Nobody has scarlet fever twice, but both Harold and I did! His turn came in 1942, when at twelve years old, he repeated the illness he’d “enjoyed” a year previous. This time around he wasn’t feeling sick at all, although Dr Allen said he was, so he was faced with no school for three weeks and spare time, a precious commodity, especially since it coincided with a wallet which housed a laboriously saved $20 bill.
It didn’t take him long to come to a decision. He’d long wanted to build a boat. He drew up plans, knew just what he wanted, but needed to figure measurements. His pre-planning included a visit to Long Pier, on Seneca Lake, where he obtained permission to moor his boat in a far corner near the land. The next trip was to the lumber yard on Lewis Street. Finished wood was beyond his pocket book, box lumber, although coarse and wide, would have to do. Carefully he inspected all the boards for knots, discarded those, and chose what he needed. Three one-foot wide, 10-foot long planks for the bottom, two for the sides and a third for the ends, then another to be cut to length for seats, great! What else? A couple of 2x2's for oars, with a piece of board on the end, they’d do nicely after the handles were rounded for easier rowing. And for this purchase they’d deliver! Straight to 30 West Street.
It took him the better part of a month. One of the hardest parts was bending the bottom boards, ever so slightly, and meeting the curve with an end board. The end result looked a little awkward, but it was the best he could do. He’d made a trip to Montgomery Ward for oarlocks and nails, but badly needed something to plug gaps between the boards, gaps which he knew would only grow larger with use. Ever the inventive mind, he rummaged through Mamma’s rag bag. Just the thing! Using a screwdriver, he pushed the strips of rags into every crevice he saw—but knew he’d need more. What to do? Then inspiration hit! Tar! He’d use heated tar like they used on the road! Where did he get it? Well, that’s his secret, but it seemed to do the job.
Next was how to get it from our house, in the west, to the lake side, two to three miles to the east. A cranking noise, a sputtering, and running footsteps on the road caught his attention, and he knew what to do! George Devine running to his truck. Our neighbor across the street had an old model T truck that he picked up trash with. I suppose he was a “rag-bag” man, but a grand fellow, and he was happy to transport the boat to the Seneca Lake mooring spot.
It was a thing of beauty, painted green, and christened “Tubby”. Harold was very proud of it and rightfully so. The appointed day came, and he and Mr. Devine carefully lifted it into the back of the truck and set off. The only place available for him to put it into the lake, where the truck could come up close enough to the water to easily disgorge the boat, was way down at the far side of the lake, past the swimming and play ground area, near where the road curves to the east side. Long Pier is on the west side, two to three miles across the foot of the lake, but it couldn’t be helped, this was where it had to be set in.
Carefully placing it on the beach edge, they pushed it in, and Harold got in, sat on the middle seat, and just glowed for a minute! The thing floated! With no chance to let the boards swell, for he couldn’t stay there, he set off, rowing with his make shift oars. Leaked? Yes, it did a bit, but he’d used plenty of tar over tightly wedged rags, and all he had to do now was row across the foot of the lake and around the bend to Long Pier. If you go today, and stand by the lake side of the Ramada Inn, look to your right and away up the lake you’ll see a pier. That was this twelve year old’s destination! Took all day, and long before he arrived, he’d raised blisters on his hands, his arms were tired, and he was hungry, but he continued on and made it, tying his rope securely to the far corner of the pier near the land. Wobbling slightly, he crawled out and sat looking at HIS boat, resting on Seneca Lake!
He rowed that boat around all summer, investigating every cove he could see, and one time picked up a bit of money, rowing some sailors to a deserted spot to spy on a buddy with his girlfriend. Fall came, and Mr. Devine once again helped him out. They brought it home to rest for the winter, tipped up against the back of our garage. In the spring, “Tubby” was rolled over, to display shrunken boards, slats big enough to put your fist through on her bottom, her days done. But no one could ever take away her glory days, the days they’d had together. He’d built a boat!!