Delta Queen Stories
Page 1 (click or scroll down): Marguerite Verdino * Judy Patsch * Mel Hartsough * Jim Reising * Bob Reynolds * Kevin McCollister * Russ Ryle
Page 2: Greg Menke * Ed Duemler * John Lewis * Randy Ward * Charles Greene
Page 3: Ben Sandmel * Gary Cosby Jr. * Patrick Mullins * Denny Hamilton * Tracey
Page 4: Sally * Thomas and Candy Harris * Russ Barnes * Jim Armstrong * Vicki Webster * Stan Rogers
Page 5: The River, by Don Sanders - ongoing column in the Northern Kentucky Tribune
Send me your Delta Queen / Mississippi Queen story to add to the collection!*
You can't imagine how interested I was in all you had to offer on the history of the DQ. There was so much I did not know and now after all these years, to read about it was very enlightening.
I worked for ONA [Overseas National Airways] from May of 1973 to May, 1978. I worked in the Insurance/Employee Benefits Dept. and shared office space with Jim Demetrion and his secretary. At that time, he was working on the Mississippi Queen Project and I remember the excitement of the construction of the boat. I remember Betty coming to visit quite often and books and books of fabric swatches, carpeting, furniture, etc. I also remember when ONA began having financial problems, the talk of the DQ Steamboat Company being sold to Coca Cola and the eventual takeover by Coke.
I am new to the internet, and I just found your Webpage when searching "steamboats". I must compliment you for its layout, content, and other links provided. I will certainly be of great use and interest to us steamboat buffs.
I am hooked on the river for one reason: the DELTA QUEEN. I live on the Upper Miss, and as a child rode the AVALON and our little diesel ferry TRANSIT, and watched our unique ferry W.J. QUINLAN rot away in drydock. I even went down to our levee with my family in September 1954 to look at the disabled DELTA QUEEN, which was here fore eight days. She had run through herself and was here until they could install the identical part from the DELTA KING. But I wasn't hooked on the river and all its aspects until I took my first cruise on the DELTA QUEEN. August 20, 1973 changed my life. I took 39 DQ cruises between 1973-83 (when your brother Bill was a porter), worked as children's cruise director for two weeks on the MISSISSIPPI QUEEN, and worked 11 summers on the beautiful NATCHEZ in New Orleans. While I no longer ride the DQ due to rates beyond my means, I still follow the DQ, MQ, and AQ here and in my second home of New Orleans. I've been baking chocolate chip cookies for the crews since 1977 and meeting the boats at all hours at our locks. I get to ride the NATCHEZ, JULIA BELLE SWAIN and the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE several times each year. I'm an avid collector of steamboat artifacts, photos, and postcards, so I'm into steamboating about as deep as one can be while holding down a job off the river (I teach). I have never regretted the direction my life took as of that August day 25 years ago. There are no finer people than river people. We are a very far-flung, yet close-knit society. We have come from all over the U.S. at a moment's notice to be with one in need. We are family.
I was particularly interested in your manuscript on the Save the DELTA QUEEN campaign, since these were the years I was first involved with the DQ. Your father's notes brought back many memories and gave me new insights into the corporate activities. There is one thing however which concerns me: the mentions of Letha Greene are negative. It is no secret that there was friction between Mrs. Greene and the new owners, including your father; that is nothing unusual in any ownership change. I don't have a problem with showing that in these notes. But my concern is this: for someone reading these notes who had no personal connection to the DQ when it was run by the Greene famil, Mrs. Greene comes off as a less-than-astute businessperson and human being (see 1959 calliope, 1962 TV crew passage, your reply to Bob Reynolds on 1970 office shakeup, your reply to Bob about the calliope). I dispute none of this. However there are no positive comments about mrs. Greene to let researchers know that she really was an astute, capable, and caring steamboat owner.
The simple truth is this: Without Mrs. Tom (Letha Cavendish) Greene, there would be no DELTA QUEEN today. There would not have been a DELTA QUEEN to change my life in 1973. There would not have been a DELTA QUEEN for your father to save.
