San Francisco Bay Ferryboats - How the Southern Pacific Maintains World's Cleanest Ferry Boats

Collected by Joe Thompson

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This article appeared in the March, 1921 Southern Pacific Bulletin, an employee publication. This edition was identified on the cover as the "Steamer Division Number."


How the Southern Pacific Maintains World's Cleanest Ferry Boats

Company's Plan for Keeping Big Vessels in Sanitary Condition is Explained by California State Board of Health

Under the caption "Keeping the Ferry Boats Clean; How the Southern Pacific Maintains the World's Cleanest Ferry Boats," the California State Board of Health in its Monthly Bulletin for August, 1921, explained the system being used by the company in rendering sanitary the vessels operated on the San Francisco bay.

The article, constituting an unusual word of praise from an official source for Captain Charles F. Heath, Superintendent of Steamers, and employes of his department, is presented herewith.
Clean boats

IN HANDLING its ferry service on San Francisco Bay, the Southern Pacific Company gives more attention to the clearing of the vessels, their proper sanitation and ventilation, than to any other problems except those directly involved in navigating the steamers.

The magnitude of the task may be appreciated when attention is called to the fact that in 1920 there were 26,946,439 persons carried by three Southern Pacific ferry routes, Oakland Pier, Alameda Pier and Oakland Harbor. This is an average of 2,235,536 a month, or 73,825 a day.

Crew Responsible for Cleaning

On every steamer the work of cleaning is assigned to individual members of the crew. For example, the lower main deck, as it is sometimes referred to, where the largest part of the crew is employed and which requires the most attention, is in charge of the second officer, who is responsible to the captain for the cleanliness of this part of the steamer. The second officer is the supervisory officer of the lower deck. He assigns certain portions of the steamer to individual members of the crew to clean and keep in an orderly condition. One deckhand may have assigned to him the port side amidships aft, another the starboard side amidships forward and another the toilets, and so on. In this manner it not only divides the work and makes each deckhand responsible for his particular portion, but stimulates a certain amount of friendly competition among the men.

On the saloon deck, or upper deck, as it is sometimes called, and in the main cabin the cleaning is done by two cabin men, the ladies' retiring rooms being in charge of a matron. These employees, being under the supervision of the first officer, as on the lower deck, the work is divided between the two men.

Frequently daily inspections are made by captain to see that the steamer is being properly cared for.

System is Necessary

Considering the large volume of passenger traffic between the hours of 6 a. m. and 8 p. m. between Oakland, Alameda and San Francisco, it is indeed a task to keep the boats in first-class condition as to cleanliness, and were it not for the systematic manner in which the work is handled it would be impossible.

It can readily be seen that during the day only the light cleaning can be done, on account of the short time at terminals and the passengers being aboard, so all heavy cleaning is done during the night, after boats are through running.

The light cleaning during the running time consists of sweeping the decks at a time that it will not inconvenience the passengers, polishing brass, cleaning cuspidors, cleaning windows inside, washing paint work inside. The man assigned to men's toilets after each heavy trip cleans the toilet, scrubs the paint work, washes the bowls and urinals. In the cabin the floors are swept, seats are dusted, spots removed from paint work, the ladies' retiring rooms are looked after and put in shape after each trip by the matron.

The heavy cleaning after the boats complete the day's work consists of washing down the main deck, using a large hose, lye and sand. Also the outside of boat is washed down, all windows cleaned on the outside, toilets scrubbed out with lye and water with disinfectant added to the water, cuspidors given a thorough cleaning and sufficient disinfectant put in each cuspidor. It might also be added that during the day trips, when the main deck is sprinkled, a sufficient amount of disinfectant solution is added to the water.

The crew's quarters receive the same attention as other parts of the steamer. In the cabin the linoleum floor covering is scrubbed thoroughly and cuspidors disinfected. The floor in the ladies' room also is scrubbed and toilets disinfected.

When time permits and conditions warrant, the steamers are fumigated. This is done by means of burning sulphur. Every room is closed and a burner put in each room. A number are placed in the cabin, the same below the main deck and the crew's quarters. Experience has shown that this is the most practical manner to rid the steamers of rodents, but in addition, rat poison and traps are used. This fumigating can only be done when boats are off the run at the shipyards.

In connection with proper sanitation Pacific Company maintains at the San Francisco ferry station a plumbing shop, whose employees are constantly supervising and maintaining the plumbing on the steamers.

The bilges on all steamers are thoroughly cleaned every week -- bilges being pumped dry every day, so that no stagnant water may accumulate.

The grill rooms and kitchens of the ferry boats receive the constant inspection, not only of the employes of the steamer department, but the inspection of all branches of service under the jurisdiction of the dining car department.

To maintain sanitary conditions, as well as the service, the crews are divided into three or two watches, according to the run. During the morning and evening trips, the service is heaviest. Between these periods the crews are constantly cleaning and sterilizing equipment under the supervision of the steward in charge.

Supplies Are Kept Fresh

In addition to this, the management of the dining car department has created a number of new features in the preparation of meal supplies to insure perfect cleanliness. The boats are furnished enough perishable supplies to last a round trip. On one of the piers a commissary is established, which is operated day and night to insure fresh supplies. One of the most desirable features is the butcher shop, where the meats are cut according to the particular needs of the trip, as, during regular meal service, the patrons usually order the prepared entrees, whereas, between meal periods, short orders are usually called for. This shop also prepares special articles, such as sausage, head cheese and corned meats, which insures their absolute quality, as only the highest class of supplies are purchased by the department, and inspected before being received.

A kitchen is maintained to prepare soups, entrees, sauces and desserts, giving a uniform and high standard of cooking, also serving as a means of instruction to cooks to be advanced. These articles are delivered to the boats in covered containers, specially constructed, allowing a fresh supply at intervals; also, a bakery is maintained, which supplies have specially constructed for handling. There is also a bakeshop for the baking of rolls, pies, etc.

In addition, when possible, canned goods, jams, jellies, marmalades, etc., are purchased in individual containers. Butter is specially packed for this service and cream is purchased in sealed cans.
Ladies' Retiring Room
The matron in the ladies' retiring room on the Alameda, from the original publication in the California State Board of Health Monthly Bulletin, Volume 17, No 2.

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