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Bob Reynolds 10-10-2016 05:12 AM

Vic Tooker
 
I wasn't sure whether to post this in "History" or "River Talk and Cruises", but here goes. I just saw this article from earlier in 2016 about Vic Tooker, and thought some of the old timers here would find it interesting. I know I did.
[url=http://wnewsj.com/opinion/columns/19647/born-with-a-banjo-on-his-knee]Wilmington News Journal | Born with a banjo on his knee[/url]

R. Dale Flick 10-10-2016 08:07 AM

*Memories of Vic Tooker &Family*
Steamboating colleagues:
Thanks, Bob, for the above with the link to the 'Wilmington News Journal' piece RE: the late Vic Tooker. Many people don't know Vic was also a dedicated military man active and later in his reserve years with, I think, the U.S. Air Force.

I was around Vic and family enjoying their music on the DELTA QUEEN along with other venues Betty Blake and the company needed them but admit I didn't know him as well as many of you. After their gigs on the DQ, Vic and family would take a break, rest--and I respected that not bugging them on deck or in the boat's public rooms. Thanks for your posting and jogging our memories.

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

Russ Ryle 10-10-2016 09:46 AM

re: Vic on the DQ in 1979
 
Morning Bob and Dale,

My wife and I had the pleasure of hearing Vic and the group play. Am I correct another member of his group was either his mother or wife? River fog has turned into the fog of ageing.

Keep your steam up!

Russ Ryle

Bob Reynolds 10-10-2016 12:12 PM

Yes, the "Riverboat Ramblers" consisted of Vic, his father and mother Guy and Alice Tooker, and various others from time to time. Vic was multi-talented and played (I forget the exact number) an incredible number of instruments, as well as singing and improvisational acting and comedic patter. He had an ego to match.

R. Dale Flick 10-10-2016 01:05 PM

*Tooker family in early 'Vaudeville.'*
Steamboating colleagues:
Bob is correct on the many instruments Vic Tooker was master with high accomplishments. They 'say' musical ability runs in families, possibly inherited. Others say 'genetics deals the cards, environment plays the hand.' Again, I didn't know them as well as many of you. Another one with a big "ego" was Bob Hope who also began in vaudeville.

Parents Alice and Guy Tooker were no spring chickens when I first met them. Alice great on the base fiddle and, I think, dad Guy on the banjo and other instruments. I also recall stories of the Tooker parents starting their careers eons ago in the vaudeville circuit. Now, there's a difference in 'vaudeville' and old time 'burlesque' for sure. I always thought the Tookers reminded me of good English music hall performers of the old school. A few of us do recall possibly the last dying breath of good vaudeville in big city movie theaters along with the classic theater pipe organs. The ALBEE and PALACE theaters here in Cincinnati had modified vaudeville performers for a show leading to the leading first movie or double feature. I well remember the 'Step Brothers,' 'Abbott and Costello, 'Andrew Sisters' and others here when I was a kid. Even Ozzie and Harriett Nelson of TV fame [Sons Ricky and David later on radio and TV in Black/White] years ago with Ozzie's big band and Harriett his lead singer at old Moonlite Gardens, Coney Island. I think even the Nelsons did a couple of gigs on the last ISLAND QUEEN. Capt. Bill Judd would possibly know and remember. Then early on Jack Cleary and his band played on the DELTA QUEEN here. Another steamboater also came from the Wilmington and Blanchester, Ohio region with the late Marty Stouder, social hostess on the big SOUTH AMERICAN cruise steamship on the Great lakes and on the DQ balancing the cruising season. When the SOUTH AMERICAN was forced out of business due to the then new 'Safety at Sea Fire' legislaiton she switched over to the DQ nearly full time. And that is a long time ago now. Well, what do I know--or remember?

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

Judy Patsch 10-10-2016 09:08 PM

Tookers
 
Guy Tooker played the drums in the DQ band in '73, '75. Whether he also played the banjo I don't know. Vic played 13 instruments. On the record that he, Doc, Mom, and Ken Hall made around 1988, the last selection 'Saints' is a compilation, mix, whatever it is called, of Vic playing all 13 instruments. He was talented and as was stated his ego was great. His military career was not as stellar as he represented it, as we found out in his later years while working on the NATCHEZ. When he encountered severe medical issues, his military service records were needed to support his medical claims, which is when the 'discrepancies' surfaced. These fabrications did not diminish his position in the musical community in New Orleans, and thanks to Vic I met many in the 'big name' NOLA musical fraternity. Roddy and I would often go to LeMeridian Hotel for his performances with various bands in their wonderful lounge shows on Thursdays and Saturdays. Sadly that kind of musical setting is next to impossible to find in NOLA today...