When Tom Greene died in 1950, Letha Greene was a homemaker with four young children to raise. She could have dumped the DQ, but she didn't. And for that, I will be eternally grateful. She transformed herself from wife/mother/homemaker to mother/homemaker/steamboat owner. Without her willingness to fill the void left by the death of her husband, none of us -- you, me, your dad, Quinby, Simonton, Betty Blake, Bob Reynolds, Jim Reising, Mel Hartsough and your other correspondents -- none of us would have known a thing about what is so dear to us, the DELTA QUEEN.
As you mentioned in your introduction, "The Story of the DELTA QUEEN includes several outstanding women who lived before and during the women's liberation movement." I would urge anyone wanting to know more about Letha Greene, steamboat owner, to read her book, "Long Live the DELTA QUEEN."
Yes, thanks to many people, including Letha Greene and Bill Muster, the DELTA QUEEN has already lived a long life. Long live the DELTA QUEEN!
You may publish the above in your former crew notes, if you wish.
You are absolutely right about Letha Greene. There were many great women involved in saving the boat and she certainly did carry the company through a difficult period. Thanks for all the information you sent about the steamboat world. It's a fact that good people are attracted to loving steamboats. I will tell my brother you said hello and please stay in contact. Steamboats.com would love to post some of the steamboat history you have. - Nori
Former DQ mate, Mel Hartsough
Nori, my name is Mel Hartsough and I'm a former steamboater. Sounds like an intro at an AA meeting. Anyway I decked on the MQ from 76 to 78 and got my Mates License in Jan. 79 and ran Mate between the MQ&DQ from then until 85 and went towboatin' for about a year and then got off the river altogether. I was mate on the DQ for the first great steamboat race in 79. I have quite a collection of steamboat pics and paraphanalia if you are interested. Just let me know. I'm hoping to purchase a scanner for my PC soon. I also have quite a few good stories and a good idea for a book if you are interested in that.
We're all riverboat addicts at this site! Let's stay in contact. I'm extremely interested. - Nori
Former DQ purser, Jim Reising
I want to congratulate you on building a fine web site about the history of the Delta Queen. I was quite familiar with the period involved having worked on the D.Q. during the '67 season. I of course knew your father, Bill Muster, Betty Blake, and all the other people mentioned in the documents. You have done an excellent job recording a history which should not be lost. Yours truly,
Thank you for your letter. I remember your name, what did you do on the boat? I apologize for forgetting but thirty-one years is a long time and I was just a kid then. Were you one of the pursers, a watchman, something like that? - Nori
Your first guess was correct, I was purser on the DQ in 1967. The only reason I left the boat was because Lyndon Johnson decided that he needed me, and a half million others, in Veitnam more than the GLS needed my services. That was, in all probability, the best time of my life. I still have very fond memories of my time on the D.Q.
My first trip on the the boat was in 1952 when I was 8 when my family went on a three day trip from Louisville to Cincinnati and return. The Gordon C. Greene was laid-up at the Cincinnati wharfboat waiting to be sold. After that the family went on summer vacations on the DQ about every other year, so I got to know the crew and the boat very well. I fell in love with the boat and the river. My love for the river continues to this day and I have been employed in the river industry practically my entire working carreer. Presently I manage a small towing company based here in Louisville.
Your history of the boat brought back many memories of the people and events of that era. In '67 the the boat was still operated pretty much under the old Greene Line system, your father and the "new" regime were just starting to have a major influence. For a young man interested in the river, it was a wonderful experience. The crew was unique:
Ernest Wagner....Captain....was in the Island Queen explosion
Albert Kelly....Pilot...learned his trade on the City of Louisville which sunk in the ice of 1918.
Harry Hamilton....Pilot...was a pilot on the towboat Sprague
Sewell Smith ....Trip pilot...was a pilot on Cooley's America which was an old cotton packet at the turn of the century.
