The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio


June 3, 2012

Jumbo legend

Great Lakes sailor who had a legendary appetite enjoyed hobo amenities at Conneaut


Galley enemies

Lynch’s huge appetite drove up the cost of a vessel’s food bill, and the word was spread among ship owners to shun him at virtually all costs. Capt. John P. Perkins of the John W. Gates told Boyer that his cook, Jim Lovely, resorted to bribery to keep Jumbo off the vessel.

As soon as Lovely learned that a fireman had been paid off and a replacement was sought, he would post a watch at the dock gate to see who showed up for the job. If Jumbo was seen approaching the ship, the galley staff would pool its monetary resources and Lovely would offer it as a bribe to keep him from coming aboard.

Lynch had a huge financial problem, however — his appetite was so great, he could not support it on his wages or bribes alone. He had to sail so he could he could enjoy the benefit of free food. That meant that he was often relegated to ships that had the reputation for being “hard firing,” that is it took a lot of coal and physical labor on the part of the firemen to keep them running. Turnover on those vessels was high, but for Jumbo, they often were the only option.

His appetite made it challenging for the cooks to keep pace with his gluttony and the crew to get their cut of the meal.

“He’d sit down to the breakfast table, and when the porter would bring out a big platter of pancakes, eggs and bacon he’d just pull the whole platter over in front of him and start eating. All the other men would have to wait for more eggs and bacon, but by that time Jumbo would be ready for another helping. The ‘line’ boats were not on a budget and old ‘Roast Beef’ Charlie Hone of the Tionesta used to do his best to fill him up, but if he ever did Jumbo wouldn’t admit it.”

Indeed, Jumbo had a way of infuriating the cook when he complained of not getting enough to eat. One cook eventually gave the captain an ultimatum, “Either he goes or I do.” With the loss of the galley staff being the first step toward mutiny, Jumbo often found himself on the dock looking for another job.

Boyer writes that Jumbo seemed to have a fondness for Conneaut, whose sailor amenities included the Seamen’s Bethel, which stood at the northeast corner of Day Street and Park Avenue. Operated by the Congregational Church, the bethel was a temporary haven with reading room, bunks and Sunday church service.

Jumbo was a frequent visitor to the bethel, especially as his reputation with captains and galley staff became well established on the lakes and work became impossible to find. Sailors would donate a coin or two to Jumbo Lynch, who begged on the steps of the bethel and headed to the nearby Greek restaurant whenever he had accumulated enough for a Jumbo-sized meal.

Boyer notes that when the bethel burned down, the word on the street was that 6,000 lives were lost, all of them bedbugs.

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