Reflections 2015
Series 8
May 12
Mississippi River IV: Steamboating, Memphis to New Orleans – Show Boat


Steam Power    It was James Watt, of course. In 1781 he patented his first steam engine, one that could produce continuous rotary motion. We are used to the internal combustion engine, such as in a car, where the combustion of the fuel powering it, such as gasoline, takes place inside a combustion chamber within the engine itself. A steam engine, on the other hand, is an external combustion engine, since combustion takes place in the firebox, which, with its air intake and exhaust constitutes a separate system outside the chamber where the liquid, usually water, is being heated through the chamber wall, forming its own pressure system. This is not hard to picture, since a tea kettle works the same way—heat outside (external combustion), water inside the kettle forming its own pressure system. And if it's a whistling tea kettle, the whistle is the proof of the pudding, that the heat source has warmed the liquid to produce an audible result via the steam that blows the whistle.


As a successor to water power, the stationary steam engine powered all sorts of manufacturing machinery and the Industrial Revolution spread around the world. But then for transportation, steam engines could be applied to vehicles, such as railway locomotives, ocean-going steamships, river steamboats, and more, providing a revolution in transportation.

 While pondering that fact, keep in mind that it's all just about gone: steam-powered industry, steam locomotives, steamboats. On a smaller scale, even steam heating for housing, with radiators, is surely not what it once was, nor pressure cookers—and tea kettles. Whither steam?

Steamboats    The world's first practical operating steamboat was the Charlotte Dundas by William Symington in Scotland in 1801. It was a towing steamboat, perhaps most similar to today's tugboats. Its inventor built a hull around a horizontal steam engine, which had a crank that turned a paddle wheel that was centrally (!!!) located in the hull. He sailed it in a canal near Glasgow, and, although it wasn't commercially successful, it demonstrated the possibility of steam power on water.

 That Symington used a centrally located paddlewheel was unusual—and awkward, since it must have gotten in the way. Once steamships became popular, paddlewheels either appeared as a pair on each side of a ship—a sidewheeler—or at the rear—a sternwheeler.

The paddles work because of Newton's Third Law of Motion: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. When you climb a ladder, you push down on the rung, but it's immovable, so the equal reaction prevails and you rise a step. When you swim, your hand pushes back in the water, but here the reaction is split; while some of the reaction does push water away behind you, the balance of the reaction pushes you forward. Switch the hand image to a paddle image, particularly one paddle after another on the wheel pushing on the water and you have the paddlewheel on a steamer.

One thing more: what's the opposite of a paddlewheel? A water mill, which is the exact same thing in reverse. In both cases, the wheel and a structure are attached to each other. In the water mill, flowing water in a stream or waterfall passes energy on to the wheel/mill unit. On a steamship, the ship/wheel unit provides its own energy by fuel and steam power, and passes it on to push against the water. It seems that the mill, by receiving energy though the paddlewheel, depends on Newton's "action" side of things, resulting in the "reaction" of moving machinery, where the steamer, by dissipating energy through the paddlewheel to achieve forward motion, depends on Newton's "reaction".

In 1807, Robert Fulton in the US, who had been present at the trials of Symington's ship, established, jointly with his wealthy sponsor, Robert Livingston, the first commercially successful steamboat service anywhere, which was on the Hudson between New York and Albany. The ship was at first called the North River Steamboat after an older name for the lower Hudson, but was later renamed the Clermont, the name it's better known by, after Livingston's Hudson estate, Clermont Manor. A bit later, Henry Bell, like Symington, also in Scotland, introduced the first successful steamboat service in Europe. In 1812, he built his steamboat the Comet, which served Glasgow and the Highlands for a few years.

 I had to think back to whatever European experience I've had with lake-and-river steamboats, and came up with three, all day trips. This does not include the 1874 Juno I took in 2006 overnight on the Göta Canal (2006/8); it's the oldest overnight ship in the world, but is diesel-run. But just two days before that, in Stockholm, I took the 1909 s/s Drottningholm (Photo by Holger.Ellgaard) on Lake Mälaren (Map by Fred Chess) from Stockholm west to Drottningholm Palace, about an hour away. Here's an end view (Photo by Bengt Oberger)—click to see inside. Coming back, though, the boat I happened to catch, though older, had been converted to diesel. See 2006/8, Ctrl-F "s/s Drottningholm" for a paragraph describing it. For those interested, here's a YouTube video (2:41) of the ship leaving the Palace dock on a rather dreary day, but concentrates on the engine room.

Two years later, in Switzerland in 2008, I crossed the full length of the Vierwaldstättersee / Lake Lucerne (Map by Tschubby), from Flüelen to Luzern / Lucerne, for 2¾ hours, on the 1901 lake steamer s/s Uri, which is the name of a canton. Copy and paste both links:

The first link shows the ship, and the second one is a detail of the covered paddlewheel. You can refer to 2008/16, Ctrl-F "HISTORIC STEAMER" (in caps) to see a video of the Uri arriving to pick us up in Flüelen, followed down the page by three videos of its historic steam engines.

There are many large lakes in Switzerland, and after leaving the Vierwaldstättersee in Luzern/Lucerne, I went to Zürich (Swiss German: Züri). There, the very next day, I traveled the Zürichsee / Zürisee / Lake Zürich (Map by Tschubby) the full standard distance from Zürich to Rapperswil and back on the 1909 paddle steamer (click) Stadt Zürich /City of Zürich (Photo by Roland zh), whose sister ship is the 1914 paddle steamerStadt Rapperswil (2008/16, Ctrl-F "1909").

Steamboats on the Mississippi    Following Fulton's success on the Hudson in the US, in 1811 a steady stream of river steamboats started sailing out of Pittsburgh down the Ohio River, connecting to the Lower Mississippi at Cairo, and arriving at New Orleans, which, as we've seen earlier, became perhaps the classic route. The introduction and adoption of the steamboat brought about one of the greatest periods of economic growth in the US as steamboats began to replace barges and flatboats for transporting goods. As we saw with the Kaintucks on the Natchez Trace, they no longer had to break up their flatboats and sell them for lumber after they'd floated downstream since the steamboat was able to go upstream as well, which was the beginning of the end for the Natchez Trace. The steamboat reduced the three-to-four-month trip between Louisville and New Orleans to 25-35 days, beneficial both to passengers and shippers of goods, such as crops.


