July 17, 1964

We crossed the Atlantic three times by ship , twice with the SS United States and once aboard the SS France.


On July 17, 1964, my wife and I and our 6-month old baby departed New York for Europe aboard the fastest passenger ship in the world, the SS United States. We reached the Port of Lehavre, France on July 23, after just six days, and took the "Boat Train" to Paris.

We shall never forget the railway station in Paris, where we had to wait six hours for a train to Austria. We searched in vain for a place where my wife could feed the baby and change its diapers. In those days there were no changing tables in the rest rooms. The only chairs we could find were in a food area and a very brusque waiter made it clear that we were only to use a chair if we were customers. We had no interest in eating for six hours, so asked at the ticket booth if there was a waiting room. No one understood English. Our baby desperately needed a change of diapers, so my wife performed the task on top of a suitcase in the center of the hall while other people pointed and joked. I searched the entire station for a trash can where I could dispose of the diaper and finally discovered an entire row of them outside on the sidewalk. After an hour or so, our son decided that it was time for a drink, but he refused to accept another unheated bottle! His ear-piercing screams reverberated from the polished marble floors and walls of the station. A thousand eyes stared as we tried to settle him, but it was useless. Finally, a friendly American Army officer saw our plight and ushered us into the American Servicemen's Lounge. He even warmed the baby's bottle for us. The remainder of our stay was spent on their plush leather sofa.


Four years later, on September 25, 1968, we again boarded the SS United States for what would be the ship’s final round trip. We sailed first to Dover, England and then on to Bremerhafen, Germany, where we disembarked on September 31. This time, we had two lively boys and my wife was harboring a stowaway daughter.

On the second day out of New York, a storm warning was posted, and on the third day, our ship was heaving and rocking like a chip of wood. The light weight and narrow hull made the ship fast, but these factors certainly didn’t help in a storm! When we asked a sailor if he considered this a bad storm, he just laughed, "I've been working on this ship since it was built and have weathered many a storm. When it gets bad, they string ropes in the hallways to hang onto." The following day, there were ropes in the halls and stairways.

The dining room was nearly deserted because so many passengers were seasick; even stewards and waiters were sick. The tables had sideboards that could be slid up to keep things from falling off the edge, and our coffee cups were only half-filled. Because of the size of our family, we booked our passage in the cheapest cabins available and now we understood why they were cheap. The cabin was located at the very front of the ship with a porthole window, which means we experienced the worst of both the heaving and tossing motions. The above-mentioned sailor told us that he had never experienced such a storm in his twenty-eight years at sea!

I have often wished that we had a movie camera for that trip. The scene in the ship nursery would be a sure winner on the "Funniest Home Video" TV show. Our boys loved to play with the beautiful toys and thanks to the storm, there were few children to share them with. Most nursery floors are now carpeted, but the SS United States nursery had a highly polished tile floor, because it is easier to clean up after seasick kids. The children soon became accustomed to the pitching and heaving ship and played with their toys while sliding across the room. When they neared the wall, they extended one arm to brace themselves. When the ship rolled on its other side, they would continue playing again until they had to reach out for the opposite wall!

Amazingly, none of us got seasick, but when we docked in Bremerhafen, our youngest complained that the ground was moving! A few seconds later he got "docksick" and threw up! The SS United States was placed in mothballs soon after her return to America. Every time we cross the Walt Whitman Bridge into Philadelphia, we see her rusting away at her berth on the Delaware River.


June 26 - July 3, 1974, we crossed the Atlantic a third time by ship. This time it was the largest passenger ship in the world, the SS France. Also sailing on the SS France was the recently divorced (from Liz Taylor) Richard Burton and his new flame. Ironically, it was also the SS France's final voyage! The ship was later sold to Norway and used as a cruise ship, but when extensive changes were mandated by safety and environmental authorities, the ship was sailed to Alang, India in 2005 and scrapped.


We have a plastic Revell model of the SS United States and kept the box even though the ship was completed. We also have menus, small flags that were table decorations, a child’s sailor hat with the ship’s name on it and a bar of complimentary soap with the SS United States logo. We even have a steamer trunk with baggage room stickers on it. This Revell model of the SS United States cost only $1.39 in 1964 and is on display in our living room. We kept the box.


From the SS France, we also have a ship model, menus and several ash trays which the steward gave us.


The once mighty ocean liner quietly awaits her fate near the Walt Whitman Bridge in Philadelphia. Here are a few recent photos.

In May, 2012, my brother surprised us with two paintings of the world's fastest ocean liner that he found when cleaning out a vacated house. The one which shows the ship being towed to its final berth next to the Walt Whitman Bridge in Philadelphia is now hanging on our living room wall.