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My QUEEN MARY Painting and Excerpt From “The Travelers”

Paintings 005Above is an aging painting I made of my obsession with Queen Mary when I was a teenager (and can’t believe how the years have passed).  She is at a full-gallop at sunset on the North Atlantic with an enormous bow wave breaking at her stem due to speed.  Racing at approximately 32 knots, she was the fastest, largest, most popular and luxurious liner on the transatlantic run.  Her 24 boilers were 3 stories high and supplied steam to the engines which produced 240,000 horse power to propel the ship’s 81,000 tons.  Although it is obvious I am not a full-fledged artist, creating this portrait of her was very satisfactory to me then and now.  Many friends and family have color copies made which they then frame in 11X14.

Below is an excerpt from “The Travelers” depicting Jim and Jess Bennett aboard in 1947 headed for New York.  The building action prefaces the unnerving feeling Jim and Jess felt of being at full speed then, with a complete loss of power, absolutely dead in the water.  This is from the last part of a chapter before the extraterrestrial encounter occurs.

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“We arrived at the Southampton docks on a dark, foggy morning and Jess and her mother were both quite subdued, understandably.  The fog drifted in thick blankets around us but an endless black wall of portholes and those famous stacks peeked through.  This was the first time Jess had ever seen her and the first time I’d seen her in peacetime colors so when the occasional ray of sunshine melted through the fog and we saw her clearly in all her glory, our breath was literally taken away.  We had no choice but be staggered by her, like being in the presence of royalty.”

Guy was familiar with that lifelike facet of the Queen Mary and could easily imagine her asserting her dominance over the entire harbor.

“Jess embraced her mother fiercely for a very long time but never broke.  Her mother sobbed, as you can imagine, but Jess held her tight and silently hid her face in her mother’s hair.  Her mother understood her much better than I and undoubtedly knew her daughter was screaming inside.  After they parted, we walked up a narrow canvas gangway with Queen Mary emblazoned on its sides and Jess never looked back.  Of course she didn’t look up, either, until we stepped aboard.  She didn’t want to wave to her mother from the railing as we pulled away from dock.  Safer that way, I suspect.

“We found ourselves in another world.  Queen Mary was not at all what I remembered as a troopship.  Looking back, I can see how young we were with only one suitcase between us, standing so completely overwhelmed by those glistening wood interiors.  We really were backward kids, barely out of our teens, and we wandered for hours taking everything in.  How simple we must have appeared.  She lingered in the Swimming Pool with its elaborate staircase and balcony, richly tiled all the way to the ceiling that was mother of pearl.  It was empty but not quiet with the water splashing against the sides with the movement of the ship.  The lounge was the most beautiful room on the ship and in light of what we would encounter there in a few days, I will grant you that Jess recalls every mirror, chair, and column just as I do.  I remember how hesitant she was when we opened the door to our stateroom, B27, starboard forward.  At first, she wouldn’t step over the threshold but peered in as if she were afraid her shoes would soil the carpeting.

“The Dining Room was as soaring and majestic as any cathedral I had seen and we were both embarrassed to be so under-dressed.  Good God, we were out of place with those tuxedoes and gowns all around us.  I wore my uniform which had some formality but poor Jess had only a yellow chiffon dress she’d bought for Easter services a few years before.  ‘Memories of a lifetime,’ I kept whispering to her.  When a waiter came to our table and began to flambé a dish, all diners turned excitedly toward us.  Jess was mortified.  When the flames burst upward, she screamed and brought a ripple of laughter.  Our unease must have been glaringly obvious because an older couple watched us from a nearby table for some time, smiling at us and we were certainly the topic of their conversation.  Before dessert, they came over and introduced themselves as Frank and Emily Schofield from upstate New York and we were placed under their wing for the rest of the voyage.

“Now, Guy, sometimes older people take a vicarious interest in young people in love because that is a part of their lives that has become history.  They can’t help themselves.  As you age, you’ll understand the fascination, mark my words.  Well, Mr. and Mrs. Schofield had been married for so long that they were able to complete each other’s sentences, or rather, Mrs. Schofield completed his sentences.  She always carried their conversation.  I have never met another human being who could talk like her.  Her husband rarely finished a sentence and he simply nodded when she asked, ‘Isn’t that right, Frank?’  I told Jess that we needed to open a porthole after she left to let all the words out.  They seemed ancient to us but young people have no concept of age whatsoever and they were certainly not as old as I am today.

