by Terri Bey

In my last blog, "My Special Dining Experience at the 2021 Titanic Conference," I discussed eating food from the First Class Menu on the last night of the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic. At the same conference, during the free time between speakers and the Thursday night get-together, I met Peggy Wirgau and her husband. Matt. I started talking to them and they were both very nice people. I saw that she had her book, "The Stars in April." I asked her what the book was about, as I had heard of it, but had forgotten the subject of the book. Mrs. Wirgau said that it was a novel about Titanic Second Class passenger and survivor Ruth Becker Blanchard when she was a 12-year-old girl traveling with her mother, little sister, and baby brother on the Titanic to America.

I told Mrs. Wirgau that I might pick up the book. Well, at the end of the conference, I got myself a signed copy.

I found "The Stars in April" by Peggy Wirgau to be a fantastic book and I highly recommend it to anyone who is a Titanic enthusiast. The main character is 12-year-old Ruth Becker, who has to leave India for the United States with her mother, Nellie, and her sister, Marion because her baby brother, Richard became ill and would get better treatment. The reader discovers that Ruth is not happy about it, as she misses out on her chance to play her violin at an event that she was looking forward to playing and she has to leave her beloved father, Allen, and her friend, Sajni back in Indian where the family lived, as her father was a Lutheran minister.

Wirgau deftly tells this story of this 12-year-old girl who is just mad at the world. Wirgau takes the reader into Becker's mindset throughout Becker's trip. Becker is mad that her brother got sick. She is mad that she won't be able to play at the festival. Becker is mad that she has to take Marion everywhere. During the large part of this trip, Becker has a pity party.

However, Wirgau shows us how Becker's mindset begins to change when Becker meets all these different people. Becker meets a young boy and his father on the train. She meets the young boy again on another ship that takes them to Southampton, and the two get into a bit of mischief. Becker meets several people on the RMS Titanic. She runs into Second Officer Charles Lightoller. She walks the Pekingese dog, owned by Henry Sleeper Harper. Becker meets several Third Class Passengers. The reader learns that she is in Lifeboat 13, which also held the Caldwells. Becker goes from someone who feels sorry for herself to someone who starts to understand what is important in life.

While this book is a fictional novel, Peggy Wirgau tells a great story about a young girl who goes through a transformation. You watch Ruth Becker grow up before your eyes. What I really liked about the book was at the end of each chapter, the reader sees Becker's observation of the stars each night. I found that so interesting, as the night of the collision, there was no moon, just a night full of stars.

"The Stars in April" by Peggy Wirgau is also a great page-turner, as I wanted to know what was going to happen. I highly recommend it.

To purchase "The Stars in April" by Peggy Wirgau:

Amazon.com: The Stars in April: 9781645263074: Peggy Wirgau: Books

Peggy Wirgau's Website: The Stars In April — Peggy Wirgau

Contact: Alydace@yahoo.com

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by Terri Bey

Since the theme for the Titanic Book Club's November is "Dining and Food on the Titanic, I would like to discuss an activity that is part of the annual Titanic Conference in Pigeon Forge, TN, and a very special meal that we attendees ate.

This past August, I attended the 2021 Titanic Conference in Pigeon Forge. TN, led by Bill Willard, who led the 1996 and 1998 Titanic Expeditions which eventually raised the "Big Piece" from the wreck site. It is a four-day conference where Titanic authors, experts, and enthusiasts get together and listen to guest speakers, go on a trip to the Titanic Museum Attraction, and do other activities. This is an awesome conference and I highly recommend any Titanic enthusiast attending.

One of the activities included the Titanic Memorial Dinner at the Titanic Museum Attraction in a private room. We all dress up and many attendees dress in 1912 attire. We eat a nice dinner and then watch commemorative videos of the passengers who traveled on the ill-fated ship to the music of Robin Gibb's "Don't Cry Alone," from his "Titanic Requiem." Yes, that Robin Gibb. After dinner, we have a group photo taken on the Grand Staircase of the Attraction.

