26.8.12

Titanic Survival Story- Emily's and Mine


Titanic Camp Survivor Sally Matheny

This is really a comparison of two survival stories. One is about Emily Borie Ryerson, a survivor of the infamous Titanic ship. 

The other is about me, Sally Matheny, recent survivor of the Titanic Camp at the S.C. State Museum.
At an overnight Titanic Camp in Columbia, S.C., before entering the Titanic exhibit, each person was given a “boarding pass” 


On each pass is information about an actual passenger aboard the steamship Titanic in the year 1912. 

We assume their identities as we travel through the exhibit. At the end, museum participants use this information to discover the outcome of their Titanic passenger.

Boarding passes were handed out randomly, discriminated only by man, woman, boy or girl. My boarding pass was ticket #17608 for Mrs. Arthur Larned Ryerson (Emily Maria Borie) of Haversford, Pennsylvania.

I was very happy I, and Emily Ryerson, were traveling first class. Woo hoo! Mrs. Ryerson probably wouldn’t have whooped. She would have been very proper because she was used to such treatment. 

In fact, when she boarded the Titanic the White Star Line director Bruce Ismay personally greeted her family. The Ryerson family was also given an extra stateroom and Mr. Ismay even assigned them an additional servant.  The Ryersons had brought their maid on the trip as well.

Well, I would have loved for a maid to assist me at the Titanic Camp but alas, none was available and none was assigned to me when I arrived. 

Thankfully, I had a good friend and her son who helped me lug in my heavy air mattress. You see, even though my “boarding pass” said first class, I was actually reclining (notice there was no sleeping mentioned) in the museum’s exhibit on laundry. (stop laughing)

Titanic Boarding Pass
My pizza, chips and gummies were not the first class meal Mrs. Ryerson would have received. However, the Ryerson's tickets cost about $415 (a good bit today, but even more so in 1912). My ticket was $25. Thus the pizza for supper and a granola bar for breakfast.

Mr. and Mrs. Ryerson also had three of their five children traveling with them. They had traveled to Europe to find suitable husbands for their two oldest daughters: Suzette (21) and Emily (18).

I found this very interesting because Mrs. Ryerson (at the time of the ship’s sailing) was 48. I am almost 47. 

She had a daughter who was 21.  I have one who is almost 21. 

She had another daughter named Emily who was 18. I have an eighteen-year old daughter named Emily! Interesting, huh?

Although traveling to Europe sounds fun, I think my girls prefer choosing their own spouses.
Tragedy struck this family before they even boarded the Titanic. The Ryerson’s oldest son Arthur Jr., age 20, was killed in an automobile accident in the states while they were away in Europe. This was the reason for their trip home. 

They were not enjoying the glamour of the Titanic. In fact, it was noted that Mrs. Ryerson was so upset she stayed in her room most of the trip. The family had only taken the Titanic because it was the first ship available to get back home.

They boarded the ship on April 10, 1912. Their oldest son’s funeral would take place on April 19.  There was also a younger son John, age 13, who was traveling with the family on the ship. 

I am uncertain why the youngest daughter did not travel to Europe with the family. Her name was Ellen and she was 17 at the time. One can only guess what Ellen’s reasons were for not going to Europe.
Initially, my 18 yr. old Emily was registered to go to the Titanic Camp with me. Apparently, she forgot about a 5K race she was to run in and could not go. She did win a silver medal at the race though.

I also asked my oldest daughter, Meriana, to go but she had a lot of homework and would have to drive 4 ½ hours from college to get home and turn around and drive another 2 ½ hours to the museum. Perhaps these were similar to Ellen Ryerson’s reasons for not going to Europe—too far to travel or she had previous commitments.

I suppose many of the rich, young fellows were having fun being acquainted with the new automobiles of the day. It is hard to imagine car accidents that long ago. They were probably due more to vehicle safety issues rather than heavy traffic issues. 

My road trip to Columbia was fine until 5:00. Traffic came to a standstill in the middle of a typically fast, three-lane highway and it was not enjoyable at all. I was thanked the Lord repeatedly for arriving safely.
It is sad the Ryerson family was unable to enjoy the luxurious Titanic with its Turkish baths, gym and heated indoor pool. Only the first class passengers could enjoy the pool filled with salt water, and even then, they had to pay a nominal fee to use it. 

At the time, the Titanic was the largest ship in existence, measuring around eleven stories high and weighing 53,000 tons. A luxury soon to be lost at the bottom of the sea.

On April 15, which happens to be my husband’s birthday, Captain Smith gave orders to begin evacuating the women and children. Mrs. Ryerson and her daughters boarded lifeboat #4. Her son, John, was initially blocked from entering the lifeboat but his father protested saying he was only a boy. 

The situation would strike terror in any parent’s heart but imagine what was going through these parents’ minds. They had just lost their oldest son and now their only living son’s life was in danger. The officer gave in and allowed the boy into the lifeboat.
Mrs. Ryerson, her three children, and their maid, all survived. The funeral of the oldest son was postponed.

Why? Because unfortunately, after the sinking of the Titanic, they had the anguish of planning Mr. Ryerson’s funeral as well. 

Life forever changed for the Ryerson family.

They were strong stock though and persevered. The girls finally married as did John. Even Mrs. Ryerson remarried when she was 64 years old to a 48-yr. old financial advisor to China. 

She had met him during her world traveling. Their wedding day was delayed for a day due to his 9,000 mile trip by boat, train and plane. Even Mrs. Ryerson’s chartered jet and big sedan could not get her fiancĂ©e to the church on time. 

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much money you have--life happens. It is what it is.
Mrs. Ryerson, although very wealthy, had to endure hardships and learn how to persevere. My only hardships at Titanic Camp were trying to sleep with the museums's lights and sounds. The migraine and lack of a hot shower did not help either, but... 
I survived.

*Information was collected from the Titanic Artifact Exhibit and multiple newspaper clippings posted on www.encyclopedia-titanica.org.
I recommend the Titanic Artifact Exhibit for all ages.
I do not recommend the museum's movie, “Saving the Titanic,” for children, due to the repeated use of bad language and mature scenes. No warning or rating is given prior to the showing of the movie.



4 comments:

  1. Wonderful post, Sally, and so informative. I love hearing the back stories of people. Thanks for the extra time you put into researching Emily's story.

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  2. That was an awesome angle you took on your post. With a little research, possibilities are endless. Blessings!

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  3. Wonderful story! I loved hearing the similarities between you and the passenger you were "portraying" for the night. I love to read your writings!

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  4. Thanks Cathy, Mary Jane and Pam. It was fun and educational doing the research.
    Emily Ryerson was actually documented for asking Titanic personnel if the ship should slow down in case of icebergs. She was told all was fine and the ship could even go faster. I guess they should have listened.

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