“They owned three restaurants in Manhattan and were expert people-watchers.  Mrs. Schofield proudly told us she knew from first sight that we were not newlyweds but were just beginning our marriage, we had never been aboard a luxury liner, we were not traveling for pleasure, I wanted only the simple things in life and, amazingly, she said that Jess was a very guarded person with her emotions.  Looking back, I believe she recognized the obvious but we dumb kids thought she had some supernatural ability that, by the way, she did nothing to discourage.  She also informed us that she would be happy to read our tea leaves.

“The Schofields were early risers and knocked on our cabin door each morning at five for a ‘constitutional’ walk on the Promenade Deck.  Jess was queasy this particular morning after an incredibly rough gale the day before and almost didn’t get out of bed.”

Guy interrupted with some wonder, “The message indicated that there had been rough weather and, in fact, Illingworth commented that it ‘gave passengers fits’.”

Jim nodded.  “Yes, it was quite rough but September 6, 1947 dawned with a much smoother sea.  At the last moment, Jess decided to go with us.  It was bitterly cold but the first rays of sunlight reached out over the ocean and cast the Queen Mary’s promenade deck in bronze.  We walked and waited for the sun to peek over the horizon, listening to Mrs. Schofield talk all the while.”

“Do you remember an electrical storm?” Guy asked.

“Yes.  Lightning streaked from the dark clouds across the western sky.  Yet there was no thunder.”

“What about static electricity?”

Jim nodded gravely.  “But that was overshadowed by the concern that we felt when the deck lights went out and then, within seconds, the engines stopped.”

Guy felt a quickening of his pulse as that inner music drove onward in tempo and timbre, a marching progression toward the crescendo of revelation.  “That was the electrical interference again but much closer; close enough to trip every breaker,” he ventured.  “And with the electrical systems gone, the engines must have shut down completely.  I’ll bet the navigational systems were gone as well.”

“I have no idea,” Jim said.  “The decks were, of course, deserted at that hour except for some officers on their rounds.  We saw two of them racing toward the bridge, no doubt to inquire about the sudden stopping.  We hadn’t felt anything to indicate a collision and I remember wondering aloud if she hadn’t thrown a propeller.  But that didn’t explain the loss of power.  The Queen Mary was absolutely dead in the water and it was a strange feeling to drift lazily after being at a full gallop for three days.  The sunshine slowly faded as those dark clouds from the west overcame us.  The humidity changed as well.  Our coats and shawls became unbearably warm and condensation was forming on the promenade windows.  Streaks of lightning began striking all around the ship and we decided to wait in the lounge until a steward or bellboy appeared for us to question.”  Jim took a deep breath and looked sideways at Guy.  “And then began the most extraordinary event in our lives.”

 

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Scale Model of QUEEN MARY

Museum Tour 001 018This scale model of Queen Mary is over 3 feet long and built from metal, wire, plastic, and pewter.  It is one of only a few ever built in the world by a company called Maritime Replicas.  Since only a few were built, it cost approximately $3,800.00.  But the model is worth it due to its rarity, craftsmanship, and extraordinary scale.  The photos do not do it justice.  Presently, I have an extremely rare, perhaps one of a kind, waterline model which is 5 1/2 foot long being refurbished.  It was used as a travel agency display in the 30s, 40s, and 50s in New York.  It will be necessary to send this particular model freight. I will have a table built to accomodate it and place it behind my living room sofa which is, thankfully, an inch longer so that the display will not be wider.  I am anxious to receive it and builder/refurbisher Ered Matthew of CabinClass.com states that it is the finest waterline model of a ship he has ever encountered.

I use the 3 foot long model for school and library presentations, most recently the “Read Aloud Day” at Eldorado Elementary for a fifth-grade class.  Students are read period pieces concerning the building of the ship, the launch, the maiden voyage, and the present day existence of her majesty as a hotel, tourist attraction, and museum.  By the fifth grade, most students are capable of imagining a ship as long as the Empire State Building is tall lying on its side in the water.  As students a row at a time stand and inspect the model, awe and wonder always ensue and the questions last for a considerable time.

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QUEEN MARY Boiler Gauge

032 Boiler

The gauge pictured above measured the temperature pressure of 1 of 24 boilers on Queen Mary.  An engineer can be seen in the other photo with a gauge like this one on the right side.   The boilers were each 3 storeys high and weighed 100 tons.  The “B. P.” indicates “Blowoff Pressure” which was maintained at approximately 425 degrees as can be seen on the gauge between the red indicators. The boilers used a crude oil called “Bunker C” which supplied the main turbine engines with 240,000 horse power.  At full speed, Queen Mary thundered across the Atlantic at a normal speed of 32 knots.  Queen Mary burned a gallon of Bunker C oil for every 8 feet she moved.  She was the fastest ship in the world and held the Blue Riband until the liner United States broke her record in 1952.  Sadly, the city of Long Beach, California which purchased Queen Mary in 1967 stripped all 24 of the boilers from their beds as well as the massive turbines which turned the propellers.  Today, only the aft engine room remains.

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QUEEN MARY 3-tier Tea Cake Caddy

007 Cake Carrier 001The color photo shown above is a 3-tier tea cake caddy from the Queen Mary.  It has 3 removeable silver trays used to serve tea cakes, cookies, or what the British call “crumpets” to passengers at tea time.  One steward would serve tea or coffee on a tray while another offered crumpets to enhance the famous British tradition.  The B/W photo shows a young girl choosing the delectable from the caddy held by a steward.  Whether in the public rooms or in deck chairs outside, every passenger was served.  These caddies are quite rare today which is curious in the fact that there must have been hundreds for use by stewards.  This example is nearly perfect with only a few dings in the 3 trays which can be expected for a silver piece used daily for her majesty’s 31-year career.

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The Supernatural Predominates: PUBLISHERS WEEKLY Talks with Keith Wayne McCoy

On the High SeasIn Keith Wayne McCoy’s debut novel, “The Travelers”, aliens tangle the past with the present aboard the luxury liner Queen Mary.  The book won the admiration of our reviewer, who called it a “philosophically rich hybrid of genres…strengthened by complex plotting and rich dialogue.”  We caught up with McCoy and talked about his journey as a writer and his genre fiction.

You recently signed a three-year contract with a publisher, and your book has been optioned for film treatment.  Can you tell us a little more about how that came about?

Champagne Book Group (www.champagnebooks.com) is almost exclusively electronic with a mass paperback release upon the sale of 100 ebooks.  After I finished “The Travelers”, my college writing mentor encouraged me to query publishing houses rather than agents as years could pass before acquiring an agent.  My favorite author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, plastered the walls of his room with rejection letters and similar horror stories exist for J. K. Rowling and John Grisham.  The acquisitions editor at CBG immediately requested a full MS in late March of 2013 and I was offered a contract in May.  Ironically, I found out about the PUBLISHERS WEEKLY review by a film scout who called on the very day the review was published, September 15, 2014.  When I asked her how she came across my book, she referred me to the review which I promptly googled and howled with delight and tears.  PW/Booklife gave a glowing review!  I must admit:  absolute ecstasy that I, Keith Wayne McCoy, received a positive PW review!  I have since been contacted by 3 film scouts yet they are somewhat stymied that I don’t have an agent.  How this will affect the possibility of a motion picture or even best-selling status, I have no idea and is, admittedly, a concern.

What type of influence did the workshops and conferences you won scholarships to as a university student have on your writing? 

I encourage any writer to attend writer’s workshops and conferences.  I emphatically believe that the assignments, lectures, and reviews of one’s own work are essential to adequately write with precision and purpose.  Prose is studied, plot is explored, character conflict is crafted, and a myriad of other techniques are extensively dissected to teach the student that the art of writing is just that:  an art, which is not a hobby or pastime but a genuine struggle of work and devotion with the ultimate reward of a sense of achievement that hopefully uplifts the human experience.  Ironically, John Hawkes told me that although I definitely had the talent to be a successful writer, I should wait a decade or more before I diligently began a “serious” excursion into writing as I was too young to adequately master the many complexities of the human condition.  I was not even legal age at the time and although I was somewhat insulted, he was right:  time brings a certain knowledge and recognition of how humans react to situations and each other.  A writer must be a voyeur in many senses and simply study their fellow mankind in quiet meditation and judgement.

