We have all heard much about Crystal Beach and the Crystal Beach Boat (CBB), a.k.a. the Canadiana. Previously, I added my two cents about the legendary beach and amusement park, and, herewith, my additional two cents about the equally legendary boat.
Ah, yes, it was awesome, especially viewed as a youngster! On my maiden voyage in 1940, I was filled with anxiety. Going to a foreign country across what seemed like the Pacific Ocean was scary. Mom and I boarded the ship from behind the deteriorating Dante Place Projects. I rushed to the third deck for a good look around a very busy harbor; tugboats were huffing and puffing, a grain ship was being pushed down the Union Ship canal,a few freighters towed here and there. Nearby, the Detroit boat (twice the size of the Canadiana) was waiting to take passengers to the Motor City. Buffalo was a leading lake port then. Alongside the harbor, trains were unloading coal. Other trains were leaving and entering the DLW terminal.”All aboard!” The Canadiana chugged slowly out of the harbor picking up speed as it passed the first break wall. It was time for me to spend a few minutes on the first deck looking through the screens down at the massive engines. They thumped away so vigorously that I swore we were on the Queen Mary. Not far away on the first deck were some guys playing slot machines. Young Tony Illos watched them in a trance, anticipating future trips to Vegas; yes, there were slot machines in the 1940s on the Crystal Beach Boat.
Back on the second deck, my Mom sat with some friends in the plush inner cabin amidst the brass railings and mahogany trimmed panels. I traveled up to the top deck to gaze in awe at the pilothouse where the Captain, a rather grisly old seafarer, guided the ship like a veritable Chris Columbus on the open sea. Then came the initial sightings of our destination. I saw the Cyclone (to be replaced shortly by the less perilous Comet) and the Ferris wheel; soon enough, we were docking at the long concrete pier. We disembarked and hurried through Customs where we were asked, “Where were you born?” That was the only question, so off we went for hours of frolicking.