Transmission 20: Debra Milgrim-Heath

Debra Milgrim-Heath (née Katz) boarding the SS United States with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Emil Katz. Courtesy of D.K. Milgrim-Heath.

I sailed from the NYC docks to Le Havre, France with my parents in April of 1962. They wanted to take me to see Europe in the springtime.

Before she married my father, my mother was a stage actress by the name of Inez Rawlson and a part of the international jet set. My father was famous in his own right; he was the CEO of Emil Katz & Co., a renowned lace import/export company. Thanks to my dad’s company, my parents knew all the top dress designers, and many actors and models. My mom went to all the European fashion shows: Dior, Lanvin, Chanel, Ferragamo, Givenchy, Hermes, to name a few.

One night we got an invitation to sit at the Commodore’s table. I saw the invitation before my parents, dressed myself in my fanciest clothes, and set off to the location on the invitation. My parents searched high and low for me before spotting the invitation and realizing I had gone without them!

Each dinner felt like an occasion, with the getting dressed formally, the many courses of delicious food, and the flaming desserts.

While we were in the English Channel, the ship hit rough water and tilted. I was in the Letter Writing Room when it happened – you could compose your correspondences there, it was stocked with writing supplies as well as photos of the ship – and held onto a decorative column for dear life!

Although I only sailed on the SS United States once, my father was a longtime yearly passenger. The memory of that crossing with my parents will always be special in my heart.

— Debra Milgrim-Heath, former passenger