Buy it, read it, and keep it on the bookshelf! My review in a nutshell – great book.
However, there is a story behind my review and the book “Wooden Boats of the St. Lawrence River” written by David Kunz and Bill Simpson. This 127-page book published by “Images of America,” appears in bookshops this month, May 2017.
I met David Kunz through his email submission to Thousand Islands Life for the April 2017 issue. He wrote a tribute to Chauncey Burtch- River Captain Extraordinaire and wanted to make sure that Chauncey was recognized. I considered it to be one of those Thousand islands stories that had to be told before it disappeared.
Once I googled David, I discovered that he was about to publish a book with family friend and fiction author Bill Simpson. (Thomas William Simpson); and better than that, the book was about wooden boats.
Simpson reported that it took one phone call to Arcadia Publishing to interest them, as they recognized a popular subject for the region. I have to admit that some of the” Images of America” series are a compilation of postcards or photographs with never enough history for my curiosity.
However, with Simpson providing the prose and Kunz supplying the photographs and family history, “Wooden Boats” comes alive. Some chapters have a regular historical review often found in other publications, and those looking for smaller and equally popular family boats, may be disappointed, but the heart of the book presents new information about some of the most iconic of wooden boats in the Thousand islands with names you will recognize: Pardon Me, Finesse and Vamoose.
I asked David : “Where did you find your research - many sources? “Majority of the info in my book,” he said, “is from my family archives on Oak Island. I organized all the old letters and photos in my attic at the cottage, looking for material about my uncle Charles Lyon. Charlie's boat Pardon Me is a big attraction at the Antique Boat Museum. There have been people who claim he never used the boat or the classic line ‘He was on board half a dozen times.’ I knew this wasn't true and felt compelled to tell Charlie's side of the story. I wanted to answer the question everybody wanted to know, what made this man at 78 years old, build a monster runabout and only use it a few times?”
I also asked if he had found material that I call “Gold.” “When you talk about striking gold I know exactly what you mean. It happened to me twice. It was when I found all of the old documents about Finesse, Vamoose and Pardon Me. It was a gift. There was the only photo of Charlie Lyon on Pardon Me. I also found The log book of rides that detailed the exact dates he was on board, and who went with him on his rides. All leading to my being able to prove that Charlie Lyon used his boats and allowed me to explain what happened.
He also tells the story about the Vamoose after WWII. “This custom Fitzgerald & Lee boat had survived World War II but then what? It proved that Charlie Lyon had discarded her to build Pardon Me. He claimed she was in disrepair, but it was all a white lie, as an excuse to build a boat to celebrate the War being over. No one has ever found current information about the location of “Vamoose” and maybe this book will solve this mystery - I think it’s going to be big, and may even lead her back to the 1000 Islands." " I am a big dreamer," he admits.
And true to form the co-authors emphasized their thanks to the organizations who shared their information with and were so supportive - ABM, ACBS, Alex Bay Historical Society, Mariners Museum, VA, and “Classic Boating Magazine.”
David went on to say, ”The project would not have been the same without my father John Kunz, Claire Wakefield the curator at ABM, and author/friend Tony Mollica Jr. They helped immensely. (Note: Unless otherwise noted, all images are courtesy of the Lyon Family Archives.)
To all of the above and mostly David Kunz and Bill Simpson we thank you. Yes, buy it, read it, and keep it on your bookshelf, you will refer to Wooden Boats of the St. Lawrence River often.
About the Book
The Thousand Islands’ very name conjures up images of great natural beauty and nautical wonders. They are forested islands replete with storybook stone castles. Exquisite mahogany runabouts can be seen speeding across the placid surface of the mighty St. Lawrence. Names like Boldt, Bourne, Emery, Lyon, and Pullman are embedded in the Golden Age of the area, and it all comes to life in this pictorial history of the river. Images of America: Wooden Boats of the St. Lawrence River tells the story of the rich and powerful men who constructed castles and built classic wooden boats in the Thousand Islands. At the center of the story loom David and Charlie Lyon.
By David Kunz and Bill Simpson
Simpson books: Thomas William Simpson
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing
State: New York
Series: Images of America
Images: 187 Black And White
Dimensions: 6.5 (w) x 9.25 (h)
Available at the Antique Boat Museum, Clayton, NY. and Cornwall Brothers Store and Museum, Alexandria Bay. NY
Illustrations: Pages 50, 100 and 104; Click on photographs to enlarge.
By Susan W. Smith, Editor, Thousand Islands Life Magazine.