Monday, April 24, 2017

My story - well part of it . . . . . . . . . .

When I emigrated to the USA in 1962, I flew from London to
 New York, then onward to my final destination, Washington, D.C. 
It was October. It was my first time ever on a plane. Jet travel was
becoming popular and taking over from steam ships as a faster 
way to 'cross the pond.' 

I was almost 19. I'd never been away from home before.
At the time I didn't even think of myself as an immigrant. 
Although I had all my legal paperwork, I just planned to be a working
 visitor for a year, seeing America, making some money, living an
 adventure before settling down etc.

I was excited, but scared to death.
I survived!

For my first visit home to England for Christmas I went by ship - this ship,
 Cunard White Star ocean liner RMS Queen Mary. I wanted the experience
 of a transatlantic crossing by sea.

Called luxury liners, they were splendid, glittering steamships connecting the old
and new worlds on each side of the North Atlantic,
 That bygone maritime era of the early 1900's accommodated royalty and financial
 barons on upper decks, and hordes of immigrants deep within their holds.
That way of life has gone forever, made obsolete by jet travel.

For me that crossing was a memorable journey. 

In the small blurry pic above, after I had traveled to NY by train from
 Washington, D.C., I had boarded the ship - note we dressed up a bit
 more for travel in those daysand was waiting to sail out of New York. 

Being December, the crossing was rough however I wasn't bothered by
seasickness thankfully. By then 'Mary' was aging and her stabilizers were
 nothing like those on modern day ships. It was my first of several journeys on
 Cunard's "Queens". I've yet to sail on Queen Mary 2 which replaced this first
 'Mary', but I have sailed on the current Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria,
 both of which were smooth sailing. I'm certain Queen Mary 2 sails effortlessly
 across the wide Atlantic. I still hope to sail home aboard her some day 
in the future. . . . . . so much more elegant than the hassle and discomfort 
 of air travel these days.

The first 'Mary' first sailed 80 years ago on May 27, 1936. She left Southampton
 to the sounds of bands and cheering crowds for New York on her Maiden Voyage.
 She would become one of the most beloved ships ever to sail during the 1930's,
the heyday of society cruises.

Over the years she carried 2,114,000 passengers, plus 810,730 military 
personnel whilst serving as a troop carrier/hospital ship during World War II, 
19,000 GI brides, and 4,000 child evacuees, and she sailed a total of
 3,794,017 nautical miles.
RMS Queen Mary left on her last voyage from Southampton on October 31, 1967,
just three years after I sailed on her, bound for her present home in Long Beach,
 California, arriving to an ecstatic American welcome.

 Dry-docked, she continues to be well-preserved and much enjoyed. She is now
 officially classified as a building (hotel/attraction/event center) rather than one of the
 greatest ships ever built.

Here's a book I'm adding to my wish list - the story of the 
Golden Age of sea travel across the Atlantic. The cover 
illustration is of the original Mauritania, another great 
Cunard ship, sailing the seas from 1906-1934.

Have you crossed the Atlantic by sea?
Which ship did you sail on, and did you enjoy that mode of travel?

Oh yes, I should add in closing, that one year visit turns into
 fifty five years come October of this year.
Few regrets ~ no longer scared!


  1. What a life you've lived Mary. Brave indeed. Seems you've always been an adventurous sort.

  2. Dear Mary, I would like to hear more of your early years in the United States. Maybe you will share in the future.

    My family emigrated to the United States in 1956. We traveled on the "Kinderdyke". It was a Dutch freighter. It did have first class accommodations for 10 passengers (it's the only ship that was sailing at that time). It was an amazing experience. We were served elegant meals and ate food we had never seen before (coming from East Germany).
    We crossed the Atlantic in April. It was not a smooth ride, even the crew became ill.
    I loved America from the start. My family will forever be grateful to the United States for allowing us to become citizens.

