Old Postcards and a bit of a shaggy dog story
The Air and Sea Package has become a convenient and popular way to make your way to the American Eagle from Boston: intermodal transportation by plane and taxi right to our dock. Convenience is not a new thing in getting around. In the late 1800's there was steamer service from the head of navigation on the Kennebec River on the Della Collins connecting with the Star of the East, Capt. Jason Collins, at Gardiner. Leave Augusta landing at noon on Mondays and Thursdays, board the Star of the East by three, arrive Union Wharf in Boston the next morning. Della was Capt. Collins' daughter. Fare $2.00
For a brief period there was steamer service from Waterville to Augusta.
Lewiston Evening Journal ~ April 18, 1891
Which brings us finally to a poem I often read in the galley on a quiet evening, if there's anyone to listen.
TALE OF THE KENNEBEC MARINER
Guess I've never told you, sonny, of the strandin' and the wreck
Of the steamboat "Ezry Johnson" that run up the Kennebec.
That was 'fore the time of steam-cars, and the "Johnson" filled the bill
On the route between Augusty and the town of Waterville.
She was built old-fashioned model, with a bottom's flat's your palm,
With a paddle-wheel behind her, druv' by one great churnin' arm.
Couldn't say that she was speedy -- sploshed along and made a touse,
But she couldn't go much faster than a man could tow a house.
Still, she skipped and skived tremendous, dodged the rocks and skun the shoals,
In a way the boats of these days couldn't do to save their souls.
Didn't draw no 'mount of water, went on top instead of through.
This is how there come to happen what I'm going to tell to you.
--Hain't no need to keep you guessing, for I know you won't suspect
How that thunderin' old "Ez. Johnson" ever happened to get wrecked.
She was overdue one ev'nin', fog come down most awful thick,
"Twas about like navigating round inside a feather tick.
Proper caper was to anchor, but she seemed to run all right,
And we humped her -- though 'twas resky '' -- kept her sloshing through the night.
Things went on all right till morning, but along 'bout half-past three
Ship went dizzy, blind, and crazy -- waves seemed wust I ever see.
Up she went and down she scuttered; sometimes seemed to stand on end,
Then she'd wallopse, sideways, cross-ways, in a way, by gosh, to send
Shivers down your spine. She'd teeter, fetch a spring, and take a bounce,
Then squat down, sir, on her haunches with a most je-roosly jounce.
Folks got up and run a-screaming, forced the wheelhouse, grabbed at me,
--Thought we'd missed Augusty landin' and had gone plum out to sea.
--Fairly shot me full of questions, but I said 'twas jest a blow;
Still, that didn't seem to soothe 'em, for there warn' no wind, you know!
Yas, sir, spite of all that churnin', warn't a whisper of a breeze
--No excuse for all that upset and those strange and dretful seas.
Couldn't spy a thing around us -- every way 'twas pitchy black,
And I couldn't seem to comfort them poor critters on my back.
Couldn't give 'em nothing 'bout it -- for I didn't know myself.
So I gripped the "Johnson's" tiller, kept the rudder riggin' taut,
Kept a-praying, chawed tobacker, give her steam, and let her swat.
Now, my friend, jest listen stiddy: when the sun come out at four,
We warn't tossin' in the breakers off no stern and rockbound shore;
But I'd missed the gol-durned river, and I swow this 'ere is true,
I had sailed eight miles 'cross country in a heavy autumn dew.
There I was clear up in Sidney, and the tossings and the rolls
Simply happened 'cause we tackled sev'ral miles of cradle knolls.
Sun come out and dried the dew up; there she was a stranded wreck,
And they soaked me eighteen dollars' cartage to the Kennebec.
--from Pine Tree Ballads by Holman Day, 1902