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I’m thrilled to discover entirely new stories, like this one, which I found after following up some info I’d seen on a historical marker sign in Bath, NC, a month ago. Click here and scroll to see the historical marker. I saw it briefly in the headlights but took no photos.
When I googled “floating theater bath nc,” I learned a book had been written about this barge and immediately ordered a copy of the book, where I got the stories, including the one about “G-string” shows, which I’ll explain at the end of this post. I guarantee you’ll be surprised. Click here for some details about Prof. Gillespie’s process in writing the book.
James Adams used two tugs–Elk and Trouper— to move the “floating theater” from town to town in the Chesapeake and the estuarial fingers of North Carolina back in the days when movie theaters and certainly mass entertainment penetrated into all the hamlets and backwaters of this portion of the US.
Although I’d never heard of this entertainment in the backwaters where I was born, it’s fairly well covered with blogposts like this and newspaper articles like this. The Chesapeake Log has done a story. In fact, there’s a group that wishes to recreate the barge.
Needless to say, any project on the water always faces this danger from its element, among other perils.
Between venues, Elk and Trouper would tow the barge, like horses moving the old time traveling carnival to the next town.
Now about “G-string” shows . . . From page 63 of the book, “there were three primary comic characters in the repertoire theater . . .[one was the G-string character], an old man, the geezer. He was evolved from the 19th century comic Yankee character, sometimes with a dose of the frontiersman thrown in. … squeaky male voice and a goatee-like beard. The cartoon Uncle Sam is a G-string character.” I’ve looked online for other references to this meaning of G-string . . . with no corroboration.
Who knew? Edna Ferber and her Showboat . . . which I don’t know well . . . I thought that was based on Mississippi traffic. The sixth boro and the Hudson have their very own Lehigh Valley 79 Showboat Barge as in here, here, and here. There was once the floating entertainments of Periwinkle and Driftwood . . . now all gone.And the whole eastern seaboard has Amara Zee . . . (scroll) Caravan Stage Company.
I think it’s high time Edna Ferber’s story gets reinterpreted as a movie, this time including Elk and Trouper.
I don’t make much fuss about Christmas for reasons I explained here 10 years ago; when I really want something and I can afford it, I just get it. Of course, I have no problems with anyone going all out with gifts. Books and experiences make the best gifts. Experiences . . . teach you and you can remember them forever.
Books . . . you read them once and then read them again or give them to someone you think will enjoy them as much as or more than you did. See the book cover below . . . great cover and fabulous book. Inside you find crisp photos, reproductions of painting of McAllister vessels, family stories, . . . even an owners’ family tree that clarifies some of the boat names. The story starts in 1864 as James McAllister (generation 1) stood on the northeast coast of Ireland about to emigrate across the Atlantic.
One of my favorite stories involves the boat below, launched from Newport News Shipbuilding Co. in May 1909 as John Twohy, Jr, for Lambert’s Point Tow Boat Company. Renamed J. P. McAllister, this boat served as a platform for the one-and-only Harry Houdini‘s escape from handcuffs and leg irons inside a nailed-shut, weighted packing case. Here’s a reference to this event in a recent NYTimes, but in this book, you get two photos of the event and facsimiles of the contemporary news story and the J. P. McAllister logbook entry, all attesting to the tremendous research involved in this beautifully produced volume.
One more great story . . . typical of struggles to divide up ownership in any family business. When disagreement came to a head in on a cold Easter Sunday morning in 1904, “the partners decided to work out the percentages once and for all by meeting on a tugboat, taking it offshore, and not returning until they had an agreement.” Now Capt. Jim (generation 2) told his 6 year-old son A. J. to wait at the pier until they all returned. Which happened to be as night fell. Here’s how it’s told: “Capt. Jim … his face covered in blood . . . jumped off [the boat onto the pier where A. J. had waited all day], grabbed A. J. by the hand, and said, ‘That’s it. It’s settled. The issue is settled.'”
