Deckhand by Nelson “Mickey” Haydamacker and Alan D. Millar: a short review

This is a brief (100+ pages) “as-told-to”, with Haydamacker the storyteller and Millar the transcriber/editor. Both did excellent jobs, and produced an interesting book about the day-to-day life of deckhands on Great Lakes freighters in the early 1960s.

Mickey Haydamacher was just out of high school and looking for a job. He grew up near (and on) the St. Clair River and had family members who crewed on lakers, so he applied for a job with the Interlake Steamship Company. This book is his retelling of his two years as a deckhand on Interlake ships.

The book’s subtitle, “Life on Freighters of the Great Lakes,” is a good description of its contents. This is a book about everyday life–fighting to open and close hatches, washing things down, surviving the weather, sharing a smoke, visiting waterfront bars. It’s also about friendships, growing up a bit, and getting on with life.

The author served on (then-)new boats–the Eldon Hoyt 2nd and J.L. Mauthe–and a “bucket of bolts”–Col. James Pickands–so he can make some valuable best-and-worst comparisons. He visited most of the upper lakes ports, and tells tales about a few of those. But mostly it’s a book about his ships, his shipmates, and the things he did every day on the ships.

It’s a different perspective than offered by most who write about lakes shipping. It’s well done, and worth your time.






This review was originally published on LibraryThing.

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