Doc Carr.....mate....in his younger days ran a "medicine" show on a boat on the Wabash River. On the river since the 1890's.
Doc Hawley...mate & Co. V.P. ....you know all about him.
Cal Benefield ...Chief Engineer...had been on the D.Q. since it first entered service for the Greene Line. Been with the GLS since the 30's.
I could go on, but I don't want to bore you. I remember Syble Leek and E.J. Quimby quite well and the stories about them. I always thought Quimby was a "nut" dressed in those old time clothes, but as I got to know him, he was a fine man.
As you can see, your web site has brought back a flood of memories, thank you.
I remember Betty and my dad talking about you once. If it was about the Vietnam war, I must have blocked it out. Those were difficult times. 1967 was the first year I went on the boat.
A question: Did Fred Way ever work for the DQ & if so, when? I remember meeting him and seeing him in that Cincinnati documenary. I also met Captain Wagner & heard all about Sybil Leek (i read her book, too). When I was doing the history I read all of Simonton and Quinby's correspondence, so that was a lot of fun, to see how they managed the boat. Do you remember Gabriel Chengery. He is the captan now, used to be a watchman.
see you, - Nori
Nori, I will try to answer some of your questions. Yes, Fred Way did work on the DQ, in fact he worked for the GLS many times. While I was on the boat he worked on there twice as a trip pilot from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh. He also acted as a consultant on figuring what to do about a new boat.
As your history pointed out the safety at sea law had outlawed the DQ because of her wooden superstructure, therefore, Simonton and Betty Blake where thinking about a replacement boat. There was even at the time a plan to rebuild the DQ to meet the new requirements, but the boat was too small to justify the expense. They were talking about a new steam powered stern wheeler which would be over 350 feet long.
They hired Fred Way to do some research about the practicality of a boat of that size. There was an old towboat in Pittsbugh that was being used as a restaurant/ nightclub whcih still had its steam engines on it. The owners of the night club offered those engines to the GLS for the scrap value plus the cost of removing them. The towboat was the "HERBERT E. JONES", originally names "JASON". Fred went to the boat and looked at the engines, but he advised Simonton that a sternwheel boat of the size they proposed was not practical because of inherent steering problems. Fred, being an historian, pointed out that no sternwheeler over 300 ft. long had ever been sucessful. When backing up, a boat that size could not "lift its head". Bow thrusters were not known on the river at that time.
As a result of Fred's recommendations, they decided not to fool with the JASON'S engines and began exploring the possiblities of building a diesel boat. The JASON's owners subsequently scrapped the engines. Nine years later, when the MISSISSIPPI QUEEN was built, they spent a lot of money having the JASON's engines duplicated from the original manufacturers blueprints.
Betty also hired Fred Way to write a commentary book on the river between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. It was sold in the souvineer stand on the boat and was quite popular with the passengers.
Yes, I knew Gabriel Chengery [now Delta Queen Captain]. At the time I was on the boat he was a teenager in living in Pittsburgh and honestly I thought he was nuts. Of all the young river lovers that used to flock to the DQ, he was the one I never expected to make a success of it. How wrong I was.
Nori, I hope I'm not telling you "more than you wanted to know", if I am please let me know. Reading your history has brought back a flood of memories and I have never had an opportunity to write them down before, I could go on and on.
Former DQ Crew: Bob Reynolds
I don't guess we have ever met, though Bill Jr. and I worked together on the boat in 1975. I was first a passenger (1972,73,74) then a crew member (1975-80), and met my wife on the boat. Moved over to towboats in 1980, and presently pilot on the HAL D. MILLER for Magnolia Marine Transport Co. I last talked to Bill in August of 1997, prior to a DELTA QUEEN Reunion Cruise that I organized. It was very successful, but was not a success from one standpoint...I found out the day before we were to leave that you and Bill did want to make the cruise, but had not gotten the info. I had necessarily turned tyhings over to a travel agent after initial contact with the DQ Co., and apparently their mailing did not reach Bill. :-(
I was very interested in the DQ history, particularly from late 50's through 1980. I am assuming you have all of the referenced documents, correspondence, etc., in your possesion? I would like very much to see that; of course, I know you would not and could not let those out of your possession, but do you have any suggestions how we might arrange such a thing? Would you even be amenable to it? Such things as why Paul Underwood resigned, management problems and disaggreements, labor disputes, etc. are of great interst to me. Perhaps I might even shed some light on things that happened after 1975 on the DQ, though admittedly I was a bit naive and somewhat of an idealist! Anyway, I would love to read that stuff, especially your father's take on what people thought, etc., etc.
