Sunday, December 21, 2008

Old Family Canoes VI

In my 2001 article in "Wooden Canoe" I said that the pictures and text in the 1908 Morris Canoes catalog resulted in a positive identification of the old family canoe. It happened this way: Ater months of corespondence back and forth I traveled to Bainbridge to Phil's home. He took me upstairs in a building behind his house and there it was! The old Pratt family canoe. He rigged a light so that I could examine the canoe and consult the catalog reprint. Wiithin minutes we had it and all the accessories iidentified. It was in remarkably good shape considering its age, had its original canvas and the only major flaw was a stem split part way down the stern. Also there was the like-new canoe seat that my Mother sat on and the spruce-wood paddles my Dad used to propel the canoe during their honeymoon at Paw Paw Lake back in 1921. Phil also had some good photographs in an old family album showing Aunt Helen, Aunt Isadora, Uncle Henry and others in and by the canoe both on the water and on shore.
My visit and identification of the canoe apparently inspired Phil for he joined the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association and enrolled in a class in wood and canvas canoe restoration at the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven. The class was taught by Scott Barkdahl, proprieter of Skywoods Canoe, an expert canoe restorer who has since moved his shop to Vermont. Under Scott's tutelage Phil repaired the split stem and recanvased the old Morris. What else he did I do not know. So far as I can tell, the job was not finished when he died.
He and I had planned on co-authoring an article for "Wooden Canoe", as a sequel to the Eisenhower article, telling the story of its restoration. A planned feature of the article was to be a photograph of the restored Morris floating on Paw Paw Lake again after nearly a century. Out of concerns for his widow's feelings I didn't make a direct contact after I learned of Phil's death but eventually I raised the question of the fate of the canoe with George (Shane) and Elaine (Flore). All I really learned was that the canoe had gone to Larry Shane. My current hope is to someday see the restoration finished and to see it float again with Shanes or Pratts paddling it with those Style 2 Morris spruce-wood paddles.

(emailed August 13)

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