The Dog Kennels

The Queen Mary's dog kennels were housed in a rectangular area approximately 30 ft long by 15 feet wide. Located on the port side of Sports deck, behind the triple tennis courts and just forward of the second funnel, a fenced-in exercise area over 80 ft in length was adjacent to the kennels proper. This walking area included the roof over the first class gymnasium as well as the deck alongside the kennels. One observer commented that even a lamppost was provided to make the dogs "feel at home".


Plan of area

A staircase from the port side of Sun deck led directly up to the kennels, making it convenient for first class passengers to stop by for a romp with Rover. Bellboys earned hefty tips for walking dogs throughout a voyage.

Boys walking dogs

Bellboys walking dogs in the exercise area.

History of Use

1936-1939 - The kennels were used as described above. Two very early "tenants" were Thor, a German shepherd and Skean, a Scottish terrier belonging to Charles A. Lindbergh. The Lindbergh family migrated to Britain in late December of 1935, after the "trial of the century" that ended in the conviction and condemnation of Bruno Hauptman for the kidnapping and murder of their infant son. The dogs followed in 1936 on the Queen Mary. Lindbergh wrote his mother that, "I am afraid they have not appreciated the honor."

1940-1946 - The Queen Mary was used as a troop transport.

1947-1967 -
The kennels regained their pre-war use as described above.

1968 to present -
When the Queen Mary arrived in Long Beach on December 9, 1967 the kennels were in place and functional. An early consulting study commissioned by the City of Long Beach prior to its purchase and housed in the archives of the Historical Society of Long Beach includes a specific recommendation that the kennels be kept in place for hotel guests' use. Along with the post war first class gymnasium on Sun deck and many other first class amenities on the upper decks, the study recommended that these amenities be incorporated into hotel operation.

Very quickly other views dominated thinking in city hall. Rather than preserve the upper decks of the Queen Mary to provide hotel guests with an ersatz ocean liner experience, Sun deck and Sports deck were gutted to create a mass tourist attraction. The once elegant triple tennis courts just forward of the kennels were designated to house "the world's largest ice cream parlor" (fortunately never built). The gymnasium and cabins in Sun deck were gutted to house a shopping arcade.

While the deckhouse where the kennels were located survives, the interior was completely gutted and now serves as an electrical closet. 


Above - The interior of the kennels today.

The door to the Kennels as it looks today, and right, air conditioning equipment nearby.

Sadly, adjacent and directly aft of the kennels is the empty interior of the mocked-up second funnel. With the slightest effort and forethought it could easily have been designed to house both the electrical closet and the myriad of air conditioning equipment now scattered all over the kennel exercise area (see photo left).

The decision to gut many of the most interesting features on the great ocean liner at great expense and to turn a fabulous world class icon into an ordinary mass "tourist attraction" is one of the most intriguing and tragic aspects of the history of the Queen Mary. It is clear from surviving documentation in local archives and libraries that this approach was developed only after the ship came to Long Beach. It was not the recommendation of the professional consultants that were hired to evaluate usage of the ship before it was purchased by the city.

John Mansell, the city manager at the time, spearheaded the Queen Mary acquisition and conversion project. As a long time local resident said recently, the Queen Mary was "Mansell's project." If present day decision making is any clue to the past, the approach finally adopted by city was most likely developed by one or more of Mansell's most highly trusted and relied upon staff. The attitude of the initial master lessee, Diner's Club, the role of local contractors eager for conversion bid works, and the identity and motivations of the individual(s) on Mansell's staff that played key role(s) in the "conversion" of the Queen Mary remain to be identified by future historians.

Potential for restoration and re-use

Assuming a new approach to the attraction and operation of the Queen Mary, the kennels might again see the light of day. If the hotel were upgraded it is conceivable that the kennel facility might be of interest to hotel guests for their pets. This certainly would be a novel amenity! If such a use is not cost-justified then the kennels could still play a key role in totally reshaping the tourist attraction.

At present the tourist attraction is composed of a series of stationary, unmanned "exhibits" called the "ship walk". In addition there is a single guided tour route that is a simplified version of one put in place twenty-five years ago. One of the benefits of the ship walk to the operator is that it is largely unmanned and hence labor-efficient. (Has anybody ever heard of volunteer docents?)

A disappointing feature of these "historical" exhibits on the ship walk is that while they are made up of original objects and are housed in the last surviving ocean liner of its class, they are displayed department store-window style in areas unrelated to their origin.

  • When you visit the Queen Mary you don't get to see the first class gymnasium in place; it has been incorporated into a pizza parlour as a seating area ; you only see an exhibit about the first class gymnasium.
  • You don't get to see the first class children's playroom; it is used to sell coffee, tea and candy; you see an exhibit about the first class playroom one deck up.
  • You don't get to see the synagogue even though it is right on the path of the single guided tour and is unused. You see an exhibit about the synagogue four decks up and right next to a display about the surgical operating room.

The exceptions to this rule are the wheelhouse and the aft engine room/steering area display – but only when it is not closed down and incorporated into the annual Halloween haunt that is now extended through the entire month of October and called evocatively "Decks of the Dead." Even the navigation officer's quarters are partially gutted and displayed in a department store window style – "to facilitate circulation."

It is quite easy to conceive of a multi-tour program that shows off more of the ship, extends the length and number of tourists' visits, generates more revenue for the ship, and has no greater impact on the hotel and catering option than the current approach. While their routes and focus are open to discussion, it would still be useful to have a ship walk for viewing between the paid guided tours.

If we are going to have a ship walk, or self-guided intra-tour feature, why not one composed of original features to be seen, used and enjoyed in their original setting? In this context the kennels again become a useful business feature for the attraction.

  • How about a knowledgeable trained volunteer docent that has done his or her homework and can answer questions and give an interesting presentation?
  • Perhaps a few of the empty cages might contain well - designed souvenirs for your Rover – like QM dog biscuits or leather leash and collar?

If we let our imaginations move beyond what was imposed upon the Queen Mary thirty years ago, anything is possible.

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