Traveling with Grace: At Sea

This week, Grace returns shipboard. She also shares some of her impressions from her time in Denmark and Sweden. Special thanks go to JMM volunteer Harold Toppall for his transcriptions of Grace’s travel diary.

To read more of Grace’s travels, click here. 

August 13 – 16, 1950.

August 13, 1950

At sea aboard the Gripshold

Altho it is Sunday & church services  held in the morning in 2nd class, the beauty shop is open for business as usual & this afternoon they had life boat drill. Tonight we had a lovely concert.

August 14, 1950

This afternoon the ship’s doctor & nurse examined all the passengers’ vaccination certificates. I started to read The Egyptian. Tonight there was dancing which I enjoyed watching as there were many good looking couples on the floor & they danced some cute Swedish folk dances while the musicians sang the songs, & the dancers tapped to the rythem. The inevitable smorgasbord later.

August 15, 1950

Bridge & canasta tournaments this afternoon. Prizes pottery plate & leather cigarette case. The novelty shop on board is doing a thriving business in Scandinavian specialties. I bought a red woolen vest embroidered in colored flowers. Had a manicure. Tonight we saw a movie: Anne Blyth in “Our Very Own.”

August 16, 1950

Helene’s birthday. The stewardess came in our room at 8 o’clock wishing her a happy birthday & bringing a table with orange juice, coffee (H’s cup was wreathed in flowers) & a huge coffee ring delicious with citron, raisons & almonds. At lunch with the coffee we had the 3 little chocolate liqueur bottles that Anne’s sister gave us on parting. It is so rough that I do not venture to go on deck but sit in a big easy chair in the library reading & dozing. Tonight, for dessert they brought Helene a beautiful birthday cake with whipped cream, almond paste roses & 5 candles. The musicians came down from their balcony & played “Happy Birthday to You” & a Swedish song, several of the stewards forming a procession & joining in the singing. There was also a special flower in Helene’s napkin. Tonight we watched the dancing & drank Crème de Menth. Our neighbor Miss Andersonn brought her a gift, a pretty handkerchief.

Shipboard films

August 17, 1950

Sea much calmer today. Was able to walk around the deck again. This afternoon we had horse races & tonight a movie “Nancy Goes to Rio” in technicolor with Anne Southern, Carmen Miranda and Jane Powell.

August 18, 1950

Day calm & uneventful. Dancing tonight.

August 19, 1950

Have developed a cold which has settled in my eyes causing inflammation & discomfort. The doctor came in to look at them & said it was nothing serious which reassured me. He cannot talk English but we compromised on German. He sent the nurse in to put drops in my eyes & she gave me boracic acid water to wash them in. She is a real Nordic beauty. Tonight they showed the picture “Cheaper by the Dozen” with Myrna Loy & Clifton Webb.

August 20, 1950

The nurse put more drops in my eyes today. They are better. Tonight they held the captain’s dinner. Little hot & fresh roses lay at each plate. The ladies all looked very lovely. There was a general dancing & then some 10 of the personnel put on a series of beautiful folk dances which we all enjoyed.

August 21, 1950

Very rough today. They say it is the Florida hurricane & we have to go out of our course to get away from it, which will make us a day late landing. Not feeling too well I decided to stay in bed all day and passed the time pleasantly reading & catching up on my sleep. Our neighbors came in for a visit.

August 22, 1950

Calm today. Almost finished reading “The Egyptian” which is wonderful. This afternoon in order to take the minds of the passengers off of their delayed arrival, they showed a travelogue of America just New York and parts of California. It’s a pity they couldn’t show Washington. Tonight we anchored in the river opposite Coney Island, the lights look lovely along the skyline of Manhattan. Everybody very sociable & chummy on deck while eating our last smorgasbord.

August 23, 1950

Debarked about 10 a.m. No trouble with the customs. So glad to see Charles & Rhea G. waiting to meet us. Drove the latter uptown to the hotel to meet her cousins, called Uncle Eli & started on our way to the Lincoln Tunnel. Stopped for lunch at a Howard Johnson place, lost a long time at the ferry & arrived in Balto. at 8. Dinner at Hausner’s.

Random Impressions:

1950s Denmark Travel Poster. Via.

The Danish postmen lend a note of cheerfulness wherever they go in their scarlet coats with gilt braid & buttons sometimes riding on bicycles, occasionally with a little cart in front to carry the mail.

Even the smallest towns have beautiful parks gay with a profusion of flower beds. (We have really run the gamut of flowers arriving with lilacs, hawthorns, & horsechestnut blossoms, & leaving with asters, dahlias, hydrangeas & chrysanthemums,) Also wonderful fountains and statuary in all the public squares & parks.

Bicycles-the family vehicles. A mother often goes shopping or marketing with 2 little ones perched fore & aft in little seats on her wheel, the one behind sometimes holding on by putting his little arms around her waist. On Sundays one sees fathers & mothers on their respective wheels, she with a baby boy & he with a girl or if the baby is too young to sit on a seat, there is a tiny trailer carriage which the cycler tows on a rope or chain. The Scandinavians are very fond of children & kind to them though I have seldom seen a spoiled or misbehaved child among them. Yet when they travel about the child’s favorite play toys invariably go along.

They are also very fond of dogs & take them everywhere, even to the best restaurants, but there are very few stray animals in evidence. Running water down the windows of food stores, in lieu of refrigeration.

We have seen no beggars & very few people who look like they’re in want. The old people are also sturdy & industrious, though the accent in employment is definitely on youth.

Many old people and invalids ride on tricycles or bicycle chairs.

Schools bldgs. are fine looking & numerous, trade & industrial schools abound.

Good music is popular both on radio-which has no commercials & there is only a small tax for them-and there are many orchestras, even the hotels in the smallest towns have an orchestra to play classic music in the evenings, or at least a pianist.

People are tastefully though not fashionably dressed, but always neat & clean looking even in the country, while in the cities it is not uncommon to see traditional folk costumes worn even in the restaurants.

People we have met are courteous, friendly and honest.

On all main sts. of even the smallest villages beauty shops are to be found, for men as well as women. (Damer & Herrer Frisor.)

Testimonial on Gripsholm

The M. V. Gripsholm while under charter to the U. S. govt. from May 1942 to April 1946 auctioned herself securely in the pages of the history of humanity by her eleven voyages across war tossed seas to succor from prison and hospital the thousands of civilians, sick & wounded combatants whom she carried to their homes again. For the gallant & self-sacrificing men & women of the Gripsholm to whose service of mercy the return to happiness & health these thousands of rescued are forever indebted the assuring name of Gripsholm will stand in the memory of mankind as a symbol of deeds well done and dauntless spirit. On behalf of the government of the United States I take pleasure in attesting the abiding gratitude of America to the Gripsholm and her complement.

Done at the city of Washington this 27th day of March in the year A. D. 1946 and the independence of the United States of America the one hundred and seventy first.

(signed) James F. Byrnes

Secretary of State

This hangs proudly framed in the passage way between the main saloon & smoking room on the promenade desk.

Thus concludes Grace’s 1950 travel diary! Thanks for reading “Traveling with Grace,” a series where we’re sharing (and annotating) posts from the travel diaries of Grace Amelia Hecht, native Baltimorean, b. 1897 and d. 1955. There are two final diaries in our collection – one from 1948 and one from 1953. We look forward to sharing them with you! As mentioned in my introductory post transcription errors sometimes occur and I’ve made my best guesses where possible, denoted by [brackets]. – Rachel Kassman, marketing manager

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