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 seventh in a series of articles dealing with the history of Findlay’s Riverside Park.
By R.L. HEMINGER
So popular was the “Pastime,” the Blanchard River’s large watercraft which transported thousands to and from Riverside Park in the 10 years starting with 1907, that the owners, the Blanchard River Navigation Co., announced Aug. 5, 1907, that a sister ship would be constructed at once.
The craft was to be built at yards to be opened at the foot of McManness Avenue. It was to be powered by twin propellers, instead of a paddle wheel which the “Pastime” featured. Crude oil was to be the fuel for both boats.
The pilot wheel of the “Pastime” had a history that was unique. Made of the finest walnut, the shell was initially used on the steamer “Joseph” on Lake Ontario. But the “Joseph” met disaster in a storm and went to pieces at North Point, near Oswego, and Pilot H.E. Beard of the “Pastime” picked it up on the beach. The wheel then saw service on the “J.B. Wilson,” out of Buffalo. After this vessel suffered a fire, the wheel went to the “Louise,” a vessel plying out of Sandusky, Ohio. From here it went to the “Pastime,” which was known as “Goldie” when on the Maumee River, out of Napoleon.
On Oct. 11, 1907, the “Pastime” was docked at the foot of Taylor Street and work of dry docking it for the winter started.
On Oct. 21, 1907, the Blanchard River Co. was incorporated as the “Blanchard River Navigation and Amusement Co.” for $25,000, with H.E. Beard, Aura Behm, John Ritter, Ed B. Davis and Albert Curtis as incorporators. At that time, the company had a contract to build the shoot-the-chutes at Riverside and intended to conduct a number of the concessions at the park.
Officers of the new company were named as follows: Aura Behm, president, H.E. Beard, vice-president and John Ritter, secretary and treasurer.
The Blanchard company made $1,500 worth of improvements on the “Pastime” during the winter of 1907-08. The craft made its initial trip to the park April 7, 1908. A new boiler was brought here from Toledo for the craft.
Plans for the building of a sister ship were given up.
The smokestack of the “Pastime” was hinged, so that it could be “folded down” while passing under bridges.
In June 1909, President Behm, of the Blanchard Navigation Co., entered the waters of the Blanchard and unlocked dam gates to smooth out the water level, in the interest of making boat travel better. He entered the stream at a point some 200 feet above the park dam. Despite his weight of 185 pounds, Mr. Behm performed his marine task with considerable ease.
In July 1909, the Blanchard Navigation Co. asked the probate court to take charge of its financial affairs. The 1908 season brought the tragic shoot-the-chutes affair and park business was off considerable in the final part of 1908 and early in 1909.
In October 1909, the court approved sale of the “Pastime” to J.M. Haley, owner of the naphtha launch “Ohio.”
In June 1910, the “Pastime” was damaged when it sank to the bottom of the Blanchard River. Some of the caulking had gotten out of her seams, permitting water to enter and send the craft to the riverbed. Mr. Haley had her immediately raised and placed in condition for river traffic. By July 4, she was back in full service. Before the “Pastime” returned to its regular run, Mayor E.L. Groves, Service Director Joseph Oehlschlager and several others made an inspection of the ship’s hull and found it in good condition.
The “Pastime” sank again in 1910, when with 20 women aboard, it struck a rock in shallow water at the park dock. One of the small launches took the passengers off safely. Back in 1908, the vessel had also gone to the bottom once.
During the week of the Hancock County Centennial in August 1907, the “Pastime” did a huge business. Its runs continued until 11:30 each night.
The “Pastime” continued to ply the river until the time of world war in 1917-1918 when it was sold for scrap by Mr. Haley and his son Arthur, who had joined the father in the boat enterprise.