I suppose it shouldn't be surprising that it was a company organized by the very same Robert Fulton and Robert Livingstone that built the very first steamboat—appropriately named the New Orleans-- to sail from Pittsburgh on the above-mentioned 1811 date the full length of the Ohio-Lower Mississippi system to New Orleans (Map by Kmusser). For the rest of the 19C and early 20C, trade on this river system was dominated by paddlewheel steamboats, with the mid-19C being their golden age. New Orleans boomed, since it was the transshipment site for seagoing vessels. This is, c 1890, the Anchor Line steamboat City of New Orleans (Photo by Absecon 49) at the levee in New Orleans. (It was created as a composite image from two stereoscope images.) Then, as technologies move on, the coming of the railroads started their decline, although they kept up into the 1920s.


The next years saw a stream of new steamships. The second was the Comet in 1813; the third the Vesuvius in 1814, also by Fulton and Livingstone; the fourth was the Enterprise, also launched in 1814, and a dramatic departure from the others, since, as the drawing shows, she featured a single stern paddle wheel, which was apparently better suited for the Mississippi. The Washington in 1816 was the first to have two decks, and therefore the predecessor of the standard design for later boats. She was a sternwheeler, and the upper deck was for passengers, the main deck was for the boiler, and cargo was carried below the main deck. In 1817 she went from New Orleans to Louisville in 25 days, equaling the record of the Enterprise, which was a much smaller boat. In the 1810s there were 20 boats on the river, and by the 1830s there were more than 1200.


Steamboats were made of wood and ranged in length from 12 to 91 m (40 to 300 ft) and in width from 3 to 24 m (10 to 80 ft). They had extremely little draft (water depth needed), typically drawing 0.3 to 1.5 m (1 to 5 ft), and that was when loaded. The upper deck typically had passenger cabins, with parlors and staircases. Often the steamboats had ornate wood trim, velvet, plush chairs, and gilt edging—but of course this was the Victorian period. Engines were near the wheels, so that sidewheelers had engines midships, and sternwheelers had them aft. Steamboats had a short life, typified by that first one, the New Orleans. She hit a snag (such as a dead tree protruding out of the water) in her second year, puncturing her hull, and sank near Baton Rouge. A typical life for a ship was perhaps 3-5 years. In addition to snags, there were collisions, poor maintenance, fires, wear and tear, and boiler explosions. Nevertheless, with better pilots knowing where the sand bars were (think Mark Twain), more powerful engines, and the removal of obstacles in the river, early three-week trip times for the full distance were eventually reduced to four days.


This is a postcard image, before 1899, of an Anchor Line steamboat at the landing in Natchez-Under-the-Hill (Postcard by Absecon 49), and these are two steamboats being loaded with cargo at the landing in Memphis in 1906. This photograph is an excellent period piece. Click to see if you can make out the names of the two ships, and to inspect the passengers and the laborers. It does seem that someone here should be singing "Ol' Man River", but we'll get to that later.


Steamboats were held in great esteem as the wonder of the age. For instance, on the Upper Mississippi, the Steamboat Iowa, shown here in Davenport, Iowa, appears on the Great Seal of the State of Iowa, since it represented speed, power, and progress. On the other hand, when we're on the Upper Mississippi in September, between Cairo and Saint Louis, we'll find where there remains evidence today of severe deforestation of the river floodplain and riverbanks for wood and fuel for steamboat use. The deforestation led to instability of the riverbanks, with even more silt flowing into the river. Crumbling riverbanks meant a spreading floodplain, making the river both shallower and wider, endangering navigation. Boats called snagpullers sometimes cut remaining large trees, making the situation only worse, including flooding.


Perhaps because of the musical Show Boat, we perhaps tend to associate steamships with showboats, which were a form of traveling theater on the Mississippi and Ohio. The first one left Pittsburgh in 1831 and was called the "Floating Theatre", an appropriate name. They performed plays and music at stops along the route. Showboats had declined by the Civil War but began again in 1878, now focusing on melodrama and vaudeville. With the improvement of other transportation and entertainment forms they declined again, so in the early 20C they countered by growing in size and becoming more spectacular. There were several showboats in this period, including the Cotton Blossom. When I first read that I found it startling, since the name of the showboat in the 1927 musical Show Boat actually is Cotton Blossom. We'll talk about that musical shortly, but I always thought the showboat in the musical was fictitious.


But the big surprise for me is finding out that showboats were not steamboats. They weren't boats at all! A showboat was a barge that looked like a long flat-roofed house, and it had no motive power of its own. To move, it was pushed by a tugboat! The reason a showboat had no steam engine in it is because it would have had to have been right in the auditorium where the performances took place!


We need to bring up the name Natchez, since that was perhaps the most popular of steamboat names. In the 19C, there were eight boats with that name, referred to as Natchez I to Natchez VIII.

 There was a very famous steamboat race from New Orleans to St Louis in June 1870 between the Natchez VII (1869) and the Robert E Lee (1866), as depicted in this beautiful period lithograph. (This indicates again, as with the Siege of Vicksburg, how depictions of news events of the day were disseminated in the pre-photography period. While Currier & Ives also depicted this event, I prefer this view.) A description of the two steamboats indicates that the former had a 5,500 cotton bale capacity, while the latter had 5,741, which seems to be a rather unique, yet typical, way of measuring size. The Natchez was the current speed holder, but the Robert E Lee won the race. The distance was 1,857 km (1,154 mi), and it made it in 3 days, 18 hours, and 14 minutes. But it was argued that the captain ensured victory by removing all excess weight by carrying only a few passengers, and by speeding refueling by meeting up with prearranged fuel barges. The Natchez finished in 3 days, 21 hours, and 58 minutes, but had been delayed by fog for six hours, and was filled with passengers. Nevertheless, to this day, no commercial boat has beaten the speed record set by the Robert E Lee in this race.

In 1912, a song was written about this ship (can you think of any other one about a steamboat?) that went to the top of the charts. It was later recorded by many people, notably Al Jolson, but we strive here for original performances. Therefore, we have the version sung by Billy Murray. I'd never heard of him either (sic transit), but I've now learned he was one of the most popular singers in the US in the first decades of the 20C. If you look him up, you'll recognize almost all of the songs he was known for, and I've already got his recording ready for when we get to St Louis for the iconic St Louis song about the fair. But anyway, here's the original 1912 Billy Murray hit recording on YouTube of Waiting for the Robert E Lee.

[I hate to be picky (not really), but why is this levee where they're waiting "in old Alabammy"? Alabama is two states east of the Mississippi. My guess is just that the dialect name is regionally evocative—and also rhymes with "Sammy".]

Finally, one more Natchez was built in the 20C, in 1975, and it can also be referred to as Natchez IX (Photo by Justin Watt), shown here on the East Bank of New Orleans. (In the background are the two Crescent City Connection Bridges, which we'll discuss later when we're in New Orleans.) It's one of the half-dozen American paddlewheelers today that still are actual steamboats. Another is the American Queen, the world's largest operating steamboat, launched in 1995, which we shall board shortly for our ride from Memphis to New Orleans. However, we must give due respect to our elders: on 18 October 2014, the Belle of Louisville, in Louisville KY, was the first Mississippi River-style steamboat to turn 100 years old.


Levees on the Lower Mississippi    But before we actually get on our steamboat, since we've been talking about levees and will continue to be surrounded by them, we should make sure we're all on the same page as to what a levee is. It's a pile o' dirt.


Well, to make that clearer, it's an elongated pile o' dirt, either naturally appearing or man-made, along low, flat banks of rivers or lakes, that serves as a flood-control measure.

 Rather surprisingly, natural levees (Diagram by Julie Sandeen) can form alongside rivers. Follow the diagram to see how sediment can collect on riverbanks after repeated flooding to form a natural levee.

No levee is needed in Natchez, being on a bluff, but they have one across the river in low-lying Vidalia LA. Levees are common on the Lower Mississippi, as this levee map from Cape Girardeau/Cairo to New Orleans shows (click). Start at Cairo, in an area we won't visit until September, until you reach Memphis, which is also on a bluff, with no levee, but where there is one on the other side (the same goes for Vicksburg). Below that, compare the levees on the river with the ones across the Mississippi Delta on the Yazoo. At the bottom, note the levees around the Atchafalaya and south of Baton Rouge, past New Orleans, going down toward the Birdfoot Delta.


The Mississippi levee system is one of the largest in the world, comprising over 5,600 km (3,500 mi) of actual levees running along about 1,000 km (620 mi) of the river. The French name "levée" indicates that it was French settlers in 17C New Orleans who built the first, modest system, and over time, the system was extended by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Their height now averages 7.3 m (24 ft), but some rise to 15 m (50 ft). The system includes some of the longest continuous levees in the world; the one on the levee map extending south from Pine Bluff AR extends for about 610 km (380 mi).


In the US, there are also notable levees along the Sacramento River in California, and, in the case of a lake, there is one around the huge Lake Okeechobee, the huge lake in central Florida. Of course, the seawall in Galveston (2015/4) is also a levee. In Europe, the levee/dike systems are well known in the Netherlands in the delta area of the Rhine, Maas/Meuse, and Scheldt, and the delta area of the Danube also has one. Several other individual rivers also have levees, including the Po, Rhone, Loire, and Vistula.


And then we come to the language aspect here between "dike" (also spelled "dyke") and "levee". They both essentially mean the same thing, but the use of each carries cultural baggage with it. "Dike" is related to Dutch dijk and is possibly derived from it. It's the standard, international word, and can be seen in the related words Deich in German, dique in Spanish and Portuguese, digue in French, even дайка/daika in Russian.

 The Anglo-Saxon form was dic, pronounced in northern England to rhyme with "seek" but in southern England as "ditch" (probably more like "deetch" originally, since the vowel was the same, only the C was different). In any case, this is another example of how we get two different modern words, dike and ditch, from two pronunciations of the same original word. But it makes perfect sense. You have to dig a lengthy ditch to pile up enough earth to make a lengthy dike, and one pronunciation remained to refer to the negative space, a ditch, and the other to the positive space, a dike. And the story gets better yet. Both words are probably related to "dig", which is what you have to do to get both a ditch and a dike!

But with levee, French speakers will recognize the French word lever, "to raise" (as in raising the riverbank) in its past participle levé and in the feminine form levée, probably based on something like rive levée "raised riverbank". French pronunciation of levée would rhyme with "café". But wait. Isn't the French word for what we're talking about digue, as above? Sure it is, and so we come to the delicious cultural baggage of these two words.

 Hold on: the French levée also gave English "levy", pronounced exactly the same as "levee", so that raising a tax is also levying a tax. Might you levy a tax to build a levee? And also don't forget that the basic form lever has radically changed its pronunciation to form English "lever", which raises, too, right?

The word "levee" in this meaning doesn't come from Standard French. It was a word that developed among the French settlers in New Orleans, once these structures were first built there after the city's founding in 1718. The word then spread to American English, most notably in the Deep South, that is, principally along the Lower Mississippi River. Any English speaker discussing what is found in Europe will probably call them dikes, and that includes Americans. But anyone describing what's found along the Mississippi feels the cultural connection to call them levees instead. Can you imagine singing "Waiting for the Robert E Lee" above, and stating out with "Way down on the di-ike . . ."? The word "levee" is quintessential Old New Orleans, and therefore, Old South.


So what do they look like? As said, they're a pile o' dirt, but elongated. The most revealing picture I found is this levee in Sacramento CA (Photo by Indolences), along a rural stretch of the Sacramento River. This is like most stretches encountered along the Mississippi, a path or dirt road along the top, a slope on the water side and one on the land side. However, most we found were less steep than this, and more gradual.


That was a rural levee, and the other pictures I like are all more urban, in or around New Orleans. (All seven of the following photos in the New Orleans area are by Infrogmation.) Copy and paste:


We'll use the map again later, but for now, locate the French Quarter on the east bank, and opposite it, the west bank neighborhoods of Algiers, and further upstream, Gretna. We start in with a levee in Algiers. It's perhaps the most typical, with a dirt road on top and grass on both sides, the settled area on the left and the river on the right. Also in Algiers is another levee, but one with concrete facing on the river side abutting the floodplain area, something that is quite common, for additional protection. In neighboring Gretna we see a levee "in action" as it were. The river has flooded the floodplain on its side of the concrete-faced levee, but Gretna beyond is dry.


Similar is this scene of high water in New Orleans. Water is high on the levee, and is above the street level of the highest elevation of the French Quarter. The tracks of the Riverside streetcar line are in the foreground, and the Crescent City Crossing in the distance.


The famous Jackson Square in the French Quarter originally overlooked the river across Decatur Street, but raising the levee in the 19C blocked much of that view. During the administration of Mayor Moon Landrieu in the 1970s, a park area and walkway was constructed along the river on the levee, and has been named the Moon Walk in his honor. This is the view along the Moon Walk downstream from Dumaine Street (click), also showing the Riverside line with its Dumaine Street Station, and upstream from Dumaine Street (click) toward downtown. Also in this view are the current steamboat Natchez that we talked about, three blocks away at Toulouse Street (one streetcar stop to the Toulouse Street Station), and the Westin Hotel where we'll be staying later in the trip on the 24th floor, a total of seven blocks away. (Its lobby is behind those large windows up on the 11th floor.)


