In the 1950’s and 60’s, when I was growing up in southern Indiana, I only remember wooden rowboats, and all were green.
I remember the first boat I helped my father build. We built it with yellow poplar. Yellow poplar is a strong, lightweight wood, that was highly valued for furniture making. My father owned a sawmill, therefore, we had access to the lumber we needed. My father set aside two wide clear boards fourteen feet long, for the sides. He then cut four inch wide boards for the bottom. All the lumber was clear, knot and blemish free. This boat came to a point in front. It was easy to row and handle. Slat bottom boats were common in those days. While the wood was painted, it was not sealed tight. The wood would swell and seal the joints against leaks. The old wood boats were great. They were quiet and very stable. You didn’t move them in and out of the water much. They were heavy to move, plus you didn’t want them to dry out and start to leak.
We used this first boat for several years. We would put it in the water in the spring and take it out in the fall. Each winter it seemed to dry out more and more, and by spring the joints would be cracked apart. The last year I remember using this boat, the cracks between the slats were nearly one-quarter wide. We put it in our pond, to allow the wood to swell up and seal the cracks. After a week or so, we pulled it out with the tractor. We bailed the water out and it was good to go.
We hauled it to the White River, where we put out trotlines for catfish. The boat spent the summer on the water. When we weren’t using it. It was tied to a tree on shore. That fall when we took it out of the water, it had soaked up so much water that it took six men to lift it out of the water and load it on a flatbed truck. (more…)