George Wise Memoir
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University of Illinois at Springfield Norris L Brookens Library Archives/Special Collections George Wise Memoir W755. Wise, George Memoir 17 pp. STEAMBOATS AND INLAND RIVERS George Wise, riverboat engineer, discusses boats, the Greene Line, Midwest rivers, cargo, different jobs aboard, and river life. Interview by John Knoepfle, 1957 OPEN: released by John Knoepfle Archives/Special Collections LIB 144 University of Illinois at Springfield One University Plaza, MS BRK 140 Springfield IL 62703-5407 © 1957, University of Illinois Board of Trustees George Wise Memoir COPYRIGHT@ 1989 SANGAMON STATE UNIVERSITY, SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Oral History Office, Sangamon State University, Springfield, Illinois 62708. Preface This manuscript is the prcxiuct of a tape recorded interview con:lucted by John RhOepfle on August 16, 1957. Margaret Reeder transcribed the tape ani Dr. Knoepfle edited ani reviewed the transcript. '!his ani other interviews in a series on steamboats ani inlani rivers were produced under the auspices of the PUblic Library of Cincinnati ani Hamilton County, Ohio and Sargamon State university, Springfield, Illinois. George Wise started on the river in 1919. He serve:i in various capacities with a long career as engineer. In this memoir he relates his various river experiences on the different boats. John I<noepfle was bom in Cincinnati in 1923. He obtained his :Al.D. in literature f:ran Saint I.ouis university in 1967. Dr. Knoepfle is presently a professor of English at San;JanKm state university. He was named Illinois Author of the Year in october, 1986. John ani his wife Peg have one daughter am three sons. D.lring 1953-1955 while workin:J as prcxiucer-di.rer of an educational television station, WCEl.'-IIV, Cincinnati, Dr. :Knoepfle proposed a projec::t on steamboats and inland rivers. 'Ihese river memoirs are a result of the research collected durin:] 1954-1960. Readers of the oral history :mem::>ir should bear in mirxi that it is a transcript of the spoken \\lOrd, and that the interviewer, narrator ani editor sought to preserve the infonnal, conversational style that is inherent in such historical sources. Sargamon State university and the PUblic Library of Cincinnati ani Hamilton COUnty, arlo are not responsible for the factual ao::uracy of the :memoir, nor for views eJq;>ressed therein; these are for the reader to judge. rrhe marruscript may be read, quoted ani cited freely. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part by any means, electronic or mechanical, without pemission in writirq from either the oral History Office, 8an:JamOn state university, Springfield, Illinois, 62794-9243 or the OJrator of Rare Books ani Special COllec::tittts of the Public Library of Cincinnati ani Hamilton county, Ohio, 45202-2071. Table of Contents captain Gordon Greene1s Funeral 1 Mr. Wise1s River Backgrourd • 1 Varioius Boats. 2 Livestock • 4 conserving coal 4 WOoden Barges Si.nkirg • 6 Describing Boat Tenns 7 Falls arxi canals. 8 Railroadi.rq BaJ:qes. 9 Tacana am:i Tcm Greene • .10 GeoJ:ge Wise, August 161 1957, Cincinnati, Chio. :rnt.erviewer, Jolm Kn.oepfle. Q: I have come to 1461 Rcckfonl Place in Cincinnati to visit with Mr. George Wise who has had a lon;Jtime experience as an engineer on the river. Mr. Wise, I won:ier if you could just give us a resume of your own river experience? A: I started on the river in 1919. My father was Charles F. Wise, he was an old time river stea:mboat stewart ani cook. So I went on the steamer Tacana to help him in the kitchen. I finally get to be a striker en:Jiri.eer ani went to work for ~1creek Coal CCil1pany on the steamer Rebert P. Gillham an:l after I had worked on the Gillham approximately two years I went as striker on the steamer Tan Greene ani I stayed. on the steamer Tom Greene for the next ten years. As striker, first assistant e:r.w:;rineer, aid I worked up to chief en:Jineer. Eight of them years was as chief e:r.w:;rineer of the steamer Tan Greene with captain Gordon c. Greene and his son Tan R. Greene. capta1ri Gordon c. Greene died January 19, 1927 ani we had to take his body up to Newport, Chio to bury hi.m. I was assistant en:Jineer on the boat at the time. '1he river was at a high flood stage ani we had to lower the stacks. Didn't have any passergers on the boat, just friems of the family going to the funeral. It took us approximately eight days to make the trip. We stopped. at all the river tcMns to let all the people who knew captain Gonion Greene ocme down and pay their respects to him. '1he river was so high at the time that-we was installing a super heater prior to his death, and we didn't get it ccm.pleted 'lfihen he died--so we had to put a temporary britching' arourri the furnace and boilers and we couldn't get very much steam to fight the heavy current and we couldn•t make very much time going up the Chio River. We got up to Newport, Ohio; people that brought their cars on were unable to get the cars off due to the fact the river was so high and the stage wouldn't reach out to the erd of the bank. So they had to can:y captain Gonion's casket over a flat. 'lbey had his funeral that afternoon ani we turned around and started bac::k d.atln the Ohio River. We didn•t have many roustabouts on the boat so when we got into a coal lan:ling all the c:r:er.tl had to get out an:l coal the boat. Put enough coal on to last mrtil we could get down the river someplace else to get coal. We tried to take coal at Qlester, Chio, but the river was so high there we couldn't get any coal on, so we had to go on down to Point Pleasant an:l shovel coal out of a barge at the Hatfield Coal CCil1pany. We were laid up every night due to the fact the river was so high. It was almost impossible to navigate the river during the night, the river was so swift. Q: Did you stay with the Greene Line after that? A: I stayed as chief en;rineer of the steamer Tam Greene until Deoember, 1936. In all that tilne, 'We operated~Olarleston, west Vil:qinia ard cincinnati. But in 1930 the Greene Line bought out the Cincinnati ard IDuisville Packet carpany and we started running the Tam Greene from Cincinnati to Louisville three trips a week. '!hey firially sent the Chris Greene do;,.m ard nm opposite day with her. '!hen they had the ~operating up on the Ohio River as far as Hl.lntin;Jton. 'Ihey Clltip out to Charleston all together. I stayed with the Greenes until December 1936 and then I went and took a stationary engineers job at the Brockmann Brewel:y eon-pany. I was with the Bruckmann people m1til 1942 when I went in the coast Guard Marine Inspection in st. Iari.s. I spent five years with the coast Guard at st. Louis in the Marine Inspection Department.'!hen after I got released from the Coast Guard in 1947 I went and spent the year on the steamer Admiral in st. Louis, the largest passenger excursion steamer in. the western rivers. I stayed with the Admiral, the Streckfus Steamer campany until June 1948. I noved back to ciriCinnati and captain Tom Greene finally talked me into going on the steamer Delta Queen. I went on there to make one trip to help him out and I stayed on there until October 20, 1955. Q: 'Iha.t was a long help? A: It sure is. Q: Are you still on the river nat~? A: On November 6, 1955 I went to work for the American Ba.J:ge Line at Louisville, Kentucky. At present I'm with the American Barge Line. Q: You go out for them? A: Yes sir. I'm at home on days ncM. I'm to go back to work on September 7. Q: Are you up on diesel tows? A: No, all steam. American Barge Line has eight new--the last of the twin screw steamboats that were ever built on the river. 'lhey were built by the Defense Plant corporation, Washington, during WOrld War II, ard th-:¥ were named after all the battles we fought over in the South Pacif~c. '!Wenty-five hundred horsepower twin scrf!M, tripleexpansion steam en;rines. Q: '!hey da1't operate up in this part of the river, do they? A: '!hey go all the way to Pittsburgh. Operate between Louisville,fran New orleans all the wa.y up the Ohio River to Pittsburgh, up as far as st. I.ouis and up to the Illinois River alltDst up to Chicago. Q: What are the names of those boats? A: 'Ihe American Bal:ge Line at the present has eight of them out of the twenty-one that was originally built in 1943 and 1944. '!he American Ba.J:ge Line bought eight of them. 'Ihey got the steamer America, the constitution, the Java Sea, the casablanca, the Tenal:v River, H.A. Bayless, atii the steamer Allen B. Wood. Of all the boatstheY have, eight steamboats, four of them have been renamed. The America used to :be the Guam when it first was built. 'Ihe constitution USEd to :be the Kiska, Aireii B. Wood was the Milne Bay, am the Bayless was the Midway Islam. Q: SUpposing we backtrack an1 pick up where you started on the Tacoma. What were the duties involved with that work? A: I just a helper in the kitchen for my dad. My dad was head cook on there am I was more or less a secon:i cook. Washing pots am pansam assisting him in the kitchen. I also have an uncle that was captain with the Hatfield Coal canpany for about thirty same years.But I didn't put that in; when I really left the Taccana I went on the Hatfield coal canpany boat. I was on the JUlius FleiSChmann; he was captain, Olarles Gebhardt. I went on the Julius Fleischmann am served on there in the kitchen am also on deck atii iri the engine roam. Also after I left the Fleischitarm, I had worked for my uncle for about a year, I went on thew. K. Field for Islam creek coal canpany. Q: That's all Kanawha coal out there? A: The Hatfield Coal Company towed out of Kanawha but the Islam Creek coal Company towed fran Huntington down. Islan::l creek coal was always loa.deci at Huntington, West Virginia. Q: I guess the combine boats were al:lout defunct then? A: Yes, that was the end of the canbine going to New orleans. Really thew. K. Field at one time had been a combine river coal tc:M. It was a sister boat to the Ironsides. Em:ry Edgirqton was the captain on the w. K. Field wheri I was on there. Q: Is that so? I knc:M that he was towing. A: He worked for Islam creek coal Company for years. My uncle was Olarles Gebhardt; he was on the Fleischmann am he was captain on the old J. T. Hatfield for fourteen years, master of transportation for Hatfield Coal canpany. He is better known on the river as Hardboiled Charley. Q: Hal::dboiled Olarley. He is still on the river? A: No, he has passed by. He has been dead about two years. He used to run me all aver the boat. He put me in every department on the boat. If a cook would quit then he would put me in the kitchen ani do the cooJd.rr;J until he fourrl another cook. so I worked putting in every part on a boat that could be worked on. Q: You didn't do any pa.cketboati.n;r other than on the Tacoma then? A: 'Ihe Tacoma was the only boat, well I was on the Greenwood a little bit ani the Qlris Greene. In them years, I never told you about, we had laid up the Greene Line in the wintertime in slack business, they couldn't afford to run both boats. Well they would lay up one of their boats am part of their crew would be transferred over on the boat that was bein;;J run. Of course I alternated on the Greenwood, ani the Tacana and the Chris Greene. My daddy, of course, he worked on all the old time boats ard he also was on the Greene Line when they had the old sidewheel Greenlani. 'Ihe Tacoma was the boat that I spent most of IIr:f time. The Tacoma ani the Tan Greene together was the two. We always carried stock ani made trips from Charleston to Cincinnati. In those days they would chal:ge arouni twenty-two and a half dollars for a rc>Ulrltrip for a passe:rqer. '!hat was a four ani a half day trip. Q: I don't knc:M whether you have ever saw this but I understand that there was a real problem getting freight up the bank and I have heard that it was pulled up on sleds in a lot of places. A: It was. We picked up cattle on the boat and there were a lot of times when they were loading hogs they had hog chains. 'Ih.ey had to pick up a hog an:l put him a chain am carry him on the boat. Q: Just tipped hiJn over in the hog chain. A: '!hat's right. 