Tag Archives: Queen Mary

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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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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QUEEN MARY Gift Shop

ImageImageImageImageImageAbove are just a few of the items available to passengers of Queen Mary in her gift shops.  The plates and tile were pre-World War II given the fact that they are designated “Cunard White Star” which ceased to exist after the war when the line simply became “Cunard”.  The clocks are sound, unsoiled, and made from the high-end clockmaker Empire Smith of England.  Unfortunately, they no longer keep time after nearly 8 decades which can be expected.  The Norah Wellings doll was, of course, quite popular with little girls.  The linen handkerchief is in remarkable condition with no holes, repairs, or missing fringe.  The small ashtray with the liner painted from the inside is actually mounted above the butterfly wings which are also very well preserved.  The brass ashtray was black when I purchased it but it cleaned and shined beautifully.  The silver spoon also displays the “Cunard White Star” stamp.  The round compact is perfectly preserved and still has ancient powder and an unbroken mirror inside.  The framed print, once again designated “Cunard White Star” is one of my favorite, if not most favorite of the items I own from a gift shop.  It is 34″ X 25″.          

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QUEEN MARY Stateroom Telephone

Telephone 002ImageTelephones like the one pictured above from my collection were available in First Class staterooms aboard Queen Mary.  In the center of the face is a note that reads “You Can Call Telephone To Anywhere In The World Whilst At Sea”.  In our modern world, telephoning to any part of the world is a given but in 1936, it was a luxury of high technology, especially aboard ship in the middle of the North Atlantic.  The actress Marion Davies is seen in the other picture using the phone enroute.

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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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“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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QUEEN MARY Silver and Gold

Queen Mary offered dining experiences which rivaled even the most chic restaurants ashore.  The gold-plated fruit basket and silver vase in my collection can be clearly seen in the above photo from 1952.  While the carnations and fruit are fake in my collection (thank you, Jeff Cox from Nature’s Nest!), Cunard White Star offered fresh flowers and fruit to all First-Class passengers.  When the line attempted to substitute silk arrangements in the early 60’s, the outrage from faithful travelers was so intense that fresh flowers were once again utilized despite the cost.  Interestingly, the presentation versus quality of a meal at sea was very evident as an article in TIME magazine bluntly stated that while the trappings of a First Class dining experience was superior to any other liner, the quality of British food was very much lacking.  The British were emphatically notImageImageImageImage famous for satisfying the palate as opposed to the French but the presentation did indeed surpass any prepared at sea or ashore.   

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QUEEN MARY Drawing Room Clock

Drawing Room Clock 002Drawing Room Clock 001The Drawing Room Clock in the Queen Mary adorned the fireplace mantel.  It can be seen in the above photo just above and behind Winston Churchill’s head to the right.  The Queen Mary was his favorite ship and he traversed the Atlantic exclusively aboard her during World War II as well as countless times during peace.  Like all clocks aboard the liner from the public rooms to the private staterooms, they were wired directly to the ship’s master clock on the bridge which was advanced or reversed depending upon the time zone the Queen was currently in.  Built of solid onyx and jade crystal, it’s dial face illuminates in light green at night and is considered a masterpiece of Art Deco design.

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“The Shawshank Redemption” and QUEEN MARY

Tin 001This Benson’s candy tin was sold aboard a Queen Mary gift shop probably in the 1940s.  I acquired this example in the late 1970s when I was about 10 years old; my first piece of memorabilia ever.  It was bought from a dealer who sent lists through the USPS in those days before the internet.  I used my meager savings and gave cash to my mother who in turn wrote a check to the dealer.  I was very excited to receive it and assumed it was rare.  But along came Ebay which offers several examples every single day.  There must have been thousands upon thousands sold judging by the frequency with which they show up on Ebay.  And in 1993, an identical tin made an appearance in the movie “The Shawshank Redemption”.  When Morgan Freeman’s character is paroled, he finds the tree in a field which Tim Robbin’s escaped character had instructed him to and pulls the tin up from beneath stones and earth.  Inside are directions and cash.  The fact that this particular tin was used indicates again that it was once very popular and plentiful.  Though it is decidedly not a rare piece, it is cherished because it was my first collectible from the legendary Queen Mary.

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