Baha'i Library Online

See original version at

COLLECTIONBook excerpts
TITLEMan of the World: My Life on Five Continents
AUTHOR 1Cornelius Vanderbilt
PUB_THISCrown Publishers
ABSTRACTAn account of Vanderbilt, famed businessman and philanthropist, meeting pioneer Larry Hautz in Rhodesia, circa 1955.
NOTES See this book online at
Intro: Bahá'í News issue 353, August 1960, (online here) includes this mention:
    In Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr.’s book, Man of the World, My Life on Five Continents, published by Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, 1959, there appear several references to the Bahá’í Faith and to Larry Hautz, pioneer in Africa. In the chapter on Israel, pages 311 and 312, he mentions: “In Haifa, near Elijah’s cave, a famous Bahá’í temple with its dome all of gold leaf is the world center of the Bahá’í movement, and its renowned gardens." On pages 317 to 320 Mr. Vanderbilt recounts his meeting with Larry Hautz in Southern Rhodesia, whom he had known previously in the United States.
At Bulawayo, again I almost had hat trouble. Of course I still had the topee, but I also had with me one of those hats draped with mosquito netting, used by soldiers in the South Pacific and suitable for wear when moving a beehive. We were now far enough in the interior that this sort of thing, with one’s oldest clothes, seemed indicated. I couldn’t find the hat, and that was fortunate because I was wrong. We were met at the station by my friend Larry Hautz, who was driving a big, shiny Cadillac. He took us through wide, modern city streets to a twenty-five story hotel full of British dressed for the evening in white ties and tails.

Back in Milwaukee, Larry Hautz had been head of the Town Hall Club and he knew me as a lecturer. He had worked for the city during a Socialist administration and had been a great admirer of Mrs. Roosevelt. He was also a personal friend of Nehru, whom he had visited in India, and of Chester Bowles, our ambassador there. But during the McCarthy era he grew discouraged about us, and as he had been extremely successful in the insurance business, he could live where he pleased, Larry had joined the Bahai faith, which teaches that all religions and races should get together some day. He grew so worried about the future of our racist world that he sold his house on the lake in Milwaukee, and his motorboats and his cars and his private plane, and moved down to Africa south of the equator, where at least the race issue is right out in the open.

At the big motel Larry was building near Salisbury, the capital of Southern Rhodesia, we lived a very simple, healthy life with the Hautzes. Mrs. Hautz was a specialist in home economics, and she prepared the best meals I’ve had in many years. She prepared them herself, although the wages of a houseboy were only about five dollars a month and the native cooks made no more than seven or eight dollars, because the natives seldom take baths and can’t be trusted to wash their hands. There were between fifty and a hundred natives living in a small compound or village on Larry’s property, where they had showers and toilets, and there was a shower right outside the kitchen, and of course a basin with soap. But still Mrs. Hautz constantly had to make sure that they did wash; to let them handle food or dishes without washing would be to court dysentery. We found that we had to be careful in public restaurants and even in embassies and legations.

In other respects, this part of the world was as modern as our Far West. Farms in the veldt country have had rural electrification since 1910; our own Western and Southern farmlands have had it only since Roosevelt. While we were there the government of Southern Rhodesia was building the Kariba Dam, to be four times the capacity of Boulder Dam.

Everything on this continent is on the grand scale, and when you travel over Africa you realize its size. From Cape Town to Cairo is almost as far as from New York to Moscow. Africa at the bulge, the fat part, is farther across than from Seattle to Tokyo. Even much of the narrow part, which extends more than two thousand miles below the equator, is wider than the United States.

One day Larry Hautz told me he was having a meeting for his Bahai to which he was inviting several Negroes. He knew this was against the apartheid laws, but we were ten miles out in the country and he didn’t feel they would do anything to an American. Anyhow, it was part of the Bahai religion to bring races and creeds together.

People began driving in at dusk, some in cars, some in trucks. Some came on old motorcycles or bicycles and some came afoot, until I think there were more than forty people. Larry asked me to talk about the fate of the Negro in America, and I tried to make it sound better than the newspapers and the radio were making it sound, because this was the time of the so-called Miss Lucy case at the University of Alabama. I explained that I had known many Negroes in public life and in the army, and their opportunities in the United States were better than they seemed to be in South Africa. My host followed with a speech I thought too optimistic, as he expressed hopes for real integration in the States in a year or so.

Later, when the meeting was breaking up about ten o’clock, I found myself chatting with two editors of local South African newspapers. So I offered to take them home. One thanked me but said he had a motor bike. The other had come twelve miles on a bicycle, and I suggested we put his bicycle on top of my station wagon, and I'd drive him home.

“We can't do that, sir," he said.

“Of course you can," I insisted. “I'm an American citizen, nothing to do with the government here—I'm just here making a picture."

He still demurred, but I persuaded him. We had a very interesting conversation as we drove back toward town, but when we reached the outskirts he asked me to drive around rather than through.

“Why?" I argued. “Let's go straight through."