'IWo men got a hold of that chain arxi picked him upjust like a sack of meal and carried him aboard the boat. '!hey had three chains together. Those were fastened to two rods an:l two poles an:l they would lay that hog in between those chains an:l carry them on aboard the boat. Sametilnes when they drove cattle on the boat the cattle would buck and they would have to put one guy back on the tail and start twisting the calf. They always called packetboats the Calftail '!\-listers. That's where they got that name, from twisting the calf's tail, that's what made hiln go aboard the boat, he would be scared. Of course when we made a lan1ing and when we'd get a.rryfreight on like that, any stock on they'd always tell the engineer to be careful an:l not to let the steam came up and pop the safety valves off. Because just as soon as about the time they would be loadingthat stock on why the fireman would get too much steam on the boilers. Of course the safety valve would pop off and that would scare them all up the hill ani they would run in all directions ani maybe we "WOUld lay there two or three hours roun:tinq that cattle up to get them on the boat. Q: Guess it was too bad for the engineer if that happened? A: We used to catch a lot of trouble with that. '!he captain would come dCMll and bawl us all out over that. we were always careful about that an1 always watched the fireman ani told him not to keep too high a steam while we was laying at the bank just on account of that. We used to get on the Tom Greene and come down the river, get into Portsmouth, at ni~t -we wouldn't stop, we wouldn't lay at the wharfboat. capt.a:m Gordon Greene never did like to tie up a boat at the wharfboat on account of the crew going up the hill. He always tried to keep his crew together, because you didn't know when you'd have a crew or not, so he would always go down to a place called Walker's Light down below Portsmouth and we would lay up in the woods all night. Of course, all the men that wanted to go to the shOW' or '"':'!"""'~!'J,.,..~""''"':""•~· --. George Wise 5 anyt:hin;J, they couldn't get off the boat dcMn there. 'Ihey just had to stay on the boat. Never will forget one night while I was a striker engineer on the boat, captain Gordon Greene was very conservative about burning his coal up. He always wanted to burn as less coal as he could on the boat. He said that coal was the m:st e>cpensive partabout the whole boat. So when we'd tie up at night we would always shut the light plant dawn. captain Gordon Greene would never let his light plant run laying at the bank when we were laying CNer all nightsomewhere. We had to put lanterns around arxl on the water gauges on the boilers and in the erqine roams ani up in the cabin. We would shut that light plant down m1til daylight the next rooming. We would always leave Walkers Light arourrl four o'clock daylight in the rooming so the Tan Greene would be the regular ferry boat from Walker's Lightalnost down as far as Augusta, Kentucky. All that day she would be crossing the river from one man's landing, one farmer's landing to the next fanner's landing. 'Ihey would have anything from coop of chickens to maybe fifty head of cattle and we would just load that boat down full of all that produce. cattle ani chickens, crates of eggs, hogsheads of tobacco at Ripley, Ohio, used to get fifty heads of hogsheads of tobacco. Q: Must have been inunense, how did they cart those on board? A: 'Ihe rousta1::l0uts they rolled them on board, the hogs of tobacco. Of course nost of the rest of the stuff was all carried on their shoulders. The mate kept them out on the head of the :boat and he would keep them ru.nnin;J all the time. He wouldn't let any of them stop for a minute. He would say the boat was behind time and we had to make up time and he would keep the :roustabouts running and as far as us in the engine room we had to keep the engines going at full steam in order to make our trip on time. '!his particular night I remember that we laid up at Walker's Light, we laid there all nightand I was on watch at midnight. we went in there and the chief engineer told me to shut off the light plant and go to bed and get up at four o'clock and start it back up. In those days we didn't have electric refrigeration on the boat, we had to buy ice at Cincinnati out of regular old storage ice boxes. 'Iha.t's the reason we didn't have to nm any electricity. Well this particular night I shut down the light plant and I went on to bed. Captain Greene had gone to bed also, and the chief engineer and the mate and some of the colored deckhands, and the roustabouts, had got into a small poker game in the deck room. They were all playing poker by the light of a lantern down there. 'Ihe fireman didn't watch the boiler very well, the boilers, and he put a load of coal in her and before long the :pop valve, the safety valve went off arrl woke ~inGreene up. He got up and come downstairs to see what all the no~se was about and he caught the chief engineer arxi this mate gambling with these colored fellCMS and he bawled them all out am told them that he didn't want that to happen anymore. said they ain't doing nothing, but just buming up all his coal. Said everybody would have to stand their watch at nighttime regardless of M1ether we had any lights or not after that in order to keep from popping and burning up his coal. captain Gor:don Greene was always t:ty:i.n:] to save as nuch coal as he could and that was one reason he just finally contracted the Foster Wheeler Corporation to put a super heater on the Tan Greene boiler. ~!hey told him he 'WOUld save at least thirty to forty percent of his fuel bill. A super heaterI but he never did live to see it work. He died 'While we was putting it on her. (pause) I'll tell you a good one. Q: Okay. '!his is about wooden barges with the coal. A: I remember one trip on the stea.nwar Julius Fleisdunann, I was work:irg on there as an all day man. An all day man on them old time wooden boats had to take care of cleaning the lanterns, cleaning the dec:ks1 ani cany up the coal up to the pilothouse ani up to the galley, up to the kitchen. He had to mop the d.ecks off, he was a l'laniy man more or less. Well, we come down the Ohio River one trip with twenty-two loaded. coal barges ani one fuel flat. Q: Where were you com:in;1 out of? A: We left Point Pleasant, West Virginia ani we were comin:J dOIN.n what was Jmown in them days as a splash raise. Each lock, all the locks were not canpleted. 