Mae's Real Stories

Memories for Miriam, Alice, Theo, Delia, Tessa and anyone else who would like to be here

Thursday, September 21, 2006


"The Boat"

When we were small, "going on the boat" meant driving down to the riverfront and then spending a warm summer afternoon on the Mississippi River on an excursion boat named the Admiral. The photo shows the boat going under the Eads Bridge; it was taken some years after our excursions, but that's what it always looked like.

My mother had gone on boat trips with her friends for many years before we were born. The photo shows her spending an afternoon sketching on the boat some time in the 1930s.

When I was about 5 and Elaine was about 2, we made our first river trip. We were very dressed up in matching outfits: tiered skirts in a brownish or orange color trimmed with lace, white blouses with ruffles at the arms, and patent leather shoes. Everyone dressed up to go on the boat.

The Admiral was very big with several floors called decks. When you first walked down the dock onto the boat, you entered the lowest deck, which was open and had benches to sit on. The noisy engines that ran the boat were in the middle of this deck. One of the middle decks was called a "Penny Arcade" with games to play or little shows to see for a penny or a nickel. One deck was dark and cool inside: it had a ballroom with an orchestra playing and people dancing to the music. There were restaurants and hot-dog stands on the boat, but we usually brought a picnic.

The top deck was the best. It had chairs where you could sit and watch the river. First the boat went downstream along steep river cliffs topped with trees and occasional houses or docks. A few other river boats went by. On one side of the river was Illinois. The other bank was Missouri. That was neat. It was especially fun to watch from the top deck at the exciting moment about half way through the trip when the boat turned around in the wide river and started back up towards St. Louis. By that time, it usually seemed more fun to go inside and watch people dancing or play games.

When we got older, we sometimes went on the Admiral with a group. A bus would pick up a bunch of friends, and we'd ride down to the riverfront to board the boat. Here is a photo of me riding on the boat when I was in junior high school. I can't remember what group I was with.

On a boat trip in 1931 someone took photos of my mother and her three friends. This was before the Admiral was remodeled to look like a modern steamship instead of what it really was: an old Mississippi River boat:

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