Bell Boys, Elevator Operators and Crew Members of Similar Status


Jun 23, 2010
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Hello! I am a children's author working on a book for 9-12 year olds about the lives of young crew members on the Titanic. It's a work of historical fiction, but of course I want to be as accurate as possible. I wonder if someone could tell me where the youngest crew members took their meals and what kinds of meals they had. Any description of their galley and living quarters would be much appreciated. Alternatively, if anyone knows of books containing this information, I'd appreciate the titles. Thank you.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Hallo, Phyllis. There were galleys and dining areas for the engineering and deck crews, but none for the victualing crew (ie the 'hotel staff'). They grabbed whatever they could whenever they could from the kitchens and pantries where food was prepared for the passengers.

The sleeping accommodation for the bellboys and lift attendants was on E deck, in a cabin shared with other (older) stewards - around 20 men and boys. Each had an upper or lower bunk and a locker, probably steel, probably painted white or grey, but as far as I know there are no available photographs of this area. The bunks would have been furnished with blankets but no sheets. There were communal washroom and toilet areas and a few bathrooms - crew members who came into contact with the passengers were expected to be well groomed.

The best source for recollections of life in the victualing departments of Edwardian ocean liners is Titanic Survivor by the White Star stewardess Violet Jessop. I don't recall that she had much if anything to say about the youngest crew members, but as they would have been treated little different from the rest that doesn't much matter.

You'll find much of value here in this forum about the bellboys and lift attendants. Try the search engine at the bottom of this page.

In case you haven't yet found it, here from 2nd Class survivor Lawrence Beesley is a memory of a young lift attendant on the Titanic:

He was quite young, not more than sixteen, I think, a bright-eyed, handsome boy, with a love for the sea and the games on deck and the view over the ocean - and he did not get any of them. One day, as he put me out of his lift and saw through the vestibule windows a game of deck quoits in progress, he said, in a wistful tone, "My! I wish I could go out there sometimes!" I wished he could, too, and made a jesting offer to take charge of his lift for an hour while he went out to watch the game; but he smilingly shook his head and dropped down in answer to an imperative ring from below.
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Jun 23, 2010
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Thank you for the helpful reply, Bob. I will comb the message forum for more facts and read TITANIC SURVIVOR. I'm so glad to have discovered this website. It seems invaluable.
 

Bob Godfrey

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You're very welcome, Phyllis. If you have any specific questions there's generally someone here who has the answer.
 

Matteo Eyre

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Feb 7, 2013
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One thing i was wondering about the bell boys is why were they refused entry to the lifeboats when as far as i know they were all under the age of 16 so would have counted as boys
If anyone knows i would appreciate any info on them :)
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
>>One thing i was wondering about the bell boys is why were they refused entry to the lifeboats when as far as i know they were all under the age of 16 so would have counted as boys<<

Nope...they would have been counted as crew.
 

Bob Godfrey

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As would the stewardesses. The call for "Women and children first" was directed (with some leeway) to female passengers and to boys under the age of 12. The rest, if they were unlucky on the night, got only the opportunity to 'die like men'.
 
Feb 21, 2013
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the bell boys [...] were all under the age of 16 so would have counted as boys
The "dividing age" between boys and men was 13. (I think!!)

The call for "Women and children first" was directed (with some leeway) to female passengers and to boys under the age of 12.
But how could the officers tell a woman passenger from a stewardess? All dressed up with coats and into the life jackets they would have looked quite similar. What's your opinion?

There were galleys and dining areas for the engineering and deck crews, but none for the victualing crew (ie the 'hotel staff'). They grabbed whatever they could whenever they could from the kitchens and pantries where food was prepared for the passengers.
Another thing I didn't know, and I have been wondering about this for a looong time! But I have some doubts: would they grab food during work hours or only off work? I worked ad as restaurant waitress and in boring times one is certainly compelled to eat even when "on duty" (of course that's prohibited but we would sneak into someplace and do it anyway!), in this case they could do it in the pantries. And also, wouldn't the cooks complain, both for them maybe getting food that was destined to the passengers and for crowding up a working space? What kind of food were they allowed to "grab"? In what quantities? Who would supervise that? I find the situation a bit confusing... Also because the steward(esse)s were a huge group, I find it easy to imagine a possible food anarchy ensuing... Lol
 

Bob Godfrey

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I can best advise you to read Titanic Survivor by Violet Jessop. It's a rather misleading title because while she certainly did survive the Titanic the book covers the much wider time span of a whole career as a stewardess. It's full of little details like those under question here.

It's quite possible that some of the stewardesses were bundled into boats by crewmen who had no idea they were not passengers, and in at least one case a stewardess felt obliged to point out that she was a crew member. At which point Bruce Ismay famously said something like "You are all women now" and helped her into a boat. But not everybody felt that way. Lightoller was one officer who stated later that he had refused to allow stewardesses onto the boats and clearly had no regrets about that standpoint.

