The Centre was proud to support the Great White Fleet Centenary Ball at the Art Gallery of NSW.
The Great White Fleet consisted of sixteen white, modern American battleships, manned by 14,000 sailors. The fleet was sent on a 14-month voyage around the world by President Theodore Roosevelt, entering Sydney Harbour on 20 August, 1908. Crowds of between 400,000 and 600,000 turned out to welcome the fleet to Sydney. A number of events, from balls, sports days, city parades, and concerts were held in honour of the visit.
In support of this 100-year anniversary, American and Australian Navy ships reenacted the visit to Sydney, Melbourne and Albany and a number of events were scheduled, including the Centenary Ball.
Kelly Naylor and Laura Crommelin, US Studies Centre postgraduate students, provided the following account of their night out at the ball:
The elements of a period drama were all there: ladies in heavily embroidered (and heavy) Edwardian dresses; gentlemen in top hats and bow ties; high art, military bands, and tables heaving with gleaming silver and glassware. In attendance were ambassadors, high-ranking military men and women, and even a former President. That's right; a bit like Elvis, apparently Teddy Roosevelt never died, but just retired to Sydney...
All in all, the scene was set for a spectacular night at the Gallery of NSW.
But then came the sirens. And, then came the "lock down".
Men and women in uniform hurried around purposefully trying to make sense of the chaos. We, ever the starving students, hurried purposefully to make sure we were on the same side of the fire wall as the delicious food!
Fortunately for those in charge, the sirens were the result of only a mild kitchen fire, which was quickly resolved. And fortunately for us, the lock down left us ‘trapped' next to a large supply of what would soon become a new addiction: tootsie rolls.
Quite possibly, they didn't have tootsie rolls back in 1908, when the Great White Fleet toured Australia. But, for USSC student volunteers at the Centenary Ball, they were as much of a hit as Teddy Roosevelt's original Great White Fleet was to Sydney-siders 100 years ago.
As well as the tootsie rolls, there were many other new lessons to be learnt at the ball:
Lesson one: How to ask prominent business people and politicians for money (we were selling raffle tickets).
Lesson two: How to watch dignitaries dance (without seeming overtly voyeuristic).
Lesson three: How to dance, dressed Edwardian-style, without taking out a Consul-General with your skirt on the dance floor (sorry Consul-General Fergin, if you are reading this).
Lesson four: How those long-forgotten dancing class steps can come in handy one day.
Lesson five: How tough the women of 1908 must have been (we woke the next day with leg cramps from wearing those heavy dresses all night!)
Yes, it seems a USSC-sponsored event can be as much a learning experience as the classroom is - albeit a very different one!