Sunday, December 21, 2008

Henry Pratt's Memories XII

Continuing Linda's 1965 history paper:    BOATS
There were many more boats on the lakes then compared to today. They were mainly designed to carry passengers but the lower decks were utilized to transport fruit to the Chicago market on South Water Street (now Wacker Drive). It began about a block from the docks.
"The river end of Wabash was a mass of teams and wagons coming and going jockeying for positions at the curb"
The traffic would shame a present-day city truck driver and the noise resulting from iron wheels and horse shoes on the cobblestones made a din far surpassing today's city traffic.
The main shipping line out of Benton Harbor and St Joseph was the Graham and Morton Transportation Company which ran daily from Holland and Benton Harbor to Chicago. The Pratts besides their business connections with Graham and Morton, were friends of the founder and main stockholder J.H.Graham.
"Mrs. Graham often came to visit and was one of the earliest automobile owners in the area. My first automobile ride was in her Stoddard Dayton driven by a licensed Negro chauffer".
An almost identical car may be found in the Ford museum.
J.H.Morton died in 1907, a young man. He had always avoided publicity and this was carried to such an extent that even in the front page article which covered half a page in the Benton Harbor News Palladium there was no photograph. Mrs. Pratt had several because of her close freindship with Mrs.Graham. The line continued to make good profits up until the sinking of the Eastland in 1915 while at the dock in Chicago killing 800 passengers.
 "The Tribune of Jul 25, 1915...carried screaming headlines: 800 Die in River".
This and the sinking of the Titanic made a great impression on the young farm boy that year.
Personal note: My first date with Elaine Belke, the girl who would become my wife, was a moonlight cruise on the S.S. Roosevelt out of St. Joe in June of 1949. The S.S. Roosevelt was one of those old-time lake steamers that was about at the end of its career, its glory days gone, but that cruise started a romance that has gone on for 59 years and counting. (emailed July 14)

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