Skip to content

‘Boblo Boats’ Is a Documentary Narrated by a Ship

HISTORY CRUISE: ‘Boblo Boats’ tells the story of Boblo Island Amusement Park, which operated in Ontario from 1898 till 1993. The story is narrated by one of many iconic Boblo Boats. (Equipped Photograph)

The Lighthouse Worldwide Movie Society can be screening the documentary “Boblo Boats” at 7:30 pm on Thursday, Oct. 27 on the Lengthy Seashore Island Basis of the Arts and Sciences in Loveladies.

A whole bunch of amusement parks in the US are defunct, victims of financial recessions – particularly the Nice Despair – fires, incidents, bigger opponents and improvement.

For instance, this author fondly remembers visiting West New Haven, Conn.’s Savin Rock as a younger youngster at any time when we visited my grandmother within the early Nineteen Sixties. It had a mile-long halfway, full with curler coasters that I might by no means journey as a result of I wasn’t “this tall,” water chutes, bumper automobiles, mechanical boat ponds, merry-go-rounds, arcade video games and a close-by seaside. The times at all times ended at Jimmies of Savin Rock restaurant, famend for the most effective fried clams south of Maine and its well-known “cut up scorching canines.” Not for nothing was “The Rock” referred to as “Connecticut’s Coney Island.” Alas, it closed in 1966, supplanted by a residential improvement, which might generate profits all 12 months ‘spherical as a substitute of seasonally.

There are nearly two dozen defunct amusement parks in New Jersey. Readers could bear in mind a few of them fondly, similar to Bertrand Island on Lake Hopatcong (closed in 1983), Hunt’s Pier in Wildwood (1985), Child’s World in Lengthy Department (1987), Asbury Park’s Palace Amusements (1988) and the state’s largest till Six Flags Nice Journey, Palisades Amusement Park in Bergen County (1971). Why did Palisades shut? Like Savin Rock, the wrinkles have been changed by a high-rise residence advanced.

Boblo Island Amusement Park, which was in operation from 1898 by 1993, was nicknamed “Detroit’s Coney Island,” which reveals two issues – that Coney Island was certainly the “Playground of the World” earlier than the arrival of Disney and had many imitators, and that the BIAP was giant. Certainly, it was so giant that in its early years it had a small railroad to maneuver guests all through it. Boblo Island had the second largest dance corridor on the planet, financed by Henry Ford. It additionally, after all, had curler coasters, a falling log flume, a Ferris wheel, a carousel and even a zoo. A preferred attraction was its “Scootaboats,” an on-the-water different to bumper automobiles.

However the park wasn’t positioned in Detroit; it wasn’t even in the US. It was positioned on Bois Blanc Island, Ontario, and for greater than 85 years residents of Detroit and its suburbs reached it on two propeller-driven tour steamships, the SS Ste. Mild and the S.S. Columbia, which might maintain 2,500 passengers every. Getting there, 18 miles away, was half the enjoyable after they went to the amusement park.

At the very least it was enjoyable for whites – however not for blacks for a few years, as you will notice later.

After the amusement park closed, quite a few plans have been made for the positioning – together with a residential improvement, after all – however monetary miscues abounded and nothing substantial has changed it. As for the 2 ships, the Ste. Clear was engulfed in a hearth whereas docked on the Detroit River in 2018. The ship’s historic mahogany woodwork and higher decks have been destroyed, however as co-owner Ron Kattop mentioned, “Yeah, she’s 110 years previous, however she’s well-built and he or she survived .” Some of us nonetheless hope to revive it. In the meantime, the columbia is docked in Buffalo, NY, the place rehabilitation work is already underway.

Laura Herberg, reporting for Detroit’s public radio station WDET, mentioned this concerning the film: “’Boblo Boats: A Detroit Ferry Story’ is a documentary movie informed from the attitude of one of many steamboats that used to take passengers to the Detroit-area theme park, Boblo Island.

“’I believed it might be magical to have the narration from the attitude of S.S. Columbia, the Boblo boat herself,’ says the movie’s director Aaron Schillinger, ‘as a result of for therefore many individuals this was a magical childhood expertise.’

“Within the movie, the SS Columbia’s voice is narrated by Motown legend Martha Reeves. However the story itself facilities across the restoration of the opposite iconic Boblo Boat, the SS Ste. Clearwho the columbia refers to as her sister, ‘Claire.’

“Whereas the movie facilities round a solid of characters rooting for the Ste. Clear – together with the physician who owns it, a volunteer who has a miniature Boblo theme park in his dwelling, and a psychic who one of many boats talks to – the movie additionally highlights Boblo historical past.

“For instance, it dives into the story of Sarah Elizabeth Ray, the ‘Rosa Parks of Boblo.’ Ray, an African American lady, was kicked off the boat in 1945 for using it with white passengers. She fought her elimination, it went all the way in which as much as the US Supreme Courtroom and he or she gained.”

The boats have been not segregated. Nonetheless, will both of them ever steam out onto the Nice Lakes or the Detroit River once more?

Director Schillinger will take part in a video Q&A after the screening on the LBIF.

Tickets could also be bought on-line at for $10 or on the door for $12.

—Rick Mellerup


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *