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A look back at the DELTA QUEEN via an old advertisement

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    A look back at the DELTA QUEEN via an old advertisement

    Well, this is proof I spend way too much time on the internet! While searching for something entirely different, this came up in my browser. Seeing Mrs. Letha Cavendish Greene again after all these years was amazing. The link says the advertisement was filmed in the 1950's. However, if you look at the video of the boat, it is clearly after the calliope was installed in 1960 (and as a matter of fact not much later than 1960). It is interesting to note that Charmin toilet tissue was a product of Cincinnati-based Proctor and Gamble at the time. Great to see two Cincinnati companies sharing marketing in such a friendly way!

    For us old timers, this is a look back at a time we all knew well and miss dearly. For the newbies, it is a peek back into the past of the DELTA QUEEN. The room Mrs. Greene is in today would be stateroom 102-108. She walks out of the bathroom in the stateroom for the "walk on". Here is a very interesting tidbit you may not notice...listen in the beginning for a very muted is there.

    This was one of those finds that needed to be shared.



    *RE: Mrs. Greene/CHARMIN ad via P&G*
    Hi, Travis & Steamboating colleagues:
    WOW! Thanks Travis for posting the above CHARMIN TOILET PAPER COMMERCIAL featuring Mrs. Letha Greene. Brought back vivid memories for some of us who are "even older." I recall well when the production was in the works with the DELTA QUEEN. The promo received wide media circulation for quite a time. Note it was in Black/White at the time and if ever done in color for TV, I haven't a clue at this late date. Mrs. Greene was a lovely lady, dignified, piercing eyes, kind and never looked better than in this commercial. Mrs. Greene 'never suffered fools lightly' as many found out. That's how I remember her.

    Another big promo involved TIMEX self-wind wrist watches. A TIMEX was dramatically taped to the DQ's wheel as we watched. The boat steamed out and, in time, the watch--water and all--was checked proving it still ran winding itself before the rolling cameras.

    Then came the big PR blitz with Betty Blake and the boxes of fresh mint growing on the stern of the DQ's wheel with water spraying. The mint was clipped and used in Mint Juleps in the bar off what would be called the 'Orleans Room.' The blitz served it's purpose--along with flavoring Juleps--until a keen eye with U.S. Public Health blew the whistle over the mint being sprayed with potentially bacteria laden river water. A big [?] rose up over that. Never mind the mint was carefully washed, rinsed before use. Betty also did legion work in featuring the DQ on programs such as 'What's My Line' and 'I've Got A Secret' featuring Capt. Clarke 'Doc' Hawley and Capt. Ernest Wagner.

    Other companies such as big beer brewing studied the DQ for other possible ad value. I don't recall any brewer actually producing, featuring it. For years old GREENE LINE STEAMERS featured the DELTA QUEEN in those classic travel pages in NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE next to those of the big steamship lines. In time I worked with Betty in producing several articles on the boat in national travel magazines written by leading writers in the field. And it all paid off grandly.

    Another aborted ad I suggested was to show a couple racing down the Cincinnati streets to the Public Landing in either a taxi or their own car. They would have jumped out surveying the docked DQ, raced aboard breathless and plopped in deck chairs sipping something as the boat steamed out. "Take the slow boat...relax...enjoy life" was to be the lead. Well, what do I know?

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


      DQ Advertising

      Thanks to Travis, the video was tagged numerous times on Facebook. It was listed as from the 1950's, but since the calliope was much in view I knew it had to be 1960 or later.

      Miss Letha was always so gracious and eloquent, even doing a toilet paper commercial! I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to know her.

      Dale mentions Greene Line advertising in NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC . They also had frequent and large advertisements in HOLIDAY Magazine, which was a large page format publication. The issue of May, 1963 had a lengthy feature entitled Journey Down the Mississippi with color photos of the DQ and also a large ad for cruises. Also included in the article is a wonderful color image of museum curator Miss Ruth Ferris and Capt. Donald T. Wright, then publisher of The Waterways Journal, inside the pilothouse of the GOLDEN EAGLE, displayed in the then new River Room of the Missouri Historical Society. Ruth told me that it was agony to pose for the photo which was retaken numerous times to get the lighting right and that she felt the result showed her with a "dummy face"!

      The March, 1949 issue of HOLIDAY contained TWO wonderful and profusely illustrated (many in color) features on the river, including a trip on the GORDON C. GREENE.

      Copies of the vintage magazines are often listed on Ebay and


        *DQ ads that 'backfired.'*
        Hi, Keith & Steamboating colleagues:
        Keith is right on the money with memories of sage HOLIDAY Magazine and the mentioned May, 1963 article with photos featuring Donald T. Wright and Miss Ruth Ferris. The P&G ad featuring Mrs. Letha C. Greene touting CHARMIN TOILET TISSUE was one of several versions or 'cuts' they did. The first gave a longer bow and stern view with the wheel rolling, whistle blowing; then a quick shot of passengers dining. That one scratched for the above to be finally featured nationally. Every second, word of a national ad promo runs into oodles of dollars $$. Today, with cyberspace, we call them 'bites.'

