Tuesday, July 3, 2007

SS United States

I read an article in USA Today about the 1950-60's passenger liner, SS United States. I've been watching the process of the potential rebirith of this great ocean liner, long before the day of the cruise ships of today. Why write about this ship?

Well, I was a passenger twice in this ship's history. We lived in England from 1952 to 1955. Since my Dad was an officer he had the choice in 1955 of flying him and his family back to the US or taking a ship. He chose the ship, and so in 1955 we had a 5 days trip on the SS United States from England to New York City, where we unloaded Dad's Austin Healy 100/4 and picked up our new Ford Victoria sedan, and set off cross country to Idaho.

We spent four years in Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, a place in the middle of the desert I wouldn't wish anyone live. After that Dad had the option for another term with "career potential" there or take an overseas assignment and retire at the end of it. He chose the latter and we spent 4 years in Germany. He got his last promotion in a transfer and agreed to retire in October 1963.

The trip in 1959 to Germany was interesting. We flew the whole trip from Idaho to Germany in a USAF troop transport (prop) plane converted for flying families. We stopped several times including Nova Scotia and Scotland to refuel before reaching Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. We spent one year in local (off base) housing in a small town where we were the only Americans, and the last three years in military housing in Wiesbaden. When Dad retired, he was offered the choice of flying home or taking a ship. And again, he chose the latter.

So in October 1963 we took the trip to LeHarve, France. We had to change trains in Paris, cross Paris in a taxi past the Eiffel Tower to another train station to catch the specific one to the LeHarve port for ship passengers. This time we had an upper deck suite. And it's one trip I remember, spending 5 days at sea, sometimes boring but in the end a lifetime experience I wouldn't have changed. Few people these days have the experience of a transAtlantic trip, especially on the SS United States, the world's fastest ocean liner.

I'm saddened it's not going to be refurbished and put to sea again, but there's always hope. And I have my memories.