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Pictures and memories of sailing on the S.S. America
A BEAUTIFULL 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 BY MARGARET DARDIS
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.” Marty Steffens
” 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.
In 1954/55 I was a Junior Engineer on the SS Esso Richmond, which traded between New York and The Dutch West Indies. In March 1955 I paid off and together with two Shipmates we traveled home to Southampton aboard the SS America in Cabin Class. Fellow passengers included young wives on their way to join their husbands who stationed in Germany. They were good company as was a young lady on her way to take up a post at the American Embassy. We all had good fun, even after the band packed up for the night. Far for fun, I think, than they did in First Class because each night they Gate-crashed our party. Fond memories indeed. Lionel Reade May 23, 2005
TO: Assistant Pursers
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.”
“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 November28, 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)
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. Kathleen Curley
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.
Here it is. The amazing part is that I am in the back row, tallest kid. When I found the photo, I realized that my younger brother is the one holding the plaque SS America. Sailing was in mid 1958.
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.
HELLO, DURING MY DAD’S CAREER IN THE U.S. ARMY, WE WERE STATION 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 SS 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 SS AMERICA WITH YOU. I AM SORRY I CANNOT FIGURE OUT HOW TO SEND ALL THE PICTURES AT ONCE AND WILL HAVE TO SEND TO YOU ONE AT A TIME. HERE IS A LITTLE TRIVIA FOR YOU; BANDMASTER ACHILLE LA GUARDIA WAS STATIONED IN HERE IN FORT HUACHUCA, ARIZONA IN THE 1890’S. WITH HIM WAS HIS SON FIORRELLO WHO BECAME THE MAYOR OF NEW YORK IN THE 1930’S. YOURS TRULY, 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,
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
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
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 2007y 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
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
My Mother, older brother & sister & I immigrated to Canada from England, landing in New York on my seventh birthday in March 1955. I remember a breakfast of corn pops in my bowl and the feeling of how strange this food was. I was boldly adventurous; I would go and discover parts of the ship only to be brought back to my Mother by one of the crew members. Other than leaning out of a port hole and the memory of my Mother being seasick, my other memories are vague. However, the SS America represents to me an important part of my childhood. The ship brought me and my family to a new world; I feel a connection to the ship as if I am also part of her history. I am saddened by the pictures of a once proud lady in neglect and ruins in that Grecian seaside. The sight brings stirrings of walking those decks as we steamed across the ocean in 1955.
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
I found this website quite by accident and it brought back memories. Thank you for doing this. My dad was an Army colonel, stationed in Frankfurt from 1955 to 1957. We lived in HiCog at 3 Plattenstrasse. The army sent us home first class on the SS America – my dad, mom, 5 year old brother and me, age 10. We left from Bremerhaven and I still remember the music of the band playing “Aufwiedersehn” in the dark with lights blazing as we left. It was night, probably about midnight. We made stops in LeHavre, Southampton and Cobh before we set sail across the Atlantic. I can remember the Irish ladies coming on board to sell little trinkets and Irish linen when we were in Cobh. I still have the charm bracelet. I was seasick for most of that rough October crossing, 9 days, but the luxury of the SS America was still wonderful. Being wrapped in a blanket on the Promenade Deck and the waiter bringing soup. My little brother loving to run on the parquet dance floor to hear his own footsteps and the elegant ladies staring at him and my mother dying of embarrassment. The crew on the ship could not have been nicer, and the sight of the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor was magnificent. I still have a little plastic flower vase with a picture of the ship and a postcard too. So sad to hear her fate. Mary Ann Delaney Mrazek April 2006 On January 22nd 1949 myself, brothers Phillip, John and sister Judith and our parents John and Mary Broadbent boarded the sis America at Southampton, England for the beginning of a huge adventure on our way to New Zealand. I was 10years and Phillip had his 12th birthday on board, Judith was 5ys and Johnny just 2years.We boarded in the late evening and I noticed a sign that said we were sailing at midnight, Dad didn’t believe me but we did and then arrived at Le Havre. Mum had bought Judith and I beautiful