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*Commodore Laidley's Christmas 1906*

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    *Commodore Laidley's Christmas 1906*

    Steamboating collegues,
    Several have asked if I was doing another fictional story of old Commodore Fred Laidley at this Christmas season, 2017. I recalled the memorable Christmas in 1906 working for the L&C LINE here.
    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
    Capt. Ellis Mace and I always dreaded every Monday morning on the Big Sandy Wharfboat. Most people came in on a Monday somewhat fresh and ready for the week ahead. This not the case with Commodore Fred Laidley as Monday not his best day and never has been. He's always a bit leery knowing I balanced the company books over the weekend at home [We all work six days a week for the L&C LINE and sometimes seven days] for him not liking any bad news. In fact, he even growls if the news is good.

    When he storms in and up the office steps, glares around, checks the coal bucket by the pot belly stove to see how much coal I've used since 7:00 AM, slams his office door, Ellis and I just roll our eyes. "Careful...careful" Ellis whispers when he sees the dockets in my arms to knock on Laidley's door. Each steamboat in the L&C fleet has it own docket and special account with me auditing, working the figures together in one docket for his perusal. "ENTER!" he barks sitting at his desk looking out watching the boys unloading the CITY OF LOUISVILLE, freight coming in to go out tonight at 5:00 PM. "Commodore, I think you need to take a look at the books and my figures for the CITY OF LOUISVILLE," I say mustering up my courage. "Dale, better be good news and don't tell me otherwise. I hire the captains to run my boats, the pursers to handle my money aboard and you to account for it ALL here for me. Make it short, simple and fast," he said chewing his unlighted soggy Cuban cigar, eyes flashing, Billy goat whiskers flapping in the air.

    Laidley took a long gander down at my docket page and ending balance. "DRATS! What in tarnation! We're down $50 dollars from the week before on the CITY OF LOUISVILLE. Y'all think I'm made of money?!" I explained the shortfall of $50 due to engine expenses on the LOUISVILLE by FRISBEE MACHINE up the hill. "Sir, we have an excellent three weeks or more going into Christmas. I can't do any better than that and figures don't lie," I said not backing down. "Sir [which is close in pronouncing to calling him 'sire'] you DID tell me to handle it and I took the chief with me up to FRISBEE. That was your day for lunch and cards up at the Queen City Club, remember? FRISBEE had the part and sent two men down to hook it up and done in twenty minutes," I added.

    "Well...ummm...guess I did...sorry. I could have talked them down to $32.50 or even $27.25 and not a penny more if I'd gone with you," he said pensively fondling his gold watch fobs. "Dale, you too young to remember steamboating in my day when I started back in the Civil War...started with nothing, mind you...pennies made dollars and always have. You 'heah me?"

    I turned to leave. "Ahhhh, you and Ellis gotten your December S&D REFLECTOR yet? Christmas coming know what I mean how Mrs. Laidey and I love receiving it. Have the REFLECTOR renewals gone out yet for 1907?" "Sir, Ellis and I know and we always see you receive it as a present from us," I replied. "Fine...fine...much obliged. Mrs. Laidley has been knitting presents for you and Ellis since October and you'll like it for sure. I'm musing 'bout giving you and Ellis a ten cent an hour raise next year--and that's big money--but don't get the idea I'm made of money, you 'heah me?"

    Ellis took it all in listening in the outer office and rolled his eyes when I came out, sat down. "The old goat...not given us a raise in two years," he whispered. "Ellis, the boss is at times a lot of hot air but, at heart, a puppy dog." That Monday evening Laidley went out with his old beat up wool overcoat, floppy hat to "Take me a walk home tonight over to Covington." We knew he stopped on the Suspension Bridge again with watch in hand to see his darling CITY OF LOUISVILLE steam out. Old Laidley can be like that. END

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

    Thanks, Dale! I always look forward to these.