Stories From The Past
1.The Birth Of Tahiti
As luck would have it yesterday while I was at my daughters game, I was wearing my Tahiti shirt that I got from roostwear. Someone came up from behind and grabbed me by the arm wanting to know about the shirt and it turned out to be Gil Gaska, Dick Schusters first employee. At first we didn't recognize each other, but after a split second we each saw through the gray hair and wrinkles. Gil was my boss when I was a kid, he ran the glass dept for Schuster at Tahiti and Hawaiian. After shooting the shit, and filling him in on where some of the guys were that worked with us, I asked him a few questions about the early days of Tahiti.
It was about this time my wife threw up her arms in disgust and walked away. I think if the poor woman has to listen to one more story about the old days, she'll shoot herself, or me. But I thought I'd pass some of this on to you guys, I know that a few of you like the history thing a little too, although probably not to the extremes that I do.
Seems that Dick Schuster and Gil were laminators together at Power Cat boats in Paramount. This company was owned by a guy named Ray Ledger. Power Cats were pretty fast for the day, late 50?s to early 60s and they were very competitive in marathon races, both here in the states and over seas. Those early little cats dominated the races until the Switzer Flying Wing came along. Just to show how fast those wings were, in 1961 when the Switzer brothers built and finished their first one, it ran 120 mph powered by two 80 horse mercs. Those boats set records that still stand today! My dads friend, Bob Massey drove one and was later killed in it. Very fast and fun to watch at the old Parker 9 hour enduro. Anyway, back to Schuster. After Power Cat moved to Texas, Gil and Dick were working at Performer boats, another local boat shop. Along with laying up the hulls, Dick also started to go on the road delivering them to the different dealers. He was also laying the groundwork for setting up a network of dealers for himself. Although Gil was probably a better glass man when it cam to working with the stuff, he said Dick was really a master at knowing what would work and what wouldn't. At performer these guys were laying up some of the race hulls (outboards) with nothing but cloth. No matt at all. This is the way a helmet is laid up. Gil said the hulls were bullet proof.
At a boat race in Long Beach Dick and Gil were watching , Dick made that comment that he thought there would be a market for a family type of boat that wouldn't jump out of the water every 10 feet like these race boats were doing. Gil suggested the Glastron bottom as a starting point. They went to the pits and looked over a Glastron there (Glastron was very big into Marathon racing in the early 60?s) and they liked what they saw, mapping out the sheer line on the side of the hull with their fingers. They knew a dealer for Glastron and talked him into using the new boat as a plug. They could only use it overnight, so that's just what they did. Over the course of one night they de-rigged the Glastron and popped a mold from her bottom. Gil had been to art school and came up with the little target that all Tahiti 16?s had in their sides. He made up that little piece using layers of poster board and glued them together in that little shape. Stuck it to the sides of the Glastron , popped the mold and returned the boat to the dealer. With the first part out of the new mold, they started to work on a deck plug. SK flat bottoms were 'IT' at the time, so that?s the style of deck they tooled up for the 16.
Performer boats were on their last legs at about the same time. They named their different models of boats tropical type of names. Gil said there was a "Samoan", a "Polynesian", a "Hawaiian" and the "Tahiti". They were having a going out of business sale and Dick bought up all of the Tahiti emblems because there were more of them in stock than any other name. The rest is history I guess. My dad started to work for Dick not long after, maybe a year or 2. His buddies were rigging boats after work for Dick, and that's how he got into it.
I didn't see any of my daughters game, but Gil reminded of things that I've forgotten and told me some stories that I'd never heard of. Like the time they hired a new driver to deliver a load of boats to a dealer in the South, Texas or somewhere around there. There were 6 boats to a load and when the driver was paid for them, he cashed the check and spilt. No body ever heard from him again. Not only did Dick take it in the shorts for the boats, he had to fly someone back there to bring home the empty tractor and trailer!
By: Old Rigger
2. Dragon Craft Boats
I was GM at Advantage and we had a guy bring in an old Dragon that was a ex race boat. He wanted us to do a restoration. It was winter, boat shops do all kinds of stuff in the winter to keep the guys busy. The boat was really thrashed, and the cost was too much, I think, for us to do the work. He spilt and we thought he'd just take it somewhere else.
