The AVALON arrived at Jeffboat in late May, 1962, by early June the boat was moved across the river to a weed patch just below Neil Whiteheads River Service where work began to make the boat into something the citizens of Jefferson County would be proud of. In all fairness, the AVALON was pretty shabby and did not have the best reputation, there was a lot of controversy about the county buying such an old dirty steamboat, so they kept her out of the public eye while the conversion was going on.
The county judge, Marlow Cook, was a forward thinking politician and he saw the Belle's potential. He made several decisions in those first days which laid the foundation for the boats later success. First he appointed an operating board which had a core of river people, C.W. Stoll, Neil Whitehead, Steve Click, Armond Willig, along with several other prominent Louisville business men. Second he made the board independent of county politics. There was a big push to make the boat part of the county parks system; in my opinion that would have been a disaster.
I don't know who made the decision to place Alan in charge of rebuilding the boat, I suspect it was C.W.; although the two of them never got along, C.W. knew that Alan was the best man for the job. So Alan set to work. The county provided the man power, they assigned a county road crew to work with Alan, they also assigned a county carpenter to work for Alan. If I may digress for a minute....this county carpenter was a neat old guy, Mr. Bumgardner, I saw him framing a window, without using a guide he cut a piece of framing to an exact 45 deg angle while reciting from memory the whole Robt. W. Service poem "A Face On The Bar Room Floor". Yes, Alan removed all the pank and yaller from the dance floor, in fact he removed pretty much all vestiges of the AVALON. Alan contracted with Bert Fenn owner of the Tell City Chair factory to make the beautiful cabin arches which adorn the dance floor ceiling. But Alan was also on a mission lighten the boat so he removed a lot of "excess" plumbing. I remember asking Alan "wasn't that put on for a reason?" He removed the "possum belly" from the whistle line (it was a tank into which condensate drained), the result of removing this "excess" weight was when they blew the whistle about 5 gallons of water would cascade down of the passengers; this was soon corrected.
Kenny and I would go visit Alan on the boat whenever we could, the county didn't encourage visitors. I had never seen Alan happier that he was that summer, the county pretty much gave him a free hand and he had all the labor he needed to get the job done. For those who have read Alan's book, "Belle of Louisville", you know about the painting party. The public was invited to volunteer to help paint the boat. Marcus Paint donated the paint and brushes, and, what I remember most, Fehr's Brewery donated beer. I'll never forget Kenny and I swiped a couple of bottles, climbed up on the barracade, and I attempted to drink the first bottle of beer in my life. I think I choked down less than half the bottle...this was tall living for a 17 yr. old.
When things progressed to the point that Marlow Cook was ready to show off the county's steamboat, the boat was moved from the weed patch to the Fourth St. landing. With much fanfare in late September, Alan's wife, Rita, broke a champagne bottle over the capstan and the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE was born.