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Goldenrod Showboat Fire Anniversary

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    Goldenrod Showboat Fire Anniversary

    June 1st marked the 47th anniversary of the 1962 fire that broke out aboard the GOLDENROD SHOWBOAT at the St. Louis levee. The fire is said to have started about 3:00 AM in Capt. Bill Menke's office on the main deck near the entrance and quickly spread through the 1909 built showboat, which had been placed on a steel DPC barge in 1947. Capt. Bill, his brother, Capt. Charley Menke, and Mrs. Blanche Forbes, an actress and musician, who had been with the showboat since 1937, and a deckhand named "Memphis" all fled from the burning boat. The flames illuminated the riverfront and cars stopped on the Eads Bridge to watch the spectacular conflagration. Capt. Menke's cat, Pinkie, was thought to have perished in the blaze, but several days after the fire she came trotting up the gangplank and lived into the early 1970's.

    Most of the damage to the showboat was in the theatre area. The pilothouse fell down through the boat and a large section of the charred pilotwheel was found in the hull.

    The GOLDENROD was purchased in 1963 by Frank C. Pierson, Don Franz (St. Louis Ragtimers) and a small group of investors who restored the boat and reopened it on May 22, 1965. The pilothouse from the first BECKY THATCHER (which sank in 1965) was later placed atop the GOLDENROD to replace the one lost in the fire. The reproduction pilothouse was built from measurements taken from the actual pilothouse of the Str. GOLDEN EAGLE, then on display in the River Room of the Missouri Historical Society in Forest Park.

    After being permanently moored at the St. Louis waterfront since 1937, the GOLDENROD was sold in 1990 and moved to St. Charles, Missouri. This operation was fraught with many problems and the boat was closed due to structural problems and taken back to St. Louis in 2003 for a short time, although never reopened. At this writing, the century old showboat remains tied up and idle along the Illinois River near Kampsville.

    Photos herewith:
    (1) Goldenrod's upper deck engulfed in flames.
    (2) Firemen in showboat auditorium - note pressed tin ceiling & box seating.
    (3) After the blaze was extinguished.
    Attached Files

    MORE on the Showboat Fire of 1962.

    (1 & 2) Capt. J.W. "Bill" Menke and his beloved showboat after the fire. When the boat was sold and restored, Frank Pierson kindly permitted Capt. Bill (who died on July 15, 1968) Capt. Charley Menke and Blanche Forbes to continue living aboard the showboat until 1975, when Charley went to live with his niece, Marcella Harding of Covington, KY (a dear lady who passed away just last year at age 89) until his passing in 1978 and Blanche Forbes went to live with her daughter, Barbara, in Long Beach, California until her death in 1993 at age 93.

    (3) A singed photo that survived the GOLDENROD fire, taken In October, 1949 from the bow of the showboat looking toward the Eads Bridge and the Streckfus steamer ADMIRAL. The H.S. DOUGLAS was a retired towboat that was converted into a restaurant / night club. After a few years the boat moved down to Memphis and became part of a boat store operation, surviving into the late 1970's.
    Attached Files