M. Lamont (Monte) Bean
The Fastest Drug Store Afloat
In March of this year , it was this author's privilege to interview M. Lamont (Monte) Bean at the Pay 'n Save Corporation headquarters in Seattle. Mr. Bean is the chairman of the board of the Pay 'n Save Corporation.
In 1958 and 1959, the Pay 'n Save Corporation sponsored the U-47 Miss Pay 'n Save. The following are excerpts of our conversation.
How did you first become interested in unlimited hydroplane racing?
There were two groups that were interested in hydroplaning. One was the Stoens, Milo and Glenn, and also the Andersons who were contractors. They had purchased the Slo-Mo V, repaired it and run it for one year.
They wanted to buy a new hull and bring it out so they got hold of Les Staudacher and he built this step-down design. They were looking for someone to help carry the financial burden.
Did you have any contact with hydroplanes prior to this?
Our office was on Harrison Street and under this space we were leasing was strangely enough the shop for the Hawaii Kai. I was able to walk down the steps, they had made quite a shop out of it, and see what they were doing.
When were you first approached by the Stoen/Anderson group?
This was in 1957 prior to the first year that we ran. I don't know how they happened to come up with my name, but they came in and, I had a meeting with them and we talked about bringing in a new hull. I was concerned about liability and concerned about a lot of things because our store chain was very small at the time, only about a dozen.
What they were offering was that they would bring the boat in, and all we would be doing is leasing advertising space on the hull. And it would be called the Miss Pay 'n Save. There would be no other financial obligation except for an agreed upon fee for so many races. We spent a grand total of $25,000 for the first year. You couldn't buy an engine for that today maybe.
We ran it for two years at the same kind of a fee. Looking back it was a very good investment on our part because it gave us name recognition at a time when we needed it so badly. In 1958 if you were to ask one hundred people on the streets of Seattle what Pay 'n Save was you might have gotten ten who knew we were a drug chain. It made people conscious of our advertising and of our presence. When they saw our stores it meant something to them. We were the guys with the hydroplane and it was a community effort and it meant something to them.
You primarily raced only on the West Coast, you never took the boat back East.
No, no and the reason was that I was only interested in strictly a personal self interest company approach. It didn't do me any good to have my boat race back in Detroit except on the broadcast coming back to Seattle.
Did you accompany the boat to any of the races outside of Seattle?
Yes, we went to Coeur D'Alene and we went to Chelan where we won the Apple Cup. We took it once to Lake Mead where we blew up before we started.
Where did you keep the Miss Pay 'n Save?
Hawaii Kai was out of the boat business at this time. I remember when Edgar Kaiser came in with his family to look at the boat, and they later decided to retire. So they took their boat out and we moved our boat in. They had some things that were very helpful to us. They had a great big steel beam in there that was heavy enough to lift the whole boat. We could lift it up and work on it, the trailer right under it.
It was kind of fun. The boat was just right underneath my desk, although, if I'd known what kind of fuels they were racing in it I'd might not have been quite that happy!
Did you have a full time crew?
We had a full time crew chief, Wes Kiesling, he worked there and we got to be quite good friends. And then they had a bunch of volunteers that would crank up prior to the start of a season. But even during the year they would come in and do things. Mainly it was an all hands effort getting ready for the season.
Why did you get out?
We raced it for two years, and then the third year I had perceived it's fun, I got emotionally involved with it, it's good for the company but I had got all the value out of it that I thought we would get. I could never figure out why Willard Rhodes of Thriftway kept putting huge funds in the system. They kept at it, and I kept saying, now Willard, you've been getting a dollar back for every dime you put in and now you're getting a dime for every dollar.
Was there any significance behind the number U-47?
The first Slo-mo was 27 and second was 37 and since the Stoens and Andersons owned the Miss Seattle the next number was 47. They asked me if I liked the number and I said I think it's a great number.
Did you ever drive the Miss Pay 'n Save?
No! As a matter of fact I was scared to death of it. I went out in it and I promised myself that if I ever lived through that last ride I'd never do it again!!! My first ride was in the Miss Seattle with Chuck Hickling. It was at a company picnic and he was taking people out in the straightaway and they were given a 100 MPH card.
The crew kept getting after me "When are you going to take your ride?" I told them I'd already done that in the Miss Seattle but they wanted me to go out in the Pay 'n Save. They were setting up for the Gold Cup (1958) and they said today's the day. So I went out with Al Benson who was driving the boat at the time.
I was prepared for the noise but not the heat. On the Pay 'n Save the collectors would go beyond cherry red, the would get white. He hit the first turn and I was absolutely petrified! I looked up at Benson, was banging him on the knee, to tell him to slow down, and he wasn't even paying any attention to me! He doesn't see, hear or even have any awareness of me even being there, he's concentrating completely on making this turn.
It was wet, hotter than hell and I got scared to death. He didn't do just one, he did three loops. I never did get his attention until he was coming down taking the throttle off and he's got this big smile on his face. I got out of the boat, kind of mad, and just walked up and got in my car and left.
Did you get your 100 MPH card out of that? Do you remember what your speeds were, or did you stop to ask?
(Laughing) After a while we got to chuckling about that. I asked Benson and he said 149 in the straights.
There were reports of a clandestine test run that Bill Muncey made in the Pay 'n Save, would you comment on that?
I got pretty well acquainted with Bill, we became friends and I went over to his house a few times. He came over to see me and we went out to lunch a few times. We got to talking about the boat and he said "You know that boat will really go, I'd like to try it." So I said sure, I'd like you to. I'd like you to tell me about it. So we set up for this and Bill said I don't want Willard to find out about this.
Later, after an early morning test run, he told me "It's scary, that boat reared right up, it's a quick boat!"
What was the highlight of your career?
Bringing the 1959 Apple Cup trophy back to Seattle in the back of my car.
Do you ever have the urge to get back into the sport?
No, not really. It's really involving. I have a lot of fond memories but I don't personally have any interest in racing involvement with the company.
Do you still follow racing?
Oh yes, we go down to the pits at Seafair time.
This concludes my interview with Monte Bean. In later months a complete hull history of U-47 will be presented including her as she becomes the Miss Seattle Too.
(Reprinted from the Unlimited NewsJournal, May 1986)
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