Through His Words: Day Five

8 Jan

Reflections From and About My Grandfather
Alexander Capraro, Architect

Day Five:

Wednesday, July 20, 1938 
On board ship        
Chapter 5

Darling Toots,

There is certainly a lot of water between us now. It seems there is no end to this ocean – water, water, sky and ocean.

Just how much water in distance? Approximately 7094 kilometers or 4408 miles or 3831 nautical miles.

Had breakfast and lunch today, and if I don’t gain weight on this trip, it won’t be the ship’s fault. I am being careful but the ocean air makes you eat almost anything and everything and especially tonight because they had a “Gala” night – the big night on the boat. Champaign was served and everyone had on their best clothes, paper hats, horns, and all kinds of favors. 


Gala Night, Conte di Savoia; Alex 2nd from right

Interestingly, I had found this picture in my grandfather’s papers and wondered why he and three other grown men chose to wear hats with flowers at what appeared to be a semi-formal event. Fortunately, Alex took the time to write on the back of the photo:


Thanks, Grandpa, for another piece of the puzzle. Love those white shoes!

The Gala night is put on by the Captain because tomorrow we will reach Gibraltar and a few of the passengers are getting off there, which makes it the last night for them on board ship.

The Rock of Gibraltar. Of course, doesn’t everyone stop there on their way to Italy?

From its website:

In the ancient times, right through the age of empires and in the global conflicts of our own century, Gibraltar has stood guard over the western Mediterranean, its unique position making it the focus of a continuous struggle for power. This spectacular rock monolith, covering a land area of about six square kilometres, is situated at the southern tip of Spain overlooking the strait to Africa. It is known as the Meeting Place of Continents.


“Gibraltar – Roch From Spanish Shores”

In March, 1937, a year before Alex’s trip, Maude received this postcard from their dear friends who had visited Gibraltar on their way to Naples, just like some passengers traveling with Alex would do the next day. 

“Most beautiful place. We went to the top of the mountain and came down in a basket sled. Lots of fun. Flowers grow everywhere here. Lovely calla lilies.” (From back of postcard)

In 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht gave Britain sovereignty over the island. Today, while there are only about 30,000 inhabitants, Gibraltar is visited by over 10 million tourists per year.


I spent most of the afternoon in the engine room and a well spent afternoon it was. You can’t imagine the immensity of the engines, motors, turbines etc. that are necessary to operate this oil burning ship.

The engineering side of Alex was curious. Unlike most who were more than content to admire the ship’s external beauty, Alex was equally interested in what made the ship run. How many others would be so pleased to spend most of an afternoon in the engine room? (Well, besides my husband…)

For Alex, being on Conte di Savoia was a dream come true. Its magnificent design details appealed to his architectural creativity while the ship’s inner workings coaxed his inquisitive thinking. But no wonder. Alex had been in the profession for 20 years and had built a solid reputation. 20 years earlier, after WWI, he was engaged by the Illinois Central Railroad as Chief of the Real Estate Division.



A few years later, in 1921, Alex entered into active practice of his profession. Then in 1926, he formed a partnership with Morris Komar, another noted architect, and founded Capraro & Komar, Architects, with offices on Washington Street in Chicago.

Well, honey, tomorrow I expect to see land again, Gibraltar, and believe me, it will be a pleasure to see what terra firma looks like after 5 days of nothing but water. I am going to walk around the deck now for a while and will write again to tell you all about Gibraltar tomorrow.

Again love and kisses to my gang.

 Always Al

To be continued.


2 Responses to “Through His Words: Day Five”

  1. Florence C. Connelly January 9, 2014 at 9:48 PM #

    this is so interesting !! xo

    Florence C. Connelly


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: