My memories of working on the Ste. Claire in the early  nineteen forties by Don Ried.
I guess to start of with my mother died the day after I was born and her parents adopted me.

So in my stories about the old Ste Claire when ever I speak of my "Dad", he was really my grand father. Dan Reid, Chief Engineer on the Ste Claire.

I remember back in the late 1930's when my dad was Chief Engineer on the Ste Claire my mom and I would go over to Detroit (as we lived in Windsor at the time) and go aboard the Ste Claire for a ride down and back to Bob-Lo Island.

Dan Reid - My Father


My Father License

I could have cheated and said that this was my license, but it was my Dadís.
When the whole family would go, my dad would go ashore and talk to Mr. Parks who was the superintendent of the Island at that time. He would give my dad a pass for all of us kids to go on the rides for free. I remember the best ride in those days was the Bumper Cars. I also enjoyed the old Roller Skating ring where you could rent skates.

There were also times that I would take my bathing suit and when we got to Bob-lo, I would go into my dad's state room and change into my bathing suit and then go out on the doc and at the east side of the dock there was a diving board and I would dive off the dock into the water. I had to be careful as there was always a very strong current that flowed out into Lake Erie. But it was fun diving into the river and swimming back to the dock, climbing up the wood ladder and dive back into the water again.

On Island 1939

This is me on the dock about 1939. In the back ground you can see the little launch that was used to bring employees over from Amherst burg, Ontario. .

1942 on Island

Here I am again about 1942.

When it was my dad's time to go on watch in the engine room, my mom and I would go up on the dance deck and sit and watch the people dancing. I can't remember the band leaders name but I do remember him playing the violin which was his main instrument. There was only five guys in the band. The leader, piano player, a trumpet player, a drummer and a base fiddle player.

Since my dad was the Chief Engineer on the boat and the head Stewart, Johnny Dietrick was his friend, we got all the Vernor's Ginger ale and popcorn free.

In the early 40's I used to work behind the counter in the concession stand. During that period of time, I also worked on board the SS. South America which was leased by the Bob-lo Excursion Company for one season. The most exciting thing while working on the South America was on our return to Toledo from a moonlight cruise in Lake Erie, while turning to get at the dock, the Captain gave the signal to the engine room to go full astern. Well the engineer when full ahead. This pushed the ship some 25 feet into the dock head on at about a 30 degree angle. It took most of the night to get the passengers off the ship. Small yachts came along side and they put planks from one yacht to the other and one passenger at a time got off the ship. It took three tugs to pull us off that dock. We steamed to Detroit and found that only one bow plate had come loose. The South America had a very sharp bow so no other damage was done.

I did that for one summer then went and applies and got my Ordinary Seaman papers.

I worked as a deckhand for one season and then took the examination for Able Body Seaman and went on as a Lookout, up on the bridge. This also made me one of the coxswains on one of the lifeboats when we had lifeboat drills.

Ordinary Certificate

Ordinary Seaman Document

I studied and applied for an Oiler, Fireman and water tender license. When I went to take the exam, the Coast Guard officer gave me the test and he also interviewed me after the written test. When I sat down next to his desk, he pointed to a metal object that was sitting on top of some papers and asked me what it was. I said it was a paper weight. He said, now don't get smart, what is it. I answered with pride that it was a fuseable plug that is in the top of the combustion chamber in Scotch Marine Boilers. These plugs would blow if the water got too low in the water tubes and when they would blow, steam would go into the fire box of the boiler and put out the fire to prevent the boiler from blowing up. He looked at me and then signed my license.

Engineer Cert

Engineer Certificate
Endorsement for Oiler and Fireman on reverse side.

Working as an oiler, my watch was from 4 a.m. till 8 a.m.and from 4 p.m. till 8 p.m., seven days a week for the whole season.

During my time off in the evening and after I had shaved and showered and got all decked out in my uniform, I would go up on the dance deck and had a great time asking different girls to dance. I have to admit with pride that I was a great Jitterbug dancer.

So I had no problem with getting a lot of girl friends.
I could get passes for the girls to come back on board to take the moonlight cruises. However, one night it all caught up on me.

It turned out that I had a girl friend on each deck. The main deck back by the concession stand, one on the dance deck, one on the beer deck outboard of the drinking area and one on the top deck. I kept busy running from one deck to another and then excusing myself as there was a problem in the engine room and they needed my help. So I would leave that deck and run to the next. After some time I decided not to take any of them home. So I had a friend go to each one and explain that I had to stay aboard to help with the problem they had in the engine room. From then on I spread out my dates so that this wouldn't happen again.

