Looking back . By founding member Ford Knight


Finger Lakes Chapter's Certificate was presented to the club by Bill Willig and Ray Nelson at a dinner held at the Deerhead Inn on April 8, 1978,

Confirming our status as the Finger Lakes Chapter ACBS


My perceptions of the beginning of the club...I had bought my Morehouse Utility in 1977 and being young took on the task of varnishing it.  What I didn’t know would have filled a library, but I varnished it and got it ready for the water (its first visit in over 7 years).  The workmen down at Morehouse’s Marina teased me about the non slip finish.  But I still was very happy to have my own Morehouse Inboard.
My grandfather, Dr. Robert Knight had  bought a mahogany 20 footer in 1956 and I have spent my entire in life in Morehouse Boats.  During my “restoration” process I began to talk up the idea of starting a boat show for the Morehouse boats that my friends and I enjoyed....Ah those were the days to be young and full of drive, albeit somewhat innocent and inexperienced in the ways of antique boating.  All I knew was that we had some cool boats and thought we should pursue having a show to display them.

One Saturday in September of 1977, Big George Zeth, Freddie Curry is still the owner of the only 22 foot double cockpit Morehouse Inboard ever built), “Cool” Rich (Morehouse) (aka in the 21st Century Jennifer Wells), and I loaded up in Freddie’s LTD and drove up to the Shipyard Museum in Clayton, NY.  Way back then, John Bradley ran the shop and we spent quite a bit of time looking around and talking to him about our idea for a boat display.    In our eyes, John was “The Man”.  He spoke our language and his excitement for what antique boating was to become was infectious.  his spirit was unwavering.  I am sorry he passed away before seeing his dreams come true.  (You could write a whole lot on how the true spirit of antique boating has been subverted and supplanted by those interested in only money, but hey this is America, greed is good.)  Back to John, at the time I must say that he was not totally positive about our boats being in the Clayton Boat Show.  Morehouse Boats, you see were not old enough to be considered antiques according to the Shipyard Museum’s criteria.  Oh well, we didn't care.  Maybe our boats were classics.  Yeah that was the ticket!  We just knew that it would be fun to try and do something.  Somewhere along the way John told us about the Antique and Classic Boat Society and Mr. Ray Nelson and we decided  to contact him.

We came home hot to trot. Big George, Freddie, Cool Rich, “Fair Jer” Feltus, Mike Morehouse, Dale Owens and myself wanted to get something going.  We talked it up at the Deer Head Inn on Lower Lake Road on the west shore of Cayuga Lake.  The Deer Head was owned then by the boat builder’s cousin, Allyn Morehouse.  There were men who worked on Morehouse Boats, who were still employed by Bob Morehouse, who came to the bar at the Deer Head after work and talked about building boats.  We all listened intently to the stories of the “glory days”: when the production of Morehouse Boats was in full flower.  Jack “Cookie” Cook and Dick “Doty” Doty told all of us young bucks about what it was like making each wood boat by hand; using the forms to bend the oak ribs and completing another work of art.  I thought then and still do, that they were works of art, as are all handmade wooden boats.  Cookie, Doty and Bob made it sound quite routine, but I drank in every word.  Big George, Cool Rich and Mike were after all very familiar with the family business and would try to look blase, but we all thought it was great fun to listen to the stories.  They were also very proud of their family’s rich heritage.

I thought it was intrinsically necessary for each of us to share these great boats with others.  So to get it started we ran an ad in the Geneva Times, and the Auburn Citizen asking anyone interested in exploring the idea of an Antique Boat Show in the Finger Lakes Area to please come to the Deer Head Inn on a Sunday afternoon in October.  (I don’t remember the date.)  The turn out was good and it was on that day that we met people that would help us fulfill our dream: Syd Marsden, Shirley Marsden, their son Bruce, and Jim Brennan.  Jim had also heard of the ACBS and we decided to start a chapter in the Finger Lakes.  Syd Marsden stood up and spoke of his family’s positive experiences at the Antique Boat Show in Clayton, and said we could do the same thing in the Finger Lakes.  Syd’s optimism has never wavered on this.  It was on that day the club began its journey to what it is today.

