MY FAVORITE PLACEThe great ocean linersBy Randall...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

MY FAVORITE PLACE

The great ocean liners

By Randall S. Carlson

Special to the Sun

On Sept. 8, 1965, as a boy of 15, I was taken by my aunt to a place that captured my imagination, became a part of my dreams and continues today to be part of my daydreams. The place was the piers of New York City along the Hudson River where the great trans-Atlantic liners departed weekly for European ports. With names like R.M.S. Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, the S.S. United States and the S.S. France, these great ships quickly became a part of my life.

Every chance I got, I took the train from Philadelphia to New York for $2.25 round trip. For an additional 50 cents, I could board these great ships and be part of the bon voyage parties before departure. Sometimes I had friends who were lucky enough to be sailing, but most times I didn't know anyone. I just wanted to photograph those magnificent ships.

The old Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth were giants that held thousands of people; running up their gangplanks was a trip into another world. While string quartets played in the ballroom and people held parties, I explored the maze of dining rooms, lounges, shops, libraries, swimming pools and staterooms. You could easily get lost, as the ships were almost three football fields long. On the promenade decks, I could look out at the Hudson River and watch other liners being eased out by tugboats for the start of their journey to Cherbourg or Southampton or Bremerhaven.

Out on the boat deck, I could study the mammoth smokestacks and the lifeboats and imagine what the passengers of the Titanic and Andrea Doria might have felt as they looked into their lifeboats. I often raced from deck to deck trying to see it all, but there was never enough time.

Over the years, I continued to photograph the new and old beauties but not all visits evoked glamour. Once I saw the Italian liner Michelangelo after it had been hit by a huge wave that ripped open part of the superstructure. While my concept of the sea changed after this tragic sight, my desire to come to the piers did not.

After many years of saving money, I became a passenger on Cunard's Queen Elizabeth II and also the France, and, when I married, our honeymoon was on a ship.

Most of the beautiful trans-Atlantic ladies are gone, but every September I remember them and race down their decks in my mind.

Randall S. Carlson lives in Hanover, Pa.

My Best Shot

On wings of color

By Steve Luckman, Baltimore

My wife and I were touring southern Vermont last September and visited Hildene, the estate of Robert Todd Lincoln (Abraham Lincoln's son) on Historic Route 7A in Manchester Village. The gardens were stunning, with breathtaking views of surrounding mountains and valleys. This is a picture of one of many monarch butterflies that were migrating south at the time.

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Pub Date: 03/07/99

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