Martha Reeves, as Columbia: I want to tell you a story about an island known as Boblo.
Woman: The Boblo experience was the boat ride there.
Man: Give the man your little ticket, and you on the boat.
You're having fun.
Columbia: My sister Claire and I would take families by the thousands for a summer of fun.
Woman: It was everybody together, and that's what made it the Boblo boat.
♪ Columbia: This river is my home.
♪ I can tell you the names of every current and eddy that flows along the shores of Boblo Island.
People call me Columbia, and, yes, I do have a sister-- Claire.
♪ We used to race this old river every summer.
[People cheering] ♪ If you're from Southeast Michigan or the tip of Ontario, you may have caught a piece of our story, a memory glinting in your mother's eyes, an old sign by the river, fading but not forgotten.
Some say we're now haunted by the spirits of passengers long since departed.
Others less romantic claim we've been torn up and sold for scrap, but Claire and I know the truth.
I want to tell you a story.
You might say it's a Detroit ferry tale starring the oldest surviving passenger steamboats in America-- the sister ships of Boblo Island.
♪ Once upon a time, they called our city the Paris of the Midwest.
It seemed like all eyes were on us.
Our cars could take you wherever you wanted to go, and our music made the ride that much better, but the most magical ride each year was the summer voyage to Boblo Island.
♪ Man, voice-over: Boblo had the Boblo Bear.
Well, ride the train.
Remember riding the train around the island?
I just would run.
Man, voice-over: I remember the first time I was truly scared to death was on their roller coaster.
Looking back, it wasn't that big, but back then, it was like it was a monster.
Ha ha ha!
Woman: The Boblo experience was the boat ride there.
Man, voice-over: Getting on a boat, giving the man your little ticket, and you on the boat.
You're having fun.
Woman, voice-over: There was actually a Supreme Court ruling about integration on the Boblo boat that really did start to change history in America.
Boblo Island is a Canadian island.
This is how you know he's telling the truth.
You know, you left the country, you know, because you got on a boat.
You traveled across the river.
It was really magical.
Columbia: For 80 years, we were on a dedicated hour-and-a-half tour between downtown Detroit and Boblo Island.
Although the park closed down in 1993, the memories live on.
Man, voice-over: 50 Cub Scouts running around on the boat, and we'd run up to Captain Bob-Lo and say, "Can we have a coloring book?
Can we have a coloring book?"
Different man: Captain Bob-Lo, you know, he was maybe 4'4".
I want to say his name was Joe Short.
Don't quote me on that.
I think that was his name.
The best part, though, was taking the moonlight cruises.
♪ The boat would be full, but you could always find that one nook, that one little corner somewhere where you could sit and put your arm around your girl and-- Her name was Serena Arteaga, and we hugged and stuff.
Man, voice-over: It was a part of summer.
It was a changing of the season.
Some people watch for the robins to come back.
All the kids waited to hear the Boblo boat whistle.
[Ship's horn blows] [Children cheering] Columbia: They hardly let our boilers cool overnight, and that's the way I liked it... ♪ but we should have known that the spell wouldn't last forever.
♪ ♪ Man: All right.
Well, welcome to the Boblo boat Ste.
This is Kevin Mayer, Tony Laginess, and let's just go take a walk and show you the different things on the Ste.
What is that, 105 years old now?
It's a 105-year-old engine, so it's actually older than Titanic... and this is the part of the ship that everyone remembers, especially when you were a kid.
Everybody remembers going up the grand staircase.
That's a nice brass railing.
You can see how beautiful this was.
Let's go upstairs.
♪ Ron, voice-over: So here's the team.
I own the boat.
I'm the primary finance behind the project, OK, so Mike Lewinski actually has been with the boat project longer than anybody.
If I come on the ship and say, "Ski, is there any place that's weak right now?"
He'll tell me exactly what's changed from when I was out previously, maybe 3 days ago.
He knows that structure.
Tony, first of all, knows a lot of people down river.
The best trait that he has is, he's not afraid to ask for something.
Kevin does all the marketing and the publicity.
When he gets on in front of the camera, you know, he's got a good smile.
He likes it.
I think Kevin more than anybody-- I mean, everyone, whoever's gonna watch this, is gonna hear, "Oh, yeah.
I love Boblo.
I miss Boblo," but... Kevin would have to be at the top of that list.
♪ Kevin: I've been building this and collecting it since 1989.
