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.

Revision History:

Paddlewheels on the Upper Mississippi by Nancy and Robert Goodman: a short review

Regional history the way it ought more often to be written; this book is far better than I anticipated. It’s an excellent survey of the economics, social realities, and technical issues which drove shipping on the Upper Mississippi prior to the arrival of the railroads. What it does unusually well is show how local development reflected the developing national context. Absolutely delightful.


This shot review was originally published on LibraryThing.

Revision History: