Bon Voyage

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”
– Pat Conroy


We all have our favorite travel memories, whether it is a trip to Europe, a journey to a far-off exotic destination, an outdoor adventure expedition, or perhaps a week together with our family enjoying a salty breeze at the beach or the crisp, cool mountain air.

During their lifetime, Fuller Jr. and Alice Callaway enjoyed many trips both domestic and abroad but certainly January 20, 1956 was one of the most exciting days of their lives. On that day the R.M.S. Caronia, a world-famous cruise liner launched nine years earlier by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, was making its way out of New York harbor. Known as the “Green Goddess,” its unique green paint scheme was a dramatic departure from the traditional black and white. On board the British-built, seven-hundred foot, ten-deck liner, in suite M-36/38 were Fuller Jr. and Alice Callaway. They were embarking on a 108-day voyage around the world, the sixth world tour for Caronia.

Married in 1930, it is likely this special cruise was a celebration of their 25 years together. With both children grown and married, and the textile mills doing well, it was the perfect time to get away. Once they crossed the gangway and boarded the liner, they would experience one of Cunard’s most luxurious liners suitable for very long distance ocean travel. The 541 passengers were ably assisted by a crew of nearly 700. The catering department alone included an amazing 463 staff members! Billed as: “The Great World Cruise of 1956: The World Rediscovered – Following the Trails of the Famous Explorers” they logged over 33,000 miles at sea and made 23 ports of call from Acapulco to Zanzibar.

During this circumnavigation that crisscrossed the equator no less than four times, they departed a cold New York and headed south to Trinidad, Bahia and Rio De Janeiro. They then headed west to Cape Town, up the west coast of Africa to Zanzibar and the Seychelles before heading to Bombay and Ceylon. In Southeast Asia they visited Singapore, Bangkok and Bali. Departing Manila they headed north to Hong Kong and Japan and then crossed the Pacific to Hawaii. The final leg of their journey included Acapulco, Balboa, the Panama Canal and the Caribbean before returning to New York.

During the extended cruise the Callaways saw spectacular natural scenery, visited world-renowned historic places and experienced numerous different cultures. They met natives of Tristan de Cunha, the most remote inhabited archipelago in the world, when they sailed the South Atlantic Ocean. While in Africa they viewed tribal dances, Victoria Falls, amazing wildlife and toured the famous De Beers diamond mines. Passage to India offered tours of the Taj Mahal at Agra and the Raj Ghat, where Mahatma Gandhi’s remains were cremated after his assassination in 1948. Arriving in Bali meant seeing the famous salt huts and walking on the volcanic black sand beaches of Kusamba. In Nikko, Japan, they visited the Tōshō-gū shrine which Fuller described as “MAGNIFICENT!”


Fortunately, Fuller’s leather journal entitled Bon Voyage survives and chronicles the trip from beginning to end, even including a list of every item they purchased. While many journal logs make reference to routine daily occurrences like: “took antimalarial medicine today,” “feeling better,” “the sea is rough today,” or “tipped the weekly crew,” others reveal more details about the trip. Daily entries highlight the weather, exact locations and miles traveled, list people they befriended and offer business-like descriptions of each place they visited. On Monday, February 27, 1956 he reports:

“Port Victoria is on Mahe, one of islands comprising the Seychelles (Pronounced Seashells). Anchored at 7:00 AM about 30-minute ride by tender to pier. Native beggars then to beautiful botanical garden and back to ship for lunch. Beautiful island, green and verdant. Friendly people… Wages for women $2.80 per month – men $5.60 per month. Labor plentiful. Crown Colony. No industry. Exports Coca, dried fish, vanilla (orchid) and cinnamon bark. Clock advanced ½ hour at midnight. Now 9 ½ hours ahead of LaGrange…”

A most interesting entry reads “MON APR 16, 1956 (FIRST) — For the first time in our life we have 2 Mondays in the same week.” Then the next day notes “MON APR 16, 1956 (SECOND) —We crossed the International Date Line at 2 AM this morning so Tuesday only lasted 2 hours, then it was Monday again. Each passenger received a certificate on crossing the 180th longitude.”

Fuller records that they made many new friends, enjoyed good food and participated in numerous social gatherings aboard the Caronia. He notes making a hat for the “fancy headdress ball” and attending a special party for a new friend Marjorie Law. A particularly happy day occurred on January 29th when both Fuller and Alice were initiated into the “fraternity of Shellbacks” by  emissaries of Neptunus Rex, as is customary after crossing the equator. Then again on February 10 they had big excitement when a passenger apparently jumped overboard and had to be rescued,
put in straightjacket and returned to land for safety. Equally exciting was their encounter with typhoon Sarah, which was “shaking the tail” of the ship as they approached Okinawa in early April. When Fuller observed the “electric mules” pulling the Caronia into the locks at the Panama Canal he knew they would be home soon.

On May 8 they began the last leg of their journey home from New York to Georgia aboard the Crescent train. Between Gainesville and Atlanta enroute to LaGrange Fuller noted: “Country ham, red eye gravy, grits & 2 eggs straight up. Mighty good eating.” Upon their return they were greeted by the same friends and family who had seen them off back in January. They had experienced more of the world in one trip than most people experience in a lifetime yet they were glad to be home. That’s kind of how journeys are, but no doubt, they played their memories over and over the rest of their lives.

R. M. S. Caronia. Painting by C. E. Turner from the Cunard cruise booklet given to each passenger onboard.

Fuller E. Callaway Jr.’s leather journal entitled Bon Voyage.

Fuller Jr. and Alice in Rio de Janiero. Courtesy of Troup County Archives.

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