-On December 8th, 1967, millions of Southern Californians got in their cars and drove to the coast, hoping to catch a glimpse of the RMS Queen Mary, a transatlantic express liner, as it steamed into Long Beach harbor at the end of its final cruise. -Two days earlier, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times invoked the sublime when he proclaimed the ship would become “the biggest thing ever to reach the southland–a towering three stacker, 1031 feet long, weighing 83,673 tons, [and] carrying aboard the population of a small city.” Indeed, attendance figures in Long Beach and elsewhere along the southern california coast reached into the millions the day of the ship’s arrival. 300,000 fortunates had front row seats in Long Beach Harbor. But the spectacle also spread into the waters surrounding the ship, where an “armada of 5,000 vessels ranging in size from minesweepers to a small pink kayak,” accompianed the express liner as it steamed to its final destination. -Such excitement may seem out of place when, but a few years earlier, the ship had become in the eyes of its owner, Cunard, and the traveling public, an old and outdated mode of transportation. -Yet today, the ship remains in LB. Now a city icon, it has been a tourist attraction for almost 42 years, a full decade longer than it was used as a tranatlantic express liner, and has hosted hundreds if not thousands of high school proms, Sunday brunches, and conferences including our own, as well as countless visitors over the years. But how did this happen? Why did Long Beach, a city known at the time as Iowa’s Seacoast, buy the ship, obsolete through travelers’ preference to fly by jet over the atlantic? How was it transformed from a technology of transportation into a dockside tourist attraction?
Today, I will discuss these questions in three parts: 1) Describe the particular vision held during the 1960s by city planners and local elites for the future of their city, and the role of that vision in explaining what the ship could be to Long Beach. 2) Of course, that vision was not the only idea about what the ship was or could be. Politicians, labor unions, and others shaped the vessel’s meaning to satisfy their own agendas and needs. 3) Finally: how the ship was marketed and the visitor’s experience aboard.
So why did Long Beach buy the Queen Mary? -Result of three processes in post-war: containerization, offshore oil drilling, and suburbanization. First factor: Containerization beginning in the early 1950s, maritime shipping switched from older piers to containers. Container shipping required large, open spaces to sort, store, load and unload cargoe in standard containers. New deep-water harbors were needed to accept freighters carrying heavier loads and sufficient rail and road links to handle the increased land traffic to the harbor. Some cities, such as NYC, had to build new port facilities “downstream” from older piers. Others were bypassed altogehter on world shipping routes (as the case with Baltimore, MA). But for Long Beach and the neighboring Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, containerization was a boom. By the mid 1960s, Long Beach had constructed a huge expanse of new landfill piers, highlighted in blue on this map, to accommodate ever increasing maritime traffic. The latest addition, almost completed by 1967, was the extension on the east called Pier J, which added approximately a half mile of new artifical shoreline facing the city’s downtown, This shoreline would be incorporated by city planners into shoreline redevelopment projects. Second factor: oil. Beneath Long Beach lay some of the US’s largest oil reserves, particularly in the offshore areas known as the tidelands. These reserves, discovered in the mid-20th century, gave the city a steady and large stream of capital, which city leaders used not only to expand their port facilities, but also fund many other construction projects.
But the Third and most significant factor was suburbanization. In this Automobile club map from 1963, we can see the position of LB in regards to the new suburbs of Lakewood to the North and Orange County to the east: Buena Park, Stanton, Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Fullerton, La Habra, and Orange to name a few. -New migrants to these suburbs were conservative, libertarian middle-class whites. Lisa McGirr, described the world they inhabited as one “that affirmed the values of privacy, individualism, and property rights.” -These new residents did not look positively on the old downtown areas. Popular cinema such as film noir both reflected and reinforced images of a city that corroded the morals of its residents and visitors. New regional shopping centers in the suburbs also made avoiding old downtown commercial districts easier, and contributed towards post-war decline. -Faced with this urban elites thus looked outwards to the new suburbs for an aesthetic model that would combat this negative image. This suburban aesthetic shaped projects such as Doger Stadium in Chavez Ravine north of DT LA, as well as Bunker Hill, both of which also displaced racially heterogeneous neighborhoods. -What was the bad image in Long Beach? LB was largely a white, blue collar town: oil had long been a part of local industry (Signal Hill), and the city’s port and the US Navy were two other large employers. During the 1920s, city was also a bastion of the KKK. Blacks and other ethnicities, although gaining some numbers during the war, were not significant populations within the city’s borders.