Again, I enjoyed your website and all the stuff. Let me know what you think of my idea, how it might be accomplished. "Hello" to Bill if you see him over the holidays!
580 S. Prescott St.
Memphis, TN 38111
I am glad you're interested in what's already posted. That saves me some work. The documents mentioned in the index are in a box in Phoenix. The rest went to the Cincinnati Historical Society, where they are now hidden somewhere in the basement of the art deco trainstation museum building. I will post items from my collection a few more months.
One of the best documents: In Dec. 1970, congress attached the Delta Queen exemption as a rider to the Grady Bill. Rep. Garmatz, the antagonistic congressman who fought against the Delta queen, wrote a memo warning congress that the blood would be on their hands if the Delta Queen sank. He drew a skull and cross bones on the memo.
Re. management problems. In the Cincinnati materials there's an excellent collection of Richard Simonton's correspondence with Quinby. I found that interesting reading because they saved the DQ from financial disaster and turned the company around.
Other management problems were my dad's conflicts with the people who bought the company, ONA and later, Coke. They had completely different ideas about how to build the Mississippi Queen, and it went way over budget and then had mechanical problems. My dad resigned a few times during those years, about 1972 - 76. He stayed on as a photographer and P.R. man, but then mainly to help Betty.
Betty Blake also had problems with ONA & Coke, especially when she became president of Green Line after my dad resigned. The company divided in two, with Betty in charge of the Delta Queen and the new guys in charge of the MQ. Then she was forced out, or resigned, and started her own P.R. company. Sadly, her company dedicated a park to the late Captain Wagner, then she died soon after that. She also drank a lot toward the end.
The only other management problem I can think of off hand, is there was some friction between Leitha Greene and my dad before 1970. Quinby & simonton sent my dad in to reorganize the company and eventually he took over Leitha's job and became president. It was an unwilling changeover, but since Simonton & Quinby ran things, they made the decisions, and Leitha had to go along with it.
There were other scandals & problems, but that will have to wait for another letter. Thanks for making me remember all that. May I post parts of our correspondence in the delta queen stories section?
Please tell me your view of the ONA-Coke-Greene-Line-MQ-DQ years. I was in California, so you probably have more details. - Nori
Thanks for your quick response to my e-mail, and your answers. One thing in particular that intrigued me was in your post on the web page, it was mentioned that Letha Greene felt a calliope would degrade the boat. I would be especially interested in hearing about that since, as we all know, that was one of the best things ever to happen to the DQ publicity-wise! In fact, it was the calliope that made this 14 year-old kid fall in love with the DQ!
[Nori: She was worried that it would wake people up, and that it would annoy people and make enemies for the boat. How wrong she was. Quinby and Simonton went over her head in that decision. I think that was one of the last straws for her. The subject was discussed quite extensively in their correspondence, now on file in Cincinnati.]
Also interested in seeing (sometime, if possible) the correspondence between your Dad, Simonton, Quinby, et al. I met Quinby, knew Margaret Simonton from the boat, and of course knew your brother Bill.
[Nori: yes, do you ever get to Cincinnati?}
I have started this and do not have time to finish it...I just realized we have to leave for a party now! I will write again and let you know specifically the kinds of things I am interested in. I know how that bunch in Cinci. library does things...it's like Fort Knox!!
[Nori: We can get you in there with a letter of introduction if you ever want to study the files. We donated them to the museum so they would be open to scholars and other interested parties.]