The guy shows up the following year with the original molds. He bought them from someone in Riverside, if I remember right. They were sitting out in a field. We tuned them up a little, one or 2 wheels were missing and we blocked and buffed it out. It was in surprisingly good shape for sitting outside, but the deck mold was sitting upside down on top of the hull, so that helped to keep it nice. After that we layed him up a new hull. The guy was on cloud nine. He was a Dragon nut to begin with and now had a clean slate to start with.
Like I said before.... well, now I can't, remember exactly, but I think it was the deck mold that was a 2 piece deal. IF I'm thinking right (which isn't often) I think it was the deck because of the big gunnales on that boat. You couldn't get the part out of the mold unless it was split. None of the guys had never seen a split mold before, I had because of my dad building boats in the 60's. I never pulled a part out of one, I'm not that old, but I remember them. They're usually split on the hull though, not the deck.
I'd be curious to know if it was the deck that was split. After dealing with probably over 50 sets of molds at the different shops I worked at through the years, every once and a while one sticks out in your brain. Most just blend into one big resin filled nightmare. This Dragon was one of those that sticks out cause it was a fun project to be in on. That one and every mold that Roger Weiman had. His stuff was perfect.
By Old Rigger
3. Hawaiian Boats
One of the funniest things I ever saw in a boat shop was when one of the guys that the boss met in prison, was working in the detail shop. This is where they wrapped things up with the boat, seats, final buff, little stuff like that. The customer was there waiting for the boat and the salesman (asshole) was going to go with him to the water to show him how to handle the boat.
Our prison friend was the one putting in the seats. I guess he didn't want them to go anywhere cause when he screwed the seat bases to the floor, he used some of the longest lag bolts known to man and lagged the boat to the bunks on the trailer. No one knew anything about his screw up and they headed off the the water.
The salesman was at a loss for words when they couldn't get the boat to launch off the trailer. They kept going deeper and deeper down the ramp and....... nothing. Finally they had everyone there, standing on the trailer, pulling with all their might on the bottom of the boat trying to seperate it from the trailer.
Tempers flew when the salesman and customer returned. Finger pointing, name calling. It was pretty funny actually.
I was pretty young at the time, 18 or so, and was working in the glass dept glasssing the decks on the hulls, installing tanks, carpet, molding. Saw some funny stuff at that shop and it was lots of fun working there. It'd be another 5 or 6 years before I got into rigging and that was for Roger Weiman.
By Old Rigger
4.Pratfalls, Flames and Shootings at Tahiti and Hawaiian At Tahiti there was a guy there named Mike that was the son of an employee of Dicks. Mike was a little slow. He was great at doing what Dick told him to do, grinding boats, unloading trucks and cleaning up the shop but he wasn't the type to turn loose building a boat. Even doing his usual jobs, he always had a way of screwing things up. For years the first thing I'd ask my dad when he got home from work was what Mike do today. There was never a day that he didn't do something for my dad to have a little story to tell me. I can remember laughing until my cheeks hurt at what I heard. A few years later when I was a teenager and working in the shop after school, I got to see first hand that dad wasn't making these things up.
The first one that pops into mind is the time Mike was unloading a truck full of big block Chevys. Theyd order 10 or 20 of them a week for the jets, not counting the Ford and Olds. Not to even mention all the I/Os and outboards they needed every week. Anyway Mike was on his forklift unloading the motors. This was at the Tahiti shop off of the 605 freeway in Cerritos Ca. One entire side of the building was open, covered only by the roof and the walls at the end. It was about 300 feet long, maybe more.. It had a very high roof because in the winter Schuster would keep everyone working and he'd stock pile boats until Spring rolled around. Theyd stack these boats 5 high along the wall in the front half of the shop in a huge rack that was there. I'd guess it'd hold 40-50 boats, maybe more . The building still stands today but has been converted to a medical facility. In this open side of the shop was where the finished boats were stored, the wood shop was at the other end and in the middle was where the tooling was done on the new plugs.
Mike was taking the motors from the street, through the shop into the rigging area. Taking a turn too fast he got the forklift up on two wheels and when it landed, the force broke the straps holding the engine down to the pallet. The engine ended up landing on it's carb, smashing it ,along with the exhaust manifolds and valve covers. By the time he got the motor right side up and drug out of his path, most of the oil had drained onto the floor too. Not one to learn from his mistakes, Mike came barreling along with the next motor on the lift, hit the oil, spun the forklift out and smashed into the wounded motor on the floor. Of course the force of this ride also broke the straps holding the fresh engine in place and it too ended upside down, breaking all the same hardware as the first one.
