Thursday, December 20, 2012

Keel Boats

I am sad to say that I never got to ride around the Rivers of America on a Keel Boat. From many accounts, they were cramped and a bit choppy on the water, but still...I would love to have experienced them. In this first photo, Fess Parker and Buddy Ebsen stand aboard the Keel Boats used in the Davy Crockett TV series, which spawned the ones used in the parks.

The Gullywhumper, seen in this warm-hued 1950's shot, was the plainer of the two, and actually looked more like the ones used in the TV show.

The Bertha Mae was a tad fancier, as can be seen in this 1950's image. Amazing what a little paint and gingerbread trim can do!

I'm digging the paper hats and life-preserver, too.

Frequent Daveland reader JG submitted this 1965 photo of The Gullywhumper:

The Bertha Mae is visible in long shot in this January 1964 shot:

The reason I like this photo is because it shows a yet-to-be-opened Haunted Mansion. No wonder there are no lines!

The Bertha Mae disappeared from the park long ago, but The Gullywhumper can still be seen, anchored in front of the (former) Burning Cabin:

See more vintage and current Keel Boat photos on my Keel Boat web page.


V @ No Privacy At All Around This Place! said...

Oh man, I CLEARLY need one of those paper hats!

stu29573 said...

I heard that the Bertha May was actually sold.... Did anyone hear anything about this or am I dreaming?

K. Martinez said...

I loved the Keel Boats. This ride was very simliar to the Jungle Cruise with a humorous live spiel along the river. I rode both the top and bottom sections many times through the years and found it no more cramped than the jungle boats.

I'm still pissed they got rid of this attraction. Of the three smaller watercraft (Keelboats/Canoes/Rafts) it was my favorite to take. Oh, how I miss the days of crowded activity on the Rivers of America. Like Tomorrowland, it just isn't the same without all the combined movement.

Daveland said...

Stu - You are correct; it is in private hands now.

JG said...

Hello Dave and visitors. Thanks for posting my photo! Now my Dad is on the internet too.

You can't see it in this picture, but other photos from this trip show that he had the requisite Parker ballpoint pen in his shirt pocket, along with the family ticket books and his sunglasses, like all the other '60's Dads. I have a good one from the submarines showing all the trappings.

I'm actually not sure that photo is from 1965, but that is the date on the margin from the processor. Mom did not write anything on the back, and often months elapsed between photo and processing. I didn't get glasses till '66, so it's in that time frame.

As I recall the ride, you are right, it was choppy and cramped, and I seem to recall getting wet too, the boats had little freeboard when loaded.

My Dad really liked these boats and we always rode them when he was with us. In high school, I preferred the canoes, but rode these with Dad too.

Mom wouldn't ride on either one.

Part of the reason I'm not sure of the date of the photo... Look at your picture below mine, you say it is Jan 1964, yet the boats in your picture have three windows, while Gullywhumper in Dad's pic have only two.

The boats on the show had two windows and so did the earliest Disneyland models. Later, (not sure when) the three window models were introduced.

So i'm confused about the comparative dates of our photos, unless the two models of boat were on the river at the same time.

I don't recall Bertha Mae being more decorated, but I do recall Dad being pleased that we got to ride Gullywhumper since that was the rascal's boat in the show. I think Dad identified with him somehow. Of course, over the years, we rode both boats many times. I think there were other boats as well, but can't recall for sure.

Thanks for letting me drone on.

Best to all.


...But It Wasn't Always That Way! said...

Thanks for the great pics, JG and Dave! The OMG-Paper Hats are so cute! They might be recreatable for our next vintage time travel...

And I love Fess' pose. He looks ready for a bear hug. :)

Daveland said...

JG - Thanks so much for the commentary!

Eric & Ginger - If you can figure out a way to make the plumed hats from the early years, then consider me your first customer!

Douglas McEwan said...

I know that on May 30, 1956, when I was 6 years and one day old, I rode the keel boats, I don't remember which boat, but I recall it even now for one highly memorable reason: while on it we saw Walt Disney himself on shore, with a group of men in suits, by Fowler's Landing, pointing stuff out to his companions. It was the first of only two times that I ever saw Walt in person. Needless to say, the Keel Boats will always have a special place in my heart.

Dan said...

I was working at Disneyland in 1996 when they had the accident that closed this attraction. The cast member was goofing around with the throttle, trying to give a little extra thrill to the ride. It is a shame that his horseplay brought an end to this classic attraction.

The Keel Boats were unique because they were powerful enough to operate as tug boats if the Twain or Columbia were ever to break down. Becoming a driver of those boats took extra training, and you received hazard pay, because you had limited visibility when steering from the rear of the ship.

The Keel Boats were also a nice kinetic element to the river. It was always fun to see them running along with the canoes and big ships. The river seems a little empty without them.

Daveland said...

Doug & Dan - thanks for the great stories. Doug - what was the other occasion that you saw Walt?

Daveland said...

Doug & Dan - thanks for the great stories. Doug - what was the other occasion that you saw Walt?

...But It Wasn't Always That Way! said...

Dave, we'll get right on it and take your color preference. :)

Douglas McEwan said...

The other occasion was in 1966, months before he died, when I saw him throw out the first ball at the first-ever Angel's game at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. I only came to see Walt, and left shortly thereafter. (Baseball has always bored me.)

Daveland said...

I wonder if he stayed for the whole game. Thanks for sharing Doug!

JG said...

Hello Dave. I just visited over at your vintage photo site. I want to say thank you for posting my photo over there and including my meandering commentary with it.

Very kind of you to do so. I really enjoy the stories of your other readers, I hope others enjoy mine too.

Best regards to you.


JG said...

Oh, one more thing.

While studying the pictures on your vintage site, I realized that the Bertha Mae has apparently always had three windows, since you have several pics from the earliest days, and it appears always to have three.

The old Gullywhumper (both in my pic and others you have) has only two.

That resolves the conflict with your 1964 picture. The boat shown there is the Bertha Mae, contemporary with my 1965 photo.

Later, there is a three-window Gullywhumper (again, one of your historic pics) which has similar trim and treatments to the old two-window, except it is longer ( I think).

So, the Gullywhumper model was revamped "somewhen: along the way, but Bertha had three from the start.

Sorry to natter on about these minutiae, but it seemed important at the time.