Whether it’s an image of the iconic ship, the phrase “Iceberg, right ahead!” or the song “Nearer, My God, To Thee,” the sinking of the Titanic, 100 years ago Sunday, resonates with this era just like it has in the past – and inevitably will in the future.
Considered the worst peacetime maritime disaster of all time, a passenger liner – the largest for 1912 – on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City, collided with an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. April 14.
At 2:20 a.m., it sank, taking more than 1,500 people down with it.
But the story of the Titanic hits a little closer to home at Home Bakery, where the Tilanders strive to remember the way the ship changed their family’s history in Astoria.
Home Bakery on Marine Drive has been run by the Tilander family since it opened in 1910. It was originally opened by Finnish immigrants Elmer Wallo, Charlie Jarvanin and Arthur A. Tilander. When Wallo died, according to the bakery’s website, astoriacinnamontoast .com, the Tilander family began making the bakery a family tradition, with Arthur H. Tilander following in his father’s footsteps, and James “Jim” Tilander following in the 1980s. He currently runs the business.
“It’s been in my family since about 1910. My grandfather came over here earlier and worked in some boarding houses and so on,” Tilander explained. But having been a baker in Finland, he went into business with some partners, and began Home Bakery. “A few other men got their money together and finances together and started the bakery here.”
The original location, which perished in a fire, was right next to the current building, where a gravel parking lot now sits.
“My grandfather’s brother was coming over and he was going to be a partner in it, also, from what I was told. He boarded on the Titanic.”
Tilander was a name chosen or possibly even handed to the first Arthur when he immigrated to America in the early 1900s. Arthur A.’s brother, Ilmari “Elmer” Alhomaki, was coming to join the business and get a better life, too.
“He perished,” Tilander explained. “I can’t be certain, but I’m pretty sure he was in the last (third) class. It probably cost him all he had to get the ticket. I know he wasn’t wealthy.”
The Encyclopedia Titanica, an online historical website, is available to the public at www.encyclopedia-titanica.org
It recounts that an Ilmari Rudolf Alhomaki was a third-class passenger on the ship, boarding the vessel in Southampton.
Only one in four of the third-class passengers survived the disaster, mostly because the gates separating the classes had been locked, keeping the third-class passengers below the decks where the lifeboats were boarding.
Eventually, third-class passengers broke down the gates. But for many, it was too late.
“We might be talking to somebody different if he had been here. Maybe one of my cousins would be running it,” Tilander said.
Alhomaki was born in March 1893. He was from Salo, Finland. He listed his occupation as a general laborer when boarding.
With ticket number 3101287, Alhomaki paid 561 Finnish Marks for a third-class trip, which included a train journey to Astoria once the ship docked in America.
His body, according to Encyclopedia Titanica, was never identified if recovered. Only 333 bodies were recovered and identified.
Alhomaki’s family was later given 50 British pounds from a relief fund.
“It kind of has a special meaning for me,” Tilander said of the Titanic’s 100th anniversary. “I think about that. I see that Titanic and know that I had a direct relative on there that perished on it.”
Others headed for Astoria
The Clatsop County Historical Society has some relevant records. A Cumtux correspondence by Jack Fosmark from the spring 1998 edition, following James Cameron’s “Titanic” movie, also reports on others headed for the North Coast aboard the Titanic. A Seaside resident, Laina Heikkinen (later Pentilla) was one of 63 Finnish immigrants on the Titanic. Heading back from a trip home to her native Jyvaskyla, Finland, Pentilla survived the disaster, one of only 27 Finnish survivors.
Another woman and two of her three children were headed to Seaside via Astoria to meet with her husband, a logger, who had come to America for work.
Helena Wilhelmina Rosblom, 41, lived in Kolla, Rauma, on the west coast of Finland. She left home on March 23, 1912 with her son Viktor, 18, and daughter Salli, 2. Another Son, Eino, 10, refused to board the ship.
Encyclopedia Titanica states, “Eino had resolutely refused to ‘go with them to drown’ and had to be left in Rauma.”
Once in Southampton, Salli was reportedly sick so the trip was delayed. Once well enough to travel, the three boarded the Titanic. Her husband in Seaside, Viktor Rosblom – the name was later changed to Ross – began to worry when the family didn’t arrive.
He found out they had died.
Their son Eino was notified by telegram on June 8, 1912, almost two months after the disaster. The bodies of the three Rosbloms were never found.
Ross’s son Eino Ross eventually came to America. The two were loggers and lived on Avenue H near the railroad, according to Fosmark.
The elder Ross is buried in Seaside Evergreen Cemetery. He died in 1933.