The American Queen    We left off in Memphis having returned from the museum that morning, relaxing in the hotel lobby, then being bussed by the American Queen Steamboat Company to the Beale Street Landing. We've already seen a photograph of a steamboat there, but here's an older picture still of Memphis between 1854 and 1857. While some structures can be seen down at water level, we can also see that Memphis is on a bluff. So how do we get down to water level to board the ship?


Well, while most of the stops we made were at water-level landings (there are no perpendicular piers on the river that I've ever heard of), both Baton Rouge and Memphis had a unique way to come down off the bluff. This is the steamboat access at the Beale Street Landing (All three Photos by Thomas R Machnitzki). There was a roadway somewhere for truck access, but passenger were let off up top and walked down this spiral, which abutted a gangway into the ship. Golf carts were the only vehicles that used the spiral with the pedestrians. This is a somewhat hazy south view of the spiral alongside the American Queen. Note the two black collapsible smokestacks and the two feeler-like landing stages up front that served as gangways at most stops along the river. And this is the north view of the spiral more familiar to us as we boarded. Note the bright red paddlewheel on the American Queen (AQ).


The six-deck AQ was built in 1995 in the image of a classic Mississippi paddle steamer. That paddlewheel is indeed steam powered—I saw it happening in the engine room—but there is also a secondary propulsion meant for emergencies and for tight maneuverability in the form of two Z-drives on either side of the paddlewheel. A Z-drive (Illustration by Tosaka) is a, thruster, a propulsion unit that can rotate 360°, eliminating the need of a rudder. In the illustration, for the thrust to go from D to A, the rotary motion of its driveshaft has to make two right-angle turns, at C and B, resembling the letter Z.


While the Z-drives are supposedly for secondary propulsion, I asked the engineer on duty in the engine room, and he admitted they're probably used 50% of the time. Now the paddlewheel never stops moving when we're underway, so how should that be understood? Other than their help in steering, it would seem that half the forward power comes from them, and half from the paddlewheel. That sounds to me like two boy scouts helping that proverbial little old lady across the road, one on each arm. It's a modern system of propulsion assisting a traditional one. So, thanks, boy scouts, but no one came to see Z-drives! We're traditionalists! We want to see the pistons turning the paddlewheel, as in this 4:39 YouTube video. (You may want to sing "Waiting for the Robert E Lee" as you watch.)


Watching the paddlewheel is as hypnotic as watching a waterfall or waves on a beach. While doing so, think about how a paddle wheel (engine pushing water via the wheel) is the opposite of a water mill (water driving engine via the wheel). Also compare these pistons with those on the Uri in the videos in the cross-referenced posting. In the engine room video, you saw a staircase that leads up one deck to the side of the Engine Room Bar—yes, it's actually called that. Passengers are invited to come down, take a look, and talk to personnel 24 hours a day, which I gladly took advantage of.


The AQ has 222 staterooms for 436 guests and a crew of 160. She's 127 m (418 ft) long and 27 m (89 ft) wide, and is not only the world's largest operating steamboat, she's the largest steamboat ever built. She's a member of the Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.


The draft of the AQ (how deeply she sits in the water) is only 2.6 m (8.5 ft). We had the usual boat drill the first day before we left, and we were jokingly told that, since the river is only 3 meters/yards deep, if the ship sinks, we should just "go upstairs!" It's a cute idea, so I looked into it. It turns out that the Army Corps of Engineers does have to maintain a 3 meter/yard depth across the 122 m (400 ft) width of the river at Beale Street Landing for the barge and ship traffic, but that is by no means the deepest part of the river. The record depths for the Beale Street gage in Memphis is 71.42 m (234.31 ft) as the record high with a record low of 53.01 m (173.91 ft). At that gage the river is very narrow compared with up and downstream widths, so it would include the deepest part of the river. But that 2.6 m draft is very beneficial along the Upper Mississippi, portions of which can be only 2.7 m deep. And anywhere along the river, that small draft allows the AQ to pull up close to shore to dock at landings.


We should take a look at the deck plan of the American Queen, so we can check out the ship:


Increase the size as needed. At Memphis we enter from the spiral right onto the Main Deck at the central lobby, where glasses of sparkling wine are waiting for us. Forward is a lounge, then the main dining room. Aft is the theater's main level. The engine room that we saw on the video is not accessible for us from here, but from the Cabin Deck's Engine Room Bar all the way aft, where the top of the staircase we saw can be seen. Moving forward is the upper level of the theater, the Purser's Lobby where business can be settled, then the Mark Twain Lounge with card room and parlor. To me this lounge is the absolute heart of the ship, especially since the weather in early November is much chillier than expected, and sitting outside is not comfortable, although brisk, sunny walks outside on the decks are just fine, as are walks in the moonlight. The Mark Twain Lounge, which warms the heart by its name alone, is all dark wood and comfortable easy chairs and large tables. People play cards, and do jigsaw puzzles. I use it regularly for writing on the laptop for the website, for those times I want to do so instead of in the cabin.


While there are some cabins on the previous deck, most of them are on the three decks above it, starting with the Texas Deck. Other than a rather useless tiny theater, the point of interest on this deck is the Front Porch Café. It's open 24 hours, for all meals and snacks. There's a full self-serve buffet, an ice cream machine, soft drink machine, and popcorn maker. Forward of the café there's a covered outdoor seating area, but it was too cold to ever go out there to eat, with one exception. It was announced that for one warm day there would be a cookout barbecue on that covered area, and a couple of grills were set up as though it were a picnic, with ribs, hot dogs, hamburgers, very different fare from the Café and main dining room. A Dixieland band played, including "Bill Bailey", "Up a Lazy River" (very appropriate, although we were going downriver), "Ain't Misbehavin'", "When the Saints go Marchin' In". Very nice atmosphere.


Since we always delve into odd names, the reason I've found out for the name of this deck is a lot of fun. Since the 1816 Washington above, steamboats always had had two decks, but they typically started adding a third deck in the mid-19C, just around the time Texas became a state (2015/2). As an indication of the great impression that was made in those years when Texas, an independent country, was added to the main body of the US, the third deck was named, and from then on has been called, the Texas Deck!


Other than for promenading, there's not much on the Observation Deck, Promenade Deck, or Sun Deck that drew me with the stark exception of the steam calliope. The small console is located on the outside center of the River Grill Bar, and the set of steam whistles is on the roof of the bar, a deck above. Great fun! More later.


To summarize, the shipboard locations where I could be found on a regular basis outside my cabin (other than promenades on deck or a visit to the engine room) were four: the Front Porch Café for breakfast and lunch, the Dining Room for dinner only, the Mark Twain Lounge as often as possible. and the steam calliope whenever it was playing, which was usually for about ten minutes when leaving a port.