We decided to have our first event in Ithaca at the State Marina (whatever its name is) so the next month off we went to a rented room at the Holiday Inn in Ithaca for our second meeting.  We had placed more ads in the newspaper and this is where George Morse (that old fox) and his sons Linc and David turned up.  The meeting was very positive and plans continued to move forward.

When we contacted ACBS we found out that there were great advantages for us to form a local chapter.  Liability insurance for boat shows was first on the list!  As we started to see to fulfilling all the criteria for being a chapter, we discovered we needed 15 people to fill out the form, we counted noses and our small but growing group was ready.  By this time, Jim Brennan had added his good friend, Bob Myllymaki to the group and we were on our way!  I remember a Sunday meeting at the Deer Head and going around getting the 15 names.  We were only a few short and managed to find willing participants.  Allyn Morehouse, bless his heart, was the last of the 15 needed.  He put his name down where there was a space to list his boat,  he listed his 1975 MFG outboard.  Maybe it could qualify for an antique or at least a classic now.

Before we knew it we had a dinner meeting at the Deer Head where Mr. William Willig, the president of ACBS, presented us with a certificate confirming our status as the Finger Lakes Chapter ACBS.  That summer, we held our first Finger lakes Antique and Classic Rendezvous in Ithaca.  We did not have a whole lot of what would constitute “amenities” but we had a good time.  We learned a lot and knew we still had a lot more to learn, but we had managed to achieve a dream.

I will never forget Mr. Bill Smith showing up with his beautiful Fay and Bowen Launch.  There was also an awesome Fay and Bowen Runabout, (don’t remember who that was or where it was from, but it was the first time I had ever seen a boat like it).  Jim and Bob were there with Jim’s boat After Taxes, and the entire Marsden tribe were there with their dispro and maybe a canoe(?).  What we lacked in this’s and that’s we made up for in a fundamental appreciation for our boats.  Little did we know that from such humble beginnings, we would grow into today’s organization.  I feel a great sense of personal pride, as the chapter’s first president, I at least got the ball rolling.

I will always be thankful for the opportunities, my involvement in promoting antique boating has personally afforded me.  After all I met my wife at the 1983 Clayton Show.  (My Morehouse was finally old enough to enter!)  That was the year I had completely restored my Morehouse (for the first time).  I have since restored it two more times.  so much for perfection.  Truthfully though, what we started has flourished and I will always be grateful for the friends I have made and the wonderful times I have had.  They will be cherished always. 
Submitted by Charles “Ford” Knight

Knights of boating web site-click here
Morehouse Boat Museum- click here

History of the Finger Lakes Chapter By Rob Kidd, Finger Lakes Chapter President / from Rudder Magazine Antique & Classic Boat Society Inc.

The Finger Lakes Region of central New York State takes its name from eleven slender lakes running in a generally north-south direction through the Allegheny Plateau. When viewed from above, the five largest lakes resemble the outstretched fingers of a giant hand. Skaneateles Lake is the second-most easterly of the Finger Lakes and has become the unofficial home of the Finger Lakes Chapter of ACBS.

The history of the Finger Lakes Chapter dates back to 1977, when founding member Ford Knight purchased his first wooden boat, a Morehouse inboard utility built by the Morehouse Boat Co. located on Cayuga Lake, the largest of the Finger Lakes. Mr. Knight’s family had always owned Morehouse boats and Ford’s enthusiasm for finally having one of his own was such that he wanted to put together an exhibit just for Morehouse boats. He rounded up a small group of Morehouse owners who then drove some 125 miles to Clayton, New York, to see about having a Morehouse display as part of the annual boat show at the Shipyard Museum (now the Antique Boat Museum).

They spoke with John Bradley who shared their enthusiasm but had to inform them that in 1977 their Morehouse boats did not meet the museum’s criteria to be considered antiques. John did, however, tell them about the recently formed Antique and Classic Boat Society and that their boats would be welcomed as classics there.

