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Almost wrecked before it began

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    Almost wrecked before it began

    Yesterday was a hot muggy day here in Louisville which ended with a magnificent supper time thunderstorm; lightening, torrential rain and wind. The exact same weather scenario played out in late May, 1923. The new steel hulled (210 x 38 x 6.6) CAPE GIRARDEAU had been launched at Howards just two weeks before. The boat was tied off at the finishing dock at the shipyard when the late afternoon storm hit. The wind and waves caused the 2" lines which secured the boat to the dock to part. The new boat started drifting towards the falls (there was no dam in 1923).
    Luckily Ohio River Sand Co.'s DUFFY was late that day getting back from it's sand digger and was still working the sand fleet at the Foot of Preston St. across the river and down from the shipyard. A deckhand on the DUFFY saw the unfinished steamboat heading for sure disaster and sounded the alarm. They tied off their barges and headed across the river to rescue the new vessel before it drifted over the falls. They grabbed the boat and towed her back to the shipyard and tied it off to the dock again. Capt Jim Howard didn't know he had almost lost the last packet boat his shipyard would ever build until the next day when he was contacted by a reporter from the local paper.
    Howards finished the CAPE GIRARDEAU in November and as Jim Howard said after the trial runs "she is a complete success in every way." She must have been because it ran for the next 30 years and as the GORDON C. GREENE it made the money Tom Greene needed to purchase our beloved DELTA QUEEN.

    #2
    Here's a few shots I took on my last visit to St. Louis in 2012 when the water was extremely low. The last shot may not look like much, but I recognized it as the valve chest to one of the GCG's capstan engines because it looks nearly identical to the Belle's.
    Attached Files

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      #3
      The point of the above story, besides being mildly interesting, is, to me, it proves the butterfly effect....you know a butterfly flaps its wings in Australia and eventually that air disturbance causes a tornado in Indiana....I know this is kind of deep. But, what if that deckhand hadn't raised the alarm and the CAPE GIRARDEAU had gone over the falls and wrecked? There would have been no steel hulled boat for the Greene's to buy in 1935, therefore no GORDON C. GREENE. Without the GORDON no money to buy the DELTA QUEEN. Just think of the how all of our lives would be changed if the DQ had never cruised the inland rivers. I know my life would probably be completely different, I don't think I would have ever made the river business my life's career.
      Little did that deckhand know 93 years ago how much influence his one little act would have on so many lives in the years to come.

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        #4
        *CAPE GIRARDEAU launching 'family' dynamics*
        Morning, Steamboating colleagues:
        Jim, thanks for your above posting RE: "Almost wrecked before it began" referencing the near disaster with the then new Str. CAPE GIRARDEAU. One intriguing story with you leaving us dangling on what would possibly never happened if the CAPE [Later Str. GORDON C. GREENE] had been lost on the falls. Capt. Fred Way wrote and spoke calling the CAPE/GORDON "The goose that laid the golden egg" for the GREENE LINE. One interesting question was that the U.S. government even allowed fuel to run the GORDON during resource scarce World War II years--but that's another story for another time.

        I seem to remember reading hearing accounts from some of the old steamboat veterans a number of us knew the 'other' story of the drama unfolding around the initial launching of the CAPE GIRARDEAU back then. I'm sure you, Keith Norrington, Kenny Howe and others head it. Seems something went awry in the launching with 'family dynamics' erupting with members of the Howard Family. I feel it 'prudent' not to mention this story at this point for the sake of diplomacy. One old Howard family member wrote in later years to me that it caused something of a rift between certain Howard brothers. All now a long time ago with the story no doubt a part of history in the common domain. Capt. Fred Way, Capt. Alan Bates, Purser Bob McCann, Capt. Jesse Hughes related it to me over the years. Again, what do I know?

        R. Dale Flick
        From the northern shores of mighty Lake Michigan, summer 2016.

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          #5
          Yes it is common knowledge that the break up of the Howard brothers occurred over the launching of the CAPE GIRARDEAU. But, in researching for a video I'm planning on doing about the shipyards history after the death of the founder James Howard in 1876, there was brotherly bad blood long before that May day in 1923.
          It is very hard for a family business to successfully go into the third generation and the Howard business was no exception. After the death of their father, Edmunds J. Howard, in 1919, there was no heir apparent named to take over the family business. Clyde was appointed, in today's parlance, CFO and James, the younger brother by 5 years, was the COO, the office of CEO or President was vacant.
          Clyde was to run the office and James the yard. The story goes that on launch day of the CAPE GIRARDEAU, Clyde came out of the office and started directing the launch shoving James aside. That was the straw that broke the camel's back, James vowed to buy Clyde out which he did in 1925.
          Clyde was a good business and finance man while James was best at operations and, even as his son Ed said, "James was lousy at handling money". Without Clyde's ability to raise capital when needed for the shipyards operation, James eventually failed. Clyde, after being bought out by James, went on to own and run the Madison Marineways and the Mound City Shipyard. Clyde died in 1942 age 78.
          That's probably a lot more history than anyone wanted to read, but "What do I know"?

