How many times has someone said to you, “I learned to ski behind a boat just like that!”?

Molly O’Dell, member of Northern California/Tahoe Chapter sent these pictures with the message, “I thought these were worth sharing of my dad’s family (George Morgan, also an ACBS member)!  I need to continue the family tradition now that I live in Lake Tahoe.” 
– pictured above are the Morgan family skiers in 1956: George Morgan’s parents George and Rowena, George and sister Lee – 

Receiving the 1956 pictures led to asking for more of the story from Molly …

“One of my dad’s first jobs was at the boat house on Mud Lake (Portage Lakes). My grandmother used to water ski barefoot right off her dock.  She would tie a “lifeline” to my dad as a toddler so he wouldn’t fall in the lake but could play in the yard.  She finally taught him to swim by throwing him in the lake off the dock.  She was such a fun, lively spirit.  My grandfather died in his early 50s of a heart attack, but my grandmother never remarried and stayed on Portage lakes the rest of her life.  She always had a boat, switching to a pontoon boat in her later years.  I loved our rare visits to see her; we would go fishing, go in canoes to look for turtles, watch for snapping turtles.”

“My dad is in Yorba Linda, California now.  He was in Ohio and lived on Portage Lakes with my mom when they first got married, after he was in the Navy during the Vietnam years.  They moved out to California so he could sell boats in San Diego.  They had a small catamaran for a time.  Then he put his boat passion aside to take another sales position that took all four (my sister Kara too) of us overseas to the Middle East (Bahrain) and London, England, and then back to California (Yorba Linda) where they have lived ever since.  He joined the American Legion, and the American Legion yacht club in Newport Beach which brought boating back into his life.  I moved to San Francisco after UCLA, and started taking sailing lessons in SF Bay, and got through my Bareboat Chartering certification with US Sailing, before my family moved to Lake Tahoe.  My dad joined the ACBS and bought me a membership as well.  He participated in the Lake Tahoe events here last year, and it brings him a lot of enjoyment and good memories to be back in the boating community.” 

 

George and Rowena Morgan with 19ft-1956 Chris-Craft Capri-Turkeyfoot Island-Summer-1956

Rowena and George Morgan towing Lee Morgan and neighbor on slalom-skis-1956

More of the story now comes from George Morgan:

“Mud” Lake you say!   It’s an unusual name for such a small (muck bottom1!) part of beautiful Portage Lakes and the Turkeyfoot Golf Course area 5 miles South of Akron Ohio.  Portage Lakes has over two thousand lake front properties on its 38 miles of historical shoreline.   Mud Lake itself is an eastern offshoot of the larger and better known Turkeyfoot Lake.   For generations “The Lakes” as they’re known to the locals has been a very popular summer cruising, skiing, swimming, sightseeing, and waterfront dining destination for residents of the many lakeshore properties as well as visitors, from near and far, launching from the nearby State Park grounds. 

more recent boating on the Portage Lakes, Ohio

The largely unknown (Ohio) Mud Lake, as part of the greater Portage Lakes, holds at least one of the keys to ACBS and NCO history at that popular NE Ohio boating destination.  The reason for this is that Mud Lake was home to Leightons Boat House, in its time the premier Chris Craft dealer for the greater Akron/Canton area.   Established by Lenny and Vi Leighton in the early 1950’s, Leighton’s was for the next 30 years the local dealer for sales, service, repair, refinishing, docking, fuel, and storage of mostly Chris Craft but also Century, GarWood, and Lyman (now all Classic) wooden boats and later, when their popularity increased, Chris Craft Fiberglass sterndrive models, notably the “Lancer”.  Leighton’s was home to many popular Chris Craft models such as Holiday, Continental, Runabout, Sportsman, Capri, etc.  Most of those boats where built in the Cadillac Michigan plant and trailered new from the factory to Leighton’s Boat House by Lenny and Vi Leighton themselves.  The old Leighton’s building on Mud Lake is empty now however back in the 50’s and 60’s it was open 7 days a week in the summer from 9am to 9pm and full of activity and boaters of all ages.  Besides being docked many of the Chris Crafts were kept in year-round inside storage. That resulted in the main water well in front of the boat house being in a constant summer symphony of crane/hoist motion, sounds, and customer activity, with the daily movement of boats in and out of the water.

I am proud to pass on a small amount of my wooden boat and water genes to daughter Molly and Dave O’Dell who now reside full time at Lake Tahoe and continue, with their daughters Olivia and Coco, to expand on their boating and overall outdoor experience.  What a wonderful lifetime family activity it is!    

My sister and I were raised on Mud Lake and I worked at Leighton’s Boat House starting at 12 years old for six seasons.  There was a lot to learn and it was all very interesting and enjoyable while helping to take care of well over 100 wooden boats. We also repaired docks, rebuilt sea walls and painted the building inside and out!  I remember taping fingers with masking tape (before gloves became so popular!) over and over while alternately sand papering and tack cloth cleaning between multiple (and beautiful) coats of marine varnish.  Of course, that was Ohio, so part of our work included Fall preparation for winter storage, and then Spring recommissioning/start-ups.  As a teenager I trailered empty the 390 miles to the Cadillac Michigan Factory twice to bring new Chris Crafts back to Mud Lake.  Two of us would drive as a team and we would hitch a waterski ride on Cadillac Lake while the boat was being loaded at the old two-story, wood floor, rope elevator, factory.  Those were the days!

Morgan Home on Mud Lake (the smaller brick one with dock), and two 1956 pics, entire family skiing (have no idea who was driving the boat?!) and parents George and Rowena docking the 1956 Capri at the Turkeyfoot Island Club.

Very best wishes for a wonderful ACBS 2018 boating season,
George Morgan



Thank you, Molly and George, for this great story.

What information would you like to share with the vintage boat community?

3 Comments

  1. Our boats may be put together with fasteners made of metal, but our memories created in our boats are secured by even stronger bonds of family and friends.

    Thanks for sharing your family boating story. Great way to start a day.

  2. What a fabulous story as told by various members of the Morgan family! The pictures certainly tied it all together. Talk about starting out a Thursday the right way…

  3. Excellent article! We live on the Turkeyfoot Channel in route to Mudlake. It’s great to see photos of the area like this. We would love to see the old Leightons Boathouse reopened as a marina again some day.

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