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*Old time steamboat Thanksgiving, 1906*

 
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Old 11-27-2014, 08:32 AM
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.
Posts: 1,551
Default *Old time steamboat Thanksgiving, 1906*

Steamboating colleagues,
Sending you greetings on this Thanksgiving Day, 2014 in good health and spirits. In the past I've written a Thanksgiving 'story' from the letters, writings of Capt. Ellis Mace and other sources. In earlier times this day was observed but not with the big build-up to 'Black Friday's,' early Christmas shopping as we have today. On the river steamboats on the night boat runs beweeen major cities and towns still were up and running with schedules to meet, freight, mail from the pevious day and the next to be shipped in and out with the crews working, wharfboat offices open. Similar to planes, trains, buses, cars today, people were still on the move. The steam tows with barges ran their regular schedules with their own cooks laying on a meal somewhat better than normal--if they were lucky. Watches were stood all the day and night as usual. The L&C LINE did lay their boats up at either end in Louisville and Cincinnati to cool down and clean the boilers on a Saturday.

Capt. Ellis Mace, who had a long career on the rivers, managed the Big Sandy Wharfboat here in Cincinnati for the L&C LINE [Louisville & Cincinnati Packet Company] under the ownership, management of Commodore Fred Laidley. The observance of then Thanksgiving on/around the year 1906 was in many ways "Just another working day on the river for many." Passenger bookings were off somewhat. The L&C LINE, by custom, extended invitations to many of their leading shippers and friends from Cincinnati and Louisville to accept a trip for the night and day as guests along with the usual compliment of travelers with a number from the offices going along, salesmen called 'drummers' in those days. The head steward, cooks, cabin boys laid on a fine meal with all the trimmings featuring menu offerings out of the ordinary: turkey [Some smoked], chickens, beef, lamb, pork, fish, wild fowl, oysters from local markets, punches, 'ices,' desserts turned out by hard-working cooks and prep 'boys' in the cook house with hours of work using coal stoves, steam piped up from the boilers and no microwave or other temperature controlled devices or equipment. Refrigeration was known to some degree with clean ice purchased ashore an expensive item. Cabin tables laid with fine linen crisp and white, cutlery, china, flowers, melons cut in designs, nuts and berries scattered down the center. The big lines an acception with other smaller steamboats with lesser food offferings but no less well prepared. Other observers of the day down to the present stated at times, "Steamboat food just like in any boarding house ashore--some no better than slop doctored up with lard and sugar."

Thanksgiving dinner commenced with the ringing of the cabin bell by a steward summoning all at noon or at the latest 1:00 PM. Dinner went on for several hours often until 2:00 or 3:00 PM or later. Capt. Ellis Mace mentioned these holiday celebrations often in his writings. Americans were used to the long center cabin tables where everbody sat together elbow to elbow. Europeans--especially the British--took a dimmer view of "mixing with all levels of society at one time." And eat they did. Later in the evening following all of this, again a 'supper' steamboat style would again be laid out. Ellis Mace, long in the employ of Commodore Fred Laidley, admired him much claiming, in spite of what people thought or heard, "One of the finest men I ever worked for." Then a 'coda' to his account, "At times when things were not going well, Fred Laidley could treat his enemies better than his friends."

A happy, healthy Thanksgiving to you all from the main cabin of the steamboat CITY OF LOUISVILLE! Cheers!

R. Dale Flick
Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati
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