Jon Crispin's Notebook

Willard Suitcases / Agnes M / White Star Britannic

Posted in Boats, Family, History, Ocean Liners, Ships, Transportation, Travel, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 05/06/2014

Peggy and I had a very productive day shooting the suitcases yesterday.  We are continuing to make great progress, and still have hopes that we can finish all the cases by the end of the year.

I have always been fascinated by the labels that are on some of the cases and this one is particularly interesting.  The White Star Line has an interesting history and even though there is a bit of confusion about the name of the ship here, I am quite sure it is the Britannic.  (On the label it seems to say Britanica, but when I did an online search only Britannic came up.)  The “Sailing from” line is very difficult to read, but it looks to be Qu….town (Queenstown?) and the sailing date is “Sep 28”.  The port of landing (such a quaint phrase) is definitely New York.  You can see the U.S. Customs sticker in the shot below.

So, as usual, lots of questions come up and I am hoping that anyone who knows about ocean liners and travel might have some suggestions about what route this might have been for Agnes M.  If any of you want to do some serious work on this, I can email a high res file of the label.

Karen Miller, my friend who is using the cases and their owners as a basis for writing amazing poems was in Rotterdam with us yesterday, and she and I realized that we were both passengers on the SS United States in 1957.  She was on her way to the UK to live there for a year with her family, and I was returning from some months in Europe and the UK with my family.  I posted about that trip here.


Posted in Travel, Windows by joncrispin on 10/08/2010

Here’s a toy my mom and dad bought me for the trip home.  The liquid used to come up to the top of the globe; I have never been able to figure out where the rest of it went.  It used to have little gold flakes that floated around when it was shaken.


Posted in Family, History, Travel by joncrispin on 09/08/2010

Since my mother died in March of 2009, I have been going through lots of her things.  She seems to have been a saver of many of the same kind of momentos that I favor.  I have always been interested in “official” documents, and when I saw this passport, I knew I wanted to keep hold of it.  Yesterday I started thumbing through the pages, and it is so filled with information about a specific time in my family’s life that it really hit me.

For reasons that I have never fully understood, my father, who was a professor of German at Allegheny College went to Innsbruck, Austria sometime in the Summer of 1956 to spend several months studying or teaching at the University of Innsbruck.  The plan was for my mother, sister, brother and me to come to Europe in December of that year to join him for the holidays.  These are the first two pages of the passport.  I like that the “Foreign Address” given was c/o American Express, Innsbruck, and that in case of problems my grandmother was to be notified.  I remember her house on Torrey Road in Grosse Pointe very well.

Two great signatures on the above pages; Vera Louise Crispin and John Foster Dulles.

I like the above pages the best.  The photograph was probably taken at the Stanton Rand Studios in Meadville.  That’s me on the bottom right.  I am surprised that the immigration stamp from our return into the States is on this page.  All other stamps are on the next page.  Interesting to note that travel to Hungary was right out.  We would be in Austria, which in 1956 was still occupied by Soviet troops (more on that later).

I have always loved rubber stamps, and these are full of information.  Since there is no stamp for our departure from New York City, I can only guess at the date.  I actually have a dim memory of leaving from the Meadville train station sometime in late November of 1956, arriving in New York and checking into a hotel for the night.  We boarded the USS Constitution the next day.  I have a few memories of the ship; swimming in the indoor pool, sneaking into First Class, throwing ping pong balls over the rails, and celebrating Bob’s birthday on the 2nd.  Before arriving in Genoa, we stopped in Casablanca and since my mother was travelling as a single mom, one of the ship’s officers offered to take us to the big hotel for part of the day.  I remember sitting on a balcony overlooking the harbour and drinking Coca Cola out of bottles where the logo was in Arabic.  I was scared shitless that the ship would leave without us.  Nest stop was Messina (Sicily)  of which I have no memory.  We finally arrived in Genoa (Genova) on the 10th, where my Dad met us.  We got on a train the next day, and went through customs at Brennero (Brenner Pass) and entered Austria.  Innsbruck was totally cool.  We stayed at Pension Bender on Dr. Glatzstrasse which was directly across the street from a Soviet Army post.  We used to look out the windows in the morning and watch them march around the compound.  Weird to think about now.  I remember eating lots of soup.  For Christmas, our family and lots of Dad’s friends went to Lermoos in the Alps.  (I know this is getting a bit long, so bear with me.  It seems kind of self-indulgent to be doing this; it is mostly for my brother and sister and their families.)  So, after Innsbruck, a train out of Austria through Germany.  Arrived in Holland on 25 January at Venlo Station, left on a ferry from Hoek the same day, and arrived in Harwich, UK on the 26th.  While in England we were in London for a few days staying at the Ivanhoe (which is now a dump, but used to be nice), and then we went down to Redruth, Cornwall to visit my dad’s family.  The triangular stamp at the bottom tells of our departure from Southampton on the SS United States on the first day of February, 1957.  We were delayed by a day due to “heavy seas”, and arrived in New York City on the 7th in the middle of a tugboat strike.  The captain of the United States docked the ship without any tugs, and it was huge news in New York.  Made the front page of the Times.

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