BELGENLAND PHOTOS

Jim Kalafus

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Here are three photos from an album, dating from the week of August 15 1931 on a voyage NYC to Halifax- amongst the most pleasant liner photos I've found, they perfectly capture the good times of classic ocean liner travel better than most and provide a glimpse of one of the few highlights of an otherwise relentlessly grim year.
Departure from NYC, captioned "the streamer send off helped to dispel the rain."
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Jim Kalafus

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"The Belgenland as seen from McNab's Island- Halifax Harbor." edited version. The whole ship is shown in the full-frame photo.
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Jim Kalafus

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And the last in the series, "McNab's Island Lighthouse as seen thru the grilled door on Deck "C" of the S/S Belgenland while docked at Halifax. A sailboat just passed at the time picture was taken." This is my favorite in the scrapbook, and the grill work reminds me of one of the second class doors aboard the Titanic- I forget into which room it opened, but it is visible in the Titanic Second Class staircase photos. These will likely be the last liner photos I post for a while, so to those of you who have contacted me off-board I say "thanks"- I've appreciated the emails.
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Jim Kalafus

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One final shot I could not resist- a souvenier of the days when one wore a stole (either Maribou or fur I can't tell from the photo) when one went to the pool, even in August (see woman on left in chair) and when shipping lines went through their brief infatuation with on-deck sand. In this case the shot was taken while the ship was underway, so presumably the sand was wet down frequently to prevent blowing- in other shots it is evident that the sand was deep enough for one's shoes to sink deeply enough to be partially covered, and I am sure that the stewards who tended the room beyond the open door at the right rear was fond of this innovation. And pianist Jimmy Rogers must have enjoyed wearing a dark colored blazer with long sleeved shirt under it while sitting outdoors for hours at a time. Ciao!
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Bob Godfrey

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Thanks for posting these, Jim. All nice pics, but that last one is a real gem. I never had more cause to regret the image size restrictions on ET!
 

Bob Godfrey

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Thanks, Jim, that would be much appreciated - I wanna see the expressions on those faces! I'll contact you by email.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Jim, the 'beach' pic is a classic and many thanks again for sending the larger version. Here, for comparison, is the reality of a typical English 'seaside' holiday (from the 1950s, but could as easily be the '30s). What fascinates me is that English resorts, with their 'deck chairs', piers and promenades, were the closest most people could get to an ocean liner experience, while here is an ocean liner seeking to provide the experience of being 'at the seaside'!

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Jim Kalafus

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Thanks for that shot, Bob. What amuses me about the pool shot on the Belgenland is how glum everyone looks, in direct contrast to the manic quality of the rest of the album. I am assuming that the combination of coats, stoles, ties, wraps, formal shoes and August heat may have had something to do with the seemingly depressed mood. Or perhaps a week spent with the omnipresent "Manolo Castro And His Havana Yacht Club Band" (who appear in about three dozen separate settings in the album, instruments in hand) had irreparably dampened spirits.
 

Bob Godfrey

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That's all part of the authentic seaside experience, Jim. As a veteran of many a summer spent on English beaches in the '50s, I can assure you that overcoats, gritted teeth (and gritted sandwiches) were standard requirements. Here's another pic taken on the pier at Clacton-on-Sea, where you could imagine yourself on the promenade deck of a liner. Note that this jolly family are well equipped for an English summer 'bank holiday' in the late '50s. The Havana Yacht Club Band would have been right at home playing the Pier Pavilion.

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Jim Kalafus

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The authentic seaside experience in the US, during my youth, consisted of piling 4 adults and 5 children into a 1967 Buick Riviera (no air conditioning) and then sitting in stalled traffic for what seemed to be days at a time creeping SLOWLY through Queens towards Jones Beach- sometimes I still get nostalgic for AM radio; exhaust fumes; that delightfully humid midsummer New York heat; and the two hours we'd get to spend at the beach before the whole process reversed itself with the additional sensory delight of being caked with sand. Kids today don't know what they missed, what with A.C., seatbelt laws, cars too small to seat nine people comfortably, 'no-fade' FM radio, etc.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Had a motor car, eh? Sheer luxury! We had to travel 3rd Class by British Rail ... No, wait a minute, Monty Python have done that routine already. On a serious note I do recall, before the advent of cheap flights and the Channel tunnel, that Clacton pier was a starting point for day trips to Calais or Boulogne by quite sizeable vessels like the MV 'Queen of the Channel'. The trip took about 5 hours each way (allowing 3 hours of debauchery in France) and cost two pounds in the '50s, which was a pretty good deal.

