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Keith Norrington 10-14-2008 11:56 AM

Str. Belle of Louisville Christening Anniversary
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Today in Steamboat History marks the 45th anniversary of the old Str. AVALON being christened BELLE OF LOUISVILLE. The bottle of bubbly was swung against the capstan by our own beloved Mrs. Rita Bates, wife of Capt. Alan L. Bates, who put the dilapidated steamboat back together again. A long and loud whistle salute to Capt. Alan and Miss Rita -- and to that spunky little steamboat that valiantly chugs on and on!

Photos herewith show the boat in 1963, the only year she had a yellow domed pilothouse.

David Tschiggfrie 10-14-2008 02:39 PM

Right you are, Keith! And this coming Saturday marks the 94th anniversary of the IDLEWILD's christening at Pittsburgh. It was back on June 21, 1967, that I first laid eyes again on the AVALON, when my parents and I made our inaugural visit to Louisville. And it was on that trip that I fulfilled a lifelong ambition of actually riding the boat on a moonlite! My parents would never allow me to ride the AVALON at night when she was at Dubuque. We were met at the boat and escorted aboard that day by Alan Bates, who took us up to the roof and played a pre-departure concert on the calliope. Alan, Capt. Brasher and Capt. Paul Underwood all autographed my copy of Alan's book about the BELLE, and I was also privileged to be allowed to look through Alan's type-written original manuscript for his soon-to-be published Western Rivers Steamboat Cyclopedium. After the trip, he joined us for a delicious meal at Hasenour's German restaurant in town. I guess the place isn't in business any longer. Since that trip over 40 years ago, Louisville has held a special place in my heart, right along with some very special people there and one beautiful old steamboat!

Keith Norrington 10-15-2008 06:23 AM

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Thanks for sharing those memories Dave! I always enjoyed hearing Capt. Fred Way tell of seeing the brand new steamer IDLEWILD pass his hometown of Sewickley, PA in early 1915 on her delivery trip en route from Pittsburgh to her owners at Memphis. I was with him on the Louisville wharf on steamboat race day in 1992 when the Belle's whistle blew. Capt. Fred thoughtfully listened, smiled and said that the whistle sounded "just the same" as it did when he first heard it as a lad standing on the river bank some 77 years earlier.

2008 marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of Alan's [I]Western Rivers Steamboat Cyclopedium[/I] which to me, at age 14, was like catnip. I regarded it as [B]THE[/B] answer book to all my questions about steamboats and I pored over it every night when I should have been doing my algebra homework! A generous gift from Alan, I have in my collection the portfolio of notes, correspondence and other ephemera concerning the publication of that wonderful tome. Along with it, and courtesy of Miss Rita, came a large rolling pin, found in the galley of the Str. AVALON when she was being rejuvenated to become the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE!

Judy Patsch 10-15-2008 12:24 PM

While my days with the IDLEWILD/ AVALON/ BELLE go back a ways, that is NOT me bending over in the third picture Keith posted! I didn't get aboard the BELLE until that DQ stop in 1977, and it brought tears to me to see how beautiful she had become in the 16 years since I had last seen her. As we've always posted, the AVALON crew did their best with the meager supplies and money they had, but once Louisville and Jefferson County got her, she sure has been gussied up!

David Tschiggfrie 10-18-2008 01:04 PM

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In honor of the IDLEWILD's launch on October 18, 1914 at the James Rees and Sons yard on the Allegheny at Pittsburgh, attached below are the original Rees' concept drawing for the as-yet unnamed steamer for the West Memphis Packet Company, and two shots of work on the boat following her launching. As Alan Bates so often comments, there's many a "slip" between the drawing board and the boat that actually comes out of the boatyard. Take a good look at the profile view and you can count a handful of alterations in the design when the boat was finally completed. And of course, those changes continue to be made throughout the life of the boat as well! Her departure from Pittsburgh was delayed by ice until January 8, 1915. She ran the Falls of the Ohio at Louisville on her delivery trip, and arrrived at Memphis on January 17, 1915. There she remained in day packet, ferry, and excursion service until the fall of 1927 when she was operated unsuccessfully for a very short spell as a local excursion boat in New Orleans. In 1928 she moved to St. Louis, and continued her career as a towboat, packet, and excursion boat on the Mississippi, Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri Rivers for the New St. Louis and Calhoun Packet Corp. of Hardin, Illinois. Years as the AVALON and finally BELLE OF LOUSIVILLE would follow, until today she survives as the Gem in Louisville's river crown!

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