Sunday, December 21, 2008

Old Family Canoes IV

Continuing from my article in the February 2001 issue of "Wooden Canoe".
The place where the Eisenhowers rented the canoe had to be the Huron River Boat Livery on Argo Pond, a backwater behind a low dam on the Huron River located within walking distance of the University of Michigan campus. There is still a popular canoe livery at this spot, but both the building and the canoes are made of metal.
What kind of canoe did the Eisenhowers paddle that June night so many decades ago? It is intriguing to speculate. The probability is that it was an 18-foot Old Town. Why an 18-footer? It doesn't seem that two grown young men and their coed dates plus a Victrola could have fit comfortably and safely in anything smaller.
Why an Old Town? If Old Town did not dominate the rental market in those days, would the composers have titled their song, "Out in my Old Town Canoe"?
MY NOTE:The next seven paragraphs of the article contain a technical discussion of how I went about trying to guess what kind of canoe Ike and Ed paddled. If anyone is interested I would be glad to mail you an illustrated copy (which includes a picture of Mother by the canoe). The article continues:
I confess to having more than a passing interest in canoe-assisted romances. Exactly ten years after Ike's evening on the Huron, my parents were canoeing while honeymooning  at a cottage on a Michigan lake.
The canoe still exists. Although it has been a family tradition that it is an Old Town, the reality is that it is not. It is an 18-footer with the numbert 4971 on a brass plate attached to the left inwhale forward of the bow seat. Benson Gray (an Old Town expert) says he never saw an Old Town with a brass plate and the "build card" for Old Town number 4971 was for a 15-foot HW model built in 1906. He speculates that it might be a Morris.
With this lead and a concurring opinion from Gil Cramer (a professional canoe restorer), I hunted up Jeff and Jill Dean's (founders of WCHA) 1985 articles on Morris canoes in "Wooden Canoe" and sent copies to the cousin who has the canoe (Phil Shane). He reports that the canoe has splayed stems and that except for six at each end every rib is screwed to the keel, both Morris characteristics, but its decks do not look like any of those pictured in the Deans' article.
Next: Continuing the "Wooden Canoe" article.
 (emailed August 11)

No comments: