Honolulu to Nairobi (and back) in 1961

Yes, it’s a birther-related question but no, I am not a birther.

Rather, I’ve been wondering: let’s assume for one hypothetical moment that in 1961 Obama’s mother travelled to Kenya and back. Even with today’s quality of travel and even if you’re not a pregnant 18-year-old, that’s a pretty long and exhausting journey. But I would have thought in 1961 it was a longer and more arduous journey to fly halfway around the world to Africa, with lots of stopovers and paperwork and permits required.

So what was it like to travel long distances back then? I know we have some older folks here - any 1960s jetsetters with relevant experiences to relate?

Back in 1961, I did travel half-way around the world and back: from Australia to England ad back. It was by ship, since that was the cheapest way to do it – air travel was relatively much more expensive back then.

However, I’m not sure what the surface connections to Kenya would have been then. Honolulu would have had ships going to the US mainland and to several ports in Asia. Kenya’s main port is Mombasa, which is linked to the rest of Kenya by rail. I would guess that you could go by ship from Mombasa to Aden (then a British colony), and from Aden either to Europe via the Suez Canal, or to Singapore via India. I suspect that via Singapore was the best way to travel between the two places.

I hadn’t even considered ship. How times have changed!

Via Singapore seems more sensible - how long would that have taken? Two weeks?

1961 was just in the Transatlantic jet age. BOAC was operating a London to New York service on a Boeing 707. They also made flights to Nairobi, but whether they were non stop or not, I have no idea.

Once you’re in New York, it’s straight across to LA, then on to Honolulu.

I think it’s a shorter distance via Asia. By air, something like Nairobi - Cairo - Delhi - Hong Kong - Tokyo - Honolulu would probably have been a reasonable route. That would take you 2-3 days, depending on how good the connections were. By ship, I’d guess about 3 weeks.

It was about 4 weeks between England and Australia, all on the same ship, going via the Suez Canal. (When the Suez Canal was closed due to war, you had to go via Cape Town or via the Panama Canal, but the Suez Canal was open in 1961: I went through it twice that year.)

“Flew in from Miami Beach, BOAC, didn’t get to bed last night…”

Cost would also be an issue. Some quick googling indicates that round trip air travel from Africa to Europe (and presumably the US) ran about $360.00. Hawaii, being ridiculously far from anywhere, would likely be more. At that point, it looks like fares were roughly competitive with ship travel. Anyway, figure it would cost at least $500.00 (each) in 1961 dollars to make the trip, so our hypothetical young married couple would have to spring for $1000.00. This is probably a lowball estimate.

Taking inflation into account, that’s probably around $7000.00 in 2010 money.

It really isnt all that long or arduous, compared to today. In fact, I used to rather enjoy jet travel in the early 1960’s. On the Boeing 707 in the early 1960’s, it was comfortable, roomy, great service, we could smoke, eat good food(I thought) with real silverware, have all of our whims catered to by young stewardesses who trained at a “stewardess/charm school” watch movies, and sleep quite comfortably.

A Boeing 707 in the early 1960’s traveled at just about the same speed as today’s Boeing 747’s or today’s airbus, so not much difference there. The range of a Pan Am Airlines Boeing 707 easily made it from Hawaii to LA, then La to NY, then NY to London, then maybe a smaller plane from London to Kenya - all of which would have been the probable route.

All total, less than 2 days of a very comfortable and luxurious and enjoyable flight from Honoluuluu to Kenya. Back in the early 1960’s, there was no TSA, no body searches, no groping of passengers, no metal detectors, no check in lines, etc.

In my opinion, traveling in the early 1960’s, was fabulously GREATLY enjoyable, and not at all like the harrassing, crowded, unconfortable, inhuman, humiliating travel of today.

Maybe the** “average person living in America in 1961”** didnt normally/couldnt afford to fly around back and forth from California, Hawaii, Kenya, Washington, Chicago, Indonesia, etc, but as far as cost, I dont see where the cost of anything impacted Stanley Ann Dunham or Barak Obama at all in any or all of her travels back in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Here’s a link to a Pan Am route map from 1959. (Pan Am was one of the biggest carriers at the time.) I’m not sure if it’s faster going west or going east, but it’s going to involve quite a few hops either way.

I recall flying from Canada to South America in 1961; IIRC most of the flights were prop-plane based - DC6 and the like. I remember I asked my dad why they revved up each engine individually just before takeoff run. It was done in legs, Mexico City, Peru, etc. I especially remember the leg from Cuzco was by DC3 and instead of pressurizing, we had to stick an oxygen tube in our mouths (yuck) and breath very dry air. The last bit of the trip beyond Buenos Aires was by train.

