Memories of our Journey to NYC on the Queen Mary

I mentioned a while ago on Twitter that when my family emigrated from England to the United States, we actually took the rather famous ship The Queen Mary, and to my surprise, the PR team at the Queen Mary (which is now a floating museum permanently docked in Long Beach, California) contacted me and asked if we had any pictures.

rms queen mary historical photo
RMS Queen Mary

We took the trip in 1963, so I have no memories of it, so I asked my Dad if he had any pictures. He responded:

“Sorry, no pictures of our transatlantic crossing. We were too busy being seasick to even think of taking photos!”

His story, no, our story, follows…

We boarded the Queen Mary at Southhampton and were shown to cabin B252. What a disappointment! We had paid extra to be upgraded to the class just under first class and when we saw the cabin we felt that we had been scammed! It was a very small cabin with four bunk beds, a washbasin and one open closet. We had to get side rails for your bunk to make sure that you would not fall out. Had to go down the corridor to the toilets and bath/showers. Had to get special soap because they used sea water in those facilities.

First stop was Cherbourg in France where the ship picked up provisions. For some reason you would not drink the French milk and the steward has to rummage around in the galley to find English milk and put a hold on it for your use only. Left Cherbourg in the early afternoon and it was smooth sailing until we hit the North Sea and subsequently the Atlantic. We ran into extremely bad weather that lasted until we were about six hours out of New York.

Had to get anti-seasickness shots to make life bearable. On the rare occasions that I went to the dining room I was not surprised to see it three quarters empty and even the dining room stewards sported very green complexions!

Could not go on deck for the first couple of days because it was too dangerous even on the enclosed promenade deck. They eventually rigged life lines so that those passengers that wanted to stretch their legs could stagger about with some degree of safety. You and Judith seemed OK, Mum was not too bad but I was in dire straits! To get to sleep I would drink brandy and eat a couple of crackers! Some nights we had to take you down from your upper bunk and you would share my bunk.

We approached New York Harbor at 2 am and it was the most welcoming sight we have ever seen!

There had been an electric storm shortly before our arrival and the sky was dark blue and the skyscrapers were limned against the skyline, their lights were on in a random pattern and we could see the headlights of cars gleaming along the shoreline road. It was a sight out of a Disney movie, absolutely beautiful.

verrazano narrows bridge under construction, circa 1963
Verrazano Narrows Bridge Under Construction, circa 1963

We went under the skeletal framework of the uncompleted Verrazano Narrows Bridge and a disembodied voice boomed from the bridge “Welcome to New York and drive carefully under this bridge, it ain’t finished yet.” Then we went to bed.

Next morning was a hassle: had to go through immigration and a stewardess carried you, you were a hefty baby and top of everything halfway there you filled your diaper and the stewardess quickly returned to me! Incidentally the Queen Mary was a day and a half behind schedule–the first time she had ever been delayed in her many years of sailing the Atlantic.

Thanks, Dad, I never knew that much about our journey. Anyone else travel on the beautiful Queen Mary before she was permanently docked in Southern California?

4 comments on “Memories of our Journey to NYC on the Queen Mary

  1. Hmmmm.. I remember you sharing Dad’s bunk. There are photos – i remember seeing photos of me being dressed up in tea towels to be a flapper in the children’s costume contest. I even had a little camera myself, but my bag of toys was stolen from the dock when we landed – if I hadn’t been holding a doll I would have lost everything. I suppose the thieves weren’t too happy with those spoils! Do you think they would have processed the pictures? 🙂

  2. Oops! Now that Judi mentioned it I vaguely remember some pictures but have no idea where they are. The reason I remembered the cabin number after all this time is that in the Royal Air Force the form 252 is a charge form for misconduct etc. and part of my duties in the RAF was arranging the court martial or hearing for each 252 citation. Funny how odd items stick in my mind when i have trouble remembering my own phone number!

  3. Dave – What a rare treat to have this story captured in your Dad’s own words. It is a gift for not only you, but your children. Am curious if you have made it to see the Queen Mary and visit B252.

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