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The story of Findlay’s ‘Pastime’

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is another article on Findlay area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier. This is the sixth of a series of articles dealing with the history of Findlay’s Riverside Park.

 

By R.L. HEMINGER

 

The interesting story of the “Pastime,” the large watercraft which plied the waters of the Blanchard River for some 10 years prior to World War I, carrying Riverside Park traffic, has been related quite frequently, but new and intriguing information regarding the famous ship seems to come to the surface every so often.

A look at the old Morning Republican files of those days reveals much that is of interest with respect to the “Pastime,” which transported many hundreds of passengers to and from the park before automobiles were plentiful.

It was early in June 1907 that the subject of a large river vessel to help handle the park traffic came into the picture. The park had only opened late in the summer of 1906. A few small launches were functioning, but there was a demand for more watercraft, as patronage of the park began to increase.

A Toledoan appeared before the city council the first week in June 1907, and told the city legislators of a plan to organize a company to place a 70-foot steamboat on the Blanchard River to operate between the Main Street bridge and the park, with a capacity of 250 passengers on 10 or more daily trips.

H.E. Beard, the Toledoan, said he could raise the needed capital in Toledo. He succeeded in obtaining a contract from the board of public service for the Blanchard River Navigation Co. for the ship’s operation, with a fare of a dime. Mr. Beard said he had arranged for construction of the vessel in the Globe Iron Works there and that work was in progress. His city contract was to run for 10 years, with the city receiving 10 percent of the gross receipts.

In a week or so, Mr. Beard brought word to Findlay that the Toledo concern which was to build the boat had given up the contract. So, he went to Chicago, where he purchased what was described as a regular lake boat. The craft had been shipped to Toledo and was being altered to suit the local needs.

The craft, once owned by the father of Mrs. E.E. Rakestraw of Findlay, was formerly used in ferry services between Girty’s Island and Napoleon on the Maumee River. It was known as a “stern wheeler,” motive power being furnished by a 10-foot paddle wheel in the stern.

It was intended to ship the vessel over the old Toledo and Ohio Central railroad to Findlay from Toledo, but it proved too bulky to ship in this manner.

There would have been difficulty in getting out of the Toledo railroad yards, as well as successfully passing other trains on adjoining tracks.

So the “Pastime” was loaded on large wagons and shipped overland to Findlay. Boilers, however, were shipped by rail.

Described by the Republican as a “dry land voyage of one full week,” the overland trip from Toledo to Findlay caused thousands of Wood and Hancock County residents to open their eyes in wonderment as the big boat passed their roadside homes. The caravan in which the steamer was the central figure contained four wagons, a traction engine, a water wagon, as well as a dozen or more dry land sailors and roustabouts.

“In the 45-mile trip from Toledo,” said the Republican, “those in charge of the journey encountered some unusual difficulties. Some bad roads in Wood County had to be negotiated and streetcar service on the Toledo, Urban and Interurban road was interrupted when the outfit crossed the tracks at Maumee. Members of the crew suffered police interference at Bowling Green, because of their operation of a traction engine through the municipality without a permit from the city.”

Once in Findlay, the “Pastime” was taken out Center Street to McManness Avenue where it underwent repairs. It was finally placed in the water July 11 and towed to a dock near Main Street that was connected with the Aura Behm Plumbing Shop for installation of boilers.

The “Pastime” made an experimental trip July 18 between the Main Street dock and the park. Then on the next evening, with representatives of the city and the press, a formal inauguration of service was conducted.

Mayor James Walker, John Hemphill, city street commissioner, William H. Loy and Albert L. Barton, of the board of public service, and others were aboard for the trip.

“That the maiden trip was a success was voiced by every one of the 200 or more passengers who had seats on the lower deck, when the big steamer gracefully sailed away from the park docks near the Main Street river bridge,” said the Republican’s account of the historic trip.

Some difficulty was experienced in turning the craft around at the park, but the trouble was diagnosed as poor fuel. Once corrected, there was no difficulty.

The “Pastime” was in regular park service from then on through the rest of the park season.

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