Below is one of my many favorite full-page photos in the book. Another photo a few pages later adds detail not unlike Birk Thomas and collaborators do here.
A book like this focuses not only on a family business but also New York City, with all six of its boros, and the country. The photo below shows the McAllister yard behind Ellis Island, real estate taken over in the 1970s for the creation of Liberty State Park. Today’s margins of the harbor are that way only because of thousands of decisions.
The author, Stephanie Hollyman has a website that highlights an impressive breadth of work.
Click here for ordering info.
Since we’re looking at books, here’s one that might be ripe for updating. Another one I’ve reread and enjoyed recently is Buckets and Belt: Evolution of the Great Lakes Self-Unloader by William M. Lafferty, Valerie van Heest, and Kenneth Pott.
The title is such a mouthful that I’ll soon reduce it to GHP&W. Although this blog began with photos and observations of mostly working vessels in the great harbor associated with New York City, the watery part of which I call the sixth boro, the blog followed a course suggested by these vessels to other GHP&Ws. And given then the global nature of water traffic, it seems logical to devote at least a month to other GHP&Ws.
I’ll kick off with this post about a port I’ll likely never visit, the former Aral Sea fishing port of Moynaq in Uzbekistan. The photos come from Getty Images by Bjorn Holland and Kelly Cheng. Surprisingly maybe, I live in a neighborhood of NYC where Uzbek is the dominant language, which was part of my motivation to read a Tom Bissell book called Chasing the Sea: Lost among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia. I highly recommend it.
So here are some detail areas of a huge aerial photo print I saw the other day. Can anyone point to detail that confirms a date? My guess is somewhere in the 50s or 60s. The first photo below shows the southeast point of Bayonne NJ. The peninsula bisecting the top and bottom is MOTBY. Governors Island is upper right and the Statue is upper left with the southern tip of Manhattan along the top.
Below is a closer up of the lower right corner of the photo above, showing that tugboat, some barges, and two sets of trucks at the cement dock.
Note the Statue and Ellis Island. To the left of it is now Liberty State Park. The Caven Point Pier crosses the center of the photo and the current Global Terminal is still waiting for fill.
Below is the just capped landfill that is topped by the Bayonne Golf Club. Lower left is quite the gunkhole with disintegrating watercraft I’d love to see a closeup of.
Remember that all the B/W “photos” above are parts of the same aerial shot.
Let’s have a fun month with lots of GHP&Ws. And not to be too prescriptive, I’d love photos from a variety of GHP&Ws in Asia and Africa, mostly lacking in my previous 2900+ posts. Of course, here and here are a few posts I’ve done on African ports; here, Asian; and here and here, South American.
While I’m asking for collaboration, I have a chance to replicate a trip on a major African river that I originally did in 1973-74; what I seek is leads to a publication that might be interested in the story and photos. The trip is pricey, and if I can sell a tale with photos, I can offset some of the expense. Anyone have ideas or connections?
If you haven’t read it yet, here’s my Professional Mariner article on “barging” in the area of the St. Lawrence River called the Thousand Islands. Since there’s plenty of reading there, I’ll just make this mostly a photo post. LCM owner Jake Van Reenen took all but the last three photos in this post.
In February, the LCM and everything else “afloat” is actually ice-trapped. Folks who live year-round on the islands travel by snow machine.
By late March, the ice has turned to liquid, and navigation starts to resume on the Seaway.
It’s April and houses on the islands need a visit from the fuel truck.
In May, folks from “away” begin to return, sometimes bringing their own supplies.
All manner of vehicles travel to the Islands in early June, when
I visited. The photos below I took . . .
As we traveled with an empty fuel truck back to Clayton, we took the stern of
Vikingbank, headed upbound for Duluth!! for grain.
Captain Jake and deckhand Patsy Parker.
Summer and early fall photos from Seaway Marine Group will follow.
This follows the post where I got to spend four times as long on Long Island Sound, a truly remarkable place. The trip last week brought sights and surprises enough to warrant a repeat trip soon. Here, a bait boat (?) passes a renowned Plum Island facility. Back to this later in the post.
