17 December 1967 Queen's Once-Throbbing Pulse Is Stilled Forever Mary's Heart Not Beating Any More The Queen is dead. At least the Queen Mary I knew is dead. She's lying still in the water - a ghostly looking ship that will never sail again. To enter her now, gives one a strange, empty feeling. Suddenly the realization that: She will never again feel the salt spray across her face . . . She will never again lurch under the pitch and roll of heavy seas . . . She will never again be warmed by her engines . . . She will never again be tended by a crew that loved her as a lovely, stately lady, not just a ship . . . She will never again carry passengers - nor troops to war, nor war brides to foreign shores . . . She will never again hear the cockney sweet-talk of Charles Edward (Tinker) Pearce - the toothless engine room crewman who once dived through her bilge waters to free a stuck pump. In the few short days since I walked off her gangplank from R Deck to Pier E, she has changed from a lively, breathing ship to a corpse of iron, steel and wood -- a silent ship with the eerie emptiness of a great structure that has been stripped of its human heartbeat. Oh, there are noises all right, but they're different - harsh sounds from American workmen cursing at rusted pumps and English pipe threads, guffaws from a group of Long Beach firemen kidding each other about trying to take a link of the Mary's anchor chain for a souvenir. The nasal American voices seemed almost profane on this great British ship. For a fleeting moment, at the purser's office on A Deck, I had the feeling the ship was coming back to life. A queue was there - workmen and city officials lining up for passes. But it wasn't like the days of her last great cruise. There was no Alastair Graham to say ". . . let's get things sorted out." Instead, there was an efficient American secretary behind the counter, she couldn't begin to imagine the endless queues and the countless questions her British counterparts faced on the final cruise. Not a soul came up to ask, "What's this line for, stamps?" Instead, the conversation was about such mundane things as what to do about the trash aboard the Queen and how it would he removed, and how to lug off all the Mary's blankets, bed clothes and table linens. It was as if the Americans were ready to strip the Mary all too quickly - hastening to change her, take away the luster of her years of proud service and make her ready for a Disneyland of gawkers just as the English had predicted. Could they not leave her just as she is for one long last look? I felt I had to get that last remembrance of the ship I had at times hated while trying to write all about her long, illustrious history in typical American speed - 31 years crammed into 40 days. Each time I decided I hated the ship, I found another reason to love her through a bit of Mary lore I found in an old log or a crewman who had another anecdote to tell about her. From the purser's office, I walked up two decks to the Promenade Deck and strolled through "Piccadilly Square," the area where the gift shops are located. On the final cruise from Southampton to Long Beach, the area was jammed with passengers. Now it was strangely quiet. Piles of dirty linens were stacked in the middle of the square. The doors were locked. I walked forward to the Observation Bar - a favorite oasis on the Mary for all her 31 years. It is empty now and has a hollow sound. I picked out "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" on the piano for Francis McGarry, the smiling Irishman who tended bar there and who had been on the Mary since her maiden voyage. I couldn't finish the tune. I wondered if he had really kept his promise not to look back when he walked down her gangway for the last time. I walked aft along the sheltered Promenade Deck's port side. My footsteps echoed off the wooden deck; the emptiness of the long hallway was frightening. During her last voyage and for many voyages before, this area was crowded with passengers. I paused at the spot where two old sea dogs, passenger Elmer H. LaLanne of Laguna Beach and Mary's Chief Deck Steward Joe Allen met each afternoon after tea to spin sea stories. Beyond the covered deck, I found one deck chair, No. 7, which remained unfolded with its pad still in place. I wondered who had occupied that chair during the last voyage. I walked past the aft elevator and noted its sign "Not in Service"; a sad reminder that lift operator D. M. MacLeod, with his characteristic C. Aubrey Smith mustache, had brought the elevator to a still position for the last time. I strolled down the R Deck and into the dining room. I sat at table 156 - empty now, stripped of its linen and the happy mealtime laughter of its eight occupants. There was no waiter