The situation about ages and distinctions between boys and men was complex. Most left school and started work at the age of 13, but in the workplace a boy was any male employee under the age of 16. The legal definition of a child was somebody under the age of 12. Those aged 12-15 were termed 'young persons' and were protected as such by various laws, but in Britain today it is still normal practice, as on the Titanic, to charge adult fares for all passengers aged 12 or over. For more detail, read my first posting in this thread: https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/forums/politics-laws/4620-age-majority.html
 
Feb 21, 2013
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I would like to read that book, but I don't know if I can find it here in Argentina... I tried to find a Spanish translation of the title and couldn't (while finding information about the book I learned that Jessop was born here!).

I'm appalled at some of the things you wrote. At least one stewardess "admit" to not being a passenger? I don't think I would have done that, he. And bravo to Ismay and what is wrong with Lightoller? I'm liking this character less and less (I'm trying to put myself into 1912 mentality and still can't justify it). And about the age of majority (I read your always informative post on that thread), I was amazed at young Alfred Rush!
 
Feb 21, 2013
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Thank you for those references, I took a peek at Amazon but... WARNING, long digression following: The cheapest used copy is $5 + $17/24 for shipping (depending if the weight is less or more than 1lb) = $22/29 which roughly translate to 111/146 pesos (the Argentine currency). Considering that the minimum wage in the US is $7.25/hour, this purchase would be the result of 3 to 4 hours of work there, at minimum wage. [And comparing this price with the price of other goods, like groceries, etc, it's really a good price for a book.] In my country, with the different cost of life, the minimum wage in US dollars would be $2.87 so that means from 7 to 10 hours of work, which in my opinion are too much for a book (I can eat for two weeks with that money!).
Sorry for this long digression, it was just to explain that I can't afford to buy from a website which has dollar-prices. At least not at this moment, though I could consider it for a self-made birthday present someday!!
:rolleyes:
 

Bob Godfrey

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What about lending libraries? I hope you do get a chance to read Violet's story some day, as I'm sure you'd find it fascinating. Especially perhaps her rmemories of growing up in Argentina.

Oddly enough, Violet Jessop started her life in your backyard and ended it in mine. She's buried in a churchyard just a few miles from where I sit.
 
Feb 21, 2013
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Yes I thought about that too, but (due to people not ever returning books) now to get a library membership card to lend books you have to have a fellow resident of the city (who has a membership card) "guarantee" for you in person... And unfortunately none of my friends have reading habits... My only hope is one of my uncles, but we've never been able to arrange a meeting (he has weird working hours) :( So for now it'll have to wait a little but I can't stop thinking about it hehe

Oddly enough, Violet Jessop started her life in your backyard and ended it in mine. She's buried in a churchyard just a few miles from where I sit.
Wow that's impressive! Her birth town (Bahía Blanca) is about 700km from where I live now (between 400 and 450 miles).
 

Matteo Eyre

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Feb 7, 2013
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i guess that would explain why Arthur Ryerson was initially refused to board the lifeboat, would the bell boys have been told where to go to board the lifeboat as it the film A Night To Remember they aren't told where to go, would the lift stewards have been given a chance either?? :)
 

Matteo Eyre

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As well as what i have already put i'm guessing that they would have been the lowest crew of the ship ( excluding the italian crew of the A La Carte Restaurant ) who else would have been the low crew, i'm guessing the bell boys, barbers and lift operators but what about people lift the pantrymen, packer stewards, baggage stewards and those in the galley department like butchers and cooks?? also what was the jobs of the scullion and boots crew and also the vienna and virandah stewards/cooks?? :)
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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If a male crew member looked like he would be useful in a lifeboat then he had a chance of getting away with the approval of the officers in charge of loading. The bell boys had no such advantage, and in those cases where crew men scrambled for places when there were no more passengers in the vicinity the small size of these lads would if anything have been a disadvantage. It's hard to spot opportunities when you can't see over the heads of a croed - and even harder to get to the front of that crowd.

I'm not sure what you mean by 'low crew'. If you mean were the bell boys the lowest paid, then yes, they were (by far). The lift attendants, who were older (one was 31) got the standard steward's wage, which wasn't much. All those who signed on as stewards, whether bedroom, bath, boots, etc were paid the same. The pay for rank & file members of the kitchen staff like the scullions (dishwashers) was similar to steward's pay but without the perk of tips from the passengers. The barbers were not among the lowly. They were really self-employed businessmen - each operated his shop as a concession and with their charges plus tips they made a lot more money than some of the deck officers!
 

Matteo Eyre

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Feb 7, 2013
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Yes i see what you mean, being small certainly wouldn't have been an advantage there, my money is, and i don't know why, but i think that the Man/Boy that Lowe may have thrown out of the boat was a Bell Boy, sorry low was a bad word for use, i meant least useful as a man for the boats, would the Bell Boys have just stood around the Saloon or Smoking Room waiting for something to do?? Well i certainly never knew that about the barbers, i can add that onto my research stuff
Cheers Bob
Matteo :)
 

Bob Godfrey

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"Would the Bell Boys have just stood around the Saloon or Smoking Room waiting for something to do?" - Do you mean in their normal working day or when the ship was sinking?
 

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