Back to the Belgenland: links for postcards and other images have been posted before, but possibly not these scans of the 1925 saloon menus and an official Red Star playing card featuring the ship (Jeanene Pedee collection):

http://www.geocities.com/luxury_liners/Belgenland.html
 

Tracy Smith

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As a child in the 60s, we lived about a half hour from Newport, RI. My mother didn't have to work, so we went to the beach at least 3 times a week during the summer. I can remember my mother wearing a satin one piece black bathing suit that zipped up the side. She'd pack a basket full of tuna fish or egg salad sandwiches, and we'd have cans of soda that had to be opened with a can opener...the doohickey opened cans on one end and bottles on the other. We'd listen to the Beach Boys in the car on the way down, and my sister would wear a madras plaid beach coverup over her bathing suit. When it was time to go home, I'd take my little pail and fill it up with sea water and carry it to the car to rinse my feet off with so I wouldn't have to ride home with gritty feet. These are some of my happiest childhood memories.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Ah, yes, cans of soda which had to be opened with a tool. Forgot about those. What I recall most clearly about the whole beach thing was that my great grandmother- who did not swim or own a bathing suit- would insist on bringing a thermos full of piping hot soup which we kids would have to consume in the car (while caught in traffic and baking) in a ritual I still find hard to describe.....trapped in a hot car eating lentil soup out of a thermos cup while listening to Murray the K on the radio is an experience which defies comparison. Likewise, the uproar when five under 12 boys wedged into the same back seat get antsy is something never to be forgotten.....to think that future generations, stifled by child seat laws and seatbelts (and that 55MPH speed limit thing) will never know the joy......
 

Bob Godfrey

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In England we drank Tizer the Appetizer and Corona, which came in bottles sealed with a ceramic and rubber bung held in place by a wire cradle. Best Corona flavour for me was 'American cream soda'. No canned drinks in the '50s! My Dad, however, could be refreshed on a hot day only by even hotter tea. He spent his time on the beach lounging in a deck chair and studying racing form in the 'News of the World' while inhaling great draughts of what he insisted was ozone but was in fact the aroma of rotting seaweed. And wearing, of course, the standard beach headgear for English Dads - the knotted handkerchief. Ah, nostalgia! (which, of course, ain't what it used to be).
 

Jim Kalafus

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MANOLO CASTRO and His Havana Yacht Club Orchestra. One of many photos of the band- this one obviously posed- taken by the unknown owner of the album.

Corona- amazing beer, but I've never had the soda. Our beach going years ended circa 1970 when we moved on up to the affluent extreme northern suburbs. Immediately we installed a pool, and then, predictably, joined a lake club negating the whole purpose of the pool. The beach club.....uh.....well reminded me of those stories of the sinking of the Princess Alice in which it was said that many of the victims did not drown but were poisoned by the vile waters of the lower Thames. Years later we asked my mom WHY we were subjected to that yearly ordeal by fire, or ordeal by miasma, and she replied with a straight face 'we thought you kids enjoyed it.'
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Tracy Smith

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But a pool or a lake was never quite the same as the beach, was it? My beach days pretty much ended in 1971, when my mother died at age 47. Once in college in the late 70s, I started going to the beach more often again, this time to Wildwood, NJ. Now, I live five hours from Myrtle Beach, SC, and it is too much of a production to go there very often now. But if I lived with an hour of the beach, you can be certain I'd go more often. There's nothing quite like the ocean.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Well, the pool was fun and the lake was disgusting. I put the pool and beach good memories on the same pleasantly nostalgic footing and consider the lake one of those experiences which, in retrospect, was funny but at the time seemed like a foretaste of Hades. During the summer of '79 the lake beach club was condemned (sewage...heh heh heh....) so after that it was strictly the ocean and the pool.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Just in case we're drifting too far off topic with these great stories, here's one which combines beach memories with a shipwreck. About 20 miles from where I'm sitting now is the small and very exclusive east coast resort of Frinton-on-Sea. Unlike the neighbouring Clacton and Walton, which were happy to cater for the lower orders of society like myself, Frinton sought to preserve its exclusivity by passing byelaws to ban, among other things, pubs, fish & chip shops and buses from the town and transistor radios from the beach.

Back in the '60s, when the BBC held a monopoly of public radio broadcasting, all the kids listened instead to 'pirate radio', broadcast from a variety of tired old freighters moored just outside the 3-mile limit of territorial waters. One of these stations was Radio Caroline, based on a rusting tub called the Mi Amigo. During a gale in the winter of 1966, the ship broke its anchor chain and drifted helplessly towards the nearest landfall, which happened to be Frinton-on-Sea. Thus the town which had successfully banished radio reception from its beaches ended up with the radio station instead. Some years later the Mi Amigo was discovered in a scrapyard, refitted and towed back to the vicinity of Frinton. Broadcasting was resumed for several years until history repeated itself and again the ship ran aground, this time on a sand bank which proved to be her last resting place.