One of the jobs I had when we docked at Detroit, was to go out on the dock and bring the fresh water hose on board and attach it to the pipe that went down in the engine room and into the shaft alley where the fresh water tank was installed. I turned on the water and then would go back to the engine room and would stand at the top of the ladder and lean on the entrance gate to go down into the engine room. I past the time talking to other crew members and when passengers would come aboard, I would start flirting this the girls. Every once in awhile, I would remember that the fresh water was still being poured into the fresh water tank. I would slide down the ladder, by grabbing onto the railing, and didnít put my feet down till I reached the bottom of the ladder. I looked into the shaft alley and it was getting flooded with water coming out of the top of the tank. The first thing I did was turn on the siphon and then ran back up the ladder, ran as fast as I could to go out on the dock and turn the water hose off. I think the Company would have been happy that I didnít sink the Ste Claire right there at the dock. Those were really good years, and I will always remember them for the rest of my life.

It was also during this period that I met my first wife Betty.

I enlisted in the US Navy and that was almost the end of my time working on the Ste. Claire.

After I was discharged from the US Navy on a disability, I did go back to Detroit and worked on the Ste Claire for only about three months getting her ready for the season. However, my wife said she didnít want me to work on her for the season so I quit my job and that ended my life working on the old girl

Thumbs Up

About four years ago I was in Detroit and I had heard that the Ste Claire was tied up at a coal dock in Toledo. So a friend of mine and I drove to Toledo and after some extensive research we finally found her at that Coal Dock.

It was raining and when I seen her, I started to cry as she looked so ugly there at the dock with rust lines on the hull, canvas tarps covering most of the decks on the outside. I pulled over and just stared at her. I closed my eyes and believe it or not, I could hear the orchestra playing on the dance deck.

We sat there for about an hour and then I looked at her again and said to myself, ď We had some good times, didnít we old girl?Ē

After that, I never thought I would see her again. But again last spring I was in Detroit visiting my sister and we found out that the Ste. Claire was back in Ecorse. So we drove down and she was sitting behind the SS. Columbia her sister ship. I wish I could have got a better photo of her. But she was too far away.

Ste Claire at Nicholsons

Now new life has come into me now that I know she will be towed again from Toledo and she will be close to her old dock on the Detroit River.

Iím so very anxious to fly from Seattle WA to go see the my ďOld GirlĒ some time this August. With any luck at all, Iíll be able to go aboard and get into the engine room, one more time. Of course I will bring lots of Kleenex with me, just in case.

I just want to thank Doc Ron Kattoo and all the wonderful folks who have gone aboard to clean up the Ste Claire and for all the work they have done to try and restore the old girl.

My heartfelt thanks to all
Don Reid
(one of the many former crew members)

As a footnote: Itís funny that at 80 years old, I have a hard time remembering so many names I see on the TV, but my memories of days gone by are really fresh in my mind. I can close my eyes, sit back and hear the whistle blow as we left the dock. The smell of the engine room, the taste of Vernorís ginger ale, the music coming from the dance deck. All these things are implanted in my mind forever.



My daughter Cheryl found some old photos of me and she put them all on a poster and gave it to me for my 80th Birthday. Here is some proof that I was destined to be a sailor from a very young age.


1929 1932

George, don and Glenn 1943





1945, This is the gal that took care of me when I was in the Naval Hospital.
Friday, February 27, 2009, 12:03 AM

Dear Friends of Don Reid,

I'm sad to report that my father, Don Reid, passed away as the result of a motorcycle accident this morning. His beloved dog, Sammi, joined Dad on their next journey. Dad knew Sammi for 19 years and this great little dog was blind, deaf, diabetic and arthritic, but could still wag his tail. My family and I are at Dad's home in Arizona and we are extremely touched by how many people have reached out to us in this sad time. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. One of my Dad's greatest joys was the many friends he shared on-line and we are thankful you have been there for him. My family and I are comforted in the fact that Dad spent his 81 years living life to its fullest, even to his last day. He left us on a sunny day, riding on his bike. It was his request that no services be held, but instead, memorials can be sent to your local Humane Society.

All the best to you and yours - Cheryl Reid and Family

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