by G. James Sammarco member of ACBS

The first time I saw it, it was rolling slowly against the dock pilings on Chautauqua Lake, NY. My family vacationed at Chautauqua since 1915 but had never owned a boat. It was love at first sight. It was delivered to my Uncle Charlie on the Fourth of July 1952, possibly built at the satellite Chris-Craft factory in Jamestown, NY and sold by Margaret Lawson, owner of L-S Aero Marine, Bemus Point, NY. In the summertime, I attended camp at Chautauqua Institution, where my aunt and uncle owned a house and my cousin would take me on cruises around the lake. In 1976 my uncle sold the property with the boat to me and my wife, Ruthann.

Built of mahogany, it was basically sound, but time had taken its toll. My father, using his skills as a mechanic, brought it into running order. At L-S Aero Marine, Dave Lawson and his sister, Jean, took over the business after their mother retired. They repaired, restored and wintered our boat, on its original cradle for several decades. Dave retired a few years ago and donated the property to become The Lawson Center, a regional marine museum in Bemus Point.

The boat is part of our family. All five children have learned to run, dock and secure the lines, some perhaps better than others. Knowledge of the lake and navigation could be a challenge, particularly in a heavy fog while returning with a date late at night. A major catastrophe never occurred, though running aground, stalling in seaweed and a bent propeller created some interesting explanations. The boat still is a topic of conversation whenever our family gets together. It has been a major part of our lives spanning four generations. Lafeet remains on Chautauqua Lake since it was first launched. It has recently undergone a new bottom and additional restoration this winter in order to be ready for yet another summer of great fun


  1. If this is a 1951 Holiday I am interested if the very difficult shift mechanism has been modified to not require the enormous effort to shift Please let me know if you have been able to make shifting easier

  2. Jim

    Annie is right. This is a 1952 Chris Craft Custom Holiday 23′ with the original Chris Craft Straight 6 cylinder engine (built on a Hercules block) with 158 hP, and I believe the second to last hull (numbered) built. of this model.

    • With this hull number info, you should be able to confirm its build origin. I thought the western NYS CC facility built small (and some “kit”) boats. But the Mariners Museum in Newport News, VA data bank would confirm all of that detail. A picture of the transom would tell us a lot too.

  3. Jim,
    I remember the day my Dad brought this boat to our dock on Lake Chautauqua. He was very proud of it and we spent many a day on the lake enjoying it. Chuck and I always brought our friends together many a day and spent the day anchored off of the Bemus Point area. We always found the perfect place to swim from the boat. Many times we brought our lunch or just went to Bemus and had lunch. Those were the days I will never forget.Lots of fun.

  4. Welcome to the wood boat world!! I am celebrating 50 years with my 1930 28 foot Gar Wood “Bunco”. Do not need to go fast, just in style.

  5. Jim, I showed your article to Dave Lawson, and knowing Dave, he told me all there is to know about your boat! He dug up his old records and found the Boat Shipping Order from Chris Craft Corp. It does show it was shipped 07-03-52, just in time for a July 4th delivery. If you’d like a copy. He wasn’t able to find a copy of L.S. Aero’s invoice to your Uncle, but you can see what the boat cost L.S.

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