What is your connection to the luxury liner Queen Mary, and how did you become interested in it?

I became obsessed with the luxury liner Queen Mary in the third grade while watching a 1930s  movietone piece of her maiden voyage.  I still remember the thrill and awe of that giant black bow slicing the waves in a frantic fury of speed.  While Titanic is inarguably the most famous liner in history, Queen Mary is the greatest superliner ever built.  She was not a mere cruise ship but a giant passenger liner built exclusively for mass transportation at magnificent speed in unparalleled luxury at a time when liners were the only means of crossing the Atlantic. The fact that she still existed in retirement in Long Beach, California held me spellbound and I have visited many times although I do wish she were less commercialized and more pertinent as a museum and monument to human achievement.

Have you always written genre fiction?

I was taught to write exclusively literary fiction at university and, once, after reading Henry James’ “Turn of the Screw”, I wrote a supernatural-themed assignment.  My mentor was infuriated.  He berated me in front of the entire class, even shouting.  I was near tears.  He apologized later and explained that he didn’t want to see my talent “wasted” on mainstream nonsense.  But the dynamics of a character-driven tale forcing an exploration of ordinary people in extraordinary, supernatural situations remained with me.  I personally find that pieces in which the characters are well-defined and face circumstances outside the “real” world appealing.  After the PW review came out, that same professor emailed me with congratulations and admiration and actually encouraged me to pursue pieces in which the world of the supernatural predominates or at least plays a significant role.

What are you working on now?

CBG just published a short story called “Castles Burning” on October 6 which is a psychological thriller.  It is an indictment on narcissism and the relentless climb to the top of society our world faces, in this case a dysfunctional, elite family.  The premise is not explicitly supernatural but rather an excursion into the realities of materialism which manifests itself to the point of mental illness.  Since genre works well for me, I have embarked on a novel which I call a “Modern Gothic”.  It is titled “The Governor” and takes place in present-day New York.  Again, the characters are well-defined and relatable but placed in circumstances reminiscent of Henry James and Shirley Jackson.

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QUEEN MARY Flambe Burner and Dish

Flambe 001This flambe burner and silver dish (which are in dire need of a polishing) was used in the First Class Dining Room of Queen Mary.  Dishes like cherry jubilee and certain spiced meats were carted to the various passenger tables and lit into flames.  It was quite thrilling to those wealthy enough to have been exposed to it over the years.  But for Jim and Jess Bennett, First Class was an unnerving experience.  Jim was a World II GI who married his British bride Jess and wired all of his savings so that the newlywed Bennetts could experience the grandeur of Queen Mary first hand.  “Memories of a lifetime” Jim repeated to an anxious Jess a few days before their encounter with the extraterrestrial mother and children. The following excerpt depicts Jess’s reaction when a waiter brought the flambe burner and dish to her table:

“The Dining Room was as soaring and majestic as any cathedral I had seen in Europe and we were both embarrassed to be so under-dressed.  Good God, we were out of place with those tuxedos and gowns all around us.  I wore my uniform which had some formality but poor Jess had only a yellow chiffon dress she’d bought for Easter services a few years before.  ‘Memories of a lifetime’, I kept whispering to her.  When a waiter came to our table and began to flambe a dish, all diners turned excitedly toward us.  Jess was mortified.  When the flames burst upward, she screamed and brought a ripple of laughter.  Our unease must have been glaringly obvious because an older couple watched us from a nearby table for some time, smiling at us and we were certainly the topic of their conversation.  Before dessert, they came over and introduced themselves as Frank and Emily Schofield from upstate New York and we were placed under their wing for the rest of the voyage.”