At the busiest corner we had to wait for a light, and then we drove across the railroad tracks to the area where the editor lived, with his wife and two children, in something that looked like a packing case for a piano. He was ashamed of it, I thought, and didn't want me to see it.

The next morning I offered to drive to town again, to pick up rations of mealie-meal for my host's employees. Besides his low wages, the native worker gets mealie-meal and a small supply of milk and sometimes a few other things; but mealie-meal—selling for around three dollars for a hundred-pound sack—is the basis of his diet. He uses it, a sort of cracked-up cornmeal, somewhat as the Chinese coolie uses rice—boiled and mixed with vegetables, or sometimes pieces of raw fish or meat or jam, or whatever he can find to give it taste. He also makes his own liquor out of mealie-meal, fermented for several days with bones or other scraps; in the Mau Mau country, it's said that he adds human flesh. When he drinks this on Saturday nights it makes him half-crazy, in the same way liquor affected the American Indians in the early days.

As I started out on my errand, two very snappy-looking noncommissioned officers of the British Southwest African Police came up to the motel on a motorcycle. One of them got off and asked me where to find a man called Vanderbilt.

When I said, “You're talking to him," he asked formally if I was Major Vanderbilt, and then he said, “You're under arrest."

“What for?" I demanded.

The answer was: “Consorting with natives. Last night you were seen driving through the city of Salisbury, with a Negro in the front seat."

When I protested, the officer explained that it wasn’t allowed after nine o’clock at night—or maybe seven; it was seven in Johannesburg. Would I come quietly, or must it be with manacles?

I said I’d follow him; I was going into town anyhow. He warned me not to make a break for it, and drove ahead of me into Salisbury, to a building where the customs office was located.

The young men who arrested me, in their topees with chin straps and their khaki Bermuda shorts, were of the sort who used to go out to India from their fathers’ estates in England—the flower of British youth, learning how to run the Empire and running true to type. Also typical were the two British army sergeants at the police desk, who belonged in the cartoons drawn by Bruce Bairn’s father during World War I.

I had covered enough police stations as a reporter to know that if I gave them time to put me on the blotter I’d have a police record. So I said, “Just a moment, sergeant—can you tell me where the men’s room is?” He sent a man down the hall with me, and that way I got a little time to think. I felt I should ask to see the American consul general, but I wondered also whether these officers had a legal right to arrest me out in the country. I was still undecided when, coming down the hall, I saw my friend Sir Roy Welensky, then deputy prime minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

He waved and said, “What brings you here?”

“I’m under arrest.”

The corporal escorting me told him about my offense, and Sir Roy asked if it was true.

“I don’t quite know what they mean by consorting with the natives,’* I said. “In the United States that word would mean something else. But I did take a Negro home in my car last night —a Negro who came out to interview me.” I said the last to keep from mentioning the Bahai meeting.

By now we had walked back to the police desk. The sergeant jumped to attention and explained further that I’d had a Negro in the front seat of the car—not the back, but the front—sitting there talking to me when we stopped at the signal light.

“Now, Major Vanderbilt,” Sir Roy began, turning to me, “you know you are not allowed to do this. It may sound silly to you, coming from a liberal country like America, but in this part of the world, it’s not allowed, and you were a very naughty boy.”

“Your police are very efficient,” I said.

“They are not my police; they are the police of her Majesty, the Queen. We are a federation, but we are a part of the British Empire, and we have to observe some of the rules.”

“Are these young men permitted to make arrests out in the country?”

“Yes, they’re permitted to arrest you anywhere in the area in which the British rule—the country or the city or wherever you are. They are the law; they represent her Majesty.” Then Sir Roy turned to the sergeant. “This man is making a motion picture of our part of the world, and if he receives poor treatment from us, he’ll go back to his part of the world and say some very unkind things about us.”

“That’s not my business, sir,” the sergeant replied. “My business is merely to clock him in. We’ll see what the judge says.”

“Well, I’d be very much obliged if you would release him to me,” Sir Roy said. “Will you let him be my prisoner?”

“Why, yes, sir. Yes, I certainly will,” agreed the sergeant.

And so I never reached the blotter stage, but was able to go out of the building with Sir Roy, who read me the riot act, more or less, both then and later at his house, where we had a long talk. I learned that he was not in sympathy with local procedures; however, he was bound to enforce the laws of the country.

Africa below the bulge in many ways resembles the Mississippi Delta, in that a few white people, relatively speaking, are nervous over their control because they are a minority group.

An odd thing is that apartheid interferes not only with Bahai meetings but with the work of Christian missionaries. People at home who give to foreign missions assume that now, as formerly, the heathen tribesmen are still assembled to hear the Word and sing hymns and learn the elements of Christian civilization. But the general law forbids assembly of the blacks in groups of more than a dozen, forbids their being in buildings with whites, and so on. In effect, apartheid has made the missionary job illegal. Aside from the medical missions, the missionaries are left with nothing to do, and the fact that they continue to receive funds from home constitutes what the irreverent term a racket.

VIEWS2868 views since 2016-11-23 (last edit 2016-11-23 20:45 UTC)
Home Site Map Links Tags Chronology About Contact RSS