Mississippi River History
...from the Gary
R. Lucy Gallery (All images property of
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A The Mississippi Riverfront was the focal point for commerce and trade in and out of our city, from the 1700's by canoes, ferry's, and steam boats into the 1930's, and by trains from the late 1800's until the early 1970's. In 1902 the Frisco Railroad built a track along the banks of the Mississippi River from Cape Girardeau North to St. Louis.
Do you remember -
How the crowds used to gather on the river front when the local packet boat would arrive? It was a real treat to see and to hear the roustabouts and stevedores as they unloaded the freight.
The boats usually carried a crew of about 25 roustabouts and stevedores. Four or five stevedores were stationed on the levee; the third clerk would stand on the bank at the head of the stage plank and call out the names of the consignees as the roustabouts passed him.
He did not call the company name. Although he had a list of all consignees he gave each of them fictitious names which the crew could remember more easily than the company name.
For example, Taylor, Materson and Linson was known as "Tom Cat," Volgelsanger hardware was "Carnary Bird," Vandevan Mercantile Co. was Move Wagon," John Scartino was "Skyrocket," the Bahn Hardware Co. was "Bad Boy." Goddard Grocery was the "Grey Goose," S. Albert Grocery Co. was the "Ace of diamonds," and Meyer and Suedekum Hardware was "Sloppy Molly."
"...Volgelsanger hardware was "Carnary Bird," Vandevan Mercantile Co. was "Move Wagon," Soon all of the freight for Cape Girardeau was unloaded with unbelievable accuracy and the boat would then go to Thebes, Illinois, and Commerce, Missouri. On its return, approximately at 8 that night, the freight headed north would be on the levee waiting to be loaded.
As the boat's bell was ringing as a last warning to leave for St. Louis, the gang plank ready to be lifted, the last thing you would hear was the chant of the roustabouts singing. "We're headed for Bootsies." Booties' was their favorite hangout on the St. Louis water front.
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