A Dream Trip to a Dream World
Freddy Crafton had already seen a little bit of the world. As a young boy, he lived through the depression in Wrightsville and Vidalia, where his father worked as a linotype operator. So it seemed that Freddy would have be destined to have newsprint in his blood and on his hands.
After he graduated from high school, Freddy joined the Army. He was still in the Army, but worked during the week as a newspaper delivery boy. When he submitted his name in a contest to win a trip to Ireland, he won. And off to Dublin he went, not Dublin, Georgia, but her sister city and namesake of Dublin, Ireland. He won the trip with along with other newspaper boys, though this newspaper boy was a grown man of thirty-one years of age.
In the early 1960s, Parade magazine and the Macon Telegraph sponsored the Young Columbus V "Anglo Gaelic Adventure," for newspaper boys to visit the British Isles. The lucky winners were flown aboard what was then called a luxurious TWA Jetstream airliner.
Though several accounts of the trip described Freddy as a young man, Freddy, son of Mary W. Crafton of 100 West Moore Street in Dublin, had served in active duty with the Army from 1949 to 1950. At the time of the trip, Freddy was a Specialist Fourth Class with the 988th Ordinance Company under the command of John D. Adams. During his spare time, Freddy loved to read historical and religious books, when he wasn't bowling. He loved photography, which he would later take up as a profession.
Freddy, who had always dreamed of going to England, told a reporter for the Macon Telegraph, "I am looking forward to visiting London. I've always wanted to see England." "When we are there," Freddy said, "I want to look up an old friend I have been writing." "I'd also like to see Buckingham Palace," Freddy concluded.
"I've felt like I have been in orbit ever since I won the contest," Freddy exclaimed. He racked up 130 new subscribers to the Macon Telegraph and Macon News to win the spot reserved for subscribers outside the Macon metropolitan area.
The newsboys from around the country left Idewild Airport in New York on the evening of March 31, 1961, arriving the next morning at Shannon Airport in Ireland. The first stop on the trip was the fabled Bunratty Castle and the Lakes of Killarney before a rickety jaunt through the ten thousand acre Muckross National Park. After the day trip, the boys were treated to the hospitality of Irish colleens and Gaelic dances. Most impressive were the Irish colleens themselves, who danced and danced for hours, going from traditional Irish jigs to modern rock 'n' roll dances. Freddy's colleague Bill Parsons, of Macon, remarked, "They can dance forever. They wore us out just watching them dance."
Freddy Crafton had a wee bit of an advantage on the other boys. Besides being more than a dozen years older than the rest of the boys, Freddy was appointed by J. Felton Pierce, Mayor of Dublin, Georgia, as the city's official ambassador in a letter of introduction to the Right Honorable Maurice E. Dockrell, Lord Mayor of Dublin, Ireland. Crafton presented Mayor Dockrell with a golden key to his native home, personalized directly to the Lord Mayor himself, and a letter of friendship, which the Mayor graciously accepted as his bright Irish green eyes smiled.
Along the way, Freddy was greeted by John R. Beitz, a member of the staff of the United States Embassy in Dublin. Mrs. Beitz began to make small talk with Freddy and asked him "Where are you from?" Freddy proudly proclaimed, "I am from Dublin, Georgia!" Much to his dismay, Mrs. Beitz equally pronounced, "So am I!" They stood there in a long moment of absolute amazement. You see, Mrs. Beitz, before her marriage was Ernestine Graub, daughter of Mrs. Dena Campbell Graub and granddaughter of Mrs. E.C. Campbell, a long time school teacher in Dublin.
After meeting with the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, the boys played a friendly game of baseball with a group of young Irishmen, who introduced Freddy and his group to the game of hurley, the Irish forerunner of hockey.
Freddy had always heard about Irish stew. He got a chance to swallow some of the real stuff, which lived up to its advanced billing, though he cared not too much for the Irish coffee, commenting that he could never get use to that strong stuff. Moreover, he was confounded to find that the Irish heat their cream to warm their cool coffee instead of cooling off their hot coffee with cool cream.
The carrier boys got the chance to tour London, England, a place which many of them had only read about or seen in the movies. Freddy was amazed by the music he heard in a British YMCA dance hall. Commenting on the music Freddy said, "The English jazz band played such numbers as Birth of the Blues and St. Louis Blues as good as the best in the United States." Before the dance, the boys shopped for souvenirs and saw the sights in London's West End and Westminster Abbey. At the urging of the literature buffs in the crowd, the boys attended a play in Stratford-on-Avon, the home of the legendary playwright, William Shakespeare.
The last day of the ten-day trip began with free time in the streets and shops of London on a Sunday morning. The boys stopped off to visit the royal ones in Windsor Castle on their way to the London Airport for a banquet, complete with awards and the finest in English cuisine.
Freddy and the boys had a good time in the Old Country. They didn't get into any mischief, at least none that their chaperones knew about. Just to prove it to Mrs. Crafton and his sponsors at the Telegraph how good Freddy was, his escort wrote, "Freddy conducted himself like gentlemen (which he actually was at the age of thirty-one) throughout the trip. He was very cooperative and enthusiastic with his counselors and escorts." Maybe that's because he had been a member of the U.S. Army for the last ten years or so.
And so, the dream trip to the land of his ancestors was over. Freddy came back to Dublin and opened a photography studio in his home on West Moore Street. Freddy never forgot his trip to Ireland and England. And to prove it, I have his scrapbook filled with clippings and photos of the near fortnight when Freddy went back in time to the land of the kings, knights and castles of Merry Ol' England and the Emerald Isle.