Saturday, January 28, 2012

Merely Dee—an Eastland Disaster Novel

Back in September of 2010, I did a post about the Eastland Disaster, a Chicago tragedy that unfolded in 1915. Now, a good friend has written a young adult novel based on this story! Marian Manseau Cheatham's book, Merely Dee, features a teenage girl named Dee Pageau who happens to be aboard the ship on that fateful day. Here is a brief overview of Marian's book:

The 1915 Western Electric Employee Picnic is the social highlight of the year in Cicero, Illinois. Five steamers wait to ferry seven thousand passengers to the picnic grounds in Michigan City, Indiana. As teenager Dee Pageau packs her picnic basket and prepares to board the SS Eastland, she anticipates this will be the best day of her life. Dee hopes to spend time with her best friend, Mae Koznecki—but she also wants to get to know Mae’s handsome brother, Karel, a little better. Dee has no idea that in a matter of hours, tragedy will strike.

Despite her mother’s dark premonition that death awaits her if she boards the SS Eastland, Dee decides the risk is worth a chance for more time with Karel. Dee’s excitement quickly turns to terror, though, when the ship capsizes at the dock, threatening the lives of everyone on board. Rescued from certain death—not once, but twice—by Karel and a mysterious stranger, Dee soon discovers that Mae is nowhere to be found. Dee can only sit back and wait to hear if she is trapped in the flooding bowels of the capsized ship or worse yet, dead.

In this captivating historical tale, Dee takes a coming-of-age journey like no other as she soon realizes that surviving the disaster is only the beginning.

I have been anticipating the release of this book, and have my copy ordered—I can't wait to read it! You can find links to Merely Dee below. It would be a great read for anyone who loves historical fiction.

I've decided to do a repost of my original
Eastland Disaster post from 2010. Enjoy.


Eastland Disaster site 2

While taking one of my lunch-time strolls in downtown Chicago a few weeks ago, I came across the plaque commemorating the Eastland Disaster. It sits along the Chicago River at Wacker Drive and the LaSalle Street bridge.

Eastland Disaster plaque

All my life, I heard stories of the Great Chicago Fire. But I never even heard about the tragic story of the sinking of the Eastland until I was an adult. I bet most Chicagoans still haven't heard about this tragedy.

SS Eastland docked

The S.S. Eastland was built in 1902. It cruised the Chicago area and the Great Lakes as a tourist ship.

1904 image of Eastland where disaster occured

On July 24, 1915, the Eastland docked in its usual place between the LaSalle Street and Clark Street bridges on the south side of the Chicago River. There, over 2500 employees of theWestern Electric Company plant of Cicero, Illinois and their family members boarded the ship for a company-sponsored picnic cruise to Michigan City, Indiana. The ship had design flaws, making it top-heavy. Soon after boarding and before the ship could even leave the dock, it tipped over and sank into the 20-ft. waters.

Eastland Disaster panorama

Chicago police and firefighters quickly rushed to the scene and began rescue efforts.

This is how the site looks today...

Disaster site, looking east

... and how the same view looked on that tragic day.

Eastland on its side

Holes were quickly cut into the hull of the ship to pull people out:

Rescuers on overturned hull

Divers were sent into the waters when the rescue effort became a recovery effort.

Diving to recover the bodies

The Reid Murdoch building on the north side of the river still stands today. This central food-processing plant became the staging area for emergency responders during the rescue.

Across the River

The Reid Murdoch building as the the disaster was unfolding:

The Eastland & Reid, Murdoch & Co. building

Temporary morgues were set up in several nearby buildings. People waited in long lines to come to identify the bodies:

Waiting to identify the victims

Looking west along the river today...

Disaster site, looking west

... and the same view a few weeks after the disaster. Here you can see the efforts being made to raise the ship upright.

The Eastland being righted

After being righted and towed away from the scene, The Eastland was sold to the US Navy, repaired and retooled as a gunboat, renamed The USS Wilmette, and finally dismantled after WWII.

Reid, Murdoch & Co. building

In all, approximately 845 people lost their lives that day, making it the 3rd worst ship disaster in U.S. history and the largest loss of life in the United States from a single event during the 20th century. 22 entire families were completely wiped out.

Eastland Disaster site

Why was this incident all but forgotten? Was the event just too tragic and painful to remember? The first plaque was erected in 1989. After being vandalized and finally stolen in 2000, a new plaque was commissioned and erected in 2003.

To learn more about the Eastland Disaster, visit these informative links:

The Eastland Disaster, a wonderful YouTube video. Very well done.
The Sinking of The Eastland by Jay Bonansinga

Marian Manseau Cheatham's novel "Merely Dee" is available at:

Monday, January 9, 2012

Meet Junie

Junie Profile

Meet the latest addition to our family! This is Juniper Berry, aka Junie!

This past June, or sweet little Penny cat died, and we spent several months in mourning. Then, finally, my husband and I knew it was time to get another cat.

First Junie Photo
Junie is an odd-eyed white. She has one gold eye and one blue! This was her first photo at the shelter.

One day on my train ride home from work, I saw a post on Facebook showing a cute white cat that needed a home. I showed the post to Terry, and he agreed that her description sounded like just the kind of cat we wanted.

At the Shelter
Junie at the shelter. She really wanted to be adopted by someone!

We emailed the shelter, which specializes in rescuing cats and dogs over 5 years of age from kill shelters, and taking them into their no-kill facilities.

Me & Junie
Meeting Junie at the shelter.

We filled out the paperwork online, and went in for a visit.

Terry & Junie
Terry holding Junie at the shelter.

Needless to say, I fell in love with her right away! She was living at the shelter in the "cat room" where the cats roamed free, and was getting along with them very well. This is something we wanted in our next cat. She was very friendly and let anybody pick her up and cuddle her, and she purred up a storm!

Junie in her new home.

While the shelter took a few days to complete our background check, we went to visit her once more. And on December 22nd, we went in, signed the papers, and Junie was officially ours!

Warm Heat Vent
She likes to sit by the heat vents for warmth.

Junie loves getting petted!

On our vet's recommendation, we isolated Junie upstairs, away from Phoebe, until we knew for sure that she hadn't contracted any diseases at the shelters she had been since August. Once she got the all-clear, it was time for Junie and Phoebe to meet!

Shoebox Showdown
Meeting Phoebe. They stared at each other from their shoeboxes.

Well, at first, Phoebe did a lot of growling and some hissing. She will not let Junie get too close! But both cats seem fascinated with one another. We have to watch their interactions carefully, and have kept their visits to only a couple times a day at first. We've also let both cats smell where the other cat sleeps and eats. I'm hoping, in time, they will become good friends.

Under the Tree
Junie and Phoebe having a meeting under the Christmas tree.

Junie is our little Christmas Cat, and we look forward to new cat adventures in 2012!

Sunning Herself
She loves a sunny window!

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