I Remember America
SEA CHANGE BY JULIA CHILD
As soon as our families had seen us off in fall-colored New York, the America had sailed straight into the teeth of a North Atlantic gale. As the big ship heeled and bucked in waves as tall as buildings, there was a constant sound of bashing, clashing, clicking, shuddering, swaying and groaning. Lifelines were strung along corridors. Up…up…up… the enormous liner would rise, and at the peak she’d teeter for a moment, then down…down…down… she’d slide until her bow plunged into the trough with great shuddering spray.
Julia Child My life in France with Alex Prud’ homme
My memories are of seeing her next to her big sister ship the SS United States (this is the ship I was on several times). Seeing her majestic beauty and then going to the website to see what happened to her makes me sick as I think this was carelessness by whomever was having her towed. She too could now be sitting next to her sister in Philadelphia still sitting with pride even though quite a bit older but sitting next to her bigger sister saying wow we made it. It is so terribly sad even to see the SS United States sitting in Philadelphia rotting away. Waiting her fate even though she was bought by NCL, they seem to be beating around the bush. There never was and there never will be again cruise ships as beautiful as these two were.
“My first trip inside the yard was when my father brought me to the launching of America. I still remember him setting me on his shoulders so I could see over the crowd to view the ship sliding down the ways” W.A. Raines
“My wife carried our 8 month-old daughter in her arms. Sd she was walking in the Yard, she found a ticket on the ground and picked it up. People around told her it was for a seat on the platform for the dignitaries and since she had a baby in her arms she should use it… She was seated besides Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt. It was a very exciting day.”
A BEAUTIFUL LADY
I sailed on her in September 1961 from New York to Bremerhaven. It was wonderful, she was so beautiful. I couldn’t get enough of being out on the fantail watching the wake behind the ship. We were in Hurricane Esther and it was pretty scary. I couldn’t believe how far she would list, it was impossible to walk straight. We had to use the ropes to move around with. My doors kept opening and slamming shut when we would change the way we leaned. They had sides they pulled up at the tables and put wet fabric of some type that kept the dishes and glasses from sliding off. I remember some type of belt looking thing that clipped our chairs to the tables so we wouldn’t slide across the floor. There were some injuries as well. A lot of people were very seasick but I never missed a meal. It was great. I was 21 and thought it was exciting even when we lost some deck furniture over the side. What great memories I have if this beautiful lady. It saddens me to see how she ended even if it is fitting that she is in the sea. I came back to New York on the SS United States and enjoyed that great ship as well. I wish they could preserve her somehow, after all, she and the America were our flagships!
Sincerely, Barbara (Tyson) Arnt, October 2013
WORKING IN THE PLAYROOM
My recollections of the children are many and clear. Sea-sick parents shoved their bright-eyed kids, who could be anywhere from age 2 to 12, in the door, clapped hand to mouth, and fled. One trip, we put on a play for the parents— the children’s own dictated script for “The Emperor Has No Clothes”, with the lead deciding to wrap himself in one of the ship’s large bath towels, to indicate the lack of clothing.
On another trip, I did not put in a moment in the playroom from New York to Southampton but spent every waking moment on the forward crew deck— because we were transporting the U.S. Olympic team. When the children became obstreperous, I used the technique of telling them to make as much noise as they could for one minute by the clock— and then discovered that their voices carried to, and alarmed, people on the tourist deck, just the other side of the portholes.
Perhaps the warmest memory is of a five-year-old boy from the Bronx, named Leon, whose mother feared that he would misbehave toward the other children and who did, indeed, jump onto and kick another child’s building made from the Erector set— but who, I discovered, was a brilliant future engineer; he not only made the most complex construction in the booklet that came with the set, but went on to create several new ones of his own, and became the politest, best behaved child imaginable by the time of arrival. If, by some unimaginable coincidence, Leon, you happen be one of those who set eyes on this, please e-mail me! What I learned from you that trip was the foundation on which I built to become a (now-Emeritus) Professor with forty years of teaching.
Margaret M. Dardis, playroom associate.
REMEMBERING THE PLAYROOM
Merv Wiltshire here. Had a pic if you’d like to share, of me and my brother on the SS America. Not exactly sure of the date. 1954/1953 maybe. I would be the little boy with his head turned looking at the young girl laughing . My brother Robin Wiltshire is back row kind of stooped over between the two girls. I don’t recall anything about the voyage, as I was very young. All my family has long since passed so I have no one to ask or confirm the point of departure or arrival, or dates.
Working on America
“America was the first ship I sailed on after graduating from the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point in June 1951… We were very much overstaffed, so the work was easy, pay was good, and the ship was a ‘feeder;’ (We ate Cabin Class, which was very fancy.) After four trips, I got so fat and lazy that I had to transfer to a cargo ship making a run to Australia.”
Working on America
”I was a member of the crew of America from 1953-56…I have always felt that was one of the high points of my 13 years at sea. The ship was a real gem with respect to design and construction of its time. In spite of tremendous overwork, the ship experienced during the war years as West Point, the ship, and its machinery were still in great condition when I left in 1956.”
James H Spielberger.
Lionel Reade May 23, 2005
Robert Engler Cadet-Midshipman Recently in a prolonged fit of nostalgia I was looking at pictures I had taken while on the America as a cadet-midshipman in the United States Merchant Marine Cadet Corps, 1946-47. Then I discovered your web page and was delighted. After reading most of what was available I realized that perhaps my contribution would add something coming from a different perspective.
