Honored in 1994
Catherine Reynolds King was born on the river. In fact, she was born on her father’s showboat, the American, as it drifted down the Ohio in the clutches of an ice floe. The doctor who had come to deliver her watched helplessly from the West Virginia shore.
Ms. King spent her early years on the Ohio and the rivers that feed it on board the family showboats. Catherine’s father, Thomas Jefferson Reynolds, built and captained three showboats on the Ohio River and its tributaries from 1910 to 1959. The first was the Illinois, a dish and tin ware shop and silent moving picture showboat. Bench seating capacity was 200, and admission was 10 cents. But the Illinois burned at Foster, Kentucky, in 1916, and Catherine’s youngest brother, Norman, lost his life in the fire.
The Reynolds family’s next showboat, the America, presented live drama and vaudeville. It had a main floor and balcony seating with a capacity of 300.
In the fall and winter of 1922, the Reynolds family built the Majestic with seating capacity of 425. The Reynolds family broke records in their operation of the Majestic, the longest running showboat on the river under the same owner. They carried the largest professional crew each season, eight or more, in addition to the family actors and musicians. Catherine Reynolds King, who passed away in 1998, recorded her experience on the Majestic in her book, Cargo of Memories.