08 January 2011

the youngest couple in first class

From Coming to Colorado: A Young Immigrant's Journey to Become an American Flyer by Wolfgang W. E. Samuel, recounting a crossing to England with his wife, Harriet:

...we stayed for the night in the Waldorf-Astoria before embarking on the Queen Mary the following morning...A red carpet was rolled from the first-class lounge to the stairs leading to the first class cabin. I had heard the expression "red carpet treatment" but never expected it to be quite so literal.

The Queen Mary was truly a beautiful ship, with her three enormous stacks towering over everything else at the dock. According to the List of Passengers, a small booklet distributed to every first-class passenger, the ship was 81,237 gross tons and driven by a quadruple-screw turbine, under command of Captain R. G. Thelwell, O. B. E., R. D., and Staff Captain R. J. N. Nicholas, R. D., R. N. R., the junior captain, who did all the work and none of the socializing I presumed...segregation was absolute. No cabin or tourist-class passenger had opportunity to penetrate the inner sanctum of the first-class world. The passenger list was rife with titles: Lady and Sir, Prince and Princess, Captain. His Excellency, Doctor, and The Honorable.

Harriet and I were escorted to our cabin by an attentive and solicitous member of the crew. B99 was a spacious and well-appointed cabin, looked after by two attendants who introduced themselves upon our arrival and put themselves at our service for the duration of the voyage. After getting settled, Harriet and I went up on deck for the departure ceremony. At twelve thirty sharp several tugs moved the huge ocean liner from its berth to the sounds of the ship's band.

Returning to our cabin we found a schedule of events for Wednesday, August 10, 1955, on our nightstand. It noted that at 3:45 we were "invited" to a Passenger Lifeboat Station Muster and the Captain requested that we attend wearing our lifebelts. The mandatory drill was not going to be of any length nor interfere with anyone's personal life, because at 4:00 a ship's ensemble was scheduled to being playing "Music for Tea Time." The Naked Street with Farley Granger, Anthony Quinn, and Anne Bancroft was scheduled for 4:30 that afternoon, and again later in the evening. Harriet and I never made it to a movie throughout the voyage.

Harriet and I were by far the youngest couple in first class. From our perspective most passengers were well advanced in age. Fortunately the Queen's dance orchestra began to play early in the evening in the Main Lounge, then moved to the Starlight Roof Club [Verandah Grill] as the evening progressed. The orchestra played until one o'clock in the morning to a rather lively crowd, and that's where we spent most of our time. The sea was calm, the nights star studded. Our crossing turned out to be a picture voyage.

The fun ended on the fifteenth of August when we docked fairly early in the morning in Cherbourg, France. Those traveling to the Continent disembarked. The rest of us packed and got ready for our own departure in Southampton later in the day. We arrived in Southampton at ten o'clock in the evening and boarded the Cunard Steam-Ship Company Limited R. M. S. Queen Mary London Special Train.

25 February 2010

really delightful

Cunard White Star
R.M.S. “Queen Mary”
May 30, 1937

Darling Loraine,

Today has been really delightful. I put in a full day in exercise and swimming.

Mr. Blaydon came over to tourists and were we glad to see each other. It goes to show you how meeting a home town boy on a trip reacts to us humans. I didn’t know him from Adam but he recognized me. I invited him for tea with me but his wife wasn’t well and so after profound greetings, I wished Gladys well and Edward went his way.

We land tomorrow and just now there is a lot of confusion with trunks being hoisted on deck and the regular nervous tension terminating a glorious trip.

Can you imagine that tomorrow I shall be with my folks. I can hardly wait.

Tell me how is everything and how are you progressing taking care of my affairs.

It is now exactly 10 P.M. yet the sun is shining brightly on deck. I wish our days were as long.

How are the children. Does Barbara miss me much. Tell Erwin and Stanley to write.

With fondest love to all of you


19 January 2010

in old friendship

The following letter was written by American historian, Lewis Mumford, to American psychologist and Harvard professor, Henry A. Murray.

