I recall it being an eery and somewhat spooky experience. I had been given unlimited access to the mothballed ocean liner SS United States in Norfolk, Virginia. I spent two days, and shot up twenty 36 shot rolls of film roaming the liner’s seven decks for a magazine article. Everything had been left exactly as it was on the day of her final voyage in November 0f 1969. The beds in the staterooms were still made, charts were still stored on the bridge. Only the ship’s silverware had been locked up. Everything was there except for passengers and crew. It was as though someone waved a magic wand and all the people disappeared. Aside from myself, a guide from the Federal Maritime Administration, which had custody of the ship and my wife Jerri who helped me carry my camera bag and tripod, there was no one else aboard. We started on “B” deck and went down to the engine rooms. This is “shaft alley” , one of four propeller shafts that could drive the ship at up to 42 knots. Shots like this and information about the ship’s top speed were classified for years because of National Security. In effect, the United States was in the Naval Reserve. It could be quickly converted into a troop ship. Someone once described the liner as an Iowa Class Battleship with a hotel on top. Some Hotel!
A shot of the “Duck Suite” in the First Class Section. This suite was booked by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor who were frequent passengers on the United States, preferring the American Ship to the British Flag Cunard Liners, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth.
The bar was located behind the etched glass panels which I described in a previous post. It was still stocked with liquor at the time of my visit.
Some years later, the Government sold the Liner and all of the fittings aboard were sold at a huge auction. Jerri and I attended and purchased a silver bread tray and a metal sign reading “First Class Deck”. It hangs today in a prominent spot in our home here on the farm.
A view of the United States from Hampton Roads Harbor. The ship was towed to Turkey, stripped to the bulkheads and now resides at the Philadelophia Naval Yard awaiting its ultimate fate. A sad reminder of the days when it was the only way to cross.
See you next time on most of this same blog.