        Betty Blake hit the media circuit bringing in more than a few national travel and other feature magazines to do pieces on the boat. Some better than others--and she learned some lessons. It could be a disaster if the writer didn't have a real 'feel' for the river or steamboats. Betty learned in time to 'prep' them. No, the boat was not a classic cotton packet being more of the 1920s 'flapper era.' Same for the photographers. These writers and photographers were full guests from A to Z on the boat, mind you. One major publication not named here sent out a writer who got the royal treatment 'soup to nuts'--but was problematical on the boat.

        And everyone waited with baited breath for the feature to appear. Betty and the company nearly passed out reading a somewhat terse, condescending piece on the boat, food, service mentioning the "Ancient passengers aboard that the boat somehow appeals. A near floating rest home." His kicker to the article ended with, "The DELTA QUEEN is nothing more than a well preserved relic." Betty's next venture in the media was done in her own words stating, "Enjoy the steamer DELTA QUEEN and take her for what she is." Well, what do I know?

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


          Matt Cooper found this one

          Matt posted this on Facebook. What stairs is she descending? And what rooms are the couple passing after greeting Mrs. Greene? Doesn't ring a bell with me..

          Charmin Commercial featuring the Delta Queen - YouTube


            I had to watch this on my iphone, as we are blocked from YouTube on the company computer. I don't recognize the rooms they are passing, the stairs nor the room Mrs. Greene is standing in -- check it out at about 50 seconds...the ceiling is slanted. The stained glass above the windows looks like the "parlor" rooms off the aft cabin lounge, but the ceiling is wrong. The bigger windows don't look quite right, either. If you look at the stairs she is descending in close to the beginning, there is a fire hose there. I began to wonder if this was all done in a studio, a mock up of the boat, because where she passes that couple, it looks as if the mouldings are painted on the wall. But would they go to all that trouble for a commercial? And would they go so far as to put a fire staion in a mock up for a one minute commercial? Maybe Dale can shed some light on this...


              Studio it is...

              Travis just posted on Facebook that it was done in a studio. Yes, the arch of the stateroom ceiling is a main clue. The railing on the stairs was my first doubt. I wonder why they didn't just film it on board?
              Bob - you, Keith, Lexie and Jim would remember the April 1979 flood trip between St. Louis and Cincinnati. We had only 65 passengers, but had a film crew from Sunset doing the promo film (I was in the Engine Room scene), and also a crew doing the photo shoot for the 1980 brochure. Remember as we were around Cairo the brochure people had hired a helicopter to do shots, but no one was outside because it was so cold and windy? They had to beg us to come out, and we waved with gloved hands. And remember the heavy chairs on the Texas bow flying to the side from the combination of wind and helicopter breeze? And Dan Forman leading the band at 5 with Who's Sorry Now? as the models were sitting on the Texas Bow freezing in their summer clothes. If you look at that 1980 brochure, you'll see trees in the water rather than on land... it wasn't the best time to be doing the brochure!


                *P&G's studio production for CHARMIN*
                Steamboating colleagues:
                Keen eyes did catch that, indeed, the other version of Mrs. Letha Greene's P&G CHARMIN ad production was done in a studio. There were reasons for it at the time. Cabin size on the DQ with the period lighting, cables, recording equipment would have been nearly impossible compared to today's newer digital equipment. Hair and makeup had to be just right for production lighting then. I can't recall if the DQ 'mock ups' were here in Cincinnati or Mrs. Greene traveled out of town for the production--possibly New York but don't hold me to it at this late date. Gordon, Tom and Jane would no doubt recall the production with greater insights. More than one TV or movie production today purported to be in cabins of ships show large, expansive cabins where a score or more could assemble. Other than top 1st Class luxuary cabins, it just didn't happen that way. Look at TV shows such as 'Love Boat' on PRINCESS CRUISES or the even older B/W TV production of 'My Little Margy' on now defunct AMERICAN PRESIDENT LINES ships to see exaggerated cabin sizes.

                P&G product brands, as with other companies, have different advertising agencies for various products. Cincinnati had/has many today still in operation. Big 'J. Walter Thompson' along with 'Northlich-Stolley' have been leaders. Again, the perky young things in the second commercial 'take' were professional ad agency models. This often the case with most products and major steamship and cruise lines for their brochures and related ads. Luckily today the ad approach is more down to earth with 'real people' pictured at times. Mrs. Greene knew her lines well, spoke professionally as always, looked lovely. But I doubt she would have been the one carrying supplies of towels to cabins. That was the job of the maids and porters.

