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Alan Bates 11-29-2006 09:31 AM

Paul Underwood
I worked as mate under the command of Captain Paul H. Underwood. In my estimation he and his brother, Captain Harris D. Underwood were gentlemen in every respect of that word.
Like most individualists, they could be quirky and even obstructive, but the boat was always foremost in their actions and thoughts. They both achieved river fame on the Delta Queen and the Belle of Louisville, but they had many other pages to their books. They learned their profession on packets and towboats that ran on the Tennessee River and its upper tributaries. They had licenses on the Hiwassee, the Clinch, the Holston and the French Broad Rivers as well as the Ohio, Mississippi and in the case of Harris, on the Illinois. As Paul once said, "I've hit every lock wall in the entire valley." Harris was also a double-ender who held an engineer's license.
There was no greater experience than to sit with them in the pilothouse when they shared memories. Those occasions were rare, but very fruitful. Their descriptions of their apprenticeships under their father, Captain Ambrose Underwood, were priceless. His technique, according to both brothers, was to give them a free hand long enough to get into trouble, then teach them how to avoid such things in future. Only after that was completed did they get reprimands to drive the lessons home.
They were small in stature and most rivermen could look over their heads without bending a neck. They were tough as oak and as flexible as willow wands, well able to meet any emergency. Paul loved the job as master, in which he could roam the whole boat and mingle with the clientele. Harris was more of a loner and preferred the quiet of the pilothouse.
After all of these years, I still miss them.

Shipyard Sam 11-29-2006 09:58 AM

I, too, was a Mate working for Captain Paul Underwood, but on the DELTA QUEEN. One of my greatest thrills was the time we arrived at the Boswell Oil Terminal and barges littered the landing, so Cap'n Paul came down on deck with his game plan, and we shuffled all those barges with the QUEEN. I wonder if that had been done before or since; the DELTA QUEEN used as a towboat?

Alan Bates 11-29-2006 10:36 AM

Sam, we used the Belle to tow the Renown to the surge basin several times. We just lashed her on the Belle's hip and took her down with us.
Here is an incident with Paul:
We stored the stage in the wharfboat (the Renown) for the winters. On this occasion Paul gave me minute instructions for moving the boat and getting the stage through the overhead garage door on the Renown. He told me to get out a head line and a spring line, among other things. It was a beautiful calm day; no wind, no current, just perfect.
So we backed down and started toward the Renown. I was on the wing bridge and Paul was steering. The stage went in that doorway as if it were going home - no lines or anything. So I stood there and watched and let her come. Without warning, Paul suddenly backed the boat and I yelled "Stop her!" It was no use. He backed out into the river and I went to the pilothouse for a conference.
Paul asked, "Why didn't you get out the lines?"
I told him she was floating in pretty as a picture and we didn't need the lines. He insisted that we do it his way, so we went at it again. A spring line was run to a ringbolt on the wharf. A headline was run to a kevel of the stern of the Renown. Two deckhands ran themselves half to death setting up. This time the Belle got contrary - nothing went right and I yelled to Paul, "You come out here and I'll steer!"
He laughed and I laughed and we went back to work.

Judy Patsch 11-29-2006 11:26 AM

Capt. Harris Underwood
2 Attachment(s)
I can't put my fingers on any pix of Capt. Paul right now, but here are a couple of his brother, Capt. Harris D. Perhaps Shipyard has some handy of
Capt. Paul... the first pix is on the DQ wingbridge in 1968, of 3 of the biggest little men on the river: Capts. Harris Underwood, Harry Louden, and Doc Hawley. Wasn't there a question on the board about whether hatbands ever designated First/Second Mate? Note Doc's: First Mate. The second pix was taken in Oct. 1971 on the BELLE of Capt. Harris and Calliope Keith.

Keith Norrington 11-29-2006 11:51 AM

Although I only met Capt. Paul Underwood a few times, I knew Capt. Harris very well. As Alan said, he was a true southern gentleman by every definition. He was from the "old school" and I've witnessed him "eject" people from the pilothouse when they got on his nerves and wore out their welcome! Capt. Harris and Mabel Underwood lived at Chattanooga and I kept in touch with them for many years after Capt. Harris had left the BELLE. Now long departed, but fond memories of these fine people live on.