One quick thing before I sign off....Capt. Doc Hawley is a very good friend of ours, worked with Capt. Wagner for over 20 years, and at one time was V.P. of Greene Line. Still occasionally works on the boats as Master and as Pilot, strictly part-time. I would like to get him in on some of this.
[Nori: Yes! Is he online?]
Feel free to post my e-mails to you on the web site. That's all for now!!! - Bob
Kevin McCollister, Ex-Deckhand on DQ and MQ
This is a fascinating site. I'm looking forward to all that you have here but as a former deckhand on both the Delta Queen and Mississippi Queen in the mid to late 70's, I want to respond. Among several other people I recall, Captain Ernest Wagner was the Master of the DQ. Capt. Harry Loudon was one of the pilots on, as I recall, the Ohio River. I also recall Capt. "Rip" Ware and Fonatine Johnson. Gabriel Chenary and Dave Thunderbolt (?) were the Mates. I remember several other crew members of various walks of life, some not entirely law-abiding.
Mel Hartsough and I worked together on the deck crew and later, when he was the First Mate of the MQ. I was on the MQ from before the shakedown cruise out of - was it Todd Shipyards? Out of Louisville? I also remember spending some cold, dreary winter months at Avondale, outside of New Orleans during repair work.
The Mississippi Queen needed lots of work in its early days. Many things about the boat had to be learned by trial and error. For example, in the first few days. Bunker Sea #6 fuel oil was being pumped aboard the port side when a maid came around the starboard side asking if oil should be coming out the vent like it was doing. It was a gusher! (don't tell the EPA!)
I also recall the various cities - Natchez, especially Natchez Under the Hill. We were there just a few days before it was buried under a huge mudslide (with some loss of life). I travelled on both boats up to Minnesota, stopping at several of the smallerand more charming cities, Keokok, Moline, Winona, Cape Geneive and of course Hannibal.
Locking the Mississippi Queen thru was a very scary proposition. It was bad enough on the Delta Queen.I recall being on the sides of the boats and the pilots being able to do some incredibly graceful manueving in all kinds of weather.
I'd be interested in hearing from any other ex-employees of the these two boats! email Kevin McCollister
Thanks for sharing some of your memories.
I was also on the homecoming cruise of the Mississippi Queen, when it had to be towed up the river so the media people could keep their airline reservations. See the problem was, they knew that naming a steamboat with a name starting with the initial "M" would be bad luck, but they did it anyway. Betty Blake had told my dad about the supersition & said it would definitely not be named the "Muster," but then they chose "M" anyway and look what happened! I think the boat is doing fine now, though.
May I add your letter to the other DQ stories at http://www.steamboats.com/deltaqueenstories.html? The other Delta Queen alumni i'm in contact with are Mel Hartsough, Bob Reynolds and Jim Reising, and some of their letters are posted at that page too. I'm also in contact with steamboat buffs like Jerry Canavit (steamboats.net), Jerry Sutphen of Huntington, WV (not on internet), and others not yet on the internet. One of the greatest sites i've found so far is Dave Dawley's site, he is truly "Steamboat Dave." Steamboats.org, also dedicated to the DQ and sisterships, just got added more audio clips. I'm on my way there now to check it out.
Stop by anytime if you have anymore steamboat memories.
Thank you for your prompt response. I had forgotten the shame of being towed on the maiden voyage!
Yes, by all means, feel free to post my e-mail to you with the other DQ stories. I'd be happy to hear from you or anyone regarding these two boats. And thank you for recomending the other sites!
I'll be posting some things soon, thanks. It's easier to look back fondly and laugh after a quarter-century goes by, eh? - Nori
I was raised on a farm along the Ohio River just below Rising Sun, Indiana about mile 506. We had previously lived up on Front Street in Rising Sun until I was four then packed up and moved to the farm in the fall of 1952. My earliest river memories is swinging in my kiddy swing on the front porch of our house on the riverbank being scared by the loud whistle of a passing steamboat - probably when I was about two or three.
