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Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Christmas afloat, 1954




In December 1954 my parents and I were on our way from England to New Zealand, aboard the good ship RMS Rangitiki. We steamed home via the Panama Canal, arriving back in Auckland on 1 January 1955.

Rangitiki Postcard, courtesy of the web site http://www.rms-rangitiki.com/Rangitiki_On_Postcards.htm

Christmas aboard the Rangitiki looks like it must have been fun and relaxing for the passengers. I went to the children's  fancy dress party in a crepe paper Christmas tree costume my mother had created for me, and won a prize. (I've posted this photo in a previous blog but I think it bears repeating). The next photo is of a fragment from my outfit that Mum stuck into a scrapbook of the trip. It's quite well-preserved really, so you can imagine what the photo looked like in colour.




My mother's scrapbook also includes both the children's and adults' menus for the various Christmas events.



Children's Fancy Dress Party Menu

For Tea on Christmas Day the children enjoyed Fillet of Cod au Gratin, Cheese Salad, Roast Chicken and New Zealand Ham, with Peach Creams, Neapolitan Ices and fruit for dessert. Fried Lambs Sweetbreads and Sheeps Tongue were included in the menu at the Children's Xmas Party on December 24 - not my idea of party food, but I think in those days they were believed to be good for children. They were also served coffee ices, which seems a bit strange too.

Boxing Day Children's Menu Cover

The adults dined pretty well on Christmas Day, once the children had been fed and safely put to bed, not that I was always safe - apparently one night during the voyage I somehow escaped from the cabin, and if a purser hadn't discovered me wandering about on deck, I might not be here to tell the tale!

 The adults' Christmas Day Menu cover appropriately featured the New Zealand Kowhai Ngutu, also known as the kaka beak flower, 

A Sumptuous Xmas Feast: Rangitiki Menu, Dec.25, 1954
Scotch Woodcock is apparently a dish of soft scrambled eggs on toast with anchovy paste, which seems an odd thing to serve for Christmas, but perhaps it was included for the vegetarians, as there was not very much else offered for them.

And yes, Santa did manage to find the RMS Rangitiki on the high seas, somehow or other!


Best wishes to everyone for the festive season, wherever you may be, from Merry Melbourne, where it's presently around 40 degrees in the shade. Thankfully Xmas Day is not predicted to be quite so hot!  I hope you all have a very happy and relaxing time with family and friends. To close, here are some Melbourne icons for you, with a little added Christmas flavour - they're neither old nor sepian, but I hope you enjoy them, regardless!

Gingerbread model of the Melbourne Cricket Ground., which also plays host to Aussie Rules in winter.
Melbourne Town Hall lights up with a festive light show each night before Xmas



No one's watching the football, they're all queueing up for some fun at that other Melbourne icon depicted here in gingerbread, Luna Park at St Kilda Beach.

For more festive season memories,thoughts and wishes, just lie back, relax and head for  Sepia Saturday 208

20 comments:

  1. Those menus are amazing! Especially the children's. Most kids today would we happy with Chicken Nuggets & Tater Tots. Personally, I love Tater Tots, but of course they didn't exist back then, nor, I'm sure, if they had, they wouldn't have been found on the adult menu which would have been too bad. Sorry you're having such hot weather. Our Calif. summers here in the central Sierras at the 3000 ft. level can get pretty warm as well - often climbing into the low 100s. But we have a saying: "It's a dry heat." And that does make a bit of difference. Still, hot is hot! So stay in the shade & have a Happy Christmas!

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    1. I think what you call Tater Tots would be Potato Gems or Royals here. Back then the kids were served a lot more healthy food than now. I can survive the heat but am a bit worried about my garden.

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  2. What an exciting Christmas experience. It is really nice that the costume piece and menus were saved. The menus seem very elaborate with many unusual items.

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  3. This was most enjoyable...and it's great that your mom's scrapbook had so much saved from the trip. But you were precious in that "tree costume."

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  4. Now that's a memorable Christmas. My Christmases from childhood all run together and seem much the same. Merry Christmas, Jo!

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    1. Yes, not that I actually remember my 3rd Christmas, but at least I have the photos and ship souvenirs.

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  5. Wonderful memories and photos; yes, it is a bit strange to serve fried sheep's tongue at a childrens party. I guess not many children would enjoy it today! In 1974 we were aboard from Genoa to Sydney, the children had not a special menu.

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  6. That Christmas Tree costume is an absolute hoot! What fun to have a shred of it still, after all these years -- very fun post, Jo.

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  7. Wonderful to spend Chistmas on board. Weren't the menu covers marvellous. (and the food too)

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  8. We have a kaka beak outside our back door, but in December it's way past its best. I think the flowers are generally at their peak in about September, but perhaps it will have a second flush.

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  9. Yes, it should probably should have been pohutukawa to be more accurate, but at least it was the right colour.

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  10. I can't remember Christmases from that far back. Your photo and the menus will make sure that you never forget where you where.that year.
    Have a very Merry Christmas and New Year holiday.

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  11. You were a cute little tree! Since you can't remember, it's a good thing you were told about the trip and wandering around, in danger of falling overboard!

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  12. The sepia tone does make your outfit seem rather grim and more suited for your expression. Saving the paper restores the fun.

    Those of us in the dim light of winter wish everyone down under in the sunshine of summer a very joyous holiday.

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  13. Did your mum make the costume on the ship? How inventive.
    The menu looks a bit scary - I wonder how many kids ate the sweetbreads and tongue!!
    Wishing you a Merry (cooler) Christmas from me having my first really cold Christmas (in Europe).

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  14. I think your mother was very clever and it was a very charming Christmas tree.
    I saw the gingerbread Melbourne a couple of weeks ago and was most impressed :)
    Planning to make a gingerbread house today with my son :)

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  15. Thank you for sharing these memories with us Jo; those menus are amazing.

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  16. That sure was a different kind of Christmas, on board a ship. Your trip was only a few years after I sailed from England to make a new life in Oz.

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  17. Scotch Woodcock.....Sounds good, although I accept it may be an acquired taste. Only recently was I recalling that my father used to finish a meal with a savoury if we ate out at a restaurant but as far as I can remember this habit died out in the 1960s. Usually it was grilled sardines on toast or mushrooms on toast. Given a choice, even now, I would happily forgo a sweet desert for a savoury.

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