Grandfather Was A Woody Boater!

Paul wearing his Colt revolver while surveying ashore, Philippine Islands

The other day, I received some cool documents put together by my Aunt. My Aunt has for years being gathering stuff from our family history. Most of it dates so far back it’s hard to connect any emotion to it. But this stuff was amazing and some never seen photos came out. What I discovered was even cooler.

Grandfather in his office in Washington DC, That’s Alice his long time Secretary. The caption under the photo reads. Lt. Cmdr. Paul Smith, Chief of Aeronautical Chart Branch of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey during World War II. In his office on Constitution Avenue and 15th Street, NW, with his secretary, Alice Cromer (Stahl).



I noticed the Globe in the photo. Here it is in the Woody Boater HQ. Crazy..

I knew my fathers father was a Rear Admiral, he made charts and stuff, but had never seen the ships he was on, or how there life was, and even crazier, how the Woody Boater HQ still had some of the heart of him in it.

The Oceanographer. NYC 1938.

The Surveyor. Alaska 1927. Grandfather was aboard

paul ship 4

The Fathomer. Philippines 1930s

The Explorer. Alaska 1927.


Todays header is a ship painting from my Grandfathers office. I am not sure if this specific ship was one he was on or not. But it sits in my office now. Its a perfect original water color.

Grandfather at his desk on his short wave radio. I recall playing in his home office and spoke to his pal at the North Pole. He had the entire yard wired like one large antenna . The desk is also in Woody Boater HQ now

The Admirals desk and chair in Reedville over looking the water.Many a Woody Boater story has been done here.


I know we like talking about speed boats, but this is the inner DNA of what drives me I suppose. The love of history, and appreciation of a family continuum.

That’s my Grandmother “Sylvia” and my father. ” Chief of party” Now, that’s Work party I think.

My Grandmother and Grandfather lived all around the world after meeting at University of Michigan, both graduating in 1923!

My Grandfathers portrait is sitting in my office also looking out on the water. My mother painted this back in 1980

29 replies
  1. Bob Menzel
    Bob Menzel says:

    What a wonderful story Matt.
    It is great you have documents, pictures, paintings and special items of your family from 3 generations back to keep the memories moving forward.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    Matt, you have a family history to be very proud of. It was wonderful for your Aunt to research these details, and for you to have those great historical items in your office. BTW, I really like the art work in your office, especially the program from the Algonac show with the photo of Flyin High. Bud Aikens would be proud!

  3. matt
    matt says:

    Thanks Greg, I am very proud of any connection to Michigan and Algonac. I was not to clear on my families connection to Michigan, my mother spent most of her summers on Torch Lake as well. So I suppose Michigan is in my blood. HA. See you in June!

  4. Mike K
    Mike K says:

    matt, you must be very proud of your heritage! not only your grandfather, but also the artists in your family.
    now im not that surprised with your kitchen masterpiece.

    im waiting for a flight in tampa and this video ad crossed my screen, not sure if it was mentioned here before or not.
    aboout 26 seconds in

  5. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    Very cool stuff for sure.

    I kind of like that Style magazine. Would like to dig up that article for a read.

    Zoomed in on that globe too. VERY COOL!

    About the oldest Woody stuff I have found was this picture of my parents and my uncle when they went to a Winnipesaukee show. Probably late 70’s early 80′.

    • Wilson
      Wilson says:

      Troy: I might have been there then …My first Winnepesaukee show was in ’82. That was the year that Jim Irwin tagged be to manage the boat club…I told him I’d do it for six months until we could find somebody to manage it.
      Our next door neighbors had a farm close to the lake and took us up there to help bring in the hay in the summer…but that was back in ’38, ’39 when Miss Winnepesaukee was giving rides for 75 cents and before they had boat show. The big deal then was playing the pinball machine at the ice cream place at Weirs Beach.

  6. Matt
    Matt says:

    Very cool Troy, old photos of family like that are priceless. The Style magazine article is from over 20 years ago. Style Magazine is a Richmond weekly publication.

  7. Berlin Bureau
    Berlin Bureau says:

    Damn, here I am thinking, “Hmm same thing happened to me this weekend! Hell, even the cover picture looks like something I grew up looking at.” Clever, clever.

  8. Wilson
    Wilson says:

    Matt: What a rich history….I too zoomed in on the globe. Somebody in Washington must have been selling them for my dad had what appears to be the exact same model in his office which was in the Carpenters ( it is still there) Building at 14th & K. I still have the globe in our house. Guess I never told you I was born in the District and grew up in Wesley Heights before we moved to Miami. Bill Marriott lived a couple of blocks away but he was three or four years older so we didn’t play together….Besides his father was only into Hot Shops at the time so he was no big deal then. Nicky Arundel who later owned some small news papers and radio stations in Northern Virginia was my next door neighbor and his sister Joslyn and I rode the bus to Friends School.

    I note your Hagerty clock prominently on your mantel…Carla would be pleased.

  9. matt
    matt says:

    The Hagerty clock is an extremely valuable thing to me. The globe is a classic. Funny Wilson, we are 4th generation from here, I wonder if our families ever knew each other. Back then it was a very small town.