It's not the exact layout of Boblo Island.
That's probably because I got probably twice as many rides as Boblo Island, so I call it my future Boblo.
♪ There's my uniform right there.
This is the uniform that we had to wear while working on the boat.
♪ I worked in the concession stand right across from the bandstand area, or the DJ booth.
We worked 18-hour days every other day.
We got there first thing in the morning.
We had to get the hot dogs going, the popcorn, things like that, but it didn't feel like work.
Even now, when you go on that ship, all your problems seem to go away, you know?
It's the riding of the boat, the uniqueness of being at an island amusement park.
It's like you're a kid again, so that's why if I can't have the island, I want to make the island here.
♪ Woman: But Genevieve, we have to figure out lunch tomorrow.
You know, like, it's been such a long road for us, like, going back to when he told me he bought the boat, you know, so he comes home, he's like, "Hey, babe."
I'm like, "Hey," you know, whatever.
He's like, "Remember the Boblo boats?"
I'm like, "Yeah, totally."
I'm like, "We had the best time on them.
Like all of us cousins would go, this and that."
He's like, "I just bought one."
I'm like, "Like, what?
Great," thinking-- and then I saw a picture of it, and I'm like, "You bought what?
You bought this?"
I'm like, "Are you crazy?"
I'm like, "Oh, my gosh."
I'm like, "What are we gonna do?"
OK, nice, deep breath in and out through your mouth.
Ron, voice-over: Never as a child did I ever think about or dream about owning the boat.
It's my own my own nostalgia that I have for the boat.
My kids, you know, I mean, I want to pass this on to them.
Danielle, voice-over: Ron works every single day.
He'll come home at 7:00, totally hangs out with the kids and plays with them.
There they are, hidden as usual.
Danielle, voice-over: Yeah.
We don't go out much anymore, have a date night anymore, whatever, so to say.
Ron: Where's Jonathan?
Danielle, voice-over: Nonstop phone calls.
He gets phone calls all night long.
I don't think he's had a full night's sleep in over a year.
Now get down.
Ha ha ha!
Danielle, voice-over: There was definitely times where the boat was more of a burden than a good thing, you know?
It was financially stressful, but he doesn't let obstacles get him down.
Even, like, a few summers ago, he had a brain tumor, and, like, that just came out of nowhere and totally just, like, a crazy experience for us.
I mean, he had to, like-- He would sit there and write the alphabet over and over and over to get his penmanship back and his handwriting, and, you know, he's just very determined, and, like, when he puts his mind to something, that's it.
He does it.
Cancer survivors don't always talk about that, don't always want to talk about that, you know, but there was a time when he wasn't too sure about things, you know?
Ron called me, and it was, like, 4:30 in the morning, and he's like, "You awake?"
and I'm like, "Yeah.
I'm at work," and he's like, "Yeah.
I got bad news.
I think we're gonna scrap the boat," and it's like-- He's like, "My health isn't the greatest, "and so it's, like, at this time, I'm thinking we're gonna scrap the project."
After about a week he's like, "Did you cut anything off yet?"
I didn't cut anything off, just measured."
He's like, "Yeah.
We're gonna keep the boat."
"OK," and that was the end of that conversation.
I'm very hands-on.
I like to do everything on my own, which, you know, it's good you're involved, but a negative side to that is that you can get overwhelmed, so I've been giving Kevin more and more tasks that he's very comfortable with doing and that I'm comfortable with him doing.
He can literally devote all his time to this.
If we had 100 people like Kevin, this would have been done probably 10 years ago.
There goes that.
It isn't because I'm heavy.
Jeff, voice-over: We met in 1988 at a nightclub called Nectarine Ballroom in Ann Arbor.
We went dancing, and then I got his phone number, and we started dating and just went on from there.
I never went to Boblo Island, only once or twice as a child, but he brought me into that world, and he got an invitation to go to a Boblo reunion, and he wasn't gonna go, and I said, "You better go because you love Boblo Island.
You better be there."
He just was so upset when the boat closed and reliving those memories.
Kevin, voice-over: Seriously, when the island went under and stuff like that, I was devastated.
Like I said, that whole thing, it's just like losing a family member.
A lot of people think I'm crazy, but I never want to see that island again.
♪ From what I hear, where the amusement park was, they've let it go.
The buildings are falling down.
They've been vandalized.
You know, the Space Needle is still there.
That's the only ride that's still there, but I want to remember it the way it was.
