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Old 12-23-2009, 11:19 PM
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This is my confession...

Back in the 80's I idolized the idea of a remote keyboard for the calliope on the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE. I had about 12 different ideas on how we'd do it. The strangest was a desk just under the instrument (on the Skylight Roof) with the keyboard at it, attached to a liquor bar (horse shoe shaped) infront of it.

My idea was...the passengers will love the calliope and get so much entertainment from watching it being played.

Well, there were meetings, drawings, talks, speculation, interrogation, pictures rendered, and a half dozen other ideas mulled about between the Operating Board, the Captains, the Engineers, and myself and the fruition of this nonsense was moving the keyboard on the 2nd of April 1988 to the aft end of the Texas Cabin where it was on a sliding tray, much like a drawer. This lasted until the begining of the 1989 season when a closet was manufactured at the aft end of the Texas cabin where it is today.

Here is where this story becomes sequitor to this conversation.....I knew you'd all hold on long enough for this rambling to make sense!

Be careful what you wish for!

Contrary to my beliefs the passengers did NOT love the calliope. Once I was in their midst I became alot more than the Calliopist! Passengers come to an excursion boat for many reasons...some have nothing better to do with a couple of hours, some want to spend time with their family and/or friends, some want to learn about their home town, some are reminicing about times past, some are there for the food...but the calliope is not the reason any of them (EXCEPT for Matt Dow, David Morecraft, Jon and David Tchiggfrie, and myself) to be there!

True, the pied-piper sound of the calliope is a draw. I would go so far as to say it lures many people to the river. However, once aboard, it is a totally different experience!

One summer day in 1988 I realized the err in my ways. I became a curiosity up there with my little keyboard in a passenger area. Some requested songs (the main reason I thought it would be a good thing), some requested the volume turned down (I added a old VHF tuning knob from a television mid-season and just turning the thing made folks was attached to nothing), and the bain of my existance....people started poking me (oblivious to the fact I eas the source of the music) wanting directions to the bathroom. I once told a captain aboard the BELLE, I want a new uniform shirt with directions to the bathroom stenciled on the back of it! I never got that shirt! One time I was particularly annoyed with one elderly male passenger who had come to me 3 times for directions to the bathroom in one concert. So I advised him we did not have a bathroom, that is what the wire mesh rails were for...he could just stand there like he was looking at the river an no one would be the wiser. I stopped him from taking me up on my offer just in the nick of time and walked him to the restroom!

Many people became vocally abusive over the volume of the calliope. I got into the habit of explaining the history, meaning, and purpose of the calliope as a way to diffuse them. I would also explain I had only a few minutes left to call passengers to the river and it would be over. This usually calmed them down.

One time that didn't work.

There was a particularly aggressive male passenger one day who thought through a process of physically relocating me through the Texas Cabin bulkhead would stop the calliope music quicker. After I did my normal explaination of the time factor and all...he wasn't satisfied. I offered him the possibility of the Captain giving him a refund, the ability to discuss his percieved annoyance with the Captain, and even went as far as to suggest he didn't want me on unemployment on his dime with I lost my job. This was not good enough for our assailant.

Sadly enough for him, we had Security Patrol aboard the boat this day. He may have goeetn the first lick in...but, in the end, he didn't get a boat cruise, he didn't get a refund, he never met the Captain, and lastly, he never came back to claim the boarding picture Marie (our Photographer at the time...a lovely lady from New Orleans) took as he boarded. His lady friend stayed aboard for the cruise and apologized to me several times for his 'vulgarness", as she called it.

Passengers...they can make or break a cruise on an excursion boat! Sometimes I think the best excursion boat ride is when you are deadheading between towns. There is nothing like it. Unfortunatly, that doesn't pay the bills!

Yeah, be careful what you wish for...'.cause you just may get it! I think I want that inscribed on my tombstone.

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