Frank W. Warren and his wife, Anna Sophia, were also passengers on the Titanic – the only first-class passengers from Oregon, celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary. Residents of Forest Grove, Frank Warren was well known in the county as the president of Warren Packing Co., which operated a cold storage plant in Astoria as well as canneries up and down the coast. He was also a board member at Pacific University. The Warrens had been vacationing on the Mediterranean, when they decided to cut their trip short, according to Fosmark.
Anna Sophia Warren, 60, survived the sinking. In the April 24, 1912 edition of The Daily Morning Astorian, Warren’s story is told.
“Mrs. Warren cannot be interviewed, but she has talked to me of the disaster and still believes that her husband may have found safety in some boat or raft and will return to her,” the reporter writes. “There was no excitement on the ship when it first struck the iceberg, but both dressed and her husband went on deck and returned with a piece of ice which he found on deck and showed it to his wife, telling her what had happened. He did not then realize the enormity of what happened.
“The lifeboat they were placed in was but partly filled, but Mr. Warren made no effort to press into it and said he would get into another boat. He was not seen afterward and must have gone down with the ship. After pulling out to sea, the people in the boat Mrs. Warren was in were placed in another boat and their boat then returned to the ship for another load. They noticed several boats that could have accommodated several more people. After reaching Carpathia (the ship that rescued the survivors), they were given every possible consideration.
“They saw the Titanic sink with lights burning but heard no music. Mrs. Warren said that the night was clear and the sea apparently calm and that if there had been a sufficient supply of life-saving apparatus, all on the ship could have been saved, as there was ample time to leave the ship after the great danger was realized.”
Frank Warren’s body was never recovered.
John Jacob Astor IV was among the most famous victims. He was the inventor of the bike break, co-developer of the turbine engine, wealthy real estate mogul, lieutenant colonel in the Spanish-American War and great-grandson to the original John Jacob Astor for whom Astoria is named. Astor, 47, was the wealthiest passenger on board, with his 19 year old wife who was expecting her first child, his third. The Astors were returning to America after a several month long honeymoon in Egypt and Europe, while they waited for gossip about them back home to die down.
Divorce was controversial in those days, according to Encyclopedia Titanica. And with the news he’d left his wife for a much younger woman, the newlyweds escaped to Egypt and Europe, before boarding the ship for home so their child could be born in America. On their trip was friend Margaret “Molly” Brown, “the unsinkable,” who famously survived the disaster. She was returning home on the Titanic to see her ill grandson.
Astor’s wife Madeleine survived and later gave birth to a son, John Jacob Astor VI.
Astor perished as the “woman and children first” rule was enforced by the crew. Several sources note him as being a gentleman, helping others into lifeboats and taking the news “like a man” that he could not accompany his wife “in her delicate condition.”
Astor’s son, Astor VI, is the father of Jacqueline Astor Drexel, who visited Astoria last year, along with John Jacob Astor VIII, her cousin, for Astoria’s Bicentennial Celebration.
“The Titanic sinking was a terrible tragedy and we remember all those who perished,” Lord Astor VIII said in a message this month from England, where he serves in the House of Lords.
The Titanic did not have enough life boats for everyone. Most of the life boats were pop-up boats with canvas sides. Some were launched only partially full. And some people in the small crafts died of hypothermia because they were exposed to the 28-degree temperatures.
Other notable passengers on the Titanic included Benjamin Guggenheim, heir to a mining fortune, and Isidor Straus, co-owner of Macy’s Department Store. Both died, along with Isidor’s wife, Ida, who refused to enter a lifeboat without her husband, according to Encyclopedia Titanica. They were last seen sitting in deck chairs, holding hands, as a wave washed them out to sea.
Her body was never recovered.
Cameron’s movie “Titanic,” released in 1997, was the first movie to earn $1 billion at the box office. That movie was rereleased in 3-D April 6 for the anniversary. In it, Astor is depicted, along with Brown and the Strauses, who are shown as the couple in bed, clinging to each other, as their state room fills with water.
But other real-life events have brought images from the event back into the media.
The incident off the coast of Italy, aboard the Costa Concordia, is the latest.
At 9:45 p.m. Jan. 13, the ship owned by Carnival Cruise Lines struck a rock in the Tyrrhenian Sea of the western coast of Italy. As a result, the engine room took in water, causing a loss of power and propulsion, and sending the ship drifting before it grounded near Giglio Island. An order to abandon ship took more than an hour, and the evacuation took nearly six hours. Two people are missing and 30 have been confirmed dead.
It was the largest Italian cruise ship ever conceived.
Both the Costa Concordia and the Titanic had issues with christening, a tradition long held by sailors on ships.
The Titanic was never christened; the Costa Concordia was christened with a bottle that didn’t break.
• Coming Friday: Steve Forrester’s Editor’s Notebook column highlights the story that has captivated the world for 100 years.
This story originally appeared in Daily Astorian.