The SS United States is impossible to miss — it stretches about five city blocks along South Columbus Boulevard. For comparison purposes, we’re talking 100 feet longer in size than the Titanic. Pier 82 has been her home since the mid-1990s, where she has sat decaying before our very eyes. Yes, we have heard the countless ideas — scrap it, sell it, include it as part of a massive redevelopment plan — but, for now, it just sits, waiting and waiting.
Imagine what this baby would be like if she could still cruise across the Atlantic Ocean at record speeds. Maybe you heard about that famous 1952 maiden voyage in which the SS United States shattered the trans-Atlantic speed record in both directions. As a result, she was the first American ship in 100 years to be awarded the coveted Blue Riband. We’re talking 38.32 knots (44 miles per hour during the speed trials).
There was plenty of hype surrounding the unveiling of designer William Francis Gibbs’ vision, as some 70,000 people were there in New York to see her up close.
The likes of Marlon Brando, Sean Connery, Walt Disney, Bob Hope, John Wayne are among the famous Hollywood stars who made the passenger list. Former Presidents Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower and an extremely young Bill Clinton are part of the distinguished list, as well.
But unlike the luxury liners of today, the SS United States was retired in 1969. Today, we are left wondering what’s next.
“Remember When” is a new feature that will be appearing regularly in the South Philly Review. We welcome readers to share stories and photos of old venues, events or games. E-mail editor Bill Gelman, firstname.lastname@example.org.