    1. Yes, I would like to share more of those days - must stay home and write more in the coming years!

      My original intention was to work a year, save my money (you could make so much more here that in the UK at that time), return home and marry my British boyfriend! Of course a certain Yankee named Bob - with the gift of Irish gab - came to my office one day not long after I arrived in D.C. - and well, you know the rest of the story, haha!
      I became a dual citizen just about 17 years ago - and yes, like you, am proud to be American (and yet still British).
      Mary X

  3. A fascinating post, Mary. You look so elegant in your traveling outfit. Yes, we did dress up for travel in the past. I don't dress up like you did, but I certainly can't fathom traveling in sweatpants or pajamas, as some do.

    My grandfathers immigrated to Canada from the Ukraine. My maternal grandfather sailed on the Empress of France in 1926, arriving in Quebec City. I'm sure they were in the lowest decks of the ship and may not have had a pleasant crossing.
    I'd love to sail across the Atlantic on the Q.E.2. Much more civilized than current day air travel! I hope you share more stories of your experiences.

  4. What an adventure that must have been. You were so young!! I have never travel across the ocean, only by plane.

  5. Those ships were so stately and grand. I have never travelled aboard an ocean liner as I am not sure I would enjoy the experience. When I travel I like to get to my destination as fast as possible.

  6. Mary, I have not traveled across the Atlantic by ship. But, I did (along with my young family) sail from Honolulu to San Francisco. And, I was royally sick the entire way!! Lost 10 lbs. couldn't eat without throwing up and I had seasick pills, too. So, I guess I will stay on dry land or fly.

  7. I love the photo of you on the Queen Mary. What a privilege to travel across the ocean on a luxury liner. I've only flown over the one time and it was at night so I didn't see a thing. Have a lovely week.

  8. That is a fabulous photo of you on that deck holding onto your hat. Love it! What a smile. Yes, you were very nicely dressed and coiffed.

    No, I have never traveled further than from New Brunswick proper to Grand Manan on the ferry. It was not pleasant for me. I don't think that I have the stomach for sea travel. I know I don't have the stomach for air travel so home I stay unless it's a road trip. I peek in on you travelers to satisfy what little wanderlust I have.

  9. So happy you are here! What a cute picture of you on the deck. I have never taken that voyage, but would love to. Only one Mediterranean cruise so far. I hope you get to cruise on the QueenII soon.

  10. Some wonderful memories for you. And just think, what an odd coincidence that I should spend 22 years of my working life in an office on the waterfront in downtown Long Beach with a clear view of the Queen Mary just across the water! I have visited her several time during those years. She has had quite a history. Though you and I have never met face to face, our paths have crossed in that both of us have walked on the deck of the Queen Mary . . . along with so many others!

  11. What amazing memories! And that photo of you is priceless. You certainly were a very courageous young lady to venture out into the world at that time. I've never been on a big cruise liner. I've been on ferry crossings, but always get so seasick. In fact, on our landing in Amman the other day, I felt nauseous the last 5 minutes because of the way the pilot landed the plane. Thanks for sharing your sea adventures with us.

  12. Thank you for this glimpse into your past, Mary! The picture shows a lovely young woman, impeccably dressed. Not much different from today, I guess :-)
    The longst trip on a ship I ever made was in 1981 or '82 with my parents, from Travemünde to Trelleborg across the Baltic Sea. It was one whole day on a large ship, the "Nils Holgersson", and a big adventure for my 13-year-old self.
    So far, I have crossed the Atlantic only twice - going to and from Florida for a fornight's summer holiday in 1999, by plane.

    1. Meike you are too kind! I was SO young then and travel was so different.
      I met lovely people on that ship including a young Australian millionaire sheep farmer/land owner - not my type though!

