January 14, 2009

A Queen

Queen Mary’s leading funnel. 2003.

Himself: my hero.

Herself: quick on, quick off anesthesia, home and nap till noon, read all afternoon. Hand elevated. One finger typing. Many thanks to you all for keeping me in your thoughts.

Balance: my g.
Imagine a time when ocean liners were the only way to cross the ocean. I grew up in this time when overseas flights were just beginning. Ships fascinated me. I was enamored by those great behemothic creations, the ocean liners, and as a child I thought Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth was the most beautiful of all.

Today the Queen Elizabeth is long gone, but we are blessed to have one of the few remaining greyhounds of the North Atlantic here on the west coast. It’s always exciting to drive north to long beach and see the unique beauty that is the Queen Mary, Elizabeth’s senior running mate.

In 1926, The Cunard Line began planning for two new liners to replace their aging tonnage. The John Brown yard was selected to construct the new sisters. Hull number 534 began to rise over the yard in Clydebank, Scotland by June of 1930, but by December next year, all work had halted because of the great depression. Mergers and financial jockeying allowed work to resume on hull 534 in April of 1934. She was launched and named Queen Mary in September of 1934, and, after fitting out, she was handed over to Cunard in May of 1936.

During the years from 1936 to 1939, the Queen Mary sailed peacefully from Southhampton to New York while her sailing companion grew on the ways in Scotland. On August 30th, she made her final peacetime voyage carrying her largest number of passengers ever, 2,552.

On September 3rd, 1939, France and Germany declared war on Britain. Mary’s portholes were blacked out, and she headed for New York and conversion to a troop ship. Often she carried eight or nine thousand troops at a time, but by 1943, she had twice carried 15 thousand and 16,600 troops with a 500 some number crew.

At the end of the war in 1945, The Queen Mary began returning troops and War Brides to the United States and Canada, then after extensive restoration was returned to service as a North Atlantic passenger liner.

By 1963, passengers began taking airplanes instead of liners to cross the ocean, and the Queen Mary began to cruise. She was not air conditioned, and by 1966 she was put up for sale. Purchased by the City of Long Beach in California, the Queen Mary arrived after a miserable last cruise on December 1967.

Her tenure as a hotel and attraction in Long Beach has been a rocky one. Far across the bay from the Long Beach, the now mostly gutted ship had great difficulty making money for a succession of operators. Everyone from the initial leaser Diner’s Club through Disney and the RMS Foundation haven’t been able to make the Queen Mary a financial success.

I first met her just after arrival as they were gutting her. Bee and I crept around behind her closed doors to discover her original green corkoid floors, her miles of as-is woods and glass, her magical Art Deco decorations, all intermixed with the smell of burning metals. I fell in love with this marvelous liner then and with great enthusiasm introduced her to G. G and I have now stayed aboard her many times, and we have crept behind the scenes an equal number of times with the greatest of enthusiasms our cameras in hand.

Second Class Stairs: Left, Hotel landing showing etched glass panels. Right: Stair area closed to the public showing original green corkoid flooring.

First class cabin corridor. 1999.


Dave Lee’s Queen Mary Pages: Written by one of her greatest fans. Lots of great pictures.

Smugmug’s Queen Mary Photo Album: 175 images

Queen Mary Deck by Deck Photos and stories deck by deck.

RMS Queen Mary: Specifications, history and images.

Queen Mary History: The official time line

RMS Queen Mary: A daily journal of the Queen Mary

1 comment:

  1. When I was about three, the British war bride next door returned to England with her husband and new baby to show off her child to her family. When they came back to the US on the Queen Mary, they took a train from NY to Syracuse's art deco station, where we met them.

    It was my only connection with the great old ship, but I have never forgotten the romance of meeting someone who had just sailed on her.

    So glad all went well with your surgery!


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Peter in front of a wall sculpture. We were invited up to Peter Knego’s home to see the latest installation.   Abstract flat ...