Back home, the small group held a meeting at The Deerhead Inn (an old speakeasy) just across the road from the Morehouse Boat Co. After much discussion, they decided to place ads in a couple of local papers seeking interest in putting together a wooden boat show in the Finger Lakes area. Response was good and at a second meeting also attended by Jim Brennan and the Marsden family, Syd Marsden spoke about the positive experience his family had had at the Antique Boat Show in Clayton and how he felt that the same thing could be done in the Finger Lakes. By the end of the meeting everyone agreed that it was time to form a Finger Lakes Chapter of ACBS. Shortly thereafter, Ford Knight contacted ACBS Founder Ray Nelson to see what steps needed to be taken to become a part of ACBS.

Not long afterward, a third meeting was held at the Deerhead Inn and an ACBS chapter application form was passed around requiring the signatures of fifteen prospective members and a listing of the boats they owned. They came up one signature short! Looking around the room, they spotted Allyn Morehouse, owner of the tavern who agreed to be the fifteenth applicant. Although related to the Morehouse brothers who owned the boat company of the same name, he listed his boat as a 1975 MFG outboard!

The small but growing group soon had their first wooden boat show in 1978 in Ithaca, NY, and later held their first Annual Dinner Meeting. That event was attended by Bill Willig who presented the group with a certificate welcoming them as the fifth chapter of ACBS

. In the early years, the Finger Lakes Chapter Boat Show was moved to different locations to help generate awareness of the chapter throughout the Finger Lakes area. In 1995 the chapter contacted Bill Eberhardt, owner of the Sherwood Inn in Skaneateles, about moving the show to that village and we’ve been there ever since. Situated at the north end of Skaneateles Lake, the village of Skaneateles is known for its historic charm and many fine restaurants and shops. Our chapter enjoys a positive working relationship with the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce led by Executive Director Sue Dove, the Skaneateles Merchants Association and Partners Trust Bank (our official sponsor) headquartered in Utica, NY.

The FLC Boat Show is held annually on the last full weekend of July and is a judged event. We feature a popular boat launching service where exhibitors are met at the launch ramp by our launch crew who carefully unload boats and then park cars and trailers for exhibitors so that they may enjoy the ride to town in their boat unconcerned about the disposition of their vehicle and trailer. At the close of the show on Sunday, the launch crew bring cars and trailers back to the ramp to reload the exhibitors’ boats. We have room for about 44 in-water displays with additional room in the adjacent park for land displays. A proposal for a new, larger, permanent dock and breakwater system would increase the number of slips and provide a safe harbor setting for the boat show.

Each year our Board of Directors comes up with activities for the enjoyment of the membership, and in addition, we tried a new kind of activity this past summer in which we gave a group of underprivileged children boat rides. St. Vincent House, a group associated with local Catholic Charities, brought out a group of 60 young people to enjoy a morning of swimming at the Skaneateles Yacht Club where they were also treated to lunch. Afterwards, Finger Lakes Chapter members showed up with nine boats at the town docks to give the kids rides. A number of the kids were allowed to take the wheel which was a real thrill judging by the looks on their faces. Plans to do this again next year are already underway.

This fall we enjoyed a luncheon cruise aboard the tour boat Judge Ben Wiles on Skaneateles Lake and we’re looking forward to our Annual Dinner Meeting and election of officers at the historic Sherwood Inn where Tony Mollica will be the guest speaker on November 18th.

In an effort to involve young people, one of our members is active in the formation of a new Sea Scout Chapter which we would one day like to be a part of our annual boat show. Our chapter also helps to sponsor a group of young people in the nearby village of Phoenix who call themselves The Bridge House Brats. Aged 12–16 years, these kids volunteer their time to boaters passing through their community on New York State’s Erie Canal System. They give boaters a warm welcome, pass out menus to local restaurants, give directions, run errands and generally make themselves useful in any way they can. Next year we plan to cruise along the canal to say hello to these fine young people and ask them to join us for a ride.

We invite anyone vacationing in New York State next July to make our boat show a part of their itinerary. You’ll find plenty to see and do in Skaneateles and the Finger Lakes Region, and it would be a pleasure to meet new antique and classic boating enthusiasts.

The author would like to thank Shirley Marsden, Ford Knight and Bob Myllymaki for sharing their memories of the early years.

