Around a bend in the beautiful Ohio River, a mournful whistle wails and the echoes bounce back from the hills along the Kentucky shore. Slowly and majestically the white superstructure of the riverboat comes into view and a peculiar feeling comes into your throat, as if you were seeing, for a very brief moment, an image from the past. In a way, that is what she is, but the DELTA QUEEN is still very much alive and is off on another cruise to Louisville. Or is it Kentucky Lake, or Nashville, or even New Orleans?
Even so, you take out your camera for another photo of the old ship because you have the feeling that you might never see her passing again. For, you see, DELTA QUEEN has only until November 1, 1970, to live as an overnight passenger vessel. As of that date, she will be ruled off the rivers by legislation for "Safety at Sea" that has put her in the same class as deep sea vessels. DELTA QUEEN hardly fits into the category in which she has been placed since she never operates in open water and stays in the restricted waters of the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. Although wooden from the main deck up, she has been made as fire-resistive as possible without destroying her quaint character.
"The DELTA QUEEN is of course in a peck of trouble, condemned to cease blowing for her landings come November, 1970. This desist order is due solely to U.S, legislation enacted a few years ago. Vessels flying the U.S. flag carrying overnight passengers in excess of 50 persons must comply with new safety standards. The crime of the QUEEN is her wooden superstructure. Boats in such service henceforth must have non-flammable housing where the tourist is confined, and in which he plays bingo, eats, sleeps, and where he writes post cards to those peons he left ashore when the stage is hoisted .....
"Oh the QUEEN is guilty all right. She's sort of old-fashioned in her crinoline and sachet and old lace. She was brought to the Mississippi to replace a tourist boat two years her senior, the old GORDON C. GREENE. The GREENE had become too small for the traffic. Nobody had complained that she was made of wood; she was just hanging in there refusing to die...
"Oh the QUEEN is guilty all right. Not that she's done anything wrong except to come from a proud lineage built of wood. The QUEEN hasn't committed any breach of morals; she hasn't caused pain or suffering. She did not transgress or break the commandment. There wasn't anything in the books they could hang on her, so a new law was created atop of Capitol Hill. Thou shalt not be made of wood."
Can we afford to let legislation as inappropriate as this "Safety at Sea" Bill rob this and all future generations of the opportunity to enjoy the slow pace and dreamy atmosphere of life on the river? We think not, and would urge all our U. S. members to write to their elected representatives and state their position. The "Save The Queen" campaign has reached a fever pitch as the deadline draws ever nearer, but still there is much doubt that the QUEEN can survive the apparent vendetta being waged against her by several unsympathetic authorities.
Still, the QUEEN herself sails on, seemingly oblivious to all the furor she is causing, and booked to virtually 100 percent of capacity for the rest of the year. The Toronto Marine Historical Society adds its voice to the many others that are saying that DELTA QUEEN must be allowed to continue serving the people of the North American continent as she has ever since Capt. Tom Greene had the foresight to bring her to the River to serve as his flagship.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.