We’re headed to New London, the name of this RORO/WOWO.
Here Marjorie McAllister tows RTC 60 past Little Gull Light.
Here Mary Ellen departs New London for Orient Point, passing New London Light.
Amistad awaits, for sale at the dock.
Sea Jet . . . takes on passengers for Block Island, a place I need to visit soon.
At the dock just south of the I-95 bridge, it’s 100′ scalloper Chief, also for sale.
Electric Boat 2 does patrols around the pens,
which enclose a submarine. Now look closely at the tail vertical stabilizer. Now look at the one in this “news” story about a submarine getting stuck in Shinnecock Canal. If not the same sub, then it’s at least the same type.
But if you start thinking about it, Dan’s is having way too much fun. This story and this one are clearly boaxes, spoofs about boats. When I heard the story about Shinecock, I thought maybe the Hamptons PD had gotten ahold of this one, which I spotted on the North fork just a few summer months ago.
On a leg between Newport and Oyster Bay, it’s Knickerbocker, Wisconsin-built by a shipyard that started out doing fish tugs! If you’re not familiar with fish tugs–of which Urger was one–go to Harvey Hadland‘s site.
Now here, back near Plum Island, is a surprise. I figured it was a fishing party boat, but Justin suggested otherwise, and indeed he was right. M. S. Shahan II IS a government boat, owned by Department of Homeland Security!!
And a final shot of Plum Island just before we return to the Orient Point dock, of course, it’s Cape Henlopen, former USS LST 510.
By the way, I am still looking for folks with connection to this vessel as LST-510.
All photos here by Will Van Dorp.
Click here to scan the many posts with KVK in the title. Here’s a new one inspired by arrivals that had many folks, aship and ashore, paying attention.
Wavertree is suddenly and lavishly being regaled with sights of 21st century merchant vessels
and crew from all over the world are paying attention.
And a mile farther east, at the old gypsum dock, tugboats like Laura K Moran and
Stephen B pass.
If you want to read a good book about when and how the US took possession of Eagle, read Captain Gordon McGowan’s The Skipper and the Eagle. The book has an introduction by Peter Stanford, a foreword by Alan Villiers, and the journey starts out from NYC’s own LaGuardia.
I have many more closeups of the barque; maybe
Here Swallow Ace crew check out an Eagle.
The long street on the landside of this portion of the Kills is called Richmond Terrace. For photos and explanation of what is and used to be there, click here and here, from the ever fascinating forgotten-by.com. Click here to see an image of a square rigger bulk carrier docked in front of Windsor Plaster Mills, now an Eastern Salt facility, in its heyday.
All photos by Will Van Dorp.
Here were post 1 and post 2 with this name, both focusing on WW2 torpedo boats. PT-728 used to be based on the Rondout in Kingston and would make visits to NYC’s sixth boro, but now you’d have to go to Lake Huron for an outing.
The vessel below is PT-305 and “diminished” version of itself spent from 1947 until 1988 in the sixth boro as Captain David Jones. Does anyone remember it? Have photos of it?
I say “diminished” because to bypass certain crewing requirements, four yards plus was chopped off the stern. Click here and scroll through to see a photo of this chopped hull and NYC paint scheme.
If you’ve never visited Nola, you have to; and if you visit Nola, the World War II museum–easy to get to–is a must-do. And in one of many buildings–the Kushner Restoration Pavilion–PT-309 is returning to its former glory. Parts have been rebuilt or returned from scrap heaps and river bottoms–like these exhaust ports salvaged from a wreck in a river in Connecticut.
The plan is for a return to the water, a possible trip all the way to Boston with a stopover in the sixth boro.
PT-305–like many torpedo boats–is a Higgins product, made right in New Orleans.
