We love it when fellow Woody Boaters find fun stuff on the road less traveled and share with all of us. Thanks to Paul Poledink and the Cobourg-Kid who did just that. Here are their two reports..
First one is the image above from Paul Pledink
The Big Brown Boat on the Wall
The big brown triple cockpit mahogany speed boat bursting out of the store’s outside wall wasn’t there the first time I drove by the Murray’s Auto Parts store on the corner of Maple Road and Pontiac Trail in Walled Lake, Michigan. No, the wall was bare when I passed Murray’s during the June 2011 running of Walled Lake Thunder, the two day American Power Boat Association (APBA) inboard hydroplane races our local club, the Marine Prop Riders, holds each year on Walled Lake. It had rained and was cloudy on Friday, our set-up day, but on race day Saturday the sun came out so fiercely it motivated me get some protection.
I left the boat launching pits located in the parking lot of the Bayside Sports Bar and Grille at the northern end of Walled Lake. I went up Pontiac Trail, the city’s main drag to find a drugstore to buy some sunscreen. I turned left off of Pontiac Trail on to Maple Road about a half mile north of the race site, hurried into the drugstore, bought my sun protection, and got back to the pit area to man my position as Risk Manager for our race. I did note in the back of my mind that across the street from the drugstore was a large Murray’s Auto Parts Store, a tidbit of local knowledge important to us boat racers who are always in desperate need of some motor part or a tool which we find necessary or lacking as we push our hydroplanes up to and many times beyond their limits. Things in our sport break. Often. Too often.
Fast forward. Each December as part of our wedding anniversary remembrance, my wife and I go out for dinner, and for the past several years we have gone to the Bayside Sports Bar. The food is excellent, and I always make it known to the owner that we appreciate his sponsoring of the summer hydroplane races, and patronizing his restaurant is one way of showing our appreciation. I decided to go home a different way, up Pontiac Trail and turned again on Maple Road.
On the wall this time to my surprise was a mural of a triple cockpit runabout with a happy couple in each set of seats. The mural invited the viewer to go to Walled Lake Park, the Picnic Wonderland. In the background was a roller coaster and Ferris wheel. OK, yes. But, there is no present Walled Lake Park. There WAS a Walled Lake Park which I went to as a little kid, but I vaguely remembered that it closed down a long time ago, in the 50’s or 60’s. So what was this mural promoting? Time for some historical detective work.
Good ol’ internet search engine came through. I typed in some key words, and verified that there was a Walled Lake Amusement Park, which was operational from 1919 through 1968. It had a Dance Hall, the Casino, a world class roller coaster, a picnic area, all sorts of amusement park rides, and some water/beach attractions. It was located on the south end of Walled Lake, to take advantage of a natural swimming area, and then in one paragraph of the article I was reading there it was, buried at the end of a listing of Park attractions, “. . .and speed boat rides for fifteen cents .”
Another reference revealed that “Extending out from the point were two 500 ft. boardwalks where thrill seekers could get a speed boat ride for 15 cents.” A third writer thought that the speed boats were “criscrafts.” So that’s what the mural was promoting, these speed boat rides and picnicking. But . . . the mural is not old and faded; it is fresh and vibrant and, well, sort of retro-modern. What’s the story here?
Another internet search found a local November 2011 newspaper reference headline stating “Murray’s Gets Historic Mural.” And, according to the newspaper account, the mural was supported by the Walled Lake Downtown Development Authority and a Federal Façade and Sign Grant, to replicate a popular poster of the old park.
Now the recent stories on Woody Boater about the thrilling rides in triple cockpit runabouts continued to whet my interest in this big brown boat on the side of the auto parts store, so at this point, I thought it would be worthwhile to talk to the owner of the Murray’s to get a feel for his reasons for placing the mural on his building. The owner, Karl Blair, now retired, met with me for a half hour or so and gave his side of the story. He said he looked at the vast expanse of blank wall facing Maple Road as a location for some auto parts store type of advertising signage, but was told by the city that he couldn’t use it for this purpose. Not giving up, Karl suggested the placing of some sort of community spirit message on the wall. How did he come up with the boat mural? It just came to me, he said, after reviewing some historical pictures at the Walled Lake City Hall. And, he stated that he bore much of the cost of the painting of the mural himself – and, that it wasn’t cheap.
Who painted the big brown boat mural? Peter Flores ,a commercial sign painter from Dearborn, Michigan, who had a contract to paint the signs for many of the Murray’s Auto Parts stores, a well-known chain in Michigan, now absorbed by O’Reilly Auto Parts to a great extent. Peter related that it took about two weeks last fall to paint the mural to the wall, and that he copied the theme from an old poster given to him by Karl.
Aside from the grandeur of this mural, my biggest disappointment in this search is that although I found many pictures of the Park in its heyday, there were no pictures of the thrilling “criscraft” speedboats. I’m guessing that although WE like to think that riding in a triple cockpit runabout is beyond description, the operators of the park and attendees were more enthralled by the conventional rides – the Green Dragon Rollercoaster, the Tilt – a-Whirl, the Dodge’em Cars, and so on. The references state that many of the rides at the park were sold to other amusement parks when Walled Lake Park closed – the Roller coaster was demolished and the Dance Hall burned – but what happened to the boats? And, is this big brown boat an accurate rendition of a Chris Craft triple cockpit speedboat? Is there any meaning to the three stars on the burgee?
A personal note: My own boats include a restored 5 Liter conventional inboard hydroplane, White Lightning, built in 1972, and a 1955 Lyman Islander under restoration. Is there room in Woody Boater Land for the hydro? It’s a wood boat, painted not varnished. I’ve shown it at several classic boat shows in the area as a static display– Algonac, Presque Ile, Toledo, and Port Sanilac – and have been warmly welcomed by the show organizers and attendees. It’s not at all similar to the Chris Crafts, Gar Woods, Centurys, Hackers, and other varnished mahogany beauties, but it is wood, it is vintage, and it is very cool.
And this fun report from the road in Ontario. take it away Cobourg-Kid
“Took a quick trip to Brockville Ontario last weekend to visit relatives. As an antidote to eastbound highway 401 (Canada’s version of I-95 hell) I decided to detour along the beautiful Thousand Island Parkway . While swinging through Rockport ( trying to sniff out old boats in the bulrushes— weren’t any) ) I happened upon a fantastic mural painted on the south end of the Andress Boat works winter storage shed. Thought the sons of Varnish would like to see it.
According to their website Andress has been in business since the 1920s, initially as a boat-builder and later as a full service marina.”
Thanks for the fun pics and stories. This is what road trips are all about. All you need is a good slice of pie and all is well in the world.