HISTORY OF THE FAIRPORT HARBOR YACHT CLUB

 By Bob Mayfield

 

   In April of 1949 a group of boating enthusiasts met at THE SUNSET SODA BAR on Lake Road in Painesville Township. This group of gentlemen headed by Hiram Laird of Painesville, organized a boating club. H. Laird shared his thoughts on Regulations and Purpose of the Club. A motion to organize carried and Officers were elected as follows:

                                    President:           Hiram Laird

                                    Vice President:  J. Donald Smith

                                    Secretary:          Carl J. Stokes

                                    Treasurer:        John Killinen

   At the second meeting at THE SUNSET SODA  BAR with an attendance of 13, a Board of Directors was formed consisting of the above elected Officers and 3 Chairman of the following committees; Membership, Entertainment/Attendance and Property.

   Topics included possible sites for club use. Diamond Alkali Co. and B. & O. Railroad properties were the early candidates. Membership fees were set at $10. Later on, annual dues were set at $10.

   Regular Membership and Board of Directors meetings were held at local establishments and at member’s homes and businesses. The Board of Directors continued working on Rules and Regulations, property acquisition, goals for the club and by the end of the 6th regular Meeting, Club property was acquired through a lease agreement with the B. & O. Railroad Co. Cost of leasing was $30 per month. An associate membership status was added for those wishing to join the club for the social activities. Later on this evolved as a waiting list for Full Membership. At the end of the regular meeting on July 5, 1949, the Club Charter was officially closed with 33 Charter members.

   Included in the Charter membership is Past Commodore Lou Crowther, currently a Privileged Associate Member. Lou served the club many years as Secretary and other the positions before and after becoming Commodore.

  This group of dedicated boaters, named the club THE OUTBOARD BOATING CLUB OF LAKE COUNTY (OBC of LC) and decided to file for Incorporation with the State of Ohio. Articles of Incorporation were filed January 5, 1950. The club also became an affiliate of the Outboard Boating Club of America.  Years later, on the 9th day of August 1968, the club name was officially changed to FAIRPORT HARBOR YACHT CLUB.

   After much time and effort in acquiring a lease of the property (currently called the Mainland), Club members began clearing the land and building docks on this site located on the Fairport side of the Grand River. Club members were assigned dock spaces and required to construct their own docks according to specifications per Club Regulations.

   In the beginning, membership was restricted to boats with outboard propulsion, which later included inboard/outboard propulsion. It appears the reason was basically to keep the club restricted to smaller boats, to maintain lower dues and other costs low,  so that the average working man could afford to belong to the club and participate in boating.

As time passed and needs changed, the restrictions on the type of propulsion were replaced by boat size limitations.

   The first meeting on Club grounds took place on August 2, 1949. For several years, Club meetings in winter months were held at members’ homes or businesses because there was no clubhouse or shelter adequate to hold meetings during cold weather. On a few occasions, summer club meetings held on the club grounds were closed early due to heavy downpours. Usually refreshments and fishing or boating movies followed meetings.

   Even with a tight budget, many improvements were accomplished in a short time, including a bridge, a roadway through the grounds, a shelter/concession stand, “Chick Sails” (outside toilets), and lighting powered by a gasoline powered generator. Club grounds  lighting seemed to set the stage for a bright future.

During these earlier years of development, the club was confronted with many problems:

   A firebug burned all the club buildings, delinquents using firearms on club grounds, thievery and fears of losing use of the club property. Even with all these problems and adversities, the Officers and Members would not give up their dream. Without the dedication and hard work of these strong willed visionaries, we would not have what we have here today.

   At a meeting on February 6, 1951, a motion passed to allow the Ladies to form a Ladies Auxiliary. The Ladies Auxiliary turned out to be a great asset to the club. In addition to being a great opportunity for fellowship for the ladies, The Ladies Auxiliary provided many assets and improvements to the clubhouse and contributed to the beautification of the grounds.

   Social events began in June of 1951, with a fish fry held at Township Park at a cost of $1 per plate. It was a big success and netted some revenue for the club. A clambake in September of 1951, put on by club members was also a success.  This was the beginning of many social events that although have had some ups and downs, overall has been a big benefit for the club. Also, for several years, the club participated in The Annual Mardi Gras with boat outfit raffles, which added to the finances of the club.

   In September 1953, members approved the purchase of a 24ft. x 32ft. Quonset Building. The building was put up and officially opened on Decoration Day.  A Grand Opening celebration included a flag raising, boat parade and a potluck dinner. At this point in time the clubhouse was just a bare structure with a dirt floor and required much more work.

