LAST MINUTE DECISIONS
By BILL DUNCAN
LONG BEACH INDEPENDENT
LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 1967
Collection of Greg Powers, 1-11-05
On May 20, 1935, Behr, an aviator, made a quick decision to board the Hindenberg as a passenger for its 49-hour flight from Lakehurst, N.J. to Frankfurt, Germany.
"I decided to get on the historic flight because of reports in New York newspapers that passengers coming over on the airship had been bounced around by air turbulence. I just assumed someone would decide to cancel their reservations," he recalled.
Someone did, just before boarding time and Behr, who had barnstormed the U.S. with Col. Roscoe Turner as a young pilot, took the seat.
When he arrived aboard the Hindenberg in Germany ther was nothing but storm troopers parading up and down the streets. "I figured war was on its way, and grabbed the next plane to Paris."
In Paris Behr read in a London newspaper that a new ship, the RMS Queen Mary was departing on its maiden voyage to Hew York. Behr took the next plane to England and with barely hours before sailing time, got a third class ticket aboard the Mary on her May 27, 1936 maiden voyage.
"All I had was a couple of suitcases and no fancy duds for the Queen Mary requirements," he remembers.
Because he had such light baggage in the days when steamer travel was with steamer trunkloads of clothing, Behr was able to pull off another first--with his two suitcases he was the first passenger off the Queen Mary and the first passenger to step off a liner onto Pier 90 which was used fo the first time by the new Cunarder, the Queen Mary.
Behr bought his ticket for $100 and was assigned one of the Mary's "less expensive" accomodations on D-deck.
"I meet an old friend who had a suite on the maiden voyage and I never spent one night in that cabin I was sold. Imagine riding the Queen Mary in a suite for $100," he chuckled.
Behr kept reading about the Queen Mary's final voyage to Long Beach and decided Thursday before sailing time Tuesday he'd take the last trip.
"You know, sentimental reasons--the first trip and the last," he said. "I was told everything was sold, but became so persistent they finally squeezed me in."
Behr arrived at Southampton the day before the sailing.
How does the Mary compare on its last voyage to its maiden voyage. "She is a bit worn today. In those days she was spanking new and the latest thing in steamships, but I can comment that the passengers on her last cruise are more relaxed and less stuffy than the maiden voyage."
Behr, who started flying in 1917, retired in 1961 as director of aviation for the Port of New York after 31 years with the city. He is 71 years old and is very proud of a weathered document he has a certificate that he sailed on the Queen Mary's maiden voyage. "I hope to get one for the last voyage and hang them side by side," he said.
For Behr a toast on the Mary's document has come true;
"May our life be long and successful as we this day with our new vessel to prosper in her role of promoting international friendship."