I don't want to see it the way it looks now.
[Birds chirping] Man, voice-over: In 1600, in the very early days, the French came over and started trading with the Native peoples.
The coureur des bois, or the French woodsmen, they named Boblo based upon the white wood of the basswood tree-- tilia americana, so, sure enough, Boblo Island, Bois Blanc, was probably just a mispronunciation of the French because it is difficult for English-speaking people for that French pronunciation of Bois Blanc, pronounced it Boblo.
It does not take long for nature actually to take this back from a mowed and manicured state.
That is an amenity to those who now live in this wonderful residential development on the north end of the island.
[Birds chirping] ♪ Woman, voice-over: I heard that they built mansions over where Boblo used to be, and that's unfortunate.
I really wish we still had Boblo.
It gives Detroiters something to do instead of just hanging out in the streets.
Kids' first experiences going on a boat was, well, very likely the Columbia and the Ste.
Claire for people living in this area.
♪ Columbia: When Boblo Island closed down in 1993, no one had any use for two old amusement park steamboats.
Claire and I fell into a deep slumber.
It seemed like even the Motor City itself was fast asleep.
Shops closed their doors.
The streets were deserted.
The fires of the factory furnaces grew cold.
The river slowed, even down to the fish, and there we were, the oldest passenger steamboats in America, slumbering away.
You look at something like that sitting and moldering away, and it's a little like seeing Aunt Sadie in the hospital dying of cancer.
Man, voice-over: Detroiters as a whole feel really sad.
I feel sad that we don't have this in our life anymore.
Columbia: There's not so many folks still around who remember a different side to Boblo.
All these good times have a way of washing away the things people just as soon to forget... Man, voice-over: It has a place in civil rights history.
I did not know that.
I don't think your average person who attended Boblo Island or rode on the boats ever knew that.
Columbia: but I was there, and I'll never forget Sarah.
Woman, voice-over: Sarah Elizabeth Ray was working in a city ordinance department, and that department had a special program where people could get extra training, and she was the only African American in the group, so for their graduation, they decided they were gonna ride the Boblo boat.
I assumed everything had been segregated at some point, so I wasn't shocked that it was segregated.
What's a little shocking to me is how quickly the Detroit community was willing to forget and forgive the racist history of the Boblo company.
♪ You're making people uncomfortable, miss.
Well, that's their problem.
Now is when you're supposed to get off my boat.
[Snap] Desiree, voice-over: That was a very deep cut both to her as a human being, but also as a woman who had accomplished probably more than anybody in her family at that time.
♪ It's hard to imagine, like, the shame and embarrassment that she must have undergone in that moment, and there are people who kind of skulk away and don't fight, but, for her, that was like, "Oh, no," you know.
"I've come too far, and they're not getting away with this."
She went straight to the NAACP and reported what happened, and they took the case.
One thing that people don't know is that once the NAACP got involved, Thurgood Marshall actually got on the case.
So, according to Michigan Civil Rights Act, you could not discriminate on the basis of race in public accommodations, but Boblo kept appealing.
What the courts found is that it was a public accommodation and they could not discriminate on the basis of race, so--whoo hoo!--Sarah won... ♪ and that was sort of the end of that fight in that moment, but it had given Thurgood Marshall yet one more test of what was the Supreme Court's appetite for ruling that separate but equal in public accommodations and public spaces would be unconstitutional, and so his next trip to the Supreme Court was Brown versus Board of Education.
So for real, Sarah Elizabeth Ray did pave the way for the change of law in the United States.
♪ Kevin, voice-over: After the work is completed on the Ste.
Claire, this is one of the places that we're thinking of having her as a dockside attraction.
Ron: Utilizing the ship for public events, weddings, and proms and graduations and corporate parties.
We're at that point, you know, we don't want to give up on the boat just like people don't want to give up on the city, and it's small changes.
Clearly, if you going in, for those who haven't been in Detroit in a long time, if you go down there now, I mean, there are new buildings, the new stadium,.
You know, they're putting the railway system.
We know a lot's going down in the city, I mean, same thing for us.
It's a humongous job, you know.
I'll be the first to admit, do I want this boat back, like, 3 weeks ago?
Heck, yeah, but I know that's not a reality.
Everybody wants to have a comment, you know, and they don't take a look at the people individually and say, "Well, what's really going on?
Why did this happen?"
and it's all about, "Well, the boat should have been done by now."