'Ibis was in 1922 and some of the locks weren't canpleted between Cincinnati and Point Pleasant. What locks were canpleted they would leave out so IlD.lch water to let us over the top of the sam bars and we had to get down there at this certain time that the water got down there. This particular time the Julius Fleisclunann, the Robert P. Gillham and the W. C. Mitcliifl, the $1;19e.ne o. Sillith, all these four boats were COJ.1Iirg down w1th a splash ra1se ana we got down to lock 31. We'd lcx:.:ked. through that lock and we was 1ead.ing' the rest of the boats, in other words we was ahead of the other t.owboats. We had these old wooden barges, we had twenty-two of them ani one fuel flat, ani half of them were leak:irg .bad and we had steam siphons runni.rq all the way out to the head of them, pmq;>ing them out. Before we left Point Pleasant, though, these two young fellows come dOIN.n the Ohio River in a canoe an::i asked my uncle Gebhal::tit if they could hook onto the 'b::lf..1 an:i go to Cincinnati in this canoe, put their canoe in one of these barges. They were from up in New York state an:i they had paddled down the Allegheny River to Pittsburgh, from Pittsbw:gh on down the Ohio to Point Pleasant. He gave them permission to put their canoe in one of these loaded coal barges but he told them they could sleep up on the boat in the recess back of the main cabin. 'lhese two :boys were tx;ying to paddle this canoe all the way to New Orleans. '!hey belon;red to sane canoe club up in New-York. Well this particular trip they was on there. So when we got dctwn to Portsmouth and locked ~ahead of the other four boats, Davey stout, captain stout was p1lot on there, w uncle was captain, John Vick.ers was the head mate, Jak.e Groper, he was chief engineer1 anyhow when we get down to Buena Vista that morning about three o'clock we got ahead of our water and we got too far over by that sar.d bar. '!he pilot got out of the Channel and hit this sand bar arrl we sunk fourteen loaded barges out of the twenty-two. Of course I was in bed at the time and they come up and woke up everybcx:ly on the boat, they thought the whole boat was going to be tom apart, because all the ratchets arrl chains were flying and parting1 those steel cables and. lines. They gave orders to everybody, blowed the distress 'Whistle, blew these other four boats back. '!hey were coming dCMn 7 behin1 us. So they tied off ahead up above us ani they couldn't have got down there anyhow because the next moming when I woke up there wasn1t nothing but wooden barges full of coal sticking up all arourrl everywhere around Vanceburg and Buena Vista. We laid there two weeks then going over to a livecy stable for yawls and getting gunny sacks full of horse manure and sawiust to put in those leaky· barges. Myuncle called up Mr. Ed Bramlage1 he was the head man of the Hatfield COal Cc:Jirpany at Cincinnati and rep:>rted it to him. He sent the steamer J. F. Butts, a one deck boat, a bunch of empty barges and a digger to take what coal we could get out of them barges what had sunk. We was laid there two weeks trying to get that coal out of them barges ani we got most of it out, and so we could get back ard godown, straighten our tow up and go on into cincinnati. The pilot, captain stout, he was afraid that the Hatfield Coal O::mpany would payhim off on account of that but he didn't lose, no one lost his job over it. When he saw it was going to tear that fleet up he blowed the distress whistle and the mate ran up and called Irrf uncle and. by the time my uncle got up to the pilothouse there was nothing he could have down. The damage was already done. Q: Did they manage to save the canoe? A: The boys never lost nothing: the barge that they had it was justlucky that that part of the barge didn1t sink. The barges didn't goall the way out, some of them were just at the water edge, there wasn't much water in the river anyha-t. En::l of Side one, Tape one Q: You mentioned that you had your steam siphons out. COUld youdescribe just what that was? A: In them days they didn't have steel barges, they were all wocx:len barges, ani you had to nm a steam line, you usually had a header which they call a steamheader, out on the edge of the boat. A steamheader is various different size connections of steam coming from your boiler where you can hook a two inch steam line and run it all the way out to the erd of the fleet1 clear out to where the signal light, clear out to the errl of the barges. 'Ihen they had branch lines that run a valve from each branch, each barge had a steam siphon and they1d go back and tum this two in<:h steam line on and when they run that steam line all the way out and. of course that pul'Cped. out, the siphon in the steamheader of the si!ilon, p.nnped the water out of each barge. Of course that took extra steam and took extra water in the boilers and it really put an awful strain on the boilers beside yourmain engines, and that meant a lot of times when we started down the Ohio River and had to flank the tow aroun:i a bend, ~wouldn't have that si!ilon going. 'Ihey had to shut them siphons off m order to keepthe steam up so we could plank that whole tow around those l::Je.rtis. Q: In flanking you were backing your wheel against t:tlQ :rudder. ':+ ,. -c, ·1-, ,,,;);,-._.-• ·;·• .,_ '" , • .r~..'JI"'f"~·-· 1<·, • "'-~~'"•.' ot· ;~~'""-.v · JT , •._. -~~··• ; ' ~ ··:.~······ . !f'", ,,•• A: That's right. Twisting ani C'.harging so we could stay in the charmel. NOW' on the way back up the river with those old wooden barges we didn't use a steam siphon. we funneled the water out. A lot of people don1t know' what we call funnel the bal:ge out of the water. Each one of those bal:ges had great big wooden plugs, taperedplugs in the bottom of them ani they had a great big funnel with a lon;J spout on it. 