Cunard White Star
R.M.S. “Queen Mary”
11 August 1946

…Here I am, dear Harry, chafing at the bit over every delay that separates me further from Sophy & Alison;and meanwhile, just off Halifax, where our ship is bound in order to disgorge over two thousand Canadian wives & children, a fog has settled down, so heavy that the Pilot Boat can’t even find us. In this pass, I turn to you: for my last letter was only a snatch. Delay or not, this trip has proved a very fruitful one: more one-sided in its preoccupation with City Planning than I should have liked it to be; but I managed, despite that commitment, to encounter a larger segment of England than I ever knew before: at the end, when I was free in London for six days, it even included a dinner symposium at Brown’s with Mannheim, Bernal, Read, Waddington, Henry Moore (the sculptor) and an enlightened industrialist named Dickson, who, by the way, has enlisted the aid of the Tavistock Clinic to go further into the matter of bettering his relations with his workers. Yes: and at the very end I had lunch and a talk at the clinic, the invitation of Bowlby; though Rees & Sutherland alas! were away, and I myself, that afternoon, was in the last throes of fatigue. They all sent their warm greetings to you: particularly one handsome young fellow, whose voice sounded American, but whose name slipt my memory five minutes after I heard it. I visited many parts of England I had never seen, Worcestershire, Shropshire, the Black Country, Lancashire—where they toast the King as both King & Duke of Lancaster!—and saw with a fresh eye many more familiar landscapes; noting for the first time the number of exotic trees, such as the Redwood & the Cedar of Lebanon, and stumbling over a mighty lime tree that reminded me of a banyan, with its low branches rooting into the earth, by a natural process of “layering.” My visits to cities had almost an official character: I would usually be met by the mayor’s car & find myself having lunch or dinner with him and a group of councilors at the Town Hall: occasions that sometimes called for speeches on my part, which I used as an excuse for telling the English what they needed to hear: namely, that their physical state was more on a par with that of the ordinary American than they imagined, and that morally, mentally, & politically they were, with regard to their internal affairs, much better off. Since February they have rebounded from the fatigue & depression & “nerves” with which they ended the war: an exacerbated state that our sudden & brutal withdrawal of the lend-lease made worse; for at that moment they needed badly to relax—there has been a general slow-down in work—the only way that the working classes can get a vacation—if not quite a satisfactory one—under the circumstances; but at least until winter comes they are safe; and even then, the new arrangements for Danish butter and bacon will help. Their present diet is constrained; but except for those doing extra work, or those under strain, it is quite adequate—better than it was for all but the upper tenth in 1920. One no longer sees the pinched anemic faces that one saw then: and war or no war the general standard of well-being has risen—which partly of course, as in our country, accounts for the food shortage.—But I have got off the trail. Officially and unofficially I was treated, as you indeed predicted, dear Harry, in a fashion that may permanently impair my usefulness in the United States! The young gave me a tremendous ovation at my lecture at the Royal Institute of Architects, on a World Center for the United Nations. Almost a thousand people were there; and I have never had a more receptive, a more eager audience. My influence is far deeper & wider in England than I dared to imagine; and though a larger part of the younger generation has accepted the blinkers of Marxism than would now be so with us, a certain number of one-time Marxists are now drifting over to—Mumford! All in all, it’s been a heady experience; and it has given me just the fillip I needed to return to my work with renewed confidence. In forcing myself to go just when & as I did, at a moment when I had become absorbed in something I wanted very much to finish, I achieved a certain kind of inner freedom, including a freedom from fears and anxieties that have haunted me and handicapped me from 1940 onward. Sophy’s instinct was right. I had to meet this challenge, whether is was opportune or not, in order to recover my manhood: if I had let myself shrink from this task I might have kept on shrinking. I return to some difficult problems—including that of my mother, who at 82 shows signs of senile decay, after holding together magnificently, in sturdy independence & health, up to now: but there is nothing, in or out of my personal life, that I am not prepared to face.

I shall spend the rest of the month in solitude at Amenia, with Sophy & Alison: at least that’s what I’m hoping for: and after that we’ll all go back to Hanover for one more winter—though I hope to have another week at Amenia early in October.

How are you, dear Harry and where are you—and what prospects are there of my seeing you? Drop me at least a line soon—and forgive this scrawl. (Now you know why I usually use a typewriter!)

Source: “In Old Friendship”: the correspondence of Lewis Mumford and Henry A. Murray

07 December 2009

pretty calm

Cunard White Star
R.M.S. “Queen Mary”

Sat. 22nd Oct. 1938

My dearest Mother,

I was glad to find your letter, dated the 11th Oct., waiting for me in my cabin. I wondered when I should get one from you. I think some letters may have gone astray, as I had no letters from M. for a long stretch.

She spoke to me on the telephone at the height of the crisis, and said ‘Come back’, but by the time the fastest boat, this one, was due to sail on Oct. 6th the war had been postponed.

I flew, as I think you know, from Washington to Los Angeles. Last Thursday week I flew from Los Angeles to New York, & last Monday I flew up to Buffalo and back. I have done about 6000 miles by air, which I think is as much as I have done in the rest of my life.

So far, we have had a marvellous journey back. We left New York in the afternoon of Wednesday, and it has been pretty calm. I have several friends on board, & am having an amusing time. There are Frank Halford (the designer of Napier engines & a cousin of Halford Wiggins) travelling by chance with his first wife and their daughter. A man named Kundelberger, who is President of one of the West Coast aircraft firms, and another named Passmore, President of a Canadian aircraft firm, who has married tobacco. These, with hosts of shipboard acquaintances pass the time away.

