Sunday, December 21, 2008

Henry Pratt's Memories XXIV

The Titanic and the Eastland
"Great disasters shock and impress a child much more than an adult. The two that are still vivid to me both involved steamships---the 'Titanic' and the 'Eastland'  Steamships have always had a peculiar fascination for me, which intensified the impact on my mind. The sinking of the Titanic (1912) was far away, but we eagerly scanned the Chicago Tribune for days afterwards. The Eastland was close. I had seen it in the harbor, it was owned by a St. Joseph company. It was equipped with a caliope, or 'steam piano' to entertain tourists. We lived four miles north of Benton Harbor, half a mile from the lake and I often heard the poweful caliope as the boat entered or left port, about  five miles away".
"The Tibune of July 25, 1915, again carried screaming headlines;' 800 DIE IN RIVER'. The horror was intensified by its occuring inside a large city, simply rolling over while still tied to the dock, not even 'sinking'. It lay on its side at least a quarter still out of the water. The why of it was speculated on and argued about for years".
My note: I urge you all to Google "SS Eastland" and read Wikipedia's story on the disaster. It took over half as many lives as the Titanic (845 to 1,517) and happened right in our neighborhood, so to speak. I didn't know or had forgotten that the Eastland was raised, repaired, reconfigured and renamed the USS Wilmette. It served as a naval training ship on Lake Michigan in both World Wars before it was scrapped in 1947.
(emailed July 28)

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