I and two other C/M’s, Anatole Basil Kowalchuk and Donald E. Brown, made the first postwar maiden voyage and stayed with the America for 4 mos. making a number of round trips – NY, Cobh, Southampton, LeHavre. It was the experience of my lifetime at the age of nineteen. Our duties were confined to the bridge and environs and we had little or nothing to do with the passengers. Our quarters were on the bridge deck and we ate in the officers mess. Mostly we stood bridge watch which, for me, was 12-4, ran messages and learned as much as we could about the duties of a deck officer. At times intimidating, but always exciting and fun. This was my second year in the cadet corps and I had spent the first part of my sea year aboard the S.S. Australia Victory, a cargo ship so the America was quite a contrast.
Of many memories one in particular stands out and is probably worth repeating because it is perhaps humorous, though at the time it was, to me, humiliating: one of my duties when on watch was to escort the ship’s pilot to the sideport where he boarded the pilot boat after we had left Southampton. The usual path was from the bridge to an adjacent elevator, down several decks, then aft to the side port. For reasons unknown, on this occasion I thought I had a better and more direct route to save time. So I took this old sea captain (he looked like Winston Churchill) directly aft on the boat deck and then down an elevator there which opened into a passenger space.
Only one problem. The doors between the passenger space and the crew space which we had to use to get to the port as gated and locked. Since I was not all that familiar with that part of the ship as to be able to find a way around the blockage, I decided to retreat back the way we had come and resort to the more familiar route. Of course, by this time the pilot was huffing and puffing and furious. Well, we finally got there after the ship had been dead in the water for God knows how long. When I got back to the bridge, Commodore Harry Manning, was furious, too. The aftermath is a blank, thankfully!
Robert Engler, MD (Ret)
FROM: John Lock
RE: Helpful; suggestion for organized fun.
• Say,” let us all have had lots of fun and remember the more ENTHUSIASTIC! you are the better your horse will respond in the race.
• I recommend giving the horses funny names, For instance, call the first horse “Chilly, by cold wind out of Atlantic” horse #2 “Pop, by Cork and Bottle”, horse #3 “Mal de Mer, by Trouble out of Rough Seas,” and horse # 4 “High-ball, by Scotch out of Bottle.”
Photo from the L Driscoll collection.
I WAS BORN ON THE AMERICA
“You can add my name to the list of people who immigrated to the United States on the SS America, as I was born on it on November 28, 1951, while the ship was en route to New York from Cobh, Ireland… I really feel that I want to take a trip to the Canary Island to see what remains of my birthplace.”
Marie Lacey (2/27/2000). (Thanks Marie)
New York Daily Mirror, December 3, 1951
STORK ADDS COLLEEN TO LINER LIST
The U.S. Liner America, which left Cobh, Ireland for these shores Monday with 960 Mrs. Martin F Lacey holds her 41/2-pound daughter, Marie, born prematurely at sea aboard liner SS America. Mrs. Martin F Lacey holds her 41/2-pound daughter, Marie, born prematurely at sea aboard liner SS America. passengers on her manifest arrived yesterday with 961–the 961st being petite winsome Marie Teresa Lacey, a 4-day-old colleen born prematurely Wednesday on the high seas. It was the stork’s first visit to the America, and Marie got a lot more attention than the VIP’s aboard when the ship docked at 9A.M. at pier 61, North River and 21st Street. Even the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which can be pretty sticky sometimes, smiled indulgently and let her come in under the visa of her mother, Mrs. Anne Lacey, a 25-year-old Irish immigrant, and with the same alien status. POP HUSTLES ABOARD The moment the gangplank was lowered, the excited father, Martin F. Lacey,32, a rigger who came to the U.S. several months ago and has been living at 436 Front Street, Dunellen, N.J.,was hustled aboard by the line officials to greet his wife and take a first look at his MaryLacey4 (1)daughter. From the standpoint of elegance, Marie’s shipboard incubator wasn’t up to luxury-liner standards, having been hastily improvised from a cardboard carton, previously filled with cabbages and potatoes, with a lining of menus from the dinning saloon for insulation, towels and cotton for padding, and a frame over the top through which oxygen could be fed. But it did the job, and the head waiter and three engineers who made it, under the direction of the ship’s surgeon, Dr Roderick MacPherson, were proud of their handiwork. Dr MacPherson, who officiated at the delivery, was equally pleased. Flanking incubator they improvised aboard liner America for baby Marie Teresa lacey are (left to right): Head Waiter Archie Mundy, James Francesconi, 2nd engineer; Harvey Milnar, 3rd engineer, and Joseph Belanger, 3rd assistant engineer, New York Daily Mirror December 3, 1951 Flanking Flanking incubator they improvised aboard liner America for baby Marie Teresa lacey are (left to right): Head Waiter Archie Mundy, James Francesconi, 2nd engineer; Harvey Milnar, 3rd engineer, and Joseph Belanger, 3rd assistant engineer, New York Daily Mirror December 3, 1951incubator they improvised aboard liner America for baby Marie Teresa lacey are (left to right): Head Waiter Archie Mundy, James Francesconi, 2nd engineer; Harvey Milnar, 3rd engineer, and Joseph Belanger, 3rd assistant engineer, New York Daily Mirror December 3, 1951 New York Daily Mirror, December 3, 1951 Irish Wife Arrives Here With Premature Baby Born at Sea Her new neighbors in Dunellen, NJ gave Mrs. Anne Lacey, 25, a royal welcome as she arrived from Ireland yesterday with her 4 1/2 pound daughter born prematurely at sea aboard the liner America last Wednesday. Waiting at the pier was the nervous husband and father, Martin F. Lacey, an Irish rigger who came here several months ago to establish a home, the neighbors greeted the mother and baby Marie Teresa with open arms. Then all the Laceys were escorted to a Dunellen Volunteer Rescue Squad ambulance, equipped with incubator, and with a nurse in attendance were whisked away to Muhlenberg Hospital in Planifield. Mrs. Lacey, before departing, thanked Dr Roderick MacPherson, ship’s physician who delivered her child- the first birth at sea in the America’s history- and the crewmen who devised an emergency incubator out of a cardboard box to keep Marie Teresa alive. Dr MacPherson said the underweight infant could not have survived without the improvised incubator. Now, he said, she has ” A very good chance to live.” Almost overlooked in the excitement over the Laceys were several distinguished passengers aboard the America, including Vice-Adm Oscar C Badger, returning from the Paris UN session; Charles U Bay, US envoy to Norway, and Selden Chapin, our Ambassador to the Netherlands.
