Around the World in 1200 Days, 1929-1932

By November 29, 2012

[We are thrilled to have this guest post from Emily Farrer on a project she is currently working on, which covers her grandfather’s 1929 mission to South Africa. After reading this fascinating overview, go visit her site:]

My grandfather, Clarence Sharp Barker, was born in Salt Lake City in 1903.  He was a quiet man and seemed to enjoy observing things from the outside as he was a newspaper reporter.  He did, however, have a great adventure of his own: a trip around the world.

When he was 26, he served an LDS mission to South Africa.  He traveled across the Pacific in 1929, served his mission, then returned through Europe and over the Atlantic in 1932.  As I calculate, the entire trip probably took a little less than 1200 days.  He left a short history of his life, which includes some details of his mission and travels.  One aunt transcribed the history, and I posted it online to share with family.  A year or so later, another aunt handed me a small box of approximately 150 pictures from his mission.  I was delighted with this treasure!  I couldn?t wait to sort through, scan, and insert them into his narrative.

Finally, a couple years and a couple children later, I?ve scanned all the pictures and have created a blog entitled, Around the World in 1200 Days  chronicling my grandfather?s experiences. Once I?m done inputting all the data, I will create a PDF of the blog in chronological order.

The pictures are in fairly good condition and scanned quite well with a little digital darkening or lightening for clarity.  The content of the pictures is generally good, with a few that are exceptional.  Many of the pictures are labeled, yet some have no description, which surely leaves the observer with questions.

I?ve read the JI blog for a couple years now and thought perhaps some of the authors might be interested in this personal project of mine.  I was happy to find that they were!  Below are some of the most interesting and amusing parts of my grandfather?s history along with a few of the pictures.

From what is already published on the blog:

  • After clearing customs [when arriving in South Africa] I was greeted by a blue uniformed fellow who said he had come to arrest me. It was a put-up job, however, since he told me he was a Mormon, Henry J. Trestrail. — 1929
  • I was astonished at the thousands of natives dressed in castoff clothing and even gunny sacks. They heaved the coal and did the dock work. Ashore there were gaudily dressed native rickshaw boys, some with great horns on headdresses. The latter were for posing for photographs.  — Probably 1930
  • Elder Evan P. Wright, then back in Utah, sent Rex a wire offering him a get rich quick scheme selling brassieres to the natives of South Africa. — 1930 or 1931
  • I was up at 6 a.m. next morning exercising and then bathing. Steward called us in turn when bath was ready by signed up schedule. Bath water was warm sea water. One morning he came in to call Rev. Winters to his bath, Winters was kneeling in his bed praying. The steward whacked him on the bottom, saying, ?Bad! Bad!? German for ?Bath! Bath!? The rest of us in the cabin were chuckling. — January 1932
  • I stopped off in Johannesburg and made a short trip to Pretoria. I saw one of the big gold mines near Johannesburg. The natives who did all the labor, were pretty raw, dressed in castoffs and slept on boards and blankets, and ate with their hands and no utensils. We watched them eat their noon meal which consisted of a big dab of corn meal mush slapped into a wash pan or pot, with a big ladle full of soup with vegetables and a little meat.  — 1931
  • Natives lived in huts and compounds on the edges of the towns. It was illegal at that time to hire a native for a skilled position. They also could not ride with whites on railroads. Apparently it would take a generation or more to educate them up to civilized standards.  — 1931
  • All the workers around diamond mines either were white bosses or native convicts or contracted labor. The blacks are kept locked up on the premises. Diamonds are cut on small turntables which revolve. The diamond itself is held in plastic against the turntable, with water and diamond dust applied to the revolving surface to serve as cutting agent. DeBeers Co. with additional mines near Pretoria, monopolizes the diamond market. With large reserves, they could flood the market at any time and break the prices. All ground in the Kimberley area is washed and treated by pulsater as it may be excavated. Illicit diamond burying is forbidden by law but is a common crime. Broken glass is scattered indiscriminately to discourage looking for diamonds. It is forbidden by law to possess an uncut diamond without a permit for digging. — 1931
  • We also would drive to Bloemfontein occasionally and meet with the branch which had no elders working there. There were no paved roads outside downtown and it was a fairly rugged trip by motorcycle. — 1931

This is probably the funniest and most outrageous of all the stories, but is yet to published on the blog:

  • I wrangled an audience with the Pope by going to the American College (for clergy) and telling them that I was interested (I didn?t say how) in their church, and showing them my passport.  It took about an hour and a half to go into the inner palace and past many groups of soldiers in elaborate uniforms (more elaborate than any I have seen) to the hall where the Pope finally appeared. We were all around a huge ellipse down on one knee. All women dressed in black, with veil over heads. The Pope passed down the line extending his hand so the person could kiss his ring. He was a rotund, sallow, bespectacled man. I pressed his hand to my chin. — 1932

I don?t know that this is an earth-shattering historical project, but I am loving learning more about my grandfather?s mission and travel experiences.  It?s a pleasure to share this unique work-in-progress.


Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. Delightful! and exactly the kind of personal and church history I love to read and write. I’m savagely jealous that you chose JI to host this rather than Keepapitchinin!

    Please keep working on this project until you’ve finished it to your satisfaction. I’ll be checking in regularly.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 29, 2012 @ 4:23 pm

  2. Wonderful to see your work get attention Emily. That picture of missionaries on motorbikes is seriously cool. Was there any evidence of teaching the native population?

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 29, 2012 @ 6:09 pm

  3. Many thanks again, Emily, for sharing your wonderful work with our community. You are indeed doing great things.

    Comment by Ben P — November 29, 2012 @ 6:09 pm

  4. Very cool stuff. I don’t suppose you ran across any mentions of demonic possession and/or exorcism did you?

    Comment by SC Taysom — November 29, 2012 @ 6:13 pm

  5. Awesome. I love the pictures.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — November 29, 2012 @ 6:23 pm

  6. Wonderful! And so many pictures! What a treasure. Blogging is a great way to process family history information, and I like that you’re going to turn the compilation into a pdf.

    Comment by Amy T — November 29, 2012 @ 8:43 pm

  7. I second SC Taysom. This is great! I also second his question and a similar one: Does your grandfather have any comments on indigenous religious or religious practices.

    Comment by Amanda — November 29, 2012 @ 8:43 pm

  8. this is quit interesting, I just love the part that describe the native’s meal – we still prepare the corn meal in that fashion, though!
    Am heading off to your blog for more…

    Comment by FrancisE. — November 29, 2012 @ 11:18 pm

  9. Thanks for the nice comments everyone! J., In regards to teaching the natives, as far as I can tell, the missionaries were only to teach the whites. I believe there is a comment in his document stating such, but it will take me a bit to find it. And Amanda & SC, no mention of demonic possession, exorcism, or indigenous religious practices. Sorry :(. Fun to connect with you all. Thanks again.

    Comment by Emily — November 30, 2012 @ 1:35 am

  10. Great. I love the little peeks we get into your grandfather’s life.

    Comment by Saskia — November 30, 2012 @ 3:56 am

  11. Emily, this is absolutely wonderful and I’m thrilled you agreed to share it at JI. I’ll be following your blog moving forward.

    And if you come across something else along the way that would be a good fit for JI, please be in touch.

    Comment by Christopher — November 30, 2012 @ 10:28 am


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