Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Final Voyage of the Queen Mary

Here's something a little bit different - a real piece of SoCal history! Many of you have visited the grand old ocean liner, the Queen Mary - it's a tourist attraction, for those of you who don't know; today's photos, courtesy of Steve Stuart, were taken as the QM arrived in Long Beach on December 9th, 1967. I think these are really great. Steve has done an awesome job writing up a nice account for us - here it is:

On Saturday, December 9, 1967, the Queen Mary arrived in Long Beach, California to begin another chapter in her storied life – now as a tourist attraction, hotel, etc., and I was there to welcome her to [what has so far been] her final resting place.  Here are some quotes from the L.A. Times marking the event:  

The Queen Mary arrives in Long Beach following a 39-day voyage from England.  The city of Long Beach purchased the 31-year old vessel, which was slated for the scrap heap, for $3.45 million to serve as its waterfront centerpiece.”  The copy went on to describe the event as:  the arrival “… at her permanent residence in exile amid a tumultuous welcome that was bigger than any celebration in Southern California since the day World War II ended 22 years ago.”  Who knew-? 

"Tens of thousands – perhaps a million or more – on land, sea and in the air greeted the Queen as she glided along the coast and past the Long Beach Harbor breakwater at 10 a.m. on the last mile or so of the 39-day voyage from England, the home she will never see again”.  Oh, how sad.

About 1,200 passengers…  (let’s hope the ship’s manifest contained numbers more accurately representing the actual count, rather than “about”; otherwise I’m thinking someone could have attempted the ‘perfect murder-at-sea’-!) “…paying $8,000.00 each, [$58,428 in today’s dollars-!] took the final voyage.  Being too wide for the Panama Canal, the Queen Mary sailed around the tip of South America to reach Long Beach”.

Major Pepperidge here... I just love the masses of boats that came out to greet the Queen Mary as she arrived in Long Beach harbor, ranging from small sailboats to fancy pleasure boats, to what might be a Coast Guard escort!

Wow! What a great shot. It is definitely bittersweet to think that that magnificent ship with the distinctive 3 funnel profile was mere minutes from its final resting place.

Steve continues: You would have thought with all this hoopla and record-breaking numbers I would have stronger memories of the event.

Nope – nothing, nada, zip, bubkas-!  I have no doubt I was in attendance, in spite of the fact the only identifiable person seen in these images is that of my mom in the final photo – wearing, appropriately-enough:  A babushka-!  We did own a sailboat, but we certainly did not sail it down from Marina del Rey for the event.  Evidently whoever invited use along on his boat to witness the festivities up close and personal, was also lost to the ages along with other memories from that day.  Undoubtedly my mind was elsewhere – such as The Happiest Place On Earth – where any true Disneyland fan would rather be, wanting to take-in the still [almost new] New Tomorrowland, and even Pirates of the Caribbean.  (How did the commentary move that direction-?  I couldn’t possibly fathom a guess).

If anyone can ID any vessels or other mechanical contrivances seen in these images, please sing-out.  Thanks to The Major’s ‘eagle eye’, careful perusal of photo #5 reveals the Goodyear Blimp floating around overhead, capturing many images documenting the glorious day.

MANY THANKS to Steve for sharing these awesome photos. I thought that this was going to be the final post of his images, but he has since sent me a few more, so stay tuned!


TokyoMagic! said...

Wow, Steve! What a neat event to witness....even if you don't have any memories of it! At least you have the family pictures to document it. With all those boats being out at the same time and people being distracted by the Queen Mary's arrival, I wonder if there were any boating accidents out there on the water that day?

This kind of reminds me of when the space shuttle was retired and then flown around over So Cal before landing and being put on permanent display.

Thanks for sharing more of your family's pics, Steve!

Chuck said...

The gray warship in the third and fifth photos is USS Pluck (MSO-464), an Agile-class minesweeper commissioned in 1954. She was homeported at Long Beach Naval Shipyard at the time. LBNSY and what I think is the carrier USS Independence are visible in the distant background of the fifth photo between the Queen Mary and the spouting fireboat.

These are so cool, Steve. Thank you for sharing!

Stu29573 said...

My only real memory of visiting the Queen Mary in 1973...A blueberry sundae in a tall glass with whipped cream on top. Such is the focus of youth, I guess!