I came across your wonderful site when trying to find a record of our journey to America on the SS America 1949 – in vain! As you can see from the attached account of our journey, we may have sailed in the name of whoever cancelled so we could travel. Unfortunately, life in America didn’t work our for us and we returned to England in November 1949 and I have found a complete record of that journey, also by boat, from Boston to Halifax, Nova Scotia, St. John’s, Newfoundland and on to Liverpool, England.
Reading other children’s accounts of their journeys brought back lots of memories but I have only one souvenir – a photograph of a huge wave about to break over the bridge during a mid-Atlantic.
In 1949 my widowed mother and I were offered a new life in Boston, which it seemed like a. chance of a new life. We were booked to sail in May, but in February a letter arrived, offering us a place on the “SS America “ and we were on our way to the Promised Land. We set off for Cobh and all the grown-ups were upset and crying, which I couldn’t understand at all. This was all a fantastic adventure. After about two days at sea, we had lifeboat drill. I proceeded to have hysterics and wouldn’t put on my life jacket in spite of the fact that I was convinced the ship was sinking. Eventually, my mother managed to get me into my jacket and up on deck. We stood in line according to our deck and cabin number and were told which lifeboat to go to in the – extremely unlikely – event of an emergency.
The lifeboat drill was compulsory for everyone, except those who were ill or unable to climb all the various stairways. Then, with all the logic of a six-year-old, once I realized there was no danger, I refused to take off the jacket. My mother made friends with some of the other young women on the ship, many of whom were English GI brides in their way to a new life in America. She tried to get me to stay in the playroom with the other children and the nursemaids but in vain. As an only child, used to wandering the hills on my own, I hated being cooped up with a lot of other children and the minute their backs were turned I disappeared to explore the rest of the ship. My favorite place – somewhere they never thought to look – was the Library.
Strictly speaking, I shouldn’t have been there, but as I was a quiet child and just sat in one of the big armchairs looking at the pictures in the books, nobody seemed to mind. I attached myself to a young steward from the East End of London, who treated me like his kid sister. He was about 18 years old and one of a big family which he missed terribly. He let me ring the dinner gong and I thought he was wonderful. One of his other duties was to hold open the heavy doors of the First Class Dining Room as we went in to dinner. One evening, as I went along with my mother, I stopped in front of him and, in that clear, carrying voice peculiar to young children, announced, “I’d love you to be my Daddy!” The poor lad nearly died of embarrassment, as did my mother who must have been in her early 30s by then.
Refrigeration was rather basic in those days and all the milk was frozen solid. I hated the ice-cold milk, with bits of ice still floating in it, having been used to warm milk straight from the cow. One of the stewards told me that that was how it came out of the very special cow they had on board, which I didn’t believe for one minute. I might have only been six years old, but I wasn’t that green! Halfway across the Atlantic, we were contacted by a sister ship going to other way and warned to “batten down the hatches”, as we were heading into a storm. Heavy ropes appeared in the passageways and everything that might move was tied down. The dishes on the tables had suction cups under them to keep them from sliding off, but that didn’t stop the soup from spilling on to the beautifully crisp linen tablecloths.
I had been looking forward to seeing the Statue of Liberty, so when the great moment arrived – about 5.30 a.m. – I was up at the open porthole in my pajamas, calling out to everyone, “I see the Statue”. I wasn’t very popular with the rest of the passengers who couldn’t have cared less about the Statue of Liberty, especially at that ungodly hour of the morning. For my pains, I developed a nasty head cold, which never seemed to go away until we were back in Ireland.
”AMERICA I remember as a young girl my father was in the service and we were headed to Berlin, Germany for his next assignment. This was back in the early 60’s. I was in total awe as I was about to embark on the adventure of my lifetime. What an enormous ship it was so big a city on the sea I called it then. It had everything imaginable. One moment I never forgot was my family & I were in the dining room and I had become immediate friends with the musicians in the orchestra. They always played this song for me called “Beautiful Dreamer”. I have never forgotten that. Oh the memories! The trip of a lifetime I shall always remember. Thank you for bringing them to life! Sad at what happened to her!
Anne Richards Kissinger October 2011
What a treat to stumble across your website — you have no idea how special that is to me. Here’s my memory.
My SS America story: I emigrated to the USA in 1954 at the age of 10 with my mother and 16 year old sister aboard the SS America, sailing from Southampton to New York from 26th May to 4th June. Like another 10 year old I see who wrote on your web page, I also quickly got a feel for the ship and knew my way around … my mother was always lost. I remember seeing ice cubes for the first time in my life and I used to go up the bar and order ginger ale, which I’d never had before, which came with ice. Amazing. I had fresh melon for breakfast every morning and I can still smell it to this day. We had very stormy weather, so the voyage took longer. There were ropes up in the halls to hang onto. My mother and sister were quite sea sick, but not me — I had a blast. I had my 10th birthday on the ship — 30th May. There was a big party for all the children and I thought it was for me, foolishly. But it was to celebrate Memorial Day, something I’d never heard of! My mother insisted I wear a big blue straw bonnet with a huge rim and blue satin ribbon … I was so angry. I remember being on the deck as we approached New York and the view of the skyline appearing, and then the Statue of Liberty. So moving. I love NY City and I’m sure that’s why. Thanks so much for creating your website.