   In September 1957, the property currently called the Island was leased from the Diamond Alkali Co. at a cost of $12 a year. The use of this property added more docks for member use and expansion of membership. At an Emergency Board Meeting on August 4, 1977, member Ralph Parsons informed the club that Diamond Shamrock was willing to sell the Island property and FHYC would have the first option to purchase. The Board of Directors voted to have the Treasurer check out possible financing options and to immediately send a check for $1,000.00 as a retainer. An additional $33,000 would be required to complete the purchase. After much consideraton, the Board came to an agreement that the club should pay for the property in full and charge each full member for their share of the cost of the property. A Land Acquisition Committee was formed to work out the details and bring a plan before the membership for approval.   In brief, the plan called for each full member to pay an equal share of the purchase price, to be paid back upon resignation or death. New members coming into the club would also be required to pay an equal share, as part of their obligation to the club. At the December 6, 1977 Election Meeting, the membership voted to approve the committee’s plan and recommendations. After much follow-up work, purchase of the Island property was completed in August of 1978.

   Later on a screen house was built and as improvements were made, it served as a second clubhouse for members docking on the Island. As years passed and many more improvements made, the Island soon became a favorite spot for many visiting boaters.

   From the beginning, many attempts were made and failed to acquire the mainland property the club was renting. Several times there was reason to fear losing the use of the property and possible disbanding of the Club. Finally, a group of members, led by member Ralph Parsons, persisted in the pursuit of and final acquisition of the mainland property the club had occupied since 1949. Purchase of the mainland was finalized in December of 1979. At this time there was a good feeling of security and survival. 

   Over the years the club experienced many problems: Low and high water problems, destruction from floods and ice jams, differences between members, thievery and at times lack of member attendance and participation. But due to the hard work and perseverance of some determined visionaries, the club keep improving and growing. Many changes such as; major additions and improvements to the club house and grounds, repair and improvements on the water front and enlargement of the slip area, all came slowly and made the Fairport Harbor Yacht Club one of the nicest, versatile boating clubs in this area.  Much of the progress was a result of special skills and talents of many club members and donations of materials and use of equipment from local companies whose employees were members of FHYC.

   The Fairport Harbor Yacht Club supports and satisfies the needs of a wide variety of boaters. Boaters interested in cruising, fishing, sailing or any combination of boating interests can usually have their needs met at FHYC. 

   All of you, who benefit from all the work, the vision and determination of those who poured their heart and soul into the Fairport Harbor Yacht Club, should never take for granted what we have today. We should continue to honor and give thanks to the founders of FHYC and to those who followed up and continued this effort to get us where we are today.  Lets always remember and respect the Ideals and Purpose of the founders and the hard workers who followed their lead. And just as important, we should follow the golden rule and treat our fellow members and fellow boaters with respect, which would certainly make the founders and builders of this club proud.

   

   Footnote: This is a first draft and a work in progress written by Bob Mayfield who passed away in 2005. Anyone having or knowing someone who might have old pictures or information that would add some interesting or useful information to the club history, please contact Dennis Steffy.

 

Past Commodores (* Deceased Members)

1949 Hiram Laird * 1973 David L. Smith 1998 David Spehek *
1950 John Killinen * 1974 Rudolph Walters * 1999 Edward L. Urcheck
1951 George Martin * 1975 Joseph Alban * 2000 Richard G. Tramte *
1952 William Ray * 1976 Thomas Hennig * 2001 Theorore W. Makse
1953 George Bradley 1977 John Thomas * 2002 Joseph A. Lizewski
1954 Clyde Armstrong * 1978 George Holowaty 2003 Larry A. Eslinger *
1955 David Hysop * 1979 Robert Jansen * 2004 Ron Weber
1956 John Killinen * 1980 John Nolan 2005 Domenic C. Durda
1957 Hiram Laird * 1981 Ray Kuhn * 2006 F. Jim Tuggle *
1958 Franklin Fagan * 1982 Frank Hathy * 2007 Thomas Hennig Jr.
1959 Henry Thesan * 1983 Robert Advey Sr. * 2008 John (Pug) Nolan
1959 Lou Crowther * 1984 Henry "Bud" Covill * 2009 Ken Scanlon *
1960 George Bradley 1985 Bruce Dunn * 2010 Alan Exley
1961 Joseph Bezzeg * 1986 Robert Himes 2011 Walter T. Pilny *
1962 Joseph Battista 1987 Lou Masiello 2012 Bob Roberti
1963 Edward Chapman 1988 Dale Cooper 2013 James Urbanek
1964 Robert Hill * 1989 Chet Karchefsky 2014 Paul Maze
1965 Chauncey Borger * 1990 Don Gibson 2015 David Halliburton
1966 Paul Seacrist 1991 Fred Dickinson 2016 Richard (Rick) Langer
1967 Elwood Davidson * 1992 Tony Ruque  
1968 Harry McWherte * 1993 Edmund Zaller*  
1969 Russell Hobart 1994 James Urbanek  
1970 A.J. Haubrich * 1995 Dick Christenson  
1971 William Eggert * 1996 Frank Zalek  
1972 J. Donald Smith * 1997 Frank Gorman