A; the Pike. -First built in the early 1900s, hailed as the “Coney Island of the West” -Pier, rollercoaster, [next slide]
… a Midway, sideshows, and a municipal plunge. But by 1950s, the pike theme ran its course. WWII: transformed LB and many other port cities in CA. Pike’s proximity to terminal island, a center of US war machine, made this bastion of white leisure time a culturally, socially, and racially diverse space. Sailors, shipyard workers, men, women, children, whites, blacks, and latinos jammed its narrow pathways throughout the war, a situation that persisted in the post-war era. -This did not settle well with the old guard in LB who sought to attract the new suburbanites. We can see this, for example, when in 1948, a series of articles pub’d in the Long Beach Press-Telegram described in lurid detail the perverts and cross-dressing snake charmers that had made the Pike their den. But Not until 1960s that we see a coherent replacement theme in city planning documents. World’s Fair bid (early 1960s) Maritime museum “ Report on Projected Comprehensive Shoreline Development” (Department of City Planning, 1964) “ Old time sailing vessel,” Auditorium, Arena Small craft harbor along Pier J Plenty of parking for suburbanites who, it was anticipated…[next slide]
… would drive in their single-family autos along the region’s rapidly-developing freeway network. The importance of freeways also played a role in the site selection for Disneyland in 1955, when Stanford Research Institute (who also played a role in the QM’s history as I will discuss later) selected this site in Anaheim because of its proximity to the Santa Ana Freeway. Later city development plans also further refined the particular amenetites that were believed to be magnets for suburban consumers. Yet simply bulldozing away the pike to build yet another marina, another maritime museum stores, a smattering of office buildings and four star hotels plus conference spaces had become somewhat formulaic in the LA area by the mid 1960s. Note: Century City and Marina del Ray. Thus in 1966 the Real Estate Research Corporation recommended that the city seek out “a major international tourist attraction” as a way LB could differentiate itself from regional, natl, even internatl competitors. Thus when Cunard announced plans to sell the QM later in 1966, a trio of the city’s power cabal moved quickly to convince their peers in city hall of the wisdom to purchase the ship.
-But the ship seemed a good choice not just because of the novelty of bringing one of the 20th century’s modern marvels to long beach. The QM made sense because of what it was: an artifact of transportation that fit into a city shaped by ideas of maritime and automotive transportation. We can see this with this study made by city consultants Linesch & Reynolds. Artists depicted the ship as if ready to set sail, an idea strenthened by the fact that only two narrow gangways linked it to the shore. This image gained widespread public exposure when General Telephone used it on the back of one of their telephone books. Here, artists painted cars driving along roadways and underpasses. So great was the automobile in the artists’ imagination, in fact, that in a second image from L&R
… one could even drive their automobile onto the ship. But this idea of the ship as the “crown jewel” of the city’s future identity was only one of many in play at the time.
When news of LB’s winning bid reached papers in the summer of 1967, there was a small but vocal outcry against the purchase, including from this Long Beach resident, Roy Dance. Dance and the few others who spoke out considered the ship to be a sign that city government had perhaps overstepped its boundaries by using public funds to buy it. In fact earlier public debates surrounding the city’s right to use public state funds from tidelands oil drilling were reinvigorated by the purchase. Long time LA county supervisor Kenneth Hahn, for example, called the ship an “old rust bucket” in 1969. In March 1972, the LA Times printed an expose titled “Queen Mary Project --- A Story of Waste” on its front page. The expose, by Times Staff Writer George Reasons, painted a noir picture of a corrupt city government giving kickbacks with taxpayer dollars to private commercial interests. Reason’s article certainly accomplished its goal, as shortly after attacking the QM and LB became a politically fashionable thing to do. -Vincent Bugliosi: for example: prosecuter in manson family trials, used it in his own mudslinging campaign for DA in 1972. Bugliosi was still riding a crest of popular support at the conclusion of the manson trials, and somewhat emboldened by this he accused the incumbent DA, his boss, of ignoring Long Beach’s blatant fraud against the people of California. But perhaps the best example of the multivalent nature of the ship’s identity emerges from the city’s dispute with maritime labor unions in 1968. [NEXT SLIDE]
“ What is It” was the brain child of Luther M. Daniels, a public relations agent hired by several maritime unions to garner public support in their protest against the city. Part of LB’s agreement with Cunard: never using the ship competitively against the company. Thus upon its arrival, the propellers were disconnected and its entry struck from the Registry of Ships. -Maritime unions, not happy. While jobs were the ostensible reason, the sticking point was a problem of power relations between unions themselves and the government. Declaring the ship neither a ship nor building but something else created a situation that had never existed before and brought into collision the once exclusive domains of maritime and land labor.