Christine Anne Bell May 2011 AT THE RACES.
During my Dad’s career in the U.S. Army, we were stationed almost around the world. I was only seven or eight years old at the time, but I remembered our trip from Germany to Fort Huachuca, (wha chew ka) Arizona as we sailed on the S.S. America. My Dad was a pack rat and saved a lot of items of our adventures in traveling, and I would like to share his memorabilia of the S.S. America with you. I am sorry I cannot figure out how to send all the pictures at once and will have to send them to you one at a time. Here is a little trivia for you; bandmaster Achille la Guardia was stationed here in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, in the 1890s. With him was his son Fiorrello who became the mayor of New York in the 1930’s.
De Wayne Keely, 11/2007
My mother and I traveled to France after WWII on board the SS America. The purpose of the trip was to visit her mother in Provence after the end of the war. I was 8 years old at the time, but it seems just like yesterday. I still have the passenger list and a couple of on-board photographs which I have scanned and attached to this e-mail. Hopefully, others that traveled at the time may find their names in the list. We kids in third class spent a large part of the day in the lounge which extended all the way across the ship. I’m sure our running around in there annoyed the adult passengers. We also played a lot of shuffleboards. I do not remember swimming in the pool, so maybe we didn’t have access. Regards,
Guy Krause Sept 2007
I was a passenger on The SS America in November 1962. I was a 15 year old at the time. My Dad was transferred to London, England as a Sgt. in the Air Force. What a great experience it was to cross the Atlantic on that beautiful luxury liner. Somehow we got to go 1st class and have dinner at the Captain’s table!! We left New York and sometime during the trip we hit rough seas. I remember having to use ropes to get where we were going and I remember the rings on the tables to keep the plates from sliding off!! Thankfully it didn’t last too long. Seeing the whales and dolphins from the deck are forever burned in my memory….
Bill Smith, Oct 2007
Was on the last Trip that the America made under U.S. registry. I remember seeing her laying in Port in Bremerhaven. The first look was from the Train station, and I could not believe that a Ship that showed only her Stacks behind the Customs Building could sail across that huge Ocean. I was Sea Sick before I even stepped Foot Aboard. We had a terrible Storm crossing to Southampton, where almost all of the China and Glassware was replaced. The rest of the Trip is a wonderful memory, and I was so sad to see her laying on the Sandbank rusting away. I now live in the US and we are planning a Trip to see her last moments.
Ray Gabel, Sept 2007
Peter Henderson <email@example.com> wrote: > Hello. I am compiling a book of my family genealogy. Our family > emigrated from Scotland to Canada via New York in June, 1953 on > the SS America. I was only three years old at the time and have no > real memories of the voyage but the ship occupies a treasured spot > in my heart for obvious reasons. I have some keep sakes of the > ship – a passenger list and deck plan brochure. If anyone wants a > scanned copy of their name on the passenger list from that voyage, > please drop me an email. June 2007</firstname.lastname@example.org>
I was one of the lucky ones to have emigrated from Austria to the USA via the SS America! Having almost missed the train in Paris for LeHavre I did manage to board in time on May 14, 1956 for a most impressible cruise to New York! Arriving in New York on May 23! I have fond memories of some people I have met but forgotten all names! That was my loss!
Frank Truppe June 2006
My voyage was in ’54 from Germany to NY. My US Army Lt Col father was surprised with a transfer and given only 6 days notice to pack up and prepare for our move back to the States. We were supposed to spend 3 years in Germany, but an assignment to the prestigious Army War College trumped all other assignments. At age 11, I had gone to Girl Scout camp for a week. When my parents came to get me, they were in a rented Porsche (how neat!) and we went immediately to the boarding dock! Didn’t get to say goodbye to any of my friends, but this was typical of an army dependant’s life…accept change as a normal way of life and look forward to your next adventure.
The previous year we had traveled from NY to Germany on an Army transport…the DH Hodges. Now, going back to the US, we were on a civilian ship…an actual luxury liner! We were thrilled! What a difference! One difference was the mealtime announcement: On the DH Hodges, we were blasted (over the P.A. system) with, “Now hear this! Now hear this! First call for dinner!” On the SS America, we were greeted with lovely chimes, followed by a calm, tranquil voice asking, “May I have your attention please. Dinner is now being served in the dining room.” Most of all I remember sailing into NY Harbor. Everyone was on deck and suddenly just the Statue of Liberty appeared on the horizon! None of the other skyline was visible. It was a spectacular sight! All the military personnel started to cry. We were back in our beloved country! None of my current friends can understand why I find current cruising ships so darn boring! Recently I toured the SS Alabama battleship which is permanently docked in Mobile, along Route 10. I was pleasantly surprised to re-live some of the smells and the character of the SS America. You may want to visit it.
