Daily Update: Monday, April 27th, 2015

04-27 - Sinking of the Steamship Sultana

We have no Saints to honor today. On this date in 1865 the steamboat Sultana, carrying 2,400 passengers, exploded and sank in the Mississippi River, killing 1,700 people.

Under the command of Captain J.C. Mason of St. Louis, the Sultana had left New Orleans on April 21, 1865, with 75 to 100 cabin passengers, deck passengers, and numerous heads of livestock bound for market in St. Louis. At Vicksburg, Mississippi, the steamship stopped for a series of hasty repairs to the boilers and to take on more passengers. Rather than have a bad boiler replaced, a small patch repair was made to reinforce a leaking area. A section of bulged boiler plate was removed, and a patch of less thickness than the parent plate was riveted in its place. This repair only took about a day, whereas to replace the boiler completely would have taken about three days. During the Sultana‘s time in port, men tried to muscle, bribe, and threaten their way on board, until the ship was bursting at the seams. More than two thousand men crowded aboard; most of the new passengers were Union soldiers, chiefly from Ohio and just released from Confederate prison camps such as Cahaba in Alabama and Andersonville in Georgia, as the United States government had contracted with the Sultana to transport these former prisoners of war back to their homes. With a legal capacity of only 376, the Sultana was severely overcrowded. Many of Sultana‘s passengers had been weakened by their incarceration and associated illnesses. Passengers were packed into every available berth, and the overflow was so severe that the decks were completely packed. The boiler (or “boilers”) gave way when the steamer was about 7 to 9 miles north of Memphis at 2:00 am on April 27. There was a terrific explosion that sent some of the passengers on deck into the water while destroying a good portion of the ship. Hot coals scattered by the explosion soon turned the remaining superstructure into an inferno, the glare of which could be seen in Memphis. The first boat on the scene at about 3:00 A.M. (an hour after the explosion) was the southbound steamer Bostonia II which overtook the burning wreck and rescued scores of survivors. The hulk drifted to the west bank and sank about dawn off the tiny settlement of Mound City, Arkansas. Passengers who survived the initial explosion had to risk their lives in the icy spring runoff of the Mississippi or burn with the ship. Many died of drowning or hypothermia. Some survivors were plucked from trees along the Arkansas shore. Bodies of victims continued to be found downriver for months, some as far as Vicksburg. Many bodies were never recovered. The Sultana‘s officers, including Captain Mason, were among those who perished. No exact death toll is known; the official count by the United States Customs Service was 1,547, and modern historians tend to concur on a figure of “up to 1,800″. Many of the dead were interred at the Memphis National Cemetery. Final estimates of survivors were between 700-800. In 1982 a local archaeological expedition uncovered what was believed to be the wreckage of the Sultana; blackened wooden deck planks and timbers were found about 32 feet under a soybean field on the Arkansas side, about four miles from Memphis. The Mississippi River has changed course several times since the disaster, and the main channel now flows about two miles east of its 1865 position.

I did my Bathroom Devotional Reading,  and gathered up the trash. Richard put the trash can out on the curb, and we headed off to work, with me doing my Internet Devotional Reading along the way. Once we clocked in at the casino Richard was on Mini Baccarat; I was on the second Mississippi Stud table, and when that table closed, I changed Blackjack cards, then became the dealer on the Shoe Blackjack game in our High Stakes Pit. On his breaks Richard checked with the Shift Office about his accrued PTO; it is now correct, and the Shift Office asked that we not check our pay stubs and our PTO status online until each nominal Payday date (which is every other Monday, even though our checks usually hit the bank via Direct Deposit on the Friday before). Also, Deborah was impressed with the Excel sheet that I made up to track our PTO; we agreed that Richard and I will go have lunch with her and Deborah on Wednesday of next week, and I will set up an Excel sheet for her on her computer to track PTO.

As we left the casinoOn our way home Richard got me lunch via the McDonald’s drive-through lane in Kinder. On our way home I checked Ticketmaster to see if The Who was playing anywhere nearby. They are not, but I did find that they are going to be in the Northeast this fall at the same time that we will be in the Northeast on vacation. Richard stopped at Eunice Poultry for some boudin, and once we arrived home I read the morning paper. Richard then got online and on the phone, and ordered two tickets for the November 4th, 2015 concert of The Who at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. (This date is great for us; that is on a Wednesday, and if all goes according to plan, we will have just spent a relaxing weekend with the kids and the baby.) And I will note that although I have said before that I would not see The Who for love or money, I will be seeing them with Richard, so I guess I will see them for love. I then took a nap which lasted for the rest of the day; Michelle came by, but I did not get out of bed to see her (though she stuck her head into the bedroom to say goodbye to me), and I did not do my Daily Update.

Tomorrow is the Optional Memorial of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, Priest, the Optional Memorial of Saint Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr, and the Optional Memorial of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, Wife and Mother. We will go to the casino, and I will probably drive in separately, as I will probably sign the Early Out list. On my breaks at the casino I will do my Daily Update for Monday, April 27th, 2015. If I get out early and take a nap, I may go to Lafayette in the afternoon. And tonight our #1 ranked LSU Baseball team will be playing a single game with Alcorn State.

