honolulu where my stepdad served as a Far Eastern agent for the Standard Oil until the outbreak of World War II. On our periodic home leaves we’d travel first class on ocean liners. From Honolulu to Los Angeles took five days.  Stewards served steaming cups of bouillon, “tiffin” in mid-morning as we lounged on deck chairs covered with steamer blankets after promenading around the deck. My mother and father dined formally on multi-course meals, always with a turn at the Captain’s table. Afterwards they danced away the night under the stars.

Still, the children required tending. Even though we enjoyed staff-supervised activities in the children’s playroom, our amahs had been left behind in port. My sister and I ran up and down the carpeted circular staircases gawking at the frescoes on the ceiling.  We swam in the pool and bet on wooden horses that “raced “across the deck at the roll of the dice. At dinner in the children’s dining room, we were supervised by matrons in white uniforms. The childrens’ tea party served as the grand finale—we sipped hot chocolate and ate tiny pastel petit fours.

Embarking five days later in the U.S. we sometimes felt like immigrants, but we never experienced jet lag.


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