Letter to Mrs Cahir from Jim Cahir



Letter to Mrs Cahir from Jim Cahir


Letter from Sergeant Cahir to his Mum and Vincent. In it he tells them all about his leave in New York, the places he has been and the shows he has seen.




Temporal Coverage



14 handwritten sheets


IBCC Digital Archive


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ECahirFSCahirM-V430820-0001, ECahirFSCahirM-V430820-0002, ECahirFSCahirM-V430820-0003, ECahirFSCahirM-V430820-0004, ECahirFSCahirM-V430820-0005, ECahirFSCahirM-V430820-0006, ECahirFSCahirM-V430820-0007, ECahirFSCahirM-V430820-0008, ECahirFSCahirM-V430820-0009, ECahirFSCahirM-V430820-0010, ECahirFSCahirM-V430820-0011, ECahirFSCahirM-V430820-0012, ECahirFSCahirM-V430820-0013, ECahirFSCahirM-V430820-0014


[Air Force Club Crest]




Telephone: MUrray Hill 2-1716


Aus 419441

Postal No 272



August 20 - 43

Dear Mum & Vincent

At last I have realised one of my ambitions & that was to [deleted] vio [/deleted] visit New York. We had four days leave there & had a marvellous time. When we sailed into New York Harbour, Manhattan Island with the Skyscrapers looked like a Fairy Castle away in the distance, & even after we had been in the harbour some time anchored along side the Statue of Liberty the city did not lose it’s appearance of a Fairy Castle.

We got leave Sunday afternoon & spent most of the afternoon walking up & down the streets with our heads stuck in the air looking up at the Buildings. When we passed the Empire State Building we decided to go to the top of it, the lifts take you express to the 72nd floor, where you change lifts to go to the 102nd. The view you get from the top is indescribable, when you look down on the streets below, motors just appear like specks & the crowds on the foot paths are like ants. The City is laid out in Blocks like Melbourne & you

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can follow streets & roads until they become a blur in the distance. From the Empire State Building you can get a wonderful idea [inserted] of [/inserted] how New York is laid out. Manhattan is on a [sic] island in the centre of the Harbour, it is the business Centre of New York, it is connected with the Main land by numerous Bridges & tunnels which run underneath the River Hudson. When we went into the City everyday we travelled by tube Railway underneath the River & Buildings; the Railway runs underneath Skyscrapers except in a couple of places where there is a hollow in the island, then it runs on a [sic] over head bridge about three stories up, traffic carries on beneath the overhead railway.

Whilst going up in the lifts to the top of the Empire State Building the pressure becomes greater on your ears, the result is you [deleted] you [/deleted] get a curious sensation in your head just as you do in an aeroplane when climbing to great altitude. The exterior of the Building is beautiful with very graceful curves, from a distance the Empire State does not look any higher than the rest of the surrounding buildings, but once you get close up, you can see it is much taller than Buildings such as Rockefeller Centre, Chrysler, Woolworths.

Sunday night Bill Jeff & myself visited Radio City in the Rockefeller Centre, it

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was something like a miniature worlds fair & exhibited many war products from Australia, we had about 3 hours looking over Radio City; then we had [inserted] a [/inserted] look around the streets at the Night life of New York, even though it was Sunday everything was open & you could go to Pictures or Night Clubs anytime of the night. Some of the Picture shows did not start their last show until midnight.

Monday found us in New York once again. On the Railways & tramways here there is no such thing as buying a ticket, it costs you a nickel to go everywhere, the entrance to all railway stations is through turnstiles, & the tramways have turnstiles just inside the door of each tram, so in order to gain your [deleted] y [/deleted] seat you must insert a nickel in the slot of the turnstile in order that it rotate to let you pass to your seat, its a great idea! but its necessary for a chap to carry around a pocket full of nickels if he wants to go anywhere.

