The New England Chapter war born at the 1976 Boston Boat Show when a group of wooden boat enthusiasts gathered in admiration around a couple of show winning woodies: Ted Larter’s “Scotty Too” Goldcup Racer and Ray Hawe’s prized possession, 18’ Garwood “Norma Jean”.
Behind the scenes of this Boston gathering were Jim Irwin and Vince Callahan, both Lake Winnipesaukee Marine dealers enjoying active retirement. The two had already initiated and pulled off two very successful “woodie” boat shows at The Weirs Beach docks on Lake Winnipesaukee. They were also charter members of ACBS National and had been instrumental in its formative stages during 1974-75. Their vision had stimulated a keen interest in an organized New England group of antique boat enthusiasts.
Over 40 signatures accompanied the initial application for a New England ‘Region” which would include Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Because it encompassed such a large geographical area, the founders thought that by calling it a region they would, at a later time, be able to help other chapters get started, acting as a parent within their six-state region. On February 26, 1976 a constitution and bylaws were presented and approved, as well as the first slate of officers, led by its first President Gerry Davidson. The region was officially accepted as the New England Chapter April 12, 1976.
A quarterly newsletter was quickly launched in early 1978. The need for good communication with the chapter members was as important then as it is now. Finding an appropriate name was getting difficult despite many suggestions. Finally, Ron Largey commented that the national ACBS entitles their publication the Rusty Rudder, which represents the steering of the vessel located at its stern. Why not be a lead chapter, up front so to say, and cut the water!” And so the Cutwater was born with its unique lettering and design being inspired by Bob Valpey’s Antique Car & Boat sign at his place on Squam Lake.
The new England Chapter hosts numerous events during the course of the year, both for our members and for the public. Our activities usually begin in early June with a lakeside picnic and swap meet, where we exchange items of “extreme value” as well as conversation, like how long it took the ice to go out this year! It’s a fun day for renewing old friendships and making new ones.
Since 1994 we have sponsored a boat show on Long Lake in Naples Maine, which includes dinner/dancing on the Songa River Queen and an island cookout after the show for participants and guest. Everyone enjoys the expansive cruising possibilities on Long Lake and Sebago Lake. And each fall starting in 1995 we have sponsored the Wolfeboro Antique and Classic Boat and Car Rendezvous, which has become a very popular event, especially for the “leaf peepers.” Held against a backdrop of brilliant fall foliage and crisp air, it is New England at it best!
In more recent years we have initiated “excursions” for our members who would like to take their boats to see other areas. So far we have visited the Wine Country of New York and relished the serenity of northern Maine’s Moosehead Lake.
The highlight of our summer season is most assuredly the Lake Winnipesaukee Antique and Classic Boat Show, held each year on the last Saturday of July at the Weirs Beach docks. It had its roots in the Roaring Twenties; for it was those years that pleasure boating really started to come of age. There were literally hundreds of boats that came to Lake Winnipesaukee. In the thirties organized racing among the high-powered runabouts on the lake became big events, attracting national news media and thousands of spectators. Speedboat rides were big business by the late forties, and it was during that time when many of us had the thrill of our first ride in one of these mahogany beauties. The Miss Winnipesaukee speedboats were some of the twenties vintage craft offering “thrill rides” on the Lake.
The Winnipesaukee Antique and Classic Boat Show began because Jim Irwin and Vince Callahan, business competitors and friends for years, attended the Clayton New York Antique Boat Show in 1973. It was clear to them that the preservation of old boats was an exciting thing that could best be achieved through a boat show. They started planning that summer and fall and the result was the first annual “National Northeastern Antique and Classic Boat Show. Jim Irwin wrote of that first show:
Under sunny skies on beautiful lake Winnipesaukee, nestled at the Foot of the New Hampshire White Mountains, the dream of two Local boat dealers came true. The Show displayed over 50 power boats,creating all the color and nostalgia of yesteryear. Vince Callahan and I put together an “in the water” show that delighted thousands of spectators and old boat lovers. Working directly with city officials, the public docks at the Weirs became the stage for a wide variety of beautiful wooden boat masterpieces.
In the years following the formation of our Chapter, the Boat Show became its major event, with Jim and Vince providing valued direction and support. The Show was a competitive one from the beginning, with numerous classes, a panel of judges, and sometime had special featured race boat events. Consequently it developed a prestigious reputation. Only one year in its history, 1980, did we try a new approach—no judging! Despite dire predictions of failure without judging and awards, 85 boats registered and the quality was as good as ever. A truly successful event, proving that giving antique boat owners a chance to shine up their prize and show it to 10,000 people will get them every time!
Our thanks to our original Charter Members, many of whom are still active. Currently the New England Chapter is over 260 strong, with members from all the states comprising the original region, as well as from far more distant locales. Our calendar is expanding with a diversity of fun events which afford us the opportunity to use and enjoy our boats and the camaraderie they provide. Thanks to dedicated officers and members, the Chapter enjoys a healthy financial position and looks forward to another quarter century of “great times out on the Lake.”
Many thanks to Gerry Davidson and Linda Largey, both Charter Members and Past Presidents, and to Elizabeth Magri, Past President, in providing the information for this historical perspective.
Annual Chapter Summer Show Poster Archives
Posters courtesy: Charlie Wallace