Pam Michelet (now Connor) June 2007
Thanks for creating this fine website. I was five years old in 1962 when we crossed from New York. My father was at that time a young Air Force Captain already preceding us to Europe, yet somehow he swung First Class accommodation for my mother, older brother and myself. Although I was little, I vividly recall the entire experience. We’d arrived the night prior to launch and this was my first trip ever into a big city. Looking up from the deck I could see the Empire State Building, at that time still the tallest building in the world, gleaming high up into the NYC night. It looked just like it did in about the only movie I’d ever seen to that point, “King Kong”, except this was real and in color! The next morning we launched and I remember sailing by the Statue of Liberty and out onto open water. I was sick for the first day, but that passed. The next days were spent on the deck, eating in that plush dining room and one night we watched a movie. The weather was clear the entire trip and the sea and sky were beautiful. I loved every minute being on the America. Once, maybe twice, we crossed paths with another liner similar to ours. I suppose now that it may have been the SS United States. I recall seeing it from very far in the distance and how eager I was waiting for it to pass right by us, horns blowing and passengers waving to us right there in the middle of the Atlantic ocean! Then, the other liner faded again, this time into the opposite horizon. After a time we came to the shores of Ireland, on to England, and finally France where we disembarked and reunited with my father who was waiting for us. Our car, a 1957 Pontiac, had came over with us and after we drove to Paris where within a day or two of that incredible experience I found myself on top of the Eiffel Tower. That incredible week was the beginning of a three-year tour in Europe. By the time we returned to the US in June of 1965, the liners were no longer being used for military transport. In contrast to the journey over, and as we flew back in just a few hours, even then at age eight years, I was already grateful to have lived the experience and to have lived in “the age of the ocean liner”. I have recently come across a Souvenir Log from the trip and have attached both sides to this email for use on your site. Thank you for compiling these stories and images that have brought back so many memories shared by all of us who had the privilege to cross on the SS America.
Best Always, Jeff Jatras April 2007
In June of 1950, I was a 15 year old boy from The South Side of Chicago who
sailed on The USS America from New York to Cobh Ireland. Round trip. To me It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Pulling out of New York Harbor, the sea, the people you meet, the food, the service and on and on. When we were three days out we hit a storm. Not too many people showed up for dinner that night. They put a raised board around the table so nothing would slide off.
After that I thought The America was my ship and I felt bad to see her washed up on some foreign shore.
Jim OConnor Chicago March 2007
decks. My mother stayed in the first class cabin and as a seven-year-old I felt I had the run of the ship. I loved looking out the porthole and feeling the water smack against the glass.
The stewards were very nice to me and showed me parts of the ship passengers normally didn’t see. There were movies (The Jolson Story) and a huge play room for kids. Some of them were French and did not speak any English, shy but they seemed stuck-up to us. We had a great party the last day there and the French kids, boys, and girls, dressed in lace collars a la little Lord Fauntleroy. I had a picture for many years of all of us but, alas, along with a great shot of the waves crashing on the deck, I cant find it. They were professional photos taken by the ship’s photographer I think.
When Mom was able, we ate in the dining room. I remember little silver cradles with handles for corncobs to sit in.
I read later that Sir Michael Redgrave, the British actor, was on that sailing.
Her demise in the Canaries is sad, but it is much more romantic than just being chopped up for scrap. Maybe I can see her one day before she totally disintegrates.
Montgomery Davis Feb 07
Malcolm Hollyman, 2006
In January 1956, my father, who was then a major in the U.S. Army, had completed his tour of duty in Germany; and he, my mother and I returned home to the United States in first class comfort on the S.S. America. I had just turned thirteen, and my memories of that voyage are both fond and vivid.
We had several celebrities on that crossing: movie stars Gwen Verdon, Scott Brady, and Rudee Vallee. At the time, they were fairly big stars, and very well known. All were friendly and gracious, and I was particularly taken with Miss Verdon’s glamorous wardrobe, which she took every opportunity to show off. Luckily there were also several of my fellow Army brats on board, and together we explored every nook and cranny of the ship. The swimming pool, which was at the very bottom of the ship, was especially entertaining, and we spent many hours there every day. The water sloshed end to end in the pool with the motion of the ship; it was like being in the surf on a very small scale. Another favorite spot was the large area up top where the passengers’ pets were cared for, and we stopped in regularly to visit the animals. It seems surprising to me now that there were large outside areas accessible to the passengers, where one could lean right over the railing and look into the water. As the photos show, there were classic deck chairs lined up on the outside decks, and the stewards hovered over us with red plaid wool blankets and delicious hot broth. However, it was too cold to stay out for very long. Our parents passed the time visiting, reading, writing letters and playing cards, primarily in the elegant main lounge. I so enjoyed the pictures of that area with the balcony on each side; it was fun to peek down from the balconies to see who was there. All of the pictures were so familiar to me. The photos cannot, however, even begin to convey the sense of complete luxury that pervaded the atmosphere. There was a huge staff, just waiting to attend to the passenger’s every whim. There was some sort of ambitious entertainment every night, including the “horse racing” game that appears in the photos. Another night I was permitted to dress up and join my parents for a “floor show” in the bar area, and I loved watching the couples on the dance floor afterward. On yet another memorable evening I personally won $100.00 at bingo! We had very rough seas for about two days of what I think was a six or seven-day crossing. For a while it really was a challenge to keep our balance while walking, and thick red velvet ropes were strung about in the open areas to hang onto. We also learned that the tables in the dining room had edges that could be pulled up to surround the table–about 3 or 4 inches in height–to prevent spills into our laps and on the floor, and to keep the dishes corralled. During this rough period many of the grown-ups became quite seasick–including my parents, who took to their beds in our stateroom for two full days. We kids, however, thought the pitch and roll of the ship was great fun–and if we started to get a little queasy, we went down to the swimming pool (there were elevators, of course); the motion was considerably minimized at