The Times and Tides of Ocean City, Maryland
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Treasures From the African Queen
by Betty J. Jester
2006


Booty from the African Queen
In May 1958, my husband, Edward and I made the biggest decision of our lives. We decided to pull up our roots in Chincoteague, Virginia and move to Ocean City. We bought a beautiful home at 109 North Baltimore Avenue and settled in to raise our daughter Joan, and later son Jeffrey.

It seemed to me that something exciting was always happening in the town. During our first winter in Ocean City, a Norwegian super-tanker the African Queen hit a dangerous sand bar about eleven miles off the coast of Ocean City, and broke in half. It was December 30, 1958-on my birthday-that the shipwreck occurred.

That stormy morning, I was having my usual cup of coffee with my neighbor and newfound friend Reba Birch Bunting. Suddenly from overhead we heard the heavy thunder of helicopters. Something big was going on! We donned heavy coats and ran towards the boardwalk and then south a few blocks towards the Coast Guard Station on Caroline Street. What a sight to behold! The helicopters were unloading all these people on the beach and they were being taken into the station house. Several of the rescued men were carrying cats cuddled in their arms. There was lots of commotion and noise and blowing sand from the rotor blades of the choppers. Ocean City's small police force and members of the fire company held Reba and me at bay, a good distance away from the action, as they did the hundred or so other townsfolk that had come upon the scene. But, we stayed and watched until, after many trips back and forth to the Queen, all of the forty-seven men on board had been rescued and safely taken care of by the Guardsmen.

Half of the ship had sunk, but the other half remained afloat. One man, I don't remember his name, decided to claim the wreck and went aboard her with a couple of shotguns to deter anyone else from boarding. He was there for a while, I believe until March of 1959-almost three months. He had thrown caution to the wind and stayed aboard her during a bad northeast winter storm. He was washed overboard and was drowned. With that, the African Queen was turned loose for whoever wanted to claim the ship or anything that was aboard her.


From the Baltimore Sun Magazine
It was a free-for-all. Anybody and everybody who had a boat, big or small, headed out the Ocean City Inlet towards the wreck.

My husband Eddie Jester, with Ricks Savage, Sr. and Charles "Pinky" Parker, all men of the water, left as a group at dawn of the first day that they turned the Queen loose. When they got there, and I think this was very ingenious, the first thing they did was to claim three of the ships' life-boats and lowered them into the water and then proceeded to fill them up with goodies.

That morning, before he left, Ed asked me what I wanted off the ship. I had always wanted a typewriter, so when he returned that night my gift was a "German" typewriter and Joan got a little foreign doll. I loved my typewriter. It had all the same keys as the American made ones, except there was no dollar ($) symbol on it.

Ed, Ricks and Pinky went out to the Queen everyday until the "fountain ran dry." I can't begin to tell you all the stuff they brought home, but I remember having 1,500 gallons of white Sherwin-Williams paint, beautiful sandalwood chairs and tables, expensive lamps and gallons and gallons of Worcestershire Sauce-the men had thought at the time, that it was vintage wine.

I truly believe that every household in Ocean City, West Ocean City and, for that matter, all of Worcester County ended up having a "treasured souvenir" from the African Queen.

Come progging - join our scavenger hunt!
Scavenger Hunt Clue # 5
The "Queen of the Funhouse" once had to stand behind a chicken wire cage so pranksters would not steal her handbag. She is now spending her retirement greeting visitors at the Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum. Who is she?


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