Now as to cabins. International ships can hire cheap labor, often from the Philippines or Eastern Europe, which is what is most often found today on crossings and cruises. American ships are required to hire an American staff and pay American wages, which makes the trip pricier for the passenger. Fortunately, the AQ has single cabins, so the bugagoo single supplement for solo travelers wasn't a problem. You will find four single outside cabins in light brown on the Texas Deck, but I rejected them. Look instead for the eight single inside cabins in gray on the Observation Deck. I was in 470. It was small and cozy. A single bed, writing desk, shower, sink and toilet. It suited my needs perfectly, and I was quite comfortable.


I rejected the pricier outside singles for two reasons. I've been on enough outside cabins on ships, and can see the view from elsewhere on the ship. But in addition, there's one other thing I do not like. Look all around the deck plan for double and single cabins with open doors. These are considered to have outside "verandas", with a table and couple of chairs. But these are not the private balconies that many ships have. These "verandas" are public, and are part of the deck, with people constantly passing by and looking into your room if the large doors are open. Because it was chilly, the doors were usually closed when you passed, but in warm weather, with these doors open, there would be no privacy at all. I didn't like the idea, and still don't.


Which brings us to September. Only once the voyage started did I consider seeing the Upper Mississippi the following year, late this September. But given the AQ prices, I considered driving all the way, from Memphis to Saint Paul. But then I was made an "offer I couldn't refuse". It's common on ships to have a sales rep selling future voyages. I did speak to him, but really wasn't interested. Then, towards the end of the voyage, a flyer came out that passengers rebooking would get a discount of $1500 a couple, and $750 single. I stopped by, but said thanks, but no thanks. Then he said he could sweeten the deal. First he could give me the full $1500 couples discount, just for myself. OK, that's a nice start. Now what? Then he said while applying that discount to the rate for the cheapest cabin, the single inside that I was in at the time, he'd give me an upgrade to single use of a double cabin. Well, that sounded better, so I walked around the ship trying to find something I'd be happy with, and for reasons explained, none of the veranda cabins suited me. And then I struck gold. I was walking on the Cabin Deck and peeked into one of the Bay Window rooms (in dark green) that was being cleaned. It was ideal--a bay window gives a great three-way view, and the cabin is totally private and protected from any adverse weather. In September I'll have cabin 204, just steps away from the Mark Twain Lounge. It was indeed an offer I couldn't refuse! So the September trip will be largely AQ and therefore much less driving.


Let's look at another picture of the American Queen (Photo by Thegreenj), located here at the Eads Bridge in Saint Louis. Start at the paddlewheel, which you can now see is really two wheels, side-by-side, to make for easier replacement when necessary. You may recall in the last posting that the framework of the wheels we saw left on the USS Cairo also showed two wheels. And the wheels are always made of wood so that parts can break away in an emergency. Click to the left of the flag to see the gold-colored whistles of the steam calliope along the railing on the uppermost deck. Under the round roof below it is the River Grill, where the calliope console is located. It's small, I think only about three octaves wide. Look along the side of the ship to note how all those verandas are actually public walkways for people promenading around the deck. The blue area is where the bay window cabins are. It's hard to make them out here, although you can see the white supports under the bay windows. Further forward, you can see the wheelhouse and big black smokestacks at full height. The flared tops are today just decorative, but originally were meant to catch and disperse cinders. The smokestacks, which are today more picturesque than practical, when passing under low bridges can be folded down forward into little white cradles that look like neck rests. The total height of the erect smokestacks above the hull is 30 m (98 ft), and the top 12 m (40 ft) fold down. Since the fuel system produces little smoke, the low level of the folded stacks works just fine. The wheelhouse sinks down, too, like on the Kawartha Voyager on the Rideau Canal.


In the foreground, you can see the concrete levee at the landing, and also can barely see about half of the landing stage reaching out to it. This is the most usual way (barring those spirals!) to board and leave the ship. Now copy and paste:


Here's an absolutely amazing front view (click), nose-to-nose with the AQ! It's smokestacks are down, resting in their cradles (I've watched them going down), and the wheelhouse is down (which I've never seen). But most interesting is the view of the two landing stages hanging from their booms. As the blue archway above the staircase may indicate, this is really the front door of the ship, not those side entrances used with the spirals. At most landings, the appropriate stage is swung onto the concrete levee, as in the previous picture, and you just walk off and on again later. But it's always the language part that intrigues. Why are they called stages and not gangways?


Well, THAT's something that indeed goes back to the showboats, and it's another great story. When a showboat would come to town and dock, the townspeople would come out to see what's up. The landing stage would be lowered, and singers, dancers, and actors would come down and stand along the landing stage and give a bit of a preview of what that night's show would be about, hoping the townspeople would buy tickets and come. Knowing that bit of history, I found it absolutely thrilling to walk down a "stage" on arrival and realize that its name is a reference to an actual theatrical stage.


The AQ follows an old tradition of naming as well as numbering their staterooms. Names were originally just of states, but there aren't enough states, so they now use river towns, presidents, and the like. The name on my 470 was some forgettable river town. Then they made a claim which interested me, but which made me dubious at the same time. The claim was that, because river boats used state names for their rooms, cabins began to be called staterooms. Something didn't seem perfectly right there, so I dug into the matter. Well, it's partially right. Originally, on the oceans, superior cabins, including the Captain's cabin, being upscale, were called stately rooms, and thus staterooms. Only then did the custom of US river boats spread to have a secondary influence on the stately rooms. Today, the word "stateroom" can be used internationally for cabins, but the meaning has widened—any cabin, not only the stately ones, can be called a stateroom. And it doesn't have to have a state's name on it, either!


I've mentioned in the past that I've totally lost interest in using the formal dining room for shipboard breakfasts or lunches. It takes far too much time, waiting in the lobby for the mealtime to start, then just sitting waiting to be served. It serves no earthly purpose to my way of thinking other than for those who like to be pampered. Dinner time has traditionally been different for me, though,, since a sit-down, served meal is nice, assuming you meet some interesting dinner partners—that's the rub. Still, on a number of ships, I found no need for that, either, including the Deutschland and the Regatta (on the Amazon River), where the alternate, self-serve venues were extremely enjoyable.


So how about on the AQ? Breakfast and lunch (and snacks, unfortunately) were outstanding in the Front Porch Café, which was open all day, and one serves oneself immediately on arrival. And a visit to the ice-cream machine was also nice.. But otherwise, I'd found great dining companions for dinner, and so went to the sit-down dinner every night. There were five of us, a quite elderly couple, me, and a middle-aged couple from England who were great fun. He was an ex-cop, and there was constant repartee between him and me.


