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Keith Norrington 04-10-2009 08:38 AM

Str. Becky Thatcher Museum Anniversary
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With the BECKY THATCHER (Formerly the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Str. MISSISSIPPI III) much in the news at Marietta concerning her possible "eviction" from the waterfront, here are a few photos (several taken on opening day) to commemorate the grand opening, 40 years ago, of the Midship Museum aboard the boat at St. Louis on Saturday, April 12, 1969. The compact museum, on the main deck between the boiler room and engine room (hence the name Midship) was designed and curated by Miss Ruth Ferris, noted educator and river historian, who served as curator of the River Room at the Missouri Historical Society from 1957 until 1965 after a 35 year career as teacher and assistant principal at the Community School. Ruth came out of retirement for the third time when the opportunity arose to work on her beloved St. Louis waterfront. The Becky's museum closed in November, 1970 when Ruth retired for the final time, many of the artifacts remaining on the boat as "background" for the gift shop which then enlarged their quarters to take in the former museum room. The BECKY remained at St. Louis until she was sold to the Ohio Showboat Drama group at Marietta, Ohio in 1975. Many of the relics, with emphasis on the Eagle Packet Company boats and GOLDENROD SHOWBOAT, now are in various river museums and in private collections.

Photos: Museum Visitors on opening day and: (1) Pilotwheel from a Memphis towboat and salvaged pilot's tall chair from the RIVER QUEEN, which floated down to BECKY when RQ sank in 1967 and went to pieces. Cabin arches from ERASTUS WELLS and mirrored cabin doors from GORDON C. GREENE. (2) Tools used on boats, 20" frying pan from GOLDENROD SHOWBOAT, guitar from Mark Twain's family. (3) Ring buoy from excursion boat MISSISSIPPI BELLE.

It was a great little riverboat museum, with a very "boaty" atmosphere, being on a REAL steamboat with the muddy Mississippi flowing by the door --and for the sum of 50 cents, visitors saw the museum and heard a brief spiel about the history of the BECKY by Curator Ruth, followed by a guided tour (given by several teenagers) that included the engine room, cabin, a look over the stern at the 24' sternwheel & monkey rudders, and then up to the pilothouse. Now, the BECKY is just a "shell" of her old self, shorn of museum, engines, pilotwheel and monkey rudders. Time brings many changes!

Keith Norrington 04-10-2009 10:27 AM

3 Attachment(s)
MORE Midship Museum . . .

(1) Eagle Packet Company Corner, featuring Capt. Buck Leyhe's mahogany rolltop desk, megaphone, posters, advertising globe with map of Eagle Packet routes (on reverse side) and a round bottomed fire bucket from the Str. PIASA. (2) Visitor pulling the braided cord to ring the backing bell of the Streckfus Str. J.S. Deluxe. Hanging above is the charred remains of the pilotwheel from the GOLDENROD SHOWBOAT after the June 1, 1962 fire. Steam gauges over engine room door and in background is large map of plantations on the Mississippi River from Natchez to New Orleans. (3) Copper SIX GALLON coffee urn used on Eagle Packet Co. boats. I've known lots of river people who could almost drink that much on ONE watch!!!

Keith Norrington 04-17-2009 02:51 PM

3 Attachment(s)
Found an image of "MIDI", the Str. Becky Thatcher's mascot cat, seated on the capstan and a couple more photos of the riverboat museum on the main deck.

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