OK. Well, great.
Let's see what you can do that I couldn't do with all the obstacles I've had.
But if anybody's gonna do it, we are... That's right.
Woman, voice-over: So I have a folder all about Sugar Island.
I found what I think is going to be very pertinent.
It's "Sugar Island-- The African American Amusement Park That Never Was."
♪ In 1944, black Detroiters bought Sugar Island to develop a recreation site on 29 acres.
They bought a ferry boat-- Sea Breeze and picked up passengers in Wyandotte.
♪ They wouldn't be discriminated against, and it would be for their own people.
They were going to bring bands, like Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington, down to play for entertainment, but it didn't happen.
♪ It was said they were thwarted in their efforts.
The power lines were cut and the boat sunk.
♪ As far as the cause of the ship sinking, that remains a mystery to this day.
Although there is consensus among Downriver natives that the Sea Breeze was intentionally sunk to thwart the efforts of the Sugar Island Amusement Corporation.
There is no hard evidence supporting the story.
Columbia: Why does history have a tendency to remember some things while conveniently omitting others?
That on that corner right there, it used to be a very vibrant barbershop... Oh, across the street.
across there where you see all those trees.
They had apartment buildings, apartment buildings and what have you.
Sheryl: You know, my mother-in-law is one of the last of the Mohicans around here, you know.
Willie Mae, voice-over: Even though the houses are boarded up and burned out, this is where I live.
Did you see this picture right here?
That's all the people standing in line trying to get on Boblo boat.
I met my husband over on the Boblo boat.
Now he's my husband.
Ha ha ha!
Now he's my husband.
We need Detroit fixed first before you can go fix a boat.
I'm not against any-- you know, the Boblo boat-- don't get me wrong; I would love to see that-- but before I see $10 million going to the Boblo boat, I would like to see $10 million put into our neighborhoods.
Columbia: Not everyone who left this city wanted to.
Some stayed as long as they could until there was no other option.
Claire and I waited for decades, hoping a prince would come to save us with his kiss, praying our luck might finally change and we could witness Detroit's resurgence.
♪ The kiss came, but not without a price.
I was bought by some folks out of New York.
They seemed determined to breathe new life into me.
In exchange, they wanted me to meet a new river--the Hudson.
In order to have a new life, I was forced to leave all that I loved behind and sail into uncharted waters.
♪ Woman: You could not build this boat now.
You couldn't do it skillwise.
You couldn't do it from a regulatory standpoint.
People's comfort and the experience was very much in the minds of the designers.
The way the chairs, I mean, the seats, you picked the seats up and you move them around, right?
You get on a modern boat, the seats are all lined up.
Like, who goes through the world like that by choice?
It matters that she's had all those people treading upon her decks.
It matters that she's made all those trips.
That's why we're passionate.
♪ We plan to take Columbia to New York City and the Hudson River Valley.
♪ Throughout her life, she was evolving, and it's only appropriate that we then continue that path.
Especially if she's the people's boat, like, people change, and she's gonna change along with them.
Woman, voice-over: In New York, people will be able to get on board and experience long ago in the present, so she'll be like a floating time machine, in a sense.
♪ My dad took me on board when I was 6 years old for the first time, and the first place he took me was to the place where you can look down and watch the engine.
The metal railing, the brass railing on the grand staircase, if you hold that and you open your palms and close your eyes and listen, you can hear-- you can hear people.
You can hear footsteps going up and down.
You can hear the babble of people.
First time I did that, somebody was there that didn't understand what I was doing.
She said, "Are you all right?"
I said, "Yeah.
Just let me be.
"Listening to what?"
"I'm listening to history."
♪ I don't know what it is, but the Columbia, heh, she does talk to me from time to time, but I've never had the Ste.
Claire talk to me... and I'm not sure I would want that.
♪ Columbia: Were her masts raised under a dark star, her hull forged with sinister iron?
If my sister isn't cursed, then why is she always caught between the devil and the deep blue sea?
Tony, voice-over: I think it was in the twenties that the boat stopped and picked up 3 bodies out of the river, and they brought them and put them in a certain room on the boat, and for years and years and years and years, everybody would tell you you'd see 3 light orbs-- shoom, shoom-- in and out of that room.
A lot of people even would say they wouldn't ride on her.
They would wait for the Columbia and not ride on the Ste.
♪ With ships, there's a lot of superstitions.