But one evening was a bit odd. Before the formal dinner time, I'd stopped by the Café "just for a bite of this and that", and before I knew it, I'd had a complete dinner, that's how good it was. What to do about my social evening then? Well, I went to the dining room, ordered a cup of tea and nothing else, and had a pleasant evening of more repartee. By the way, wine is included with dinner at both locations.


There's another service of interest. At each town we stopped at, there are free hop-on-hop-off (HOHO) bus tours. At first I wondered where the buses came from, then realized that they were the same buses that brought us to the ship in Memphis, and they just follow the ship and meet us at each stop. The drivers put up signs at the designated stops in town, passengers are issued maps with the numbers, and they can go to as many or as few as they like, all day, then catch the next bus. In addition, there are special tours for a fee.


I had a certain pleasant experience on the AQ for the second time in my life. I know I speak German quite well, but don't know how often I actually fool native speakers. Often I suspect I do, but have no indication, even after I say where I come from. Well, there are now two instances where I have proof. When I was on the Coronia sailing around South America, I was speaking German to a German lady while we standing at the railing off the Chilean coast. Then she floored me by casually asking "Und wann sind Sie ausgewandert?" / "And when did you emigrate?" And now on the AQ, I was told that there was a German man who had been on board for something like six consecutive trips, up and down the rivers, he liked it so much. When talking to him, he asked me "Wie lange sind Sie schon in Amerika?" / How long have you been in America?" I really must say that unwitting, unintentional compliments like this, totally unsolicited, are really meaningful and pleasant.


On 2013/7 I listed Fifty Voyages. I later mentioned that the trip on the Rideau Canal was my 51st voyage. I can now say that this on the American Queen is the 52nd—and September awaits (Complete, updated list at 2013/7). As for how many of the 52 are river trips, I have a problem. I want to say that this is my third river trip (and September the fourth), after sailing on the Mosel/Moselle in Germany and the Columbia in Oregon/Washington. That's because these are "normal" rivers, even the Mississippi. To be technically precise, maybe the Amazon trip should be included, but I'm loath to do so. Firstly, the Amazon is an extraordinarily wide, sea-like river, and not a "normal" one. Secondly, that trip also included two runs through the Caribbean, so I'll won't count that as a river trip for these special circumstances. Incidentally, strolling around the decks of the AQ on the Mississippi, one realizes how surprisingly near both shores are. On the Amazon, if you see one shore, you rarely can see the opposite one. And another Mississippi reflection is the time I looked down on a sandbar and saw, idyllically, a flock of pelicans sunning themselves. You can tell why the pelican is the state bird of Louisiana.


We have two YouTube videos of the AQ. Take a look at this 2:23 video, and try to catch the following:

0:20 – the Mark Twain Lounge, then a Bay Window cabin
0:53 – the covered deck outside the Café where the cookout was held
1:04 – an interior double—mine was an interior single, so smaller

This 4:20 video is a very good pictorial tour:

0:04 – the landing stages
0:57 – the viewing area surrounded by calliope steam whistles, followed by the red keyboard at the bar
3:57 – Cabin 204, named the James Madison, a Bay Window Cabin

I was pleased to find a good view of a Bay Window Cabin, and then was shocked—shocked!—when I realized that 204 is the very cabin I'll have in September. There's a 1 in 222 chance that that's the cabin they would have put in the video.


Calliope    The most fun thing on the ship proper is the genuine steam calliope, and it deserves its own section here. But whenever people discuss this musical instrument, an argument ensues on how to pronounce it, with three syllables or four. The short version rhymes "calliope" with "cantaloupe", or "can't elope". (Ugh!) Try saying it that way and then bite your tongue. I'm of the four-syllable school that says "I pee" when saying kal-I-o-pee. To me it's clear. Four cannot be beat.


I can explain the problem. In Greek mythology, Calliope was the muse of epic poetry. Her name means "beautifully voiced", and the English pronunciation of her name is unequivocally four-syllable. (The Greek version, spelled Καλλιόπηis stressed on the O--just look at the written stress mark on the written O—so it's pronounced But let's not really go there.) When the instrument was named after the muse, I'm sure it started out with the four-syllable version, but then the spelling led some people to give it a three-syllable version. Since that pronunciation is not rare, it has to be accepted as a variant. But that doesn't mean we have to use it.


A calliope is simply a row of whistles, most often 32, connected to a keyboard, in the same pattern as organ pipes are connected to a keyboard, each whistle yielding a different pitch. There is no way to vary the tone or loudness. What you see is what you get. The whistles are very loud, and can be heard for miles, so don't try playing one in your living room. They are the same as a ship's whistle or a locomotive's whistle, and therefore just slightly crude among instruments. Don't think Stradivarius here. But are they ever fun. The only authentic ones use steam, of course, but since steam isn't always available nowadays, compressed air is sometimes used. Crude or not, that seems to me like comparing using fine china to using plastic plates. The result is similar, but is it right?


At the time steam whistles were invented, because of their loudness, it was thought that they could be used to replace church bells. When they were developed into calliopes, PT Barnum caught wind of them, and started using them in the circus, and also in carrousels. Finally, they were adopted by steamboats, which is really only where they remain today. Few steamboats as there are, each one has a steam calliope. Anything else would be sacrilege.


They are difficult to keep tuned, particularly in the upper register, since the temperature of the steam makes a difference. But a few off-pitch notes are almost a trademark of the calliope. The AQ had two different lounge performers who'd play the calliope when leaving port. The woman explained to me that she always starts out each time by doing a full scale, to blow out residual water from the pipes! Don't ya love it?


We'll now have a calliope concert. I have four calliope videos on YouTube, all on the AQ. Sample as you wish.

"Beautiful Ohio" 2:14; just shows calliope whistles

"Avalon" 1:28; shows ship, but not calliope

Medley 4:54; shows whistles and player below at console (not the best musician, but be kind); it's best to start with "Dixie" at 2:00; "Battle Hymn of the Republic (Glory, Glory, Hallelujah) at 2:45; "It's a Grand Old Flag" at 3:29; "God Bless America" at 3:57

AQ Departing Natchez, northbound; 1:38; "Toot-Toot Tootsie" at 0:31

On the last calliope concert I heard on the AQ this trip they played "Dixie", "Battle Hymn of the Republic" (Glory, Glory, Hallelujah), "Five-Foot-Two, Eyes of Blue"; the Charleston; "Ol' Man River"; "Mississippi Mud"; "Waiting for the Robert E Lee". Couldn't have been better.


