Childhood Moments on the Bob-Lo Boat

We grew up on the St. Claire, Boblo boat. Our father, Don Kipp was the leader of the band, saxophone player and drummer. Every summer, as far back as my sister and I can remember we sailed up and down the Detroit River on that boat, every nook and cranny being our playground.

Each cruise began with the band playing "Anchors Away!" up on the fore deck above the dance floor on the port side. Everyone waved to beloved Captain Bob-Lo as he danced from the dock below. The deafening sound of the horn blasted while the thick, heavy ropes were untied and thrown to shore as the beautiful boat slowly pulled away from shore.

As very young girls, Captain Yonkers made my sister and I feel so special by letting us climb those forbidden steps up to the very top of the wheel house. Our memories have faded a bit, but we can still remember napping in the Pursers office a few times and when the weather was stormy, we can still remember the smell of those heavy canvas sheets rolled down from the ceiling to keep the decks dry.

We learned to dance on the Bob-Lo Boat. The Hokey Pokey, Mexican Hat Dance, Cha-Cha and The Swing wore us out so we'd take a break and visit our most favorite spot, the Souvenir Counter. How many Bob-Lo sailor hats did we have? Those little telescopes that held a picture of Bob-Lo island were one of my sisters favorites and don't forget the doll covered in pink feathers hanging on elastic string from a stick or the mounds of penny candy!

The band members, Joe Vitale, Art Gilbo and dad were always laughing and kibitzing about something while they played. Dad sometimes sang to our mother and always played their favorite song, Misty. We still remember the words to so many of those tunes; Just a Song at Twilight and I don't know why I love you like I do are favorites, and I Dream about Linda made my sister Linda smile. Our memories of all being together are very happy ones.

The island itself was a magical place. We rode the Wild Mouse, Bumper Cars, Tilt a Whirl, Caterpillar and Train over and over until we were either sick or dizzy. Dad wasn't able to spend much time with us on the island as he was working and had other runs back to Detroit, so the times we shared were rare and precious indeed.

Every cruise ended with the song Sentimental Journey, and to this day I always feel a little sad when I hear it. Tired after such a long night, we'd be carried to the car where all the way home we'd dream happy dreams about dancing, the island and the happiness we felt while we were there.

June 2007 Lin Buckindail lives in Hamstead, North Carolina and her sister Jan Birberick, in Tampa Florida.
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