Before the cement in the Coulee Dam was thoroughly cured, Lake Roosevelt had its own ‘Love Boat’ cruising around. I doubt that Captain Merrill Stubing of TV Love Boat fame was even born at that time.
Our own Miss Coulee had her captain too, when she journeyed up and down the inland waters. Captain Frank Selde may not have had romantic eyes, but he was more amusing and entertaining than Merrill. With a grin from ear to ear, Frank steered the pleasure boat, Miss Coulee up to the loading ramp at Fort Spokane. It was harvest time of 1942, when 60 of us rented this holiday boat for an all day Sunday cruise up the new man-made lake.
Excitement ran high when Frank and Leonard Hutsell pointed this cruiser north with its load of human cargo. Seeing the shoreline scenery move was real fascinating to some of us.
Harvest had just begun, so a lot of the more serious minded farmers were leaning over the railing, talking about the crops and watching the water split alongside the boat. The seasoned wives just sat inside with their lunch baskets and peeked through the windows at the lofty mountains passing by.
For Sugar and I, it was our first group romantic outing. Communications on board brought my sister-in-law and farmer George a little closer to saying ‘I do.’ For my fresh married brother-in-law, it was like an extended honeymoon, as the two spent most of the time as silhouette figures on the bow of the ship.
There wasn’t as much hanky-panky going on as seen on the real Love Boat. The double decked Miss Coulee was big enough so everyone finally had his or her thing a-going. Reserved-like farmers began loosening up a bit. Jokes and kidding of the simplest form became a hysterical event. Even the lunch-box sitting wives left their windows to join the fun.
A refreshing waterfall midway toward Canada was where the boat docked. Finding a flat spot, we spread our picnic lunch out on the grass. More fun took place, ’til the boat crew figured it was time to head for home. A simple but slippery trail back to the boat gave the young bucks a chance to help the lovelies over rocks and other stumbling objects.
What happened to Miss Coulee? Well, prosperity set in after the war. People began buying their individual happiness. Factories started turning out high-powered speed boats, so fun loving people could go zooming over the water with skiers holding on behind.
That left Miss Coulee with absolutely nothing to do. Lonely and rejected, she was pulled out of Lake Roosevelt and drug overland to Lake Chelan. Here the mountains were taller and loaded with more growing things. She changed her name to “Lady of the Lake.” It caused pride once again to enter her hull.
Right now, this proud ‘Lady of the Lake’ is carrying lots of people up and down the glacier-like lake. Serving pleasure to the sight seers, the lonely ones and those who are happily married - a sort of northwest Love Boat.
Miss Coulee brings tourists close to the construction work at Grand Coulee Dam, 1940.
Photo courtesy of Grant County Historical Society and Museum, BOR Collection.
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