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Bob Reynolds 10-26-2006 08:43 AM

The PRESIDENT as she looks today
Since I am a computer dummy when it comes to anything but the most basic stuff, I'm not sure if this will work. This is also the reason I have not taken or posted any pics of the PRESIDENT until now. Here is my attempt at it.

As I had mentioned before, the PREZ is languishing at Wood River, IL, and is a very sad sight, especially for those of us who remember the old boat in her steam days. I used to think the boat was not very attraqctive in her silver paint - what I wouldn't give now to see her back like that!

The Hull appears to be in not very good shape. There is a gash in the bow, just aft of the stem piece on the starboard side. As you can see from these pics (I hope!), there are several places on the main deck where the boat has been hit by barges or boats landing alongside, and stanchions are busted, decks and bulkheads are caved in, etc. Copious rust, calliope whistles missing, etc. I do find it intersting and encouraging that big bell is still in place! Anyway, I hope I can get these pics attatched so y'all can see for yourselves. I doubt the boat will ever do more than rot away, either at WR or somewhere else. Sad, sad, sad.

Judy Patsch 10-26-2006 08:53 AM

I don't see any pics, but your verbal description is sad enough. She'll probably sink before getting repaired. Sadly, the hull is usually the thing that is not tended to when making repairs, and without a good one, all the superstructure in the world doesn't matter. Besides the obvious reason that they could convert to a windowless box for a casino, Connelly's group didn't keep the PREZ because of the needed hull repairs back in 2000. I believe the guess was about 4 million to make it casino-safe. You know what sitting in fleets for 6 years has done to it. Ditto for the ADMIRAL. They never have fixed that hull right - my theory is it can sink just as easily dockside as out cruising - water is water! I wish they would auction off the individual pieces of the PREZ, like the bell, whistle, and the calliope remains, so that at least something would remain of this proud boat for future generations.

Steve Huffman 10-26-2006 11:37 AM

I have been in contact with the new owner of the PRESIDENT since he acquired it (over a year ago?). He is on the members list of this message board, but haven't seen him post since the "old board" was in use. I sent him a quick email the other day to see how things were going, and got a nice reply. He says:
"We have just closed a land deal with St. Elmo, IL 40+ acres in
which 22 is a small lake that she will rest in... ...I will keep you posted as
we move forward. At present she is still sitting next to the AQ in
Woodriver, IL at Mikes, Inc. She is certainly in need of a permanent
home & some TLC which we will give her very soon."

Keith Norrington 10-26-2006 03:22 PM

Thanks for the report Bob. Your "word pictures" portray a dismal scene and I certainly hope they can get the boat moved before she sinks or endures another "injury". Like you, I recall the boat looking "shabby" in her operating days as a steam sidewheeler at New Orleans, but certainly wish we could go back in time to that era once again. One of my favorite memories of the PRESIDENT harkens back to the spring of 1972 when I was a senior in high school and enjoyed a harbor cruise on the boat with my parents. My mother sat down in a old wooden captain's chair at a table on the mezzanine -- and the top part of it promptly fell off giving her quite a start! When I picked it up off the deck I noticed that across the back was stencilled [B]STR. CAPITOL[/B]. Capt. Verne Streckfus was the master that day and Capt. Tijo Decareaux was the pilot who invited us into the pilothouse after learning that I was about to begin my second summer working aboard the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE and was a friend of Capt. Doc Hawley. Capt. Verne said if a fitting in the steam line hadn't been disconnected for replacement he would have let me play the calliope, as he always liked to hear it. Since I was a 17 year old skinny "weakling", I probably wouldn't have had the strength to play that instrument (I think it came from the Str. J.S. DELUXE) with the direct linkage to the whistles! No calliopist like the famed Fate Marable would I have been!!! I also recall how the PRESIDENT shuddered and shook as she cruised through the New Orleans harbor, threading in and out of all those big ships, and how her huge wooden dancefloor would "rise and fall". Even with the boat's "faded glory" it was a thrilling cruise and I still have the blue felt pennant and other trinkets I bought at the popcorn/souvenir stand on the top deck. And I'll always remember the immense engine room with those BIG steam engines driving her sidewheels. In 1978, shortly after she was dieselized, Capt. Lexie Palmore and I walked over to the PRESIDENT from the DQ to visit. Capt. Don Summers took us into one of the former wheelboxes (which looked like an elevator shaft!) to see one of the new Murray-Tregurtha "outboard motors"! My last cruise on the PRESIDENT was in September of 1989 at St. Louis. The Mercantile Library sponsored a "Ruth Ferris Day" cruise and, as one of the highlights of the tribute, took the boat above the Eads Bridge for the first time in over 40 years. Memories of a grand old steamboat!

Steve Huffman 10-26-2006 05:18 PM

I should have also explained that they plan to disassemble the PRESIDENT and haul her (via I-70) to Tower Lake at St. Elmo. There she will sit on concrete pilings at the south end of the lake (as if floating) and will be fitted as a fine hotel. The owners plan to restore her exterior to back to her 1940s era looks. An additional hotel will be built nearby to provide additional rooms.
That's about all I know...

Judy Patsch 10-26-2006 05:20 PM

Needless to say, IF that truck caravan ever happens, that will be one heck of a photo op!!!!

