I remember big river steamboats very clearly!


Being older has some advantages.

When I was a child of about 9 years of age there were still operating steamboats on The Ohio River and I lived close enough to Cincinnati, Ohio to be able to go with my Dad to see many of them at the Public Landing.

In fact, my Dad and I actually rode the steamboat, “Island Queen” which was owned by Cincinnati’s own “Coney Island” amusement part a few miles upriver from the city of Cincinnati.

This magnificent vessel was 5 decks tall, had a steel super structure and ran on diesel engines that powered two enormous side wheels – – one on either side of the ship . . . almost amidships.  There were thousands of light bulbs on The Island Queen and when they were all lit at night the boat looked like a virtual floating fairyland of some kind.  It was majestic . . . magnificent.

The Island Queen was big enough to be able to hold over a thousand passengers per trip and she made several trips between Cincinnati and Coney Island each day.

The ship had a working Calliope which some guy played as the ship was under way and there was a ball room on one of the decks with a polished dance floor that looked like a modern gymnasium floor.  There was a snack bar for sandwiches and bags of potato chips and popcorn, candy and soda drinks.

The last time my Dad and I rode The Island Queen was sometime during the season of 1946 and on the return trip – – late at night – – the river was very cold for some reason even though it was the middle of July.

My Dad and I were sitting on the very top deck leaning on the wheel house where the ship’s Captain and pilot were busy guiding the massive vessel to her berth in Cincinnati.

The Captain apparently noticed me huddling against Dad against the cold of the night because he came out of the wheel house and put his big Captain’s uniform coat over me and allowed me to nestle beneath it all the way from the amusement park to Cincinnati.

As Dad and I left the ship, I stopped and turned around to behold the glory she presented with all her thousands of light bulbs fully lit in the darkness of the night.  It was a glorious sight for a kid of 9 years of age.

The Island Queen was lost in a massive explosion and fire the next year in 1947 and the owners never rebuilt her or replaced her.  It was an awful loss felt throughout the entire region.

But I now have several pictures of the old queen hanging in my bedroom and she still lives vividly in my memory.

This is pretty much how The Island Queen looked when I rode her with my Dad even though I do believe the following picture is probably a few years before the time Dad and I rode her to Coney Island:


Posted by John at 8:55 PM

Picture Credit for the image at the beginning of this blog post is – – – HERE.