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*A fictional steamboat Thanksgiving story*

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    *A fictional steamboat Thanksgiving story*

    Steamboating colleagues:
    For some time I've shared fictional accounts with Shipyard Sam and Tom Schiffer focusing on the life of Commodore Fred Laidley, L&C LINE; a millionaire making his fortune in salt mines, steamboats, meat packing etc. His fine mansion still stands in Covington, Ky. now restored to it's former splendor. Laidley, as Shipyard heard, was tight fisted but could be fair and "...a fine man to work for" according to Capt. Ellis Mace. Opinions varied.

    ******** ********

    Yesterday Ellis Mace and I were working in the wharfboat office here in Cincinnati with me, lowly 2nd office clerk, tending to the books and freight shipments. Ole' Laidley, back from his luncheon and card game up town at his club, stormed up the steps, slammed his office door. Just the day before he fussed with me over using too much coal in the big pot belly office stove along with keeping all the mail stamps in his own desk handing them out one by one when needed. "Ya'll burn those old busted up wood crates first. Coal costs money and Dale you been sneaking up a bucket from the pile over on the LOUISVILLE. "Ya'll think I'm made of money?" Ellis whispered, "Ever see that nearly 400 piece sterling silver set he has in the mansion over in Covington?" after the Commodore returned to his office.

    His office door opened and out he stomped waving a food order bill in his hand heading over to the LOUISVILLE loading freight; up the stairs to the cook house. He had the Chief Steward and the cabin boys in a tizzy. "Smoked turkey for Thanksgiving on the boat! That costs me fifty cents extra for each. Can't you doctor em' up...make em taste like smoked turkey? You boys think I'm made of money?" Isaac, the long trusted Steward, didn't back down standing tall. "Commodore, suah,' you signed the food order yo' self...lookie heah," he said pointing to the bottom line. Laidley looked 'got' for a moment. "Ummm, err...guess I did Isaac...mmm, you go ahead and cook em' up. Ahhh, get a nice cask of oysters up town too. We have lots of freight going down along with passengers who like traveling on Thanksgiving...some of our best shippers too with their families. Freight pays the bills." He came back over from the boat, looked around, rubbed his hands. "Dale! Ellis! Cold in heah,' hit the stove with some coal--only two scoops now." His office door slammed again.

    In an hour Laidley came out, looked around at all of us. "Ummm, look, the LOUISVILLE goin' down Wednesday night. Thursday Thanksgivin' but business on Friday. I want you all to bring your families for the trip. Mind you, back in the office when she lands for work Friday mornin.'" Mrs. Laidley the children and I stayin' at home. Ya'll have a nice Thanksgiving," he said with hands in his vest pocket. Ellis and I dumbfounded. "He's mellowing, don't you think?" I whispered across the office. "Could be...could be. He's bound to put the needle to us over something after the weekend," Ellis replied. In wonder I put my visor on, black arm protectors to keep wet ink from staining my white shirt, opened my big docket and set to work. 'Wonders never cease,' I thought. A safe, peaceful Thanksgiving to you all.

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

    Hey Dale,

    Thanks for sharing this...... and a good day to be huddled up around the big pot bellied stove on the wharfboat today in the Queen City!

    Happy Thanksgiving to all in steamboatland!



      Yeah, Dale, Old Fred does seem to be mellowing a bit. Remember last year he gave you guys some 180proof ethanol to put in your ink wells so you could keep working in the colder weather...soos the ink wouldn't freeze! Uh, you did put it all in your inkwell din't you? PS: I was pleased to get this from you in a private e-mail and am delighted that you are sharing it with the "troops." Happy Thanksgiving all! Cap'n Walnut.


        *RE: 'Ethanol in the office ink wells*
        Hi, Tom & steamboating colleagues:
        Yeah, that was a good one about Laidley and the office ink wells. I seem to recall it was Capt. Ellis Mace who put a spot of gin--not ethanol--in those desk wells from his stash down hidden in his desk. Laidley left for home [He often walked the Suspension Bridge for exercise and to watch 'his' boats steam out hiding behind a bridge pier]. The real kicker was last week when the Chief off the CITY OF CINCINNATI came up to the office holding some kind of dirty, greasy contraption I had no idea of the purpose from the engine room. He parleyed with Ole' Laidley for a time rubbing heads. "Commodore, I got to fix it or we're in trouble. Steamboat Inspection tole' me 'bout it but I thought I could milk the life out of it. I'd say to get a new one 'bout $8.00 easy."

