The Lowell Area Historical Museum is offering a weekly feature to explore local history. This week, museum staff tell us about Ivan Blough, a community member who was involved in many aspects of Lowell life but may be best known for constructing the fifth Showboat. To learn more about Lowell history, visit the museum website to explore its collection of local artifacts and records.
As Showboat VI takes shape in the Flat River north of Main Street, it is an opportunity to remember and introduce new residents to ‘Mr. Showboat’, Ivan K. Blough.
Ivan was born on a farm near Alto in 1932, the only son of Ira and Laura (Krebs) Blough. He graduated from Lowell High School in 1949. In 1951, he married his high school sweetheart, Carolyn Jane Barber and a year later, they moved to Lowell. Ivan didn’t become just a resident of Lowell, he made Lowell a better place to be. He truly cared about his community.
Ivan and Carolyn Jane lived on Jefferson Street where they raised a family of four children: Michael, Cindy, Mark and Melinda. Carolyn Jane was a teacher and reading consultant for Lowell Area Schools while Ivan worked for Walter’s Lumber Mart and then formed his own business, Ivan K. Blough Builders.
It was the early 1960’s when Ivan became involved with the Showboat. He served as a head usher for the next 20 years. In 1979, Ivan K. Blough Builders built Showboat number five after a tornado-like windstorm had destroyed the previous boat. Ivan did not give up on the Showboat even after the final show in 1997. He dreamed up a way that the Showboat could still be used –as a backdrop for summer music events. Lowell’s Sizzling Summer Concert Series began in 2001.
Ivan’s name became synonymous with Showboat. He wanted to keep a part of Lowell’s wonderful history alive for the present and future generations to enjoy. He kept the Showboat repaired and painted. Each season he put a lighted icon on the boat’s top deck to represent the season including a Christmas tree, Valentine heart, Irish Clover, Riverwalk Duck, 4-H Clover, School bus front, ‘L’ with a Pink Arrow through it, and a Scarecrow. The Showboat was such a part of Ivan’s life that his family had it etched on the back of his headstone.
Ivan was a great friend, tireless worker and integral part of the Lowell Area Historical Museum. He and Carolyn Jane were charter members, and he served in many roles, including President of the Board. When he said, “It’s time to quit talking and start the Museum,” we did. Ivan personally refurbished the walls and floors of the Graham Building and built displays like the pioneer log cabin in the Early History Room. He was also largely responsible for finding the memorabilia to display in the Showboat Room. When an article was found in the Root-Lowell newsletter of 1947 showing a picture of the Pere Marquette/Lowell Cutter Factory/Showboat Whistle, Ivan found that whistle.
Ivan passed away in 2010 in an accident doing what he loved, serving his community.
As we move on to Showboat number six with excitement, we also take the time to remember and honor those who preserved the Showboat and its place in time and in our hearts.