Bob Reynolds 10-26-2006 07:20 PM

PRESIDENT now...trying this again
2 Attachment(s)
I [I]think[I] I might have figured it out his time. I have tried to upload 16 pix that I have, but this computer will only allow me to load one at a time. It is so slow, that I am only posting 3 for now. I have others that I may post as time permits. While I am sitting at a dock in Joliet, IL loading right now, my company does expect me to do work while here, not play on the computer all night! ;)). Franz is (very understandably) unable to help right now. If I were at home with my DSL connection, I'm sure it would be much easier!

I am glad to hear the new owner is so optimistic about his project, and I'm sure he has a good idea what he's in for, but my, that is a MASSIVE undertaking he proposes! I am about the furthest thing there is from a "money" person, but I wonder if the amount spent might not equal what it would take to put the boat back in running condition, after all he proposes is said and done?

Keith, I too feel very priveleged to have ridden the PREZ under steam in NOLA harbor, with Capt. TeJoe and Capt. Curran Streckfus. Lexie Palmore and I gained access to the pilothouse by having Capt. Arthur McArthur with us, and it was wonderful. This was, I believe, in 1976 or 77.

I also remember once when our family was in NO for vacation (I was about 8 or 9) and we rode the Canal Street Ferry, just to say we'd done it. As we came in on the East Bank side, I remarked, "Oh, look at that big boat (the PRESIDENT)" my mother, obviously referring to the boat's condition and the fact she had known the boat for years, said to me, "Oh, that's just that old PRESIDENT; we don't want to go on THAT". Oh, how our perceptions change over the years!!![/I][/I]

Here's wishing the best for the owner of the boat and his plans.

R. Dale Flick 10-26-2006 07:39 PM

Dear Bob & gang posting on this thread:
Thanks for the postings in insights on the Str. PRESIDENT. Bob, keep those photos coming if and when it's 'safe.' Posting on the job can be dicey at times. Many of you have been far luckier as I never once was able to step foot on the PRESIDENT but viewed and photographed her from a distance. She was the star of the show during the Cincinnati Bicentennial, 1788-1988 and first Tall Stacks. People at all hours day and night came down to stand and stare at her. I was so close but so far living and working on John Beatty's CLARE at that time.

The PRESIDENT obviously shows wear and tear but the clear photo of her bell is amazing. The present bell was cast from the bells of the CITY OF LOUISVILLE & CITY OF CINCINNATI fished out of the debris following the big ice of 1917/'18 here in Cincinnati. I hope the bell we see, and the PRESIDENT in general, is well guarded for any future vandalism. Good work, Bob.

R. Dale Flick

Judy Patsch 10-27-2006 12:44 AM

My first trip on the PREZ
My first trip on the PRESIDENT was in May 1974 when she was still steam. I was in NOLA for the first time at the International Reading Association convention. Ginn Book Co. chartered the PREZ for an evening cruise. The next morning my colleagues were raving about the free food and drink and asked me about it. I didn't have any, as I explored every inch of that boat that was open to the public( I wasn't as bold back then). I remember standing in front of the pilothouse that whole trip, listening to the pilot on the radio. I wondered what language he was speaking, and years later found out on the NATCHEZ why I couldn't understand him - it was Capt. Sam Centanni. At that time we had just reopened trade with the Soviet Union, and I remember passing a Russian ship at a wharf, and looking up at that hammer and sickle on the smokestack... and seeing a Norwegian ship at another dock. It had been in a collision out in the Gulf and was there for repairs. It had a huge hole in its bow just above the waterline, a very eerie sight on that moonlit night. That was also the first time I had seen ocean vessels. My dad had told me it would be a strange sensation on the PREZ, since I had already been on the ADMIRAL, for they were quite similar in interior structure save for the PREZ being smaller. I never rode her again in the NOLA harbor, but I was there in May 1988 when she left Canal Street for the final time, enroute to St. Louis for the summer and then on to Casinoland. I was there when she arrived in Davenport to begin that career in April 1991 and got to take many rides in the next 10 years. And I was there on Sept. 29, 2000 when she went on her last cruise ever, out of Davenport. After her certificate of inspection ran out on April 14, 2001, I saw her many times from the Iowa shore as she was moored in the Blackhawk towing fleet in Andalusia. The last time I saw her was in November of 2003, I believe. It was shortly after she had been moved to Memphis to languish next to the DIAMOND LADY, and I met Capt. Bob Reynolds to look for her. He picked the spot right off the bat, but we couldn't get closer than a block or so. While I missed her days up here excursion boat tramping, it was a thrill to go down to our levee and look at the Davenport skyline which was graced by her presence for 10 years. A fitting place for the final operating days of a former Streckfus boat, in the Streckfus home area!

Keith Norrington 10-27-2006 12:51 PM

Bob: I can just hear your mother saying THAT in her delightful southern accent! I recall the time she drove us back to the DQ at Memphis and when we reached the foot of Union Avenue she said, "I refuse to drive on those awful cobblestones so THIS is as far as I go!" Indeed, our perceptions change over the years. Judy relates that she thought the old abandoned ferry boat W.J. QUINLAN, sitting high and dry in the Kahlke boat yard at Rock Island for years, was "spooky" and wondered WHY anybody would want to go near it"! Nowadays, she would be all over it - with tools! -- and we'd be there to help!

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