Otto Kruger sits at the next table to me. Did you see him in ‘The Housemaster’?

I expect I shall soon be seeing you to tell you bits I have forgotten to write.

Glad to hear you are well.

With love

Your own son


(Cranfield University Lord Kings Norton archive)

04 November 2009

dearest mrs. r

The following letter was written by journalist and novelist Martha Gellhorn to First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. Impressed with Gellhorn's reporting on the impact of the Great Depression as she traveled throughout the United States, Mrs. Roosevelt became a life long friend.

   March (?) 1938                     
R.M.S. Queen Mary
Dearest Mrs. R –
I wanted to see you, and hoped all the time you’d be in Washington and that I’d get there. Then you were out west, and anyhow I decided on Sunday night in St. Louis to sail, & sailed Wednesday morning and there was no time for anything.

The news from Spain has been terrible, too terrible, and I felt I had to get back. It is all going to hell…I want to be there, somehow sticking with the people who fight against Fascism. If there are survivors, we can then all go to Czechoslovakia. A fine life. It makes me helpless and crazy with anger to watch the next Great War hurtling towards us, and I think the 3 democracies (ours too, as guilty as the others) have since 1918 consistently muffled their role in history. Lately the behaviour of the English govt surpasses anything one could imagine for criminal, hypocritical incompetence, but am not dazzle either by us or France. It will work out the same way: the young men will die, the best ones will die first, and the old powerful men will survive to mishandle the peace. Everything in life I care about is nonsense in case of war. And all the people I love will finish up dead, before they can have done their work. I believe the people – in their ignorance, fear, supineness – are also responsible: but the original fault is not theirs. They control nothing: they react badly to misinformation & misdirection & later they can wipe out their mistake with their lives.

…I don’t believe that anything any of us does now is useful. We just have to do it. Articles & speeches hoping someone will hear & understand. And if they do, then what. The whole world is accepting destruction from the author of ‘Mein Kampf’, a man who cannot think straight for half a page.

I wish I could see you. But you wouldn’t like me much. I have gone angry to the bone, and hating what I see, and knowing how it is in Spain, I can see it so clearly everywhere else. I think now maybe the only place at all is in the front lines, where you don’t have to think, and can simply (and uselessly) put your body up against what you  hate. Not that this does any good either…The war in Spain was one kind of war, the next world war will be the stupidest, lyingest, cruelest sell-out in our time. Forgive this letter: I can’t write any other kind,

Source: Selected Letters of Martha Gellhorn

16 October 2009

winter crossing

The following letter was written by German novelist and Nobel Prize laureate, Thomas Mann, author of The Magic Mountain and Death in Venice, to his elder brother, Heinrich.

Cunard White Star
RMS Queen Mary
February 20, 1938

Dear Heinrich,

Greetings from our fourth voyage to America, and hopes for your well-being while we’re underway. You will have been devastated as well by the new political outrages. Who would have thought that Austria would have fallen so suddenly and with so little resistance! Public opinion, the Swiss press included, was completely disoriented at first; they represented the whole thing as a setback for Ribbentrop. We only learned how things really are from the Paris newspapers. Poor betrayed and forsaken Schuschnigg! Now he’s imploring his Nazis “not to abuse their new rights.” In Graz they already had “order patrols.” –We are getting very sparse information for these few days (until tomorrow), and it’s hard to get an overview of the situation. For me, Vienna is a big loss. I got a moving reception there as recently as last winter. The question is whether Prague will remain open. Our territory is shrinking more and more. At the journal, we also failed to foresee losing Austria so quickly. The timing is bad, since there’s no one to discuss it with at the moment.

I imagined the winter crossing would be worse. We’ve had a very calm trip; the gigantic ship, nearly unassailable, it seems, rolled laterally just one day, and that doesn’t make one seasick. This time things will get serious in America: a lecture tour through fourteen cities, all the way to Los Angeles, on the topic, “the coming victory of democracy”—nothing but courage. It begins on the first March in Chicago for some four thousand people; it’s sold out. The prelude is at Yale University in New Haven, where I also have to speak at the opening of the Th. M. Collection, a kind of archive, with manuscripts, translations, etc.

I will be strenuous, and on top of it all, the uncertainty of the situation oppresses me. I emigrated very reluctantly. And yet, probably the cleverest thing would be to go ahead and establish residence now in America.

If you want to write, use my manager’s address: Harold R. Prat, 2 West 45th Street, N.Y.

        Warmly, T.

Source: Letters of Heinrich and Thomas Mann, 1900-1949