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Bellboy duties on the 'Queen Mary'

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Unique ID:19459
Description:A former bellboy on the 'Queen Mary' describes what his duties where and a typical day. 
Copyright:Southampton City Council
Partner:SCC Oral History Unit
Partner ID:M0079


Question:  Could you tell us what were your responsibilities as a bellboy?  What was it you were expected to do?

Well, they had several jobs.  I mean there was a travel bureau where you had two boys that done with people's hotels when it got to New York and things like that, bookings, Waldorf Astoria. You delivered brochures to them, you delivered tickets if they're going from here to Canada or whatever it might be, that was the travel bureau.  Then you had the purser’s office that dealt with everything, communication from the Captain, radiograms coming in and things like that, and then you had the radio office, radiograms where you … one boy sat up there. Then you had the doors where you open the doors to the dining room and let the passengers in and out.  And a Chief steward’s boy, and that was about it actually.

Question:  So you were assigned sort of like as messenger boy...whatever was needed?

Messengers boys all over, yeah.  Take the morning papers around, you know The Ocean Times used to get printed you know and you used to deliver them.  Mostly you just had to take them to the pantries and put them in, and the BR would put them underneath the doors of the passengers.  But I remember one trip we had, Lord Beaverbrook and Lady Astor and they both had to get their paper at exactly the same time, apparently for some reason Lady Astor had got her paper early and something in there was interesting and so she phoned Beaverbrook and told him and he hadn't had his paper so there was a big noise made about it, so, that trip I was in the Purser’s office and we were both detailed that we had to go out, the assistant Purser would say, ‘right’, give us a paper each.  And one went to Lord Beaverbrook’s and put in under the door at exactly the same time as I would be putting it under Lady Astor's door.  Things like that.

Question:  What would your typical day be like then?

Up in the morning, we used to do gym, go up in the gym and you know do a few exercises.  Then we'd come down, get changed, go and have breakfast first, and then get on our uniform, muster at 8 o'clock or half past 7 in the morning for inspection, where they'd inspect your fingernails and things. Make sure your uniform was clean and tidy, shoes polished, hair cut, you know to go on duty that day.  And then you'd go all through the day whatever job you was on, and … some of you have to walk dogs.  I mean if we were in the Purser’s office or the second steward would send for you and say, ‘go up to the dog kennels’ and it might be Jennifer Jones' dog or somebody...I remember who it was time because they came across to do the command performance and you used to have get detailed to go up to the kennels and pick up these dogs.  And we used to get some terrible little dogs too sometimes, know what I mean?  Fighting each other.  And you'd have to drag them around the deck for about half an hour, take them to see their owners on the promenade deck and then take them back to the kennels and ... then at night you'd go for a swim in the first class pool, 7 o'clock.  That was more exercise that you were obliged to do.  Of course we used to enjoy it.  In fact Johnny Weismuller come across on one trip, and in the Queen Mary you'd come down and you had an elevator and there was a back door opens the elevator and it comes into the swimming pool. So he come down dressed in his trunks, and it’s in the winter and of course the ship's rolling.  I mean one minute there’s no water at all and the next minute it’s ... and he just dived right off the balcony.  Of course all us kids...’that's Tarzan you know’, so we all jumped on him and he's throwing us all over the place and picking us up.  But great fun.  Marvellous man.  And he used to come there every night religiously then like and have a swim with us.

Question:  So what time did you have to be in bed?

No time.  I mean if they caught you running around the ship, well actually we never because what we used to do, when the first class dining room finished, we used to go up to the kitchen when they come out of the dining into the kitchen they'd be bringing all the fruit bowls out and all that, and we used to be up there and as the fruit bowl come out, with the waiters bringing them out, take them back to the fruit room, we were up there nicking all the grapes and oranges and peaches whatever it was.

Question:  What kind of meals did you have then?

Nothing great for us because we would have to eat at say half past five at night and you'd go up...one man was the cook, whoever was on that afternoon, it was always an afternoon cook on watch, it was his job to serve you, you know.  I mean it was always roast beef, prime ribs of beef and things like that, but they made us have these dinners.  I mean we used to like get a big plate of Saratoga chips as they called them, which was crisps to us, and that would do us, and a bottle of lemonade.  But they made you eat the main course whatever it was, you know.

Question:  What about the Pig and Whistle at night, were you allowed in there?

No.  I mean you could, you could walk through it, but I mean...well, you could go up and get a bottle of lemonade or bottle of Coke in the pub but...

Question:  So what did the boys tend to do in the evening for entertainment then?

Play cards.  Or read comics, all mad for Yankee comics you know.  Mind you, you'd had a hard day so most times you'd be in your bunk anyway, have a shower and get in your bunk and read a comic, write letters home to Mum, you was only away a week but you still wrote to Mum, you know.


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