Bee history: The ‘King’ returns to its original splendor

Pumps attempt to refloat the Delta King at a shipyard in Richmond on June 2, 1982. Seven years later, a grand opening for the renovated historical vessel took place in Old Sacramento.
Pumps attempt to refloat the Delta King at a shipyard in Richmond on June 2, 1982. Seven years later, a grand opening for the renovated historical vessel took place in Old Sacramento. Sacramento Bee file

The Sacramento Bee is celebrating its 160th anniversary this year. This story is part of our ongoing coverage.

May 19, 1989: A king will be christened Saturday in Sacramento. As befits royalty, the festivities surrounding the 2 p.m. ceremony will last all day and will be attended by thousands. There will be bands, pipers, balloons and fireworks.

The “king,” of course, is a 63-year-old riverboat, the Delta King. After a close call with death – in which it spent more than a year sunken in San Francisco Bay – and five years of restorative attentions at a cost of about $9 million, the Delta King is again in, er, ship shape.

The Delta King is one of a pair of sternwheeler riverboats that transported people between Sacramento and San Francisco overnight in the ’20s and ’30s. (Its sister, the Delta Queen, still functions as a riverboat on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.)

Saturday, the Delta King’s official grand opening as a permanently moored hotel on the waterfront in Old Sacramento will be celebrated with a regatta, fireworks and other entertainment that can be seen at no charge from the grounds near the boat.

Also Saturday, the Sacramento Opera Association, which has chartered the vessel for the weekend, will be conducting its biggest-ever fundraiser, “A Salute to the King.”

A tour of the four-deck boat earlier this week revealed it to be quite handsome in areas where restoration is complete. Those include two restaurants, the hotel’s 44 staterooms and most promenades.

Considerable work remains to be done, however, on a 115-seat theater (which will be used to show a film on riverboating during the week and for live entertainment on the weekends), a small museum (devoted to riverboating), two gift shops and several other areas aboard as well as on the docks. This work is not expected to be completed for several more weeks.

Walking about the Delta King one is struck by the glass and brass fixtures, the plush rugs, the abundance of mahogany. The predominant colors are mauve and white. The restaurants, especially, are strikingly beautiful. Their windows afford marvelous views.

The Delta King, foreground left, has become a fixture of the waterfront in Old Sacramento. Jose Luis Villegas Sacramento Bee file

As for the hotel proper, there are seven deluxe rooms, the largest and most expensive of which is the Captain’s Quarters. Besides a spacious sitting area, wet bar, sumptuous bath and a Murphy-type queen-size bed, it contains the boat’s steering wheel (almost two stories tall) and brass navigational gauges.

On the deck above the restaurant, connected by a gorgeous mahogany grand staircase, is the Delta Lounge. It’s decorated by a series of small glass murals depicting life on the river during the Delta King’s heyday. The centerpiece of the lounge is its lovely piano, a museum-quality piece of furniture.

Most of the staterooms are quite small, though handsomely appointed. And though historical accuracy is maintained throughout much of the riverboat, two major concessions were made. The staterooms are air conditioned, and each has its own bath.

Robert A. Masullo

Music Circus’ opening was grand in 1951

June 20, 1951: It seems likely producers Russell Lewis and Howard Young created something close to 1,000 happy missionaries with the production of “Show Boat,” which opened the 10-week Music Circus season at 15th and H streets last night.

Bee file

The audience appeared to be a good deal more than satisfied. They warmed to the show from the start, they applauded individual scenes and numbers without letup, they pounded their hands red at the end and you could hear words like “wonderful” and “tremendous” around you in the departing crowd. Enthusiasm was in the air, and it felt like the catching kind.

There was reason for it. This is a fine show.

Gala is an overworked word, but it is probably the best description of the atmosphere which marked this opening. Circus music filled the air before the show and pop and hot dogs were for sale at booths made to look like circus wagons.

The crowd, some of the them from fairly distant points, milled around in Eaglet Theater patio alongside the big yellow tent, and some took supper scattered at canopied tables.

It was all colorful and appropriate, but it was secondary once the people had settled in their green canvas chairs inside and the show had begun. They had come for entertainment, and they got it.

“Show Boat” has been called the finest operetta to come out of America, and with some justice. Its story is simple, fairly predictable and not unadulterated with that warm and useful commodity known the the theater as schmaltz.

Cartoon Corner

Renault Brown
Editorial cartoon of Gov. Jerry Brown by Dennis Renault in 1976