Monthly Archives: May 2014

Chessboard from QUEEN MARY Lounge

ImageThe chessboard pictured above was purchased approximately 5 years ago from a dealer in England.  As I recall, it cost $450.00 and since I had only seen one other in all the years I have collected Queen Mary memorabilia, I snatched it up.  This past week, I was contacted by another dealer in California with an example identical to this one who asked $2,500.00.  He is a friend who graciously gives me first dibs on Queen Mary pieces he comes across and when I explained that I already had one but thanked him, he was uncertain as whether to list it on Ebay or contact other collectors first.  He called this morning and excitedly told me he had sold it to a collector who offered $3,000.00 not to list it on Ebay.  I have long been advised that my Queen Mary collection was an investment that would only increase in value as the years went by.  Indeed, judging by the transaction of the chessboard, I may need to have my collection appraised and buy an insurance policy!

The chessboard has individually cut squares of walnut and other woods I am not familiar with and stained in light oak and dark mahogany.  It is quite heavy to prevent movement in heavy seas and as far as I know, was used exclusively on Queen Mary in the First Class Lounge.   

  

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QUEEN MARY Maiden Voyage Anniversary

ImageImageImageImageImageMay 27 will be the 78th anniversary of Queen Mary’s Maiden Voyage.  The event was very much celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic and the liner was booked to capacity.  Attached are a few items commemorating that day.  The tie was made exclusively for the Maiden Voyage by Austin Reed and sold to first-class passengers aboard ship.  The paper napkin with the image of ship and date is in remarkable condition considering its age.  The chrome-plated ship’s propeller was given out free by the Magnesium Bronze and Brass Company who built the four propellers.  Its face says “R.M.S. Queen Mary – MAIDEN VOYAGE 27 MAY 1936″.  It, too, has survived the decades with the plating intact.  The bronze medallion was also available in the gift shops and is quite rare.  The cup and saucer are made by Aynsley, a fine British china maker, also sold aboard.  The press coverage was tremendous and thousands upon thousand of Brits watched the departure from Southampton and thousands upon thousands watched the arrival in New York.  Radios around the world broadcast the occasion in varying languages, detailing the hustle and bustle of pleasure craft surrounding her.  Movies made from that day were shown in theatres around the world before the feature films.  Of course, England longed for the much coveted Blue Riband of the Atlantic for the fastest Atlantic crossing but fog hindered the Queen’s speed and she did not break the record until August.  She held the title of largest and fastest liner for the next 14 years.    

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QUEEN MARY Lounge and Novel Excerpt

First-Class Lounge 003 First-Class Lounge 002 First-Class Lounge 001 Lounge Clock 034The 2 over-stuffed chairs, occasional table, large round table, green jade mantel clock, and ladder-back chair can be seen in the 1936 depiction of the First-Class Lounge.  The Lounge is a favorite room aboard Queen Mary by many collectors and historians, including myself.  The pieces of furniture in my collection can clearly be seen in the artist’s painting, particularly the ladder-back chair.  I chose this room for the encounter between the Bennetts  and the otherworldy mother with two small children in “The Travelers”. The following excerpt highlights that supernatural experience as recalled by James Bennett to Guy Turner:

“With the power gone, the Lounge was cast in a twilight, a perpetual overcast that was absorbed by the room making everything darkly vibrant.  I stood beside Mrs. Schofield who sat talking, and we faced Jess and Mr. Schofield who also sat.  I heard something over Mrs. Schofield’s voice that I can only describe as the soft rustling of leaves.”

“Or water running over rocks?  A rippling sound?”

“Yes!” Jim said, raising an exuberant finger.  “That is exactly what it sounded like!  Exactly.  I looked over Jess’s head and saw three figures descending slowly from behind the columns as though they were walking down invisible steps.  Mrs. Schofield was shocked into silence.  She drew a deep breath and held it, her eyes wide.  Jess and Mr. Schofield twisted around and saw what we saw.  The figures seemed to float as they came closer, passing behind another column, then gained substance.  Jess rose from the sofa, startled, and looked as though she might flee.

“We saw quite clearly then, a young, exotic, long-haired woman, very naked, with a child in each hand, a boy and a girl, and they were naked as well.  That young woman was beautiful with her olive skin and dark hair past her waist.  She gazed wide-eyed about the room.  The girl was about two years old and the boy was no more than a year.  He tottered and it was obvious he hadn’t been walking for too long.  They looked very Mediterranean but their faces were emaciated and their eye sockets were hollowed out.  We could see her fear as she approached us hesitantly.

