Sailing to Europe in 1936

gladys 1936gladys 1936gladys 1936gladys 1936gladys 1936gladys 1936gladys 1936Scan10005In 1936, to get to Europe from the US, you had to sail. It took a bit less than a week, and crossing the tempestuous Atlantic was not for the faint of heart. Gladys’s diary publishers included a helpful guide to life on board ship, remedies for the dreaded seasickness, and advice on hat pools, in which smoking-room visitors bet on the distance sailed each day.

Travelers were also advised to learn the International Code Signals. Heavy weather coming, look sharp; In distress, want immediate assistance; Abandon the ship. Had ill-fated Europe been a ship, these were the signals it should have been sending to the world. But only a handful of prophetic souls ran up these flags, and few heeded their warnings.

For the SS Manhattan, there seemed to be no danger in sight. It was a handsome ship, carrying 1100 passengers, and along with its sister ship the SS Washington the largest of the American liners. The crossing was smooth, except for six minute delay when the ship hit a whale.

Gladys, with the healthy constitution she kept throughout her life, suffered not a twinge of seasickness. On the first night, she had her bath drawn, drank champagne and played shuffleboard. Just before falling asleep, as the ship gently rocked, she wrote, “It is so refreshing and so restful. I love it. Good night.”

In its guide, the journal instructs travelers: “In planning a trip abroad, remember that only half the pleasure is in the actual trip. A small portion is in the anticipation, and a large portion in the memories.”

They got that right. Almost eighty years later, those memories are still resonating.




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