07 August 2010

Back to Her Old Self

From The Milwaukee Journal on this day in 1947:

Queen Dons Peacetime Garb, Ex-GI's Wouldn't Know Her

By Robert H. Fleming
Of The Journal Staff

New York, N. Y. - Wisconsin men and women who, during their days in uniform, traveled the seven seas on the Queen Mary wouldn't know the old girl now.

She had done her part in the war, and she's all dressed up now. She shows no signs of the dark nights when outward bound Yanks wondered if she was such a big target that Nazi submarines couldn't miss her. Also gone were her own souvenirs of the days when they brought young Americans home--on the glory road from battle areas to the good old U. S. A.

She was the world's fastest liner in those days, but she wasn't much better than the lowliest troop transport, as far as her passengers in uniform could see.

All Sleep Indoors, Now

In those days, she could carry 15,400 troops at a time, but that meant jamming the eight decks with tiers of bunks that accommodated only about half the total. The others slept on the top deck, outdoors, and a man had to be a tight rope walker to take the traditional stroll along the deck.

The passageways - or stairways as every soldier called them--were jammed like treadmills in those days with troops constantly moving to and from the crowded mess hall in what is now the main dining room. And where there were quiet nooks or interesting passageways, there were also MP's to growl "Keep moving."

Of course the MP's are gone now and the landings of the staircases have bright potted plants and lush overstuffed furniture using part of their ample space. And the dining salon, where thousands of GI's ate at long benchlike tables, now seats only 800 at a time--800 who have fine lien, polished silver and other strictly civilian comforts when they eat, and where the food would never be called "chow."

Even a Swimming Pool

There's even a swimming pool now, in space that formerly slept 100 soldiers. There are signs over doors that read "Beauty Salon" and "Valet" and "Ladies" or "Gentlemen." And up on deck, where the WACs had a fenced-in playground, oceangoing dogs now have their exercise yard.

Some few of the soldier passengers--the most determined ones, who didn't care how many feet they stepped on--probably walked clear around the main deck. You can't do that anymore. Two delectable hideouts for the luxury class bar the way--these are the "garden lounges."

Yes, the grand old lady certainly has changed.

The ex-GI's wouldn't even notice it when they walked down the gangplank to go ashore. Somehow there is nothing about a New York sidewalk to sigh over any more.

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