The weekend of February 12-14, 2010, the 17th annual Scottish Festival was held at the Queen Mary. It was an opportunity for the Queen Mary to engage the large Scottish community in Southern California and for those of Scottish descent to celebrate their heritage.
At the same time an article in a local Long Beach newspaper highlights a basic misunderstanding about the origins of the Queen Mary and the role that she has played in our history that contributes to the lack of broad popular support for this great ocean liner in Long Beach and in Southern California.
See this article in the Grunion Gazette newspaper to which I posted a response.
Below is an expanded version of what I wrote in response:
"While your coverage of the Scottish Festival on the Queen Mary this weekend is accurate, the opening paragraph is misleading. It states that:
"Although it’s become an icon of Long Beach since its arrival on Dec. 9, 1967, the Queen Mary’s roots have nothing to do with Southern California but everything to do with Scotland, where it was built in the 1930s."
This statement is surprisingly simplistic.
The Queen Mary was built in Scotland and as a work of Scottish engineering and the shipbuilder's art, the people of Scotland and Britain as a whole have every reason to be proud of her. But Hull 534, as she was designated before her launch, is far more than an "old Scottish ship."
Research for the recent BBC special, "The Golden Age of Ocean Liners," revealed that more than 70% of her passengers were American. And many of her most famous passengers came from Southern California and a neighboring Los Angeles community called Hollywood. Moreover the architect of the principal interiors of the Queen Mary was an American who was born in Portland, Oregon named Benjamin Wistar Morris.
Benjamin Wistar Morris' original design for Rockefeller Center in New York.
Morris was the first architect of Rockefeller Center and was the president of the American Institute of Architects, New York City chapter. Why did Cunard White Star choose an American architect to design the interiors of the Queen Mary? Why not, if the vast majority of your passengers are going to be American?
Even the name chosen for the Hull 534, "Queen Mary" was a nod to American preferences. Up until that point all Cunard liners had names ending in "ia". Thus there was the Lusitania, the Mauritania, etc. All White Star liners had names ending in "ic". Thus there was the Titanic and there was the Olympic. With the merger of the Cunard and White Star lines as a result of the Great Depression a new naming convention was established. The ship was named after the wife of the current king. This was the first time a British queen consort ever gave her name to a commercial ocean liner and then launched it personally.
More to the point, Queen Mary, the consort of King George V, was highly esteemed by the American public for her many acts of personal kindness to American soldiers stationed in Britain during World War I. A mother of five boys, she was noted for having her driver stop her limousine to pick up hitch-hiking doughboys while driving through the countryside. (She did the same during World War 2.)
Queen Mary in 1914.
Queen Mary visiting with American troops during a baseball game at Badminton, her home during WW2.
A baseball autographed by Queen Mary for an American soldier at another baseball game during World War 2.
An iconic image of Dowager Queen Mary at the funeral of her son, King George VI, from Life Magazine in 1952. On the left is his daughter, today's Queen Elizabeth II, and to the right is his widow, Queen Elizabeth, the late Queen Mother.
The Queen Mary represents a ship of state that was designed and built in Britain specifically for the American trade. Her construction was part of a conscious plan to develop the special relationship between Britain and the United States and was government subsidized. That special relationship would soon become critical to the very survival of Britain and her allies, including the United States.
The Second Class Dining Room in use as an Allied officers dining room during World War 2.
The Second Class Dining Room as maintained today in Long Beach.
G.I.s lined up for a meal in the much larger first class dining room during WW2. This is where the Sunday brunch is held in Long Beach.
Thousands of jubilant American troops being transported home on the Queen Mary, still painted with gray camouflage, at the end of WW2.
The Queen Mary succeeded brilliantly both in her peacetime role and in her use as a mega troop ship, called the "Grey Ghost," during World War II. She was Britain's best ambassador to the United States in the trying years leading up to World War II, during the war and thoroughout her life at sea.
Prime Minister Winston Chuchill in the drawing room on Promenade Deck in the early 1950's enroute to the United States for an official visit. (The drawing room is now a shop.)
After the war, the Queen Mary served as a bridge between Britain, Europe and the United States and ferried many of the statemen involved in establishing the United Nations. It also ferried hundreds of thousands of Americans to and from Europe through the late 1960's. It was for these reasons as well as her performance as the fastest ship from the 1930's until the 1950's and one the most luxurious afloat that the Queen Mary was justly world famous.
American passengers in the third (called tourist) class dining room, circa 1965.
The third class dining room as it is maintained today in Long Beach.
American passengers enjoying dinner in the second (called cabin) class dining room in the late 1940s.
The City of Long Beach bought this great liner in 1967 in large part because of this world-wide reknown when her life at sea came to an end. While they have not always made the wisest decisions in regards to her conversion and operation in the close to 43 years that she has been here, more than a decade longer than she was at sea, yet she survives. With careful planning, intelligent mangement and astute restoration she can once again be a world-class maritime landmark that we can all look on with unmitigated pride.
The Queen Mary 2 visiting Long Beach's Queen Mary in 2006.
For an indepth view of the entire ship as she was built, as she is today, and various options of how she might be restored and used in Long Beach see: