On this week's 65th anniversary of the SS United States' maiden voyage, I've been reading through some of the press coverage from 1952. The articles contain so much hope and pride and so little cynicism and gloom. Everyone seemed completely smitten with the Big Ship. Granted, a few British reporters had a bit of an edge, including the Daily Mail's Don Iddons, who wrote that the ship "behaved like no maiden. She is a very fast lady, a woman of the world, sleek, sophisticated and maybe a little ruthless."
I've also reread my grandmother's diary from the ship's maiden voyage, and I've been comparing her journeys on the SS United States with my own. In many ways, she had the more thrilling ride: She enjoyed the ship in her prime, when the decks and dining rooms were lit up and full of flowers and musicians. I've only experienced the ship at her current Philadelphia pier, where her interiors are dark and silent, and her staterooms and lounges are empty.
Some of the cards accompanying Vera Cravath Gibbs' SS United States' maiden voyage bon voyage bouquets. Photo courtesy Susan Gibbs
But where I come out ahead is in the gratitude department. My grandmother would always send thank-you notes for her bon voyage bouquets back with the pilot boat. There were lots of them. But when it comes to feeling thankful, I could fill an entire shipping container. The fact that the ship remains afloat, six years after the Conservancy took title, is nothing short of a miracle, and it is only because so many have stepped up to help. From the Conservancy's board, advisory council, chapter chairs, legal counsel and accountants, staff, and volunteers; to the vessel's caretakers who have tended to her during hurricanes and hot summer days; to all the artists, authors and musicians who have paid the ship tribute; to all the former passengers & crew who have shared their stories; and especially to all of our members and donors who have contributed so generous to the Conservancy, including our "We Are the United States" Campaign. I can't thank you all enough. There are far too many names to list here, and they are the reason America's Flagship remains proudly afloat.
As we celebrate the 65th Anniversary of the SS United States' maiden voyage, none of us can see across the horizon and know for certain what the ship's future holds. Restoring and revitalizing America's Flagship is a capital-intensive undertaking, and we're still working hard to secure the ship a permanent home. But not only is the SS United States "a little bit ruthless," so is her amazing family of supporters-- and we're not letting her go down without a fight!
Susan Gibbs is the Executive Director of the SS United States Conservancy. To learn more about the Conservancy and its efforts, visit ssusc.org. To make your donation to support the "We Are the United States" Campaign, CLICK HERE to visit our GoFundMe page.
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