dinner dresses, Judith’s was the latest in Blue Waffle Nylon and mine Autumn pure silk. We had come from the North of England and had as many others been subject to food rationing. The white bread that they used to make the turkey sandwiches when were cabin bound was absolutely fantastic to us. The voyage over to New York was wild and rough with huge waves and the ropes with the knots in them to hold onto was to us amazing. Since there was so much movement on the ship they sides of the tables were put up. We children thought it was great amusement when food went skittering from around, even though our parents gave us the frown look. The little shops to us were wonderful full of luxury items that we had never seen. Dad bought Mum some perfume. Johnny and Judith tried the childcare whilst our parents and us went exploring. My father was an officer with the London Scottish Regiment and had served in South Africa so boat travel was not new to him. To us it was one big fun filled time, food, chocolate, sweets and the odd accent from the crew amused us. Unfortunately Judith got seasick and poor Mum ran from the dining room with the crew calling “Gangway” to speed them on their way. This led to us all being cabin bound for the rest of the voyage. We watched on deck as we sailed into New York Harbor and the most magnificent sight of The Statue of Liberty to us it was majestic and impacted to us the meaning of freedom. She was a magnificent liner and I join with the rest of you with memories of all who have sailed in her that dignity will I pray be restored to her final days. Nancy Jull, Auckland, New Zealand. April 2006 Hello S.S.America, I was born in Cornwall, England in 1945. My mother and I (at age 7) emigrated from Southampton, England to New York in Feb. 1953. We were on the S.S.America in a tiny cabin deep in the hull with a pipes passing through the room and a huge porthole (that took up half of a wall) covered with a steel plate. The voyage took 8 days and the weather was awful (I was sick every day). I recall the two of us sitting at a table with an older man who ate most of our allotted food. I also recall sneaking up to the front of the ship (climbing over massive chains) and then staring down at the bow cutting through the water, then a steward grabbed me and took me back to my mother. My best memory was passing by the Statue of Liberty. Still a great memory, Tony Jan 2006 We left from Cherbourg, France on April 19, 1947. My sister and I, orphaned during WWII, were traveling from Paris to New York City, to meet family and begin our new lives in America. My first view of the SS America was spectacular – she was beautiful – I remember it was dusk and the ship was glistening with lights and all of the stewards, dressed in their whites, were waving at the portholes, welcoming us aboard. It was a sight to remember! I could feel it was going to be quite an adventure. My sister, who was just eleven years old at the time, was sea sick for seven days and missed all of the fun. I was eighteen years old and made many friends. Every night there was entertainment on board. We were in the Cabin Class ballroom or lounge. It was a beautiful elegant room. Mostly Irish ballads were being played by the band. It was the first time I heard the beautiful song “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”. I also recall that when the ship passed by Ireland, it was pointed out how green the land was. The music touched me, it was very reminiscent of the melodies of Bretagne. I also remember we had a tour of the ship. I can’t remember the First Class accommodations, but I recall viewing the most modern kitchen I had ever seen, the shiny utensils, and those cooks with their chefs hats!!! There was also a Chaplain on board and I recall going to “confession” and a mass. The first photo was taken on Thursday, April 24, 1947 – the Gala Dinner – the night before we were due to land in New York. We were delayed all day due to an Atlantic storm, so we arrived on Saturday instead of Friday. Our cabin was in Second Class but we had our meals in Tourist Class. I am the young girl in glasses. On Friday, April 25, 1947, we went to a magnificent ballroom – for a cocktail party and dance. I had tea, and I remember the boat was rocking, I could hardly hold my cup. Our chaperone, Miss M., shared our cabin but we never saw much of her. My new friend Mauricette, nineteen years old, was due to meet her fiancée in New York City and she tried to get me to dress up with stockings. She said I still looked like a “school girl” in my ankle socks. The second photo is of a group of us on arrival in New York City on Saturday April 26, 1947. We still had our party hats on. I am in the center in the back row – wearing glasses, and my sister is up front on the right. We had our first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, everyone was overwhelmed, and Litta, a New Yorker, cried when she saw the Chrysler Building – where she worked. I did not know what to think or feel but we left France with mixed emotions knowing we were leaving behind our adoptive parents whom we loved so much. But we were Americans, born in Paris, and New York was calling. Sincerely yours, Barbara 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