"Don't Cry Alone" from "Titanic Requiem" by Robin Gibb

The Titanic Passengers Memorial Dinner is a very solemn and emotional event as several relatives of passengers, both survivors and victims attend this conference. This year's dinner was different as usually we are served buffet-style. However, due to the pandemic, we were served plated. The settings were nice and we all had name placards at our tables.

We were served food from the final Lunch Menu that the First Class passengers ate on April 14, 1912, the final night on the Titanic. The image below is the menu from which the meal I am about to describe came. According to the article, Titanic Lunch Menu Sells for $122,000 at Auction (businessinsider.com), the menu belonged to the family of Dr. Washing Dodge and his family, until it was auctioned off by auctioneers Henry Aldrich and Sons. Dodge's wife Ruth put the menu in her purse as a souvenir. Little did she know that disaster was awaiting everyone aboard the great line and how valuable that menu would be.

Source: Business Insider.

The first dish served was a bowl of Cockie Leeky Soup, as an appetizer. The ingredients are Beef Stock, Leeks, and Chicken. I didn't think I was going to like the leeks in the soup, but I found the soup to be very delicious.

Cocky Leeky Soup. Photo by Terri Bey

As you can see on the menu, there was plenty of food from which to choose. It really was a shame that COVID protocols prevented us from having the buffet option because I really would have chosen the roast beef. However, what we had was very nice which was a slice of Virginia Ham, Baked Jacket Potato, Peas, a side of Baked Apples, and a roll of bread. For dessert, we had an Eclair.

Our Meal: Virginia Ham, Baked Jacket Potato, Peas, Baked Apples, and a roll. Eclair for Dessert

Photo: Terri Bey

This was a great experience eating from the menu from the grandest ship in the world at that time. I tried to imagine myself aboard the RMS Titanic at lunch and perhaps seeing Benjamin Guggenheim or Margaret Brown. As I ate, I had to remind myself that this meal was to be one of the last meals that some of those passengers would ever eat, and that was sobering.

Thank you for reading

Contact: Alydace@yahoo.com

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Updated: Sep 16, 2021

by Terri Bey

The Titanic Book Club's Book of the Month for October is "Titanic: Solving the Mysteries" by Tad Fitch, Bill Wormstedt, Steve Hall, Mark Chirnside, J. Kent Layton, Samuel Halpern, and Ioannis Georgiou. These esteemed authors and historians discuss two mysteries that have surrounded the sinking of the RMS Titanic, the time difference between the ship's time and the time on land and the well-publicized "bunker fire" sinking theory, that claims a bunker fire was the reason for the liner's demise. Even though I have yet to read this book, thanks to television specials and articles, I am familiar with the subject of the "bunker fire" theory. I am writing about this so-called "theory" to totally debunk it.

Ireland-based author Senan Molony along with London-based fire scientist Dr. Guillermo Rein are huge proponents of this coal bunker fire theory which claims that this coal bunker fire made the Titanic's steel so hot, that the steel weakened, and compromised the safety features and the ship's internal structures. There are a few reasons why this theory is totally wrong. Coal bunker fires were quite commonplace in ships of Titanic's day, so this particular fire was not unusual. The coal bunker fire, located in Coal Bunker W of Stokehold No. 9 in Boiler Room 5 on the ship's starboard side did rage for about a total of 10 days but was put out on Saturday night, April 13th, the night before the accident by the stokers removing the burning coal from the starboard side and transferring it to the port side. Dr. Rein and Sean Molony claimed that the coal fire reached temperatures between 932 to 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit. They claimed this would have made the steel brittle. One huge problem with this idea is that right above the bulkhead where the fire occurred was the First Class Swimming Pool. Passengers would have certainly noticed that the water was close to boiling. The hull plates around the pool would have definitely buckled. First Class passenger Archibald Gracie testified that the pool was always "comfortably warm."

This blog is just a small sample size of why the coal bunker fire theory is not valid. Given the background of these esteemed historians and experts, I do plan to purchase this book sooner or later, as I am interested in reading more about this subject in greater detail.

Contact: Alydace@yahoo.com

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