that much lower level. However, during the rough period, it was impossible to swim because the water was sloshing back and forth so forcefully, creating a huge wave in constant motion. It would have knocked down anyone who ventured into the pool, and was mesmerizing to watch. We kids also continued to show up in the dining room for every sumptuous meal, even though our parents were indisposed and the dining room crowd was considerably thinned out. Meals were a trip, incidentally. For starters, there were a number of “meals” each day–the usual three, plus elaborate morning, afternoon, evening and midnight “snacks,” and you could always ask the ever-present stewards to bring specially ordered goodies to wherever you happened to be. Every delicacy was on the menu, lobster to steak. Meals were included in the price of the passage, so it felt as if it were all free. On the day of our arrival in New York, my parents got me up early; we bundled up in our winter coats, scarves and gloves and stood outside at the ship’s rail waiting for the Statue of Liberty to come into view. We had been in Germany for several years, and all of us were a little homesick; when Lady Liberty finally appeared out of the fog, we were awestruck. In fact the entire experience was enthralling. After my leisurely tour around this website and its wonderful photos, I realize that fifty years later I remember everything, and in the most minute detail. This magical ship’s terrible fate is heart wrenching. How could this possibly have happened, and why haven’t the incompetents who let this happen been fined, jailed, tarred and feathered? I first viewed the wreck photos several months ago and literally cannot bear to look at them again. I really wish I had never learned what happened, but I have so many questions. Were the furnishings, dishes, etc. still inside? What has happened to all that stuff? Have there been any salvage operations? Have there been any attempts to tow the pieces out to sea and let them mercifully sink into oblivion? If not, why not? Who owns this section of beach, and do they not object to this terrible sight? This is just so, so sad. But thank you so much for this great website, which helps to preserve the glory days and the wonderful memories. Lorna Bergdale Gilbert Houston, Texas 9/2006 In December of 1946, my mother and I sailed from New York to join my father, in Wembley, Middlesex. Every other year, from 1946 to 1957, we traveled First Class on the America. One could say, I grew up on this wonderful vessel. I have many memories; however, the main is that I rarely had a meal in the dining room. The blessed deck steward, Mike (who would visit us from time to time in Wembley), kept me fed on the Promenade Deck with bullion and white rice (both of which I managed to keep down). In 1948, The Boy With Green Hair was shown and I refused to sleep that night in case I awakened with green hair. I shall organize my memories and send them to you to share with others. Also, I shall scan some cartoons on menus which “mock” my lack of sea legs. So, from six to seventeen, the America played an enormous part in my life. I loved it! Best wishes and many thanks for your efforts.
Peggy Hendrickx (nee Weed) April 2006
Sincerely yours, Barbara September 05
We sailed aboard the SS America from Southampton to N.Y.
We remember it vividly! My brother was 6 and I was 9; he had to get brought back to our area by a snooty 1st Class crew member,as he had “escaped’ into the better part of the ship!
He also got himself shut up in the foldup bunkbed in our cabin.
We always remember that every morning, the Asian steward in the D.R. told us: “NO Flosted (sp) Flakes today”!!!!, even though every other table seemed to be eating them!!
Perhaps he was just looking out for our teeth!!!
It was a great trip, and I’m sad to read that the ship is now rotting away in the sea.
In my local Thrift shop today, I found and bought two picture frames in the shapes of a life preserver, with the logo SS America on the front! They are in great shape.
Can’t wait to see my Mum’s face!!
S. Jackson, Canada. September 05
I came to the USA from England on the SS America in September, 1964. Although I don’t have the exact date I understood it was the last transatlantic crossing for the America. My recollection is that we were a day late arriving in New York because of a hurricane that made us sail further north than usual. I remember that the seas got pretty rough and I think I was one of about 12 people in the dining room one evening. The ship was full of returning vacationers, or immigrants like me. When we passed the Statue of Liberty, early in the morning, it’s surprising the boat didn’t tip over as every passenger was lined up on the rail, most with tears in their eyes. I was in a rather cramped (four bunks) small cabin somewhere way below the water line. After the first night we never saw one of our fellow roomies as he made the acquaintance of a young lady in First Class, managed to get through the gate and hid out in her cabin the rest of the trip. I couldn’t believe the quantities of food that we were given. If we ordered steak we were asked to say how many inches thick we wanted it. Being young we challenged them by ordering thicker and thicker cuts but they always at least doubled them, and then waited to see if we could eat them. I got up early most mornings and as we approached NYC I saw that the ship was dumping great quantities of meat overboard. Later I was told that the ship was not allowed to bring meat back into the USA and as many had not eaten because of the storm they had no choice but to dump it overboard. I’ve often wondered if that was true and would appreciate hearing if that can be verified. Also, if anyone has records of the September 1964 sailing, I would very much like to know the date I first put foot on American soil. I became a citizen many years ago and the memory of passing the Statue and my being sworn in as a citizen are two of the greatest moments of my life. She was a wonderful ship. I feel lucky to have been able to come here on a transatlantic liner and to have first seen New York from the water. Immigrants can only be granted permission to land by an official in the USA. I had all my papers, including a large chest x ray, that all immigrants had to carry ( it was only when we assembled and I saw so many people all with similar yellow manila envelopes that I realized how many immigrants there were) and I was grilled by a very aggressive and serious Irish American. Finally he stood up and with a very broad smile reached out his hand: “Welcome to the United States, Mr. Harrow. I wish you the best of luck”
Tony Harrow September 2005
Susan E. Holmes July 2005
Pam Brown Pryor June 2005
I came across the web site by accident. I came to New York on the SS America on November 28, 1962, leaving from Le Havre, France. I was 11 yrs old then and remember the entire trip quite well. My family and I did not speak English ,so the voyage was a little difficult but we managed. I have being looking to see if someone has been able to acquire the passenger list from that date and if so could they let me know. For your files I am also including my family picture that was taking on the ship on the last day. I am the one with the party hat at the end on the left side, also in the picture are my mother, my father, my older brother and my two sisters. They all had fun on the ship, I was the only one that was see sick for the first 3 days.