        Laidley looked at his gold vest watch with a million fobs dangling down in deep consternation, grabbed his coat and beat up hat. "Chief, let me go up to FRISBIE MACHINE with you. I can get 'em down to about $6.75 at the most--no more! They think I'm made of money." They returned with the Chief wrenching the thing in place and off steamed the CITY OF CINCINNATI at 5:30 PM. Dropping the bill on my desk, Laidley looked pained to no end. "Dale, pay this but hold back until end of next week, heah' me?" Ole' Laidley can be like that.

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


          The Fuzzies

          Dale- Your wonderfully-melancholy stories about the Commodore and his frugal antics always give me the warm and fuzzies, but with a tinge of ice-cold draft sliding down my spine bone at the same time. I'm imagining those, seeming, more simple days, and wishing they were still around. That's the trouble with time flying by and technology changing the world about as fast. It used to be that things stayed the same for hundreds of years before the simplest next step came along. If the world still moved at that pace, we would have another two, maybe, three hundred more years of steamboating to look forward to enjoying.

          Happy Thanksgiving to all. I'll be observing the day where I want to be ... down on the river.


            Dale: That's a Dickens of a story! And, about that'll work but gin is only about 40% ethanol (80 proof). If it's proof you want, stick to the neat stuff. Like I said, gin'll work but it takes more of it. You guys are certain that all of it went into the inkwell?? O'l Laidley give you any more of it lemme know...I'll show you how to sweetin' up a limp batch of raisen jack! Cap'n Walnut


              Good Stuff

              Perhaps some of your other stories about the Commodore and life around the L&C Wharfboat might be appreciated by the board. Though fictional, these entertaining stories give the reader an authentic insight into what life must have been like on the Ohio River, at that time, that revolve around an authentic steamboat character and the boats he operated. They might also be grist for the S&D REFLECTOR. Good Stuff.


                *RE: Ole' Commodore Laidley*
                Hi, Shipyard & steamboating colleagues:
                'Fictional' stories of Commodore Laidley could go on and on. I'm not sure about 'fiction' as such in the REFLECTOR with so much wonderful truth to draw. I admit to admiring the Commodore and wish I'd met him--just once. So, my little stories are not done in criticism--far from it.

                You and I knew and talked to Albert Kelly, pilot on the DQ for years. Kelly told us some dandies about him as he was a young man working for the L&C LINE in those days. Kelly and Charlie Dietz two of the only survivors I knew of from those days who had great insights. Charlie had plenty to say about the last days of the L&C LINE after Laidley sold out to John W. Hubbard the Pittsburg 'shovel king.' Both could do the 'Billy goat whiskers flapping act' like you wouldn't believe. Laidley's financial portfolio ranged far just beyond his steamboat interests. Railroads and meat packing just a few. At one time Laidley had a good share of the region's meat business here and in Indianapolis firmly in his vest pocket. The Commodore was circumspect and reticent even writing about himself to Capt. Ellis Mace. Old records also indicate he was something of a guiding light to the GREENE LINE when they moved to Cincinnati. Families have their ups and downs, eccentricities, warts and all and Laidley was no exception. I met one of the Laidley girls years ago but never met the son Rook Laidley. I 'think' I heard once Doc Hawley did but not certain. I hesitated posting that Thanksgiving story a long time. The beautifully restored Laidley mansion in Covington, Ky is now privately owned and a real treat to see.

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


                  Like a Billy Goat...

                  Captain Albert "Bow-Wow" Kelly often told stories of "The Commodore" ....

                  Kelly recalled the Commodore saying, "I hire two people.. I hire the Captain- he takes care of my boat, and I hire the Purser - he takes care of my money."