OTOH, the flight back from Rio must have been by jet, since there were no stop-overs between there and N America.

So yes, it would have been possible to fly - but I suspect direct jet flights were rare then and prices wer the equivalent of flying first class today. Plus in those days, cartels on air travel were common and prices would be even higher. A mother who spent some of her life on food stamps probably would not be jetting around the world on a whim - it would be a big deal, cost a year’s salary and probably seriously documented and remembered all over.

IIRC, transatlantic by boat was about 4 to 7 days. Then take the train across to Italy and fly or boat from there to be cheap. All while what, 8-1/2 months pregnant? Good grief, I suspect most birthers are male and 50 to 70 years old…

OTOH, First world citizens probably had no problem with visas or anything getting into commonwealth countries.

Pan-Am had no connections to East Africa, including Kenya. Here is a 1954 BOAC route map, which has a connection to Nairobi via Cairo. I think that from Cairo the shorter connection would be via Karachi and Hong Kong to Tokyo (with BOAC), then from Tokyo to Honolulu with Pan-Am.

I would not say “quite a few hops”.

There would only be 3 (three) intermediate stops from Honolulu to Kenya ( LA, NY, and London). That is not excessive, and not very many.

I dont think that 3 intermediate stops is any consideration, esp in the early 1960’s when planes were not very full (capacity was usually below 50%), airports were not crowded, and there were no lines nor any security hassles.

As far whether it is faster going east or west, it really doesnt matter if you are flying round trip.

Well, quite a few hops compared to the one or two required for any travel today. And, yes, you couldn’t fly Pan Am all the way to Kenya, but perhaps one would have flown Pan Am as far as one could go, and then BOAC the rest of the way. And it’s especially difficult to imagine a woman making this trip while eight months pregnant, especially one who didn’t have a lot of money.

The choice between flying east and west depends primarily on distance, and between Kenya and Hawaii the shorter distance is via Asia, not across the Atlantic Ocean. That’s still true if, going by air, you have to go via Cairo or somewhere near there. (There would not have been direct flights between London and Nairobi in 1961.)

That is total speculation on your part. In fact, history shows that you are wrong. In fact, Stanley Ann Dunham, Barak Obama, and obama junior DID!!! travel quite a bit from Washington,to Los Angeles, to Honolulu, to Kenya, to Indonesia, etc. with no record of cost ever being a factor. Neither did the cost of anytyhing seem to impact any of the family going to any school, college, private school, etc, along with room and board in Hawaii, Washington, etc etc , and this was in an era where they had no credit cards and no student loans.

There is no record of Stanely Ann Dunham being on food stamps while she lived in Washington, Hawaii, and/or Indonesia in the 1960’s. (besides, it is not mutually exclusive, being on food stamps does not mean that you dont or cant fly, there are currently over 40 million Americans on food stamps today and millions of those people fly )

Maybe, maybe not, I dont remember all the flights that were in existence in the year 1961, and I threw out all my AOG airline guide books from that era. I do know/remember that there was regular scheduled airline flights from London to Africa.

Regardless, flying from London to Kenya back in the early 1960’s was common, it was not arduous (in fact much less arduous than today), there were regular scheduled airline flights in and out of London and in and out of Kenya, and it was no big deal if you stopped in Cairo or Nairobi or Mozambique, etc along the way from London.

What the heck does 1954 have to do with anything? Stanely Ann Dunham was 12 years old in 1954. Most people traveled by boat in in 1954, not by plane. There were huge changes in world travel from 1954 to 1961. I remember my aunts traveling in the 1950’s, and I can remember myself traveling in the early 1960’s - no comparison.

The OP topic is about 1961…the** “jet age”** .

Oh fuck me. I knew it wouldn’t be long before a true birther reared their head here again.

And now I finally know what that lyric means.

The Dunhams seem to have financially supported their daughter later in her life than this, which has an unpredictable effect on Ann and Barack’s ability to afford the trip. The main argument against the trip to Kenya, of course, is that there’s no evidence for it, and that even without the stopovers, it’s that the idea of them making a round trip at that time is ludicrous.

Which I remember well. As I said earlier, I travelled from one side of the world to the other, and back, in 1961 by land – mostly by ship – because it was considerably cheaper than travelling by air. My parents, my brother and I spent about 8 weeks travelling instead of perhaps 4 or 5 days because of the cost. And in the early 1970s my future wife travelled from Australia to England and back by ship, again choosing that mode because of the cost. Barack Obama’s parents were not rich. Even if his mother wanted to go to Kenya for birth, could she have afforded the air fare to do it?