'Ihey had two or three water buckets and the deckharxis and the barge tenders would get out there and 'When the boat was goirg they would pull this plug out and stick that funnel down in that hole and they would take ani start bailing water ani bailing into this furmel and the suction from the boat going up the river would pull that water out of that barge. Of course you had to be out there ready to drive that plug in soon as the boat stopped or you would flood the barge. You couldn't go off and leave that funnel sticking in there. Q: It would be too bad if you forgot about that? A: That's right. Nowadays they don't have that hardly any of these, even the modem steamboat nOW" don't have steam siphons anym::lre. 'Ihey use electric or gasoline pumps to pump out water. Q: Did you ever go through the canal at Louisville? A: I have been all the way through yes, a hundred times. We were laid up in the ice down there in 1934. We had ice so heavy at Grassy Flats above I.Duisville there we couldn1t even get the Tan Greene aver the ice, we got stuck in that ice for about six hours one morru.ng, loaded down full of freight. I wouldn1t want to talk about that too :much because there was something there that wasn't accordirq to steamboat regulations. But we got the boat off anyhow. Q: I worxier did you ever go through the falls with coal tam? A: We took Julius Fleischmann aver the falls at Louisville. Q: That was in high water? A: we had a fourteen inch drop there. You could feel it, don't worry about that, wooden barges at that. 'Ihat boat, that old Julius Fleiscl'nnann cracked all over, I thought she was going to break in two Wheri She went over. went down over them but we didn1t come up over it. We went dCMn over it. EUt you could feel that drop when you went over that fall. we went over them twice, we took coal down to New Albany, Indiana, arxi the river was so high we didn1t have to go through the canal. Since then I have been up aver them falls an:i cxnne down over them on the Delta Queen here for Mardi Gras. Of course we haven't had any trouble, there was one year we had a time clearing that bridge there, the river was so high. We had to take the whistle and the stack and everything down off the boat in order to get urxler there. We only had about a foot clearance then. Q: It seem to me others have told me about using a l:x:M boat when they had to use the canal. ."'}-" _, , .•. •"f""-'"":") ,•--..., ••.•. , George Wise 9 A: Yes, you mean when they use the falls? We used to have fall pilots there that took them boats. My uncle didn't use a fall pilot,he was fall pilot, he took us down over. Q: His name was Gebhardt? A: Charley Gebhardt. He never used a fall pilot, he went right on down once, had six bal:ges, took them all down. '!hat's the first experience I ever had goin;r over the falls in a wooden hull boat and wooden barges. You could feel that crack and we thought the boat was going to crack in two going down over that fall. Q: Do you remember what year that was? A: '!hat's was aroun:i 1922. (pause) Another time I was on the Fleischmann we had heavy rurming ice in the river and I've heard people talk aEO\it railroadin;r barges and I have seen it done, I was on the Fleischmann when it was done, and that's putting the barges behind the wheel of the boat and toWing them alonglike a train with a lot of coaches. Q: Is that so? A: We really did that. '!he river was so full of ice, heavy ice and it was cutting the devil out of those wooden barges and my uncle told the mate John Baker, said, ''We'll just railroad these barges up." We had eight enpty barges, eight or ten I'm not sure. We put two together and strung them back behini the wheel. Of course the Julis Fleischmann was one of the regular old type southern towboats. Had the h09' chains all up the pilothouse and also had shivs up there and they run the cable from those hog chains on down on to the front all the way back So we railroaded those barges from up aroun:i Manchester all the way up to the Kanawha River, took them on up to Point Pleasant that way. Evecy day we would serrl a yawl back there with a fellCM and he would go back there and put lights on them barges. 'IWo barges at a time. '!he river was so full it was just cutting the barges to pieces, so my uncle decide:! he would railroad them barges and I remember that time very well. Q: were they secured to the hog chains? A: '!hey led two cables rurming one on the port side and one up aver top of the hog chains down to the front end of the steam capstanerqine, tightened up. '!hat's what held them. And. he pulled them barges up the river that way. He also had lines on the guard running back to them. '!hat wheel kept that ice broke up and that saved them barges fran leaking so bad. We got the barges up to Point Pleasant • • • railroad. It was a funny sight to look back there and see them barges all behini us, all two in a raw. Q: I have never heard of that being done on the river. A: Well, that was done. That was the winter of 1922. ,,. Geoxge Wise 10 Q: I worrier if we oould go back to that Tacoma, that was Jesse Hughes' boat, wasn't it? A: '!hat's right, Captain HUghes. Captain Hughes at that time wasn't on the boat. When I was on there Captain Wilbur Cllapman was captainof the boat and Chick lucas was pilot. He later left the Greene Line and went with my uncle on the Julius Fleischmann and leamed to be a towboat pilot. Q: I met one of the lucas's on the Omar. A: '!hat was Russell I guess, no that would be another brother, Russell was Chick lucas. Captain Russell lucas had the I.llCY Jane lucas, a diesel boat here a while back. But Jesse Hughes was never on the Tacona when I was on there. Jesse HUghes at that time was in charge of the Gallipolis Wharfboat and he later on went down and took ~of the HUntington Tenninal da.m there at HUntington, West Vil:gllli.a. Q: What kind of a boat was the old Tack Hammer? A: '!he