When the Edmund Fitzgerald was launched, a huge wave crashed up against the dock, and a guy had a heart attack, even, and died.
♪ When the Ste.
Claire was launched, she listed, you know, and they all say these are bad omens.
These ships do have souls.
They do have heart, and they're like any kind of sisters.
They both have a different personality.
Columbia is a little more the stately older sister, and Ste.
Claire has always been more of the party-girl younger sister.
I'm a historian, and when I see something historic, I'd like to see it retain that history, and unfortunately, that doesn't exist for the Ste.
Claire, where it does for the Columbia.
They have taken off most of the historic parts of the ship.
The pilot house was not in good shape, and they immediately took that off, so she kind of has lost her top--ha ha!--which is sad.
Maybe because she's the younger sister, it won't be so bad.
Ha ha ha!
♪ Ron: Obviously, we sit right next to Praxair.
It's a oxygen manufacturing plant, so I can't do any work here, but we've been looking for a place to move to, you know, for almost 8 months, and it's hard to find a spot that's at least 16 feet deep, 200 feet long to put her.
The easy part--which is moving the boat, OK, somewhere-- that's become my hard part.
That's the problem.
Unfortunately, you know, the way-- you know, the way we're going about this, I mean, it's just so hard because every spot that we find falls under the Department of Natural Resources, or it's industrial, or it's Homeland Security.
Ron: Let's reach out to the media and, you know, and also folks on the Canadian side.
This is Ron Kattoo again.
How are you?
Claire, where we're sitting, she's right next to the Praxair oxygen manufacturing plant.
Guess that that entire canal shoreline, they're gonna be redoing.
My biggest worry would be, if we can't find a spot and they want to start that work on the shoreline, I mean, I may have no option except to scrap her.
Well, let's see what happens.
Hopefully, we'll get some-- some response and find a place to put her.
[Clears throat] ♪ Gloria: Boy, that's busy.
Ha ha ha!
I like that roller coaster.
Ha ha ha!
Kevin, voice-over: You know, sometimes I think, even though he's a doctor, I think he got a little overwhelmed.
Well, that could be, too, but you also have to look at the fact that he's a surgeon.
He holds people's lives in his hands every day...
and he may have, you know, along the way inherited a God complex.
I mean, in the beginning, you know, I had my doubts, too, as to wonder-- You know, he's had people ask him if he wanted to sell the boat or whatever, and he doesn't.
I would like to live long enough to come on board the Ste.
Claire and feel like I feel when I go on board the Columbia...
like she's a happy ship.
That's why I'm hoping... Yeah.
that Ron does make me a partner, because I already told him, you know, basically, I'll be living on that boat.
You know, I'll make sure everything-- I know what the people like, what they remember.
You know, I can get them going.
♪ Gloria, voice-over: The situation with the Ste.
Claire is beginning to go in a different direction.
♪ The Seven of Cups would indicate she will go in a different direction and the barrier will be removed if the right choice is made.
♪ I don't see scrapping.
I see an intervention.
♪ Ron: You know, looking in this room, actually, the majority of you actually have been on the boats longer than I have.
This has not been an easy course.
I have such a hard time just trying to get people to believe into the project, and, you know, we got nowhere.
You know, nobody wants to give up on the Boblo.
We're not going to give up on the boat.
Jim was the one who actually got the word out for us.
After he got that word out, the "Free Press" picked it up.
The stations picked it up, and then now we went from having no place to go to about 15 different offers that we got out there.
We're getting calls from mayors of cities, private landowners, corporations.
I mean, one guy made us an offer.
He has 800 feet of dock space said, "Listen.
"You guys can have that spot for $10 a month."
♪ Tony, voice-over: This is basically where we're gonna be parking the boat now.
This is the Rouge River.
♪ Ron: So this move--this move finally getting here this day, that's just another step in the whole big process.
You know, there's a thousand steps before she's done.
This is step number-- I don't know--800.
You know, we're getting there.
♪ Columbia: My Claire, just moving again feels like you should be on the way to Boblo, doesn't it?
We're not there yet, old gal, but this is a sunny day, and we can pretend.
♪ ♪ Here we go, buddy.
You don't want to scratch me.
You don't want to bite me.
You don't want to do any of that.
You want to keep your rabies to yourself.
Come on, buddy.
Come on, over here.
There you go.
Raccoon number 3.
♪ Now all the public knows that we catch at release.
We don't catch and kill.
