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Bartending on the Delta Queen

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    Bartending on the Delta Queen

    I was reading through the archives, and some other websites, and I think of all of the jobs I could think of doing, serving alcohol on the Delta Queen isn't one of them. It just seems like asking for too much trouble from the boss, and I don't mean the current owner of the fleet.

    LOL- I thought you were going to apply for the job.

    When I bartended on the boats, I did get offered promotions and turned them down. That may have hurt me because people doubted my loyalty if I was not trying to get ahead and better myself.

    Also, I am only a light social drinker and will go for months without ever drinking at all. I also knew many of the other bartenders who simply don't drink. But bartending is a profession and the good ones have taken their classes on managing the person who consumes too much as well as the art of the sale of drinks. The job is about selling and socializing.

    Any job on the boats can ask for trouble with the boss- I don't think that bartenders have problems any more often than others. I will say that even though it is socially acceptible and legal for officers to drink with passengers, I think the captains offered the best choice by their insistance on soft drinks no matter what the guests or passengers were drinking.

    But bartender on the boats is a great job- it is the place where stories are exchanged and informations passed around- somewhat like this forum.

    Cheers mate- time for a drink- right?


      You may have misunderstood. The boss I was referring to was thought to be the cause of another vessel breaking up the new bar on the Delta Quenn, as well as match making, alerting the watchman to an open water valve etc. Somehow, temperance on the Delta Queen seems to be a big issue with her.

      From what I can tell, she doesn't seem to care what goes on any other boat.


        My understanding was that Ma Greene wasn't so much opposed to "spirits" as she was selling them on her family boat! I myself have joked about an "encounter" with her when I was a bartender. One passenger, who travels with us a lot, and really loves the boat, would have a bottle of wine kept in the cooler during her trips. She'd have a glass at dinner. One time, during a several-week trip she was taking, the bottle (well-labeled) would disappear from the cooler overnight! I was confounded by this--even had another bartender search the cooler for me--it was clearly gone. But yet--it reappeared a day or so later, after I'd opened another bottle! (This resulted in our guest actually getting more wine for her money). Ma Greene? I like to think she was just teasing us. Or was someone just teasing me? :)


          According to Rooster and Johnson...

          The belief in the tale of Ma Greene's ghost is so strong, now, that some folks get downright upset if the story is questioned, but when did this all become a thing of legend? In the early 70's, there wasn't much said about the specter of the Matron of the DELTA QUEEN walking the decks while keeping an eye on the temperance, or lack of it, on the boat. Even in the last two years of that decade there wasn't the big to-do about Mrs. Greene's "ghost" as there is today. Someone must have built up the story for one reason or another after that.

          Not to say the old Queen isn't full of strange goings-on, but the resident "Ghostbusters" of those days, Ernest Johnson and Red Rooster, knew where every soul who passed through the mystic veil aboard the DELTA QUEEN, did so and under what circumstances they departed. On certain evenings, when the atmospheric conditions were exactly right, these gentlemen were often heard to say, "Dem ghosts iz walkin' tonite." Never once did they ever mention the "boss", for Mrs. G. was truly their boss as they both had worked for Captain Mary B. when she was alive and aboard the boat.

          Now I'm not saying that I refute the story of possible ghosts aboard the boat, but how can one of their kind be distinguished from another? One of my dearest friends, a member of that royal steamboat family, once asked me if I believed that grandmother's ghost walked the decks of the DQ, and I said that I had my doubts. That said, made two of us.
          Last edited by Shipyard Sam; 10-08-2007, 07:13 AM.


            Make that three of us. Furthermore, I hate to go counter to all these legends that have sprung up, but the Mary B. I remember was not averse to the sale of spirits if it made the passengers happy and it was profitable. My mother remembers one time when she was a girl when Capt. Gordon Greene became annoyed at something and came out with a curse or two. Mary B.'s response to him, in her sweet high pitched little voice, was, "Now Gordon, think of the passengers!". The passengers always came first. She didn't drink herself, but she -- and all of the Greenes -- just wanted happy people on their boats. There was a bar on the GORDON C. GREENE that sold beer and such and had a couple of slot machines, and I can still remember Mrs. Greene shooing me out of there when I was a little girl. She would bribe me with those wonderful chocolate covered cherries she and my grandmother sold in the concession stand (she and I both loved those things). She was fine if there was profit and people were happy. I don't know where all these stories about Mrs. Greene have come from. It must be confounding to the Greene kids. She was a great lady and we loved her a lot, but oh my, in these legends she has become someone I'm not sure I always recognize. Guess I am just a wet blanket ....


              Exactly, Miss Lil--I've always told people I thought there was more legend than truth to the story that Ma Greene was opposed to spirits. Just goes to show you--know your sources!


                Originally posted by Mary Sward Charlton View Post
                know your sources!
                Which is why the people here are the best place to check with, first hand knowledge. Nothing is better than people that were/are there.



                  Thanks to Sam for posting the link to this thread. I think I might have thought this before, but never said it: could Don Deming be the source for this mis-information on Mrs. Greene? You must admit it makes a good story, and D.D. wanted a story above all else...I think his motto must have been, "Why let facts get in the way?!?"