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QUEEN MARY Head Waiter Jacket

Head Waiter 001Head Waiter 002Head Waiter 003Head Waiter 004This Head Waiter jacket is stained, faded, and musty, but the elegance and stateliness of dining First Class on Queen Mary still shines through even after 8 decades.  A sight of the First Class Dining Room at dinner definitely would have been awe-inspiring.  With musicians playing softly, the silver glistening, and china lightly clinking while the men were dressed in tuxedoes and the women in evening gowns, the whole scene must have looked choreographed.  The Head Waiter was in command of 200 waiters.  In the kitchen were 50 chefs and 200 cooks.  This ensemble seamlessly served 800 First Class passengers in one sitting.

The oak clothes hanger came from a stateroom and dates pre-World War II as it designates Cunard White rather than simply Cunard which the line name changed to after the war.

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Complete QUEEN MARY Tea Set For Sale

Foley Tea Set 001I recently sold a Queen Mary deck chair and blanket as I had 2 and haven’t the room to display both.  Both deck chairs had a complete 9-piece tea set by Foley on a brown bakelite tray especially used for deck chair use at tea time.  Since I don’t need 2 sets of tea sets, I am selling one.  There are no cracks or chips in the china.  I will send the bakelite tray marked Cunard for free as it has a chipped corner with glued piece.  It has a sticker signifying it as used on the last transatlantic voyage of Queen Mary.  I am asking $1200.00 as I have collected the pieces individually over the years and paid $450.00 for the large coffee pot and $375.00 for the large coffee cup and saucer alone.  Shipping is free through UPS. If interested, please contact me!

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QUEEN MARY Life Vest

Life Vest 003 Life Vest 002 Life Vest 001

During World War II, Queen Mary was requisitioned by the British government to serve as a troop transport.  Her luxurious interiors were stripped and placed in storage in New York and Sydney, Australia and painted entirely in grey.  Gone was the famous black and white hull with orange-red stacks.  Since she was the fastest ship in the world, she could easily outrun any torpedo and deliver American soldiers to the European theater.  She transported troops in excess of 10,000 to 16,000 on single voyages from New York to Gourock, Scotland.  Hitler was infuriated.  He placed a contract out on the liner that any submarine captain who sank her would receive half a million dollars and the prestigious Iron Cross.  She sailed the Atlantic alone with lights out in a zigzag course to prevent a “wolf pack” of Nazi subs placing coordinates on her.  Because of her speed, she was only escorted in and out of ports with battle cruisers at her bow.

The only disaster the superliner ever encountered in her career was in October of 1943 when she ran over a cruiser named Curacoa. To this day, no one knows which ship missed which zigzag but the Queen’s giant bow sliced through her escort when the armour-plated battle cruiser crossed directly in front of her.  The severed sections of the cruiser sank alongside Port and Starboard and nearly 400 men lost their lives.  The British Admiralty had ordered that the liner not stop for any reason lest she be a sitting target for Nazi subs and horrified soliders on the liner hurled life vests overboard for the drowning sailors.  While the impact was the end of the world for Curacoa’s crew, the collision felt little more than running over a log on the liner.  She suffered only a bent bow.

This life vest was still aboard the liner when she retired to Long Beach, California in 1967.  As can be seen by the photos above, it is in remarkable condition.

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1936 QUEEN MARY Cutaway

Cutaway 005 Cutaway 004 Cutaway 003 Cutaway 002 Cutaway 001

This 15″ X 40″ fold-out cutaway is from a pre-maiden voyage publication of “The Illustrated London News”.  It is an essential and most sought-after piece of memorabilia.  It shows every deck of the Queen Mary with 2 legends indicating 203 points of interest aboard.  “In the above illustration our artist shows the whole interior of this magnificent vessel, the latest triumph of British shipbuilding, which embodies nearly a century’s experience of the North Atlantic service and its needs.

Size, speed, dignity, stability – all these qualities are immediately suggested by her massive hull, clear-cut cruiser stern, and three shapely funnels.  She is not only the greatest achievement in the history of shipbuilding, but marks a new era in ocean travel.  Her passenger accommodation has been so planned as to give each class a degree of spaciousness, comfort and refinement never before attempted on so lavish a scale.  The staterooms on the sun deck, “A” and “B” decks are a revelation of modern ship luxury.”

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