The First Antique Outboard Meet – Ever!
David R. Reinhartsen
I discovered The Antique Outboard Motor Club of America* in the summer of 1962, seeing, by chance, a classified ad in Popular Science magazine. I immediately sent a check to George Ralph, President and owner of the copyrighted name.
The somewhat crude issues of The Antique Outboarder as published by The Antique Outboard Motor Club of America – as it was called at the time – revealed that there was one other member in Wisconsin, a Christopher R. Owen of Eau Claire. I began corresponding with him in the fall of 1963.
En route to Minneapolis in the winter of 1963–4, I gave Chris a call, and arranged to visit him and see his collection. We drove to his parents’ farm, had a hot cup of coffee, and ventured out in bitter cold to see his 5–6 motors, especially his favorite, a Model U Evinrude Speeditwin. Chris said that it once caught fire. He put it out by sinking the boat and motor. Chris was but 16.
Though he hoped to become a mechanical engineer, Chris was more interested in motors than academics. His parents sent him to a boarding school about halfway between Eau Claire and Madison. Homework completed, Chris visited us on a few Sundays. It was a wonderful opportunity for Chris to experience university life, mentored by a very serious PhD EE candidate. Academics became more important. He went with us for a weekend on Washington Island where we ran old outboards – an Elto Quad, and a Johnson PO-10 that we saved from oversize piston rings. We never talked studies – only engines.
At the end of summer school we planned a weekend so that we could run old outboards. Because classes would soon begin for both of us, it was scheduled for late August. My wife and I and our two kids drove to Eau Claire, stayed with Chris and his folks, took pictures, and ran our 1928 Elto Quads on Half Moon Lake till suppertime. The kids loved their Great Dane.
The “of America” club never held a meet and the present club did not yet exist. Therefore, the 1965 weekend spent with Chris Owen and his family counts as the first meet – ever. The picture below was taken in August 1965 at Half Moon Lake. It later appeared in black and white on the cover of Volume 1 Number 1 of The Antique Outboarder, published in January of 1966.
Now if you really want to get picky, the first AOMCI meet was held at Lake Dallas in the summer of 1966. I was there, but Chris could not make it. We missed him.
I am grateful for the many recognitions I have received as “Founder and First President” of the Antique Outboard Motor Club. In my wildest dreams I never would have predicted the 3000 member organization that we have today. (For additional details see The Antique Outboarder, July 2001, page 55.)
*The Name Change: I had been corresponding with George Ralph for years, hoping and helping to revive his “of America” club. It became apparent that a takeover was not feasible. It was better to begin with a new name by dropping the “of America.” By the fall of 1965, thanks to John Harrison and Mercury Outboards (each contributed $100) I had enough money to start our club. Young Chris was a natural for Vice President, Dick Hawie was Curator, Jim Webb was Historian and John Harrison was Treasurer. The rest is history.