ST. MARYS — The closest most Americans get to Australia is Keith Urban, kangaroos, and a steakhouse named for the Outback. It is rarely described in history books or featured on the nightly news.
St. Marys residents Jay and Dee Fledderjohann, however, have not only been to Australia, some of their dearest friends are from the land down under.
Yvonne and John Moore, of Melbourne, have been staying with the Fledderjohann’s for the last 10 days. How the couples met is kind of a funny story.
The Moores have three daughters — Catherine, the oldest, and twins Simone and Tiana. The girls are grown now, but the story starts in the early 1980s.
“Back in 1984, the twins had pen friends and Catherine didn’t have a pen friend,” John Moore said. “So we put an advertisement in the American Brown Swiss Magazine wanting a pen friend for a 12-year-old girl. She got four answers from girls her own age,” he said, and one from Jay Fledderjohann asking if John would be interested in corresponding.
The couples had something in common — they both farmed a very specific type of cow, the Brown Swiss. They connected over this shared interest and livelihood, and have been corresponding through letters (and now email) for the past 30 years.
Soon after that, Australia lifted its quarantine restrictions, and the Moores were able to import some Brown Swiss Embryos.
“Then in 1992 we came over to see what sort of animals that we bought embryos from,” John Moore said. “And this was our first time to the U.S.”
This current trip will be their third 16-hour plane ride to Los Angeles. The reason for the trip: John Moore is a member of an over 60s cricket league and has played games all over the United States in the past month.
“We played four games in Los Angeles and we were to play a game in Las Vegas but the team that we were to play couldn’t get enough players to play,” he said. “But we went to the Grand Canyon over there. It happened to be Anzac day when we were at the Grand Canyon. Anzac day is your equivalent of Memorial Day. It stands for Australian-New Zealand Army Corps,” he said.
“And it’s in memory of the soldiers that fought and fell in the first World War. Well, we use it for all wars now,” his wife, Yvonne Moore, said.
“On the tour there were 18 cricketers and 10 WAGS - wives and girlfriends,” John Moore said. “A lot of us talked about our grandparents…that fought in the war. (It was) just very emotional at a very emotional spot — the Grand Canyon…It was one of the highlights of our trip.”
When the couple visited the Fledderjohanns in 1991, they spoke to third graders at the New Knoxville elementary school and found that though the children had many questions, the overall consensus was that they did not know much about Australia. The Moores went back to the high school on their second trip to talk to those same students and found that their knowledge of Australia had expanded.
Aside from Americans’ slim knowledge of their home, other first impressions of the United States were that we have a lot of drive-thrus.
“Well, we’ve got McDonalds and KFC…and we’ve got drive-thru alcohol-selling places, whereas you’ve got drive-thru banks, you have drive-thru pharmacy, prescriptions,” John Moore said.
Has also noticed over the last 20 years both here and in Australia that the average population is getting bigger, and not in numbers.
“They’re eating more junk food and such,” he said. “And probably more so in the US — more so in the cities.”
“What floors me is every day I get in my car and I’ve got to get in the wrong side,” Yvonne Moore said.”
Their friends, the Fledderjohanns, are what keep them coming back, they said.
“We’ve got a good friendship we’ve developed over the years. Initially it was just through writing letters, now…it’s the email…and skype’s available. It’s just brought the world that much closer,” John Moore said.
Since their retirement from dairy farming in 2005, the Moores have made it a goal to plan one big trip every year. They have visited 22 states in the U.S. and 52 countries.
They have been on a safari in Africa, to Egypt Syria, Jordan. They plan to visit Ireland with their daughter in November and will do a cruise in New Guinea soon.
They leave Ohio today to fly to Chicago. From there, they will take a Greyhound bus to Los Angeles and then will head back home.
They pursue traveling with vigor and as if each trip may be their last, not taking anything for granted. John Moore had triple bypass surgery recently, and realized that life is short and decided to make the most of it.
“We’re not getting any younger,” he said.