                  Commodore Laidley would stand in the gazebo of his Second Street Manse, in Covington, across the river from the L&C Wharfboat -- his gold pocket watch in his hand..."and if a boat was late coming in to the dock, it left with a different Captain in charge."

                  The Commodore had chin whiskers "like a billy goat", Cap'n Bow-Wow remembered, "and when Laidley talked the chin whiskers flapped up and down." Whenever Kelly told a story that had his old boss talking, he would place his hand, fingers extended underneath his chin imitating those "billy goat" whiskers, and he would flap his hand in imitation of how Commodore Laidley's beard looked when he talked. It was a memorable sight.

                  My father, Col. Jess Sanders, Jr., was a long-time Covington police officer, and he knew the Laidley offspring well, and dad answered many a trouble call at the once-grand mansion, but after the Old Man died, the three children allowed the home to fall into such despair that it was a miracle the palatial brick home wasn't demolished after they, too, had passed on. The Laidley Mansion was bought at auction and saved by a doctor and his wife who cleaned it up sufficiently to have an open house where I was a tour guide.

                  On one of the tours, a young couple from Cincinnati with the financial ability to restore the home to its former glory, bought it, and after the restoration was completed the new owner remarked : "It's just like the Commodore would have wanted."

                  Willie and Buster's Whirlwind Tour of the World - Along the River


                    *RE: Laidley's gazebo/Restoration*
                    Hi, Shipyard & Steamboating colleagues:
                    Not to belabor this thread milking the discussion, but seeing the Covington, Ky Laidley mansion before and after restoration was to recall, 'I dreamed I dwelt in marble halls.' The decrepit state of the mansion was given big press here at the time with photos showing the condition. The news writer's text recalled for me 'Fall of the House of Usher.' The new owners welcomed the MOR tour group warmly with the signature book in the hall along with a group photo taken of us. The main drawing room has a semi-relief around the ceiling in either fine paster or bisque, wall papers in keeping. I cringed seeing the huge interior wood shutters newly painted white thinking of the work just in that. Shipyard knows more than I do, but I was astounded at the amount of new running lumber needed in the restoration work--not to mention electrical, plumbing, heating.

                    The one upstairs bed chamber ceiling has been done in a near cobalt deep blue with stars/constellations re-gilded. The gazebo [Where Laidley stood with gold watch in hand 'timing' his boat arrivals in the morning] has been done up as a sitting room with floor to ceiling widows with window benches covered with pillows and rugs like the Pasha's palace in Istanbul. You could step out on the roof with no problem. Like in the old South, the gazebo in warm weather allowed a fine updraft to somewhat cool the lower rooms. In the alley behind still can be seen the original big carriage doors for the stables. I recall all of our cameras being discreetly kept in hand with none of us daring to take photos. I was just as impressed with the mansion today as I was seeing many greathouses, palaces in England, Europe and Russia--and that's saying a lot. One day, without boring you all, I'll tell about Laidley's great Oriental carpet. Yet, Capt. Ellis Mace recalled Ole' Laidley wearing the same overcoat and beat up hat for years.

                    In the DQ's pilot house I asked Capt. Albert Kelly ['Bow Wow'] if he'd ever met the Laidley girls. He adjusted the boat's sticks, turned and said, "Dale, that was a long time ago and those daughters weren't exactly deubtants--or what you call them--even then. They were polite, gracious often saying, "Yes, ma' fatha' says...fatha' remembers when..." Just the other day I drove by the mansion and saw the yard man tending to the last of the autumn leaves. Any of our posters here when in the area SHOULD do a walking tour of Riverside Drive to admire the incredible restoration that has taken place there. The view across to Cincinnati, up and down the river is incredible. Thanks for the memories Shipyard.

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


                      Thanks to all of you for the memories, and thanks to Dale for the fiction. More, please!


                        Dale: I made a tour of Covington Mansions in December of 2003 including the Mimosa House, Graziana House, Laidley House and Federal Hall. It was a cold wintry day, snowy and slippery of foot. Not sure who owned it then but suspect the beginnings of what you outline here. If my memory is correct, the interrior was quite remeniscent of the Howard Museum in scope and decor. And, Dale, Shipyard et al, tell us more about Laidley. Cap'n Walnut