THE BEST OF TIMES
The Lake Shore Navigation Company intended on running the Eastland from Cleveland to Cedar Point, Cedar Point to Toledo, and back to Cedar Point to pick up passengers returning to Cleveland. This route was soon abandoned in favor of a Cleveland to Cedar Point only route. In 1909, another ownership change occurred. The Eastland Navigation Company was formed, and Merwin S. Thompson became the Eastland's new captain.
By the time the Eastland arrived on the scene in 1907, Cedar Point, built on a 364-acre peninsula jutting into Lake Erie near Sandusky, had recovered from near failure. Under the guidance and vision of George A. Boeckling, Cedar Point had become a world-class resort, beach and amusement park. Initially the Eastland used the smaller docks at Cedar Point, but this proved ineffective. To accommodate the ship, Boeckling built a splendid new dock for large ships on the western end of the peninsula, as well as a walk from the dock along the shady lagoons, built in 1905, to the resort.
The Eastland frequently departed Cleveland with her steam calliope tooting out popular tunes of the day such as 'In My Harem'. In 1911, a waltz was commissioned entitled 'On The Boat Eastland', that was played with regularity.
The Eastland possessed a popular dance floor and carried a good orchestra. Upon her return to Cleveland each night, she would be loaded with passengers at 25 cents a head and make a moonlight trip out on the lake where dancing was enjoyed with the cool lake breezes relieving the heat of the summer.
A sight of her on one of these moonlight trips was worth going miles to see. The ship would be lit from bow to stern while the strains of a waltz or the latest trot came floating across the water. Women dancing in white flowing dresses would be keeping time to the music. The crew of incoming ore freighters commented that the vision of the Eastland on a night cruises made them want to dive overboard and try to swim across to her.
Rumors of past instability still followed the Eastland. As a result, The Eastland Navigation Company placed a half-page newspaper advertisement in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Cleveland Leader on August 9, 1910. The ad read, in part: ". . .there are thousands of people who know absolutely nothing about boats, the rules and regulations for their running, and inspection and licensing of the same by the U. S. Government. In the hope of influencing this class of people there have been but into circulations stories to the effect that the Steamer Eastland is not safe." The ad also offered a five thousand dollar reward to anyone who could "bring forth a naval engineer, a marine architect, a shipbuilder, or any one qualified to pass on the merits of a ship who will say that the Steamer Eastland is not a seaworthy ship, or that she would not ride out any storm or weather any condition that can arise on either lake or ocean." There is no record showing that anyone ever came forward to claim the reward.
After the 1909 season, the remaining 39 cabins were removed as the ship no longer made overnight trips. The former cabin deck now became known as the 'tween deck (between). For the 1912 season, several changes were made. Captain Thompson was replaced by Captain Claude Ennes, and the top smoke stack sections were removed to shorten her stack height. It is not certain why this was done, but it is thought that this modification was done to reduce her inherent top-heaviness. This change did not seem to help. On July 1, 1912, the Eastland had a severe listing of approximately 25 degrees while loading passengers in Cleveland. Although the list was corrected, passengers were very concerned and some did not return from Cedar Point on her and opted for the more conventional train.
After the Titanic had sunk in April 1912, a public outcry began for better safety regulations and 'lifeboats for all'. In the wake of this fervor, the Eastland's licensed capacity was dropped from 2,200 to 2,000. The Eastland operated at a loss on Lake Erie, amassing between $175,000 and $200,000 in total losses. At the end of the 1913 season, under pressure from their bank, the Eastland Navigation Company offered the Eastland up for sale.
A.A. Schantz was general manager of the Detroit and Cleveland Navigation Company. He is well known for his prophetic remarks during the La Follette Seaman's Act testimony in which he petitioned against increasing lifeboat requirements for Great Lakes vessels during Congressional hearings in 1914. He stated that the additional weight requirements would cause many Great Lakes vessels to become top heavy and prone to capsizing.
It was Schantz that recommended the Eastland in February 1913 to the fledgling St. Joseph-Chicago Steamship Company, which was looking for a larger vessel to transport tourists and travelers from St. Joseph to Chicago. After their operations concluded for the 1913 season and after preliminary inspections, the St. Joseph-Chicago Steamship Company bought the Eastland on June 1st, 1914 for $150,000. Little did Schantz realize that the Eastland would fulfill his own prophecy.
The Eastland returned to Lake Michigan service on June 14, 1914.