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One Immigrant’s Tale of Two Countries


R.M.S. Queen Mary. – Photo by Terry Miller

R.M.S. Queen Mary. – Photo by Terry Miller


Like Father – Like Son

By Terry Miller

Many of you may know me as the photographer and editor for these newspapers. For the past 17 years I have photographed so many people and events in the San Gabriel Valley and Los Angeles County that I have literally gone through thousands of rolls of film, numerous camera bodies, and now have about six massive hard drives storing a vast collection of digital images.

As many of you know, I’m a British subject … and darn proud of it too, despite Brexit.
My family immigrated to the United States in the mid-1960s. We boarded the RMS Queen Mary at Southampton in May of 1965. From there we sailed to Cherbourg and, ultimately, docked in New York five days later.
My father had just been promoted to foreign correspondent from the London desk of a major British daily newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, to the New York bureau – hence the reason we were sailing off to this brave new and exciting world.

It was, without question, the single most incredible journey of my life. It was an experience, quite unlike any other. It literally changed the direction in which my life would flow.

The cabin crew aboard the RMS Queen Mary treated every passenger with the respect usually reserved for royalty – naturally, my young brother Colin and I took more than full advantage of all the attention, until we started hitting rough weather.

The RMS Queen Mary, you see, had no stabilizers and a rough Atlantic crossing could mean a great deal of sick passengers and a huge task for the pursers and cabin crew.

The day the storm hit, probably half-way across the Atlantic, there were hundreds of really sick people who needed attention. Opportunity knocks for the Miller brothers.

There was ample time to explore this massive beast without parental supervision. My poor mother was already sea-sick and trying to take care of my baby sister Mandy and my Dad, Henry Miller, was hobnobbing with other Brits moving to the United States in the famous Observation “Deck” (which we found out years later was, in fact, the Observation Bar and most popular speakeasy aboard the historic majestic ocean liner).

I remember my brother and I relishing in the fact that this massive Royal Mail Ship Queen Mary was being tossed from side to side and up and down like a toy boat. Not many others were quite so eager to enjoy such high-sea adventures.

As the ship’s staff hurriedly attended to the ship tossing and passengers’ stomachs turning, my brother and I decided it was time to explore the first class area of the ship … our intended target – the first class swimming pool, which was incredible. There was a ghost story attached too, about someone who allegedly drowned there. Some say you can hear her screams … the only screams we heard were coming from each other’s lungs as we plunged into pure excitement for having a giant pool all to ourselves.

The glorious 1930s Art Deco pool was empty; we had the whole giant magic pool to ourselves, the water was splashing out of the pool – talk about fun. This was better than any Disneyland ride could ever be.

Attempting to eat dinner on the chained down tables during the storm(s) was a great challenge, not only for passengers, but, moreover, for the staff that had to cook and serve these gourmet meals. The food and waiters would literally fall from side to side, barely managing to get the plates near the table edge.

Shortly after we arrived in New York, my dad was being rushed off to points unknown to cover a breaking news story. One year in particular caught my attention. It was 1968. My dad was sent to Memphis and then Los Angeles. Within a few months of one another both Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated.

After John Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, a certain innocence left the collective American consciousness. And in 1968, some would say all hell broke loose. It was indeed a radical time of change. The staggering horrors of the war in Vietnam were utmost in peoples’ minds – thanks to images transmitted, not only on the television, but also still images.

In fact, still images may have played a major role in stopping the war. Who can forget that famous Eddie Adams photograph of an execution? Or, my friend – local AP photographer and Pulitzer Prize winner – Nick Ut’s photo of the little girl running from the napalm attack, where she and many other children were so badly burned?

Photographer Eddie Adams once said to Nick Ut that it was “You and me Nicky… we ended the war.” I cannot think of two more powerful and thoughtful photographers who changed public perception of the horrors of the Vietnam War.

The 1960s was an amazing period in history, especially for journalists. I got the bug early. From being in the background and hearing first-hand stories of what it was like to be in the courtroom when Charles Manson made his first appearance in front of the judge, snarling at those present while flaunting the swastika that was etched into his forehead. From hearing about how a contact my father made with an FBI agent helped him get a few hours lead on the Patty Hearst story. These and countless other major news stories hooked me on newspapers.

In the middle of the 19th century, people began referring to the press as a fourth estate, referencing the fact that most parliaments and other houses of government had an area set aside specifically for the use of the press, and pointing out that the press was a distinct group within the larger framework of the realm. Edmund Burke is said to have referenced the fourth estate when discussing the French Revolution, and Thomas Carlyle, a 19th century writer helped the term become a common one.

July 20, 2016

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ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “One Immigrant’s Tale of Two Countries”

  1. Carol Libby says:

    Excellent piece, Terry. Thank you for sharing.

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