I now live in Ohio with my family and I always share my experience on that wonderful ship.
Thank You Frank Di Rubba October 2004
Best wishes, Cathy Williams
I was 10 years old in 1962 when the Townsend family embarked from new York harbor enroute to Europe on the America. my father was a career military man whom had been transferred to Heidelberg, Germany.
I remember boarding the ship in New York at the United States line dismemberment center. vague memories of how large the facility was. and the fanfare when we left.
I remember bunk beds, so I gather we must have been assigned less than first class accommodations. that certainly didn’t matter to me! however, I DO remember the first class dining facilities so I presume we were allowed that privilege…maybe due to dad’s status? anyway, it was there that I was introduced to shrimp cocktails, which I had an over abundance of, and fried frog legs. yum. mom’s favorite story is that all the kids called for a revolt somewhere into the fourth or fifth day of the voyage due to the lack of hamburgers and the like. lol.
I remember seeing ireland and having tea and crumpets at 4:00 pm on deck with my mother. first time for either, but it quickly became a daily must-have.
We docked in la harve overnite. my older brother and fellow teenage “ruffians” were chastized for throwing fruit from the ship at the workers below. me?, i was busy racing my new “schuco” racer on the decks.
I also remember the elevator. seems me and the other young spuds would ride the elevator up (or down) and then raced up (or down) the steps to again meet the elevator operator at the next floor. fun times for the young at heart.
I never found the pool even though I tried hard…it was probably outside of my “limits”.
What wonderful memories!
Thanks for such a great site!
Peter Townsend September 2004
Adrian Guns May 2004
When my late father came home from the Korean War, he was assigned to the Army Base in Bismarck, ND. One day mom and dad told my brother and I that they were going shopping and they came home with two Chihuahua puppies. The little dogs had no idea what they were in for. We moved from Bismarck to Fort Sheridan, Illinois in 1957. From there, Dad was reassigned to HQ of 7th Army in Stuttgart West Germany. He requested surface transportation to Europe and we sailed from NY to Europe, on the SS America in early June of 1958. The two little Chihuahuas from Bismarck found themselves on the SS America with us. After three years of traveling around Europe by car, they then found themselves on a plane coming back to the US in 1961. We settled in Deerfield, Illinois when Dad retired from the Army. I doubt the dogs had any idea that they would become world travelers, much less First Class Passengers on the SS America.
Dan Spannraft 10/2003
In 1957 I was six years old. My dad was in the air force and we were stationed in New York. He received orders that we were to be stationed in Wurtzburg Germany for three years, and that we were to sail there on board the S.S. America. It took about 5-6 days as I recall. That was a long time ago, but I remember it’s enormity and beauty . Some other memories are; Salvador Dali was on board strutting the decks with his cane and goofy mustache— dining on board was exquisite–our German waiter even talked me into eating celery by breaking the celery in half and taking the “strings” out for me— the pool was huge and scary ( I didn’t swim at the time )—my dad and I played ring-toss and shuffle board on deck— I also saw “gunfight at the o.k. corral” in the theater— I also remember having a tough time keeping my plastic soldiers to keep standing due to the movement of the ship— all in all these memories are precious to me. Hope you enjoyed reading about them as much as I did reminiscing–again.
I found your wonderful website and after a hour or two have a tear in my eye for a ship that meant so much to me as a child and still holds found memories of a long past era of eloquence. My Dad, Mom , dog and I all returned to the States on board the America after three years of duty in Germany where my Dad was stationed in the Air Force. We traveled in Cabin Class and I still remember the bad weather we had after we had sailed from LeHavre to Ireland. There was a small single hole putting range on the ships promenade deck which I played day in and out finally winning that voyages gold tournament at the ripe old age of 8 which upset to no end the grownups who tried in vain to beat me. I got a nice plaque which I still have today and a bowl of fruit which I thought was grand. The ships crew were kind and took great pains to insure we kids were taken care of , up to the point of sneaking us into first class for some of the left over cookies from the daily tea reception. Ron S. Thomas 8/2003 I just happened to stumble upon the website while reading up about the S.S. United States and the S.S. America. I was 8 yrs. old when my parents and I made the voyage from New York to Germany. My dad was in the Army, and we were being transferred. The voyage was extremely rough (spring on the North Atlantic is no fun) and we had 40-ft. seas. My mother spent nearly the entire trip in our cabin, and I was seasick the first night out; afterwards my father and I took in the sights and sounds of the ship as best we could. The heavy seas washed out some of the windows on the promenade deck, and they had to close down the elevator and the swimming pool (which was indoors due to the colder climate). Also the bowling alley and the ping pong tables were useless during most of the voyage. I remember our waiter pouring water from a pitcher all over our linen tablecloths, to keep the dishes from sliding off of the tables as we ate. I remember the chandelier in the dining room swaying to the ship’s movements as the orchestra played. Our cabin had a bunk bed and a single bed, all of which had “seat belts” to hold you in during the night if the weather got rough. I was not allowed to take the top bunk, much to my dismay, so my father did instead, realizing the dangers of what might lie ahead. We kept a number of the dining menus as souvenirs, and they are quite incredible to read. Each day was a different menu. My husband has wanted to take a cruise for some time, and I haven’t been on a ship since I was on the S.S. America, so we’ve made a promise to each other to begin saving our money for a maiden voyage on the S.S. United States when the refurbishing is completed by Norwegian Cruise Lines. I can hardly wait. I was quite distressed to find out what happened to the S.S. America – it