News from 1925 Retirement of Chief Steward Jennings

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Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The New York Times, 26 December 1925

Joseph O. Jennings Began His Career When Peril Added Zest to the Job
White Star Veteran Recalls Sinking of Transport by Submarine Off Ireland
After forty-three years of following the sea Joseph O. Jennings, senior
chief steward of the White Star Line, will retire when the Majestic
arrives in Southampton on her next voyage. During his long career in the
North Atlantic trade he has become known to thousands of Americans.

He went to sea as a boy in the old Guion Line steamships the Nevada,
Wisconsin, Abyssinia and Wyoming, from Liverpool to New York. They made
the trip in nine days when the weather was fine.

Them were no bills of fare in the saloon in those days, the veteran
recalled yesterday. Passengers inquired what there was to eat and the
usual reply was "Soup, roast beef, corned beef, chicken, ham and pork."
The total number of the crew on each Guion ship was 250, Mr. Jennings
said, until the Alaska and the Arizona came out. Then the crew was
increased to 400 because of the extra firemen carried to drive the ships
and more cooks and stewards to look after the passengers.

In the early days there were no rooms with private baths and few baths
of any kind on board. What baths there were, said Mr. Jennings, were
taken charge of by the barber, who got them ready for the few hardy
souls who ordered them.

"They were mostly business people who traveled in the early '80's," said
Mr. Jennings. "Very few crossed the Atlantic for pleasure, especially in
the Winter."

Mr. Jennings was in only one accident when the old Nevada went ashore
off Fire Island in the Summer of 1886 and had to be hauled off by the
Wyoming. The veteran joined the White Star Line when the Teutonic came
out and later served on a ship carrying troops in the Boer War. In the
World War he was chief steward on the transport Justicia, which was sunk
by a submarine off Lough Swilly, Ireland, after a fight lasting
twenty-four hours.

"She was hit by eleven torpedoes and kept afloat two hours and a half
after last the one struck her," he recalled. "Twelve of the crew were
killed when the first torpedo exploded, but there were no other
casualties afterward."

Mr. Jennings was kept busy yesterday receiving deputations from the
various departments on the Majestic, who presented him with a handsome
trunk, a valise, a golf set and bag and many other gifts. After a voyage
to South Africa to visit his sister, Mr. Jennings said he would spend
the remainder of his days at Crosby near Liverpool. He is 60 years old,
which is the retiring age for the White Star Line.

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