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*A cold and icy steamboat Christmas story.*

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Old 12-21-2006, 11:58 AM
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.
Posts: 1,573
Default *A cold and icy steamboat Christmas story.*

Dear Steamboating colleagues:
Steamboat stories at the holidays are something to share with our family. I look back now and can't believe it really happened, but happen it did.
* * * * *
The winter of 1962 here on the Ohio River was exceptionally cold with heavy ice gorging up here from Dayton Bar all the way down past the Suspension Bridge in the Cincinnati harbor. Christmas had arrived with the Cincinnati Public Landing dark, cold and deserted. The big GREENE LINE STEAMERS wharfboat showed warm lights from windows on the upper end. For the most part all was buttoned up enjoying a long winter's rest.

Classes were out at University of Cincinnati and I was with my dad in his city station wagon as he checked the lower streets and landing as part of his job with the City of Cincinnati Fire/Safety Dept. The Public Landing was one of his responsibilities in addition to checking on his men in charge of the Fire Dept. fireboat housed at the old Pearl & Martin St. station east of Eggleston Ave. I was along for the ride that cold, dark afternoon. We turned down Broadway and there was the DELTA QUEEN at the wharfboat. Ice was moving slow with groans, cracks and grinding. Bob McCann, Purser for the GREENE LINE, was standing on the landing stage and waved us to a stop. We passed a few minutes. "There are problems on the boat," he said inviting us over.

The wharfboat was a shambles with old boiler tubes, wood packing crates, drums and the roaring of generators linked to the DQ by heavy cables. Crew members in dirty jump suits covered with red rust and grime were talking or taking a quick smoke break. They did not look happy and were obviously tired. The upper decks and caibin areas were piled with life jackets, canvas over the inside decks, furniture stored in corners. A dismal sight. We entered the boiler room only to be met with the sound of loud hammering, mumbled voices, bright trouble lights suspended on cables and a sense of being cold. The boilers were shut down totally with repairs under way. Marion Frommel and his crew from BUCKEYE BOAT & BOILER were working in tandem with the boat's engineers and crew. I recall Terry Beckett possibly being one but can't recall any of the others--possibly fireman Ed. Smith.

Boiler tubes had been installed earlier only to find they would not hold. There had been curses from some of the men punctuating the sound of their hammers and tools. A few paused, blew their noses, scratched their heads and returned to work. Marion Frommel discovered that the supplier had sent the wrong type of tubes. They were finishing up preparing to light the boilers, raise steam and get heat back in the boat. Outside the low grind of ice against the hull could be heard. We peered down in the boiler hold and stepped out on deck as not to bother men working to finish a hard job on time. The grinding of tools stopped and there was silence. From deep below we heard somebody cough then one, two, three voices waver and rise.

'O little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie;
Above they deep and dreamles sleep The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth The ever lasting light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.'
* * * * *

R. Dale Flick, Laynie Flick and mother, Mrs. June E. Flick in her 90th year.
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