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Old 04-02-2014, 01:55 PM
R. Dale Flick R. Dale Flick is offline
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.
Posts: 1,584
Default *Those AVALON/BELLE Memories*

*Those AVALON/BELLE Memories*
Steamboating colleagues:
Great initiating post from A.J Richardson for sure and I'm certain more will come through from others who saw, rode and worked on the AVALON/BELLE. Judy on the money; so why not poke those memories well back to the 1950s? The AVALON was a real fixture here docked behind the GREENE LINE wharfboat or at the cobbled Public Landing or steaming up by old Coal Haven Landing here with, then, the smell of good old coal burned in her boilers before conversion to oil and installing of boilers from the GORDON C. GREENE. If any of you want detailed writing, memories of her then pull down your copy of 'MOONLITE AT 8:30: The Excursion Boat Story,' Capts. Alan L. Bates and Clarke C. Hawley. Their history of the AVALON entering service here after the loss of the last ISLAND QUEEN too detailed to relate here. And then appeared the personage of Ernest A. 'Woody' Meyer her later impresario and promoter. That in itself a book. I've numerous news clippings her of the AVALON from the 1950s with one covering her early spring awakening with work, painting, cleaning by the crew.

I remember my first AVALON trip in the early 1950s boarding her from the GREENE wharboat; later right off the Public Landing. An adventure for me but not one for my mother who wasn't keen in boats or water in any way, shape of form muddy or salt water. Dad and I toured the boat from stem to stern with the boilers roaring. Don't ask who was who aboard then other than old family friend Emory Edington. Capt. Doc Hawley wasn't long in following with Capt. Ernest Wagner. To many the boat was something of a let-down compared to the last ISLAND QUEEN. I thought she was a beauty then and still hold to that now. She and the DELTA QUEEN both together at the same place being once true packet steamboats. Imagine that?

In not too long, Betty Blake departed WLW-TV here as a PR gal, joined the AVALON in their offices located in the then Duttenhoffer Bldg. here in town--now a part of the giant P&G corporate operation--where she did the scut work as the 'head or promo' man/gal with all the rest of her fascinating story pretty much known. I remember as a kid phoning the AVALON office for information leading to my sunday school excursion. This lady named Betty answered in a dusky voice. "Sure, we'll do all we can to welcome you...spread the word if you can," she said. She was kind in sending information and we all went again on the boat. Little did I know that in later years Betty's and my shadows would meet on the highway of life.

As a prelude to the AVALON here it should be remembered that Ed Schott of CONEY ISLAND had pretty much thrown in the sponge after the loss of the ISLAND QUEEN with no replacement due to well-known demogaphics of changing habits, excurion boats, cost of building or purchasing a new one. That issue surfaced for some years with no planned boat for CONEY ISLAND.

Sure the AVALON was considered 'old' even them, lathered with paint thick as icing, but she was clean and fun. Mother again was a little dubious seeing, hearing those boilers roaring, steam hissing, engines coming to life with that certain vibration and slap, slap, slap of her red wheel. I can't recall any food or drink purchased aboard my first trip--if any. Dad and I were glued to the boilers, engines, decks above watching the passing shore up to near CONEY before turning around and back down. Another time we steamed well beyond CONEY and then on other trips down river. Passing under the bridges with her whistle and calliope playing resounded like no other sound I've ever heard. The smell of river smoke, steam and muddy water just as intoxicating then as now.

Later I was down at the GREENE LINE wharboat the day the big auction was held for the AVALON going to Louisville. She was laid behind the GREENE operation with windows down, lights on, people coming and going. And there was a feeling of loss when she left Cincinnati for a newer, more caring home. Will others with those early memories please step up to the microphone. Well, again, what do I know?

R. Dale Flick who will never see age 70 again.
Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati.
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