Tacoma was a nice boat. It wasn't too big but it was reallyfast. It could really get out and go. We raced every boat on the river and there wasn't any of them could stay with us, even the QueenCity had a hard time getting by. Of course at that time the QueenCitY didn't carry steam while the Tacoma didn't carry much steam either. '!he Queen City wasn't allowed much steam, also the Tacoma wasn't. Q: You fellows didn't exceed your allowance? A: No we didn't. I have known of different ergineers that have dynamited the boat and the boilers but as far as the Tacoma I don't think they ever did. '!here was only one time that the bOat was ever l.ll'Xler arrt stress and I think the ergineer at that time was going to load her up. But he didn't want me to see what he was doing. I wasn't an engineer then. We got stuck on a place up at crown City,Ohio above HUntington in lCM water up there and Wilbur Olapman was captain of the boat. They were trying to get through there and the river was lCM and they got stuck and they had a big freight trip on there. captain Chapman had called the chief engineer CharleyHall, "I guess you are going to have to do something to the boat. " So I didn't know" what he was talki.rg about, but I was back in the engine roan, I always used to handle the engines for Charley Hall. He was the first engineer that learnt me how to handle a steamboat en:Jine by the old bell system. Didn't have any iniicators in those days. SO when Cllarley left the engine roan to go out to the boilers I thought I would nosey out there ani see what was going on. I looked up on the boiler and he had a clcmp up there full facing the Albanyand he saw me watching. So he told me to get on away from there, get on back. to the engine roan, and you have seen nothing, understand that. so I had a good idea what he was doing but I never got to gointo the en;rine room to look at the steam gauge to see heM nruch steam he really had on that boat when he pulled it off that bar. But he got it off that night. Q: You were showing' me those safety locks that you have. I wonder if you could explain how' they work? A: 'lhose locks were put out by the united. states goverrnnent, am any times when we heard that anybody was caught carrying' unlawful steam they would go dawn and lock those safety valves up and put that lock on there so they couldn't tamper with those safety valves. There were a lot of boats had those safety valve locks on there and it was a mre or less different enr;;Jineers that they couldn't trust. rrhey wouldn't catch them carrying unlawful steam but they had an idea that they were doinq it so they would lock those safety valves up. They couldn't blOW' off to only an allowable pressure that the inspector had given them. Q: Have you ever heard of a false weight? A: I sure have. I've seen them too. Years ago we didn't have an;ythinq bUt an old lever valve and you could put all the bricks in the world on them, a heavy weight and it would never pop off. You could raise the roof of the deck and also put shores und.er it. I did it myself once. But I didn't do it on, I did it order to get a hydrostatic test on the boiler. '!he boiler inspector, George Dameron, was here at Cincinnati and he came dc:Mn to give us an annual inspection and he told :me the easiest way to hold those valves dc:Mn is to take a two by four and saw it and prop it from the main boiler deck down to the heavy weights. He said that would be the best way to shore them safety valves down during the hydrostatic test. But he said don't you tty to do that when you1ve got steam on the boat. But I did have a funny experience happen on the Tam Greene. 'Ihe chief ~ineer on there, and captain Tom came back to me one mght, and he said, "George, I want to see hOW' fast this boat can go between Cincinnati ani Portsmouth. we have a lot of freight and I got a gangof niggers on deck, roustabouts to carey freight off. · I am going to keep them on the run out on the deck and When we make a landinq you keep the steam right up to where it1s allCMEI.i ani we'11 see hOW' quick we can get to Port:snoJth, Ohio." Because he had a lot of church going people that he wanted to get up there to go to early mrninq mass. It was on a saturday night and we left Cincinnati at five o'clock. so I had a fireman on there that could really keep those bollers hot and I called him back and I told him, "NCM tonight you want to keep that steam," the Tam Greene was allowed. two hundred and twenty pounds pressure. I said, "NCM you want to keep that steam right up to two twenty, don't let it pop off. Don't let the safety valve pop off, don't let the safety valve pop, just carey about two fifteen to two eighteen. We are going to tty to make sane kind of a record." we had all these :people on there, I guess we had over a hu:rx:ired and thirty. We left Cincinnati and of course our first landing was Ripley. Stopped at Ripley and put off sane freight at Ripley. When we went in at Maysville at midnight I was to go off watch. we was in Maysville before I went off the watch an:i I wa.lked out on the wharfboa.t an:i captain Tan Greene says, "George, you sure have had that wheel goi.n;' tonight, that steam sure has been grc.'7lli.rq. " Says, "We'11 make the best time we have ever made up the river." He said, ''We'll make Portsmouth anyh.ow' by five or six o'clock." I had an enr;;Jineer by the name of Allen on there with lTte as second engineer. His name was Howard Allen but his nickname was "TUrkey Allen". When Turkey came on watch to relieve me I said, "TUrkey, you want to keep that wheel going tonight, we are goirq to try an:i make sane ldn:i of record up to Portsnn.rth." He said okay and I went on to bed ani I when I went upstairs an:i went into the galley to get a cup of coffe, we were almost up to Manchester, Ohio. 