Steamboating, Memphis to New Orleans    Well, that was the ship, now for the trip. Copy and paste the link for this map showing our route (click):


Despite the map, no stop in Arkansas was involved in this trip. When we leave Memphis, and therefore Tennessee, we don't stop for a day. When on an oceangoing cruise, a day without stops is called a day "at sea". But on the river, the AQ Steamboating Company likes to call a no-stop day a day "steamboating", a turn of phrase I like. I made a note that I took a walk on the deck this day in brisk, sunny weather, but you did want to zip up your jacket in early November.


I have to make a comment on my personal feeling about stops. I feel you take a boat for the boat's sake, which is why I prefer a transatlantic crossing—no stops. I'd say an ideal stop is a minor one, one you can see for a while, then get back on board. Doing a hop-on-hop-off (HOHO) bus tour, plus a paid tour, and trying to get to meals, starts becoming work, not pleasure. Stops that offer a great deal to do are too much for me.


Now this pre-voyage trip involved driving to Natchez and Vicksburg, and then the cruise was an add-on. That's perfect. Either of those cities have too much that interests me to go running around trying to see it on a quick stop by a ship. Therefore, it was ideal that I'd seen them both already, and also had visited Plantation Alley in 2008. Knowing I'd seen the three already and didn't have to run around trying to do so this time made this voyage so pleasant for me. The smaller stops required less on-shore time, and I enjoyed them as-is.


Our first stop was Vicksburg, and I did nothing. I'd been there by car just three days earlier, and was fully satisfied. Unfortunately, I missed the ship making a left turn off the river onto the Yazoo Diversion Canal, because that happened early in the morning (and I stupidly neglected to check out our return into the river later on), but we docked at the landing on the Canal below Vicksburg, and I did get off. I did walk up the concrete levee and through an opening in a flood wall, and the city-facing side of the wall was decorated with a string of murals such as this one (Photo by Heironymous Rowe) in an art park. We were at the foot of Clay Street, the one whose other end went all the way out to the Battlefield Park. I didn't see the need to do even the HOHO, although I was very interested in the fact that one of the numbered stops on the HOHO was at Anchuca mansion, where I'd stayed! You can't experience something like that on a quick day's stop. There was a paid tour to the battlefield, but I'm sure it wouldn't have gone as far as a place like the Kentucky Memorial, and am positive it wouldn't have crossed the river to see Grant's Canal.


The next day we stopped in Natchez, and as we now know, we were actually in Natchez-Under-the-Hill where we'd been just six days earlier. It's fun coming home! Again, I stepped off the boat for a little while, and didn't do the HOHO, or buy a tour to the mansions on the edge of town. Anyway, that was the day with the barbecue and Dixieland, which would have drawn away from the town tour. It was great not being pressed for time.


Show Boat Natchez-Under-the-Hill is the perfect place to talk about the 1927 Kern-Hammerstein musical Show Boat, referred to several times already. While the show's second act takes place elsewhere, including Chicago, the first act takes place right here where we're docked, in Natchez in 1887. It was the first serious musical, and it changed the direction of the musical from the frilly revues that had been popular at the time to more serious fare with serious themes, in this case including racism, marital strife, and alcoholism. When it opened, the quality of the show was recognized immediately. There were no Tony Awards in 1927, or at the time of the 1932 revival. But when it was revived on Broadway in 1994-5, it won the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical. We saw that revival, and saw it a second time when Beverly's mother came to visit.


Above is the original 1927 sheet music for Ol' Man River, the most famous musical number of the show, sung by the stevedore Joe and the chorus. It contrasts the hardships of the African-American stevedores with the endless, uncaring river. While Paul Robeson "owned" the original, we have the YouTube recording (3:37) of the 1994-5 Broadway Revival I saw. This song is unusual as a bass solo, sung here by Michael Bell, and while you listen, remember it takes place here where we're docked, and that, as I recently found out, the Cotton Blossom had been a real showboat. Also remember that it was in the 1920s that the steamboat age came to an end. After you listen to this, do Ctrl-F "1906" to be directed above to that 1906 photo of black stevedores in Memphis, and contemplate art following life.


And we can't leave out the second most famous song from the show, sung in a blues tempo, and which also has a racial background. Julie is the (secretly) biracial leading lady on the show boat, who is "passing" for white and is married to a white man, which could cause great trouble in the Old South. Julie (Lonette McKee) sings the song to the young Magnolia (Rebecca Luker), the Cap'n Andy's daughter. Queenie (Gretha Boston), the black cook, says that that song is only known by black people, and Julie covers by saying her nanny taught it to her. Joe (Michael Bell, above), Queenie's husband, joins them, and all four, plus the black chorus, perform a song-and-dance to the number. This video is from the same revival, but in a TV concert version in front of an orchestra on PBS's Great Performances. Listen to Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man of Mine (4:11).


Saint Francisville    The next stop was the small town of Saint Francisville LA (see route map). I'd passed right through it by car on the way to Natchez, but knew I'd be seeing it now. It was small enough to make the ideal stop. The landing stage set down on the concrete levee, and we walked up the slope to where the HOHO bus was waiting. This time I took it, but not to get off, just for the ride straight through, which took about a half hour, because the map showed me there was really little to hop off for. We made eight stops, a church here, a village street there, and returned to the boat. It was a nice taste.


In the afternoon I took the only paid tour I'd signed up for, to two historic plantation houses, but each unique in its own way. Crossing over Route 61, we first went to the 1835 Rosedown Plantation (click to inspect detail) (Photo by Brandonrush), seen here down its 200 m (660 ft) oak tree allée. These allées were once very popular, and actually constitute the name of a famous plantation house, Oak Alley. Rosedown is a restored Greek revival, with a large formal garden. It's owned by the State of Louisiana, and is run by the parks department. The director, in a period gown, gave us the tour through the house. All items are original and placed exactly where they were in the antebellum period, including Aubusson carpets, Baccarat-crystal chandeliers, Dufour wallpaper, and a needlepoint screen stitched by Martha Washington.


Afterward, we were invited to the gift shop for coffee and freshly-baked cookies, which was a pleasant, homey development. It was here where I, once again looking for local color, spoke to our black bus driver, wondering where he was from. Well, wrong again. He was the guy I mentioned after the Canada trip that was from New Jersey, from Newark's Ironbound.


We then went up Route 61 a short distance to Catalpa Plantation, which also has a long history, although the current Victorian building dates from 1885. It, too, has gardens, and an oak allée. What was very special about this house was that it's still lived in. We were given a tour by the lady who's the current owner, and her mother had a long history of giving tours before her, so there was even more of a homey touch. And she insisted on doing as her mother before her had always done—at the end of the tour, there was a glass of sherry for all.


