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Old 01-30-2017, 01:44 PM
R. Dale Flick R. Dale Flick is offline
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.
Posts: 1,551
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*Fred Way's 'insights' in confidence.*
Steamboating, colleagues:
Right you are, Bob, about Capt. Fred Way's writings, talks and his confidential letters. He said plenty in his LOG OF THE BETSY ANN but later commented he had to be careful and guard what he wrote. Don't let Fred's 'twinkle eye' and smile smoking his pipe' fool you. In his day Fred could be tough--had too. He mentioned, but never wrote, about the time he had mounting labor conflict here at the Cincinnait Public Landing on the BETSY ANN. Things got ugly with the boat steaming up to Pittsburgh. They got up about Coney Island here when he pulled the boat over, ordered a fair number of roustabouts off, blew the whistle, backed out, churned on up. How in those days they got back down to town never mentioned--and Fred didn't care. Today that would be untenable not to mention the labor issues, bad PR, news coverage and 'politically correct' repercussions. Boat crews also had 'terms' for some passengers. "Boat lice. Wharf rats." Even Letha Greene chuckled to me, "In the steamboat business we never knew what we were getting in the package when we hired a new officer or crew member." OUCH!

Another 'toughie' was Cheif Engineer Charlie Dietz. He went way, way back and in his prime one bull of a man. He never tolerated fools lightly. Charlie had a direct confrontation once in the engine room of a boat that ended up with him punching the guy out and down to the deck. I have a couple of his letters here along with notes I jotted down after talking with him personally and by phone. Charlie, dating back to the L&C LINE here and the big CINCINNATI, one who told me about what was going on with the company in the front office and on the boats contributing to the financial collapse--among other issues. "They all getting a 'cut out of the coal pile...supplies, lubricating oil...shoving money in their pockets." Charlie attended a funeral once for a captain he'd worked with and for. At the end of the glowing eulogy in the funeral home there was a moment of dead silence. Charlie, who was more than a little hard of hearing, rumbled in his voice and that certain drawl he had, "They must a be talkin' about somebody else up in that coffin cause that's not how I remembered him."

There's also an ancient saying that, "There are no secrets on a ship [or boat]." Mark Twain himself a 'scrapper' when he was learning the river under Horace Bixby. A certain officer gave Twain a hard way to go unjustly. Twain put up with it enough and popped him a good one. The entire crew, officers never lamented the chastised officer getting what he did and leaving the boat. Well, what do I know?

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