Transmission 7: Eva Heins

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Eva Heins and her son Eduard J.K. Heins boarding the SS United States in Le Havre. Courtesy of Eva M. Heins.

My husband, Edward J. Heins, Jr., was a crew member on the SS United States for her maiden voyage and sailed on the ship as her chief plumber for some time thereafter. He insisted my son and I come back on the “his ship” after one of my trips to Austria to be with my family. On May 2nd, 1963, my son Eddie (aged 6 at the time) and I embarked on the SS United States from Le Havre to New York.

My husband had given me some names of his former crew members to look up, and once we were settled, I got in touch with them. We were just cabin class passengers, but Eddie and I were given special tours of the ship – we even went “down below” and saw the huge screw turns that powered the big ship. We got to see the majestic first class ballroom lounge, too, with (I believe) the only wooden thing on the ship, the piano. Everything was very elegant and we had superb service. One of my husband’s former acquaintances had worked his way up to Chief Steward, so we did not want for attention. 

The only bad part was that the trip was over all too soon. We crossed the Atlantic back to the U.S. in probably half the time it took us to get to Europe. My husband came to New York to meet us – of course, that also gave him the chance to renew some old friendships.

A crew member named Dan Lanahan, who I believe was by then the Chief Plumber, invited us to his apartment for some more reminiscing. One of the stories told was that of when my husband was called to take care of a problem in Rita Hayworth’s cabin. With Rita being a famous actress and the top glamour girl at that time, he felt compelled to take a souvenir, so he brought her toilet seat back to the shop and hung it on the wall, I guess as a “here sat Rita Hayworth” type tribute!

— Eva Heins, wife of Edward J. Heins, Jr., former Chief Plumber