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Alan Bates 02-28-2008 04:58 AM

Garbage disposal
The western rivers were regarded as a garbage chute with unlimited capacity until the late 1940's, not only by steamboats but by cities, industries and farms. To get rid of anything, throw it in the river was the rule.
Captain Paul Underwood's term as master on the Delta Queen coincided with the "Clean Up The River" effort. Somewhere on the Upper Mississippi a couple of bags of garbage were cast into the waters, but they failed to sink. Captain Paul spent time in a town jail, the Delta Queen paid a fine and orders were given forthwith to put a bricik or something heavy in every bag as insurance.
"How did the authorities know the culprit was the Delta Queen?" you ask. Why, every lousy paper cup had the boat's name printed on it, that's how.

R. Dale Flick 02-29-2008 03:10 PM

Steamboating colleagues:
Alan's thread GARBAGE DISPOSAL and Val's follow remined me that those my age and older can vividly recall the condition of the Ohio River here. As kids at old Coal Haven Landing I saw the incredible effluent, filth, debris that existed in the river then in the main course and tributaries. Every neighborhood, town, city had massive brick or stone sewers dumping directly into the river. Flood time brought down incredible rafts of drift wood mixed with trash, barrels, lumber, paper and dead animals. These massive rafts were caught out on shore. Fires were set in them which often smoldered for days or weeks unchecked. They swarmed with the biggest river rats you ever beheld making for great pellet gun practice. Typhoid Fever was still a threat until the early to mid 1950s and still may be.

In 1948 ORSANCO [Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission] was formed to address these mounting needs and dangers in the Ohio River Basin. As kids in school not long after that we were treated to talks, displays and trips to the river to see and learn in heavy doses. It was revolutionary in its day and not without critics. Their present offices are now housed in a fine center at 5735 Kellogg Ave. one mile west of I-275. For more history and current program just type in ORSANCO and hit 'Go.'

Those memories of garbage from the DELTA QUEEN are legendary. Seems I also recall one in which somebody from the boat was caught burning a pile of boat debris on the bank. My memories are dim but it seems to me that the last ISLAND QUEEN had more than one out-fall pipe from the boat's lavatories that dumped directly into the river. Frank Prudent may be able to enlighten us. Anyway as a kid I was scared of that one lavatory looking down the pipe and seeing light and the river rushing by. Another fixture here has been the legendary 'Smoke Abatement Office' which often posted men on Cincinnati bridges to watch the transit of boats for excess smoke. Same went for the steam trains then rolling by my old neighborhood. They kept their eyes on the DELTA QUEEN and AVALON here and I belive Jim Reising can recall that.

R. Dale Flick

Judy Patsch 02-29-2008 03:27 PM

One of my most indelible early memories of the AVALON was walking into the stall covered by a canvas door, and looking down at the toilet and seeing the river water!

Shipyard Sam 03-01-2008 04:40 PM

How'd you like to have been working in the forward section of the paddlewheel when one of those stalls let loose? Ya' soon learned to be careful.

Alan Bates 03-02-2008 08:16 AM

Wait a minute, lady!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Alan Bates 03-02-2008 08:21 AM

On the excursion boat America there were garbage holes that led from the roof to the paddlewheel housings. Small boys could get down on hands and knees, push the little door open and watch the paddlewheel turn. I was one of those small boys.

Years and years later I was playing trumpet in a dance band. Walt Ecker, the guy next to me, mentioned the America, then told me about that little door.

Alan Bates 03-02-2008 08:27 AM

Yes, before ORSANCO got teeth it was not uncommon to see large rafts of algae floating down the river. Beargrass Creek, here in Louisville, flowed past several meat packing houses which cast the entrails into the stream. The Bourbon Stockyard also flushed their pens directly into it. That creek had a certain air. Ah, those good old days before government intervention.

Alan Bates 03-02-2008 08:29 AM

One way to learn the old-time engineroom bell system was to use the open-hole restroom over the wheel. It was especially important to know the "back, full" signal.

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