And before you go, read Jerry E. Strahan’s biography of the Andrew Jackson Higgins. Click here for a Richard Campanella Times Picayune article with photos on Higgins. Here’s an excerpt, showing Higgins’ methods when he needed to get fifty small boats built and shipped to the Navy in two weeks: ”
Low on steel, he “chartered a fleet of trucks and armed plant guards,” wrote Strahan, “to persuade [a Baton Rouge] consignee to release the metal to Higgins Industries.”
Requiring bronze shafting, he sent his men to raid a Texas depot and arranged for complicit Louisiana police to placate livid Texas law enforcement as his trucks crossed the state line heading back to New Orleans. Needing more steel, Higgins begged and borrowed from a Birmingham plant, then sweet-talked Southern Railway officials into bending the rules to deliver the metal to New Orleans. “Never before or since,” wrote Strahan, “has a Southern Railway passenger train pulled freight cars.”
All photos by Will Van Dorp.
This is probably the last of this series as well. These photos were all taken between October 2 and 19 in an area of the western canal, the extreme western portion of which is now more than a little snow-covered. I don’t know much about this little 1985 one-off (I was told) fiberglass tugboat named Tilly. Not the Tilly that’s currently underwater.
Mandalay . . . said to have down east fishing origins from the first decades of the 20th century . . . is a stunner. Reminds me of Grayling, third photo down here. Mandalay is on the Genesee river, not technically the canal, although their waters commingle.
Capt. Green . . . another Genesee River denizen said to be a converted landing craft.
Any word(s) on this?
Truly a unique craft of western NY, cobblestone architecture–its height came during the first few decades after the completion of the Erie Canal) is celebrated in this museum just north of the canal in Childs, NY.
And this looks like almost too much fun!
This brown “sculpture” made no sense to me when I first saw it, but then at a farmer’s market in Lockport, I notice a reference to “farm to pint” and local hops sales and tasted a range of local craft beers . . . of course . . . it’s a huge representation of a hops cone.
Hobbit house? dungeon?
Try . . outlet for a 19th century water power system in Lockport.
And for a feat quite unimaginable to DeWitt Clinton and his cronies, here’s the Red Bull take. Click on the photo below.
Finally . . . I know I’ve posted a version of this photo previously, but this culvert under the canal begs a tip of the hat to that craftwork of an earlier era.
I was truly fortunate to see this variety of craft, but for a time traveler’s view, you must read Michele A. McFee’s A Long Haul: The Story of the New York State Canal. One of my favorite sets of photos from the New York State Archives and featured in her book relates to Henry Ford . . . his 1922 vacation on the canal and subsequent decision to ship auto parts on the canal. In fact, on p. 193 there’s a photo of new automobiles shipped across the state NOT by truck or train but by barge!
What’s this? Answer follows.
Ice . . we love it in some drinks. but on rivers and roads, it’s a nuisance. Ice breakers try to keep strategic waterways open, and on roadways, salt is the weapon, but when the storehouse floor looks like this and
and this, then you pray for another replenishment. By the way, the top photo looks down into this hold from the exterior.
Geography and time are impediments, but so are well-intentioned regulations, as explained in this article. We’re still a month from the start of spring this year, and according to the article embedded in the previous sentence, the state of NJ–I don’t know the info for NYC or NY–has used 1.5 times the amount of salt used all last winter.
Many thanks to Brian DeForest of Atlantic Salt for all the photos in this post.
These photos were taken on M/V Rhine last week.
Currently the next vessel has arrived and . . . more are in the offing.
Many thanks to Brian for these photos.
It’s high time for me to reread Kurlansky’s Salt.
Between spring 2004 and summer 2007, I volunteered about 1000 hours at South Street Seaport Museum, or SSSM, mostly on Pioneer but also on W. O. Decker and Lettie G. Howard. The experience was exhilarating—learning the lingo of schooner sailing and the lines and procedures, rustbusting and painting, all good for maintaining youthfulness and toning up aging muscle. Without my time at SSSM, there might never have been this blog called tugster about a place I imagine as the sixth (and primary) boro.
