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Preserving the History & Heritage of Lake Winnipesaukee & Vicinity
 

 

THE BRUCE PARKER WATER SKI SCHOOL
 

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1947 through 1949


By Dana Jones, School Director 1948-9

After World War Two ended in 1945, the Pope family of Cypress Gardens, Florida were the first Americans to promote water skiing with their shows and national competitions.

Bruce Parker of Amityville, New York was the first to promote the sport in the lakes of the north with a series of schools.

In the summer of 1947 Bruce opened his school at the Northeast Marina which was within walking distance of downtown Wolfeboro. Jim Wales and his Wife "Ginny" owned and operated the marina. He offered engine repair, gasoline, airplane and speed boat rides.

The School instructors were from Florida - Bill and Jim is the best I can remember. Jim was third in the nation in trick riding. They promised to teach anyone to water ski for $3.50.

They used the "Bruce Parker" teaching method which involved "practice starting" while on land. The pupil would put on the skis, and sit down on the back of the skis. The instructor would stand on the front of the skis, grasp the students hands and have the student rise to a sitting position while keeping the arms straight. This exercise simulated the "deep water" start needed in case of a fall in the lake. Then one could get up again and resume skiing.

People were curious, business was moderate and the price of $3.50 at that time was, to some, excessive.

I, Dana Jones had attended Brewster Free Academy the previous winter with a group of veterans discharged too late to be admitted to college. I had spent the summers of 1932 through 1938 at Camp Wyanoke on Wolfeboro Neck, and short-order cooked in the Wolfeboro Diner that winter. I had an attachment to the town and its people. I found a job for $25.00 a week with Jim Wales at the Marina. A go-fer, I pumped gas, gave speed boat rides and watched the school teachings. In late July they offered me a chance to ski without instruction -1 jumped at the chance. They didn't realize the strong resemblance snow skiing has to water skiing. With a snow ski background, I water skied right away.

During that summer, speed boat races were held each Sunday on a rotating basis with the Weirs, Alton Bay and Wolfeboro. The head of Wolfeboro Chamber of Commerce asked Bill and Jim to put on a show prior to the races. They agreed for $50.00.

The show had several passes - Bill skied double with Ginny Wales on his shoulders and also laid her back over his arms holding the tow line. He skied backwards too. Jim did his tricks - one ski with his heel, and then, toe, on a hose attached to the tow line bar. They did the skiers salute - on one ski and then the other raised vertically, take off one ski and hold it over your head with your free foot in the tow bar, then put the ski back on.

I did a "clown act". I had a raccoon coat, skis, poles, hat and red flannel underwear underneath. I moved among the anchored boats asking about ski lessons without any snow. I got up on the dock with the M.C. and, after an exchange, jumped in the water without the coat. I had a lesson - very unstable on the skis and, the second time around, while waving to the crowd, I "accidentally" went off the jump helter-skelter. I came back to the Wales dock and everyone was laughing - the back flap of the flannels had come undone and I didn't have on a bathing suit!

Later, Jim and I did an over/under — he went off the jump and I crossed under him while he was in the air.

Since profits were low, the boys decided not to return the next year. Bruce Parker contacted me about running the school in 1948. I had spent the winter at Bates College in Maine. I talked with my friend. Jack Griem, a fellow snow ski team member, and we agreed to run the school.

We met Bruce Parker in Wolfeboro in mid June of 1948. He had arranged for us to headquarter, teach and perform three dinner shows a week off the patio ofBrightwater's Inn. Also included was lunch. We went to a lumber yard and, in about 2 hours, we built a ski jump that we anchored off the patio. Business started slowly but picked up We heard from the C ofC's in Alton Bay and Weirs for Sunday shows before the races. We agreed, including turning the jump upside down so we could tow it easily to those places.

We obtained three local girls for the show. They bought their own identical swim suits in return for free skiing. We opened each show with us and them in a few skiers salute passes. Jack Griem did the jumping and I did the trick rides.

I always raced the boat with the name of the school on the side as extra advertising that seemed to work. We taught twice a week at the Wunashunta Lodge located on Rt. 28 in South Wolfeboro. We tried to teach at the Bald Eagle Club in Melvin Village, but they wouldn't let us in.

Over the summers, the pupils ranged in age from a 7 year old boy to a 70 year old man. We taught everyone to ski except for one lady who consistently let go of the tow line.

The boat was a 16 foot Chris Craft - wooden planked with a Grey 100 horsepower engine. It's propeller had a pitch and diameter suitable to pull 5 skiers up from the water. We believe you needed 25 mph to ski 2 people - 30 for 5. Most boats at that time didn't go more than 40mph.

One morning we found the boat on the bottom next to the dock. It was not submerged. I called Nat Goodhue at his marina across the way. Using a high speed pump he gave us, we raised the boat enough to start it and speed across to a waiting rail cradle. The chop of the lake had pounded out many screws from the bottom. Nat turned his crew onto the problem and we were back in the water 2 hours later. He charged me $5.00 - the cost of the cradle use, and said "us working folk had to stick together".

That first summer was profitable enough for Bruce to want us back the next year. However, the local boat owners had figured out how to teach their guests and families. Bruce's involvement on the Lakes ended the fall of 1949.

The summer of 1950 I worked for Ken Forkey at Saunders Bay Boat Yard in Guilford. Where I helped with the Correct Craft boats he sold raced for him on Sundays and taught water skiing to the occasional students. One of these students, Dick Binette, was the founder of the Weirs Water Ski Club that grew a national and international reputation. This was my last summer on the Lake, although I have returned each year for one reason or another including visits to two sons, Peter in Barrington, NH and Donald in Laconia.

I met Dick again in 2005 at his Happy Landings store next to Weirs Beach.



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