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Mason County Memories

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david k petersen

History Column 299 Great Lakes Transit Corporation Dave Petersen I think many people would be surprised to find out how many Great Lakes Passenger ships there were operating on the lakes 100 years ago. There were numerous companies providing all types of vacation cruises and handling freight as well. The traffic in and out of all of the harbors up and down the lakeshore was simply impressive. From freighters to lumber hookers, fishing trawls, to carferries and passenger steamers a person could spend the day ship watching and catching perch off the pier and not be bored at all. Imagine if you will hundreds of passengers leaning over the rails of the ship to wave as they passed by in their Sunday best on an excursion, passing schooners heading out of the channel. The poor roads of 100 years ago pushed travelers onto floating palaces that would whisk them away on their journey across the Great Lakes. For 75.00 one could travel 9 days, 2230 miles around the Great Lakes, berth and meals included and see all of the sights. The Great Lakes Transit Corporation ran cruises that covered ports from Buffalo New York to Mackinaw Island, Sault Ste Marie, Milwaukee and more. In 1933 the line ran the Tionesta, Juniata, and the Octorara non stop during the summer season stopping at many ports along the route. Pic1 The Juniata pictured here is seen in the early days before her transformation into the Milwaukee Clipper. Pic2 The cover of the 1933 schedule promoting the Chicago World's Fair. The cover art was often quite striking in color and influenced by the Art Deco style of the day. Pic3 The craftsmanship on many of these luxury ships was nothing short of glamorous. Pictured here is the ship's library and Parlor corridor on the Saloon deck of the Juniata. Passengers could dance to the music of a live orchestra, visit and sightsee in the ports of call. Pic4 A diagram of the ship and layout of the decks was included in most of the travel brochures on each line. A music room, library, a huge dining area to accommodate hundreds of passengers at one time. Passengers had access to five decks on the ship. Pic5 The Tionesta (pictured here) was 361 feet long with a 45' beam and could carry nearly 600 passengers and a crew of 150. Need a haircut? See the barber, want a ice cream sundae go to the soda fountain and pick up the latest paper at the newsstand. Made for comfort, these ships had it all. Pic6 A close up of the Tionesta built in 1903, the Octorara was built in 1910 and the Juniata in 1905, all for the Anchor line. They were later acquired by Great Lakes Transit about 1915. The Juniata exists today as the Milwaukee Clipper.

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