On Board the Queen Mary

I grew up hearing about the RMS Queen Mary, a British passenger ship with an aura about her not unlike the RMS Titanic (but without the disaster tales). On my last visit to California, I promised myself I would make a trip to Long Beach and climb aboard. Why? After years of reading and writing about the ship, I wanted to see her for myself and to visit the first stop on The Tucker – Tyler Adventure.

For $29.95 I bought a “First Class Passport” for a day on the ship which included a self-guided audio tour and a behind the scenes tour of the Queen Mary on the “Glory Days” tour. (Although also included in the First Class Passport ticket, I ran out of time and never made it on the “Ghosts and Legends” tour or on the adjacent Russian submarine, the Scorpion.) The next day, my friend and I drove to Long Beach, parked, and walked toward the ship looming before us.

Walking to QM

She is big. Longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall, the Queen Mary is 1019.5 feet in length. She is tall. From her keel to her smokestack, the Queen Mary is 181 feet high, 49 feet above the water line. She is big enough that during her hey day she carried as many as 1,957 passengers on her 12 decks. For five days in September 1954, my mom and her friend, Rusty and Kit, were two of them.

QM Decks

The Queen Mary is also elegant. The tour took us to the ship’s ballroom and through the art deco bar. We peeked in at a first class cabin, now a hotel room.

After the tour, we wandered on deck, looking for the location where one of Rusty’s photos was taken.


We explored the souvenir shops, ate lunch in the Tea Room, and took the self-guided audio tour, finally finding a replica of a tourist or third class cabin, the cabin in which Rusty and Kit stayed during their 5 days aboard the ship.

Tourist Cabin

If you go, allow yourself plenty of time to explore and to discover. You might even want to spend the night. And if you want to know more about what it was like to travel on the Queen Mary in 1954, read the book, The Tucker – Tyler Adventure.

QM Sign

Trip taken July 2013.

Writing a Travel Memoir

I knew my mother had written letters home from her trip to Europe in 1954, but I had never seen them. In fact, I had no idea they still existed. Until one day in 2007.

With plans to rent a slide projector so that we could look at Mom’s slides of her trip, I asked her what it was like to be on the Queen Mary. I was looking for the details, and she referred me to her letters. Letters?! What letters? Much to my surprise, my mother’s letters were in a box in the next room waiting to be read. All 69 of them.

I began reading them out loud. Written on airmail stationery, in black or green ink (Mom’s favorite color), the letters were written to my grandmother back home in South Dakota. I stumbled over the words, squinting at her writing, and promised to type up the letters so that she could read them on her own.

TTA Letters

As I typed up the letters a month later, I was captivated. The letters were full of life and personality and included details of the people she met, the food she ate, the places she visited, and the unplanned events that just happened.

The following spring, I showed the letters to Mom and her friend, Kit. In 1954, Kit and Mom (or Rusty as Kit called her) traveled for 3 months together, from New York to Europe, calling their trip, “The Tucker ~ Tyler Adventure.”

As I watched the two women in their 70s giggle at their memories, I began taking notes. I learned that Kit’s families had saved her letters as well, but it wasn’t until 2010, that I approached Kit’s daughter with the idea to put the letters of their trip into a book.

The Tucker ~ Tyler Adventure, written by Katherine Tucker and Marialyce Tyler, with their daughters, Nancy Cowan and Tara Taft, will be published soon. For the next several weeks, I will include a few background details about their trip, extras that weren’t included in the actual book, and I’ll let you know when the book is available.

It’s 1954. Pack your suitcase and get ready to travel to Europe with Kit and Rusty aboard The Tucker ~ Tyler Adventure!