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Old 08-30-2008, 03:45 PM
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Dubuque, Iowa
Posts: 269

Ah, what memories, Sam! Thanks for recalling those lazy, hazy days of summer on board the AVALON. Both Judy and I referred to the old B&W souvenir postcards sold at the souvenir stand on the boat in our earlier postings. Well, while digging around this summer with my son Jonathan doing research for his steam calliope research grant, I came up with an obscure, esoteric find that probably deserves one of the top spots on the list of AVALON trivia, a find that would only be appreciated by a true AVALON-ophile. All others need not peruse this posting any further.

First, I believe Steamer Avalon, Inc. only sold two B&W postcard views on the boat: the starboard side elevation and the "Spacious Marine Ballroom" shot. I've always wondered where that AVALON photo was taken. I naturally assumed it was snapped in the Cincinnati area, but considering that the boat went EVERYWHERE, I guess that really wasn't a safe assumption to make. It is pretty obvious, however, that the picture has been liberally air-brushed (see thumbnail 1 below). You can even see the stanchions peeking out below the main deck siding, and of course, the opening in the bulkhead by the engineroom is conspicuously missing, as are the lightbulbs and wiring around the boiler deck overhang and above the windows of the boiler deck. The ballroom shot is even more obviously "touched up" -- spliced is probably a fairer description -- and the touch-up artist even left tell-tale traces of his splice marks on that dance floor, which comes out looking like something the size of Waldorf-Astoria Hotel Ballroom in New York.

Anyway, when I was in McGregor, IA rcently, June Kuefler, daughter of Margery Goergen, a long-time photographer in the McGregor area, provided me with this shot of the AVALON taken by her mother (see thumbnail 2 below). I did a double take when I saw it, and nearly fell off my chair! It's the postcard photo! No doubt about it. That postcard shot of the boat was taken opposite McGregor, Iowa. So that answers the question of WHERE.

But now, the mysterious trail of the origin of the souvenir postcard gets more interesting . . . WHEN was it taken? Well, the original photo had to be snapped in either 1949, 50, or 51 based on the physical appearance of the boat. No other years are possible. So, I had logically assumed then that the photo was retouched in 1954 (or later) to produce the postcard which showed the boat as she appeared when she came out of Owensboro in March 54 after her refit and conversion to oil, when her main deck bulkheads were added and the boiler deck was closed in with siding, just like in the PC photo. In other words, the post card shows the boat the way she looked at the time they were sold aboard the steamer. At least that's what I thought until this summer. Then up at LaCrosse's Murphy Library, we found a copy of that ubiquitous postcard in their AVALON folder, BUT with writing and a postmark on the back side (see thumbnail 3 below). WOW!! It's addressed at St. Paul on June 25, 1950 and postmarked two days later!

Now here's the amazing thing. Ernie Meyer had this postcard manufactured and sold on the boat four full years before she actually appeared the way she is pictured! Now I can't help but wonder if AVALON passengers in 1950-53 noticed the obvious difference in appearance between the steamer they were riding on and the postcard they bought at the souvenir stand. The changes to the boiler deck (enclosing the deck with siding and windows) were similar to transformations that had previously taken place on the GORDON C. GREENE, ISLAND QUEEN, and PRESIDENT over their later years, and the IQ and PRESIDENT also ended up with main deck bulkheads outboard of the stanchions as well. So I suppose Meyer had a similar design in mind for his excursion boat too, but it took him four years to make the actual conversion. So now I can absolutely date the appearance of the famous AVALON postcard. It was first sold aboard the boat in her 1950 season and the original shot had to be snapped the previous summer in 1949 on the Upper Mississippi.

I wonder how many thousands of these AVALON PCs lie forgotten in photo albums and in cardboard boxes in basements and attics of cities all over the inland rivers of this country. But now, the humble story of this postcard has been told and fully documented. And that's got to put your mind at ease, and help you sleep easier at night! Meyer, of course, had the services of one of the principals in Steamer Avalon, Inc., Mr. Harry Anderson of the Enquirer Printing Co. in Cincinnati, to mass produce these things -- and at a cheap, reduced price to the company, I'm sure! Anderson's company undoubtedly supplied the advertising copy and four-color posters for the boat as well. And probably the tickets, too.

The four most widely-distributed AVALON postcards besides the ones produced by Str. Avalon, Inc., (at least the ones that I'm aware of) are the shots at: Clinton, IA with the tell-tale lighthouse on shore; the night bow shot at Louisville; the shot of the boat landed at Cape Girardeau; and the view of the steamer passing under the Hannibal bridge on the UMR with whistle blowing. All of these views are in color. If anyone has other AVALON postcards, I'd love to see a copy of them, and would like to add them to my collection.

Well, that's enough about postcards. I warned you that this was intended only for AVALON-lovers. If you continued to read on despite my warning, I can't be held reponsible for your minutiae overload!
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