This disupte reached national audiences when Life magazine published his photograph in March 1968. The sight of a picketer swimming, not walking, helped reinforce to a national audience that such absurd and arbitrary redefinitions of a priori categories such as “boat” and “ship” made little sense.
-After several years of controversy, budget overruns, and false starts, the ship finally opened to the public in 1972. Attendance initially met expectations but was followed by a rapid and precipitous drop caused in part by bad publicity surrounding LB’s folly and inconsistent marketing and presentation (which we can see with these two guidebooks from the early 1970s). Faced with abysmal attendance and financial performance, the three operators and the city brought in Stanford Research Institute in 1976 to evaluate the attraction’s potential. The SRI report asserted that the attraction’s problem were rooted in the conflicting business goals of its three operators. The northern california firm recommended that the city replace those three operators with a single one who would be willing to devote a significant portion of its operating budget in advertising, as well as invest $1 to $2 million to redesign the visitor’s experience. “shopping and eating [said SRI] should become incidental with the nostalgic, entertaining and educational” in a “British” or “nautical” atmosphere … consistency in appearance and treatment…[and] a sense of vitality and movement coupled with an emphasis on the past glories of the Queen Mary itself.” These recommendations would more or less find the light of day when Jack Wrather, who happened to also own an operate the Disneyland hotel, took over operations of the attraction in the late 1970s. But the SRI report is striking not because it provided a blueprint that Wrather subsequently followed, but iinstead because of the similarities between the firm’s recommendations and the visitor experience at Disneyland in nearby Anaheim. -In fact SRI’s played a fundamental role in the location and opening of Disneyland two decades earlier, in 1955. SRI therefore quite cognizant of what made a successful tourist attraction. to talk a little about DL: set a new paradigm of theme park entertainment. As Karal Ann Marling and others describe, DL stressed cleanliness and neatness. Park and its ‘lands’ were designed by cinematographers and movie set designers, and the Spatial plan imposed a narrative upon visitors in what Scott Bukatman calls a “hypercinematic” experience.
We can see that species of the hyperreal as it was articulated on the QM with this mhis map taken from a guidebook during the Wrather era. Visitors (or more correctly, “passengers” as they were called in wrather employee manuals), began their trips below decks, where they were quickly indoctrinated in the ‘official’ history of the ship. Should they forget parts of this critical foundation myth, crew members would be more than happy to fill them in on the missing details. Next they took a synthetic tour of the last remaining engine room and propeller, roamed through the remnants of Jacque Cousteaus’ 1972 Museum of the Sea (which were soon removed from the tour), followed by visits to the last remaining swimming pool (oddly filled with water in the guidebook), the tourist class dining room, and then finally emerging above decks to freely roam among shops and restaurants.
-Wrather marketing materials called this reformulated version of the ship the “Queen Mary Experience.” and the firm took advantage of a range of marketing channels to place this vision in front of the public, including TV and radio spots, billboards, and even Kaliedescope, a magazine for guests of the Dland hotel. The advertisement on the left, taken from an issue of Kaliedescope, promised a “voyage through time:, The one on the right lured visitors aboard with a promise of imaginary storms, war, luxury, elegance, and dead celebrities.
Thus, QM Experience immersed visitors in a hyperreal one giving a sense of movement without actually moving that was in a strange way an extension of visitors’ trips from their homes and hotel rooms along southland freeways into Long Beach. Once a transportation of the North Atlantic Ferry, the ship now lured visitors with the promise of a voyage into the mythic and imaginary, all while getting them to spend their hard earned dollars. Not everyone agreed with this idea of the ship as the “crown jewel” of Long Beach. Besides those who wished to convert it into a travelling emporium or high school, the ship became a negative symbol of waste and fraud, as well as a space where the power relations between unions and government were elaborated in unexpected ways. But this would not have happened without the particular vision held by Long Beach elites during the 1960s. By retheming their city through urban renewal projects, Long Beach elites sought to attract new suburban homeowners and those beyond. This created a political and social context that enthusiastically supported the idea to bring an aging and by some accounts, obsolete, technological artifact half-way around the world.
Queen Mary Talk - SSHA Conference 2009
Reusing the Obsolete The RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, California
“ The biggest thing ever to reach the Southland” RMS Queen Mary arrives in Long Beach. December 8 th 1967.
Today’s Itinerary <ul><li>Why Long Beach bought the ship. </li></ul><ul><li>Different visions of the ship. </li></ul><ul><li>Marketing and the visitor experience. </li></ul>
Detail from Auto Club of Southern California Map – 1963. Post-war container pier in blue. Line = 4 Miles