Str. Becky Thatcher Anniversary Today
It was 31 years ago today (September 15th, 1975) that the retired steamboat BECKY THATCHER, formerly the Corps of Engineers pristine steamer MISSISSIPPI (1926-1961) arrived in Marietta, Ohio, after being towed from St. Louis by the M/V LOUISIANA. A special feature of the 1975 Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen annual meeting was a Sunday morning open house held aboard the boat, which was in very SAD shape with dirty pots and pans still on the stoves in the restaurant kitchen, trash littering the decks and even a couple of "river rats" (REAL ones!) seen through the open hatches to the hull compartments! A few remaining artifacts of what had been Ruth Ferris' sparkling steamboat museum on the main deck at St. Louis were intact but covered in thick layers of dust and some gift shop stock was still on shelves. The boat had been seized in early 1974 by bank foreclosure, with police coming aboard, closing down the boat and padlocking the gangplank gate, replete with armed guards stationed round the clock. Ohio Showboat Drama purchased the boat at public auction amidst much frustration in getting her out of the St. Louis harbor, a saga of red tape that took many weeks to untangle. Since her arrival in Marietta the old sternwheeler has had numerous restaurateurs, financial plights, grand openings, closures and she's even survived a sinking in 1984. The hull was replated with a thin steel overlay of the existing hull plating in 1985. After being sold for $65,000 several years ago when Ohio Showboat Drama decided to "abandon ship" so to speak, the boat underwent a partial and MUCH needed renovation. Gleaming from stem to stern, she was reopened briefly and it appeared that things finally were looking up for the old steamboat. Alas, this renaissance was short lived and, now closed for over a year, the BECKY has been offered for sale on EBAY for many months, with a starting bid requirement of $550,000. The boat is now just a shell of her former life, shorn of boilers, engines, pilotwheel, etc., and although there have been some interested parties, nobody has purchased the boat at such an exorbitant price. So, today, as the members of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen gather at the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers for their 67th annual meeting, some of the buffs and buffettes surely will pay homage to the venerable ol' BECKY and think some good thoughts in the hope that somebody will rescue this damsel in distress. We have lost far TOO MANY old steamboats to ignorance and neglect (not to mention arson in the cases of the W.J. QUINLAN, SPRAGUE and JULIUS C. WILKIE) and there aren't many more to lose, in the realm of both "living" and "dead" riverboats!
Last edited by Keith Norrington; 09-15-2006 at 01:46 PM.