Kevin: Well, there's been a lot of changes since we moved here to River Rouge.
Ron came to me in February and offered me a partnership, so I'm one of the partners now in Ste.
We now have an awesome crew.
We got Rita, Samantha, the welders, and Steven here.
Steven is the best, man.
He is running everything on this ship.
He's in charge of everybody, and not only is he boss, but he takes the guys out for field trips and everything else, so, you know, everybody just loves him.
Well, we did, like, Heidelberg Project once.
We did Kevin's pool once.
We're gonna do-- We got the renaissance festival coming up.
You know, it's important that when you, you know, work together, that you play together, too.
Steven, voice-over: We decided this would be a great opportunity for us to hear what the public has been saying, and that's that they want to see some work on the outside.
♪ This boat is deteriorated because steps like this weren't taken.
♪ Gloria, voice-over: When I got aboard, I thought she was probably gonna say something smart like, "It's about time," and she moved me to tears.
She said, "Welcome aboard, dear friend."
♪ She's telling me I have to be around to get to New York when she's on the river there... ♪ and I'm telling her, unlike her, I keep getting older.
She's getting younger.
Ha ha ha!
I'm sad to see her go... ♪ but happy that she'll have a new life.
♪ Columbia: The time has come for me to leave.
♪ It's the beginning of a new life for me.
♪ It wasn't but a few months from when I left Michigan that I learned of Gloria's own departure.
♪ Bon voyage, old friend.
♪ From time to time, I like to imagine I can still hear her voice, only she sounds different now, closer.
♪ ♪ [Gulls squawking] ♪ Steven, voice-over: So as it turns out, we do have to move the ship again.
We don't have a new location set as of right now to share with you, but we do know that we are going have to move.
The reason we're getting kicked out is because there is a larger company out there that wants the property and they're willing to pay $100,000 a month, in that range, which obviously, you know, we can't do that, and we can't compete with that, so we're gonna figure it out.
We're gonna truck on like we always have, so, I mean, I know that's how I feel.
Kevin, voice-over: It's gonna take a hell of a lot more than 3 people to rebuild this ship.
I mean, if you think about it, if they do this section, get that part done, and move on to the next, by the time they're done with the next, this section's gonna need rebuilding again, you know.
I mean, he is the kind of person that he can make you believe the sky is purple.
[Motor humming] Boblo Island, here we come.
That's one place--no.
You'd have to pull over and let me out.
See, this is the same route we took, brings back memories.
Is that the side of the island there?
That's the Space Needle.
♪ Columbia: I've been dragging my rudders up to now, but you must hear the story about the end of Boblo Island.
♪ Woman: So many of these trolley parks, these older amusement parks, by, say, 1974, 1975, the majority of them had already closed.
There's theme parks.
Those theme parks work on a economic model that's much more effective and profitable.
You are cutting off city dwellers who don't have access to private cars, so you're ensuring a kind of population in those parks that has some money to spend.
They're also kind of created without the kinds of spaces that cause tension, so Walt Disney had no swimming pools, no bathing beaches, no roller skating rinks, and no ballrooms in any of his theme parks.
These were places where Blacks and whites would come into conflict, so the older, more traditional amusement park already had a lot of strikes against it with this history of segregation and desegregation, but now they had this competition.
What many of these park owners began to realize is that this land was actually quite valuable.
It was near the city, and often park owners could sell the land to developers at quite a big profit, so city after city after city lost their urban amusement parks.
♪ All the people in those cities lost access to this relatively inexpensive, incredibly pleasurable form of recreation.
♪ Columbia: That does sound like what happened to our Boblo.
Some claim gangs cruising the park scared away the patrons.
Others blamed Claire and me, saying we were just a luxury too costly to maintain... ♪ but Claire and I know the real story.
♪ Man: When we closed the deal for Boblo, we only had 45 days to get it open.
They had not intended to operate that year.
They'd mothballed it, but we were too stupid to know better, so we did it.
In the business community, yes, everybody knew who the Benaroyas were because of Benaroya Symphony Hall and a lot of philanthropic work that they did.
They agreed to make the investment but wanted to also be a partner.
♪ I always wore just the pirate shirt and pair of shorts, and nobody knew who I was, and I'd start asking them questions and be like, "Hey, the park's looking good," and they'd give you a whole, "We heard it got cleaned up, and, boy, it sure is.
