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Thread: Alan Bates and Me 2

  1. #1

    Default Alan Bates and Me 2

    My real relationship with Alan didn't start until I turned 13 and was old enough to join Alan's sea scout ship. Why Alan wanted to be a scout leader, I'll never figure out. Unlike my experience in the boy scouts where you worked to advance from tinderfoot to second class, to first class and so on, in Alan's troop there was no advancement. Everyone was equal rank, this also meant there wasn't much direction; but we had fun. We went on many trips....we canoed on the Kentucky River to find the wreck of the SEA LION an early ABL steam sternwheel towboat. We found the wreck (a bunch of rotting hull timbers and rusty bolts), for years I had a bolt from the SEA LION. We canoed the White Water Canal, before it became the tourist attraction it is today; we had to steer around dead chickens and piles of garbage. The most memorable part of that trip was after arriving at the canal, we went into town to get something to eat and the only place that was open was a bar, pool hall, house of women with negotiable morals; quite an experience for a 14 yr. old. Unfortunately the sea scout ship didn't last too long; Alan got into a disagreement with the powers that be at scout headquarters, he called one of them "a f--king genious", and that was the end of Alan's scout leadership.
    It was while I was in the sea scouts that Alan became the first president of the Howard National Steamboat Museum. The museum wasn't open yet when Alan became president, it was still basically the Howard's home. So Alan with a supply of free labor, his scouts, set about turning the Howard home into a steamboat museum. We would meet every Saturday at museum to tote display cases, move furniture, wash windows, set up exhibits, whatever it took to get the museum ready for its grand opening in May of 1958. This was my first experience of what would become a life long affiliation with the Howard Museum. Most importantly was I got to know Loretta Howard.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Paragould, AR or on m/v MAGNOLIA


    Great story, Jim! Keep ‘em coming!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.


    *RE: 'Alan Bates & me/Great history*
    Jim, I agree with Capt. Bill Judd, and others, to "get it down now" before time and fate get away from all of us. Great early history and I can just see you, Bob McCann, Alan Bates in a grand conversation. I didn't come upon Alan personally until some years later but had heard of him. Frankly, I can't recall how or when we met but for years we exchanged an incredible amount of letters, materials--but not always about the boats or the river. Alan was strong minded, bull headed for sure. Seems he had a truck with just about everybody at one time or another. I know the first on his list was often the U.S. Coast Guard. Alan, the gods love him, didn't like to hear the word "No" spoken to him. His genius as a marine designer, writer and even a historian came forth in the ensuing years. His book 'Do It Yourself' not only a fine history but an insight on events, history that changed and altered his own life. Alan told good stories with warts and all to the dismay of some. And Alan could knock the 'old time, warm and fuzzy steamboat romance' out of just about every old steamboat story with even Mark Twain taking it on the chin. When a lengthy exchange of postings here were on 'steamboat food and cooking' Alan read all and in time chimed in, "Most of the food on even the brag boats probably not much better than a 1st class boarding house ashore. Those old cooks on the boats could make anything taste good with a lot of sugar and lard." Alan was a guest here in our home attending a meeting of my Literary Club of Cincinnati one Monday evening. When I read Alan's 'bio' there was applause followed by innumerable questions after the meeting. Alan also knew his architecture and architectural history very well. When we were considering a restoration of the portico on the front of this Federal style home, Alan went out, made measurements of the surviving wood etc. and within days mailed an exquisite drawing on fine paper of lintels, molding, columns etc. that I merely handed to the master carpenter when they arrived. Alan also did NOT suffer fools lightly. During the time the then new MISSISSIPPI QUEEN was being built at JEFFBOAT, Alan joined our group to tour the boat under construction. We stepped over cables and around space heaters, equipment gawking. Alan stopped, looked around, nudged me and said, "This whole thing [meaning the boat] makes me itchy all over." Many held that if Alan had been the one tapped to design the MISSISSIPPI QUEEN the eventual product would have been a totally different story--all for the better. Right now in storage here I have folder after folder of Alan's letters and other comments in his own words. Fascinating stuff. We miss you Alan.

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

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