Back in Time

Back in time

Gee Whiz.
Just hearing those two words made me grin. Within an instant I am whisked back to 1969-black and white photos, record players, hula lessons, catching grasshoppers with  Ron-Howard-as-Opie-look-a-likes that made simple walks through brush into a full-fledged Panavision adventure. Long summer days, learning how to cast, catching that fish [finally], camping and road trips with my Dad and his AM radio… those memories are just so vivid I can almost taste the maple syrup and butter on Mum’s waffles.

“Gosh!, Golly!” and “Holy-Cow!”  are close but “Gee Whiz” epitomizes those simple times and exclamations of that era. Knowledge and technology was increasingly becoming available to the masses. Televisions in almost every home! (In my grandmother’s living room, as I sat on the floor with Moby Dick, her white poodle- we watched as a man stepped onto the surface of the moon-Gee Whiz…They actually did it!)
Our family gardens and backyards were my very own living-breathing-encyclopedia complete with Technicolor flora and fauna. Our “Universe” to explore. My Mom was the most beautiful woman in the world. Dad was my hero and a world class comedian. Our Grandparents were amazingly brilliant and witty as were their parents- my admiration of my elders was boundless. Life was wonderous on a daily basis as they fed us with their knowledge and skills. [Gosh it was loads of fun!]

Jump ahead to 2013: At 48 years old I find myself reunited with the beau of my teens, “Doug”. We joke of it being a world record courtship- “only 30 years”. Our combined skills sets and passions lend us to begin a search for a new “Project Boat”. He’s finishing up the final touches on his 1969 17′ Boston Whaler as I type this. 

His search perimeters were:
1. wooden boat.

2. circa 1940-1960’s and a “beater”.
3. Chris Craft or Correct Craft preferably.

4. under 16′ in length
5. cheap.

I have to admit I got a bit excited, as I have fond memories of the 1990’s Mount Dora Antique boat shows-that was the first time I had the opportunity to appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship of the classic wooden lake/ski boats. I’d never seen wood shine like that AND there was a gentleman that could have been Sean Connery’s twin. [HOLY-COW!]

Being the Senior-compu-geek-tight-wad of our household I headed straight for my Mac and went to Oh yeah… it’s  capitol “F” ugly as all hell, but I have learned to rein-in my disdain for their complete disregard to design theory and typography as it’s been a proven source of materials for years now. Function >Form in this case.

Entering “Chris Craft Boat” and “wooden boat” while searching throughout South Florida, Treasure Coast and finally the Orlando areas I saw the heading:

 CL > orlando > for sale / wanted
Mar 5 1950’s Chris Craft Kit Boat $100 (Winter Park) boats – by owner pic

Suddenly a chorus of Thrift Shoppe Angels began to harmonize.
Doug did question the price- “Zard, are you sure that’s not a typo?” he added.

After a few phone calls to the son of the boat’s original owner we were tickled to find that:
1. they were very close to my Mum’s home in Winter Park, [only a two hour drive!].
2. it was actually built by his father and his grandfather in the 1950’s.
3. they would hold it for us until the following week!
4. dimensions were 4′ wide 10′ length
5. Nay Nay, my Doubting Douglas-T’was not a typo-just $100

I could not have hoped for a more pleasant experience. Doug had to work in South Florida and I had to drive up to St. Augustine for work anyway and hoped to pick it up in my Ford Escape- I have always considered it a pickup truck hauling/moving my artworks and materials. Upon meeting Brad ( the father a.k.a. original owner!) I could see that he had many emotional ties to this boat and was pleased to share his memories with me.

Lake Tahoe, Nevada1960
As a ten year old boy Brad received a Chris Craft Kit boat from his father-who travelled quite often and hoped this would be a nice way to spend time with his son. They built it, and young Brad used it every summer (Lake Tahoe area) up until he was around 16 years old. He commented on how his father stressed that the bottom hull should be done in fiberglass for strength and durability and then added that he originally painted the boat and was keen on showing me what areas were in blue and others in white*. His brother has a larger boat and their father built a double trailer to haul both down the the lakes during their summers in Lake Tahoe. He explained to me that his father told him he could put as big of an engine as what he himself could carry, starting with a 5 hp, then exercising and growing into a strong young man to a 10 hp, and eventually zipping around with a 15 hp.

*His eldest son had eventually taken possession and painted it the brown and yellow that it wears today.

He tells me they kept it in the family all this time since 1960, eventually shipping it from Lake Tahoe to San Diego, and then Winter Park, back to California for his son to use and then finally back to Winter Park.
While measuring my truck’s width, I ask him “What did you name the boat?”

His head goes back and laughs out loud, then he replies, “You’re going to think it’s so dorky… I named it “Gee Whiz” “

I joke that in our family we embrace our “dorkiness”. We have a good chuckle and determine he will have to deliver it to my Mum’s as my truck is 3/4 of an inch too small.

Within an hour he and his son backs into Mum’s driveway and they carefully unload “Gee Whiz”, as he speaks to my Mum this time that this boat is a part of their family and how pleased he is that it will have the opportunity to be restored and enjoy a second life.

This Sunday, [ Easter, 2013] Doug, my daughter Lizzy and I will head to Mum’s for a family Holiday Feast and welcome “Gee Whiz” into to her new home-the Indian River Lagoon.

Zard Tompkins




Brad’s Craigslist advert photo.


Can’t beat that price with a stick…lol.


Found this online. Pretty nifty eh?


Wow! This guy had the right idea…

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