Our destination was just ahead and my excitement and memories of the past week kept flooding into my mind. We had sailed from South Hampton, England on June 20, 1968 until the day we were tugged into NYC on June 27, 1968. We lived in a cabin for those days, that a family of 3 would have been comfortable, but we were a family of 5, that endured a completely different lifestyle. The 7 day voyage which also included a hurricane, that wasn’t on the agenda, that made everyone, including the captain, sick beyond belief. A young girl that was so excited about this trip, who got sick before the ship left the port on June 20, 1968. A family that left the only country they knew as “home” to another country, “America”. This family knew that their home was always wherever their family was at any particular time in their lives. They knew that traveling around the British Isles, and America was always what their father had to do in order to live, that was what they knew, but now it was a completely different way of life. They were actually settling down, no more extended months and years of traveling, no more home schooling, no more “Green Dodge Van”, this was our new home, and new country, just like England was before. Daddy would always say with a large grin on his face, “our new country is just across the Atlantic Ocean, that big pond of beautiful blue water”.
Mummy, Daddy and us three were now being dropped off into a new country and a new state called New York. We were being picked up by some wonderful people from our new church called Salem Gospel Tabernacle, in Brooklyn, NY between 54th Street and 4th Avenue.
Not less than one hour before the ship docked, D. was asking her Daddy what skyscrapers were, they were looking at the engineers of the SS France trying to get this huge boat under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. She had asked her Daddy why they were no longer considered immigrants and why they weren’t being deposited onto an Island called Ellis Island, just like the immigrants were just a few years before they were coming to America, before the name “gateway to the World” was even used all the time. For D. this was the biggest event in her life, and she had only been around for 8 years.
So on June 27, 1968 the SS France unveiled their doors and let off D. and her family on another trip. D knew so well from her past that when they would travel anywhere, Daddy would always say, “make sure you thank everyone. Are you getting along with everyone?” They would either sleep in the families large extra bedroom or the floor of other homes. These kind people brought them from one house, motel or hotel just so Daddy could preach. This adventure was totally different and permanent, D was finally understanding, they weren’t going to be leaving this place any time soon. This was going to be their homeland from now on and the traveling days were going to be over; but was D happy? It was reality now, terror and excitement was beginning to take form in her mind. Her thoughts were all over the place, “What if no one likes me? What if no one is there to pick us up?”. As she came off this beautiful vessel that contained her family for 7 long days and 6 nights, one of the Norwegian deacons spotted her family and D. began to settle down, momentarily.
“Mr and Mrs S. I can’t believe we found you!!!” said Toller from Salem. Toller was a huge Norwegian man, with a gentle spirit in his mannerisms, when Toller smiled his eyes would twinkle, D knew from that moment she had a friend. Toller and other members had been waiting patiently for the ship to dock and the minute he saw Daddy he embraced him as if we were his instant family. Immediately the members began to hug everyone, Mummy began to weep out of sheer exhaustion but was comforted by Liev, and Amanda, they came to help Mummy settle in and relax.
Daddy had to leave us and join the men to find out about our steamer trunks, on top of it June 27, 1968 was recorded as one of the hottest, and the most humid days ever. We came from England and never experienced such humid days, all the coastal villages had beautiful breezes that came off the channel. No weather in England was ever hot, families spending holidays on the beach would lay out, not on sand, but pebbles because of the tides. It was always chilly. Now fast forward to New York City in June. To say we were miserable is an understatement. We were sweating, our clothes were not for hot summer days or nights, the air was thick with humidity and soot. We were shedding tears out of sitting on anything we could find, and with each tear that fell our faces were black from rubbing our eyes, we were miserable.
Daddy came back with the men and we found out why there were no porters, no luggage, no steam trunks. On June 27, 1968 the dock workers on every pier were on strike. Each passenger had to literally find their own possessions. There were non-striker workers who were only allowed to take things off the ship, but nobody was allowed to go beyond that. My baby sister continually cried so Mummy had to tend to her, Liev took Ka’s hand and never let go, and I just clung to Amanda. I was the big girl and I wasn’t going to allow this hot humid day or the fact we had no trunks to ruin my new “home”. Daddy and Mummy always taught us to be content in all situations, no matter what was happening around us, but at this point I think we had hit our breaking point.
From the moment the SS France docked, until the moment we left Pier 57 to travel to our new home in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, we had sat on 2 pieces of luggage that were on the ship for a total of 6 hours. Pure exhaustion was setting in for 3 little girls and a set of parents who had no answers from anyone on the ship or the dock. The men from the church felt so bad for us, they truly went out of their way to get our trunks, but it was to no avail. We had to leave without all our items we brought from England until the strike had worked out. We left the dock with a total of 7 days of clothing that we lived in on the ship, it would have been fine if the clothes we had brought were thin for New York weather, but they weren’t. Daddy had to make the decision to take Mummy shopping for a few days so we wouldn’t live in just our underwear, but until then 91st Street and Shore Rd was waiting for its new Pastor and family to enter and begin their new life in America.