It looks best we've seen it," and the crowds started getting bigger, and by about August, Boblo was finally turned the corner, and the locals that hadn't come were all of a sudden coming back.
I think they were used to when the Benaroyas said, "Jump," you were just supposed to say, "How high?"
and I didn't.
Larry was a good business guy, but he's never run a park.
He wasn't hands-on.
He'd never been a builder.
He and I just started not getting along.
♪ It takes time to bring in new investors, but I had a pool of investors that I had lined up, and I was actually supposed to meet with them the morning that I got hurt.
September 24--'93, I think-- I was in a car crash that basically almost should have killed me.
They didn't think I'd survive.
♪ When I woke up from the coma, I was ready to move forward, and then I found out a lot of the stuff that had happened to the park and that Benaroyas had taken control of it and put it into bankruptcy and that they'd laid off... ♪ I think, everybody at that point.
They'd fired everybody and shut the park down.
♪ It's unfortunate.
Just one accident and one bad partner, and Boblo paid the price.
♪ Steven, voice-over: You know, my hope and prayer is that one day, we just find a spot, whether it's the city that gives it to us or a person, but just a long-term relationship, somewhere we can put the boat.
Ron: I just need 200 feet of space.
That's all I'm looking for.
You know, it's almost like begging, but without that 200 feet of space, we can't go on.
♪ Kevin, voice-over: I don't know what more we could do.
I mean, we've been in the papers.
We've been in, you know, every media outlet there is, so it just needs somebody to step up.
Chuck Gaidica: How can people get in touch with you?
If somebody's watching this and they've actually got some kind of dock space, what do they do?
They can go to our website... Kevin, voice-over: I mean, we're down to the wire.
We're getting calls every day from the people that own that property, you know, and they were generous enough to donate it to us, so we really have to honor their wishes in getting out of there in time.
♪ Columbia: At the 11th hour, a marina stepped forward and offered a space for Claire.
♪ For the first time in decades, she sailed back to her home in Detroit and with a view of the city skyline behind her, her crew got back to work.
♪ If this was your classic bedtime story, we'd be heading toward a happy ending.
♪ A wizard or even a fairy godmother might arrive from some faraway land, and, poof, the curse would be lifted, but this isn't that kind of fairy tale.
[Flames crackling] [Explosion] ♪ [Gulls squawking] ♪ ♪ Ron, voice-over: All the work we had put into her just gone.
♪ I didn't know what to do.
I was emotionally just wrecked.
Kevin, voice-over: I kind of feel the boat relied on me, and I couldn't save her.
♪ All right.
♪ It's just the saddest thing, knowing that a boat that we love so much and worked on for so many years is no longer here.
You know, it's there, but-- The one thing I do want is, I want them to find out what caused it, and if it was arson, I want that person to pay.
Of course, the arson inspectors, you know, came in and, you know, like, you know, just detailed grilling us about what happened.
I'm like, "I don't know what happened.
"I wasn't there, you know?
I mean, there's the guy.
"He's telling you what happened.
He was welding.
You know, a fire started, and it got out of control."
If you understand, the wood was not insured, OK, because I couldn't get insurance for wood that old.
I mean, the hull was and the engine.
That was all insured, but there was no damage to the hull, right?
I mean, what I lost was all the wood.
But I'm an optimist, and I'm thinking maybe we can rebuild the boat, not this boat, but build a new boat.
He's a dreamer.
1902, they were able to build a boat.
It's a great idea.
I think it's-- You know what?
At this point in my life--I'm 55-- I need to start enjoying life, and I think it's time to move on.
I want it to be done.
The roller coaster has finally come into the station.
♪ [People screaming] ♪ Columbia: Intoxicated with nostalgia, even our memory tends to forget.
Pat Hanks: ♪ Back in the day, we used to go ♪ ♪ And catch a boat to Boblo ♪ ♪ And steamed the river... ♪ Columbia: This past belongs to us all, buried and yet still breathing.
Woman: The city filing for bankruptcy.
Hanks: ♪ And you could ride up high or low ♪ ♪ On the way to Boblo ♪ Man: ♪ Hot dogs and funnel cakes better on that Boblo ♪ ♪ Giddy feelings when you hear that ferry horn blow ♪ ♪ It was a fantasy on the other side of history ♪ ♪ The land of milk and honey flowing with a mystery ♪ Hanks: ♪ Ferris wheels and popcorn meals ♪ ♪ That give every kid a big smile ♪ Columbia: We must remember it all, even though it hurts.