Because of the openness of the shop there was a lot of theft that went on after hours, even though Dick had a guard dog on the property. It was the meanest dog I've ever seen in my life, a German shepherd named Duke, if I remember right.
Dick bought a travel trailer and parked it in the corner of the yard and hired Mike to stay there and act as a night watch man. He had a phone and a TV and all the other comforts that one of those trailers has. Mike, at some point, decided he needed to have a gun with him, so he got a pistol of some kind and carried it in a holster, "western style". Dicks thinking was just to have a warm body there at night to maybe ward off any would be thief's. Schuster got a call one night that Mike had shot someone at the shop. He couldn't believe that he actually got off a round or two at a burglar, much less hit him. When Dick got to the shop, the shit hit the fan. Mike didn't shoot a burglar, he shot his friend showing him how he could quick draw his little pistol. Surprisingly, Mike stayed on as the watchman, but he wasn't allowed any firearms after that.
My dad had a great sense of humor and love to play practical jokes on anyone and everyone. He had gone to work for Dick in the mid 60s and stayed with him through the end of Hawaiian boats around 1980. For the last 5 or 6 years he was both a rigger and the shop manager, the glass shop had another manager and that was Gil Gaska, Schusters long time employee. So everyone in the shop knew my dad and visa versa. One joke kind of back fired on him and Mike was (again) the brunt of it. Mike was passing through the rigging dept and my dad called him over to ask him a question. He grabbed Mike and looped the hook on his hoist through his belt and raised him about 10 feet off the floor. He was screaming like crazy and his body was horizontal with the ground from being all tensed up. You'd think he would be all slumped over like a sack of rocks but he wasn't. After a few seconds, which probably seem a lot longer to Mike, dad started to lower him down but his belt and Levis ripped apart and Mike came crashing down to the concrete, face first. He was a bloody mess, broken nose, lost a tooth or 2 and had to be stitched up a little on his forehead. My dad felt terrible and he caught Hell from Schuster, rightfully so. He laid off the jokes for a while but...................................... there was the time just about quitting time one day. My dads friend had just got done cleaning up and was using the can before he hit the road. The little bathroom by the sink was no bigger than a closet. Literally, you had to step inside, move along side of the toilet, and then shut the door. When you were sitting down in there, your feet would be pressed right up against the door. My dads buddy was in there for quite a while so he figured he must of been sitting down. He grabbed a can of starting fluid, started to spray it and then lit it with a match. He aimed the flame down towards the bottom of the door for short little bursts, knowing that they'd be brushing up at his feet. More screaming and yelling. Luckily no one was hurt and when the door finally flew open, the friend had tears in his eyes from laughing so hard at what was going on.
By: Old Rigger
At the rear of the building there were 2 or 3 huge containers that held the resin for the laminators. When they were empty, the resin company would send their driver out, he'd let himself in the yard with his key and he drive to the tanks and fill them up. These tanks were big, maybe 5000 gallons each. One of the laminators or the boss's brother (no one really knows for sure) left the valves open in the shop that ran through the wall and connected to the tanks. The delivery man never entered the shop, he just pumped in the allotted amount, and left. All that resin was pumped onto the laminating room floor. There was about 8 or 9 inches of this stuff on the ground and this room was huge. I don't know the dimensions, but you could lay up 5 or 6 boats in there at one time, 2 molds per boat, so you can imagine it was pretty big.
When I got to work after school, Schuster handed me a pair of rubber boots and a snow shovel. I couldn't for the life of me think what I was going to do with these. I was told to go talk to Gil. Once in the laminating room it became very clear what I was going to be doing. All the laminators were wearing the same kind of boots and were scooping up the resin and dumping the crud into 55 gallon drums. The fumes were almost over whelming and looking back on it now, it's a wonder we weren't blown to pieces by igniting the fumes with a spark from the metal shovels scraping the concrete floor. When we got the slop down to the last inch or so, we just mixed in some catalyst and stirred it up with long sticks and let it kick off. The next day, the guys were back in there breaking out the now solid resin with hammers. I can't imagine that the building still doesn't stink of resin to this day.
By: Old Rigger
Original can be viewed here: https://web.archive.org/web/20030813...om/stories.htm