TODAY WE ARE GOING TO CHANGE THINGS UP with a great story written by C.E. Lodge, highlighting a historic wooden race boat named DIXIE BABY. The 95 year-old boats original design, impressive racing history, recent restoration, and country wide 2016 debut is remarkable. And the best part, you may even get a chance to see this race boat in person at an event near you this year. – Texx
ONE OF THE GREAT HOUSTON BOATS
By C.E. Lodge
A piece of Houston race boat history will be returning to Texas for several days in April 2016. The historic race boat named DIXIE BABY has been fully restored and will be touring throughout the U.S. this summer.
She was a key player of the Mississippi Valley Power Boat Association (MVPBA) in the 1920s. She won major race boat competitions with prominent Houstonian, owner L.A. Layne at the helm. On the first leg of her tour this summer, she will be showcased at the Keels and Wheels event, April 23, 24, 2016 at Lakewood Yacht Club, Seabrook, Texas.
DIXIE BABY will be honoured at an event at the Houston Yacht Club on April 20, 2016. Commodore Gordie Kennan and Fleet Historian Sam Akkerman of the Houston Yacht Club have organized a champagne reception and dinner to coincide with the visit of DIXIE BABY coming home to Houston. Proceeds for this event will benefit RASA, a non-profit foundation created to provide support to young sailors and all aspects of competitive amateur racing in the Galveston Bay area.
DIXIE BABY is a 1921 Ventnor design stepped hull powered with a Hispano-Suiza WWI Spanish aircraft engine through a forward V-drive. The “Hisso” engines were used for aviation during WWI and a surplus of them were eventually converted for marine engines.
DIXIE BABY started her racing career as a 725 Class racer. She has been restored to her original gleaming glory by Peter Breen Antique and Classic Boat Company Ltd., in Rockwood, Ontario, Canada. Breen explains; “The restoration will be a year and a half or more when she goes out the door. This does not include Robert Mishko’s engine rebuild, which took almost another year.”
The racing history of DIXIE BABY is indelibly tied with L.A. Layne, the “Flying Wildcat” from Houston.
DIXIE BABY was originally owned and raced by prominent Houstonian L.A. Layne of Layne and Bowler. It was his father, M.E. (Mahlon) Layne, a self-educated South Dakota farmer who lit the initial spark of what would eventually grow to become the Layne Foundation.
The fascinating history of the Layne Foundation and the family that built an empire is captured in the works of R.H. Mason in 1983. Mason’s chronicles detail the rise of the family empire from its humble beginnings: “At the turn of the century, M.E. Layne, with a small crew and his home-made drilling rig, traveled the prairie states, living in wagons and tents to drill shallow wells for the farmers. His slogan, “Water or no pay” attracted many farmers”.
The phenomenal success which ensued from those early days typifies the American dream of that dynamic era. L.A. Layne eventually assumed command of the Houston plant of the business where under his leadership it grew and flourished. He went on to be a general partner in the Layne and Bowler Well Services Ltd., and was the director of the Layne Texas Company. During the 1930s, he also engaged in oil production, playing a large part in the development of the Damon Field, near Damon, Texas.
Layne was a prominent member of the Houston Yacht Club. While in his twenties and racing DIXIE BABY, the news coverage clippings from the racing events of the day in the 1920s heralded him as the ‘Flying Wildcat from Houston’. A key player of the Mississippi Valley Power Boat Association (MVPBA), Layne raced her to victory at many racing events.
Her ambitious tour schedule for 2016 begins in Texas at Keels and Wheels then ends at Lake Tahoe in September.
• Keels and Wheels April 23, 24, 2016 at Lakewood Yacht Club, Seabrook, Texas
• Houston Yacht Club April 20th
• Bay Harbour, Michigan – Vintage Car & Boat Festival June 25.
• Hammondsport, NY July 16
• Skaneateles, NY July 29.
• Clayton NY. Aug 5-7.
• Lake Tahoe, CA Concours d’Elegance, Aug 12.
• Lake Tahoe, CA ACBS International, Sept 21 to 23.
Written by: C.E. Lodge
(For more information about Dixie Baby you can contact C.E. Lodge at [email protected] or on Facebook at Dixiebaby Ventnor. They have also produced a nice video of the race boat, which you can see HERE.
C.E. Lodge – Story photos / research.
Bill Fisk – Some of the old historic photos and news clippings.
Jim Hawver – Lake George last summer.
Peter Breen – Some photos during the various stages of restoration.
THE RESTORATION OF DIXIE BABY.
Noted wooden boat restoration expert and craftsman Peter Breen from Canada recently completed the extensive restoration of DIXIE BABY. Here are a few shots taken during the process, courtesy of Peter Breen and C.E. Lodge.
Special thanks to C.E. Lodge for sharing this exclusive story with us today and to all the contributors who assisted in the research and preparation of the story.