Our Parting Quote this Monday afternoon comes from Vicki Sue Robinson, American actress and singer. Born in 1953 in Harlem, New York, her father was a Shakespearean actor and her mother was a folk singer. She was raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she gave her first public performance in 1960 at the age of six when she accompanied her mother on stage at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. She returned with her family to New York City when she was ten; in 1970, at the age of sixteen, while a student at the New Lincoln School, Robinson made her professional performing debut when she joined the Broadway cast of the musical Hair. She remained with the show for six weeks before moving to a new Broadway production, Soon, whose cast included Peter Allen, Barry Bostwick, Nell Carter and Richard Gere. After the show’s short run she appeared in the Off Broadway play Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone in which she and Richard Gere played Mimi and Richard Farina. Robinson also had bit parts in the films Going Home (1971) and To Find A Man (1972). She made her recording debut as one of several Hair veterans invited to sing background on Todd Rundgren’s Something, Anything album, released in 1972. In 1973 she spent time in Japan with Itsuro Shimoda with whom she did session work on his album Love Songs and Lamentations and toured nationally. The same year she returned to Broadway, joining the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar. In 1975 Robinson was providing vocals at a New York recording session for the album Many Sunny Places by Scott Fagan, a singer she had performed with in Greenwich Village clubs. Warren Schatz, a producer/engineer affiliated with RCA, was struck by her voice and saw her potential as a disco-oriented artist. Schatz invited Robinson to cut some demos, including a remake of the Foundations’ “Baby Now That I’ve Found You” which became her first solo release. Despite that track’s failure, RCA green-lit Schatz’s producing Robinson’s debut album Never Gonna Let You Go. The title cut became a #10 disco hit but another album track, “Turn the Beat Around”, was released as a single, topping the disco charts on March 20, 1976. “Turn the Beat Around” broke on Top 40 radio in Boston in May, almost immediately topping the charts there. Despite failure to crack the major markets of New York City and Los Angeles, “Turn the Beat Around” reached the U.S. Top 10 in August, overall spending some six months on the Billboard Hot 100 and propelling the Never Gonna Let You Go album to #49. “Turn the Beat Around” would chart internationally, reaching #14 in Canada, #44 in France, #11 in the Netherlands and #12 in South Africa. The track earned Robinson a nomination for a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. She toured across the United States promoting her hit tune, and performed on all the major TV shows such as The Midnight Special, Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, The Merv Griffin Show, Mike Douglas, American Bandstand, and Soul Train. She also performed at the top venues around the country such as the Boarding House in San Francisco, The Starwood in Los Angeles, and The Bottom Line, Felt Forum, and Carnegie Hall in New York. The original touring band consisted of Dan Pickering on trumpet and flute, Bill Cerulli on drums, Wendy Simmons on bass guitar, Nacho Mena on percussion, Vernie “Butch” Taylor on guitar, and George Pavlis on keyboards. George Pavlis would be later replaced by Joey Melotti on keyboards. The touring band members recorded four tracks on her second album, Vicki Sue Robinson, which was released in the fall of 1976, and reached #45 on the charts. Her next album, Half and Half, was not released until 1978 and peaked at #110. In 1979 she contributed the track “Easy to Be Hard” to the Schatz production Disco Spectacular – an album of dance versions of songs from the musical Hair inspired by the release film version – and recorded what would prove to be her final album, Movin’ On. The album scored a 1979 club hit with “Nighttime Fantasy,” a track recorded for the 1979 film Nocturna: Granddaughter of Dracula. Also in 1979 Robinson appeared in a film made by the same production company as Nocturna: Granddaughter of Dracula, titled Gangsters, which also featured T. Life and Cissy Houston and the first credited screen role for Jean Smart. Robinson sang background on Irene Cara’s hit single “Fame” in 1980, Her dance version of “To Sir With Love” became a surprise Top Ten hit in Australia in 1983. Her next release, a remake of “Everlasting Love” in 1984, was her last recording for almost fifteen years, apart from the track “Grab Them Cakes”, a duet with Junkyard Dog featured on The Wrestling Album (1985). “Grab Them Cakes” was issued as a single, with Cyndi Lauper’s “playing” the guitar in the music video. Robinson concentrated mostly on session work, backing Michael Bolton and Cher. She also established herself as a career jingle singer for such products as Wrigley’s Doublemint chewing gum, Maybelline Cosmetics, Downy fabric softener, Hanes underwear, New York Bell, and Folger’s coffee. From 1987 to 1988 Robinson provided the singing voice for the characters Rapture and Minx in the animated TV series Jem. She regained some publicity from Gloria Estefan’s 1994 version of “Turn the Beat Around.” The success of the Estefan single inspired Robinson to re-record the song for the B-side of her 1995 single, “For Real.” This led to TV appearances on a number of talk shows as well as some recording, film, and stage projects. She provided backing vocals on RuPaul’s 1996 album Foxy Lady, where the two of them also recorded a duet; then in 1997 she recorded the song “House of Joy” for DJ/producer Junior Vasquez, which became Robinson’s first and only hit single in the United Kingdom. She then recorded the song “My Stomp, My Beat” for the 1997 film Chasing Amy. In October of that same year she played herself on Comedy Central’s mock TV documentary Unauthorized Biography: Milo, Death of a Supermodel. A resurgence of interest in disco music by the mid 1990s led Robinson, along with fellow disco veterans K.C. and the Sunshine Band, Thelma Houston, Gloria Gaynor and The Village People to embark on a well-received world tour. Upon returning to the U.S. in 1999, she went back to her roots in theatre by performing in an Off Broadway musical titled Vicki: Behind The Beat, which was semi-autobiographical in nature and featured her hit songs, along with her best-known jingles. The play was a continuation of her popular cabaret show. In June of that year she provided the track “Pokémon (Dance Mix)” from the 2.B.A. Master soundtrack for the English dub of the Pokémon anime. Three months later, in September, Robinson released her final single, “Move On,” which reached #18 on Billboard’s Dance Chart. During that same month, she was forced to withdraw from her Off Broadway show owing to ill health. However, before her state became terminal, Robinson undertook the role of a fairy godmother in the independent film Red Lipstick, which was released on April 16, 2000, eleven days before her death (died 2000): “I took to singing very early, I believe it has been a Gift I was born with.”

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