      I loved sailing the Baltic Sea a couple of years back on the Queen Victoria - smooth water, perfect sunny days, and scenery really gorgeous as it was springtime and the landscape along the Swedish coast was a mass of bright green with pink blossom trees. We visited Rostock and Warnemunde on that trip also - my very time in Germany!
      Mary -

  13. What a lovely photo of you, Mary! I enjoyed this post and hope that you'll write more along this line. As a child I sailed from Montreal to L'Havre aboard The Saxonia. At that time, officers and their families sailed first class and I remember that it was a very special and exciting trip. I have been back and forth across the Pacific twice, but not across the Atlantic again.

    1. So lovely to see you here dear H - I've missed you and hope all is going well with you and the family.
      The Saxonia looked like another great Cunard liner - I see in the specs it held just 117 first class passengers - bet you enjoyed, and deserved, all that posh treatment!
      Hope you post again soon.
      Hugs, Mary

  14. Loved this nostalgic glimpse into how you came to leave home a little more permanently than first expected. You look so modern and trendy in your travelling outfit, very MTM!
    Personally I've only cruised once and that was a Caribbean cruise so doesn't really count. The furthest I've travelled is from UK to Australia which we've done 3 times, I don't expect we'll ever travel that far again. Even rips back to the UK are getting further and further apart nowadays.
    Where are you off to on your travels next?

  15. Mary, I love the photo of you all dressed up for the crossing! I was thinking of the difference in the way I dressed even in the early '80s for my first trip to England! I know I wore stockings and heels on the plane. Crossing on one of the Queens is very near the top of our list to do as soon as my hubby retires, and we have been reading about the various options and ships. You might be interested in the exhibit at Peabody Essex Museum (just outside of Boston) entitled "Ocean Liners: Glamour, Speed and Style" which opens next month. website is pem dot org. There is also a video of the installation of a 22' replica of the Queen Elizabeth. Thanks for the book recommendation -- I am definitely putting it on my wish list too! Linda

  16. Mary, this is a delightful post. I've never crossed by sea, and doubtful that I could handle the seas. It would be a dream adventure for me, if ever I were brave enough to try.
    Adorable photo of you, Mary. Yes, travel attire was much more formal in those years.
    Thanks for sharing.

  17. Fascinating, Mary; it must have been such an adventure! Not that long ago, but how much has changed.

  18. Love this story! What a wonderful adventure!

  19. What a darling picture of you Mary. You were so young and so brave to venture out on your own. As others have said, we would love to hear more of your adventures in life. I too would love to read that book. Sea voyages fascinate me. I am not fond of large cruise ships in the Caribbean. but we are going on a riverboat cruise with Viking on the Rhone River in France. Looking forward to that and then a week in Paris. Late September.

    1. Penny, you and D will enjoy that cruise - we did it in Sept. 2015 - perfect time of year!
      Mary -

  20. Wow, so glad I went back to read this. Loved reading the history and relaly loved that old photo of you at 18 on the ship! I showed it to Alexandra and we both commented--looks so much like Cassie! Crazy considering two generations.

    Yes, sailing is really becoming a luxury of a bygone era for most. Too bad. I know my mother LOVED her sailing trips to Penang and coming into harbour in Singapore and seeing the Cameron Highlands. her eyes, 50-60 years later would still sparkle reminiscing the spectacle and xp.

    The closest I've ever been on a boat was one to France once where everyone got quite sick from the choppy waters.

    I loved your stories though, Mary. Amazing times. do you ever wonder what woudl ahve come of your life if you had stayed in the UK? My best friend in London (outskirts) often ponders that with me and concludes life would have been not so great for me if I had stayed. It was hard enough here but the opportunities better I think. My 4-5 years of study turned to 31 years thus far so I am tracking right behind you, having been almost 20 when I set "sail" for a temporary venture to the US!! Funny how after all this time, we still consider our Englishness, Americanized naturally and all. I think one's formulative years never leave jsut as Malaya never left my mother's blood. People who havenot done such, don't get it.

  21. OK, I am working my way through your posts (can't believe just how prolific you'e been and how many I have to catch up on) but need to leave for a bit. Will be back on later tonight I hope to continue my journey forward to catch up with all your posts! :)


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