George Zeth and Bruce Marsden are two antique boaters who were there when the Finger Lakes Chapter was formed and received its Charter from ACBS. Recently, the two of them put their heads together, recalled those early days, and documented the events leading up to the formation of the Chapter as they remember them. Many thanks to George and Bruce for providing this update on boating history in the FingerLakes

In The Beginning… The Founding of the Finger Lakes Chapter, ACBS In the spring of 1977, a bunch of us were hanging out at our favorite watering hole, the Deerhead Inn on Lower Lake Road east of Seneca Falls on Cayuga Lake. Ford Knight, Fred Curry, Richard Morehouse, Jr. and I were talking about our boats and the upcoming summer. As I recall, Ford said something about antique boat shows that had been held at Clayton and Lake George. At the time, the rest of us didn't know anything about boat shows, and Ford became the driving force behind the idea of one for the Finger Lakes area. We talked about the idea and thought it was something we could do.

So Ford, Fred and I decided to go to Clayton to learn more. There we found the Shipyard Museum and we were hooked! None of us had ever seen the variety of boats that were on display there. During our tour we ran into John Bradley and talked with him about our idea to have an antique boat show in the Finger Lakes. He was very positive and offered his support as well as ideas on where to begin. He also told us of a new organization in Lake George that we should contact -- the Antique and Classic Boat Society. We came back to Seneca Falls all excited and ready to go.

But we stepped back a bit when we realized that we couldn't put together a boat show in just a couple of weeks. So for the next few months we figured out how to go about pulling a show together.

In September of 1977, we sent out a press release to the Finger Lakes Times (in Geneva), the Auburn Citizen and the Ithaca Journal announcing an organizational and informational meeting for any persons interested in helping to plan or promote the "First Annual Cayuga Lake Antique and Classic Boat Show". The meeting was held at the Deerhead Inn on Sunday, October 16th, and as I recall, about a dozen people showed up including Syd Marsden, John Barnes and others who would help get the ball rolling.

The next meeting was held on Sunday, November 13th at the Deerhead, and Jim Brennan and Bob Myllymaki joined our small group of boating enthusiasts. They had also heard of ACBS, and Jim noted that he was already a member. We decided to contact Ray Nelson (an ACBS Founder) to find out more.

Ray offered to come to our next meeting and tell us all about the antique boat movement and ACBS. At that meeting on Sunday, December 4th, Ray told of all the benefits of joining ACBS, including insurance coverage for the boat show if we were to become a chapter of ACBS. This was the kicker, and we decided this was the way to go. But we needed 15 members to become a chapter.

By the time of the next meeting on January 8, 1978, we had collected the following 16 memberships for ACBS. We were on our way.

Ford Knight -- President Seneca Falls, NY Fred Curry Seneca Falls, NY Richard Morehouse, Jr. -- Treasurer Seneca Falls, NY George Zeth Seneca Falls, NY Syd Marsden - Vice President Auburn, NY George & Gloria Hyatt Geneva, NY Harold Flagg Seneca Falls, NY Kristine Marble -- Secretary Seneca Falls, NY Ron Jasper Seneca Falls, NY Jerry Feltus Seneca Falls, NY John Barnes Skaneateles, NY Jim Brennan Dewitt, NY Bob Myllymaki Syracuse, NY Mary Ellen Bond Syracuse, NY Joesphine Brown Seneca Falls, NY Allyn Morehouse Seneca Falls, NY

We sent the memberships to Ray Nelson, and at the ACBS Board of Directors meeting on February 11, 1978, we were approved as the "Finger Lakes Chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society." The Charter for the Finger Lakes Chapter was presented to us by Bill Willig and Ray Nelson at a dinner held at the Deerhead Inn on April 8, 1978.


That makes April 8, 2008, the 30th Anniversary of the founding of the Finger Lakes Chapter. Congratulations to everyone who has worked to sustain it through those years, and may it continue to grow and prosper in the years ahead. In the June issue of Brightwork look for the story of how the first Boat Show of the Finger Lakes Chapter came into being. -Ed.

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