Windham Life and Times – September 11, 2020

The End of Summer

Charlie Donahue and His 1954 Chris-Craft Sportsman

I know the calendar says that summer continues on until September 22nd, but come on, once Labor Day hits, the lush, warm, and brightly lit interlude to New England’s chilly, dark attitude comes quickly to an end. This summer was especially sweet, given the derepressing presence of Covid-19, the violence and looting in America’s cities, and the endless churn of political nonsense.

    So as you know, I have been a little obsessed with boats this summer. One of the boats I wrote about was a beautiful mahogany Chris Craft that appeared about mid-season. The boat’s owner was kind enough to write to me and tell me a little about the boat and his family. On Labor Day, I had the pleasure of taking a ride in the boat on a glorious summer day that had just a hint of Autumn in the wind. What a  classic American boat, riding just above the waterline and crafted out of mahogany. The Chrysler inboard engine was marketed under the Chris-Craft brand name and the sound it makes on the water is just the best!

    The owner of the boat is Charlie Donahue and he is a twenty year old student who is on his way to a freshman year at Dartmouth. His family has been coming to Cobbett’s Pond for over 50 years. The first family member to enjoy Cobbett’s shores was his mother’s uncle John “Binky” Walsh who rented a cottage next to the former Duncan’s beach in the late 1960’s. “Later he purchased a place on Fish Road—my grandparents Charles and Mary McGongagle then followed suit— and today 42 of our extended family members now summer across six different cottages. I am about to turn 20, and Cobbetts has been a wonderful place to grow up. Earlier this summer I fulfilled a dream of many years and purchased a 1954 mahogany Chris Craft. I have been enjoying it almost every evening on the pond…”

    Charlie explained to me that the Chris Craft Sportsman was the company’s entry into more of the mass market after World War II, when America was full of optimism and the expectation was that every returning veteran would have a home, a car and a boat as well as the possibility of a cottage on a lake.   

Charlie also educated me about wooden boats and the fact that a Chris-Craft like his gains many hundreds of pounds of weight when put into the water.

     As I took that Labor Day spin, in that incredibly beautiful boat, in the company of Charlie and my own son Matt, all my apprehensions about what the future holds for America, finally faded away. My children’s generation has what it takes; I see it in their friends, I see it in them, I see it in Charlie, and they will meet the challenges to come, just as the generations that came before them did.

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