One of my grandfather’s favorite pastimes was to fish. He loved to deep sea fish, he would travel for the salmon run (one of the things he most loved to talk about were the many trips to Alaska to fish for King Salmon), fly fishing (he spent hours tying his own flies), and lake fishing. He has albums filled with pictures of dead fish, moments spent on the lake, and the good times that came from his love of nature.
Along with his love fishing came a natural, and only slightly less passionate, love of boating. He loved to motor boat, sail, and paddle.
As long as I can remember, he’s always owned a boat (and occasionally more than one). The one I remember most was a top of the line waterski cruiser. It was beautiful, with red and white racing stripes and an overpowered, oversized, outboard motor. It was also always referred to as his “fishing boat,” which seemed a bit like calling a Rolls-Royce the “casual” car.
That was hardly the first boat that he had ever owned, though, or even his second. His first boat was something of a legend. It was called the Amazon Queen, her name inspired by a famous movie of the time.
The salesmen of Standard Supply Company hard at work on the Amazon Queen. Taken in the chicken coop at my great-grandfather’s home. At far right is my grandpa, Charles Stillman. At his left is great-grandpa, Gary Wayne Stillman.
The Amazon Queen began life in the chicken coop/shed of my great grandfather as a hobby project. He went to my great-grandfather with the idea that it would be fun to build a boat, and Great-grandpa agreed. Apparently, others agreed that it was a great project idea as well.
Working on the boat became something of a company past-time, at least for the sales people. Every night after work, an entire crew would head to Great-grandpa’s house and spend all night shaping boards. After several years of work, the Amazon Queen was finally finished.
The Queen was fifteen or sixteen feet from bow to stern, with wood panel sides and an outboard motor. She could comfortably sit four people and could uncomfortably sit about a dozen.
Before her maiden voyage, though, the crew faced something of a dilemma. When it came time to get the boat out of the coop, they discovered that she was too big for the front doors. It was impossible to get her out!
Faced with such a challenge, they did what any self-respecting boat lover would: they tore down the chicken coop, taking great care not to damage the boat.
The crew from Standard Supply company, enjoying the Amazon Queen’s maiden voyage.
The maiden voyage of the Amazon Queen took place at Pineview Reservoir (located near Ogden, Utah) a couple of months after her official unveiling. Because so many of the staff at Standard Supply Company had helped in her construction, she became the star attraction at the company picnic. The photo above was a snapshot from the picnic and shows her crowded with sales people, accounts receivable clerks, and stockroom workers. (My grandpa is the one sitting on the bow.)
The Amazon Queen had a long and happy life. She toured the width and breadth of the Western United States, visiting the lakes and reservoirs of Montana, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, Washington, and Colorado. The only requirement was that the fishing be good, or that the water skiing be acceptable.
Like any well loved thing, the Queen was also well used. She taught daughters to water ski, children how to survive on the back of an inflatable tube, and was manhandled by friends. Occasionally, she was even a bit abused, including one infamous trip to Bear Lake where Grandpa’s best friend, Charlie McDonnell, ran her into the beach at full speed. (Of course the children in the boat immediately ran up the beach looking for my grandpa, yelling, “Charlie beached the boat! Charlie beached the boat!”)
No boat, no matter how lovingly built, is meant to survive that kind of abuse, and the Queen eventually gave out under the strain. In her case, it was during a family trip to the lake. Friends of my grandpa were out for a late afternoon run on the water, when the bindings at the front of the boat, began to come undone. Then, as she bounced over the wake of another motorboat, the entire boat came apart from bow to stern into two separate pieces. This sent the pleasure goers sitting on her prow flying into the water and those who survived the wreck swimming for shore. Luckily, no one was hurt.
Bitten by the boat bug, though, my grandfather wasn’t to be put off long. It wasn’t a year later that the whole family was back on the water in another hand-built wooden boat.