If Alan stood for his mates license today, he wouldn't have gotten it. Under today's Coast Guard licensing procedures, they wouldn't let him even take the test because he didn't have nearly enough "sea" time. A little backgroumd is necessary, back in 1963 licensed mates were as scarce as hens teeth, except for the few steam vessels that were still operating, there was no need for a mates license. When the BELLE first came out in April of 63, Paul Underwood had his friend Capt. George Washington Mac Clellan Stephens (Mac Stephens) come on as mate. Mac was an old man, he spent most of his life on Green River, he worked on the CHAPERON with Courtney Ellis and he was on the BOWLING GREEN and later the SOUTHLAND, Mac just wasn't up to the job, but he did fulfill the requirement. Mac knew he wasn't able to do what was necessary. so he left in the early summer. They found a man named Plumley (I forget his first name) to replace Mac Stephens. Plumley was just about as old as Mac, but not nearly as classy. Plumley refused to wear his false teeth and he was afraid to go out on deck so he would stand inside the doorway and shout orders to the deck crew; only trouble was no one could understand him. "Pull in that spring line" came out "Whom, whom, whom"; the landings were fun to watch. Alan, when he was on the boat, would take over for poor old Plumley and bring order to the caous. Needless to say, Plumley didn't last long; the BELLE was desperate for a licensed mate. Underwood pushed Alan to stand for his mates license.

Back then, the local Coast Guard inspectors gave all the tests and issued all the licenses. It was a good system because, more than likely, the inspector knew the person who was standing for a license; if not, the inspector knew the person who recommended the candidate. A Captain could tell the inspector something like; "this kid can't read and write real good, but he's a good boat handler and he knows the river". The was a human side to getting a license. Today a candidate has to go to a testing center, take the test, and then all the paper work is sent off to a Coast Guard center in W. Virginia, there is no human interaction.

The inspector who issued all the deck licenses in the Louisville district was Commander Jacobs, a fine man. He knew the BELLE's plight and he knew Alan. I don't think Alan ever took a test he didn't ace. The problem wasn't the test, but Alan's "sea" time. Alan's only experience on an operating steamboat was a month trip when George McBride's dad bought the Edenborn boats and brought them from Louisiana to Louisville. And that was in the early 40's. Alan would sometime's ride George McBrides boat as a guest but that was about it for Alan's boat experience. I think Jacobs let Alan count every time he rode up River Road and looked at the river. Alan got his First Mates License and his life changed.