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A Big Mistake

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Old 06-02-2007, 10:28 AM
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.
Posts: 1,573

Hi, Alan & steamboating colleagues:
Alan, your 'Big Mistake' was probably a blessing in disguise. "$40 a day" was chump change even then. Those of us invited for the big 'shakedown-shakeout' had some inkling what was in store. We drove in to Cox Park, Louisville that day to board the MQ brought over from JEFFBOAT. For the duration of the trip cars/trucks were provided with security guards until the return. We dithered around for several hours as trucks unloaded food supplies, linens along with tons of other materials for the trip. Betty Blake was running from bow to stern in a black summer dress with hair flying carrying a yellow legal pad writing things down. She paused saying with eyes open, "Oh, my, I jus' don' know what I'm gonna' do." John Hartford summed it up humorously with, "I guess you all know what you've gotten yourselves into." Kenny and Ginger Howe were aboard and no doubt Kenny could add more to the litany of experiences. The real fun began when the potable water supply was accidentally pumped over the side when somebody turned the wrong valve. Thus, little to no water for coffee, tea etc. An open complimentary bar only goes so far. I remember only being able to use the shower in the cabin once. The swimming pool got lots of use in the late afternoon when passengers sauntered out with swim suits to take a quick refreshing dunk before 'bird bathing' in cabin sinks. The first morning I came through the passage only to be greeted with water gushing down the walls and over the carpets from unseen pipes. The pneumatic toilet system proved a problem with no water to make things go SWISH. The famous story of steam erupting from the service bar sink when the calliope was cranked up is a near river legend. Later it was when "things go bump in the night" we knew all wasn't well in the engine areas. All night I heard tentative clanks and then bangs from the sound of big wrenches being applied to pipes far below. Food service smoothed out until several of the dining room waiters came down with some 'bug.' Servers had to double up on tables.

The MQ's pilothouse hosted a constant stream of visitors to see what made things go. One late lamented captain un-named here spoke up as we entered the canal with, "Hey, any of you guys know what all of these little buttons and switches are for?" One of the retractable stacks got stuck for a time in the low position and John Hartford entertained us by walking the deck with one pants leg up and the other down in imitation. The month of July was beasty hot as I recall but the MQ's air-conditioning never failed in my memory. All of the cabin door keys were impressively imprinted with a gold MQ logo. In no time all rubbed off on the fingers of passengers.

The then famed Center Bar was impressive with the glass walls, pin lights, mirror ceilings, brushed metal fixtures. Lots of people smoked then and in no time the lights, metal fixtures and mirrors were covered with a film. One company that impressed me was the Bert R. Huncliman & Sons, New Albany, Indiana, who provided the fine stainless steel and brass fixtures. Herman Fox of Fox Design, Louisville, Ky. provided the 380 silk screened panels, 10 mirrors, stage backdrop and gold leafed wall papers. I also recall the beauty shop on the lower deck near the theater. Am I wrong in remembering the fancy wire cage near the Purser's office with the cute little birds inside?

Yes, Mr. & Mrs. Richard Simonton were aboard. Mr. Simonton was well at the time and spent hours wandering the decks pausing to talk with passengers. He always asked, "And how did you get interested in and involved in all of this?" It was later he was taken seriously ill and lost nearly a year or more in treatment and recovery. In time I'll sleuth through the passenger list and post some of the names from the A to Z listing for general interest.

R. Dale Flick

PS> Some glitches in my previous postings due to a cranky Internet server in in town. All seems to be up and running today.
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