♪ Claire, how about a race for old times sake?
♪ [People cheering] ♪ ♪ [Ship creaking] ♪ Humankind preserves and restores history in an attempt to freeze time.
♪ [Whirring] ♪ They hope against the laws of nature that if my decks gleam like they did when they were children, that their past is still alive.
[Whirring] I am a vessel made from the memories of everyone who boarded the Boblo boats.
♪ It's hard to go on after what happened to Claire.
♪ Ron, voice-over: Not a day goes by that I don't think about what we lost-- the foyer and the staircase and all that beautiful brass that was on there, but, you know-- you know, what can I do?
I can't go back in time.
All I can do is push forward and just, you know, do the best I can do.
I mean, I beat stage-4 bladder cancer.
I beat a brain tumor.
You know, I had my left kidney taken out, chemotherapy for 6 months.
You know, I mean-- I mean, these were-- You know, what's fixing a boat compared to all that?
I need somebody... ♪ Ron, voice-over: I have my wife.
I got my two kids.
I have the people who still support me in the project.
That's all I need.
John Lennon: ♪ When I was younger ♪ ♪ So much younger than today... ♪ Kevin, voice-over: Well, after the boat burned on July 6, Wendy Sutton kept writing to me on our Facebook group because she was asking who had the bear costume, and I told her I had one of them but I wasn't willing to come to the island and all that.
That's when she started telling me about their plans for the future and, you know, bringing people back over and starting events on there and stuff like that, so--who knows?-- this could be a new chapter.
It might not look the same, but--who knows?-- it could be even better.
Are you OK?
Kevin, it's fine.
Why am I here?
Give me the bag.
Mm... Give me that.
I got it.
[Ringtone plays] Who's that?
Hey, Wendy, we just got into the parking lot.
How are you doing?
Uh, it was an interesting ride over.
I wanted to give you all of this.
This is the souvenirs I developed and then had made and stuff like that.
Here's all the interviews that we did.
If you were to put a carnival on this island and do a commercial-- "Come relive Boblo"-- oh, my God, you would have to turn people away.
♪ Columbia: There is an anchor within each of us buried deep, waiting to be lifted.
♪ Are you glad you came, or are you still upset?
I don't know yet.
♪ Ron, voice-over: Events like the fire change people.
I mean, that was the death of Boblo for him.
The fact that we're not working on the boat anymore, you know, I don't hold anything against him.
There was a lot of good, you know, so all I can do is say thank you to him.
♪ I've got a place.
I've got time.
It'll be done faster if I had $3 million right now.
The real question is, do I really think I can get this done?
♪ The only thing I ask for is patience.
Look how long it's taken for the City of Detroit to rebound after a fire and a riot and this and that and, you know, bad politicians and whatever.
I mean, do we all just pick up and leave and say, "The hell with it"?
Man, voice-over: I've been saying for the last 28 years that we're on the front lines of the greatest urban comeback story in this nation's history, and we're seeing people move back in for the first time in a long time.
Woman, voice-over: No.
I think that Detroit is having a resurgence.
It's having a resurgence in parts, and I think that there are other parts that are really struggling.
Different woman, voice-over: Resurgence suggests that it's returning to something that it was.
Detroit is finding a new identity that is important to where we are right now, right here.
Man, voice-over: There's a lot of money in this town, certainly, and people are coming from all over to experience the city and its comeback.
Maybe somehow hopefully it can get restored.
Different man: It ain't all about the money sometime.
It's about people getting together and, you know, making it happen.
Different man, voice-over: The Detroit Lions may never win a Super Bowl, never been in one, but I think one of the two Boblo boats is coming back really soon.
Different man: You know, it's funny.
The slogan of Detroit is Rise from the Ashes.
♪ Columbia: If we gather enough courage to raise our masts and weigh anchor with all our might, one day, our ships will sail.
♪ So you knew everybody who worked at Boblo.
You could see them.
When they went back to school, you could tell everybody that worked at Boblo.
They had a Boblo tan.
There was a flock of seagulls that followed the boat as it went up and down the river.
Announcer: Boblo Boats: A Detroit Ferry Tale is available on Amazon Prime Video.
You had $7.00, $8.00, you went to Boblo.
You know, your mom knew where you was at.
You was at Boblo Island.
What kind of trouble could you get in at Boblo?
You gonna not eat your hot dog or, you know, your elephant ear or something like that?