The End of an Era

Published 8:45 am Friday, May 6, 2022

By Mimi Becker

You know you have reached a certain age when you begin to refer to changes as “the end of an era.”

Some changes may be of historical significance.  When Shirley Temple died, or Betty White.  When NASA changed course from the ground breaking space explorations.

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At other times the event may be no more than a blip on the screen to anyone other than yourself.  When a beloved partner teacher retires. When a landmark of your childhood is torn down.

An announcement was made this past week of the retirement of a boat.  To my knowledge, this particular boat never sailed the seven seas.  It wasn’t involved in any significant maritime incident, military or otherwise.  Its mission was to ferry passengers on a one-hour cruise at a leisurely pace up and back on the Kentucky River.

My association with the boat, over a 19 year span, stemmed from two wholly different perspectives, both of which were entirely enjoyable, though sometimes fraught with anxiety.

My longest running relationship with the boat involved school field trips.  The boat docks on the Kentucky river at what is known as Shaker Landing.  Shaker Landing is reached by a very steep single lane road, used by horse drawn wagons at the inception of Shaker Village.  The Shakers set out on flatboats from the Landing loaded with their merchandise on trips to as far as New Orleans.

I, on the other hand, made the trek down the single lane road on a school bus full of blissfully oblivious children.  Children who had no idea how close the wheels of the bus approached the edge of the single lane road, especially on the several hairpin twists and turns of that single lane road.  I knew every inch of that road.  There came a point on each journey at which I could breathe –  the last turn just before the road leveled at the bottom into a large, flat parking lot.

One might think that loading a hundred squirrelly middle school students onto a small boat which would become unattached to solid ground for any period of time would cause the blood pressure to rise.  I was as vigilant as any adult person in charge of a hundred kids should be regardless of where I was.  One might think the boat would send me into terrors.

Not the case. The worst behavior my sometimes goofy students exhibited was tossing orange peels and apple cores overboard, maybe the sandwich crusts from the sack lunches.  They were admonished.  The cool breeze on the river was like a tonic.  When we reached the turn around point, I was always sad.  I dawdled on the exit count at the Landing.  As we straggled onto the buses, I was more relaxed than on the trip down. Same road, different frame of mind.

There were other trips. One stormy summer night, we were hired to cater dinner on a cruise for a hundred adults.  Our vans easily navigated the single lane road.  Perfectly on schedule, we arrived at the Landing, loaded the goodies on to the boat, and waited, and waited.  A storm blew up knocking a tree across that single lane road.  On the river side of the tree was the boat, us, and the food.  On the Village side of the tree was the bumper to bumper line of cars transporting the one hundred guests.  No one could break the log jam.

Quite honestly, I was not disturbed. I could have spent the night on the gently rocking boat.  I had plenty of food.

Without dropping names, we catered a magical, candle light cruise for the family of a world renowned best selling author.

A most memorable event was a wedding which took place from start to finish on the boat.  The rehearsal was on one level, we created a changing room on one end for the bride while the guests partied on another level, restaged the whole boat for the wedding, and then the reception.

You have to understand that once you get on the boat, and it sails, you are completely on your own.  If you didn’t bring it, you were out of luck.  On this particular evening we were smooth sailing despite the logistics of the affair.

The funny part was the wedding cake for which I had no responsibility beyond slicing and serving after the ceremonial cutting.  The fondant iced cake had been delivered on schedule, placed as directed by the bride, and off we sailed.

As the event progressed, I began to notice something was just not right with that cake.  There was a noticeable shifting of the layers and a decided lean overall.  In the wedding business you learn to be quick to solve potential problems.  I sidled up to the bride and suggested they cut that cake.

They did. Inside that cake was a pile of crumbs.  The makeshift cake table was the metal housing for the engine which chugged along, shaking the cake to bits under that beautiful fondant icing.

The retirement of the boat is truly the end of an era full of memories.