The Early Years: 1983-2000  




How the WBA Began!

The revival of wooden boating began, in the United States, in the mid 1960s or nearly 10 years after the mass production of wood boats ceased. The beautiful mahogany boats were being left to rot in barns and pastures as the sleek fiberglass boats became dominant. Some wooden classics were well taken care of and others were being restored by a handful of artisans across the states.
Ken Thompson in Dallas had a long history with wooden boats and restored a 1947 Chris Craft Custom, 17 foot long, Deluxe runabout in 1967 and enjoyed it for several years. Hearing that the Chris-Craft Antique Boat Club was hosting the Southeast Antique Boat Show, Ken hauled "Frisky" to Sanford, Florida in 1981. There he met, at the banquet, Howard E. Hallas who was the director of the Chris Craft Antique Boat Club and producer of Brass Bell. Ken's boat was one of twenty in the show. Howard urged Ken to start a club in Texas to get Texas members for the Chris Craft club and add to its 1100 members. He gave Ken a thousand postcards with Ken's name on them to pass out when he got back to Texas. "Frisky" was a big hit but some suggested Ken call the boat "Texas Pride." Later that year Ken changed the name to "Texas Proud" since Texas Pride was the name of a beer, a not to good one at that.
Ken handed out the cards to his Texas friends interested in wooden boats, but when Hallas suddenly died, Ken marked out the CCABC address on the cards and started a Texas classic boat club. A member by the name of Johnson urged the club to be part of the Antique and Classic Boat Society, ACBS. Ken collected the forms and dues and ran the club of 97 members as part of ACBS for one year. Only two of the members renewed for the next year, 1983, Ken and George Teer. Ken figured the members did not want to be part of a national organization, so Ken dropped the club idea.
That very year, 1983, Lewis Lawson called Ken sometime in June and urged him to form another club. A few days later Ken Thompson, Bob Prickett and Pat Seyster met with Lewis Lawson in Lewis' kitchen one Saturday morning in North Dallas and began the Wooden Boat Association of North Texas. With Ken as 'moderator', or interim President, the club grew quickly and reached 65 members by 1986. Some of the meetings were held in Ken's home.
Some guys from Fort Worth attended the early meetings and later started their own club, The Eagle Mountain Classic Boat Club at Eagle Mountain Lake. Ken set up the first WBA Boat Show at Las Colinas Canal in conjunction with the Las Colinas "Canal Days" in 1988. Norm Wangard, publisher of Classic Boating Magazine, attended the show and featured our canal show in Classic Boating in the March-April 1989 issue.
The first Hands-On sessions were held at Aaron Lyons' van conversion shop in DeSoto during 1988 on Saturday mornings. Ken demonstrated his unique method of staining using gasoline, and his paper pattern and rolling method of board replacement on the bottom of Bob Rogers' Century. Ken figures we had 30 sessions in DeSoto for about 3 years. Ken's 1947 "Texas Proud" was rewired during one of those early Hands-On gatherings.
In 1989 the president and vice-president quit and forgot to notify anybody. At the next meeting the only officer present, the secretary, appointed Rory Smith as president. She was a great president, served the next year and could have stayed on as president for another year if she hadn't moved to Atlanta. During Steve Mallow's tenure, all the meetings were held in Steve's living room.

We had shows on the Canal from 1988 to 1990. The big crowds and Canal Day's festivities (September) made it a pleasant experience. However the canal management did not want us to drive our boats for fun on Lake Catherine. Yet the water taxis sped up and down the canal making waves that slammed the antique and classic boats against the concrete walls. At one Los Colinas show in 1990, the festival was well promoted and attended. It was very organized and there was a huge white tent with gourmet restaurant samples, arts and craft vendors and the like. At the peak of the show, an unexpected thunderstorm ran through the event like a run-away train. Everything went flying…lawn chairs split into pieces as they hit the buildings. After 20 minutes, it was over…boats were damaged from breaking loose and banging against the sea wall without fenders.  There were tables and chairs floating next to the boats.  Some boats were floating out in the middle of lake. The ramp was shut down and no one could leave that day. The next morning everyone retrieved their boats. That was the last Las Colinas show.

