It was time for the Lutherans' much anticipated annual summer picnic. A boatload (and I mean that literally) of fine church-going woman and children piled onto the General Slocum to head out for a day of wholesome, God-sanctioned fun on the North Shore of Long Island. We're talking the kind of fun that One Million Moms would approve of and not the kind where you put Zesty Italian on romaine lettuce.
|Obviously, we're talking this not this|
You can refer to my previous posting on swimwear,
but here are some scantily-clad children at full frolic.
Remember that good, working-class German men would have no time for picnics, so there were few on the boat since they were all busy cheese-mongering that day.
On to the tragic tale: The General Slocum set off up the East River laden down with 1,342 souls aboard. The details of what happened next are incomplete and at time contradictory, but the boat caught fire shortly after launch. The captain was reluctant to beach his craft (there was no way he would get paid for the day if he had done THAT), so he just sailed along on his merry way. Here is where the story becomes gruesome, reflecting the lack of regulation and oversight of the time. The safety equipment was purely ornamental. In fact, I do believe the lifeboats were merely frescoes painted on the exterior. The fire hoses were rotted out. The life preservers had been filled with cork, sawdust, and possibly iron filings. Capacity regulations and inspections were non-existent at the time. Mothers watched their children dragged down under the surface of the river, weighted down by the life vests that they had strapped to them. It was bitterly ironic. Ultimately, 1,021 people drowned in that fire.
|A rare photo of the General and Widow Slocum|
Since you, my gentle readers, are clearly intelligent, motivated, and well-appointed with Internet access, I expect that you can research further information yourselves, and there is no need for me to copy text from WikiWorld and the like. Suffice to say that this disaster is important beyond just being the second-largest loss of life in a single New York City incident. Despite the fact that The Knickerbocker Steamship Company was barely penalized afterwards, maritime safety regulations received a substantial overhaul. Ignore the Titanic for the moment, which had a better survival rate.
|It's all very wool. Very wool, indeed.|
|Don't even try it. I always have this on under my clothes.|
Fun fact number two: you should not go boating drunk while wearing one of those awful puffy down jackets. Natalie Wood died that way. Just to be on safe side, don't ever wear a puffy coat.
Incidentally, that particular church is now a synagogue right in the middle of Curry Row. Varuna will just not let this one go.
Coming soon: Wool Underpants and Why Come They Are So Scratchy.