"1955 Gale V"
Bill Blacks Story
I am a long time hydroplane fan having seen my first race in 1953. Although I was born in Detroit, I grew up in Seattle. We would go to the lake early and stake out our viewing spot near the first turn and wait for the rest of the family to arrive with the picnic lunch. We made a day of it and enjoyed the race with aunts, uncles and cousins. The early years of racing in Seattle truly were a family affair, the atmosphere friendly and viewing areas free. We would “draw” for boats and put 25 cents in a pot when our boat raced, winner take all. I always drew boats like Breathless. I saw some truly fantastic racing as well as a few spectacular spills, such as Thriftway’s sinking of the Coast Guard boat, and Seattle Too’s disintegration right in front of us. My dad got it on movie film. Before the races began, we boys would make the walk to the pits to stand outside the fence and stare (drool) at the boats. This is where I first saw the 1955 GALE V and thought it the most beautiful boat I had seen. A feeling I still have today. Needless to say I have had my share of flack for being a Detroit boat lover. I was thrilled when she won the Gold Cup, a feeling not shared with most Seattleites.
I grew up west of SEA TAC airport overlooking Puget Sound, near BURIEN. We had a great neighborhood and like many such areas in Seattle in the 50’s we raced model hydros. What made our group unique is that our boats were small, limited to 4” by 8” and two ounces of weight. Therefore they would flip if you went too fast on the course lending some skill to driving. It was not the largest or fastest kid who won the races. We had a book of rules, many of which were adopted by the real unlimiteds. Our boats had to look like the hydros and if anything fell off the boat during the race or if you flipped, you were out of the heat. Byron Fish from the Seattle P. I. wrote an article about our activities complete with pictures. I still have a copy of that article. Later, we became more sophisticated by requiring the boats to be built similar to the big ones..that is hollow with frames , bottom and deck. These we raced on grass as the road would go right through the sponsons. I still have the book of rules and the records of who won the races, as well as home movies of some of the races. These activities kept most of us out of trouble during the summer. I once stayed up all night building a new boat and competed the next day. It was, of course, GALE II.
When Burien sponsored Miss BURIEN, I finally got to sit in the driver’s seat as Dick Short was a family friend. What a thrill! Finally, in 1963 as a crewmember of FASCINATION, I got my one and, currently, only ride. Life has a way of getting in the way of things you really want to do and military service kept me away from the boats for many years. Always, in the back of my mind I wanted to see the GALE V run again. After some research, I discovered that the original V was burned. A sad end to a great Gold Cup winner. With the help of Roger Newton and Ron Jones Sr., I now have a set of plans to resurrect the 1955 GALE V. I began with an Allison engine and a desire. I now have two motors and some spare parts. The Thriftway crew has been very encouraging and helpful. Dixon Smith has also been very helpful with systems. I still need to locate hardware (rudders, shaft, struts, gauges, switches etc.) and any pictures of the V.
I hope to one day present real thunderboat races to the fans with five boats gunning for the first turn, with Allison and Rolls making lots of noise, timed starts and three lap heats. I think the fans would love this.
©2005 Vashon Unlimiteds, LLC
Vashon Island, Washington USA
E-mail comments or questions to: Steve Compton