My mother and I (Susan T. Annis and Susan E. Annis) traveled on the America in June of 1962. We were traveling to join my father, who was stationed with the U.S. Army in Kaiserslautern. As I recall, we were told we were among the first group of military dependents to join their sponsor after the Berlin Wall went up. I was sixteen years old and was very impressionable. This was the most exciting thing we had ever done. We had to “dress” for dinner every night and I was so pleased to be able to get dressed up. The table next to ours had a large group of young officers; all dressed every evening in their dress whites. At sixteen I thought I was in heaven. My mother passed away in 2001 and among her things I found several menus and mementoes of our voyage. Susan E. Holmes July 2005
This is my memory of the SS America – similar to others you have collected. My Dad had been stationed in Germany from l955-58 and the Army put us in First Class (!) to travel back to the United States on the SS America from Bremerhaven, Germany to New York in April, 1958. I have pictures of my parents strolling on the 1st Class Promenade deck and sitting in the lounge. I also have menus from the grand meals. I was 11 years old and was a picky eater (and just a little seasick), so I didn’t appreciate the wonderful food. An amazing website – thanks for all your hard work and research on this vessel. What a history she had, but what a sad ending to a grand lady. I think it would make a great movie or documentary showing her service in WWII through the Atlantic crossings, to visiting the romantic Greek ports and beyond. (Hey there, Discovery Channel!) But maybe she should just slip quietly into the sea to her resting place and let us who knew her, though very briefly, have our memories. Pam Brown Pryor June 2005
In December of 1959, I immigrated to the United States in search of a better life (like many others then) on the SS America. My brother, who had come over two years earlier, had booked my voyage. As the ship departed from Bremerhaven, I met a young American women on deck. I had originally been placed on an all-German table, but she took me to the Purser and changed my seating. We became good friends aboard ship and she introduced me to “the American way of life”. Her name was Anita Thompson and she came from Toledo, Ohio. We communicated for several years afterward and then lost touch. It would be terrific if she read this message and contacted me at “firstname.lastname@example.org” so that we could catch up on the years we missed. For an eighteen year old girl, who had hardly ever left Berlin, the unknown was tremendously interesting if somewhat frightening. The weather was so rough that the ship had to be turned around to repair a porthole which had been damaged during the stormy weather. Rather than enjoying all the amenities the ship had to offer, I spent most of the trip seasick in my cabin. We lost a day and instead of arriving on my birthday, I came a day later. Because of the delay, I was very concerned that there would be no one to pick me up. My new friend agreed to stay with me until I either met my relatives (aunt, uncle, cousins and brother) or she deposited me into a cab. Needles to say, they were all there. It was exactly forty-five years to the day that my son, now twenty-eight years old, accidentally came across the information on the SS America and e-mailed it to me. Looking at all the pictures certainly brings back a lot of memories and some tears. Despite the seasickness, having grown up in post-war Germany, I had never known such luxury even though I, undoubtedly, traveled tourist class. Christa Zago Jan 2005 Shortly after my parents married in NY in June of 1952, my father was deployed to Germany. My mother sailed on the SS America later that year to join him. Attached is a picture of my mother (Nancy Gorskey Morton) and Grandmother (Margaret Gorskey) in front of the ship before she sailed. Sorry about the quality of the picture. Are there any passenger lists available on-line? I’d like to find out exactly when she sailed. Thanks, Maryann Morton Riordan Feb 2005 Hi. What a shock to see the fate of the ship that holds some of my earliest memories. in 1973 at age 4 my family left Australia for the USA. my family had been living there for about 2 1/2 years when my dad, born in Melbourne, decided his steeplechase jockey career would be better in the US, again. my mom, dad, brother and myself left the first place I remember calling home and all the aunts, uncles and cousins that loved us so. we boarded in I think Sydney for the 22 day trip. I remember all the people in our small cabin with 2 sets of bunk beds there to say goodbye. I knew even then we would never see any of them again. I was confused with this thought. remember I was almost 5 and this was a thought that I really couldn’t comprehend. I remember the daycare where I played with children from many nationalities, the dining room that served powdered everything that I liked and wouldn’t eat it. I was very skinny when we