My mother sent this old photo to me the other day. It was taken aboard the SS United States, the fastest liner ever built in the United States. It was 1959 and we were on our way to England to spend time with relatives and friends.
My Air Force father would join us later at Christmas. But for now, he left a dozen red roses and a card in our room to comfort my mother on the long journey ahead. It took about a week to reach England, but according to my mother, life aboard the liner was elegant and refined.
I was only two and a half but I do remember one thing about the ship: I remember standing by the railing on deck and looking down at the dark, dark sea below. My sister, who was four, said, “Get away from the edge!” I was too young to understand the danger of falling in, but something in her voice scared me.
I wish I could remember more about the SSUS and what we did for fun, but my mother assures me that we were treated like first class all the way. Back then, it was cheaper to go by ship than air, but by our next tour of duty in England in 1963, times had changed and we flew over instead, leaving behind another era of when traveling by liner was stylish and part of the adventure.
Today, the SS United States sits rusting in a dock in Philadelphia, a national treasure that should be restored. Luckily, a group called the SS United States Conservatory is raising money for restoration and pays the liner’s monthly docking fees. Hopefully, a future use — whether as a museum or for some other purpose — will be put in place to honor the fastest ship that once sailed the seas.