Local resident recalls Queen Mary’s final voyage

OCEANSIDE — Though his memory is fading due to the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, Oceanside resident Jack Garrett’s face still lights up with the mention of Oct. 31, 1967, and the 10,000 well wishers in Southampton, England, who bid farewell to the Queen Mary on its final voyage to the city of Long Beach, Calif., which purchased the ship for $3.45 million. Garrett served as senior engineer on the ship.
Jack Garrett’s wife, Anne, was there and remembers a double-decker bus being loaded on to the ship.
“It was a gray day with drizzle as if the city was crying,” she recalled. “Many small craft escorted the big ship out of Southampton waters while the fireboats sent their sprays of water into the air and all the ships sounded their horns as the Grand Old Lady passed them.”
Anne and two daughters, Joanne and Jayne, would join Jack later to settle in Southern California where they had relatives. Because there were several empty cabins in the crew’s quarters, Jack Garrett was allowed to store personal belongings, including Joanne’s bicycle and Jayne’s crib.
“Jack was up on the deck and was sure he could see his family waving from one of the small boats,” Anne Garrett said. “He was told afterwards that his 4-year-old daughter was crying, not because her Daddy was leaving, but because he was taking her bicycle with him!”
The Queen Mary finally picked up speed as it got into the open waters en route to Lisbon, Las Palmas, Rio De Janiero, Valparaiso, Callau, Balboa and Acapulco.
“Jack was lucky enough to be able to stand on deck as the ship rounded Cape Horn,” Anne Garrett said. “There can be very rough seas in this area, but that day it was calm — perhaps another tribute to a Grand Old Lady!”
Today Jack Garrett enjoys reliving the trip by reading the book “RMS Queen Mary: Years of Splendour” published in 1986 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of her maiden voyage. In fact, he often takes a pen to underscore events he still can recall such as this account of rounding Cape Horn:
“For four hours people queued and paid $1 to ride on a London bus around the Horn,” author David F. Hutchings wrote. “The proceeds went to an orphanage in Valpariso and certificates were given out to mark the ‘Rounding.’ One man dived into the swimming pool to say that he had swum around the Horn while another pedaled away on a bicycle in the gym.’”
The remainder of the journey up the west coast of South America continued to be rough.
As the Queen Mary proceeded north along the Southern California coast on Dec. 9, 1967, an estimated 8,000 boats converged to greet the ship and provide an escort to her berth where approximately 1 million people cheered.
“Jack had also arrived at his new home where he was greeted by his sister and her family,” Anne Garrett said. “The engineer representing the city of Long Beach who had sailed on the last voyage with the British crew put Jack in touch with a firm of sub-contractors who would be doing the ballast work on the ship when some of the machinery was removed, and they hired him as a consultant. He spent many more happy months working on ‘his’ ship while she was being prepared for her final berth.”
Last year Anne and the rest of the Garrett family celebrated Jack’s 86th birthday by taking him to inspect the Queen Mary one more time.
“He said it was the best birthday he ever had,” Anne Garrett recalls. “Everyone made a fuss over him and he got to spend time again in the engine room. It wasn’t ‘his’ engine room. They had removed that one, but it looked pretty much the same, and he felt quite at home there.”

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