The members voted to have the 1991 show at Captain's Cove Marina on Lake Ray Hubbard. The club returned to Captain's Cove through 1994 for a total of four shows (June) called "Classics on the Lake". The WBA did not have a show after 1994 because, like most work-intensive activities, the labor fell to just a few skippers, causing eventual burnout.
At one of our shows on Lake Ray Hubbard, president Steve Mallow suggested a large helium balloon near I-30 to promote the event. After much trouble getting a balloon, a tank of helium, and streamers to the site, Ken Thompson & Stan Lehnhardt spent about half an hour tying off to a big sign, blowing up the large, unwieldy balloon, tying on streamers and releasing it. The balloon went up about 50 ft, broke the streamer, and went on to Oklahoma. No balloons were tried after that.
Since 1994 there have been impromptu rendezvous on local lakes and planned rendezvous at Seb and Bonnie Borrello's cottage on Lake Tyler, aboard Frank and Kitty Brown's Owens on Lake Texoma, at Robin and Judy McGeorge's lake house on Lake Tawakoni, and Bill and Pat Baldwin's retreat on Lake Cypress Springs. In the fall of 1997 and 1998 we had rendezvous on Caddo Lake. During the hot summer month of July 1996 we met with the Southwest Chapter of ACBS for a rendezvous on Lake Ray Roberts. (Ed. note: Annual Ride 'n Show events resumed in the early 2000's).
Several skippers showed their boats at the ACBS boat show on Las Colinas Canal, Eagle Mountain Lake, Lake Austin, Oklahoma Classic Boat Club shows, and other shows in Texas and elsewhere. The WBA was invited by the Hydrofest promoters to set up a on-trailer display during the race-days on Lake Lewisville in May of 1994 and July of 1995. At the end of October 1991 and 1992 we had a combined rendezvous with the Horseless Carriage Club on Lake Murray in Oklahoma. We took the antique car enthusiasts for boat rides and they treated us to old car rides and a picnic lunch. Ken and Jeff Cromeens arranged for these events. For many years we showed our classic boats at the Dallas Boat Show in Market Hall.
The WBA meetings have been held in member's homes, the meeting room of an apartment complex on Harvest Hill Lane, the old Pump Room of the Dallas Water Department on White Rock Lake and a meeting room at the Lake Highlands Recreation Center on Churchill Road in Dallas. We left the old pump station because the room was 40 feet high and had poor acoustics. We were driven out of the rec center by the constant clashing of swords during the fencing class on the other side of a thin wall. On occasion we have held meetings aboard Walter Hill's Cruise Along, "Enjoy", and Richard and Margie Kidds' Chris Craft, "Xanadu". In 1999 Dick Peterson invited us to use the conference room of Quick Draw Company off Royal lane, where we meet each third Thursday of the month except December and January. Occasionaly a Hands-On session is combined with a meeting, held at the Lucas shop.
In 1998 Ken Thompson became the WBA's First Commodore in recognition of his many years of service to the club. Ken has helped many skippers restore their wooden boats.
Every January the members gather for the Installation Dinner, held as a thank-you to the club officers. This occasion has moved from restaurants in Dallas, to Sneaky Pete's on Lake Lewisville, to a covered dish affair in the Pump Room, to the Dallas Athletic and Country Club on LaPrada in Dallas. Awards are given for meritorious service and someone usually gets the nautical bonehead award known at the Bent Prop Award. Guest speakers sometimes talk about boating, but the 1999 speaker prepared us for Y2K. The first time we held the dinner in the Pump Room, Richard Kidd set up 6 slide projectors automatically showing WBA activities on the various walls, a screen, and the ceiling.