Bill Wiemuth 10-16-2016 02:07 PM

Bill Wiemuth
 
Performing on riverboats now for the past 18 years -- good heavens where has the time gone? -- there have been so many stories floating around about Vic Tooker. As a matter of fact, we still frequently mention his name. Apparently Vic was so committed to enhancing the guest experience that a slang phrase evolved for adapting going out on stage and "giving it your all" into going out to "Give it the Full Tooker." Laura Sable and I love the phrase and often before a show, we still will say to each other, "Let's go out and give them the Full Tooker." We still feel honored to keep alive the long tradition of steamboat entertainment that goes back to William Chapman in 1831 all the way through to Vic Tooker and so many others in the last two decades that we have been lucky enough to serve with along the rivers. I would start listing off the legends I've known (like Jazzou Jones, Bob Schad, Bob Stevens, Steve Spracklen, Mike Gentry, Tom Hook, Bobby Durham, Norman Bergen, Vic Zepeto, and so many more), but I could keep typing names for hours. What a treasure is this heritage of steamboat entertainers!

Denny Hamilton 10-17-2016 06:03 PM

Vic And Victor
 
In the early 70's, I worked during my summertime breaks from college on the Delta Queen. During my first year on the boat I was a deckhand, and I was teamed-up with "Deckhand Vic", who was to teach me all I needed to know about being a deckhand. He was a kid around my age, and he definitely was [B]not[/B] a guy to teach anybody about the art of steamboatin'. His name was Victor Stadtmiller, and was known as "Deckhand Vic", "Victor", or Captain Wagner called him "Victor Mature".

Anyway on a Pittsburgh trip, Chief Steward, Franklin Myles, asked the deckhands to help the waiters out with a floor waxing job in the Orleans Room. Deckhand Vic and I helped them out on a two-day job. After we were done on the first day, we placed those "Caution! Wet Floor" tent cards up at the stairs to the Orleans Room, and in front of the doors. I then went down to my room to catch some afternoon rest. Soon, a deckhand was pounding on my door, "Denny! Denny! Vic Tooker took took a header on your waxed floor and fell! I think he's knocked out!!" I ran up to the Orleans Room to find Vic Tooker rubbing his head and cussing as he picked-up his trombone. We were soon landing in Gallipolis, and Vic wanted to play some music for the crowds there. In his haste to grab his trombone from the Orleans Room, he ran across the wet floor and his feet came out from under him. Boom!! He still made it upstairs to give the crowd a good show. A living example of "The show must go on!"

On the second day of waxing, we blockaded the Orleans Room in the grand old "Steamboatin' Way". We piled tables, chairs, food carts, etc. to remove all doubt about not going into the place! It worked!

Victor Stadtmiller later went on to steamboat infamy as the driver of the Delta Queen's Volkswagen Bug as it landed in the river at Memphis. I should let Jim Blum tell that story! Captain Jim was there to see it all unfold!

-Denny Hamilton-

R. Dale Flick 10-18-2016 06:15 AM

*'Vic & Victor'/Waxing DQ interior decks*
Morning, Steamboating colleagues:
Denny, your above a dandy written so clearly I could almost see/hear it. Many fail to realize that several generations have come and gone working on the DQ with stories humorous and otherwise all their own to tell. Waxing that wood deck down in the 'Orleans Room' no doubt no small job. In older days prior the DQ had NO carpeting inside at all. All interior decks by the Purser office, aft lounge, treds on the grand staircase, upper lounge etc. were all sheeted with that unmistakable brown marine linoleum or bare wood. All interior bulkheads, panels painted that then popular 'Apple Green.' Each morning early several of the crew began their work to dry sweep, damp or wet mop or intense cleaning to 'strip' the old wax off all followed with the application of wax [Not every day or you get that filmy build-up in time] and then machine buffing. And they buffed, buffed, buffed. Shore stops in good or bad weather meant dirt, mud, dust tramped in on passengers shoes--not to mention smuts from the stack and boilers. Those big fiber mats at the stage and base of the stairs helped a little. Outside decks also early each morning swept, hosed and squeeged down, railings wiped down and waxed, bulkheads cleaned, marine brass fixtures polished. On sailing day Mrs. Greene made her rounds quietly with those blue eyes flashing checking all making sure things up to snuff. Seeing a dirty hand smudge, streaked window, something out of place, she would with dignity, courtesy say, "Oh, could you see to this before the passengers do." The Greene management model was MBWA--management by walking around. ALL the crew on their toes when Mrs. Greene stepped aboard. "Shhh, look lively...striaghten up...here comes Mrs. Greene" you would hear. Yeah, it was really fun wasn't it? All that wonderful, beautiful, old-time steamboat life so romantic with the jolly old benign captain with rosy cheeks a twinkle in his eye laughing, joking with all the passengers and crew. [!] But what do I know or saw?

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

Russ Ryle 10-18-2016 10:04 AM

re: riding in the VW Bug
 
Morning all,

Back in 1979 the DQ landed at a state park just above the big dam (Barkley?) that creates Kentucky Lake. I was still walking on canes back then and made the hike up the hill for the picnic that was set up on shore. Going back to the DQ my wife and I were given a ride back to the boat up the gang plank in the VW. I do not remember the name of the driver but did share with him we owned an orange '74 Bug. The VW ride was one of the highlights of our trip!

Our Bug got traded in for a '93 Honda Civic that still meets our needs some 200K miles later today. Our Bug was sold to a student and last was reported about 20 years ago as being restored and living in Florida.

Keep you steam up!

Russ Ryle


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