1972 Seafair Trophy
Roostertail of Memories
As the hydroplanes prepare to noise about Lake Washington this afternoon, it strikes one that the roar has crossed the age of maturity, 21 years, hereabouts.
For someone once thrust into all that sound and fury, it raises a roostertail of memories, sets off mental cavitation.
Without going near them, one can sniff the pungency of the pits, bake vicariously in the August sun and blink defensively against its dazzling reflection from the water.
And in the mind’s eye, one can see the Slo-mos, distant specks on the horizon, begin to hurtle toward the starting line, across which they would whoosh in blinding speed.
There was Lou Fageol and there was Joe Taggart. And Stan Sayres. Guy Lombardo was here with the Tempos and Jack Schaefer with the Such Crusts. And George Simon and his Miss U. S.
And, of course, the Schoeniths, Joe and Lee, with their Gales, archrivals of Bill Muncey, Willard Rhodes and Jack Ramsey, who headed the Thriftway racing team.
Do you remember Austin Snell and his Miss Rocket from Tacoma? And Bob Gilliam’s first effort, the Miss B. & I? How about the Stoen brothers who, after Sayres passed from the scene, raced the former Slo-mo as Miss Seattle, the Checkered Lady?
Do you recall the first Miss Bardahl, familiarly known as the Green Dragon, driven by Norm Evans?
And the late Bill Waggoner, his pistols and sheriff’s badge, the Shanty and the Maverick and Bill Stead and Russ Schleeh?
And, with Sayres gone, the Slo-mo crew, headed by Mike Welch, going over to Edgar Kaiser’s Hawaii Kai camp in mechanical succor of Jack Regas, the little leadfoot?
In those days, hydros were a-building in every garage — the hysteria was at its height. And Armand Swenson concocted that weird craft up on 50th Street. It sank during its launching.
Then, Wally Pannebaker slipped through an undersized boat by lengthening its tail. Perhaps overawed, it refused to run across the Gold Cup starting line.
It was a mad, merry melee, marred only, perhaps, by the eternal, childish bickering, with the participants dubbed here adult delinquents.
Nevertheless, much of it was mock battle. And Lee Schoenith, who secretly loved the Lake Washington course, living up to his billing as a villain.
One pretty but dull day, when the lake stole your breath, an empty-handed reporter, perhaps winking an eye, asked Lee what he thought of the perfect layout. Lee made with his glare, curled a lip and spat out:
"This is the lousiest course I’ve ever seen."
He turned abruptly. No doubt to hide his grin, and stomped away, as if in anger.
And you know how our restless natives ate up that stuff. He had said it; lynching was in order.
And wouldn’t it be one of the Schoenith camp, Bill Cantrell, who would run a hydroplane into someone’s garden? And who else but Muncey would attack a Coast Guard vessel with his Thriftway?
Didn’t the latter happen the same week when Roger Murphy got burned on the first turn during a practice run?
And what’s become of Petey Woeck, who toiled so’ mightily with the Miss Burien?
That one, we rode, for our first venture in a hydro. Our spouse and offspring watched anxiously from the shore.
At best, a ride in a hydro is like sledding on cement. And, unless you watch the shoreline, for a point of reference, you do not get the true feeling of speed. You take the corners as would a Sherman tank — skid around them and hope you don’t cavitate.
But, wouldn’t you know, the Burien threw a piston rod that day and only Petey’s mastery of the mill saw us safely back.
We crawled out with the shakes, partly from scare, partly from the Burien’s shimmy to accommodate the sick piston.
Now, memory moves us over to Chelan, for the first Apple Cup race, in 1957. We still can see Regas bringing the Kai from miles back in a raging rush across the starting line.
And later, he was silhouetted against an angry gray sky, standing on his overturned craft, awaiting rescue.
Races, in their profusion, mentally blend, one into the other. That first Apple Cup retains its individuality. It was the warmest and the friendliest, with the little town doing itself proud.
Seattleites went over and camped in the hills, which were lit up by the bonfires. The restaurants were sardine tins, but few folk lost their patience. Dinner at 11 p. m. was common.
Somehow, the town and the race engendered fun and friendliness. But Chelan had to give it up. The second year saw an invasion by an unthinking element, some of which vandalized an Episcopal church.
And that year’s edition of the Seafair Pirates reflected badly on Seattle. Some of the uninhibited buccaneers acted in questionable taste.
Ah, but that was long ago. Now that the activity has come of age, here, chronologically, it can dispense with the puerile.
Let’s have hubbub, but no hysteria.
Lee Schoenith was only kidding.
(Reprinted from The Seattle Times, August 6, 1972)
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