                    The late Mary Lou "Boots" Brasher, who was hostess/social director (that was the title of the job back then) on the DQ when Capt. Charlie Brasher was master in the early Greene Line days, told me that Capt. Mary, when people bought a drink and handed it to her, would politely say, "Thank you very much. I can't drink it now, but I'll save it in my camphor bottle!" Boots also said that Capt. Mary B.'s staterooms aboard the GORDON C. GREENE and later on the DQ were FULL of knickknacks and trinkets. She was once asked how she managed to get into bed and her response was, "Oh, I just crawl in amongst the junk!"

                    In going through the papers of the late Capt. C.W. Stoll, I found some fascinating letters from Capt. Mary that were always signed, "Mother Greene". I truly regret that I never got to meet Capt. Mary B., as from all the stories I've been told by people who knew her well, she was, as Lil said, a great lady.

                    Herewith is a favorite photo of mine, showing Capt. Mary at the wheel of the GORDON C. GREENE. Some RIVER TRIVIA: The tall chair she's sitting in was a fixture in the pilothouse from the days the boat was the CAPE GIRARDEAU and owned by the Eagle Packet Company. It survived through the Greene Line years (1935-1952) even after the boat was a restaurant/museum, and when she (then named RIVER QUEEN) sank at St. Louis in 1967 (40 years ago come December 2nd!) and broke up, the chair fell into the river and floated down to the Str. BECKY THATCHER, where it was retrieved for display in the Midship Museum, curated by Miss Ruth Ferris. The chair was last seen on the GOLDENROD SHOWBOAT in the 1970's.
                    Attached Files
                    Last edited by Keith Norrington; 10-10-2007, 07:02 AM.


                      Great photo- thanks : )

                      It reminds me of a photo I have of my grandmother but she was not on a steamboat.

                      The thread is from last year so I am sure some people will get confused but that is OK- maybe it was the booze- right : )


                        I can't look at a photo of Mary B. Greene in the GORDON's pilothouse with out thinking of a story that my father loved to tell. The boat was going into lay up. Capt. Greene walked through the engineroom, and she told Chief Engineer Frank Heath to keep the electric generator running as there was a photographer onboard to take her picture in the pilot house. Her perfume still scented the engineroom when Chief Heath told my father to get over there and wind down that generator, now!


                          Steamboating colleagues:
                          Great memories Re: 'Bartending on the DELTA QUEEN.' Good reading postings from so many long off this board. It 'takes a village' to tell good history. No, I never knew/met Capt. Mary Becker Greene but my grandmother knew her well going way, way back...around 1904 or so. Capt. Mary loved flowers and plants. This is an old story I can't help repeating...bear with me. My family had a large century plant in a half-barrel at their home up river. Capt. Mary was on one of the boats at the landing and came up the street to talk. She admired the plant, which is rumored to bloom every 100 years. The family gave it to her and she had the boys from the boat {TACOMA or GREENWOOD} come up to carry it aboard. I assume the plant was brought to Cincinnati and set down in the Greene home. No, the Greenes didn't live exclusively aboard one or the other of their boats continually as some old Cincinnati legends persist.

                          Capt. Mary B. encouraged lady passengers on the boats to sew those little aprons in sewing circles to sell in support of the Knox Presbyterian Church here in town. One old movie shows her and the sewing circle on the GORDON C. GREENE sewing on deck. Lil Smith and brother, Dick Prater, well remember. The only person I know who owns one of those aprons is Virginia Bennett. No doubt Lil Smith and Helen Huges-Prater may have a few along with Mary Greene-Stewart and Jane Greene.

                          I don't know about drinking on the GREENE LINE boats back then, but have to remember when Prohibition went in and then out under Franklin Roosevelt. I'd heard passengers did the BYOB thing--like many do today. Steamboat/Steamship lines learned in time what a revenue maker the bars could be. Up until about 40 years ago Atlantic steamship companies operated their bars as a 'service' with minimal prices for the time. It's a different story today.

                          Frank's story of the generator is a dandy. One now deceased clever veteran steamboat wag in the know watched the old B/W movies of the BETSY ANN/TOM GREENE races showing Capt. Mary B. on deck pacing with an anxious look on her face. "No," he prompted, "she's not worried about the steamboat race...she's thinking of all that coal they're burning." It was always the 'hand on the helm and eye on the books' that made the GREENE LINE what it was back then. How times have changed.

                          R. Dale Flick


                            Cool stories, Dale - thanks for them. A few years back Virginia Bennett lent her tea apron to the Delta Queen, and it was framed and displayed next to the Purser's Office for the season. Yes, it was quite a conversation piece. Virginia had a nice explanation about it all printed out and posted next to the apron. The ladies sewed these aprons out of two matching handkerchiefs that Capt. Mary would purchase in town.



                              The framed apron is now part of the collection at the Howard Steamboat Museum, a gift from Ginny, along with other steamboat artifacts, several years ago. The apron is currently exhibited in the third floor tower room.