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Historic Boston Swan Boats Have Been Operated By One Family For 145 Years

BOSTON (CBS) - The historic Swan Boats have just begun their 145th Season in Boston's Public Garden. The boats hold a special place in the hearts of New Englanders who have memories of riding them with their parents, with their children, and even their grandchildren.

One family – the Paget family – has exclusively operated the boats for all 145 years.

Lyn Paget is the latest in a long line of the Paget family to exclusively operate Boston's iconic Swan Boats…polishing the brass, checking the pedals and launching the swans.

"I came here when I was 13 or 14 and started selling tickets," Lyn remembers. "Everybody is so happy when they come here….it's a great summer job and we've got awesome young adults, students mainly they're a tight knit group and they work hard."

RJ Petrucelli is a Senior at Boston Latin School and says pedaling the boat is an awesome summer job. "Little kids are awesome! They bring a little joy to the city."

The magical area in the Back Bay is a gift of the Gilded Age. The footbridge was built in 1867. There were row boats in the lagoon, and the about ten years later, Robert Paget, an Irish immigrant who started the business, travelled to Europe and brought back the unique design with benches…easier for ladies in long skirts to climb aboard.

Lyn points out, "these are the only boats of this type in the entire world."

In 1878, Robert Paget died, leaving behind his wife Julia to care for their small children. Julia had to convince city fathers to let a woman to keep the very visible business going in the Public Garden, and other businessmen wrote letters of recommendation for her to be allowed to continue.

Julia Paget had saved this attraction for the city. Lyn praises her Great-Grandmother: "Oh I absolutely think so."

By 1938, they'd become such a recognizable symbol of Boston, thousands packed the Public Garden to see the Number One Movie Star in the world…Shirley Temple…go for a ride!

In 1941, the publication of Robert McCloskey's children's classic "Make Way for Ducklings" drew even more families.

Lyn sees how children react to their special ride "all of a sudden that book just comes to life for a small child this is a big deal for them"

WBZ-TV even had a Variety Show in 1955 called "Swan Boat" that drew big stars!

The business was passed down to Lyn's Grandparents and then parents. Her Dad is turning 100 this year, and she operates the Swan Boats now with her cousin.

And every year the ceremonial first ride is reserved for the Mayor of Boston. This year, Mayor Michelle Wu said her 4-year-old son thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

Mayor Michelle Wu said, "This is a nearly 150 years old tradition in Boston. It was my younger son's first time on the boat, he's four years old, so with the pandemic for much of his life, this was a new experience! And we were delighted to be on the boat today."

On so many levels, Lyn Paget knows it's all about family. "One of my favorite parts is when I'm here to listen to the stories - people really want to share that," she said.

Like the three generations of the Driscoll Family of Melrose. Marian Driscoll says, "it brings tears to my eyes because a lot of memories and sharing memories of the children and grandchildren - nothing better!"

Her daughter Ashley Dejute adds that it's a sentimental place saying, "we took our engagement photos here!"

So as Boston evolves and grows up and around them, the Swan Boats, unchanged, glide on.

Lyn Paget feels the emotion from riders who come back generation after generation. "They want us to know how much they appreciate that we've maintained the integrity of the business that we really haven't changed it up," she said.

A magical spot in the world.

Ticket prices for the 2022 Season are $4.50 for adults, $3.00 from kids 2 – 15, and free for children under two.

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