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"A Brave Front Put Up For A Sad Occasion."

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Old 10-27-2008, 08:05 AM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: On the "Beautiful Ohio" at New Albany, Indiana, opposite Louisville, Kentucky
Posts: 2,078
Default "A Brave Front Put Up For A Sad Occasion."

Although several others have posted great accounts of the events on the Louisville waterfront Friday, I wanted to add my remembrance, as well as a few photographs from the very memorable occasion.

After a day of dark clouds, pouring rain and chilly temperatures, the rain stopped and the sun came out just as I was leaving my office to head down to the riverfront. There were MANY people there and it was so good to see dear river folk I haven't visited with in quite a while. It was especially nice to see Capt. Gabe & Cindy Chengery, whom I last saw at Natchez several years ago. Gabe handed me one of the orange SAVE THE DELTA QUEEN - KEEP STEAMBOATING ALIVE buttons from the 1970 campaign and we both expressed disbelief that nearly four decades have passed since we last fought a battle to save the boat. Also "on deck" were Capt. Alan Bates, Capt. Pete O'Connell, Pat Traynor, Barb Hameister, Jo Ann Schoen, Gayle Hindman, Katie Blackburn, Ruth Guenther, Travis (who played a fabulous calliope concert!) James Hall, Jim Reising, Pat Carr, Jim Herron, Suzanne & Richard Martinez, Phillip Johnson (who was celebrating his 23rd birthday) Dave Morecraft and his son Zach, Jerry Hay, Gerry Swarts & Judith Reed (Lucy Stoll's daughters) and their husbands, Chuck Parrish, Capt. Mike Fitzgerald, Capt. Mark Doty and the list goes on and on. I took a slow stroll around each deck, taking pictures and just "remembering" past days and dear people from my era on the boat. I thought of Bruno when Pat, Phillip, Barb and I enjoyed hot dogs and drinks in the Texas Bar! Down at the gift shop, gracious purser Pat Taylor was doing a brisk business selling DQ tote bags, sweatshirts and other souvenirs (for almost giveaway prices) bearing the boat's picture and THE LEGENDARY DELTA QUEEN - 2008 on them. Also visited briefly with engineer Fred Carmichael. Sorry I somehow missed Dave and Linda Dewey!

All too soon, the big roof bell tolled that departure was drawing nigh and it was time to take my leave. The BELLE OF LOUISVILLE, beautifully bedecked in lights and emitting glorious clouds of steam, departed on a charter cruise but turned around above the bridges and came back down to await the DQ's departure. It was impossible to count the people down there, but it easily was in the hundreds, not only on the wharf, but up on the Belvedere. The passengers lining the railing were holding SAVE THE DQ signs and were throwing souvenir doubloons to the crowd, who frantically scrambled to catch them. Phillip was even stopped on the wharf by a man who wanted to know if he'd sell something, ANYTHING with the boat's name on it, from his bag of gift shop purchases! Kelly Gream, marketing director for the BELLE and another B/L staff member, enlisted Phillip and me to help unfurl and hold up a huge banner proclaiming THE DELTA QUEEN IS SPECTACULAR! A lady who recognized me from the Howard Steamboat Museum came up, introduced herself and said her family first took a trip on the DQ in 1952 and that her first name is "Queen", named for the steamer ISLAND QUEEN which her mother often rode. She said, "I know I'm going to cry my eyes out when the boat departs, but I just HAD to be here tonight!" The crowd also joined the passengers in chanting "SAVE THE QUEEN" and "LONG LIVE THE QUEEN!"

And then, it was time. The dreaded hour had arrived. I thought I could be a brave little soldier, but when that beautiful, melodious whistle began to blow, reverberating around the riverfront in the chilly autumn air as the boat slowly backed away from the wharf, I simply "lost it" -- BIG time! Seeing the DQ, with the BELLE waiting out in the river next to her brought back a flood of memories of bygone days and many precious people who are part of both boat's histories, quite a number who have since departed this earth. I certainly saw a multitude of "river ghosts" floating before my eyes! With Capt. Gabe presiding at the calliope console, the first song, appropriately, was "My Old Kentucky Home". Many thronging the levee joined in singing along, but a lot of us were too choked up to sing! Both steamboats processed grandly upriver, exchanging whistle salutes and the DQ calliope serenading the BELLE with a rendition of "Avalon", before the DQ turned above the bridges and came back down. As she steamed majestically under the Second Street Bridge with her lights shimmering on the water, we heard (this time with Bill Wiemuth at the keyboard) "My Old Kentucky Home", "Beautiful Ohio" and "You Are My Sunshine" as the grand lady of the river disappeared into the Louisville and Portland Canal. I called Judy to give her a "live from the levee" report and so she could hear the calliope, but I could barely speak at that point -- and neither could she. To say that it was an extraordinarily emotional moment would be an understatement!

Over the weekend I got out an old log book that my dear friend and steamboating mentor, Miss Ruth Ferris, kept while she was curator of the riverboat museum aboard the Str. BECKY THATCHER at St. Louis. She had an entry for the DQ's October, 1970 "Goodbye Forever" visit to St. Louis in which she noted that Capt. Ernie Wagner invited her and Capt. Bill Carroll, master of the Streckfus Str. ADMIRAL, to have coffee with him aboard the DQ just before the boat departed on what was, at that time, thought to be her final cruise. Ruth also noted how much she admired Capt. Ernie and his stalwart crew for being so stoic, and that the Cahokia High School band, in brass button uniforms, played a moving farewell concert in tribute to the boat, joining a huge crowd on the levee. Ruth's final sentence for the entry was, "A BRAVE FRONT PUT UP FOR A SAD OCCASION". And those same words pretty much sum up the mood on the Louisville landing Friday night.


Photos: (1) DQ & BELLE from Belvedere. (2) Travis "Wizard of the Whistles" Vasconcelos playing a concert with "all the stops pulled out"! (3) Keith with Capts. Gabe Chengery and Alan Bates.
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Name:	Travis' Calliope Concert D!Q  Oct 24 2008.jpg
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Name:	Keith. Gabe & Alan  October 24 2008.jpg
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