I’ve known Danette Inman for a number of years and would always see her when I ate at the Diamond Springs Hotel, where she was an outstanding server. I also see her when she drives by me on the road while going to or coming from work (she always flashes the lights, so one day I blew her a kiss, but later found out her husband was driving. She still tells that story).
If you know her you realize that she is full of energy and moves at a rapid pace that I call living two lifetimes in the space of one. She is always doing something new while an “average” person would still be thinking about it. She is amazing.
Several months ago she and her husband, Tom, purchased the Brick Oven Pub at 2875 Ray Lawyer Drive in Placerville and decided to do some upgrades to it, including a hood and fryers. “If you are a pub, you should serve pub food,” she told me, “and you need fryers to do it.”
When the upgrades were done, she invited me to come by and try the food, so I called my friend, Russ Salazar, and we stopped by.
I got there a few minutes late, so (smiling as always) she first asked me if I got lost and then what we would like to try. We decided on a small meat pizza and let her decide on the rest.
While the pizza was being prepared, she brought us a sample of fried pickles and their hand dipped onion rings, along with a couple of dipping sauces. Russ was fascinated by the fried pickles, which, like the onion rings were not oily and very good. I think if there had been enough of them, he would have just had those for lunch. Both were excellent and I am very picky about onion rings.
Those two appetizers were soon followed by two small bowls of that day’s homemade soup, Cheesy Broccoli. I’m not a big soup person, but we both agreed it was very rich and had an outstanding flavor.
In Part IX, we touched on the subject of the most famous and, according to most visitors of the time, most beautiful steamer to grace the lake, the steamer “Tahoe,” often referred to as the “S.S. Tahoe” and also the “Queen of the Lake.”
The “Tahoe” was commissioned by lumber baron D.L. Bliss. Lumber had made Bliss rich, but the mining activity began to fade and with it the lumber business. Bliss decided to look elsewhere for business and decided that tourism, along with carrying freight and mail, was the real future in the Tahoe Basin.
The steel hull for the “Tahoe” was built in San Francisco in 1894 and then disassembled. The multitude of numbered parts were hauled on huge freight wagons Glenbrook, along with her two steam engines and wood-fired boiler. On June 24, 1896, in a lavish ceremony, she was launched into the lake. She was a huge 169 feet in length with a beam of 18 feet. Her two large steam engines each drove an underwater propeller and, according to some, she could reach the amazing speed of 18 knots, mostly because of her narrow beam.
Luxurious passenger travel on the lake was the goal of Bliss and he spared no expense to outfit the “ Tahoe” in a magnificent manner. Her cabins were paneled in the most expensive of woods, crystal light fixtures were everywhere, marble counters and brass fittings abounded, the carpet was handmade and the furniture was upholstered in leather. Meals were served on porcelain, with silver utensils, crystal glasses and linen tablecloths. With all this, including steam heat throughout and hot and cold running water in the lavatories, she was indeed the “Queen of the Lake” and the height of luxury.
For years she made a daily circuit of the lake, and leaving every morning from Tahoe City with the mail and freight from the previous night’s train, and returning in late afternoon. In her round trip she delivered and picked up freight and mail at all of the major landings, while carrying up to 200 passengers. But the same narrow beam that allowed for her high speed was not always conducive to comfortable passenger travel, especially when the weather turned, which it often did.
Because Lake Tahoe is in a high mountain valley, the winds and weather are very unpredictable. One moment things could be completely calm and the next the lake could be choppy and full of waves. The fickleness of the lake’s weather had been the downfall of the large sailing vessels that had carried everything around the lake for many years, often keeping them in port to await better weather. The owners hoped things would be different with a steamer the size of the “Tahoe,” but although she could venture out in nearly any weather, when the winds came up and the whitecaps grew, the steamer rolled unmercifully. Needless to say, when this happened the passengers wanted more than anything to return to dry land. Unfortunately for them, when the weather was bad the “Tahoe” could not make much speed back to her home port, again because of her length and narrow beam.
It was Augustus Pray, a lumberman at Glenbrook in the Tahoe Basin, that first realized the need for steam powered boats on the lake.
Throughout the 1850s and early 1860s only sailboats had carried the freight, passengers and mail around the lake. Pray believed that the rapidly growing lumber business in the basin demanded the need for more powerful boats that were not so subject to the fickle whims of the wind.
In 1863 Pray milled the lumber for a forty-two foot long, twenty-four foot wide boat. He ordered a steam engine, firebox and boiler from San Francisco and had it delivered to Glenbrook. That in itself was an accomplishment in those days, since it had to be carried by huge “Washoe” freight wagons, hauled by teams of oxen, up the mountain road from Placerville and over Echo Summit into the basin and then around the south end of the lake to Glenbrook. Named after H. G. Blasdel, the first governor of Nevada, the “Governor Blasdel” was the first steamer on the lake.
The “Governor Blasdel” was driven by a paddlewheel on each side, powered by the steam engine between them. With wide beam, her pilot house quite forward on the deck and her twenty-foot iron smokestack, she looked like what she was, a steam powered barge. But that was an advantage, since she drew very little water and could work close to the shore.
Pray used his steamboat to haul logs to his mill every day throughout the summer and when she was not busy doing that, she carried passengers on sightseeing tours. Even the Governor of Nevada, after who she was named, often came to the lake to vacation and took trips on “his boat.”
After thirteen years the harsh winters to the Tahoe Basin began to take their toll on the “Governor Blasdel” and then her boiler exploded. In 1877 she was beached and became simply firewood.