Oh, There Were Once Great Ships On Our Mighty River!, photo by “CAVE CANEM”.
CAVE CANEM writes…
So there I was… (On Black)
rutting through some boxes for some tax documents and BAM, look what I found!
If grew you up in Detroit between 1910 and the early eighties this should make you smile. This is an Detroit icon for all us kids that had to run the concrete jungle during the dog days summer. As I remember there were few things better than to take that first step onto the boat full of excitement waiting for those big steam monsters to start up, or catching that breeze in the face, any hot August morning while traveling the island. To be honest I can still feel that gentle wind as I ran what seemed like endless decks, it’s wonderful. Cruising to and from Bob-lo was the perfect way to cap off the season before the return of school and gray skys.
This is the S.S Columbia one of “twin steam boats” made for the Detroit, Windsor, and Belle Isle Ferry Company to cruise the Detroit River in-between the ice flows. I remember it was just cool to sit and watch them lazily make their way up and down the any day you were downtown, or to hear the voices bouncing off the wateras a ship full of revelers lost themselves on hot night while I caught a breeze with pops. If I miss anything it’s the late afternoon picnics with my family we had on that amusement island (Mangos! who knew?). This was one the best things about being in the city as a kid it saddens to think me my friends will never treat their children to such a day.
Oh well all good things come to an end….
The question is when will the bad things?
Probably the only link you really need is Bob-Lo Boats: a Tribute to the Bob-Lo Steamers, but lest I look too lazy, here’s the S.S. Columbia in Wikipedia which includes a 1905 photo of the Steamer Columbia on the Detroit River. I also found a 1959 video from the deck of either the Columbia or the Ste. Clair on YouTube.
The Columbia is now on the Hudson river and the S.S. Columbia Project is seeking to restore the vessel. Be sure to have a look at their gallery of historic photos. There’s a group of folks working to restore the S.S. Ste. Clair which is docked most of the year at Tricentennial Park in Detroit – get all the details and more about the boat at bobloboat.com!