Queen Mary Celebrates 80 and Looks To Exciting Future
By C. MacDonald
LONG BEACH, CA--The Queen Mary got a lotta love yesterday on the 80th Anniversary of its launch in Clydebank, Scotland. There were the Satin Dollz singers creating nostalgia with their enthusiastic songs and tap dancing in the packed Grand Salon. There was the Queen's Commodore, Everette Hoard, emotionally explaining the unique history of the grand old vessel ("Everyone in this room has a connection or affection for this ship."), then reading a letter from Queen Elizabeth sending her "good wishes" for the celebration.
Soaking in every moment was June Allen of Anderson, Indiana, who nearly 68 years ago, came to America from England on the Queen as one of 20,000 war brides (and their children) to rejoin their GI husbands in the United States and Canada. A poignant video showed the gathering, June's fondness for the Queen. ("The Queen Mary will always live in my heart. It will always be part of my life.") Another video showed Ralph Rushton, who left England to see the world as a bellboy at age 15. He had many jobs aboard the Queen, which traveled between Southhampton, England and New York, with more than 2,000 passengers each week, including kings, queens, celebrities like Bob Hope, Spencer Tracy, Marlene Dietrich, Charlie Chaplin and others. During World War II, it was painted grey, renovated with bunks and delivered more than 810,000 troops into battle. Hitler offered a $250,000 reward for the sinking of "The Grey Ghost," the Allies largest and fastest troopship.
"During World War II, troops were packed onto the Queen that made sardines look comfortable," said John Thomas, a co-author of the fabulous, graphic book, "Images of America--RMS Queen Mary." "With over 15,000 people on board every possible space, including the swimming pool, was filled with tiers of steel and canvas bunks. Men slept in shifts." (My friend, the late Art Leavitt, was one of those soldiers, who never forgot the Queen. I think of him whenever I see it.)
Helping everyone celebrate the 80th Anniversary was Celebrity Baker and Master Pastry Chef Jose Barajas, who created a 15-foot, 600-pound cake replica of the Queen. The hundreds in attendance got a piece they will always remember. And one lucky person, a woman from Long Beach, found inside her piece of cake, a token for a luxury Trans-Atlantic voyage about Cunard's Queen Mary 2! (Now how's that for icing on the cake?) The white sheet cake had white-chocolate butter cream icing. Part of the cake is being shipped to Glasgow University, where it will be used in a similar celebration.
"The Queen Mary will always be here in the City of Long Beach," Mayor Robert Garcia told the crowd. "It's part of our history and we'll continue to invest in its restoration."
The ship, which arrived in its new home port of Long Beach on Dec. 9, 1967, attracts more than 1.4 million people annually, said John Jenkin's Jr., the ship's General Manager. Jenkins and his staff are to be commended for making everyone at the free celebration feel special. Cake was offered to everyone and lemonade and ice water was available to anyone who wanted it--all free of charge. This was an event that people will always remember but there's more to come.
Jenkins said "The Queen Mary has its eyes on the future" and announced a new program to create a World Class Museum, Science and Learning Center on 65,000 square feet of space aboard the ship. "It will focus on the Golden Age of Maritime Travel," he said. The Queen Mary Heritage Foundation, a new non-profit, will help launch the history experience in 2016, which just happens to be the ship's 80th Anniversary of its maiden voyage to New York. It crossed the Atlantic in 5 days, 5 hours and 13 minutes.
It will always be a link to future and the past and a special place for lifetime memories. Carol and Steve Leavitt of Huntington Beach recently celebrated their 46th Wedding Anniversary in the elegant, award-winning restaurant, "Sir Winston's" (named for Winston Churchill, a frequent guest aboard the ship in peacetime and wartime). Carol's mother, Maude, came from England to the United States on the vessel and her father, Murray, went off to World War II in the Army aboard it as well!
One of the greatest things about the Queen Mary are its statistics: won the speed prize crossing the Atlantic in 4 days, 4 hours, 12 minutes; has attracted more than 50 million visitors since Long Beach purchased her for $3.4 million as a living landmark, event venue and hotel in 1967; 6 miles of carpet were vacuumed each day; more than 10 million rivets were used in construction; it was the first ocean liner to have fully motorized lifeboats....I could go on and on but you need to go on the Queen and check it out for yourself. Every visit brings a new learning and lifetime memory. For further info, go to QueenMary.com; 1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach, CA 90802; 877-342-0738. Long live the Queen!