Revisiting Queen Mary
In 1943, Joe Berry, 89, spent four days aboard the Queen Mary during his tour in World War II. About a week ago, he returned to tour the ship.
"Just the fact that I had crossed on it," he said was a good enough reason for his daughter, Christine Wolf, to take him to revisit the ship. They stayed on board the vessel one of the nights in California.
The Queen Mary has an interesting history, being built as a cruise ship, rebuilt for the war to transport troops and finally being turned back into a classy ship, now docked in California, where people can tour the boat and rent rooms for the night.
Berry, of Mahnomen, said that when he returned to the ship on Nov. 12-13, he easily remembered all that had happened on the ship 70-some years ago.
"We were the last ones aboard and first ones off," he said of when he boarded at Long Beach on Long Island, N.Y., in 1943.
He said the men slept in hammocks aboard the ocean liner, and he can remember having to haul supplies from one end to the other -- 1,000 feet away -- on the massive ship.
The 81,000-ton ship carried 12,000 soldiers.
"I could see the soldiers on the top deck," he said of his memories of being back on the ship.
The Queen Mary now features 314 guest rooms, a lounge (the Queen's Salon now) and dining room, shopping and a conference center.
"Each stateroom is an original cabin where no two rooms are alike," says the official souvenir guide from the ship.
The Queen Mary completed 1,001 trips across the Atlantic Ocean in 31 years. It is now parked permanently in Long Beach, Calif.
In the conversion to what it is now, the guidebook states that an "estimated 320 tons of old paint which had accumulated since her launch were stripped from the ship's superstructure."
The Queen Mary was originally built to service those traveling across the Atlantic Ocean between England and New York. Until she was built, three ships were used and couldn't keep up with the demand. So the Cunard Steamship Company proposed two new, larger ships to not only carry more people, but also to travel faster, at an average of 33 miles per hour.
Even in the 1930s, the Queen Mary cost $10 million to build. After it was started though, the Great Depression hit, and the vessel was put on hold, putting about 10,000 workers out of work.
After a period of time, with parts of the ship rusting, Cunard merged with White Star Line -- which owned the Titanic -- and Queen Mary was completed.
The ship produced 40,000 meals per voyage, which consisted of 20 tons of fish, 70,000 eggs, 4,000 gallons of milk, 50,000 pounds of potatoes, 3 tons of butter and 2,000 pounds of cheese.
There were 11 decks to the ship and 22 elevators connecting them.
The Queen Mary's maiden voyage was May 27, 1936. Just over a year later, World War II began and would literally change the Queen Mary and her purpose.
The ship was repainted gray for the service, and March 2, 1940, made her first service voyage to Sydney, Australia. Queen Mary's sister ship, Queen Elizabeth, was also called up to serve as a war vessel instead of a cruise ship.
The Queen Mary spent six years transporting troops to and from war zones, loading the soldiers at night for protection.
Berry said he remembers boarding the Queen Mary in New York at 4:30 in the morning.
"That was a long, slow cruise -- 5 knots," he said.
During the ship's time on the seas, she carried 800,000 troops over 660,000 miles.
In September of 1946, Queen Mary was finished traveling the ocean, and was returned to Southampton, England, where she had been built.
Six years after being taken out of the ocean liner business she was built for, Queen Mary was returned to her original stature. The furnishings had been in storage over the years, and returned to the ship.
She was put back in service in July of 1947.
Queen Mary continued to carry passengers across the Atlantic Ocean during the 1950s and in the early 1960s, the Queen Mary was used strictly for cruises rather than as the North Atlantic transporter. Because air travel had become more and more popular, the ship was running only a quarter of the amount of passengers.
That proved unsuccessful as well, and on July 24, 1967, Queen Mary was put up for bid. She was sold for $3.45 million to the City of Long Beach, Calif. Her final voyage left Southampton on Oct. 31, 1967, and traveled to Lisbon, Las Palmas, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Horn and finally, to California, on Dec. 9.
It took four years to convert the ship to a hotel, restaurants and tourist attractions.
Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.