I lived on the farm below town until I went away to school at Indiana University in Bloomington in 1970. Just met to get an education. Wound up getting a job, buying a house, getting married, raising a son, etc., etc., and were are still there. My folks stayed on the farm till they passed in 1996. They had arranged its sale with the right to live on it as long as they were alive in order to pay for their medical and living support costs. Am very good friends of the folks that now have the property and get down to visit the home place whenever we can.
I always loved the DQ. She would come up about dark headed into Cincinnati and usually blow a salute for our area and/or be playing her last night's calliope concert as she passed. Must have been in the audience hundreds of time and never tired of it. My mom and dad would load the family up in our old Chevy station wagon in the 1950s on nice summer nights and we would run up to Front Street, Rising Sun to visit with old friends and watch her pass. Then we would race up to the Indiana side of old Lock 38 above town and watch her make the lock. Then it was back home until our next chance to chase her upriver.
I never dreamed I would later be able to ride her. My mom, brother, and I share a genetic bone defect that makes our upper leg bones very brittle. Until I was about 14, I kept breaking bones so easily that I could hardly leave home. My dad figured out how to at least get us on cots in the back of the old station wagon so we could take rides to see things - and our folks made sure we got out whenever we could.
They finally developed a fluoride based medication that hardened my bones somewhat. Was able to start walking somewhat on canes with braces, but at least could get around in a wheelchair by late high school days. With some more improvement, was able to spread my wings and leave home in 1970. Been out in the real world ever since, and away from the river, but it has never left me.
We shared the farm with my grandparents (mom's parents) as a partnership. Pa was a retired mail carrier who got his start working for the government on the dredge Mallory when they were building the old 110 x 600 foot dams in the 1920's. Ma Pearl was the daughter of Ben North raised over a general store at North's Landing, Indiana (at the mouth of Arnold's Creek below Rising Sun. Grew up hearing stories of the good old days and, on occasion, looking at the old family photographs. My dad's farther was an old time commercial fisherman on the river. Did not have many pictures, but many memories and stories to share on our front porch after Sunday dinner.
When I was dating Ev, who became my wife in 1973, in the spring of 1972, we made a weekend trip to meet my folks and visit. After spending Friday night visiting, we took off for the day Saturday to see the area. Took her down to Vevay where we road the Martha Graham to Kentucky, then upriver on the Kentucky shore to see Rising Sun from the other side of the river and visit relatives around Rabbit Hash, Kentucky (directly across the river from Rising Sun), then up to Cincinnati for dinner before heading back into Rising Sun for more visiting before going home to Bloomington on Sunday. She had to go back to work and I had my junior year classes Monday.
One thing led to another including more visits to Rising Sun and we got married when I finished up college and had a job. Unfortunately, I educated myself right out of town (Rising Sun) as the only work there for a college graduate at the time was the engineer for the local sewer plant or bank officer or teaching in the local schools. Found better opportunities for an accounting degree away form the river.
We had the wedding in Bloomington then took off for five days before I had to report to the first day of my new job and Ev had to go back to work. Day three of our wanderings was spend in Louisville riding the Belle. This was both Ev and I first steamboat ride. It was also the first time we met Keith Norrington face to face. Keith and I had been corresponding for years about our river interests.
Time moves forward to 1978 and we have our house, but not kid yet, and finally can think in terms of taking a nice trip - sort of the honeymoon we could not afford a few years earlier. We took a Cincinnati to Cincinnati Oxbow Bend trip on the DQ.
Who do we run into but Harry Louden, Keith, and a new friend Lexie Palamore. Harry was born and raised in Kentucky near Rabbit Hash. His folks knew my dad's folks. Better yet, he was the pilot on the dredge Mallory when Pa worked on its dredging crew and they were great friends. Better better yet, by the time we were headed down below Louisville, Ev and I had "the invite" to come sit on the bench and reminisce while Harry was on watch. So while the other passengers were down in the grand saloon we were up hearing tales of the packet boats and the Greene Lines and a little bit of everything as Harry let the DQ half bell down through the Oxbow Bends on a calm clear warm moonlight night. The last night of the trip, Harry made sure we had that same wonderful seat as he blew for his friends at Rising Sun while the calliope played is last night concert. I treasure my tape of that experience to this day.