reached ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I remember the pool on deck, the ballroom where we flew paper airplanes, the life boat drills which were frightening as I thought each time we were sinking, the stops along the way; Fiji, Mexico, etc. , I do have a few pictures of the voyage and it seems like another life time. it’s was sad to see the condition of the ship yet at the same time it was peaceful to see what was like Australia, just a memory. it was real and I will never forget the ship that brought me and my family from there to here. thank you, Sara (Thomas) Barnes March 2005 First of all, great site! I thought you might like to know that I stumbled across a book which is great for America-philes! A friend of a friend (etcetera!) mentioned it to me, so I had to take a look. I would say it's meant for people who enjoy the Harry Potter and Amber Spyglass stories, but it has a huge section set onboard the wonderful America in the early 1950s! Everything gets mentioned from the decor to the layout, and I felt like I was walking around! I never knew the ship, but I did know people who went on it - a couple who used to live next door to me many years ago back when I was growing up! They had a real affection for it, and I never forgot looking at their pictures of them having a holiday. So to find the ship in a story which could put it back into the public's eyes was thrilling. Take a look for The Guardian Of Time by C C Chambers, which I searched for but only found on the www.amazon.co.uk website. Best wishes, Cathy Williams
At 10 years of age, I was on board USS America in 1964 for two transatlantic trips, NY to Cobh, Ireland and return. I recall that at the young age of 10,I had gotten to know the ship so well with the first day, that older adult passengers who were easily confused as to their new surroundings used to ask me if I could take them to various locations. Naturally, I did so with ease and made plenty of tips along the way. This money came in handy in the lounges for the evening’s betting ventures and of course, the old-timer’s favorite – bingo. The ship really catered to youngsters with many party’s and lots of games and things to win. I recall winning a bag of soft balls, all red, white and blue, for the USS America. I learned a lot on passenger liners, to swim, shuffleboard and table tennis. In my youth, I was on quite a few ocean-going vessels: MV Britannic, some Dutch Ship(X2), QE1, SS Sylvania(X2), and the Queen Mary. Business was good! d in those days for a young lad crossing the Atlantic. 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
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
I remember when a rogue wave (at the time I thought it was a leftover mine from WWII because we were not far from coming in to port in Southampton) hit the bridge of the America, breaking much of the glass, injuring at least one officer, and partially flooding the Tourist class playroom. I was preparing to take the kids up to our lifeboat station when a bellboy came to the playroom door to tell us what had happened, and that we could stay put. 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.
Picture 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
Derry Koralek Feb 98
I sailed on the ‘America’ as the ‘Australis’ in February 1976. I was 10 years of age and spent 3 1/2 weeks exploring the ship. My friend and I went from the funnels to the baggage compartment and we even got in and saw some of the engine room, the noise (to me as a kid) was horrendous. We were the first passenger ship allowed through the Suez Canal after the war and although the canal was cleared of mines we had to follow a tanker just in case. I remember the burnt out tanks and that littering the shore. We shouted “sieta to Siam” which allegedly meant “hello my good friend” to the Arabs who were waving back. God I miss that part of my life. On the trip from Djibouti to Perth we did not see another ship for 4 – 5 days and then we picked one up on radar and steered towards them. The decks were crammed with people waving to this tanker that appeared so close to us traveling in the opposite direction. Then we hit a storm where it is said we were sending out ‘securetay’ messages as we were getting battered around. I remember rolling around in my bunk trying to sleep. My friend and I had a favorite hang out in some dunnies that had a porthole near the waterline. During this storm we opened the port hole to see out and all of a sudden water started to come in from the rolling of the ship. We packed ourselves and scarpered thinking the ship was going to fill up and sink. Talking of sinking I remember the life boat drill, what a fiasco. We stood there for over an hour and in the end my Dad said “if it takes this bloody long we’ll go up on deck and I’ll throw you overboard”. I have been compiling information and researching this ship for some 12 years and have heaps of information.You may or may not be aware that after several years laid up in Crete she was been towed to be made into a floating hotel when in a storm in 1996 the tow line snapped and she went aground in the Canary islands were she