Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

April 11, 2012

Indiana cardsharp one of few men to escape Titanic

By Scott L. Miley
CNHI News Service

ANDERSON, Ind. — Charles Romaine's life appeared as fascinating as it was ironic. He survived the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 only to get struck and killed by a New York cab a block from his home 10 years later.

A high society gambler, Romaine hobnobbed with the wealthy on the Titanic's first-class deck during the ocean liner's fateful journey from Southampton, England, 100 years ago.

He was also one of the few men to land a lifeboat seat. Women and children got first perference, and there were only enough lifeboats for one-third of the 2,224 passengers and crew.

It was a lucky break that soon found Romaine back in Anderson, Ind., where he managed the Hotel Doxey. He moved to New York City in 1916 to resume a banking career, getting run down by a speeding cab on Jan. 18, 1922, on a dark and rainy night.

Romaine, 55 at the time of his death, is buried with his wife, Eileen B. Doll Romaine, in Anderson's Maplewood Cemetery.

His life was a fitting coda to "Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition," a display that has toured the country with items recovered from the ship, a unique wall of ice and captivating stories.

Romaine had been a manager of Hotel Doxey for several years. Born in 1866 in Georgetown, Ky., he moved to Anderson in 1892.

Within a few years, he moved to London to serve as managing director of a trust company.

Here’s where his story is picked up as one of the final stories in the artifact exhibition:

"Romaine was also suspected of being a professional gambler, many of whom enjoyed the easy pickings available at high-stakes card games on the transatlantic steamer route.

"He boarded Titanic under the alias 'C. Rolmane,' though he also traveled under other aliases including 'Henry Romine' and 'C.H. Romacue,' a name he gave the Chicago Daily Journal in an interview after his rescue, during which he detailed the way he knew the ship was in trouble as he sat playing cards in the First Class Smoking Room."

He told the Journal, "The boat suddenly tilted, so sharply that my highball slid from the table.

"Then came a cry: 'We’re sinking,' and the lights grew dimmer and dimmer and finally went out."

Romaine made it into Lifeboat 9.

Today, Romaine’s great-great niece, Kay Hite, lives in Anderson. She is related to Romaine on her mother’s side. Hite met Romaine’s widow, Doll, once at a family Thanksgiving gathering in Indiana. Hite, now 71, was about 10, so the outing was perhaps in 1940.

Doll Romaine lived well in the high society of New York, relatives said. Hite recalled how she "taught me how to pass the creamer to the person next to me."

Hite said she's long had an interest in the history of the Titanic, among the greatest maritime disasters ever. Years ago, she said, a British writer of a book about the ship gave her a small piece of metal from it.

Hite and her relatives are well aware of their relationship to Romaine.

"My grandchildren think it’s wonderful," she said. "They’re real proud of that fact."

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Scott Miley is a reporter for the Anderson, Ind., Herald-Bulletin. Contact him at scott.miley@heraldbulletin.com.