K. Martinez said...

WOW is right!

Steve, Today's photos you've shared are EXTRA special. This is wonderful documentation of the Queen Mary's arrival.

Pic No.3 reminds me of home when on the 4th of July a large naval warship (one time I remember the USS Nimitz) used to anchor in the Monterey Bay off in the distance from Santa Cruz Beach with tons of sailboats, yachts and other watercraft around to greet it. There's just something about the ocean/bay full of yachts and sailboats with spinnakers and a massive ship. It's magic to me.

You cracked me up with your comment about your mind being on "The Happiest Place on Earth". I know that feeling of being on some family outing and wishing it was Disneyland.

Again, this is an amazing set of photos today. I love these. Thank you!

Alonzo P Hawk said...

Nanook these are some great photos thanks for sharing. The water looks a little choppy even though (correct me if I'm wrong) this is actually inside the main breakwall.

Hard to believe it's almost 50 years she's (Queen Mary) been in the LBC.

Your mom is quite the Babushka babe too. Looks like it was the headwear of choice that windy day.

Chuck said...

I'm going to revise my assessment. I think that's actually USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV-42) in the background rather than the Independence (CV-62).

Unknown said...

Gee I thought this would be all about the high-seas thriller starring Frank Sinatra that caught my imagination as a a kid that Summer from long ago (1966) and maybe, in an oblique way the post was just about that very thing. After all, it sure feels like somebody got robbed. It wasn't me though, I fell for that movie with open seas, intrigue, and submarines in a big way.

TokyoMagic! said...

Steve and Ken, as a kid, my mind was often on Disneyland too. I remember a couple family trips when we drove past the park on the 5 fwy. That's back when you used to have a really good view of the Matterhorn and Space Mt. from the freeway. It was torturous seeing the park and not being able to go inside!

Nanook said...


The bevy of boats seen in these images does make one wonder how accidents were avoided - and if such activities would be allowed to happen today.

Thanks for the ship info. Somehow I knew you’d know.

Stuart Powley-
I think my first visit to the QM, following her arrival - that is, was some time in the 1980’s. My memory has produced the opposite of yours - I remember many parts of the ship, and nothing of what I ate/drank that day. (Perhaps I was fasting-??).

I’m glad you enjoyed these images.

Alonzo P. Hawk-
My first thought was the same as yours, but perhaps the choppiness indicates the action is taking place outside the breakwater. Although with all those boats bobbing-about…

Chuck, again-

Patrick Devlin-
I somehow managed to miss that Sinatra film. "Von Ryan's Express" was the Sinatra film I remember from that period.

TM! 2-
Yes, seeing, but not being able to enter THPOE can be sheer torture for kids - and the kid at heart. (Although these days with all the crowding, that 'torture' has been diminished a bit).

Anonymous said...

Wow, thank you Nanook/Steve for this. I have some fine memories of visiting the QM several times after the opening as an attraction/hotel. I was fascinated by the Jacques Cousteau Living Sea exhibit.

I'm pretty sure we went twice as a family and once again with my uncle, who rode on the QM as the "Grey Ghost" to Europe and back as a GI in the WWII troop lift. He was very grim during that visit but didn't speak of any memories.

I just found some paper memorabilia saved from one of these trips, a little paper bag like a postcard would go in, somehow survived the years.

We returned one final time as a family and stayed one night in a stateroom. I remember the bathtub had spigots for both hot and cold fresh and sea water but only the fresh water ones worked. Of course, all these trips were paired up with visits to Disneyland.

Visited again as a young adult with my fiance (now my wife of many years) for a conference on architecture in 1981. The interiors were well-preserved, an absolute art deco paradise.

The QM has an active twitter account and a rich list of activities over the course of the year. I enjoy the shots of the lovely public rooms they often post. I saw recently that a huge re-work of the shore facilities is in planning stages. The shopping and dining area is to be redone in the style of England in the '30's and mimicking the Southampton port outside London. It really tempts me to go back for a visit.

Thanks Major for hosting this splendid photo set.

Best to all.


Anonymous said...

It was quite an event at the time. I and my folks were one of the many minions along the coastline seeing the QM and those 3 stacks in silhouette as it sailed past Newport Beach. As noted it was purposely sailing closer to the coastline for all to see. And to think that day was nearly 50 years ago. Great pics!! KS