Friday, June 1, 2007

Ubiquitous Design - Globite Travel Luggage - Bryce

Globite Travel Cases
Bryce Leen
S3135016 - BP195

Globite as a brand name was popularised during the early/mid 20th century, due to the popularity of its lunch boxes, mainly with school children. The cases are constructed of cardboard and are covered in a textured plastic coating, and were typically brown in colour. My grandparents, Patricia and Vincent have in their possession a pair of Globite cases, which originally belonged to a larger set of cases they purchased in the early 1950’s as a set of travel luggage. For the time the luggage was the newest in travel technology and was an accordingly expensive set.

Since their purchase, at which stage they had a deal of monetary value, the cases have gone through a series of changes in value, as well as usage. Originally their main function was to facilitate the move of my grandparents to Vince’s new work posting as a chemical research scientist in the United States, having finished his requirements at the University of W.A for his PhD.

This journey took Pat and Vince, and thus the Globite set, from there home in Perth on a crossing of the Pacific aboard the S.S. Strathnaver. London bound, the ship made a series of stops at ports including India, Egypt and France, before arriving into Tilbury, London 29 days later. Following a short stay in England, the couple continued their journey onward, aboard the Queen Mary from Southampton to New York, at a cost of £59. Later on the same day of their arrival into New York, the pair took an overnight train to their final destination, student housing at the University of Chicago.

That journey, which took Pat and Vince near on 2 months to complete, can now be made in less than 24 hours aboard an airliner, a choice that was not available to my grandparents at the time due their financial position as a single average income couple. At that stage ocean liners where the main source of cross continental transport for average lower and middle class people, with only the truly wealthy able to afford the luxury of flight. Massive change in the aviation industry in the past 50 years has meant that cross continental flight is now not only accessible to many, but also cheaper than the cost of travelling the same journey by ocean liner.

The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, now more commonly referred to as P & O, had massive contracts for the mail route between Britain and its colonies, such as Australia, India, NZ etc. Just as the aeroplane ate up much of the travel market, it also took a portion of the mail contract away from shipping companies such as P & O; accordingly they have had to retarget their services. Companies such as P & O now rely on cruises as their main source of income, coming from passengers not wishing to simply get to their destination at a minimal cost, but to do so in luxury, taking in the scenery, rather than simply passing it all by for the sake of speed.

However if you were to tell someone about to board a 20+ hour flight that they had it easy, with travel taking such little time, I’m sure that they wouldn’t feel that was the case. Such is the way society has become with our ever growing need for instant gratification and results. The grand ease with which we can now make international travel is lost on most not old enough to remember any different.

The changes to transport have heralded an appropriate change in luggage; the change to airliners has meant that the amount of carry on or accessible luggage has declined. On a long haul international flight passengers need goods for a maximum of around 20 hours, on an ocean liner the need was for anything up to, and exceeding, a month. In order to fit within the confines of the cabin, airline carry on luggage is restricted in its size. The downside of airliners versus ocean liners is that the weight of articles being transported via ship is not an issue, whereas massive costs can be incurred should weighty objects need transportation via the air.

Having arrived in Chicago the cases had now fulfilled their initial purpose, allowing the couple to move their possessions cross continent, in order for Vince to further his work career. During the three year appointment at the university, the Globite cases had a changed usage; they were used as storage for items seldom used, or sensitive objects such as photographs and other matter that held importance to the couple. In this way, their decline in monetary value was unimportant, and their use was still maintained by the pair. On top of that there was the odd occasion on which they were cleaned out and used for the purposes of domestic travel during Vince’s appointment.

Following the conclusion of Vince’s work on free radical oxidation reaction studies at the university the couple left Chicago, homeward bound, with two young children in tow. The route home completed a circumnavigation of the world, taking a route via Vancouver, Honolulu, Japan, Hong Kong and Sydney before their destination, Geelong. Vince had acquired a new work position within the textiles department of CSIRO in Geelong, cross country from he and Pat’s hometown of Perth.

Throughout the 1960’s the popularity, and reflected production, of hats decreased dramatically as the acceptability of women not clad in gloves and a hat rose. This change was brought about by the increase in women’s rights activism which had begun to gain momentum in the 1950’s, piggybacking on the revolutionary climate that black civil rights activism had constructed. As society’s perception of what it was to be ladylike changed, the need for hats, and therefore hat boxes declined. Thus it was through this change in women’s rights, and the subsequent follow on fashion swing that made the hat box an unnecessary piece of travel equipment.

Having returned to Australian shores, and into a new home in Geelong, Pat and Vince kept the boxes, but over time, many were lost or thrown out. Even now, 55 years after their purchase, they still have two cases in their possession; the first, a carry case for men’s and women’s suits, reflects a period of history in which it was not just business men that wore suits of a day time. The majority of middle class males wore suits, in a variety of employments. The second case, a smaller square hat box, reflected society’s expectations of women. It was a time when wore hats and gloves and was social etiquette to be dressed well at all times. This was especially the case when travelling as you were not only attempting to portray your social standing through fashion, but also to be safe to not offend local customs, which may be more formal than those of home.

At current the two Globite boxes in their possession are still used; their purpose has changed, and their value accordingly, however they currently serve as storage, much as they did when they were in Chicago. The larger of the two, the suit carrying case, is used to store the plastic Christmas tree, and appropriate festive decorations, which still make their annual pilgrimage down from the attic for a month or so of glory. The smaller serves a similar purpose; however it contains pictures and slides of the family and their outings from time gone by, serving to protect images that contextualise the life of the case they now reside in.

Now that the cases are resigned to storage duties, trusted with nothing more than keeping the dust at bay, there use and value have changed considerably from that of a full set of monetarily valuable cases, to a single pair of utilitarian objects with little more than sentimental value. Although my interaction with the cases has been limited to brief stints around many a Christmas preparation, I now appreciate exactly why these cases were kept, and the meaning they hold within my family. Whilst the Globite cases are now merely sentimental utilitarian tokens within my family, they retain vast stores of information in there contextualised state, telling the story of an era in which appearance was paramount and international travel took as many days as it now does hours.

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