Grandma’s Grand Tour Part 2: Crossing the Atlantic


Days 6 through 9 of my grandmother’s 1936 cruise.  Previously: Introduction, Part 1.

S.S Duchess of Atholl
Monday, June 29th [1936]

This is the first bad day we have had since we’ve been abroad.  The weather has been cold and foggy with quite a ghastly green choppy ocean.  No one looks particularly chipper today and many are slumped in their deck chairs looking rather pale and sad.  There were 150 people absent from dinner this evening but none of us were among this number.  We’ve gotten along grand all day and haven’t missed a meal.  I guess we can just take it.  This evening Charlotte won $13.50 in a keno game.  Movie “Every Nite At 8.” Then to bed after sandwiches upstairs.  Lost another hour.

Every Night at Eight is a 1935 movie in which three young women get fired from an industrial job and try to find success as a singing trio.

S.S. Duchess of Atholl
Tuesday, June 30th [1936]

Today was again very grey and cold although the water was so calm we almost felt as though the ship were standing still.  Wrote thank you letters for a while this morning and played bridge this afternoon.  This evening was the masquerade.  Very few people dressed up. We wore formals and felt very appropriately dressed.  We played bridge in the lounge and then took a few “turns” about the deck before going to bed. Set the clock back an hour again.

A bit of historical context here.  On the same day my grandmother was attending a masquerade on a ship, in the United States a book called Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell was hitting store shelves.

S.S. Duchess of Atholl
Wednesday, July 1 [1936]

For the first time since I’ve been aboard ship I slept till almost noon.  Gee!  It was a grand sensation for a change.  I wrote letters most of the morning.  I don’t think I’ll ever finish really.  Such is the life of a vacationist.  Late this afternoon we went and had some of our American money changed in to English money.  We sat for an hour with that money trying to figure out how much it equaled in our money.  I can see now where we’ll probably be jipt [sic] royally all over.  This evening we played keno and I won $4.  Then down to the movie to see the “Bengal Lancer” then a walk about the deck and so — “Good night”!  Set clock back again.

This entry has me thinking about my grandmother’s character and historical context in some new ways.  “Jipt” is clearly a corruption of “gypped,” meaning “cheated” and a corruption of “gypsy”.  My grandmother’s handwriting is difficult, and it took me a while to read this one.  When I managed it, I wondered about racism.  It isn’t obvious to me, given the spelling, that Doris knew the origin of the word she was using, but she surely would have been aware that “jew” is used by antisemites to mean the same thing.  Perhaps that would have made her less likely to express herself that way, had she realized?  Even if she wouldn’t have used that term the question of racism, and how much it was a part of my grandmother’s character in her 20s, remains.  The last set of entries seemed to indicate that she bought into stereotyped gender roles.  Perhaps her thoughts on race will come out once she gets to Europe.  (When I knew her, sixty years later, she never said or did anything that seemed overtly racist.  But a civil rights movement had happened in the interim.)

Regarding the issue of antisemitism, I find it necessary to continually remind myself when thinking about race and religion in this journal that these events are from a pre-holocaust world.  I’m not sure I have a strong understanding of what a Jewish identity is that doesn’t somehow have an echo of in-living-memory genocide.

The Lives of a Bengal Lancer was another 1935 movie.  Likely fitting right in with my seventy-five-years-later theme of racism, this one is about British soldiers on a frontier in India defending against ruthless natives.  The Wikipedia article about the movie claims that it may have been Adolf Hitler’s favorite movie, though other sources say that his favorite was King Kong.

S.S. Duchess of Atholl
Thursday, July 2nd [1936]

Today we spent most of our time frantically writing letters of thank you’s because we know that after we get off the boat tomorrow we’d never write them.  Late this afternoon there was a terrible fog.  It was so thick the boat was practically at a stand still and you couldn’t see more than 3 feet of water anywhere around the boat.  At about five o’clock we sighted land for the first time the bonnie hills of Scotland & hills of good old Ireland and believe me it was grand to see a good piece of terra-firma.  This eve before our farewell dinner we had cocktails with the Nicholson.  About seven o’clock we went on deck just as our boat was entering the Clyde river.  On both sides were the rolling hills of Scotland, the most majestic spectacle, with the sun sinking just behind and their color the most gorgeous shades of green, just velvety looking.  Along the coast were little fishing villages & scattered in the hills among the trees were occasional old castles.  It was about 12 o’clock before it actually got dark tonight and just now (2 A.M.) we could see a streak of day light behind the hills toward the west.  A beautiful night.  (Change our clocks I think for the last time.)

See the Wikipedia article on the River Clyde for lots of interesting pictures of what these views look like today.


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  1. More!
    This is like reading a book in installments. Disconcerting when I get to the end of one installment only to find I must wait for the next…

    Are the images in the journal by your grandmother as well?

  2. No, those were put in by the publisher. There is a lot of ancillary material in the book. Some day when I need a break from my grandmother’s handwriting I may transcribe some of it.

  3. This really is a fascinating read.

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