'IWel.ve miles above, we had never been that far up the river at midnight before. All those dishes were trying to shake out of the cupboards and I thought boy this one sure is running, I figured the mate had the boat loaded just right, because he had a certain way he could load a packetboat so she could nm fast. If you put all the freight back in the deck room and. none on the head the Tam Greene wouldn't do nothing, she would just drag water all the way up the river. She had to be loaded down right like a:ey boat right, arrt packet boat. We went up to the pilot house and Drew Edgington was pilot on watch and he was smoking that pipe and he said, "George, what did you do to this boat tonight?" I said, "I haven•t done anything to her, why?" He says, ''We never did cl'lan:'Je watches this far upriver." He says, "You must have put a bug under her taiL" So I went on to bed. I got up in the morning we were lay~ at PortsnDuth. To go on watch at seven o'clock we got up at su: thirty. I was eating breakfast when the pilot came down to eat his breakfast and he said he had to use the headlight when he went into lock 31 below Portsmouth. He said he never did have to do that, it was alwaysdaylight before. I think he said we got in at quarter to six in to Portsnouth, tied up to the wharfboa.t, quarter to six. Everybody was talking how fast a boat she was, how fast she came up the river. So I went on watch and I went dCMJ'l in the engine room to relieve Turkey and Allen. I didn't pay too much attention, looked up and had two hun:lred ani twenty pou.rrls of steam and eveJ:ything seemed to be all right. I went on out and oiled up the journals and the journal caps and bearings on the wheel and ridge pins, cams and. come back in and people came back from church, we left there and started on up to Ironton. 'Ihis fireman I had on there lived in Ironton, Ohio. His wife alwaysbrought him clean clothes down. We larded at Ironton ani pilot rung me off ar:d I went out and looked the wheel over, looked the cams over and the journals to see if anything was hot. Evecyt:h.i.rq was all right and I came back ani looked up at the steam gauge ani the steam gauge was laying down on two forty-five. I looked out and I couldn't see no exhaust steam escaping fran the safety vales arrl I thoUght, ''Well, what's going on here?" I walked out to the bars and here this fireman sat there SlOOking his pipe, his wife starrlin'J there ta~to him. I said "Ed, don't you know heM much steam you have got on th~s boat? What sense you got anyhow?" He said, "You wanted to come up the river last night, didnt' you?" I said I hadn't looked up on top of the boilers at the safety valves, of course the Tom Greene had them old weight safety valves and here he had put four or f~ve big twe1ve by twelve by two arrl a half inch furnae$ tiles on each weight up there. He had enough weight up there, the safety valves never would have popped off. I told him then, "I didn't tell you to put an¥ weight on those valves." He says, ''Well one of them was singing a l~ttle bit at two hun:lred fifteen an::i I hurg a hook on it. '!hen it started sirqing sane mre ani I put those tiles up there. 11 '!he outcane of it he started to crawl up on the boiler and knocked the safety weights off and I told him to get on dcMn. off of there. I said, ''Where are you going?" He said, "You want to take that weight off, don't you?" "You leave that weight up on that valve and I'11 get that steam down before you knock them off. " I had to go back to the engine room and bleed the steam out. When I got it down belCM two ten I went back out there and told him, "Get up there and knock those weight off and don't you ever put no mre tiles on it." Of course during the races all the time, Be~races, we didn•t carry an awful lot of steam because we had :rs on the boat at that time and it was inq:lossible to load them safety valves down. I never will forget a funny incident that happened on the Tom Greene. We were going clcMn to Louisville. When we started :runninJ dam to Louisville in 1930, we carried passengers and freight both during the sununer. Of course in the winter we didn't carry any passengers on the boat. But we had this boat loaded dcmn with freight and we had I guess sixty passen:Jers and. the steward and cook that night had fixed a lot of these lyonnaise potatoes. What they do on those old time boats in those days, they would feed those roustabouts, the colored help,just what was left CNer from what the passengers didn't eat. 'Ibey1d save it for the next meal for the roustabouts and they always fed. them out of a pan, and they slept anywhere on the deck they could, un:ier the boilers or anywhere. Always carried around twenty of those roustabouts to put freight on loading up the boat. 'Ihey1d always call breakfast for them before we got into louisville and. then they could work them all up until noon before they had to feed them. Feed them while the boat was running and when they got into loUisville they could go ahead and unload the boat, wouldn't interrupt feeding them while the boat was laying at I.ouisville, wouldn't have to feed them till noon. Well, this cook had saved these lyonnaise potatoes ani had put them in the oold storage plant. About a year before this happenedI had p.1t an ice plant on the Tom Greene, a two ton York ice plant. I was :runninJ the t.e"n'pera.ture pretty low on that freeze lx>x that night and these potatoes had got chilled, ice in them. 'Ihat mrning the cook had got up and took these potatoes out of this chill box ani threw them in the CNen just about the time the mate hollered, ''HCM about feeding these niggers." 'Ihe cook said, "Bring them on back, I •ve got everything ready for them." They didn't care what they fed them in those da~. So the mate went out and woke them all up ani told them grub-p~le, they always hollered grub-pile, that meant go back and get your food. '!hey all lined up at the kitchen, this cook he went up and dished up these potatoes in the separate little partition pans an:i put in sane syrup in one partition ani these potatoes ani a piece of fat bacon and a couple of slices of bread ani give them same old dynamite, what they made out of chioory coffee, real black coffee, an1 that was their breakfast. I had a fireman on there, a colored. fireman by the name of Miller. He was kir:rl of comical, and he would go over there and. stand there. 