SEPTEMBER 17, 1943
(Mrs. Roosevelt is on this trip travelling as a representative of the American Red Cross. All of her receipts from her column will be divided between the American Red Cross and the American Friends Service Committee.)]
"On a Plane Over AUSTRALIA," Sept. 15—Have I told you about the houses in Rockhampton? They are built on stilts high up, off the ground. In many cases, people keep their cars under their houses and often the washing is done there and hung up to dry. Things are stored in the space below the house since it is cooler. Flowers and vines are planted as screens and nowhere did I see an unattractive approach to a house.
They are all detached, with ground about them, and the people are good gardeners, for hedges of bougainvillea in every color grow in profusion. Frequently a vine will cover an entire tree and, while the tree dies, the vine is very beautiful. Many other flowers grow that are semitropical, but it is not too warm for fruits and vegetables of the temperate zones to flourish also.
In every camp we visit there are numbers of dogs as pets, but in one camp the soldiers caught and tamed a possum. The commanding officer said it visited his tent frequently, but was not always welcome, so when we saw the possum, he was tied to a fence by a long string. They had built a gateway to their camp and perched on top of the highest point was a Koala bear, solemnly looking from his point of vantage at the world and ignoring all pleas to descend and be petted.
The soldiers had to acknowledge that he could cling so well with his claws that they would find it a hard job to dislodge him against his will. Far and away the most appealing pet was a little three months old wallaby, sitting up in a wire enclosure with a tall soldier leaning down feeding her milk from a small bottle with a nipple taken from some baby's bottle. Nipples are scarce but this baby had to have the best that could be obtained.
In this country they seem to me very wasteful of their trees. Everywhere in the wooded section you see them completely ringed about, so they will die. The reason given me is that they must clear the land so that grass will grow better for grazing purposes. Of course, there are still vast areas of densely wooded sections, but as I look down from the plane, I recognized the familiar look of eroded land which we now have to try to stop in our own country.
I have been looking at some picture story books for children by a young Australian, Elisabeth MacIntyre, who has, I believe, had some of them published in the United States, where I am sure they will be popular with children.
Many letters have come to me on this trip but I am going to give you an extract from one, because I think many mothers of youngsters at home will appreciate its appeal. "I hope you will like Australia and have a happy visit here. Australia would have been a different place now, if all the American soldiers had not come and saved our country for us. We cannot thank them enough. My daddy went with the A.I.F. to Malaya to fight there, but he has been missing since Singapore fell."
The little girl is only thirteen, but she reflects the feelings which made so many people here offer their homes to our boys in this faraway land. Australia was near enough to be bombed and shelled on several occasions so there was a realization that the invasion was a real danger. The trenches dug in the cities and the dugouts provided for air raid protection are witness to the danger which was once near and has now passed with the success of the Allies in this theater of war.