Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down..."


As a kid growing up in the 70’s, there was this one mournful song that always stuck in my head, one of those story-telling songs lamenting an untimely demise. In this case, the untimely demise was that of the bulk ore carrier Edmund Fitzgerald, lost with all 29 hands in a storm 34 years ago tonight on Lake Superior.

I was six years old at the time of the sinking, and seven when Gordon Lightfoot’s song about the ship became popular the following November of 1976. It was probably another 3 or 4 years before I realized that the song was about a real ship and a real tragedy. Twenty-nine men went to sea and never came home, men with lives and families. The youngest among them would be 56 now…

Captain Ernest M. McSorley, 63
First Mate John H. McCarthy, 62
Second Mate James A. Pratt, 44
Third Mate Michael E. Armagost, 37
Wheelsman John D. Simmons, 60
Wheelsman Eugene O'Brien, 50
Wheelsman John J. Poviach, 59
Watchman Ransom E. Cundy, 53
Watchman William J. Spengler, 59
Watchman Karl A. Peckol, 55
Chief Engineer George J. Holl, 60
First Assistant Edward E. Bindon, 47
Second Assistant Thomas E. Edwards, 50
Second Assistant Russell G. Haskell, 40
Third Assistant Oliver "Buck" J. Champeau, 41
Oiler Blaine H. Wilhelm, 52
Oiler Ralph G. Walton, 58
Oiler Thomas Bentsen, 23
Wiper Gordon MacLellan, 30
Special Maintenance Man Joseph W. Mazes, 59
AB Maintenance Thomas D. Borgeson, 41
Deck Maintenance Mark A. Thomas, 21
Deck Maintenance Paul M. Riipa, 22
Deck Maintenance Bruce L. Hudson, 22
Steward Robert C. Rafferty, 62
Second Cook Allen G. Kalmon, 43
Porter Frederick J. Beetcher, 56
Porter Nolan F. Church, 55
Cadet David E. Weiss, 22


Rest in peace, boys.

7 comments:

innominatus said...

Of all the songs that stick in my head, this one is the stickiest.

Bungalow Bill said...

I love that song, and I have been to Whitefish Point where the museum is just a few miles where it went down. It's a nice place to visit even with its sad history.

I remember living in Chicago on the 25 anniversary of the sinking. (don't quote me on the date, but it was one of the significant anniversaries) There was a series of storms on the Great Lakes that evening that were really violent and almost spooky.

Soloman said...

I grew up in Cleveland, and as a young adult who lived walking distance from the shores of Lake Erie, I saw many a late Autumn storm come across that lake that made me think of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

I also had the interesting experience of waiting tables at a waterfront restaurant right at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River, and watched many a ship of that same design pass right by our dock.

Each time, I thought of the Edmund Fitzgerald... and the song gives me chills to this day.

j summ said...

growing up on the lakes, i really enjoyed watching the ships passing by. there used to be wall charts to identify smoke stacks and the companies the boats belonged to. i too vaguely remember the sinking and the song holds special memories for me as well. on summer vacation the last couple of years, we have seen the ARTHUR M. ANDERSON, still sailing. she was the last vessel to have contact with the BIG FITZ and went back out into the storm to search, after making safe harbor.

j summ said...

ski and soloman, here is something that may interest you. the great lakes brewing company, of cleveland makes an edmund fitzgerald porter, and a burning river pale ale (commemorates the time when the river caught fire due to all the pollution). hope they don't get the water for the beer from the same river!

Steve: The Lightning Man said...

Beer is good. And not just for breakfast anymore. I have a HUGE beer warehouse that I pass on my way home from work; chances are decent that they have a bottle in-house. Must investigate.......

Soloman said...

j summ - I am familiar with both brews.

I actually worked for a competitor of theirs, called "Diamondback Brewery", from 96-99. The folded not too long after I left them (I'm sure it was my doing!).

Here in PHX we have "Rock Bottom Brewery," a franchise also born in Cleveland.. they were founded during that same era.

Not much to do in Cleveland in the winter, so they brew some pretty good suds..

I haven't looked for Great Lakes Brewing Co. beers here. Here you can hardly ever find Canadian beer in a bar...