Growing up as the son of an Army officer, Mark Yuill had lots of experience moving to far-flung places, but when the family boarded the SS United States in New York in 1963, he knew this time would be different. “This time,” he recalls, “we were going to France! And, better yet, rather than the 12 hour flight in a prop plane that was our last European posting travel experience, this time we got to take a ship, for the first time! As a high school-aged teenager, I had no idea what to expect.”
Over the next four days at sea, Yuill marveled at the ship’s luxury. “There were so many wonders aboard our temporary, moving hotel. I was amazed that there was a theatre that I could attend any showing without having to buy a ticket, [enjoy] a stainless steel swimming pool, and [peruse] a library. I could just wander the hallways exploring common rooms on the many decks and go between decks, either inside or outside as the mood drove me.” On one evening excursion he even glimpsed actress Rita Hayworth, a fellow first-class passenger.
The Yuill family dines aboard the SS United States in 1966. Courtesy of Mark Yuill.
When his family made their way to the First Class Dining Room, Yuill was in for a surprise. Approaching the door, he recalls, “I was denied entrance with a rather formal admonishment that ‘gentlemen are required to wear jackets and ties’ and promptly backtracked to my stateroom to acquire the appropriate attire. Initially, a bit embarrassed by the gentle upbraiding, I must agree I felt much more comfortable in the First Class Dining Room once we entered and realized how nice the setting was.”
From the extensive menu, “I could pick whatever I wanted. I was dumbfounded, ecstatic. I took full advantage to sample things I never knew existed. I had to try the shark fin soup for example, just because of the name. But I was truly amazed when the next day at dinner, our table was presented with a large baked Alaska for dessert.”
Three years later, the family sailed home, again on the SS United States. Yuill’s memories from his two crossings have turned into an affection for the ship that has never faded. “To this day, when I stand in that Philadelphia IKEA parking lot and look at her, I don't see the rust and peeling paint. I see her in her full glory, as I first saw her in New York City in 1963. And it always gives me a warm feeling inside, like meeting an old friend again.”
In addition to the above memories and photograph, Mark Yuill was generous enough to share with us footage taken from both of his family's voyages on the Big U (from New York in 1963 and Le Havre, France in 1966, respectively).
The SS United States has created unforgettable memories for countless former passengers and crew. We can save this magnificent vessel for future generations, but we need your help.
Do you have memories of your time aboard America’s Flagship? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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