S&D Marches On - 71st Annual Meeting (2010)
By John Fryant
This report also appeared in the December 2010 REFLECTOR.
The seventy first annual meeting of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen was held on September 17th and 18th 2010 at the historic Lafayette Hotel in downtown Marietta Ohio. This year's event was highlighted by the return of the ninety two year old sternwheel towboat W.P. Snyder, Jr. to her longtime home port at the Ohio River Museum. She had been absent for the past ten months having her hull completely restored. Her big sternwheel also sported all new wood parts, although they have not yet been painted.
The weekend gathering informally opened on Friday morning when the Snyder was returned to her mooring at the Ohio River Museum accompanied by calliope music from the Amhearst-Madison whistle barge which had come up under tow of the sternwheel Laura J. The regular Friday evening event was the mixer in the Lafayette's Sternwheeler room with approximately seventy members present. The highlight of this gathering was an outstanding Power Point presentation given by Mr. Fred Smith, of the Ohio Historical Society. This covered the complete process of the Snyder's 1.4 million dollar hull restoration and the challenges encountered in the process. Retired Coast Guard Commander Jack Deck assisted in the presentation and answered many of the member's questions afterward.
Saturday's events opened with the Annual business meeting led by Board of Governors chairman Capt. Bill Judd. Reports were heard from the organization's three chapters as well as the Inland Rivers Library in Cincinnati, the Pott Library in St. Louis and the Howard Steamboat Museum. The announcement was made that the program speaker David Tschiggfrie had been appointed to the position of Editor of the S&D Reflector.
Mr. Floyd A. Barmann, the new Administrator of the Campus Martius and Ohio River Museums reported to the members that both the Ohio River and Campus Martius Museum's attendance was up considerably from last year due to the buildings' now being open five days per week. This has been due to the takeover of the operation by the newly formed Friends of the Museums. Upon being introduced to Mr. Barmann, I was surprised to learn that we share some common background in that we are both native sons of Springfield, Ohio. Having learned that, I'm sure that the museums will continue to be in good hands.
The morning's events concluded with the election of Officers and two Board of Governors members. All of the present officers were re-elected by unanimous vote for another term. A vacancy on the Board was filled by the appointment of Taylor Abbott, the organizer of the new river museum in Clarington OH to complete the term of John H. White, Jr. who had resigned. During the election yours truly was nominated from the floor (and later elected) to run for the remaining position held by Capt. David Smith which was up for re-election.
Saturday afternoon was filled with several events, all of which took place at the Ohio River Museum. A picnic style box lunch was served outside on the museum grounds complete with live music by the Athens (OH) High Society Dixieland Band. At 1PM inside the Museum, the members were treated to the first half of David Tschiggfrie's wonderful program on the history of the Idlewild/Avalon, the Nation's last tramp excursion steamboat (now the Belle of Louisville). After the program, a formal presentation was held outside to welcome the Snyder home. Master of ceremonies for the occasion was Dr. Jean Scott, the President of Marietta College. Other speakers included the Honorable Michael Mullen, the Mayor of Marietta and Ohio's First Lady, Mrs. Frances Strickland. Mrs. Strickland announced that the Snyder has been given an additional grant of $736,000.00 for further restoration work on her superstructure and electrical system. A local match of $222,000.00 will be required for the grant to go through. The Ohio Historical Society is also seeking an additional $245,000.00 to fund an endowment for ongoing maintenance of the Snyder.
Former S&D President J. W. "Woody" Rutter then gave some reminiscences of the Snyder's last trip under her own power from Pittsburgh to Marietta in the Sumer of 1955. Later, in the museum Woody showed a DVD made from 8mm color film he had shot during that memorable trip.
After the Welcoming program, a Dogwood tree was planted on the museum grounds in memory of Capt, Nelson Jones, a longtime S & D member who was a leader in the river transportation industry and a great friend and benefactor to the Ohio River Museum. Nelson's wife Robin, his Father, Charles T. Jones and other family members were present. The Jones family had bought the sternwheeler Laura J. with the whistle barge up from Charleston, WV. During the course of the afternoon an impromptu calliope concert and whistle blow was held, featuring Capt. Clarke "Doc" Hawley and Dave Morecraft at the keyboard.
Some of the other steamboat notables on hand for the meeting were retired Delta Queen Capt. Gabe Chengery, Capt. Jim Blum, and John "Corky" Bickel, along with former Delta Queen Steamboat Co. riverlorian "Steamboat Mary" Sward Charlton. Also present were former S&D President G. W. "Jerry" Sutphin, his wife Lenora and former Secretary Dick Prater and his wife Nancy. My apologies if I missed anyone else falling into those categories, as it is nearly impossible to see and greet everyone at one of these gatherings.
Saturday evening's events began with the traditional happy hour and banquet at the Lafayette Hotel. I counted ninety two in attendance for the meal and a few more came in later for the program. After the dinner David Tschiggfrie presented the second half of his outstanding program on the Idlewild/Avalon. Both halves of this pre-recorded slide presentation were highlighted with sound clips from former captains of the boat and music from the boat's original calliope. Dave and Son Jon are to be congratulated on their thorough research involved in the preparation of this excellent presentation.
After the program, the election results were announced and the meeting was closed. As usual, there was much "afterglow" following the formal meeting, as members retired to the lobby and hotel bar. I came away from the event with a positive feeling that the organization has turned a corner and is now headed for better days. The S&D Reflector is promised to be "back on track" by Dec., 2010. New Editor David Tschiggfrie and the officers and Board members urge the support and contributions of the membership in returning the Reflector to its regular Quarterly issues. To those who missed the seventy first annual meeting I urge you to attend next year's event.
All photos by the author. Photo captions:
1. Close up of the Snyder's newly rebuilt stern wheel.
2. Capt. Clarke "Doc" Hawley mans the calliope keyboard during the afternoon events on Sept 18.
3. A small portion of the attendees at the Saturday afternoon program.