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Paul Harvey and Becky Thatcher

March 3, 2009 - Jim Bartholow
Two recent news events _ the death of radio legend Paul Harvey, and Marietta City Council's plan to evict the showboat Becky Thatcher — brought back memories from more than 30 years ago.

Harvey, who died Saturday, at the age of 90, was the featured guest for festivities in 1975 at the Noble County Fairgrounds to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Shenandoah airship disaster. The tragedy, which took the lives of 14 crewmen, occurred Sept. 3, 1925. The 680-foot-long airship broke in half during a thunderstorm, with much of it falling to the ground near Ava. Much of the crash site is covered by Interstate 77, but part of it remains marked with stones and a flagpole visible on the western side of the southbound lane. Another section of the airship floated to near Sharon.

I remember the fairgrounds being packed with people on that day in 1975. There were all sorts of displays, food booths and lots of signs welcoming Harvey. I recall it was almost an extension of the Noble County Fair. Anyway, Harvey arrived on time at the fairgrounds, spent much time greeting people, then took a tour of the displays. I recall he gave a speech about air travel, but that's all I remember. The event was a blur for me, because the same day I got to meet Paul Harvey I also met legendary Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes, who happened to be at the event, too. Hayes was a common visitor in Noble County in those days since he owned land there and enjoyed getting away from the big city.

What I remember most about Hayes was his grip when I met him - very firm - and how easy he was to talk to.

What I remember most about Harvey is - no surprise - that voice and how he looked you straight in the eye when he answered a question.

As for the showboat, I got to ride it into town on the last leg of its trip into Marietta. I remember boarding it by Neale's landing at Vienna, W.Va. Interest in the Mid-Ohio Valley was high. People lined both sides of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers as the showboat was towed upriver to its mooring in Marietta. Hopes were high that it would be a lasting success.

Although that boat has fallen on hard times now, I think it did accomplish one major goal for Marietta. No matter where you go people seem to know about "that showboat in Marietta." For example, a nurse in Akron General Hospital told us five years ago that she knew about Marietta because her family used to come to town to see the showboat dramas.

And nine years ago a nurse at Mount Carmel told us that she loved to take weekend trips to Marietta to see the Becky and walk about town.

It's too bad the boat is no longer making it. I hope people don't perceive the Becky's troubles mean there's nothing to see in Marietta anymore. They would be wrong.


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