Sunday, December 21, 2008

Old Family Canoes VII

I have brought you up to date on the 100+ year old Pratt family Morris canoe. Now I will tell you about the the "Watervliet Old Town", the Woodruff Family's 18-foot Otca Model and it's fate. It was built in Old Town, Maine, in 1921, thus it is only 87 years old, but that makes it a year older than I am. I speak of it in the present tense because it still exists, but it is no longer owned by the Woodruffs. The "Why not?" is part of the story I will tell you.
In an early Old Town Canoe Company catalog the Otca is described: "In our 'Otca' Model are comprised dimensions which are distictive in our other models and the style of finish includes open spruce gunwales (remember the Pratt Morris has mahogany) and 20-inch long decks with low combing. The bows are full...the floor is flat...while increase of beam provides a maximum of steadiness without proportional loss of speed. It's a fast canoe..." Not nearly as fancy as the Pratt's canoe, however. Note that it was built the same year my folks got married.
My family bought it in the mid-40's from the Chamberlin family who had a home on Paw Paw Lake. Mr. Chamberlin was a official of the Watervliet Paper Company and his daughter Eunice was a couple of grades ahead of me in school. I remember when I was young finding out that Mr. Chamberlin made $10,000 per year. I was so impressed that I made it my life's ambition to earn $10,000 per year (I was married and had two kids and had been working for the State a couple years before I finally made that much).
After the War I returned to the Colorado School of Mines and graduated as a Geological Engineer in 1948. During that last school year I started planning a big canoe trip and talked two of my fraternity brothers (Beta Theta Pi) into postponing going out into the cold, cruel world of career and work to go along. My brother John, a Navy veteran and student at Michigan State was to be the fourth member of our expedition. Dick had fallen in love and got married and was busy fathering babies so he couldn't go along.
NEXT: The big expedition.
(emailed August 14)

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