Posted by Michael-jon Pease on May 16, 2017
President Chuck Whitaker called the meeting to order at 12:20 p.m. aboard the Jonathon Padelford boat on the Mississippi. Smokin’ Joe Kvarik and President Elect Jerry Falletti led the members in singing “This Land is Your Land” with live acoustic music!
Jon Cieslak, most often seen at our Thursday Fellowship Breakfasts, offered an inspirational moment based on his month in France and visit to Normandy to mark the centenary of US involvement in WWI – the poem “In Flanders Fields” by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae.
 
We celebrated the May Rotary birthdays, including Roger Bonfe’s 80th with delicious cupcakes from David Dominick at the Midtown YMCA.
 
Next week’s meeting back at the Intercontinental will be our Education Day when we honor our teacher of the year and hear from the Interim Superintendent of St Paul Public Schools.
 
Michael-jon Pease, Park Square Theatre, did double duty introducing guests and taking notes, so apologies for any intros or happy dollars left out of the official record!
 
Guests of note included Past President “Captain” Jim Kosmo’s wife Shelly, whose family started the Padelford Packet Boat Company, and Past President Doug Bruce’s “smokin’ hot wife” Dana. Ladies, feel free to join us with or without the gents anytime!
 
Although we were a small and mighty crowd, more than $40 was raised in happy dollars for the foundation from Roger Bonfe (in honor of making it back from Florida after two days of solid driving), Chuck Whitaker (in honor of his son graduating from Emory University), and Linda Mulhern (in honor of her son returning from the Middle East with hair raising tales that she’s glad she didn’t know as they were happening!).
Program: Maritime Mayhem, Bank Robberies and a Floating Family Business
 
Captain Jim Kosmo was both our host and our program speaker, offering a history of steam ships on the Mississippi and of his family business, the Padelford Packet Boat Company.
 
Jim and wife Shelly, whose father had started the company, agreed to move back to Saint Paul to help out with the business for a year or two, which ended up being from 1980-2010! Shelly is descended from a long line of Padelfords, including the namesake of the boat we met on today, and Frank Padelford who worked at the Northfield Bank during the great Jesse James heist. Frank reportedly watered the gang’s horses and then hid under his desk during the raid.
 
The Mississippi has always been Saint Paul’s greatest asset and the reason for its fast growth during the early days of the territory and the state. In 1844 only 41 steamboats docked at the levee, but by 1857 that number had climbed to 1,000! The city’s population grew tenfold from 1,500 in 1850 to 15,000 by 1865, making it one of the fastest growing cities at that time. President Millard Fillmore’s grand flotilla of boats loaded with dignitaries and reporters from the East Coast in 1854 brought national attention to the natural riches and great potential of this area.
 
In those days, the average life span of a steamboat was only three years. Lack of safety regulations or inland coast guard combined with the rocky river channel and the dangers of steam engines meant that most boats crashed or exploded after just a few years of travel.
 
Maritime Disasters
The greatest maritime disaster in the US was the sinking of the Sultana in 1865, when most steamboats were commandeered to return Union troops from the conquered South. On April 27, 1865, the boat exploded. She was designed with a capacity of only 376 passengers, but she was carrying 2,155 when three of the boat's four boilers exploded and she burned to the waterline and sank near Memphis, Tennessee, killing 1,196 passengers. This disaster was overshadowed in the press by other events, most particularly the killing on the previous day of President Lincoln's assassin John Wilkes Booth.
 
The Sea Wing disaster occurred on July 13, 1890 when a strong squall line overturned the excursion vessel Sea Wing on Lake Pepin near Lake City, Minnesota. About 215 people were aboard the vessel when it overturned and as a result 98 passengers drowned. An excursion barge that was being towed by the Sea Wing was unharmed. It is one of the worst maritime disasters that has occurred on the upper Mississippi River.
Tornadoes had occurred earlier in the evening farther north in the Twin Cities area but it is believed that downburst winds from a thunderstorm were the cause the accident.
 
In contrast, modern “steamboats” like the Padelford (built in 1969 and still in daily operation during the boating season!), replicate the paddle wheel mechanism with diesel fuel instead of the volatile steam technology.
 
As the boat brought our members safely back to shore, President Chuck Whitaker drew the winning prize tickets, sending Jerry Falletti and Lynne Beck home with wonderful Padelford prizes.
 
Thanks Captain Jim for an entertaining meeting experience (and for holding off the rain!).
 
Respectfully submitted,
Michael-jon Pease
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