Friday, December 11, 2015

Bertha Mae Keelboat, 1957

Check out this beautiful, crisp, clear photo of the Bertha Mae! It looks so great, as does Frontierland, still in relatively rough state. Fowler's Harbor looks like it has been there for 100 years. Guests on Tom Sawyer Island are exploring the mysteries of this fairly new Disneyland attraction, and I am jealous of each and every one of them.

Here's another photo from the same lot, taken later in the day. The Keelboat passes the dock, which is strewn with cargo waiting for a passing steamboat. In the distance you can just see the old water tower that fed the steam locomotives. Which suddenly makes me wonder... where does the Mark Twain refill when its boilers run low? I can't believe I never thought of that before. Do they just hook up a hose when the boat is at the loading dock?


Nanook said...


Add my name to the list of jealous souls wishing to be a part of the "crowd" on TSI.

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

Why did they get rid of the Keelboats? They should have kept them and just made them "self-loading". At Christmastime they could have even thrown some crumpled red cellophane into the Rivers of America, put red bows on all the wildlife and Native Americans and called it the Krismas Keelboats Kruise.

Steve DeGaetano said...

Major, according to an undated Mark Twain "SOP" I have, the Mark Twain has a 4,000 gallon fresh water tank aboard, as well as a 350 gallon diesel fuel tank. Both would be replenished from hoses near the dock. I don't think it was necessary to take fuel or water during operating hours.

Chuck said...

Thanks, Steve. I was gonna hypothesize a rainwater cistern on the roof, but then I remembered this was California. My idea might work better in Florida.

Ahhh...early Frontierland. In 1957, these would have been the original, wooden-hulled, refurbished props from "Davy Crockett and the River Pirates."

Not so loudly, TokyoMagic! We could still find ourselves with a Christmas Canoe Cruise or Merry Mark Twain Madness. Or maybe even Life Day in Chewbacca's Treehouse on Kashyyyk in Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island.

Alonzo P Hawk said...

These are some spiffy shots Major! They make we want to play hooky from work, fire up the dvd of Davey Crockett and the Keel boat race and sip a little Virgil Hamby's Pure Corn Whisky (from that case on the dock).

Chuck said...

...and now I have "Yaller Gold" stuck in my head.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I seriously wonder how popular the Keelboats would be if they were brought back. Not that it’s ever going to happen. Something tells me that it would have a lot more riders.

TokyoMagic!, don’t forget the Santa hats. I consider the “Jingle Cruise” to be pretty awful, but believe that the sheer novelty is enough to make it appealing to frequent visitors.

Steve DeGaetano, I knew you would have the answers to my questions! Thanks.

Chuck, I need to do some research; when did the old, smaller Keelboats get replaced by the larger fiberglass boats? And I agree, don’t throw bad ideas around so carelessly - somebody might actually like them.

Alonzo, I need to turn in my “Disney fan” membership card… I have still never seen any of the Davy Crockett shows.

Chuck, I have a steel plate in my head, is that the same thing?

Anonymous said...

Interesting "costume" on the keel boat driver in the second photo.

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

In the old days I assume a paddlewheeler would only have to pump water out of the river. A filter and a pump (perhaps powered by the engine) would be all it would need.

Steve DeGaetano said...

Although I can't find anything definitive in my resources (primarily a wonderful book called "The Mississippi Steamboat Era" by Joan and Thomas Gandy, along with the internet), I think this would be exactly how they would have done it, Monkey Cage Kurt. In fact, some steam locomotives would do the same thing if they needed water while away from a water tank.

Chuck said...

Major, a steel plate is similar, but not quite as valuable. Sort of like an Alice poster with "Fantasyland" at the bottom.

When I commented earlier, I was remembering I'd read somewhere that the boats were replaced in '58. What I found a few minutes ago was a comment in "The Disneyland Encyclopedia" that said "By '58, the wooden-hulled originals had been replaced by fiberglass replicas that could better stand the constant wear and tear." I guess that when I read that, I had assumed the replacement date was in '58.

The line continues in its description of the fiberglass boats (they also had six, not four open windows)." So that would indicate that the Bertha Mae in your photo was the fiberglass replica, and that the replicas were introduced no later than 1957.

I found several photos of the originals for comparison. Here's one you originally posted May 3rd, 2011, that shows the Gullywhumper in almost the same position as your first photo: This photo was also identified as having been taken in 1957, so the transition must have happened some time that year.

From Daveland, here's a shot of the original Bertha Mae during the filming of the TV program. You can see that they used the exact same door openings for the passenger windows when they moved the boats to Disneyland:

Chuck said...

Looks like I missed a quotation mark. The quote should read "(they also had six, not four open windows)." Mark me off two points for grammar.

Alonzo P Hawk said...


Yaller Gold is the best kind, LOL

Chuck said...

Thanks, Alonzo. I'd just managed to turn off the mental soundtrack. Thanks...a LOT.

Alonzo P Hawk said...

Sorry @Chuck I have a bad habit of doing that. I once whistled the Sesame Street song in conference (on a break) and had two people wanted to kick my butt a day later. Said the song had been stuck in there head since.
At least I did the Fess Parker version. Easier to take than Pike hisself.

Major Pepperidge said...

Monkey Cage Kurt, I have it on good authority that the old steamboats carried large supplies of Crystal Pepsi for just such an emergency.

Steve DeGaetano, I’m telling you, it’s Crystal Pepsi all the way! ;-)

Chuck, thanks for doing the research. Sounds like maybe I need this Disneyland Encyclopedia! I’m surprised that the old boats needed replacing so soon, but then again they were never built for extended use. It is clear when you look at photos that the replacements are larger. I have to say that some of the slides in this bunch were undated, and it is possible that this lot was actually several batches combined into one… we definitely see the same people in different clothes in some of them. I am OK with the guestimate of “sometime in 1957 or ’58”! Any points lost for grammar are neutralized by your research efforts.

Alonzo, I wonder if this song was ever reused as a background track for Frontierland (or maybe Critter Country)?

Chuck, just listen to “It’s a Small World”.

Alonzo, years ago there was a techno song called “Sesame’s Treet” that used the basic TV theme song as its basis. What an ear worm!