Shameless Once Again – Titanic Version
I admit it: I’m in love with history. Everything about the past fascinates me, leaves me wondering at the mysteries our ancestors left behind. That’s why Alice I Have Been sat so well with me. If you’ll recall, I grew up with a fascination for the Holocaust and the stories that grew out of that time.
So I have some exciting news. I’ll be brief. For anyone who doesn’t know, I live in East Tennessee. It’s a great place to grow up and full of beautiful mountains (the Smokies, of course) and places to enjoy with family and friends.
Anyone who’s been to East Tennessee has probably heard of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, our own little tourist traps. These are kind of like the Wonderland of this area, and if you drive down the main drags, you’ll see various businesses and hotels all along the Little Pigeon River. It’s quite the sight: putt-putt course after specialty theater after restaurant after hotel.
Ah, and I should point out that the area is also host to our own amusement park: Dollywood. It’s almost a travesty for those who live here to not go at least once in their lifetimes.
Well, for the past few months, we’ve been seeing advertisements for a new attraction going into the Pigeon Forge area. Normally I ignore these ads; the attractions there are for the tourists who come to stay in mountain cabins and get caught up in the hubbub surrounding the theaters and shops. But this attraction’s a little different.
Opening April 8, Pigeon Forge is going to play host to a new museum: Titanic, the world’s largest museum attraction. I don’t know about you, but it sounds like a fascinating attraction to me. This is a half-scale model of the original ship built and surrounded by water in some form or fashion to create the feeling that you’re literally on the ship.
Specific exhibits include a replica of the grand staircase, an ‘iceberg’ guests can touch, a Marconi room where guests can send their own SOS messages via Morse Code, and so many more.
The exhibit sounds amazing to me. I can’t wait for it to open, and I’d love to go for the grand opening. Interestingly enough, the museum’s asked Regis Philben to come and christen the ship at 10 a.m. April 8, and the christening will be a free event open to the public.
I’m not entirely sure how expensive tickets are, but with your ticket, you receive a passbook with the story of an actual passenger on the Titanic, and you can follow that passenger’s story through the 2 hour guided tour. At the end of the tour, you’ll most likely be searching the list of passengers to determine whether your passenger died. (Rae’s rule of thumb: if the passenger was male, he more or less likely died. If the passenger was female, it’s up for grabs – second class and above mostly survived.)
This type of interactive exhibit is similar to the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C. (and probably many others) in that it draws you in to wonder whether your particular passenger survived.
Last night, our local news station broadcasted a show about the Titanic. I’ve seen these shows before. They discuss the controversy of the captain’s actions and those of the ship’s owner, Bruce Ismay. They make claims that certain actions might have saved more people. They discuss survivor stories. It’s really interesting to me, and I was hooked on the 2 hour program.
One of the things that this inspired, as you might guess, is a story. I’m tempted to write a piece of flash fiction based off one of the more intriguing items dug up from the wreckage of the ‘unsinkable’ ship. It’s a suitcase from Howard Irwin, who, according to ship’s log, never made it on board. I’ve chased some stories about him, and while the program last night claimed there was no definitive story behind his suitcase, there are some intriguing claims.
I’d like to make up my own story about who Howard Irwin was and why he was learning to play the clarinet for the woman who wrote him love letters (which were stored in his suitcase).
I was going to recommend a book I’d read as a kid, but I’m afraid I must have sold it. I can’t remember the title, only that it was about several kids from Ireland who were on the Titanic, moving to the new world. It’s similar to the movie in some ways. There’s a childish romance aboard ship, some class distinction (the majority of the kids, especially the boys are unfortunately housed in steerage), and the typical tragedy that you simply can’t escape in a book about the fateful ship. But it’s also a story of triumph as more of the kids survive than you expect, even though the imagery is graphic and sad.
Ah well, maybe one day I’ll see it in a bookstore again.
In the meantime, I’m hoping to get tickets to go to the opening of this new museum. It sounds like a fabulous exploration of history, and I want to get pictures and a feel for what the Titanic was like. If I go, I’ll take pictures and write about the museum.
What about you? What in history inspires you? Let me know!