John Finey to lecture on the horror of drinking iced tea in the tropics and explain in great detail how the English had survived the heat of India by drinking hot tea. Missing too were the friendly, familiar faces of those who shared the table - Frances and Henry Becker of Garden Grove; Gladys Mulvey of Seal Beach; Kenneth Behr of Bayport, N.Y.; Elizabeth Kimpton of Kansas City, Mo. and the most charming lady aboard the Queen Mary, Mrs. Fanny Sutcliffe of Long Beach - all passengers who had shared the joys and trials of the Mary's last voyage. I glanced at the neighboring table where Frank and Pal Burns and Virginia Unruh sat, and remembered that Finey thought they were the "bad" group because they were often late to meals. When they overstayed their sitting Finey would ceremoniously remove their water pitcher as a polite reminder it was time to leave. I walked one deck below to find my cabin - C257. It was empty, stripped of its bedding and frightfully "air conditioned." I remembered the tropics when bedroom steward John Purnell, dripping with perspiration, told me how I could dispose of 100 souvenir menus I had collected for Independent, Press-Telegram guests and then found I had no room to pack them. "Allow me" Purnell said "to take a stack at a time and place them on the working counter in the passage way. They'll be pinched (stolen) one by one." They were - by passengers who would glance both ways and then snitch a menu or two until they all vanished. I strolled by the C Deck pantry where night steward Frank Slaken always had a hot cup of coffee "for the American journalist who worked to the wee hours." He could never remember that I took my coffee black and somehow I swallowed creamed coffee and suffered heartburn until I began to believe Second Officer Alastair Walls constant reminder in my frustrations "Bill, you're going to work yourself into ulcers." I walked across the working alleyway to the printer's shop and remembered ship's linotype operator Bill Croxlon's answer to the phony rat charge on the morning after the crew's farewell party "There aren't any rats on the Queen Mary but I wish someone would stop those pink elephants from stampeding." I remembered the night I searched for a thumbtack to post of notice on passenger Steve Carroll's cabin and the convulsive laughter of crewman Harry Taylor when he discovered what I was looking for was a "drawing pin." "What a funny name for a thumbtack," I replied, only to be put in my American place with Taylor's comment: "Not funny at all, since we've been speaking English much longer than you Americans." I passed through the kitchen and could hear the bombastic voice of Chef Bob Finnegan complaining about Thanksgiving dinner, saying "Thank God it isn't the Fourth of July or these damn Yanks would toss over all our tea." I wandered topside to the Sun Deck and past the radio room where Chief Radio Officer William McLaughland, struggling with the Mary's antiquated radio equipment, thought his job was tough until a horde of American newsmen swarmed aboard at Acapulco. "I've never seen such rude, unruly, demanding people in all my life," the polite Scot said. From the Radio Room, I went through officer's country to the bridge -- now in stark silence, except for the wind whistling through the serpentine still clinging to the docking bridge. From this post, Mary's navigator Norman Johnson plotted the ship's last 14,559 miles a course that, for the most part, Johnson himself had never travelled. The ship's semaphore, poignantly indicates the Mary's proud end: "Finish with Engines." The RMS Queen Mary, the seagoing monarch that ruled the North Atlantic, has abdicated her throne. The British Queen is dead. Long live the Queen.
I was there 3 years ago and stayed aboard the Queen Mary for 5 days. The ship state rooms were beautiful and service was wonderful. We had 2 paranormal experiences on board the QM. One was at the end of our hall a black entity showed itself as if peering around the door jam . And the 2nd one was outside our port windows. We were sleeping and all of a sudden we heard a screeching sound like nails on a chalkboard. Scared us pretty bad. But we knew that the ghost or whatever was there wasn't going to hurt us. During our stay we went to port of Los Angeles to see my father's naval ship the USD Iowa. We also had a wonderful time there. Someday I hope to return and stay on board the beautiful QM and experience more grandeur of the seas on board. The food was excellent. We ate in the bar restaurant with the round murals above the bar. Felt like I stepped back in time . Thank you for making the ship open to the public. I absolutely love your ship and all of the staff on board. Maybe next time I will get to take one of the many tours on board. Susan Berg