As the Queen Mary turns 80 years old today, we take a closer look at the ship that's been a Long Beach landmark for decades. The Queen Mary has been a cruise ship, a World War II troop ship and a Southern California hotel. Here she is being launched on Scotland's River Clyde in 1934.
A few ship stats: The Queen Mary is 1,019.5 feet long and weighs 81,237 gross tons. It has a cruising speed of 28.5 knots (about 33 mph). The ship has three smokestacks. (By comparison, the Titanic was 882.9 feet long, 46,329 gross tons, cruised at 21 knots [24 mph] and had four smokestacks -- but one was a fake, giving the illusion of a more powerful ship.)
The Queen Mary's maiden voyage was May 27, 1936. Then as well as in postwar years she was a favorite among British royalty and Hollywood celebrities.
The ship regularly won speed records among passenger liners crossing the Atlantic (that lightning-fast 33 mph). But her speed and size made her desirable for war service. During those years of transporting Allied soldiers, she was known as the "Grey Ghost."
June Allen, a war bride, came to America on the Queen Mary. She remembers her experience in the video below. "I didn't know what to expect. I'd never been on a ship before. When I first saw the Queen Mary, it was so massive. The Queen Mary was so famous in England. ... It was as famous as the queen and king!"
After the war, the Queen Mary was again a top ocean liner. But by the 1960s, more people were flying than sailing across the Atlantic, and the Queen Mary was aging. In 1967, she retired to Long Beach, becoming a hotel and venue for events.
On Dec. 9, 1967, the ship arrived in Long Beach. She had a grand welcome, as seen below, with a fleet of small craft as well as a hovering helicopter.
Admission to the Long Beach landmark is free for Friday's 80th birthday celebration.