Baton Rouge    Local Native Americans had once set up a red stick to mark a hunting boundary. When it was spotted during a French exploration in 1699, they referred to that bâton rouge / red stick they saw, and that eventually became the name of the settlement. And so, our next stop was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana's capital, a city that has never really impressed me, largely based on its Huey Long history. I did decide to do my second and final HOHO, but as we got off, we had the only light drizzle of the trip. Baton Rouge was the other place that had a spiral to walk up to get to the top of the bluffs, where our bus was waiting for us. We went around the half-dozen stops and that was sufficient for me.


We passed the Old Governor's Mansion, which has a Huey Long story to go along with it. If you're really interested, look it up. We passed the Old Capitol Building (Photo by Farragutful), which I found impressive, since the Gothic Revival style is a rarity for government buildings in the US. But then we passed the rather unique new State Capitol Building (Photo by Chrismiceli). It's unique firstly because of its height; at 34 stories, or 137 m (450 ft), it's the tallest state capitol in the US. Having been built in 1932, it's also unusual because of its Art Deco style (Photo by Maha). I also liked this building, even though it's thought of as Huey Long's Monument, due to his influence in getting it built. Oh, well.


Take a final look at our river map. Before New Orleans, it shows two houses in Plantation Alley, the famous Oak Alley and Houmas House. Our stop there was at Nottoway (not shown) across the river and to the west of Houmas House. You can discard this map now.


Plantation Alley    Plantation Alley (also called River Road, which is less explanatory) has that nickname because of the large number and concentration of fine plantation houses to be found there, from the elegant (Oak Alley, Nottoway) to the modest (Laura), and, as in Vicksburg and Natchez, I was glad that I'd already had adequate history there. Copy and paste these three links:


Look at Plantation Alley in the first map. You can see how close it is to both Baton Rouge and New Orleans. As described in 2008/4, over two days, I visited seven houses, (1) Destrehan, (4) Oak Alley, (3) Laura, and (5) Nottoway, where I stayed overnight. The next day I went to (2) San Francisco and (6) Houmas House. Now find Donaldsonville and the road to Napoleonville, and move to the second map. Those towns are on Bayou Lafourche, and so is my seventh house, Madewood where I spent my second overnight. The jumping back and forth was to be able to fit into tour times, and judging from these maps, which I hadn't seen at the time, I seemed to have covered the principal houses.


Now, to look at history, on the first map, find Houmas Point (not named) the river bend opposite (6) Houmas House, and Vacherie, the town where (3) Laura is located. Now go to the third map. This map dates from 1858, just three years before the Civil War, and it shows the number of plantations along the river. The properties seem to bristle like hairs from the river as each extends inland. To orient yourself, now (click) find Houmas Point at the top, and Vacherie Road on the bottom, a bit to the left. I've seen similar maps like this going all along the Lower Mississippi.


Well, I was surprised when I found out that our last stop before New Orleans would be at (5) Nottoway, back on the first map. It was our first and only stop on the west bank, and our only stop not in an urban area, but at a private house. And I'd actually lived there (for one night)! There were paid-for tours to a couple of other houses, one being to gorgeous Oak Alley (Photo by Emily Richardson)—you can see where it gets its name. When I had been there, after touring the house, I just HAD to walk the length of the allée of oaks (an upscale French word [a.LÉ], used in English, which English speakers like to shift to downscale "alley"--but it still works). But at the end of the allée is River Road, and no river view because of the levée. You have to walk across the road, up the grassy slope to the top, and only then do you see the river. But I digress.


The AQ docked at the river landing at beautiful Nottoway, where it was going to stay the whole day—no HOHO was needed here. From the landing and boat, you couldn't see Nottoway--the levee, of course. So down the stage onto the landing, and up the grassy slope of the levee to the top, which had a path along it lengthwise. But from its height, you could see down the slope in front of you, across quiet River Road, past the low fence, and there it was, the Greek-Revival and Italianate Nottoway (Photo by Bogdan Oporowski). This is the North Front, which I prefer, and this is the Main Front (Photo by Matt Howry). There are two staircases, the left for the ladies, the right for the gentlemen, who weren't to be able to see the ladies' ankles as they climbed.


Like so many of these buildings, it was built in 1859, just before the Civil War, but the uniqueness here is that it's the largest extant antebellum plantation house in the South, with 4,900 sq m (53,000 sq ft) of floor space. When the Civil War broke out, the owner did not support secession, but did eventually support the Confederacy, and he sent his sons to war, his eldest never returning from the Battle of Vicksburg. As the war approached, he went to Texas to grow cotton, leaving his wife and younger children at Nottoway, hoping their presence would save it from destruction. Both sides occupied Nottoway, and there were losses, but no damage came to the house.


Entering the grounds, there were women in period dress ready to give the tours. When I'd stayed there in 2008, I purposely arrived at the end of the tour day, so I could go to my room, so I gave myself a tour, along with other guests. It was extremely odd for the group to be left alone in the building without hotel staff visible, but it gave a unique feeling of actually living there. I've also now found out that there was a restoration in the summer of 2008, just months after I'd been there. I'll show just one room, the most famous, the semicircular White Ballroom (Photo by Kermit K. Murray). I asked the guide if we'd get to see the room upstairs I'd stayed in, Cornelia's room, # 1, but that didn't work out. Still, it was a little like coming home.


There was a language thing I caught, and maybe others didn't. Most of us usually try, particularly in more formal occasions, to suppress regionalisms. I know I avoid R-dropping New Yawkisms like requesting "faw cods" when I want four cards. In the South, and particularly among black speakers, a perfectly nawmal, er, normal shift is to pronounce words that rhyme with "oar" so that they rhyme instead with "oh!" For instance, you go to the sto', sit on the flo', want some mo', count to fo'—and don't forget to call yo' mama! In at least one situation, this has become formalized: if you want a submarine sandwich in Louisiana, do not ask for a Poor Boy, which it is what it's called, because you may or may not be understood. In this region, go get yourself a Po' Boy for lunch, and it's also actually spelled that way. Anyway, our guide was a black college student, and spoke a fine, educated English. But at one point, she let up on her guard and pointed out something "over by the do' . . . er, by the door." It was sweet, but it's possible no one else took any notice.


That night, the last onboard the AQ, we moved very slowly toward New Orleans, since it was so close. That included passing an industrial area that seemed to be oil refineries. It was a change, since we hadn't seen any real industry on the trip. And early the next morning, we docked in New Orleans.

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