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Sentimental Journey

Feb 4, 2010 4:20 PM | 1 comment

Gonna take a sentimental journey
Gonna set my mind at ease
Gonna make a sentimental journey
to renew old memories



                              S.S. Argentina                            

                              postcard courtesy of

By 1946 the war had ended. Notorious, The Big Sleep, and It's a Wonderful Life graced the silver screen. From the radio came the music of the Ink Spots, Frank Sinatra and Doris Day. Against this backdrop and by an act of Congress,(The War Brides Act-Public Law 271), thousands of foreign women made the trip across the Atlantic to begin new lives as American wives.  Married to U.S. servicemen, these "War Brides" came from Europe, Australia, The Phillipines and North Africa, often with small children, to join their husbands throughout the United States, adding their culture to the mix of this already diverse borough.                                                         

The first official "War Bride" ship, the S. S. Argentina left Southampton, England on January 26, 1946  with 452 women and 173 children.  Singing "There'll Always Be An England," they embarked on the difficult eight day journey. The Argentina ran into a violent storm along the way, and many women and their children suffered severe sea sickness, but they finally sailed into New York harbor in the early morning of February 4th. The Statue of Liberty was lit up for their arrival as they sang "The Star Spangled Banner." Then the women, who were met by husbands and in-laws, went off to various parts of the country to begin the next phase of their journey. Many of them settled in Brooklyn.  What did these young women think of Brooklyn when they arrived?  How were they received by their new in-laws?  How did they cope with homesickness? The Brooklyn Daily Eagle ran multiple articles chronicling the arrival and settling of these new Americans.               

Got my bags,  got my reservation
spent each dime I could afford
Like a child with wild anticipation
I long to hear that "all aboard"   
 Mrs. Rose Ferrara

 Rose Ferraro who married Charles Ferraro of 910 Willoughby Avenue shared her thoughts with an Eagle reporter a few days after arriving in Brooklyn. 

"There are two things I don't like about Brooklyn.  One, the streets of Brooklyn and the rest of the city I've seen, are so dirty.  Many of the girls remarked while coming from the dock by bus, on the litter that we saw about.  Another thing, there aren't many trees.  I miss them.  In the suburbs of London where I lived we had lovely trees lining the streets. And I'm surprised at the old fashioned trams that are still in use, but I understand they are being replaced by buses.  The people have been wonderful to me, however, and I've been made to feel at home among you.  The shopping centers are quite remarkable with their great quantities of shoes and dresses which we, from England, haven't seen in so long.  It's such a wonderful feeling to be able to go into a shop and buy as many pairs of shoes as I want."                        


Margaret and Ida HorowitzMrs. Margaret Horowitz from Vienna had been in a German concentration camp and had lost both her parents. She and her sister escaped to England where she met Raymond Horowitz. They were building a new life together at 447 Sheffield Avenue in East New York.  


It's terrific.  I've learned so many new things that I'm quite bewildered.  Words like terrific, cute and chic, and "so long" instead of "cheerio."  I like them very much.  At first, when I met some of my husband's friends who are from Brooklyn, I could barely understand what they were saying because of their accent.  But now I'm catching on.  It's amusing to find that you people think I have an accent.  I find the underground, pardon, subway, amazing.  I don't know how so many people can fit in the cars, but they do-and don't seem to mind beng crowded.  I had known a great many Americans in Oxford, so wasn't surprised when they welcomed me so warmly.  They are so homely--I mean friendly.  I have got into difficulty with that word.  We use it to mean someone who is gracious and helps to put you at ease.  And that's the way all the Brooklyn people I've met have been.  I feel sure I'm going to like it.

Her mother-in-law Mrs. Ida Horowitz was just as thrilled. 

Before I met Margaret I decided that if my son likes her, then I will like her, too.  And now that I've seen her, I love her...She's better looking then her pictures and is just the girl I would have chosen for Raymond.  I hope all the families with new English brides are as happy as we are. 

And before anyone thinks that all of these couples lived happily ever after -- that was not always the case. Many brides returned to their homes in England and elsewhere, disillusioned.  One women who had been told by her husband that he owned a restaurant with dozens of waiters and an orchestra relayed her sad story.  

"When I got to Brooklyn I found the restaurant was a snack bar. He wanted me to be his chief cook and bottle washer"

The S.S. Argentina had been refurbished by Todd Shipyards at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to accommodate the women and children. Ships that followed with succeeding groups of women in the following months were the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, Victory, Saturnia and many others. It all began sixty fours years ago this week with ships carrying eager brides ready to take their place in America, whose stories were woven into the fabric of our country.

Never thought my heart could be so yearny.
Why did I decide to roam?
Gotta take that sentimental journey,
Sentimental Journey home.

 Bud Green, Les Brown and Ben Homer 





2/5/2010 5:45:58 PM #


I was struck by the first woman's disparagement of the "trams." and the lack of trees. How times change.

A nice example of the treeing of the 20th century can be seen in Bernice Abbott's shot of Willow Place from the 1930s. Not a tree in evidence on the street. Today, nice big planetrees.