Travel Tuesday: Homeward Bound on the Queen Elizabeth

Joan Joyce (Schiavon) Huesca (1928 – 1987)
Alice Gaffney (McGinnis) Schiavon (1895 – 1963)

From Cherbourg to New York aboard the R.M.S. Queen Elizabeth, September 29 – October 4, 1950


On Friday, September 29, 1950, my mother and my grandmother, Joan and Alice (McGinnis) Schiavon, boarded the R.M.S. Queen Elizabeth at Cherbourg, France, bound for New York City.  They had been away for six weeks, traveling extensively through nine European countries including England, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, and France.  
“Mother and I in dining room with ‘Dreamboat,’ our waiter,
October 3, 1950,”  Joan Schiavon wrote on the back of this
photograph, adding,  “Very, very English, I say!”

It had been an exciting trip, filled with fascinating people, new experiences, and places that seemed exotic to two midwestern women.   

My grandmother came home with eight trunks, loaded with exquisite antiques, collectible dolls, porcelain figurines, and other fine collectibles.

Other pieces, including some furnishings too big to carry home, would make their way to Chicago on container ship, intended for the new fine art and antique gallery my grandmother would open. Most of them, however, would eventually make their way to her home, where they would live quite happily with her and my grandfather, surrounding them with their history and graceful elegance for the rest of their lives.  


List of Incoming Passengers on the Cunard llne
R.M.S. Queen Elizabeth from Cherbourg, France,
to New York, shows Cabin class passengers Alice
and Joan Schiavon, ages 53 and 22, on lines 19

and 20. Note that my grandmother’s name is 
penciled in erroneously as “Auceg” Schiavon.
Though my mother brought back her own souvenirs, she returned a new person, confident, mature and sophisticated. Having the opportunity to connect her new experiences to her family’s Italian and Irish heritage and values,  she gained a new appreciation for her parents and discovered the value of opening herself to new experiences.  
Art and history came alive for her in Europe, renewing her sense of wonder in a world she had thought of as old and boring until now.  She learned how to adapt to new situations, and found that a smile and a sense of humor were her best tools, even when she didn’t speak the language.  
Though she may not have realized it at the time, she also learned a considerable amount about porcelain and silver, which became enduring passions for her.
Most of all, I think she realized that she was an interesting and attractive lady with a lot to offer the world through her sweetness, intelligence, quick wit, and earnestness.


From left to right, Abe Aronoff, my mother and Grandmother, Joan and Alice Schiavon, and unknown woman.  In the foreground is Sylvia Gianorio, a friend my mother made on the Queen Elizabeth.  I believe Sylvia is the same person  who later married a man named Herman Lehnert and moved to Alaska.  She and my mother corresponded for many years.
Abraham Aronoff returned to New York on the Queen Elizabeth, too.  As far as I know, he and my mother did not see each other again.  She would always be grateful for his gallant company and gentlemanly treatment toward her and Alice.  In later years, whenever she reminisced about her European trip, she recalled that he was a kind and decent person.
My grandfather, Ralph Schiavon, met Alice and Joan at New York Harbor on Wednesday, October 4, 1950.  They ran up to him and threw their arms around him, nearly knocking him down in their excitement to see him after so long.  Neither one of them could stop talking. 
He could not believe how much older his daughter looked.  He laughed when he saw all of Alice’s trunks – and her big smile.   Thank God for porters, he must have thought. Then after some time to rest and recover, it was off to Grand Central Train Station and home to Chicago.

Copyright ©  2012  Linda Huesca Tully

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