“She looked across our faces and decided upon Jess, I guess because she seemed the same age.  And she was a female.  She began speaking but, of course, we couldn’t understand what she said.”  Jim stopped and closed his eyes, lost in another time.  “I can hear that broken voice still, so sad and filled with desperation.

“Jess had brought a hand to her mouth and her eyes bulged as the woman continued to beseech her in that unknown language.  But then she spoke a language we all understood.  She lifted the girl’s arm and indicated with her free hand the girl’s ribs and pelvis protruding grotesquely.  She looked back to Jess with a haunted look and their eyes locked.  Jess understood immediately why she was there and what she wanted.  The woman began weeping and showed Jess the boy’s ribs.  I had seen that same scene on the afternoon the concentration camp survivors stepped from the train.  I had hoped I would never see anything like that again.  Wherever they came from, whatever predicament they were forced to endure, we could not know but anyone could see they were in dire straits.  Her face was wild with desperation and her crying was very hard to bear.  It was a moment both fantastic and heartbreaking.

“Jess reached over and took that pitiful creature’s hands and the show of compassion brought more tears.  Jess did not cry but she somehow commiserated with that woman, and they shared a language beyond words in the twilight of that vast room.  Jess pulled the stranger close and she dropped her head to Jess’s shoulder and absolutely sobbed for a long moment.  Then she straightened, wiped her tears and knelt to the children and spoke softly to them.  They listened to her intently and both looked up at Jess at the same time.  It gives me chills just remembering their uncertain stares.  She embraced and kissed each of them, then stood and was turning to walk the way she had come when Jess reached for her again and took her hand.  She quickly the name tag from her shawl and placed it in the woman’s hand.  ‘Bennett’, Jess said, indicating herself with her free hand to her chest.  ‘Bennett’.  The woman looked at the tag in her palm then at Jess.  ‘Bennett’ Jess said, inviting her to repeat the word.  The woman timidly opened her mouth and my name fell from the lips of a woman who visited from God only knows where.  ‘Bennett’ she said. She repeated it three more times.  I had given Jess this nametag as a promise of my love to her, and she, in turn, gave it to that woman as a promise to love her babies.”  Jim pushed his forearm toward Guy so that he might see the goose bumps.  “My God, young man, can you even begin to imagine that scene?  Can you?”

“No, I can’t imagine,” Guy said.  “I truly can not.”  The little piece of plastic was imbued with a history even richer than Guy could have anticipated.  He still had a sense that it belonged to him in some way and barely resisted the urge to take it from Jim.  Barbara wept quietly and cast a furtive glance over her shoulder to the children’s school pictures as though seeing them for the first time.

“The woman folded the name tag in her palm and turned to walk the way she had come.  Her shoulders were racking and she hurried away, sobbing loudly now.  The little girl ran after her but the woman seemed to ascend again just a foot or so off the carpeting and just…just…”  Jim’s voice trailed and he stared beyond Guy with a faraway look.  “There was a flash of lightning and she shimmered for a moment, then she was simply no longer there, as if she had stepped through a doorway.”

Jim was quiet a moment and the pause after such a recollection was like a piano key sounding in a deserted room.

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“Take To Pieces” QUEEN MARY Model

ImageImageImageThe above photos show a model of Queen Mary made available at the many gift shops of all 3 classes at her maiden voyage on May 27, 1936.  Made by noted British toy manufacturer Chad Valley, this “Take To Pieces” model indicated all public rooms and passenger accomodations on every deck.  Not only a nifty memento of the voyage, it served as a guide to the bureaucracy of the huge liner to overwhelmed passengers.  While children played with the model, endlessly disassembling and reassembling, their parents were necessarily dependent upon it for directions.  The entire ship was open to all passengers on that first voyage so that even the poorest traveler normally relegated to a cramped cabin without portholes could experience the lavish craftsmanship of the newest, largest, and most glamourous liner ever put to sea.  These models are highly sought-after nearly eighty years later, particularly when they have their original boxes.  I purchased this example as a teenager and rarely see them on internet auction sites and dealer’s websites.  And when they are offered, the original box and accompanying deck plan are usually not.  I was fortunate enough to acquire mine in the 80s before the internet made acquisition difficult due to the fact that there is always some bidder with deeper pockets than the others.

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