We love fun stories like this at Woody Boater, cool mystery photos, and a heart warming story.
Good day! I have one of those great boat ID questions for you! I recently captured some stills from an old 16mm movie taken out on the Susquehanna river, near the old Olmstead Air Force Base runway (Harrisburg International Airport today), in Middletown, PA. This movie was made by my Grandmother and shows my Grandfather and his buddy Chubb and their boats around 1959/1960. Living in Highspire, PA, going out on the river was a favorite pastime of my grandparents, taking my father and uncle out to ‘their’ island in the middle of the Susquehanna, spending summer days with friends.
As my father always tells me… almost no-one on the river in that day bought their boats, most of them made them, and my Grandfather was no exception… he had built a few smaller runabouts before embarking on this build. He and Chubb built these two identical boats (both shown in the one still) one winter (somewhere around 1958-1959) in my Grandfather’s garage behind a row-home in Highspire. Actually, the fact that two guys built two boats of this size in one winter isn’t the most amazing thing in my mind. To build both boats at the same time, my grandfather split his one-car garage at the peak and widened it so that both boat hulls would fit side by side… and then during the build Chubb cut off his one finger in the Sears shop-smith they used (Both boats built with just the shopsmith and hand-tools), so the story is my Grandfather essentially ended up building both boats himself (Chubb was also a truck driver, so he was on the road a lot anyways). My dad talks about Grandpa and Chubb building a fire in a barrel in order to heat water and burlap, used the steam the large pieces of plywood to the curvature of the Hull. He also remembers my Grandfather added a hatch up front, the bow had a bed in it, and Chubb added a head to his boat.
My Grandfather’s boat is the one with the 1958 Mercury Mark 75 marathon six on it… Chubb’s boat had the smaller 1958 Mercury Mark 58. (both motors make these boats scoot in the movie!) In the still with the two men behind the transom, Chubb is the one wearing the swimming belt (As if you hadn’t figured that out).. my Grandfather is the tall lanky guy.
Supposedly all the other boaters at the Highspire Boat club with their smaller boats and motors, said that these boat would never run on the river.. See, the Susquehanna isn’t exactly real deep then or now… but Grandpa and Chubb proved them wrong! To the best I can gather they used these 2 to 3 seasons before my Grandfather sold his…. No one knows what happened to Chubb’s.
So, the reason I am writing… my Grandfather passed away a few years ago.. and neither my father nor my grandmother has ever seen the plans, lost to time I guess. Needless to say, we have no idea the manufacturer of the plans, or kit (although dad thinks all my grandfathers used was the plans, and bought the raw lumber to build, the fact that my grandfather used the scraps from the build to build my uncle a small dingy seems to back this up). Seeing your story in May about the Sears & Roebuck kit boat made me think of this one, but as one compares the photos, they are clearly not the same boat… although some details are similar (location of step pads, steering location, front hatch, etc.) the overall lines are not quite the same. It is also weird to me that both Capt’ Grumpy’s boat and Chubbs have similar hi-top bar chair-like seating in the back, although again, clearly not the same, must have been the thing to do.
Just wondered if you or your readers might have a clue… or at the least, might enjoy the stills, showing boating life on the River in the late 50’s early 60’s… the 16mm film has been transferred to DVD and I am still trying to figure out how to rip this segment from it so I can post on youtube. It would be cool to find out who made the plans and get a set if they are available… working on and off on a 1958 Lyman and 1956 Whirlwind runabout with my dad… I am pretty sure we could build one of these boats again… someday… but not two of them!
Thank you for your time and attention, and thank you for a great website, the storys are always a pleasure to read.