In 1959 I joined the new crew of the brand new tanker Philidora that was being built in Camden (PA). At the time the Philidora was a large ship; it could carry 47,000 tons of cargo. The new crew had to get acquainted with the ship and its installation. So we stayed in Camden in the Walt Whitman hotel.
For us it was new to have television in our room. I can still hear the melodies of the advertisements of the Papermate. We stayed at the hotel for about a fortnight. With a friend of mine I managed to pay a visit tot Philadelphia which was on the other side of the Delaware River. We had the opportunity to visit Independence Hall and were on historical ground. There as in New York a year earlier security didn’t seem to be a problem. We could walk in and out without so much as a check on our identities.
The Philidora was laying at the Delaware Shipbuilding Company together with and moored at the same pier with the first nuclear submarine of the United States Nautilus. We could walk around the reactor vessel and see how its the leaden covering was attached. Looking back even there security seemed rather slack. But upon entering the United States by plane we had to give imprints of all of our ten fingers on a large form.
One of the things that made quite an impression – otherwise I wouldn’t have remembered it – was the sandwich dispenser on the pier of the shipyard. The same sandwiches must have been stored on board in large numbers: when we eventually left Camden we had to eat them for more than a week.
Looking back: the United States seemed to be a rather relaxed place to be. Though not for everyone. It was the time of the McArthy crusade against communism.
For us the USA were in the first place very expensive with a rate of about 3,80 guilders to a dollar.