Friday, October 19, 2007

Return of the Thunderboats

My post-Enfilade post included a picture and some information about some hydroplane racing we did at the convention. Though it didn't attract a huge crowd, the races were full, and we had actual miniatures to work with. I also mentioned that Shawn McEvoy was going to send me six miniatures and the big hydro party would begin.

Let me just take a big step backward here, and explain my bizarre interest in this project. I grew up just outside of Seattle in the 1960's. We really didn't have any major league sports until the late 60's when the Sonics and then the Pilots arrived. Our AAA baseball team, the Angels, wasn't very good; the Huskies had moved beyond their '60's Rose Bowl teams and had settled into the mediocrity of the later Owens years. What we did have every summer was hydroplane racing. As a 10 year old in the summer of 1965, I knew the boats, what they looked like, who their drivers were, and how they were doing. The neighborhood was fairly divided between Ron Musson's Miss Bardahl, and Bill Brow's Miss Exide, with all the cornucopia of other boats mixed in for fun. Though hydro racing had moved out of the province of the underfunded amateur owners, and into the hands of commercial sponsors, it still was small enough that on any given day anyone could win. One of the lasting sports memories of my childhood was the dreadful 1966 President's Cup race on the Potomac when Musson and two other drivers were killed. Despite the lack of ESPN or a 24 hour news cycle, the disaster was big news in Seattle, and we young fans were all plunged into a state of mini-mourning.

When I was a kidlet, all those of my age on my block built our hydros out of scrap plywood, painted them the best we could, and tied them on to the backs of our bikes. We'd race them up and down the street to emulate our heroes. Summer was the race season.

Shawn's inexpensive resin-cast miniatures, together with Dave Schueler's very fun rules offered me this opportunity to recapture a bit of my youth. I'm working on my first three boats. I've finished 1955's Slo-mo-shun V. It was damaged in a flip during the same week in which I was born. Driver, Lou Fageol was in the same hospital where I was born at the same time. I'm also done with Musson's Green Dragon. It's different than the earlier Bardahl's classic lines and bronze green and orange finish. Musson's Bardahl was a national points winner from 1963-5. I'm also working on a 1965 version of the Exide. The brilliant red boat with its lightning bolts and checkered tail offer a bit of a challenge for me, but I'm hoping it will be done in the next week or so.

Yes, I know it's another weird project, a bit divorced from the medley of little men that usually constitute our hobby. I see it as simply another outlet for me to express my historical interests in miniature outside the usual shoot up, stab 'em, or blast 'em with high explosives. I really like my connection to racing games, both the air racing and hydroplanes. I fully expect a large panoply of racing games at Enfilade 2008.


barron of ideas said...

I am reasonably certain the Seattle minor league baseball team was the Seattle Rainiers, named for the Mountain or the beer, take your choice.

Kevin said...

They were the Rainiers through the 1964 season. I did attend Rainiers games before the ownership change, but in 1965 the team was sold to the Los Angeles Angels, and it remained a AAA Angels franchise through 1968.