Embarkation to Europe

Cabot wrote and sketched in his journal during the entirety of his trip to Europe in 1925. Given this time when we are sheltering in our homes and trips to other places are curtailed, it seems like a great time for armchair traveling. Fortunately, we have Cabot Yerxa for our guide. The intrepid traveler exhibited a flair for keen observation and an interest in humanity, so we can “see” other places and people through his writings.
Cabot’s 400-page journal of his journey abroad begins with his embarkation in San Pedro, California, aboard a steamer bound for the Panama Canal. He continued onto England, Ireland, Scotland, the islands of Jersey and Guernsey, and then France. His return to the United States involved stops in Cuba and Mexico. But let’s start where Cabot did on May 9, 1925.

I walked up the gangplank into a gang of Chinese deckhands. Located the purser’s office, and a China boy took me down to steerage and he disappeared. There were 23 Chinamen and two Mexicans … all sitting ’round smoking. So I’m myself at home at once. …

One white man is a carpenter from Boston. He has been out at Santa Barbara 20 years. Says he likes the steerage … A fireman said, “You are better off in the steerage than with those jellybeans and stiff-necks in first class. They are lonesome only two in a room. Just look at the company you have.” …

Our quarters are aft over the propeller and under the steam steering gear — the noisiest place on the ship. But this is all the sweetest music to me. And taken with the long, slow, steady roll of the ship, I am having a better time than anyone on the ship. …

The study of faces when a ship sails is very interesting. I mean the faces of people on the dock. Yesterday I saw tragic faces with tears, happy faces, and a thousand passing expressions, all of which go to build up the story of which life is made.

We have deck space on the deck aft. Today the sailors rigged up a canvas swimming pool on the deck 8 x 16 and eight feet deep. This is for first-class passengers, but we Chinamen can see all the fun without getting wet.

As you can see, Cabot possessed a nature that allowed him to make the best of conditions and situations that most of us would find uncomfortable and undesirable.
He could identify himself with people from other cultures and appreciated the personalities and qualities of others. Here’s an excerpt from his entry of May 10, 1925, referring to a second passenger from Boston:


The painter is a very sociable fellow, so he talks to everyone. He has much to say to the Mexicans and Chinamen, who do not understand a word. But he is so deaf he does not hear what they say. So he smiles and tells them something else or the same thing louder. What they try to say is they do not understand English. But he keeps on talking.

Enlightened, inspired, or simply entertained by Cabot Yerxa’s own experiences, may we all find within ourselves a joy of life and empathy for humankind

Photo caption: Cabot on boat ca 1925