The next year we made a Cincinnati to St. Louis run again with Harry and Lexie on board as far as Paducah. It was another great week seeing the southern part of the river, more stories, and tales. The following year, I changed jobs and was having some health problems so that ended our trips. Haven't got to see the upper Ohio above Cincinnati, yet; but, it's on my do to list when I can.
We have managed two other steamboat trips. Again, on the Belle of Louisville with Ma Pearl (her last ride after many many trips in her youth on various boats) upriver from Madison onto the Kentucky River in the fall of 1979. Very memorable ride because the river was high and we bent up the top of the stacks when we scrapped the bottom of the highway 42 bridge headed up the Kentucky. Also in the early 80's we rode the Str. Natchaz at Tell City, Indiana when she was tramping up the Ohio that year.
We adopted out son in 1983 with Ev changing jobs to full time mother. We home schooled him after the third grade so you can add teacher to our list of chores. He is now a senior turning 17 in August and will be a pilot shortly thereafter. No, not steam endorsed (darn it). His dreams are above the ground in some form of hands on aviation career. We have been blessed with a fine young man with a good head on his shoulders.
Between 1988 and 1996, especially after my brother passed in 1990, we were heavily involved supervising the care of and visiting with my parents as their health slowly deteriorated. Our lives were my work, John's schooling and activities, and then running down to Rising Sun every other weekend (or more often if needed). Also, during the middle 90s my legs began to give out.
When I was in high school my old orthopedic surgeon promised me twenty-five good years before my legs would give out. We made thirty-four on them, but wear and tear finally caught up with me. Since November 1996 we have been rebuilding things surgically one piece at a time. Just had the forth of five operations in July of this year. If all goes well, we will have the last surgery the end of the year and be as healed up as we are going to get by fall 2001. Finally had to give up full time work in early 1998. Not getting rich off of insurance, but it pays the bills.
When my folks passed in 1996, I became the trustee and holder of the family archives. These included the Stegemiller/North/Hamilton river material form my mom's side of the family. One of my great pleasures while healing up from surgeries this last two years I have been off work has been to organize this material and expand on the notes Ma Pearl and Aunt Fanny Hamilton left on their back from my memories of talking with them (and other old timers in Rising Sun) as a child. One thing has led to another and a book based on this material will be published by Arcadia Press this August 14 titled, "Ohio River Images - Cincinnati to Louisville In The Packet Boat Era". Please see my web site at TheRyles.com for more info.
What lies ahead for me as far as river adventures depends upon how well I can heal up after my last surgery. Doubt if I will get back up on canes much as the old bones would not last very long under that level of abuse. However, they think I will be able to get around independently fairly pain free in a wheelchair once I heal up next year. Time will tell.
Between now and then, I hope to write another book more specific to my home area tentatively to be titled, "The River At Rising Sun". Am also playing with some other river related items as mentioned on the web site. Doubt if this will ever make me rich ( but am hopes I can break even on it), but it sure beats watching soaps! One thing, somehow, whether we can afford it or not - once I heal up Ev and I are going to see the upper Ohio from a steamboat. This will probably have to be one of the DQ's sister boats as they are more wheelchair friendly.
Harry is gone now as well as almost all of my old river friends from youth. Am in hopes of making new friends in the river community, possibly reconnecting with some of the DQ family from our trips in the 1970s, and especially leaving what I know in a form others can share and enjoy when it becomes time for me to blow for my last departure - hopefully many years from now.
Best regards, and hope to meet you all sometime on the river bank. Keep your steam up!
email Russ Ryle
PO Box 2466
Bloomington, IN 47402
Please contact Steamboats.com if you want to post your memories of the Delta Queen Steamboat Company - click here for contact info.