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Capt John 02-24-2009 04:36 PM

Capt. Fred Way's thought's are still applicable today...
I was just re-reading "The Saga of the Delta Queen" and found the last page to be appropriate now, fifty-eight years later...

"And still, withal, this story closes not with a period but with a comma. Jim Burns, the California patriarch who built the Delta Queen, told me the boat would 'last Tom Greene his lifetime and someone after him.' I heard the words and felt a chill. A big steamboat is a mysterious creation. The original builder designs into a purpose, and until that purpose is fulfilled the persons who trod her decks with titles of authority are in some ways grist for her mill, carrying forward their decisions oblivious to the deception. The real aim, the purpose, is incorporated somewhere in the keel line.

Somewhere, sometime, during the days at Dravo (I am guessing here) Tom Greene knew he was in the toils of something a great deal bigger than he was. This must have been a frightening realization. He knew the boats accurate measure.

Meanwhile the Delta Queen blows for her landings and paddles around the bends under new direction. The whole story will not be understood accurately until later, maybe a great while later."

Bob Reynolds 02-24-2009 11:38 PM

John, I myself just re-read "Saga" this week. The same words jumped out at me and gave me a chill due to the events of the last year.

R. Dale Flick 02-25-2009 04:58 PM

*RE: Fred Way's thoughts/Lucky charms.*
Hi, Capt. John, Bob & steamboating colleagues:
Many thanks for reminding of us Capt. Fred Way's poetic and prophetic words on the DELTA QUEEN as found in his 'Saga of the DELTA QUEEN.' Just as true when penned as today. Another 'must read' is Mrs. Letha Greene's 'Long Live the DELTA QUEEN,' Hastings House , Publishers, 1973. Letha penned her perspective from the beginning to the end when she and the family left the steamboat business.

Fred Way also spoke/wrote of the DQ having "nine lives like a cat." I closely questioned/interviewed for hours here in my home the late John Burns, son of 'old' Jim Burns who supervised the design, contracting and building of the KING & QUEEN at DENNY BROTHERS, Dumbarton, Scotland and the finish work at the company yards in Stockton, California. Old Jim originally had his 'doubts' about the company even building the two new "million dollar babies" due to changing times but plunged ahead. John at the time of the KING/QUEEN building was just about ready for university and served as his dad's "legs" on the project running errands and being somewhat of a 'Man Friday.' Old Jim had a lame leg and needed John for 'this n' that.' Mariners, steamboat men and builders in the old world and here have always held certain superstitions and mystical beliefs. In Great Britain etc. one common tradition for centuries was to place some kind of token for good luck either under the socket mounts for sailing ships or in the hulls and keels of steamships. Not to do so invited an ill omen. At times it could be a coin of the realm in either gold or silver. Other times a medalion or other relic from a previous vessel of the same name. In Great Britain a gold Sovereign or silver Crown was placed deep below at the keel. A Sovereign in the 1920s varied in value to or around $40 + or - dollars. Years back I used Crowns in England but can't recall the value now as their currency has been simplified.

John looked long at me clenching his scotch and water. "Yes, there was 'something' put in the metal work deep in the hulls of the KING & QUEEN but I can't recall now. Could have been a U.S. silver dollar along with something written on paper." At his late date I'd give a Sovereign of my own to know if those "tailsmans," as John Burns termed them, are still somewhere, someplace deep in the keels or hulls of the two boats. True or just another legend? It may be a long, long time before any of us know the full story.

Well, what do I know?

Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River.

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