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Old 11-24-2016, 02:46 PM
R. Dale Flick R. Dale Flick is offline
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.
Posts: 1,573

*Thanksgiving, 1908/Fred Laidley & the L&C LINE*
Steamboating colleagues:
With work here on the L&C LINE wharfboat, Ellis Mace and I just took a breather. This year, 1908, fairly good in the steamboat business but low water all summer and fall had us in a quandry. Business such Laidley has had his CITY OF LOUISVILLE laid up more than running to cut expernses. Just an hour ago the one phone in the office rang [There were only six phones on the PUblic Landing then] with a message to Laidley that his baby CITY OF CINCINNATI broke that tiller line near Beigs Landing. The Commodore went ballistic with all of us here heading over on the cabin of the CITY OF LOUISVILLE for a big meeting and Thanksgiving dinner with invited guests, local politicos, top shippers with us, Chamber of Commerce representatives and their families also to make the trip down to Louisville and back. Then the Chief came up with word about a "problem down below" to Laidley. "By darn! What more could go wrong on this day?!" Laidley snorted with little Mrs. Laidley calming him down. "Now, Frederick, we've been through a lot worse than this since the 1860s and we'll do just fine now." Chief Steward Mose and his cabin staff stood with backs to the cabin walls taking it all in.

Laidley and the Chief parlied with them finding the needed pump fitting buried back on the wharfboat. "Chief, take us a new tiller line down on the LOUISVILLE and we'll drop it off for the CINCINNATI. Stars and garters, do people think I'm a made of money?" he said returning to the main cabin for the big noon holiday dinner before we all steamed to Louisville at 5:00PM--Ellis Mace and me invited. "Commodore, in the year 1908 now, what do you see to the future of boats like this and your own career?" one Chamber of Commerce rep asked over dessert, coffee and cigars. The table fell silent with heads spinning down to the Commodore. "Gentlmen and esteemed ladies, I've been in this business since a' fore the Civil War and know the 1850s were the real peak years for boats like this. The 135 miles from Cincinnati to Louisville the busiest and most financially successful on any stretch of our inland rivers. This line the oldest in the nation dating back to 1818 or so--and that's a long time. But I say now there are changes...big changes...coming after this year 1908. The railroads been cuttin' in on us since the 1880s with their seven different categories of freight and I'm thinking of pulling out of the Cincinnati to lower Mississipi trade. Then these new motor machines may well fool all of us. They put these motors on bigger carriages and lorries and there goes our business. Another moment of pregnant pause. And then the Commodore spoke again.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are in the throes leading to the end of a great era. I tell you now that it may survive probably not longer than the span of my own life. I would give big time steamboating as I know it--and we carry on here--not longer than possibly 1925 to 1930 if then. Ellis Mace and Dale Flick here advise me to look more also into this new tourist travel and less accent on freight which moving from finished goods to heavy bulk. Ellis and Dale adivse me to pursue more on holiday and vacation passengers. Now, lift our glasses in a toast to steamboating, the sister cities of Cincinnati and Louisville, this fine holiday and to our family, friends, neighbors." Ellis kicked me under the table and whispered, "The old goat is right. Times changing faster than we think and it'll hit us both. I'm older than you and you've got long years ahead of you. Think you want to stick with steamboating?" Ellis finished.

R. Dale Flick
Old Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati
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