Sunday, December 20, 2009

The “Tourist” Gets Trapped in an Ice Floe

On December 20, 1929, the Tourist, a 78-foot steel boat powered by oil engines, got stuck in an ice floe, shortly after leaving the dock from Sandusky. A sudden northeastern storm contributed to the hazardous situation. The boat was carrying several residents of Kelleys Island, many of whom had come to the mainland to do Christmas shopping. The steamer Messenger and the tug Gillan were unable to free the Tourist from the ice. Captain John Gilbert ordered all aboard to walk on the ice from the trapped boat to the Messenger. Many of the passengers had several packages to carry with them on the ice, in the cold and windy weather. All but three of the boat’s passengers made their way to the Messenger, and then to Sandusky.

A front page article in the December 20, 1929 issue of the Sandusky Register reported that Mrs. Charles Martin had to carry her ten week old infant in her arms across the ice, while her husband wheeled the baby carriage. Mr. Martin said, “Wheeling that baby carriage across the ice was worse than being without a cigarette and having to walk a mile.” Mr. and Mrs. Martin and baby Elaine spent the night at the Hotel Rieger. Mr. and Mrs. Walter Elfers also had an infant to carry across the ice. The Register reported that the most unfortunate person on the boat was Mrs. Paul Nemethy of Kelleys Island. Mrs. Nemethy had just had six teeth pulled, and it was terrifying for her to think of spending the night on a boat in the bitter cold.

On Sunday, December 22, two airplanes took the stranded Kelleys Islanders back home. Arrangements were handled by the Parker Airport, and the pilots were Milton Hersberger and Joe Esch. The Kelleys Island landing field was blocked with snow, and a crew of island residents worked frantically to get it cleared. It took several flights to deliver the passengers and freight. The bulk of the freight was merchandise for Charles Martin’s store. Four school teachers and three others were transported from Kelleys Island back to Sandusky. The December 22, 1929 issue of the Sandusky Register reported that both Hersberger and Esch were highly complimented on their ability in handling the planes.

Visit the Archives Research Center of the Sandusky Library to read more about the “Tourist” being trapped in the ice in 1929 on microfilmed copies of the Sandusky Register. To learn about the vessels of the Great Lakes, see B.G.S.U.’s Historical Collections of the Great Lakes website.

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