We arrived early as we always seem to, and had stopped a moment for breakfast before descending on poor Peter Knego. We easily found his home far out of town in the rolling hills of Reganland. The only outward giveaway that there might be something different within the doors of this house was a wonderful 1950’s rail by the front door.
Then there he was. Taller, leaner, just as I imagined him, and I couldn’t hug him because of my awful cold. He was just back from a two ship odyssey, his blog of these trips is here, and he hadn’t quite recovered from the time lag. Despite our colds and his lag, we met in the middle wonderfully.
His eagerness was contagious. His knowledge inspiring. He rattled off facts and information far faster than my virus clogged brain could remember, yet all that mattered in the end was his enthusiasm and our interest.
What creates a ship historian? Passion of course, and the ability to nurture this passion. Peter’s early enthusiasms were stirred by ocean liner ephemera, and it was only later he discovered that there was more to ocean liners than ashtrays and tiny ship models. Now, not only does his interest in liners encompass ephemera, but he salvages and brings home as much of the actual ships as he can.
We reveled in the restored furnishings, we followed his every word tho retention was tough stuff with our colds. We sipped coffee and excellent cookies while he talked about the designers, artists, and artisans that worked on these ocean liners. We glanced at his acres of paper ephemera now filed in cabinets lining the two car garage. We looked at bottoms of chairs, tables, and ottomans….one chair still had the lanyard to attach it to the floor in rough seas. We ogled the IVERNIA’s bowed glass fronted library cases that actually arrived intact from Alang. We so enjoyed the bar, now in his living room, that arrived in a container as a “surprise.”
Central to all in his home, surrounding the masses of beauty and art that he has salvaged off these ships as they were broken up in Alang, is the IVERNIA’s stair rail. (You can see in situ pictures of it here half way down this page.) IVERNIA was built in 1955 for Cunard. She was rebuilt as Cunard's cruise ship FRANCONIA in 1963 and was sold to the Soviets in 1971 becoming the FEDOR SHALYAPIN. She was beached in 2004 as the SALONA an almost intact museum of early Cunard style.
When we visited the garage, it was with great amazement we saw still more rail packed in its original shipping burlap. Seeing the railings in the condition they came off the ship was a shock and made us realize the great amount of work that Peter puts in on every piece he restores.
Still later, as we visited his storage units, I appreciated his efforts at salvage even more. Stools here, ottoman’s there, chairs of regal style, comfort, color, and variety everywhere. Glass and silver, paintings, brass and nickel silver work in every corner or detail. Rolls of plans a decorative layer. Each piece is just waiting for the right buyer or the right museum all saved by this very special Ocean Liner historian. It was a very special visit.