Think about this, in 1955 the average boat owned by the average fisherman was ten to twelve feet long with an outboard motor ranging from 15 to 22 horsepower. The boat was made of sheet plywood cut to fit a frame of hardwood, or actual planks of wood screwed to a frame. With lots of joints came a common problem with leaks, so most boats had a raised floor, usually a couple of inches above the hull, so that as the water leaked in the boat, the passengers did not have to traipse through the water. As the boat was underway, a drain plug could be pulled in the back of the boat to dump the water, but one also had to remember to replace the plug when stopped. Otherwise, what goes out will come back in.
In 1955, however, the Wolverine Boat Company came out with a great new innovation. The Wolverine boat was made of mahogany plywood, but as the plywood was being made, it was molded over a boat frame so that the wood was formed in the shape of a hull. It was incredibly strong, and with no seams or joints, was practically leak proof. There was no tell tale raised floor because the boat did not leak, and it had a deep bow which took heavy waves like a knife through butter. It was the cutting edge of boat technology; plus, it was a big boat…14 feet long! Dad took one look and was captured. He took home the boat on a new Sears trailer, with the biggest engine he could get…a 22 hp Evinrude.
The boat was an open design, with a covered front deck, but had no steering wheel, so Dad had to sit in the back and steer the boat with the motor's handle. After a few trips up and down Cedar Bayou, Dad decided he needed a steering wheel, and thus entered our neighbor across the street, Otto Purfurst. Otto was a German in every good sense of the word. His speech was accented, and he could not stand idleness. He and Dad were good friends, and Otto offered to install a wheel on the boat. Rather than put the wheel all the way to the front, he put in a center console and fabricated all the hardware for the controls himself. It worked like a charm, but he wasn’t finished. In those days, it was a real task to launch a boat. Basically one would back the trailer into the water to the point that the trailer would disappear under the surface. With luck, the boat would be buoyant enough for you to push the boat off the trailer, but it was always a lot of work.
Otto had an idea to avoid all that hassle, and he offered to build Dad a new trailer. His design looked like a normal trailer, but along the middle of the trailer were three rollers from old wringer washers (I’m sure you remember those!). These were attached together by cables which ran to a lever on the front of the trailer close to the trailer hitch. One had only to pull back on the lever, and the boat would be raised about two inches, sitting on the three rollers. You could push the boat off the trailer with one hand. The added bonus was one did not have to back so far into the water when dropping off or picking up. At the front of the trailer was a winch, and, when loading the boat, one had only to hook the cable to the bow of the boat and it was an easy crank to reload. It was a marvel of engineering at the time. People used to watch us launch or pick up the boat and ask us where they could buy a trailer like that.
After a few runs, Dad decided the Evinrude wasn’t enough. Besides, Johnson Marine had just come out with the SeaHorse 25, and Dad traded engines. Now, with the Wolverine molded plywood boat, the fancy trailer, and the big SeaHorse 25, we had the biggest, baddest boat on Cedar Bayou. Adjusting the fuel mixture while underway, we could just touch 30 mph, and we thought we were flying. Over the next few summers we took a lot of people from our church boating with us, not to mention Downing family members from near and far. I remember one person especially. Gus Locklear, one of the Locklear/Downing clan from
, came to Oklahoma fairly regularly, working with Dad at the roofing company. He loved to ski, and Dad enjoyed trying his best to throw Gus off his skis. We would roar up and down Cedar Bayou cutting all sorts of shenanigans, but I never remember Gus falling. He was a good skier. Baytown