Keith Norrington 11-29-2006 11:57 AM

Judy: That looks like Capt. Tommy Utter on the left. He and Harris often alternated as pilots on the BELLE during the season. Capt. Tommy was affectionately known as "Capt. Blue Eyes". His favorite tune was "My Happiness", which I often played for him on the calliope -- and through the clouds of steam I could see him "waltzing" around in the Belle's pilothouse!

I look like the ICE CREAM MAN in the picture with Capt. Harris. My hat band, which had been ordered from Cincinnati Regalia, had not arrived yet!

Shipyard Sam 11-29-2006 12:15 PM

On the DQ wingbridge: Yep, that is Captain Tommy [I]Old Blue Eyes[/I] Utter, and not Captain Harris. What a character HE was, and a fine pilot, too.

Judy Patsch 11-29-2006 01:00 PM

Oops, an "Utterly" uncalled for misidentification!!!!

R. Dale Flick 11-29-2006 05:01 PM

Steamboating colleagues:
I'm enjoying the postings/memories Re: Paul Underwood from all of you who were there then. I posted the below quite a while ago but thought I'd dig it out again for many of the new members on the web.
* * * * * * * *


'One more chapter in the ever-colorful saga of river lore will come to an end when the Str. DELTA QUEEN eases beside the GREENE LINE wharf at 1:00 AM tomorrow. When the mooring lines are secured, it will signal the successful finish of countless voyages over the inland waterways for Capt. Paul Underwood, Florence, Alabama. The veteran nagvigator of the lengths of the Ohio, the Mississippi and tributaries, disclosed his retirement plans yesterday at Evansville, Ind.

With Capt. Underwood at the pilot wheel for the last time, the DELTA QUEEN last night was plying its majestic way upstream from Louisville. It is returning from a weekly cruise to Kentucky Lake--a round trip taken countless times by Capt. Underwood.

A riverman most of his life, Underwood joined the GREENE LINE STEAMERS in 1952, serving as pilot on the old GORDON C. GREENE when it plied the Tennessee River. Prior to that he was associated with the Ohio River Division, U.S. Corps of Engineers, holding pilot and master licenses on the Ohio, Mississippi and Tennesse Rivers for many years.

Mrs. Letha C. Greene, President of the GREENE LINE, named Underwood as captain on February 24, 1956. He had been pilot of the boat the two preceding seasons.' END [The ENQUIRER

R. Dale Flick 11-29-2006 06:01 PM

Steamboating colleagues:
Something went PFFT! as I was signing off the last posting. The ENQUIRER photo with the article Re: Paul Underwood pictures him in full uniform with gold braid hat standing in front of a DELTA QUEEN life preserver holding the habitual cigarette in hand al la Humphrey Bogart. He was short, as Alan says, but very dapper.

Years back I was around both Paul and Harris Underwood on the DQ but have to admit I kept my distance at my young age. They awed and intimidated me for sure--but not intimidating men as I look back now. I need to get Jane Greene's memories of them. First time I met Paul was as a kid when my late father took me down to the DELTA QUEEN in the 1950s. Dad represented the City of Cincinnati Safety Division/Cincinnati Public Landing and always maintained strong links to the GREENE LINE in case they needed any assistance. Paul talked to my dad and then led us down to the cook house. Dad got a big cup of wonderful DQ coffee and me a ham sandwich. Yummy!

As posted earlier on this web, the GREENE LINE paid many of the employees in cash sealed in a white envelope from the front office. Watching Paul Underwood on pay day was something. I saw him sitting in a chair on the front deck at the foot of the main stairs with envelopes in his lap. Cook house, porters, cabin attendants were there and Paul would softly call out their names and hand them the envelopes. It was a ritual, for sure. Please remember, I was never an employee of the GREENE LINE or, for that matter, never worked on a steamboat. The Navy and ocean ships were my haunts. Oh, the memories and thanks to you all. Well, what do I know?

R. Dale Flick

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