Bell Boys' Stations


Jun 23, 2010
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Would someone be able to tell me what was meant by the bell boys' posts? Did they serve together at a particular station or were they assigned to different decks, corridors, or blocks of rooms? How did the passengers get in touch with them? Or did they stop by assigned rooms each day?
Also, is it true that they answered to the purser? Why would that be?
Thank you for any help. This is such a great resource!
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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In case nobody comes up with a specific answer I'll offer one in general terms and with a bit of guesswork, as I've never seen an account of any arrangement specific to the White Star Line of that period.

In a hotel a bell boy is basically a porter, summoned by the bell at the reception desk. On a liner in 1912 there wasn't much need for fetching and carrying once the ship was under way, but neither were there any public telephones so the main job for the bell boys was carrying messages. That meant they needed to be stationed at the message centre, which was the purser's office. An incoming telegram, for instance, arrived via pneumatic tube in the office and then a boy would deliver it to the addressee's cabin, or try the public rooms if there was no answer at the door. Internal messages, whether direct from the purser to a passenger or left at the counter by another passenger, generally went by the same route.

A passenger might also give a message to a bedroom steward, who might drop it off at the purser's counter or pass it on directly to a bell boy. But they'd have it in mind that whoever made the final delivery would get the tip. I've heard that in later years a wise bell boy delivering a telegram on his silver platter would take care to have a receipt from an earlier delivery alongside it, complete with a coin on top to remind the current recipient what was expected!

Apart from the page boy in the restaurant I don't think it likely that there were bell boys stationed on call in any public area - there just weren't enough of them.
 
Jun 23, 2010
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Dear Bob,

Thank you once again for your reply. I've been doing lots of reading, but never came across this information about the bell boys being stationed at the purser's or the great detail about the silver tray (with tip). Your earlier suggestion about reading Violet Jessop's book has been very helpful as well.

Best,
Phyllis Shalant
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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Glad to be of some help, Phyllis, though there's not much I can tell you. Certainly the bell boys seem to have become invisible during the sinking - they don't get a mention in any of the hundreds of testimonies given at the American and British Inquiries. The only reference I've found is in a brief account by stewardess Mary Sloan, which you will have seen if you've read through the bell boy threads here on ET. If you can find anything more, please pass it on!
 
Feb 21, 2013
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Lloret de Mar, Gerona (Spain)
Ok, now I understand their tasks very well. I have one more (silly) question. Let's say they knock on the stateroom door and no one's there. They might try one of the public areas (depending on genre and time of day). But how could they locate the message's receiver in public rooms? Apart from well known passengers, what about the unknown ones?
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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They could generally ask an attendant steward, who business it was to know the names of everybody in the room. Or call out the name. If no response, they try elsewhere.
 

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