One day my dad brought home a large package that he had bought at Sears Roebuck and Company. It was a boat kit. Who knew you could get a kit for a boat? My dad was devoted to the project of assembling this boat. He did not have a single power tool. All sawing, sanding, drilling and inserting screws were done by hand.
Every night just as soon as he finished supper he would be out on the front porch working on his project. Soon it began to take shape and actually look like a boat. Brass screws were inserted every couple of inches on strips of wood that spanned the joints. All this twisting of screws began to get to dad’s wrist and so he bought a screwdriver that had a helix in the shaft and all you had to do was push on it and it would turn automatically. This was a big help for installing thousands of screws.
Then one day dad bought some dark green paint and painted it. We put the mattress in the back of the panel truck tied the boat on top with some old rope, piled five kids in the back and took off for lake Alatoona. Dad and us boys carried the boat out and set it in the water for the first time and it immediately…..sank.
My dad’s heart sank with it. We went ahead and spent the day at the lake but the next day dad goes down to the people at Fair Oaks Hardware store and asks their advice. They told him just what they thought he should do so he bought some cotton string and some tar and went back home to disassemble the boat. Between every panel and joint he pressed string then sealed the joint with tar melted on the stove. Then he put the runners back on with all the attendant screwing of the brass screws.
At the next opportunity on a Saturday we carried the boat back to the same spot and sat it in the water and it sank again. But this time it didn’t sink quite as fast as before. We found out by trial and error that it was good to actually put water in the boat and let it set a while so that the joints would swell and leak less. We marked the spots that leaked the worst so dad could work on them later and we went ahead and used the boat staying close to shore. Repairing spot after spot the boat got better but we always carried a tin cup to bail the water with.
We were uptown now. We were no longer stranded on the shore like common people – we had a boat. We had bragging rights at school and in the neighborhood. WE HAVE A BOAT AND YOU DON’T. Then another milestone happened: Daddy brought home a small gas motor for the boat. I can’t remember if it was a Johnson or an Evenrude but it was a beautiful, shiny, new motor. We mixed some oil with gas for the two-cycle engine, cranked it up and we were off.
After a few runs up and down the lake we found an old piece of plywood and tied it to the rope. Dad would let us kids ride on this piece of plywood towed behind the boat. We were having a great time. Other people began having a great time too, at our expense. The bigger boats would spot us and roar by dangerously close, making a wake so high that it was like being rocked by an ocean wave, We screamed and held on for dear life and the bigger boat drivers would just laugh at what the had done to the poor, defenseless white trash out riding around on their lake.
Sometimes dad would follow their boat back to where they docked and the people might be trying to eat or fish and we would just ride up and down making the biggest waves we could, rocking their boat and scaring the fish away and just being loud and vengeful. Even back then I wondered at every boaters mentality of putting in their boat and racing as fast as they could go to the opposite shore to fish when the people on the opposite shore would do the same thing. I guess it was all about who could get to the opposite side where the fish supposedly were the quickest.
This boat was a source of endless fun and trips to the lake camping out. We didn’t even have a tent, we slept in the truck , under it or just outside on the ground with a blanket. We loved that boat and used it for many years and I don’t remember whatever happened to it. Seems like I do remember that motor being around many years after the boat was gone. Objects like that don’t last forever, but the memories do.