Here is the story of the gift Linton Bergeron Sr. received a couple of years ago for Father’s Day – just in case you’re driving around St. Charles Parish and see a unique ferry boat bumper sticker or happen to see Linton Sr. in his new favorite T-shirt.
It all started when Linton Bergeron Jr. was looking for Father’s Day gift for his dad.
“I had made me a hunting decal with Ole Luling Life written on it and I wanted to do something for my dad for Father’s Day,” he said. “I thought about the George Prince because my dad worked on it while he was on strike for Shell years and years and years ago. I thought about the ferry boat for the Father’s Day gift so I went on the internet and found something that could work and a lady at work made a sticker for me.”
The gift was a hit.
“He just loved it,” Linton Jr. said of his father’s reaction to the decal. “Tears almost came to his eyes.”
The motor vessel George Prince holds a special significance to Linton Sr.
The George Prince was a free commuter ferry owned and operated by the Louisiana Department of Highways. It operated in Natchez, Miss. for years before it relocated to St. Charles Parish.
On the morning of Oct. 20, 1976, the George Prince was struck by the Norwegian tanker SS Frosta, which was traveling upriver. The collision occurred less than three-quarters of a mile from the construction site of the Hale Boggs Bridge, which would replace the ferry seven years later.
The ferry was crossing from Destrehan on the East Bank to Luling on the West Bank at the time of the collision, and Linton Sr. saw everything – he was waiting for his turn to ride.
“He was going to be on the next ride,” Linton Jr. said of his father. “We knew he was going to ride that morning, so we knew he could be on that boat. It was tough until we found out he wasn’t.”
Ninety-six passengers and crew were aboard the ferry when it was struck. 78 people perished, making it the deadliest ferry disaster in United States history. It remains the largest loss of life on board a maritime vessel in U.S. waters since the USS Thresher Submarine Disaster in 1963.
Linton Sr., a Navy veteran, assisted in rescue efforts that day by helping to pull those who were overboard out of the water.
“I was just taking them and picking them up and putting them on the deck,” Linton Sr. told the St. Charles Herald Guide in 2013. “I don’t know where I got the strength from, I am not a big man.”
Linton Jr. said his dad, who will turn 93 this month, never spoke a lot about the ferry tragedy to his family, but proudly wears a shirt that a cousin made for him with the same slogan and logo as the truck decal.
“From the river to the tracks of Boutte by the canal,” Linton Jr. said. “That’s Luling … that’s where Luling started.”