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            #6
            Thanks for the history

            No that wasn't more than anyone wanted to know. I dislike postings that basically say "I know something you don't know" and leave you hanging. If the whole story can't be told, it doesn't need to be started, in my opinion. Thank you for filling in the 'rest of the story'.

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              #7
              Jim thanks so much, as much as I have delved into river history, I had never heard of the family breakup before. You know there is an awful lot of river history not known or untold. Keep it up.

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                #8
                I have to echo what Judy and Captain Bill said! Let's keep up the good work.

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                  #9
                  I am not degrading Jim Howard at all, he was a fantastic boat builder, a mechanical genius..the holder of several patents. The Depression was not kind to the shipyard in fact for a period the shipyards major creditors took over the management. Jim vowed to pay off every penny the shipyard owed and he did. Things began to look up in 1935/36, business was starting to come back. Then in January 1937 the worst flood ever to hit the Ohio Valley destroyed the shipyard. There was not one shop or building that could be used after the water receded. This is the story Alan Bates told....."after the flood Jim applied to the Small Business Administration for a $200,000 loan to rebuild the shipyard and get it running again. The SBA told Jim they couldn't do a loan like that, but they could lend him $2,000,000! Jim turned them down saying he didn't need that much money!!!!!"
                  There was an old depression joke..an old lady called the WPA and asked if they could send someone to mow her lawn. The next thing the lady knew 4 men showed up in a big truck. The first thing they did was set up a porta-potty. The man from the WPA called and asked the lady if the men had shown up. She said "Oh yes.....I've got one acomin', one agoin', one a shittin', and one amowin'. I guess excess was normal during those hard times.

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                    #10
                    *Thanks for the whole story*
                    Steamboating colleagues:
                    Jim, many thanks for your following information/clarification RE: events with the Howard family, building/launching of the CAPE GIRARDEAU. Likewise I 'had' to be somewhat vague in my earlier posting as I wasn't sure of the story line. A number of us on this web and FACEBOOK have been royally knocked off for things written or implied.

                    It fell to my bad luck years back to find myself caught between two battling factions of the Howard family even down to recent years. All ended up with a barrage of letters, news clippings, accounts to persuade me to the thinking of both branches. Some things written, implied to me I wouldn't dare relate here. Anyway, I'm glad Jim filled us in. Even Capt. Fred Way before he died said to me, "Great question you ask but some of the guilty parties in that still living. Perhaps in the future when we sit together in the shade of an old apple tree I'll tell the whole story." Cheers! Hope you all had a wonderful July 4th, 2016.

                    R. Dale Flick
                    Northern shores of mighty Lake Michigan

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                      #11
                      'had to' ...or not

                      As I said in my posting, if the whole story can't be told, it is best not to start it or to make it sound like 'I know something you don't know', which is what this line sounded like: "Seems something went awry in the launching with 'family dynamics' erupting with members of the Howard Family. I feel it 'prudent' not to mention this story at this point for the sake of diplomacy." Frankly, it would have been prudent to leave that out of your otherwise informative posting. ;-)

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                        #12
                        I didn't want to give the wrong impression....from my research, I never met either Clyde or Jim Howard, they didn't "hate" each other after they parted ways. I think it was just a matter of two brothers who couldn't work together; I know I could never work with my brother. That doesn't mean we don't like each other.
                        In later life when I knew her, Loretta Howard would welcome Clyde's three daughters to the museum and they did come to visit Mrs. Howard on several occasions that I know of which indicates to me that there wasn't any real anamosity between them.
                        Clyde and Jim each had their own individual talents

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                          #13
                          *RE: 'had to' or not'*
                          Steamboating colleagues:
                          Judy's right about the seeming mystery with the above posting. No intent intended in being vague on my part. I had heard about the family dynamics never dreaming I'd be caught in later years in the cross-fire with family members over who did what to whom when and why. The matter developed over my simple, polite letter to a family member asking unrelated questions about family history. And with that a virtual flood of information. Perhaps I was remiss giving the impression of "I know something you don't know." Big lesson I learned was where just one simple question can lead you. Anyway, Jim clued us all in. Again, I now know what I didn't know previously. Cheers to all!

                          R. Dale Flick
                          From the shores of mighty Lake Michigan

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