Over the past few years, steam fans around the lakes have felt considerable anxiety over the future of the Detroit firetug JOHN KENDALL, a steamer whose position has been anything but secure, especially since budget-trimming by a financially-troubled municipal administration put her into mothballs a year ago. In fact, the KENDALL herself has been saved from the scrappers' torches but the same cannot be said for her steam machinery.
This fall, the city fathers decided that JOHN KENDALL had to go and they put her up for bids. The only bid was from Robert Massey, an Alpena salvager who bid the princely sum of $10,000. A few builders of fireboats suggested that they would take the KENDALL as a trade-in on a new model (just like a new car?) but such a solution required that Detroit authorize the building of a new boat, the giant step that the council has shied away from making so far. The third alternative was to accept the overtures of two confessed reformed alcoholics who were trying to raise money to purchase the KENDALL so that they could present her to Father Vaughn Quinn who runs the Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Centre for alcoholics. You see, the good Father specializes in buying old firetrucks for his charges to rehabilitate while they are rehabilitating themselves and it must have seemed that JOHN KENDALL would be a good subject for their efforts and that the finished product, pretty but useless, would have made a good display somewhere.
City council stalled for time, hoping that somebody would come up with the means to save the KENDALL, but none came forward and there was the additional worry that with the onset of cold weather, her seacocks might freeze and the city would then be faced with the cost of raising the steamer from the bottom of the river. But nobody was able to propose any reasonable means of purchasing and providing for the maintenance of the KENDALL as an operating or display relic and so she was eventually sold late in November to Massey's Panoceanic Engineering Corporation of Alpena, Michigan. She will be dieselized and converted to a salvage tug but gone will be the KENDALL so well known to Detroiters.
Ye Ed. will retain fond memories of JOHN KENDALL in operation, including that rainy, cold Monday, October 16, 1967 when he stood on the deck of SOUTH AMERICAN, then departing Detroit on her final voyage out of the lakes, and watched the KENDALL follow the SOUTH down the Detroit River, spray shooting high from her nozzles and a lovely, haunting chord issuing from her triple-chime whistle. We also recall another occasion when we called at the marine fire station and the firemen on duty blew the whistle just so we could record it. Three-and-two will last many years on tape but we hope that someone in Detroit at least cared enough to save the E. G. MATHIOTT - JESSE JAMES whistle of the KENDALL for posterity as a memento of what a city has lost.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.