Tuesday, April 20, 2010

From the archives 3: The Mississippi Queen


The Mississippi Queen went into service in 1976, but it did not make its first trip up the Ohio River as far as Huntington WV until Aug. xx, 1985. Naturally, I was there to see the boat and to write about it for the Huntington newspaper.

Only a few people were at Harris Riverfront Park, then relatively new, to see the boat dock.

(One thing about this picture: In the background you can see the old 6th Street Bridge, built in the 1920s and replaced in the 1990s. That thing could be scary to drive across, especially if you had seen the rust on the metal members supporting the roadway. But that’s a blog entry for another time.).

That morning, I went aboard and interviewed people on the Mississippi Queen, including Commodore Harold DiMarrero (pardon me if I misspelled his name or got his first name wrong).  They gave me a tour of the boat, which felt more like a 1970s-era Hilton Hotel than it did the Delta Queen. The two boats definitely had two different feels to them.

By the time the Mississippi Queen left Huntington and headed upriver, a larger crowd had gathered at the park.

The kid in the red shirt didn't look too excited.

I wrote my story and, after work, headed upriver with my camera. I caught up with the boat near the community of Clipper Mills, Ohio. A dozen people or more had gathered at an old coal tipple to watch the MQ go by.

Several pleasure boats were escorting the MQ upriver. By then I had loaded my camera with slide film and had put another roll or two in my camera bag. I chased the MQ as far upriver as Point Pleasant, W.Va. There, at the park at the mouth of the Kanawha River, I photographed the Mississippi Queen passing by with the setting sun in the background and reflected on the Ohio River.

The next day, my story ran on the Local page of the Huntington paper. The photo (by the late Jack Burnett, a pleasant guy to work with) was so big that it took up the top half of the page.

In my story, I mentioned that some folks didn’t like the look and feel of the Mississippi Queen, so they nicknamed it the “Mis-Q.” Say it out loud, and you can hear the insult in that. But a headline writer for the Gallipolis, Ohio, paper didn’t get the joke, so they used “Mis-Q” in big letters on their main headline when their paper came out that afternoon.

On its downbound trip, I took my younger sister and the youngest son of one of my older sisters up to the Racine Locks and Dam to watch the boat lock through. In those pre-9/11 days, we could get close enough to the boat as it was in the lock to have conversations with passengers. One guy asked how the Cardinals were doing. I said I didn’t care, but I could tell him how the Reds did. He wasn’t interested.

A few years later, in the early 200s, local steamboat historian Jerry Sutphin, who also worked as a history guide on the Delta Queen and Mississippi Queen, invited me to come aboard the MQ when it docked in Huntington. I took my two oldest with me, and he gave the three of us a tour of the boat, which had been redecorated by then. My youngest was too young to bring along, and as fate would have it, he would be the only river fan among the three.

To give you an idea how old these photos are, my daughter is about to graduate from high school and my older son is in 10th grade. Both are significantly taller now than what they were when these pictures were taken.

Someday I will be able to convert my mounted slides of the Mississippi Queen’s first visit to this area to digital. Forgive my lack of modesty, but they’re pretty good.

Three archive entries down, three to go.

(Reminder: All photos on this blog, except as otherwise noted, are copyrighted by me, Jim Ross, and are not to be downloaded, used or reproduced without my written permission.)