really did come as a shock – almost like losing a member of the family. What a tragedy. Jean Maxton 4/2003 LARRY – GREAT WEBSITE. YOU MAY BE INTERESTED IN MY EXPERIENCE ABOARD THE S.S. AMERICA. As a 13-year old boy, I sailed aboard SS America with my family from New York harbor to Southampton, England; the time was August/September of 1949. The occasion was the military transfer of my father, a US Marine officer, to London for duty there for two years. My father, mother, younger brother and I were in adjoining staterooms and our family car also traveled with us in the hold. I can remember a band playing as we pulled away from the pier in NY and how far it seemed from my vantage point on the rail to the people down on the docks. We passed the Statue of Liberty as we steamed eastward and I remember seeing one of the lightships farther out. At sea my brother and I would watch the flying fish skimming across the breaking bow waves and we played shuffleboard, swam in the pool, and stood at the very peak of the bow a la ” Titanic” movie scenes. The meals in the dining room were superb although as boys we never enjoyed having to be dressed up so much for eating. One of my most memorable adventures aboard was the placing of a note in a bottle obtained from the galley and throwing it into the sea over the stern rail. As I watched it disappear into the wake I thought that would surely be the end of that… but it wasn’t. We made a brief stop off the coast of Ireland to put some passengers ashore by boat at Cobh; I vividly recall the beauty of that bright green Irish countryside seen at a distance and also how impressed I was with the men I saw on the small fishing boats far off the coast – it seemed they were frail Statue of Liberty as seen from the decks of the America. and brave ventures on a vast and unfriendly ocean. From the Brian Petersen collection When we docked at Southampton we went ashore and had to wait for our car to be unloaded. It was soon swinging in the air from a loading boom and being lowered to its owners. As we waited, my brother and I explored the dockside a bit and wandered into an open warehouse full of large cloth bags full of pepper. It was difficult to stay inside that building without sneezing and we found some humor in going in to have a sneeze or two and then out for relief. Some 20 months later in London, my father came home one day with a letter for me – it was from France. To my amazement, it was from a family that lived on the Bay of Biscay, just south of Bordeaux – one of their children, a 4-year old girl named Marie, had found my bottle on their beach. Their letter was in French and I could read it fairly well with my school-learned French and the level of excitement in our house went up a thousand percent as we considered the travels of that small bottle in the Atlantic. To this day I have kept that letter and others that s prang from our new friendship; the actual note from the bottle has been kept as well. I have never met Marie or her family; she would be a lady in her 50’s today. My wife and I are talking about a trip to France to see what we can find. My memories of the slow ocean-crossing days aboard majestic liners are good ones and it is a treat to share some of them on this excellent website. I presently reside in Beaufort, South Carolina.
My name is Earl Piper. 10/12/2011
Margaret M Dardis 6/2003
When I was 7 3/4 ( I turned 8 one week after arrival), my family emigrated to the United States. My mother, two sisters, and I came on the S.S. America while my father went by plane. It was the most exciting event in my life.
I cannot remember too many details about the ship, but I do recall getting lost when I took an elevator to first class by mistake ( we were cabin class). There were enormous amounts of food at every meal and in-between they seemed to serve bouillon around the clock. During a storm the ship rolled from one side to the other and I watched the chairs and tables in the lounge do the same. There was a playroom where children were entertained. I remember the stationary was onionskin- for years after there was some in my mothers desk. I never got sick during the journey, but when we arrived in New York I felt sick as soon as my feet stepped on land.
My neighbor, whose hobby is collecting and selling antique toys, had a metal S.S. America on wheels that I coveted, desperately. My husband bought it for my birthday and it sits on a shelf in my office, reminding me of how I got to America and my new life.
My family left Berlin in August 0f 1960 and departed to the United States from Bremerhaven, Germany. I will never forget the feeling onboard ship wandering through all its public rooms, on deck, in the pool, and on the promenade. Being on the bridge at night was a truly awesome experience looking at the sky and listening to the waves slap the ship. The meals were truly exquisite. The trip was one of the most memorable of my life.
Derry Koralek Feb 98
SS America, First Class Lounge, August, 19607darrenPicture of the First Class Lounge on the SS America taken in August of 1960. My twin brother Michael is wearing the then fashionable “white bucks” and I am on the left, burrowed into the reading material (we were both 13 at the time) Mark Anderson
Darren Byrne May 98
Laima Parrish – Sept. 1998
Please note that spelling errors and punctuation have not been corrected so as to preserve Elke’s German background. Items in parentheses were added by myself to clarify details.
(Ross Family: Father-Erich Gottfried Paul Ross-age 48, Mother-Martha Luise Jens Ross-age48, Daughter-Elke Martha Dorothea Ross-age 17, Son-Rudiger Erich Paul-age 12)
Elke writing (March 2001):
…”By train we traveled to Le Havre, France boarded the S.S. America. We had one outside cabin with four bunks. The crossing of the English Channel was very rough and of course everybody, except my Dad (he was in the German Merchant Marines), got very sea sick. We had a stopover in Cobb, Ireland. I was able to get better when we were at anchor for a day. From that time on I was somewhat better and lived off tea & toast. My father’s sea sickness was an increased appetite. The food was outstanding, but neither I or my mother or my brother were able to eat. As a matter of fact my mother and brother were sick all seven days it took to reach New York. Crossing the Atlantic in February is not the most intelligent way to travel. We arrived in New York Harbor Feb.7th 1955. New York needless to say was overwhelming. Maybe that is why I still don’t care for the city…..
Sent by Michelle Mika Daughter in Law