The final journey after the hurricane on the SS France was full of the fun that we missed out on from Day 3 through 5. My sister and I spent every waking hour playing on board, participating in the Punch and Judy show, swimming in the in door pool with our own life guard only for the children, eating in the children’s dining room and having all of our own activities jammed into 2 days, only for us! Well at the time I honestly felt it was only for me. My Mum would say I was like a little Princess and couldn’t keep my feet in one place because I wanted to do everything, it would never happen again and I just wanted to absorb it all.
On the final day, Day 7, we received an announcement over the intercom that we were approaching the final leg into NYC harbor and that the ship was going to be decorated with flags and streamers. What a site it was to see! Every part of the deck was like a colorful rainbow in the sky, streamers were everywhere and every color from all the countries flags were represented. It was beautiful..
I always wished I had a color picture of us docking into NY but back in those days we were lucky if we had a picture taken at all.
As we were slowly sailing towards Manhattan, we had Coney Island on our right and Staten Island on our left, we had to go under the Verrazano–Narrows Bridge that connects Brooklyn to Staten Island, NY. It nearly turned into any ships captains nightmare. As we were approaching the bridge to go under it, the top of the ships highest point literally got stuck approaching the bridge, there by stopping us from any further sailing towards NYC. Daddy and I were the only ones on the deck, I remembered Mummy and my sisters, 6 yrs old and 3, were being big girls that late morning by helping pack up our cabin so nothing was going to be left to the last-minute. That was my Mums motto, to this day, and I would procrastinate until the very last second, I wanted to absorb every last moment of our adventure, I was not going to pack while the ship was stuck and unable to move.
I was in awe of this huge ship and I couldn’t believe all of these ship engineers from down below, were now climbing this tall point on the ship. At the time the SS France was the largest ship in the world, and had the largest span, it was listed in the Guinness World Book of Records, I would tell everyone this like it was MY ship, but now it couldn’t even get under a bridge, it was hilarious. We were all staring at these men, watching them struggle with what seemed to be an antenna, bending it back and forth, making sure it wouldn’t break but hoping it would work in order for us to move. A lot of the passengers were making fun of the whole situation, I was jumping up and down as an 8-year-old would do, out of excitement and now just wanting to go to our new home in Brooklyn. It seemed like an eternity for the waiting game to be over. I clearly remember the engineers being up on this part of the ship looking frustrated and nervous, speaking and yelling in French, with a few curse words I’m sure that hit the fan. Finally they were speaking into walkie talkies and after a few more moments we were able to get under that massive bridge on our massive ship, the passengers started to clap and roar, I was again an 8-year-old jumping up and down saying, “Daddy were moving, we’re moving!” Daddy replied, “Yes we are darling”. We were on our way into NY harbor.
The approach was slow but so enlightening. We were taking the same approach that millions of immigrants took just years before us from every country in the world. We were taking the same route they did and my Dad showed me where the Island was that opened it gates to America. I started asking a ton of questions, like why we weren’t going to Immigrant Island, were we immigrants, the list went on. Soon my daddy said, “D. let’s look at the beautiful view, look what is that?” He pointed to a statue that was so close I could touch it, I screamed out “Daddy that’s the Statue of Liberty! I saw it in the pictures you showed me!” Just as we were all looking at the Statue of Liberty Mummy and my sisters came on deck and we all looked together, it was an awesome feeling and having every passenger looking at it the same time was probably how the immigrants looked at the Statue of Liberty back in the 1900’s coming into the Port in NY.
We were in heaven. To our left was Lady Liberty and to our right was Manhattan, with the Empire State Building peaking above all the skyline. “Wow, look at that building it’s so tall!” I screamed out “That’s the Empire State Building, it’s the tallest skyscraper in the world” Daddy replied back. “Daddy what’s a skyscraper mean?” Thinking back I always wondered if he was getting a little tired of everything I was asking since we were going to dock within the next hour, but I wanted answers. He said, “A skyscraper is a term they use when a building look like it’s touching the sky, it’s scraping the sky, do you understand that?” I said “Wow..I understand..Daddy what’s that..” Just at that point before I asked another question Daddy said, “Look D. see those little boats? They’re bringing us into the harbor, they’re called tug books because they’re tugging this big ship into the harbor since the ship can’t dock on its own” I was totally into another zone. My mouth was wide open, “Wow! But why can’t the ship dock on its own?” At that point I don’t remember getting a clear answer because Daddy was rushing Mummy and all of us to our cabin, we were going to dock soon and we all had to be ready. I didn’t know we had plenty of time to get off the ship so I was running along with everyone else. All of the passengers had gotten so engrossed in our approach to NY Harbor that they probably hadn’t even packed, but with my Mum we had no worries, everything was ready. We were getting ready to get off the SS France, the largest ship in the world, the ship that brought us all the way from South Hampton, England to America, the ship that hit a hurricane on Day 3 and we managed to make it through with no damages. We were now ready for our next adventure..Pier 57 Dock strike in the summer of 1968.