What pulled me away from volunteering was my sprouting curiosity about all the other vessels and projects and careers in the harbor with more tugboats than I could recall without the assistance of my camera. Downloading my photos after a day’s sail would lead to a night’s worth of googling, to learn what I could about the boats, companies, cargoes, and ultimately the crews. Volunteering there felt focused too exclusively on SSSM and their vessels’ tracks from Pier 16 back to Pier 16. This frustration should not have surprised me, given my lifelong wanderlust and curiosity.
SSSM has stayed with me though. One sweet memory I carry of SSSM is of the stories I heard as a volunteer about the time of creation, creation of the museum, that is. But these stories came in fragments, and the gaps between have triggered lots more questions. The more I heard, the less I felt I knew. A Dream of Tall Ships, covering the time period from 1967 until 1974 in 500 pages, is like a vessel loaded deep with memories filtered through the recollections of Peter and Norma Stanford, founders of SSSM. The account is detailed and peopled with legends from a half century ago, a time when nautical giants were feeling the urge to preserve what remained of commercial sail, both coastwise and global. People like Alan Villiers and Karl Kortum, “ship savers” who inhabit this book, strike me as optimists who could imagine second (or “new”) lives for these old vessels built a century or more before. The Stanfords recall their travels to places like Punta Arenas and the old port of Buenos Aires to purchase Wavertree, one of the tall ships that seem in hibernation down at SSSM today. The photo below–taken from among the over 60 images in the the book, shows Wavertree in the condition SSSM acquired her.
The book describes a time in the history of SSSM and New York City when it seemed that only the brightest future could lie ahead. When SSSM sponsored an event, the most powerful, brightest, wealthiest, and most generous of the city rolled up their sleeves and weighed in. In a timeline of SSSM events in the postscript pages of the book, names appearing include Jack Kaplan, Brooke Astor, as well as Laurance and David Rockefeller. Then there are giants like Pete Seeger and Burl Ives. At a January 5, 1968 meeting at the Whitehall Club to launch SSSM’s James Monroe Luncheons, the pantheon of New York’s maritime industry showed up to listen to ocean historian Robert G. Albion speak. NY political elite like Mayor Lindsay were there, as was the famed naval architect Howard Chapelle.
Real estate struggles existed already back at the creation, but it seemed manifest that SSSM would grow into a premier maritime institution, center of the New York State Maritime Museum, and more. Stanford documents the growing membership. New York was heady with the growing fleet of tall ships and other interesting vessels. Exciting happenings like Sea Day seemed to spread a love of the city’s connection with the sea, an event that predates “City of Water” day.
But don’t take my word for all the memories in this book. I hope enough of you read this book—skim quickly through the too-long segments about martinis and such– and maybe if enough of us start to glow again with embers long ignored, maybe new energies will again start up the dream to make SSSM a street of tall ships that will inspire seafarers of the future.
As I stated earlier, the book has over 60 photos, like the one below showing Wavertree first arriving at the museum, and
this one, showing ARA Libertad docked at the SSSM in July 1969 after delivering a portion of the Wavertree‘s topmast, shattered off in 1910 while rounding Cape Horn. Two other interesting notes about the photo below. First, when the Commissioner of Ports and Terminals tried to block Libertad from docking at the SSSM pier, Libertad‘s Captain Vazquez Maiztegui responded, “Libertad will berth in New York at South Street Seaport, no other place.” Second, at around the same time, Pete Seeger and Clearwater put in there to celebrate her first arrival in New york.
I immensely enjoyed this book. My only regret is that it didn’t contain 160 photos or 1600 photos. For example, on September 20, 1968, a Bronx River Towing tug delivered the vessel today known as Lettie G. Howard to Pier 16; I’d love to know more and see a photo. Square Rigger Bar & Grille is repeatedly mentioned; let’s see at least the facade. I’d be thrilled if an electronic addendum of photos from these early years could remedy this.
Again, get the book and read it soon.
Click here for some previous reviews I’ve posted.