                I do vividly recall her sharp, keen eyes aboard the DQ on afternoons the boat steamed out. She made her appearance up the grand stairs from the deck crossing over from her office on the GREENE LINE STEAMERS big wharfboat carefully surveying nearly every square inch for the least thing out of place, table not set right, stray dirty hand marks on a door, window sill or cabin panel. "Could you please see to this?" she would say with a dignified firmness. "Yes, Mrs. Greene! No problem M'am.'" The men in the dining room literally came to attention when she descended the stairs to make her visit.

                You've all read on .org previously the great scenario witnessed in the dining room. Mrs. Greene was coming down the stairs to do her inspection. The head waiter was pumping up his staff. "Now, y'all look sharp and act you got some sense. And DONT let Mrs. Greene see you polishing the silverware with the same rag you cleaned off the seats of the chairs." There are a few surviving veterans around a lot older than we are now who were there then. Well, what do I know?

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


                  Was the lady in the interior shots really Mrs. Greene? Or a professional actress? She looks different than she does in the exterior opening shot. As Dale says, "what do I know". I only met Mrs. Greene once and never carried on a lengthly conversation with her.


                    *Mrs. Greene's trip to film in New York*
                    Hi, John & Steamboating colleagues:
                    John, it indeed is Mrs. Letha Greene pictured in the P&G ad for CHARMIN. The Greene family also have at present copies of the commercial and responded to me promptly. Jane Greene confirmed that the production filming by the advertising agency was done in New York complete with 'mock ups' and all. But here's the 'rest of the story.'

                    At the time of filming in New York, big hurricane DONNA blew up the coast hitting New York city. Leaving the studio, Mrs. Greene was hit with a sudden violent gust of wind with her falling down, breaking her arm. That night they went to the theater and she nearly was fainting with pain. The production was in full swing and they had to get it done and right with the contract and all in ready. Thus you see in part the towel draped over her arm to finish the shoot and get in the works. I've two veteran P&G advertising executives now retired who are members at my Literary Club here who possibly may remember the ins and outs of producing that ad. I'll contact them in time to pick their brain for memories.

                    Question: Can any of you recall 'another' product used by the GREENE LINE way back on a certain boat with another Greene family member as the promoter? That also was a L-O-N-G time ago. Well, what do I know?

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


                      It is interesting to note that Mrs. Greene is wearing different clothes and jewelry in the two different commercials. Also the packaging of the Charmin is different in each. I'm wondering if the two were filmed some time apart with one being shot onboard and the other in a studio?

                      Yes, Dale, it was Mary B. Greene who had her likeness on bars of greene Colgate soap. Hopefully, the soap was made in New Albany.


                        *Two CHARMIN ads done/Greene product testimony*
                        Frank wins the big SNICKER'S BAR for recalling it was Capt. Mary B. Greene who promoted bars of soap used on the GORDON C. GREENE. Those little soap bars were green in color--some impressed with her face--wrapped in GREENE LINE paper wrappers now and then crop up in antique or general book stores here and other places.

                        At least two production filmings were done with Mrs. Greene and CHARMIN for P&G. Those appear here with the last kindly linked by Judy. Products often had more than one media shoot then and even now when you note variations in current TV commercials. It's one very expensive business then and even more now. I 'think' I'm correct in being told lately that CHARMIN is one of the major toilet tissues supplied to our combined U.S. military establishments. Can you imagine that account $$$$ ?

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


                          During the times I was riding the boat, I never saw a roll of Charmin....the only toilet paper I ever saw was Fort Howard which they bought in bulk from a grocery wholesaler in Cincinnati.


                            *CHARMIN vs. FOR HOWARD tissue*
                            Hi, Jim & Steamboating colleagues:
                            Yep, I thought the same thing too about the cabin toilet tissue on the DQ you mentioned above with CHARMIN vs.FORT HOWARD. Those big grocery wholesalers in Cincinnati probably cut a better deal much cheaper in mass bulk. Remember all the big grocery and other supply trucks that used to rumble over on the GREENE LINE wharfboat to unload? Nothing heavy/bulky [Other than passengers and their luggage] went over the bow stage then with all loaded in on the side of the DQ via the companionway door forward of the engineroom. Just once I'd like to be the sales broker to supply tissue, cleaning products, paint to some of the huge cruise lines running today. Supposed to hit near 90 here today and I've a plumbing job to address down in the laundry room. Wish me luck.

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


                              The Floating Old Folks Home

                              You all had me confused until I looked at the second commercial. I would have sworn on an infinite stack of Bibles that the first commercial was on the DQ (not sure about the stateroom, but those rooms have evolved through the years. Were there 2 doors to some of the rooms or was that a bathroom she came out of? Well, the door is skinny enough.)