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Mentor Spotlight

Mentor Spotlight - by John "Corky" Bickel

My mentorships with Earnest Wagner and Clark “Doc” Hawley came about in 1960 when I was 16 years old. It was that year that I got my first full-time summer job on the river as a cabin boy on the Venerable Sternwheel Excursion boat—the Steamer Avalon. Under the guiding hand of First Mate Clark “Doc” Harley and the watchful eye of the Avalon Master Earnest Wagner, I—along with fellow crew members—learned to make the boat ready for our passengers on daily afternoon and evening cruises as we visited towns that lined the Mississippi, St. Croix, Illinois, and Ohio rivers.

Venerable Sternwheel Excursion boat

Attention to detail, only needing to be told once, doing it right the first time, and never complaining because of the required task were fundamentals we quickly grasped. A respectful attitude toward all crew members and guests was soon instilled in each of us. What followed was the daily demonstration of leadership, guidance, and direction through the hands-on approach exhibited by both “Doc” and the big “E”.

First Mate Hawley taught me the importance of a crisp, clean uniform. In my case that included a white shirt, black pants, and shined shoes as I was in charge of the concession. I ran the popcorn machine and soft drink dispenser just off the dance floor on the second deck.