Date of OriginAug. 11, 1942
news report, from the radio, of world events. Broadcast from aboard the S.S. South American.
The Georgian Bay ships were docked for the winter in Holland, MI for many years. The following information comes from Robert Swierenga's book "Holland Michigan: From Dutch Colony to Dynamic City" pages 751-753.
"The South American and the North American, cruise ships of the Chicago, Duluth and Georgian Bay Transit Co., continued to operate out of the Montello Park docks until the 1950s. After ice was off the lakes in the spring, and before the summer cruise season began in June, the vessels made short runs as charters for employees of local companies and excursions for school children, church societies, and social clubs.
In the 1930s and 1940s, Tulip Time officials leased the vessels as floating hotels for the one-week tourist rush. People also could inspect them for a small fee, as four thousand did on a Sunday in May 1940. Thereafter, in the three summer months, the vessels ran their regular vacation excursions throughout the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.
In 1940, 2,900 people boarded the City of Grand Rapids (ii) at the Montello Park Dock for a “Gospel Moonlight Cruise” sponsored by Grand Rapids religious groups. The chamber of commerce, social service organizations such as the Lions Club, and companies like Holland Furnace, scheduled many cruises as far west as Duluth and east to Montreal. Honeymooners and couples celebrating wedding anniversaries considered lake cruises to be romantic getaways.
For decades, the industry managed barely to survive on such bookings. The Alabama, the smallest of the three Georgian Bay vessels and crowned “Queen of the Great Lakes” when she was built in 1910 as the flagship for the Goodrich line, was laid up in 1942 and sold in 1945 for service on Lake Erie. But the new owners defaulted on the mortgage; Georgian Bay reclaimed the vessel in 1947, and she began her service as a floating warehouse for the company at lay-up. She ended up rotting, ignominiously chained to a tree at the Montello Park docks until being sold to Ted Brink of Saugatuck for salvage in 1960. The ship, which had carried thousands of tourists across the Great Lakes since 1910, was towed to Brewer’s City Dock to be dismantled there. After two years of salvage work, the hull was left at Brewer’s dock. Later, a new owner converted the hull into a barge based out of Bay City, Michigan, which was scrapped in LaSalle, Ontario in the summer of 2006.
The sister Georgian Bay ships, South American and North American, which accommodated 540 passengers and carried a crew of 160, found new markets. In the 1950s the owners capitalized on the rising affluence of West Michigan families. The South American, dubbed the “Sweetheart South,” scheduled youth cruises for a solid month before school let out in June. This immediately followed the Tulip Time bookings.
Three or more groups of five hundred high school students from West Michigan went to Chicago each year on senior class trips. Tulip Time cruises gained popularity in the sixties, but they generated revenue only in May. The last hurrah for the lake cruises was from 1954 to 1959, when up to forty-five thousand passengers boarded annually, with the top year being 1955. Passenger traffic dwindled quickly thereafter to 1,000 in 1963 and only 187 in 1965. That was the last year passenger statistics were reported.
The North American rested at anchor for a year before being sold in 1963 to interests in Erie, Pennsylvania. The vessel sank on September 13, 1967, in heavy seas off Nantucket Island while being towed to Maryland. The wreckage was discovered in the summer of 2008.
The South American, the “Grand Old Lady” of the Great Lakes, took its final voyage before being decommissioned in October 1967, bound for Montreal. It had carried more than five hundred thousand passengers over the forty years that it wintered at the Montello Park docks. In the final season, the aged vessel carried only ten thousand passengers, none of whom embarked from Holland. The wooden ship no longer met Coast Guard safety regulations, and business did not warrant a modern replacement. After numerous attempts to save her, the last of the Great Lakes cruise ships met its end on the scrap heap. She was finally cut up in 1992 at a shipyard in Baltimore. The era ended with a whimper in the 1960s, until being revived on a much smaller scale in the late 1990s. Starting in the 2000 season, Holland became a port of call of the Grande Mariner, a 182-foot vessel that made regular circle tours of the Great Lakes."
Gift ofKnutson, Carol