'Ibis cook would give him. one of these pans arrl he came walking back to the ergine room ani he had a wooden spoon he had whittled out of a piece of wood and he was eati..rq those potatoes am starKiing there talking to me and I said, ''Miller, What is that you are eating?" He said, "Mr. George, they have a new dish on this boat." I said, "'Ihey have. What is that you are eating?" He said, "Frie:i froze potatoes." The potatoes were warm on the cutside ani there was great big chunks of ice on the inside. '!hat's the first time I ever heani of fried. froze potatoes. Q: We never talked about what tow you were on after the Fleischmann. A: Off the Fleischmann I was on the w. K Field. Q: J:'X) you remember anythi.n:J about the Field? A: All I know she was a good backing boat ani a good old boat for her days, of course later in they traded. her in on the Sam P. SUit, Marietta Manufacturing at Point Pleasant. We also used.Woti:ieil barges then on the boat. We was on the Fleischmann one trip I remember, we left here am. started. up the Ohio River and lock 36 wasn • t built ard far as we got up was Nine Mile Creek, up there around Coney Island, am. we had to tie off up there and we waited ten days for the river to raise so we could go. You could wade across the Ohio River up there at the tilne. You could see all the way around the boat, the bottom. of the river was clear in the fall of the year. You were telling me about interviB'W'ing No:tVal Horton, a chief engineer. No:tVal Horton ani I worked together; of course, he was chief engineer ani I was striker engineer on the old Robert P. Gillham for campbell creek coal canpany. Never will foiget one t:une when radios were first coming out. Would you like to hear about that? Q: Yes. A: I built SOI.'IlEl little old radios on the Julius Fleischmann and I had earphones and eve.eybody on the boats would cane m J.rJY roan at night am put these ea!.phones on and of course we would get RDKA ani WIW ani WlN and one or two stations. '!here were only about three or four stations all around the country. After I left the Fleischmann I went on the Gillham as striker engineer ani No:tVal Horton asked me one time if I Jmew anything about radios. I said, "Yes, I used to build them, I built them for a while until they got to :make so many ch.arges." So he said he was going off at Cincinnati and going over to buy one. He cane over at Cincinnati ani he l::lought hi:m a COdell set and it had small tubes in it, 'Peanut Tubes they called them. It operated off dry batteries. He brouqht the radio over to the boat and he asked me one aftemoon, he says, "I want you to put an aerial up on the roof of the Gillham. " captain Harty Miller was captain on the boat and he was a b~g man, he weighed almost four hundred. pounds, an extra heavy man. Of course I get up there that aftemoon ani I was ru:rminq all aver the roof up there stringing this radio aerial up ani I wroke captain Miller up. He didn't say not:h.irq at the time but at dinnertime that night he said, ''What in the hell was all that noise up on the roof this afternoon?" I said, "I was up there p.ttting a radio aerial." He says, "What in the heck is a radio aerial?" I said, "Well the chief engineer has a radio down in the engine room and he can hear llllSic." He says, ttOh, you believe in all that old fake stuff." Of CXJilrSe there weren't many radios then, they were just cami:rg out. We put this radio down in the engine room arrl we couldn1t hear nothi.n:.J but the engines exhaust into the cordenser. En:i of Side TiHI'.J, Tape One
|Title||Wise, George - Interview and Memoir|
|Description||George Wise, riverboat engineer, discusses boats, the Greene Line, Midwest rivers, cargo, different jobs aboard, and river life.|
|Contributing Institution||Oral History Collection, Archives/Special Collections, University of Illinois at Springfield|
|Contributors||Knoepfle, John [interviewer]|
|Digital Format||PDF; MP3|
|Relation||STEAMBOATS AND INLAND RIVERS|
|Rights||© Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. For permission to reproduce, distribute, or otherwise use this material, please contact: Archives/Special Collections, University of Illinois at Springfield, One University Plaza, MS BRK 140, Springfield IL 62703-5407. Phone: (217) 206-6520. http://library.uis.edu/archives/index.html|
|Title||George Wise Memoir|
|Source||George Wise Memoir.pdf|
|Rights||© Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. For permission to reproduce, distribute, or otherwise use this material, please contact: Archives/Special Collections, University of Illinois at Springfield, One University Plaza, MS BRK 140, Springfield IL 62703-5407. Phone: (217) 206-6520. http://library.uis.edu/archives/index.html|
University of Illinois at Springfield
Norris L Brookens Library
George Wise Memoir
W755. Wise, George
Memoir 17 pp.
STEAMBOATS AND INLAND RIVERS
George Wise, riverboat engineer, discusses boats, the Greene Line, Midwest rivers, cargo, different jobs aboard, and river life.
Interview by John Knoepfle, 1957 OPEN: released by John Knoepfle
Archives/Special Collections LIB 144
University of Illinois at Springfield
One University Plaza, MS BRK 140
Springfield IL 62703-5407
© 1957, University of Illinois Board of Trustees
George Wise Memoir
COPYRIGHT@ 1989 SANGAMON STATE UNIVERSITY, SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS.
All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Oral History Office, Sangamon State University, Springfield, Illinois 62708.
This manuscript is the prcxiuct of a tape recorded interview con:lucted by John RhOepfle on August 16, 1957. Margaret Reeder transcribed the tape ani Dr. Knoepfle edited ani reviewed the transcript. '!his ani
other interviews in a series on steamboats ani inlani rivers were produced under the auspices of the PUblic Library of Cincinnati ani Hamilton County, Ohio and Sargamon State university, Springfield,
George Wise started on the river in 1919. He serve:i in various capacities with a long career as engineer. In this memoir he relates his various river experiences on the different boats.