When my dad came home with a brand new Mercury outboard, I thought that I had gone to fishing heaven. That was in the mid-1950s when outboard motors for the most part were considered luxuries and my dad wasn’t in to luxuries.But he did like to fish and he did like to fish from a boat and he didn’t like to row.
Those facts must have moved the outboard from the want list to the need list and I was always glad that it did.
And so we had a five horse motor and it looked mighty fine on the transom of the rental boat at Tappan Lake, where dad had also plopped down a small pile of bills for a cottage. The place had two bedrooms and a kitchen with running water and indoor plumbing.
The cottage didn’t impress me nearly as much as the new Green outboard. Tappan Lake fish paid the price that week.Just the basics. In those days outboards didn’t have the features listed as standard equipment today. It had one direction and was either in gear or out of gear, depending on the position of the lever on top of the cowling. Actually, the lever was part of the lift handle, a clever piece of early 20th Century engineering.
If you wanted to travel in reverse you simply turned the motor around. If the motor needed a drink of 25 cent gas you poured a quart or two into the tank on top of the motor.
In those days, outboards made by Mercury or its predecessor, Thor, were sold by popular stores like Western Auto and Montgomery Ward as their own brands.
In fact, my uncle who also loved to fish Tappan Lake drove his home-made pontoon boat with a Wizard outboard, the Western Auto brand of Mercury.
Other early Mercury outboards went by the model names of Lightning, Comet, and Rocket and through the years their colors ranged from this to that and back again.Much of the success of Mercury has to go to Carl Kiekhaefer, the man who turned poorly running Thor motors into well engineered brand of Mercury motors.
As the years passed the company road a success roller coaster of downs and ups, barely surviving some drastic downturns on the way to today’s popularity.For a longtime building an outboard in excess of 75 or 80 horsepower was nothing short of an industry pipe dream.
But Mercury did break that barrier in 1961 with the Phantom 1000 a tower of power that appeared to the eye as one huge white monster that stood so high that critics suspected it might flip a turning boat.
Perhaps the standard white color encouraged that perception.In a brain storming session going nowhere, Mercury executives and engineers tossed about ideas to countering the idea that the motor was too high to be practical and more importantly, it might appear so large that consumers might not accept it.
All that brain power met its match when the mother of one chief walked in to see what the fuss was about. She quickly announced, as only a mother can, that the huge white motor in question ought to be painted black for the same reason large women often wear black.
“It makes them appear smaller,” she may have said in no uncertain terms. And she was right. The towering six cylinder motor painted black appeared much smaller that it when white and thus Mom can be credited with turning the entire Mercury line into a line of shiny black outboards.
The score? Mom one; engineers zero.
The first area walleye tournament of the season is in the books. Held on Mosquito Lake and sponsored by Ravenna Marine, the Ohio Walleye Federation’s spring event, held Sunday, April 7, drew 40 two-man teams who fished a very rough lake in very poor conditions with considerable success.
Nine of the top ten teams weighed five fish limits with top honors, and a $2,500 check, was won by the team of Jim Gwynn and Mike Whitacre. The winning team fished the channel by trolling stick baits on lead core line. Next up for OWF walleye anglers is a one day event to be held on Berlin Lake on May 5.
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