As I said before there is no trains running [deleted] aboo [/deleted] above Ground on Manhattan Island, the same goes for trams, the main means of transport is by taxis which are here in there thousands, the Americans catch taxis just like we do trams in the City at home. How often we missed being run down by taxis? I don’t know, we never get use to looking to [inserted] the [/inserted] right before crossing the Road

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At the corner of [deleted] of [/deleted] all the streets there were traffic lights but nobody took any notice of them, when we first arrived in New York we use [sic] stand on the footpath until the light turned green but we found that we were being left behind all the time, so we just ignored the lights & walked across as the New Yorkers did.

On Monday we visited the [one indecipherable word] Club in 56th Street; it is very nice & provides all kinds of entertainment from Pictures & Dances to Parties & trips to the Country; [deleted] we [/deleted] whilst at the [one indecipherable word] Club I enquired after Mr Rabbling, they gave me his address which was some considerable distance out of town, & [inserted] as [/inserted] there was so much to see & do in town [deleted] one indecipherable word [/deleted] I did not find the opportunity to go out there.

For lunch we visited a cafe called the “Automat”, it is really a self serving cafe & works on the same principal [sic] as slot machines at home, to obtain a hot meal of, say! Steak & Eggs, you would insert your money into a slot & out would come your steak & Eggs, the same would apply for your apple pie & Cream etc, it was really a good idea & saved time, instead of following a queue along the counter as you do in cafes at home.

In the afternoon we visited St Patrick’s Cathedral, its the most beautiful Cathedral inside that I have seen, the outside is not so

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impressive & is considerably smaller than St Pat’s Melbourne. The Cathedral is situated in 5th. ave the Principal street of the City; there are people walking in & out of the Cathedral all day long just as they do at St Francis. The high altar is beautiful white marble with a high arch over it made of a metal that looks very much like Gold, around the back of the high alter are numerous smaller altars, highly coloured with flowers & red lights.

We also visited the Modern Art Exhibition in Park Ave, there were many interesting things on display besides modern paintings which we could make neither head nor tail of.

A Bus ride down fifth ave was our next venture, this Avenue is really beautiful it is quite wide as the rest of New York streets are. At the lower end of 5th Ave are stock Brokers etc, about the middle are the very fashionable shops where you pay two or three dollars for the name 5th ave to be on the Goods, the “up town” (as the Yanks call it) end of fifth ave is given over to the very wealthy, where they have their “Penthouses” that tower up to forty or fifty stores. [sic] Whilst we were in the Bus an American pointed out to us many of the very famous American Business mens homes. Bus on the way back took us along the River Drive where we saw the

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the [sic] motor traffic running along roadways built off the ground to save space. The cost on the Bus was 10 cents the round trip of approx 12 miles, & instead of handing the dime to the conductor of the Bus you feed it in a small register that he hold in his hand.

Monday night we visited the U.S.O. which is like the A.C.F. in Australia, here we picked up free tickets for a Picture Show. It was the Paramount Theatre we visited & easily the biggest theatre I have ever been in, the Regent Theatre Melbourne would fit in the Paramount foyer. The Picture showing was “Bob Hope” in “Lets face it”, there was no second picture on but a stage show instead, with “Benny Goodman” & his Dance Band.

After the Pictures which ended about 11.30 we visited the National Broadcasting Studios for a Concert by Fred Waring & his Orchestra, the final quarter of an hour of the programme was [inserted] a [/inserted] broadcast & the rest of the concert was for the audience in the studios. It was a marvellous concert & entirely different to Benny Goodman’s orchestra which played nothing but the latest hits. We could have gone to a night club after we had seen the N.B.C. studio Broadcast but as it was 1.30 we thought it was about time we hit the high road for home, so after a bottle of Coca-Cola & a couple of doughnuts we caught the

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underground for home.

Tuesday morning we spent in shopping mainly in Woolworths 5 & 10 cent store; the shops over here do not go in for window displays as much as we do at home. I spent about 20 dollars for the morning, I bought a pair of pyjamas handkerchiefs & few other odds & ends for myself, I managed to procure a pair of stockings for you whether they are any good I don’t know, I got pretty sweet with the girl behind the counter & she assured me they were the best for the times so I took her word, I also bought a few handkerchiefs for Irene’s birthday, I sent both parcels home registered mail so I hope they arrive safely. I could not get much tinned stuff for Aunt Louise, but what I have got will last sometime.

