The Thousand Islands Antique Boat Show  How it all started.... by Dr. William Heady

Tom Turgen and his dog BuddyTom Turgeon who, with his son Bill, owned and operated the Thousand Islands Marina, now known as Remar Marina, located around the corner from the present Antique Boat Museum.
   Tom had lived among and worked on the boats of the Thousand Islands all of his life. His grandfather had gone down with a great lakes schooner off Sandy Pond when Tom was just a young lad. One summer day in 1964 a gentleman and his wife were walking through the marina with Tom when they noticed an old wooden boat on blocks in a corner of the building. They went home but couldn't erase the picture of that graceful, old boat from their minds.

   A few days later they returned and inquired as to the boat's owner. Tom told them that he had taken it in payment of a bill owed to him by the previous owner, and he agreed to sell it for the amount of the bill - just a few hundred  dollars. The couple agreed to buy the boat and asked how it could be restored. Tom replied that he had a craftsman, Glenn Jackson, who was quite capable of restoring it, and a price was agreed upon for the work to be done during that winter when the marina's work load would be minimal
  When the couple returned the following spring, they were thrilled with the appearance of their long slender launch with her gleaming white hull, and richly grained mahogany foredeck stretching endlessly before them. Since they had several friends with old, wooden boats in their boathouses, they invited those friends to join them in displaying their boats. This plan was discussed with the officials of the Clayton Chamber of Commerce and the Clayton Village Board, who agreed to provide some publicity for this event, as well as dock space to display the boats. About twenty boats appeared that first year, with many of their  crews in period costumes.

   The next year, 1966, it was decided that this event would be a great addition to the activities of Clayton's Old home Week, so the chamber published the event in its bulletin and included it in all of that summer's other advertising. Esther Levy, Publicist for the Thousand Islands International Council also entered the picture, enhancing the chamber's efforts. This time, there were nearly forty boats entered, and Clifford Carpenter, Editor and Publisher of the Rochester Democrat-Chronicle, was present with his camera. He interviewed exhibitors, took many pictures, and wrote an article entitled "The Floating Smithsonian" which appeared in the July 1967 issue of Yachting. He returned   the following year as a judge for the Third Annual Antique Boat Show.

Vincent Dee By the Spring of 1967, Vincent Dee, President of the Thousand Islands Museum, and trustees of that museum were aware of the increasing interest in old wooden boats, and they formed a committee, chaired by Tom Turgeon, to develop a larger, better organized show to demonstrate the beauty of these boats. In this way, they hoped to encourage the restoration and preservation of the many old wooden boats stored away in this and other areas where boating is a way of life. At that time, we still had no facility for displaying any but the smallest boats, a skiff for example. 

   The Third Annual Show, held in August of 1967, was attended by Walter Juettner, Editor and Publisher of Motor Boating, and his well-known marine photographer, Pete Smyth. There were nearly 100 boats at this show, and judging was performed by a number of local men who were prominent in the boating world. Prizes were awarded in a number of classes. To dock this many boats, we used the entire Town of Clayton dock, and most of the dock's at Tom's Thousand Islands Marina. Tom's regular customers were very cooperative in finding other dockage for the weekend of that third show. 

Bob Cox As the show grew, we felt that we needed judges of national reputation inthe boating world. Bob Cox, lifelong summer resident of Grindstone Island, was well-known in the boating world through his marina in Fort Lauderdale.  He contacted judges for us, and at other times, gave us names of men whom we could contact. Through him we found men like Howard I. Chappelle, Curator of the small-craft collection at the Smithsonian Institution; John Gardner, who held the same position at Mystic Seaport; and Atwood Manley, who had written a book on the wooden canoe. Others who served were editors of boating magazines, representatives of national boat and engine manufacturers and  associations of manufacturers, and frequent contributors to recognized boating magazines. In addition, the group coordinating the boat show felt that we needed an official sponsor. Since the only chartered entity in Clayton was the Thousand Island Museum, it was decided to make the antique boat group a subdivision of that organization. Thus was born the Antique Boat Auxiliary of the Thousand Islands Museum. A statement of purpose and membership forms were originated during the winter of 1967-68, and the museum thus became the official sponsor  of the annual shows for a number of years. 

Tom Turgeon's son, Bill, was killed working in his father's marina in April of 1968. Tom felt the loss deeply, and found that he was no longer able to run  the marina. Not long afterward, the museum acquired the Denny Building, largely through the generosity of the Cleveland H. Dodge Foundation, and their representative on the boat show committee, Bolling Haxall. For the first time, the Auxiliary had a place to store and display donated boats  and boating memorabilia. Tom became the manager of the museum's displays, and so began a period of frenetic acquisition of boats and boating artifacts. Tom knew where to find most of the old boats in the area. His knowledge of and love for the boats of the period made him a most persuasive advocate for the museum. He managed to convince many of the old boat owners that their treasures would be better preserved displayed in the museum than they would tucked in a damp, dirty corner of an old boathouse. thus, the collection soon outgrew that first museum building and early in the development of the museum, the need for larger quarters became apparent.


Bolling Haxall    Many individuals and organizations contributed to the early development of the museum, but the major stimulus was, and continues to be the annual boat shows. The late Vincent Dee, working largely behind the scenes, as was his wont, arrayed the resources of the Thousand Islands Museum, the Clayton Chamber of Commerce, and most important, the Thousand Islands International Council, behind the Antique Boat Auxiliary. The Watertown Daily Times and its publisher, John B. Johnson, were solidly behind the effort, and proved prophetic in stressing the stimulus preservation of old boats provided by our Annual Antique Boat Show. Esther Levy, Publicity agent for the International Council devoted a great deal of her time, skill, and knowledge to promoting the museum's cause. She booked the "Bob and Bolling Show" on radio and TV stations, far and near - Bob Cox and Bolling Haxall, that is, with their collection of color slides of the boats and the shows. The National Bank of Northern New York, now Key Bank, supported our efforts from the beginning, providing support in finance and personnel. The Town and village of Clayton were most cooperative, initially providing dock space for the shows, and continuing in many other ways. The Clayton Chamber of Commerce provided broad support from the very earliest days. 
   The Clayton Antique Boat Show was the first of its kind in the world, and continues to be the model against which all of the more recent shows are measured. It is widely known as "the show to win!" This is largely because of the approach strongly advocated by Bob Cox and other members of the original committee, of providing unbiased judges of unquestioned character and competence for the increasingly difficult task of sorting out winners in the many classes of magnificent old boats entered in each show. 
  next photo click here  40th Anniverary boat show

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