is to this day, she has broken in two and the stern (from just passed the aft funnel has sunk) the rest is above the water resting near the beach, a sad end to a once beautiful ship. Darren Byrne May 98 We boarded the SS America in May of 1956, bound for America, to look for a better life. I was 11, the youngest in our family of seven, and had spent all my conscious life in a little French town, lost in time. My provincialism was about to clash head-on with an opulence I had only read about in books. It was night time when we arrived in Le Havre and as we hurried to the ship from the train station, I worried about having to cross the gangplank from the dock to the boat. Would it be very narrow? Would it break? How high above the water would it be? Even as these thoughts were spinning in my head, we passed through a wide entryway into what looked to me like a ballroom, from the red carpet on the floor, to the bright lights glimmering high above me. I seemed to be engulfed in flashes of red and gold. People were bustling all around us and I thought to myself, “what a fancy station this is”! Then, we were escorted down a hallway and shown into a room. Only when I saw the porthole window did I finally realize we were already on the ship! So much for the gangplank! Our cabin had one novel luxury after another, such as its own private bathroom and a telephone from which we could call the rest of the family in the other rooms, as the seven of us were split up in various locations. That night I fell asleep completely bedazzled. By morning, the French coast was far behind us and we were alone with the sea. I don’t know much about the others’ experiences, except that my brother seemed to be seasick most of the time. I spent my days ambling about the ship, checking out the playroom where many toys tempted me, but not knowing English, I didn’t feel comfortable playing with the other kids. I preferred tea time in late afternoon, when the tables in the dining room were set with lovely silver pots of tea and cocoa and plates of cookies. I loved to sit off by myself and listen to the quiet conversations around me, though I couldn’t understand a word. I guess I just loved the sound of English. Occasionally, some nice ladies would smile at me and pass me more cookies. My favorites were Oreos. Once, I accidentally wandered up into the first class area which looked even more luxurious and everything seemed to be white, from the carpet to the upholstery, but I was quickly escorted down. There was a different movie playing every night, there were lounges full of smoke and cocktail-sipping couples, games going on inside and out, deck chairs to relax in, everything imaginable for a life of pure pleasure. Mealtimes were sumptuous and the service high class, for rich or poor alike, with waiters in jackets and white towels over their arms, ready to do your bidding. Either from lack of interest in fancy dishes, or my insistence on ordering for myself, I always seemed to get the same thing for dinner, some kind of turkey dish and fruit compote for dessert. I hated fruit compote and wasn’t too fond of the turkey either, but those were the only things I could pronounce in English. By the end of the trip I could also proudly order “milk”. It didn’t really matter, as before leaving the table, like Heidi, I would stuff my pockets with rolls and fruit and head out on the foredeck to sit on a big cable reel and watch the ship’s prow rise and fall in the waves. Here, I was happiest! I’d munch my goodies, breathe in the salt air, daydream and wish time would stand still. Now, when I look over our souvenir menus, I drool over what I could have had. Our steward must have noticed my fruit pilfering as he suddenly started putting a bowl of fruit in our cabin every day. He also came in the room one day and found my sister and me curled up in the window seat by the porthole, watching the sea. The next day we found a thick, fluffy rug in that space. We ran into some fog now and then, causing the ship to blow its eerie fog horn, which made my mother quite nervous, but the sea itself stayed calm for most of the trip, except for one night when we had to hang on to the walls and handrails just to walk in the hallways, but by morning all was peaceful. Whales were also sighted one day, but unless you had binoculars, all you could see were dark humps above the water in the distance. As we approached New York, there was much excitement over catching sight of the Statue of Liberty, but it was either too foggy, or she was too far away to thrill me much. At first glimpse of the skyscrapers I did feel a little giddy, but what really impressed me was the size of our ship. Out at sea, there had been nothing by which to gauge her size, but now, as she docked, and I saw the waiting people so far below, I realized how huge she was and even more so after we disembarked and I looked back to see her looming high above me, almost like a skyscraper herself. It overwhelmed me to think that I, a little village girl, had just spent six glorious days on that floating palace! Laima Parrish – Sept. 1998
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