    • Wilson
      Wilson says:


      I suppose it is possible that our folks could have known each other…Dad was a war correspondent for the NY Herald Trib during WWI Then President Wilson asked him to cover the peace conference at Versailles after which he moved to DC. Dad was a Roosevelt Democrat. I can remember riding to the White House in a bakery truck with the President’s birthday cake when Dad was handling the President’s birthday balls. We just walked right into the kitchen…No security in those days. We lived on Jennifer St until 1935 when we moved to Wesley Heights. Pardoe family lived next door. Her father was Sam Prescott who built the old Continental Hotel across from Union Station…Now torn down and is a Union office. Prescott’s also had a farm on Lake Winnepesaukee. Pardoes had three boys, Prescott, Charlie & Sam. Sammy was pretty big in DC realestate until he died. Miller family lived next door to them..They were the developers of Wesley Heights and Spring Valley…I should have taken more interest in Bunny Miller. Then I told you Arundels lived on the other side of us. …You must have known Nick thru one of his newspapers or radio stations in your area. Willard Kiplinger was another of Dad’s colleagues and associates. Bonnie Kiplinger is another, I should have paid more attention to. Her dad would let me ride her pony. Dad was a member of the Nat’l Press Club.
      Yes, I know the Hagerty Clocks are treasured…I went & looked at mine again right after seeing the picture of yours. I’d forgotten how much that thing will tell you. We are just home from the coast…but I’ll go take a picture of the globe and send it. Let me know if you think our parents or your grandparents might have crossed paths.
      I hope these “replies” are private messages as I doubt anyone else cares.

      • matt
        matt says:

        It gets better Wilson, on my mothers side, that part of the Family was very connected to the Roosevelt era. An Uncle was one of his Vice Presidents, Henry Wallace, considered by many as the worst Vice President in American History. Worse than Dan Quale! and my Mothers Father worked as a chief Engineer on the Panama Canal. My father and Grandfather were long time members of the Cosmos Club in DC where I would imagine our families would have met.

  10. Scalertom
    Scalertom says:

    Hi Matt. Great story. One of the ships your Grandfather served on, the Surveyor, is moored here in Commencement Bay, Tacoma, WA, waiting to be scrapped.

  11. Tom Gruenauer
    Tom Gruenauer says:

    Great story, great family history. I would not get any work done in that office!
    This is my dad’s first boat in 1947. Sold his horses for a Century Imperial Sportsman. This is were our family started in boating.

  12. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    Matt, Great Story! I can’t find the Style reference but once…where is that?
    I am going to dig up some old stuff too.
    John in Va.

  13. Mr. Andreas Jordahl Rhude
    Mr. Andreas Jordahl Rhude says:

    It’s great that you have those items in your life. Fun to think of the work that your desk has seen.

    My ancestors were woody boaters too. They help spread Norwegianess all over Europe and North America. They were pretty good at designing and building boats and pretty fair seamen too! My dad served in the US Navy during World War II. I think the USS Denver was a steel ship but I remember him telling about wooden plugs that he as a carpenter’s mate had to make to plug up holes in the hull if hit by a torpedo! He turns age 90 on Saturday

  14. Kevin F
    Kevin F says:

    Great story Matt. I love the Michigan connection; quite a woman to graduate back then. The painting is great, very talented.

  15. Alex
    Alex says:

    You need to find one of your grandfather’s old boats. The one in the header would be great.

    Then buy it. You’d be the only one on your river with one.

    Make sure you string the ham radio antenna across the back yard too. You can hang lights from the antenna and restore the boat right there.

    We’ll all be here to cheer you on. Think of the WB stories!

  16. Sean
    Sean says:

    The Edwardian Steamship SS Keewatin was removed from service on the Great Lakes in 1965 due to her wooden superstructure. (laws for wooden boats were changed after the SS Noronic disaster of 1949). Keewatin was saved from the scrapper in 1967 by RJ Peterson of Douglas, Michigan where the ship was a fixture as a floating museum until her return to her home port in 2012.

    SS Keewatin built in 1907 is the last surviving ship of her type in the world! My brother, a former waiter on the Kee is now her Captain and President of an association dedicated to her perseverance. We must protect our history and do everything we can to save the ships of our past!

  17. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    Now I see where you get the painting skills from. Great painting by your mother. Wish we had more photographic records saved from my family. My grandfather spent his whole life on the water shuttling boats (yachts?) up and down the coast during WWII as well as being a ship builder in the Portland shipyard. During depression skippered yachts for owners and for lodges in summer, cut ice and logs in the winter.

  18. Walt
    Walt says:

    Great story Matt. I know a lot of us “old” DC locals could immediately identify where you grandfather’s office was and could identify the age of that picture. I remember those old WWII War Department “temporary” buildings that used to be on the Mall. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Jimmy
    Jimmy says:

    Roaming around WoodyBoater again this time under Community/Web and well here it is one of my ancestors signing the Mayflower compact in 1620 on a wood boat…

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