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A Match Made on the North Atlantic

A young Martin Christensen, left. A young Catherine Christensen, right

A young Martin Christensen (left), a young Catherine Christensen (right).

We hear innumerable stories about seasickness from our Museum visitors who crossed the Atlantic and first arrived at Pier 21. They all laugh about it now, but frequently add that they haven’t been on a ship since and have no interest in repeating the nauseating adventure. Although it begins with a seasick girl, this is not one of those stories.

This one is about lovesickness and two young people from very different worlds, who met aboard the December 1948 voyage of the Empress of France. Here Catherine Christensen describes the couple’s North Atlantic courtship:

“Martin and I first met on December 21 . During the evening I felt nauseous and sick to my stomach. In the early morning, I needed fresh air and raced from my room to go up on deck. As I left my room, I bumped into this big handsome guy and said, “I’m sick!” He smiled, and I ran upstairs to the deck. How was I to know that this handsome guy I bumped into was later to be my husband, a Dane named Martin?

In the evening Martin bowed and clicked his heels in front of me and said, “Dance?” We danced then he said to me, “I fra Danmark—you?” I said “Scotland?” and that was the end of our conversation. Martin took me to the first class lounge where we sat on a beautiful couch and we held hands. All of a sudden about four men in kilts came over to us. They were called “The Curlers”, and were going to entertain in Canada. Martin put his arm around me. They looked at him while holding mistletoe above our heads and said, “Kiss the wee lass.” He didn’t understand them, and I was too shy to kiss him. They came over and put our two heads together. That was our first beautiful kiss.

We enjoyed the company of each other throughout our trip. We had many walks around the deck, we saw movies, sang songs with the band and everyone around us. They were always cheerful times.

Martin and Catherine Christensen

Martin and Catherine Christensen

Martin departed from the Empress of France on December 28, 1948 in Halifax, Canada. We were going to discover our new countries and a new life, but in different directions. He was off to Vancouver and I continued on by ship to St. John, New Brunswick, where I departed for New York via train, where my family and I settled.

Martin and I corresponded for three years and in January of 1952 Martin came to the USA and we were married on June 21, 1952.”

Mr. and Mrs. Christensen visited Pier 21 in the summer of 1999 when the museum was just days old and shared their amazing story with us. They still reside in the United States and are the proud parents of three grown children and seven grandchildren. They remain as happy as they were on the day that they married.