After lunch at the Air Force Club we went to Radio City Picture Theatre which is in the Rockefeller centre, the theatre is beautiful both inside & outside, to get to the dress circle you take lifts, I think the seating accommodation is 10,000. Gary [sic] Grant in “Mr Lucky” was showing it was quite a good Picture, there was no supporting Picture but once again a Stage show with numerous items. All these entertainments cost us nothing up to here, all we did was to go around to the the W.S.A. & ask for a free ticket to what ever particular show we wanted to go to.

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Tuesday Evening we went to a Circus at Maddison Square Garden, it was a marvellous show & was quite a famous Circus by the name of Spangles, there were the usual clowns running around, but the most thrilling item was the acrobats that performed on trapezes about 100ft off the ground with no safety net spread to catch them in case they should fall. The performing animals were very good with a girl in charge of them. Madison Square Garden is where they hold all the Big Boxing Events, its a large stadium with seating accommodation for 30,000 spectators, just inside the entrance are many bronze statues & trophies of [deleted] many [/deleted] [inserted] world [/inserted] famous Boxing Champions. The Stadium is in the shape of an oval with the Boxing Ring in the centre, the seats are arranged in three tiers above one another; with a little bit of talking we managed to work our way into the ring side seats for the Circus.

The Circus over we again visited the National Broadcasting Studios in the Rockefeller Centre, here we heard Raymond Paige & his Orchestra in his Broadcast over the air; the way they [deleted] way [/deleted] put the sound effects for advertisements over the air was marvellous, they had numerous buttons, [inserted] & [/inserted] as soon as the noise of an aeroplane was require [sic] the announcer just pushed the button marked aeroplane & you would hear the drone of the plane.

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It was about 2 oclock by the time we had supper & travelled home, night life in New York does not stop until about 4 in the morning.

There is supposed to be a Blackout here in New York, but compared to Melbourne it is a blaze of light, most of the Neon signs in Broadway advertising night Clubs & pictures are still alight & Times Square is just glowing with lights. We saw Jack Dempsey’s Night Club in Broadway during our travels.

Wednesday we did not get leave until rather late in the morning, I finished off shopping then met [deleted] the [/deleted] Bill & Jeff at the Air Force Club for lunch. In the afternoon we got free tickets for the “Student Prince”, it was a marvellous show with Everett Marshall as Dr Engel, Frank Hornaday as the Prince & Barbara Scully as Kathie, I bought a programme which I will send home to you with a lot of other rubbish I have collected. I enjoyed the performance & the music of the Student Prince so much that I decided to go to the “Merry Widow” in the Evening, Bill & Jeff had decided to go to a Party at a 5th. ave Pent House so went by myself. I had great trouble in getting in but eventually managed it only to find that there was only standing room left.

So I proceeded to sit [one deleted word] on the carpeted steps of the theatre, I had not

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been sitting there five minutes when an usherette tried to move me, I refused to go unless they could find me a seat & seeing this was the first & only entertainment I had paid for I felt justified in asking for a seat, she then mumbled something about house full etc & that I could not sit on the steps, but I had paid 1.75 for the seat & I was not going to give it up so easily.

I sat on the step for the first act & for the last two I got a [deleted] 1 [/deleted] 5 dollar seat about ten rows from the front, it happened that a yank officer saw me sitting on the step so he saved me his seat when he went after the first act.

Jan Kiepura played the part of the Prince & was marvellous, I could have listened to him all night, he was far superior to Maxwell Oldaker in Melbourne’s effort, [deleted] Martha [/deleted] Marta Eggerth who is really Jan Kiepura’s wife played the part that Gladys Moncrieff took, she was very good & more suitable for the part than Gladys Moncrief, [sic] but I did not think she was half as good a singer.

On the whole I thought Melbourne’s production was every bit as good as the production here in New York, there was nothing outstanding about it here except Jan Kiepura playing the leading role.

The other parts such as that of the Prime

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Minister of Marovia were played by well know [sic] actors who had had European experience but unfortunately I losted [sic] the Programme & cannot recall their names. The conductor of the orchestra was Robert Sholz, you might of heard of him.

