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Alan Bates and Me 8

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    Alan Bates and Me 8

    When classes let out in June of 64, I started working under Alan as a deckhand. The first year the boat ran I was purser a job I really didn't like, I was much happier on deck than I was in the office. And NO I wasn't fired from the pursers job over the sardine can incident as Alan mentioned in his book. I enjoyed working under Alan, for the most part he was a good boss, sometimes his attitude got the best of him. One of his favorite sayings at the time was"a steamboat mate has to come to work mad every day". I really don't know why he took that approach but many mornings he did. He had a loyal crew who tried as best we could to do the job the way Alan wanted it. Alan had his own ideas as to how he wanted things done, if one of us said, "why don't we do it this way", Alan would come back with his second favorite saying "we pay you to work, not to think".
    I learned a lot working for Alan. On a boat you have to be a jack of all trades, on any given day we might be sweeping and mopping floors in the morning; cutting,threading and hanging pipe at lunch time; measuring, cutting and clamping a new head wire in the hour before loading passenger; then washing up to look presentable to act as good will ambassadors as we loaded passengers; handle the lines on departure and landing; and during the trip be on fire watch and be gracious when the hundredth passenger asks, "where's the bathroom?". I couldn't, and still can't think of a better summer job for a college student.
    Not only did I learn many skills but I also learned about people. Alan believed in diversity in a time when "diversity" wasn't even a word yet. In segregated Louisville in the mid 60's Alan hired blacks as easily as he did whites and he treated us all equally. Having been raised in the East end of Louisville, I had never been around blacks. Thanks to Alan, I learned that, even though someone might not have much schooling, never count them short; schooling has nothing to do with smarts or abilities.
    I worked under Alan for two summers and one winter. Alan during his tenure as mate did a lot to make the BELLE what it is today; some of his ideas were good....moving the life rafts from the roof to suspending them from the ceiling on the main deck; and some were bad.....laying sheets of masonite on the hurricane roof thinking that would stop the roof from leaking, the masonite buckled and bowed. the tape on the seams stuck to the passengers shoes and the roof leaked worse.
    I was off from college one fall semester and worked with Alan pretty much on a one to one basis. We tore the floor out of the bathrooms and replaced a rotted I beam carlin that ran under the men's room urinal, and replaced the toilets in the lady's room. I was proud of our work after we finished, it looked good. On days when there was a lull in the work, Alan would break out his old Smith Corona and work on the book he was writing about the experiences we had on the boat. We would talk about what stories he should include and and what would be best be left out. This book would eventually become Alan's first published book apply titled "THE BELLE OF LOUISVILLE". I'm proud to say I had a small hand in it. All the stories Alan told were true, the events actually happened with, maybe, a little embellishments.

    When the AVALON was towed from Cincinnati to Louisville, the tug landing the boat at Jeffboat made an oopsey, hitting a barge and buckling the stage. Jeffboat tried to straighten it but was unable to get it completely right. The boat looked like a beautiful woman with a crooked front tooth. Some company donated aluminum for a new stage, Alan designed it. He said "I cut 20 ft off it; it doesn't need to be that long". Alan had never made a bank landing, sure when landing at the Louisville wharf a long stage wasn't necessarily needed, but if you're landing on a mud bank, the stage can never be too long. When we went on the Green River trip, there were several times we had to lay bucket planks over 20 ft. of mud to load passengers. It wouldn't have cost the boat a cent and, in my opinion, a longer stage would have been nice. "WE PAY YOU TO WORK, NOT TO THINK!"