As I was by myself after the opera I decided to have an early night & crawled into bed about 1 oclock, which was an early hour compared to the other nights. That finished our leave in New York & what a leave! I could have spent a month there without any trouble at all, still you never know I might get the opportunity to revisit New York at a later date.

Now for a few general notes about New York & the Yanks, I found they still talk their heads off about what they have or do, but when they talk about New York they certainly have something to talk about. Everybody we met were most helpful & generous to us if we were in a bit of strife & asked anybody where a certain place was they would want to shout us a drink & take us there personally. In my opinion it would be possible to live in New York for a month have three meals a day & go to at least three shows a day without paying a penny; for the four days we were there [deleted] we [/deleted] [inserted] I [/inserted] paid for one meal [deleted] & I paid for [/deleted] [inserted] & [/inserted] one show, Bill & Jeff paid for one meal & no shows.

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The service clubs around New York City were very good, they did not go in for meals as much as the clubs at home; the Hostel in Adelaide still reigns supreme over any club I have seen. We made the Air Force Club our Headquarters as it was a very cozy little Club & quite close to the heart of Manhattan besides there were some very nice girls in attendance whom we got to know very well.

The American girls I don’t think can can [sic] compare with the Australian girls, their complections [sic] are terrible and their beauty is dependant upon how glamorous they can make themselves. The girls we got to know at the Club were very nice & were always giving us free tickets for shows that we did not have time to see. The average American girl you passed in the street was entirely different to the girls you would pass in Collins St Melbourne, every one of them would be done up like a film star & it was quite possible to walk down 5th Ave picking out the girls who were trying [inserted] to [/inserted] imitate Dorothy Lamour in dress & those that were trying to look like Greta Garbo.

Some of the men dressed rather queerly with short sport shirts hanging outside their pants, every time I passed a chap dressed like that I felt like running up to him &

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tucking his shirt in, or yelling after him “Giddy - Giddy Gout your shirt’s hanging out”.

When we first struck New York, we found great difficulty in making people understand what we were talking about, we seemed to be able to understand them much easier than they could understand us. A lot of our slang at home had an entirely different meaning over here, as we found out much to our embarrassment.

After leaving New York the thing that stuck in my mind most was what a Cosmopolitan lot the Americans are, whilst in Manhattan I met numerous Italians Greeks Spaniards Chinese & above all two Japanese Gentlemen, as well as thousands of Negros; thank Heaven there is a [deleted] A [/deleted] “White Australian Policy” & sincerely hope it will always be in force and that it will become even stricter after this war. It’s not until you get away from home & see other places that you appreciate the Policy & meaning of it.

The meals in New York were very dear, even at the cheapest cafe you could not possibly have a meal under 1.50 which is about 9/4 Australian money. Another thing about American meals is you hardly ever see a knife everything is eaten with a fork, we tried the idea of eating with a fork but gave it up, it makes eating far to clumsy & slow

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Now that the trip is over, I don’t suppose there is any harm in telling you we came through the Panama Canal, we came through it in day light consequently saw the works; no doubt about it! its a wonder of the modern world & well worth travelling half way across the world to see; I will tell you more about it in a later letter when I will give you a short narrative of events since I left Australia, (provided I am allowed & if I can remember anything worth mentioning).

How is everything at home Mum? all well I hope! its a long long time since I have heard any news from home, now & again the Wireless gives a little, but not much. Yesterday we heard over the wireless that Curtin was well ahead in the following, I think he is certain to get in once more! don’t you?

How is work with both of you? the Bank no doubt is still showing a credit Balance, is the new Boss still as cranky as ever? Vincent I suppose is by this time Chief Clerk.

The Boy’s Club is still running Matches! Every Sunday I [deleted] wish [/deleted] [inserted] wonder [/inserted] who they might be playing & if they won. Kindest regards to all at Sacred Heart. Remember me to Betty & Phil.

Don’t worry over me Mum, you know when you get this letter that God has looked after me well & will always do so. Your loving son & brother.


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Jim Cahir, “Letter to Mrs Cahir from Jim Cahir,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed March 23, 2023, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/20091.

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