Chris-Craft “Rocket” Update Dec. 5, 2010

As far back as I can remember, Rocket has been revered as a beautiful and fast boat. In the picture above, my grandfather Allen Moore is at the helm with his brother-in-law John Hanna next to him in the hat. Sitting up high with sunglasses on is Walter Head from Wanakah along with his children Marty and Sally up front. Sitting in the back of Rocket is the young nephew of Allen Moore Ronald C. Kamman.

Ronald C. Kamman remembers:

As a growing teenager inherently interested in anything mechanical and engine powered, I spent a number of high school vacations working with my uncle, Allen Moore, on various projects one or more of which was seemingly always “…on the front burner” and hot.

As a master mechanic and an innovator who enjoyed accomplishments stemming from challenges thought to be impossible in some cases Allen frequently and habitually transformed junk into treasure and the non-functional into the fully functional.

For example, at one point he obtained an old Ford tractor which previously was rendered useless when an engine connecting rod broke and put a sizable hole in the side of the engine block. Although such damage is usually considered impossible to repair without installing a new engine Allen carefully patched and repaired the damaged engine with astoundinging success. the repaired tractor remained in use for a number of years thereafter.

Similarly, when Allen trucked onto his premises a 28-foot Chris-Craft runabout boat looking rather drab from having been sunk by a previous owner the neighbors’ reactions were anything but favorable. But after some extensive refurbishing this boat, subsequently named Rocket, became very popular in the Point Breeze area. Its large, powerful Chis-Craft V8 engine made the Rocket a performer as well as a picture to behold. The initial negative reactions of some observers turned positive when the finished product emerged.

At some point late in the refurbishing process it was the Fall season and time to take the Rocket out of the water for winter storage. It had been launched earlier on a trial basis for systems checking and general performance evaluation in spite of the fact that the hatch covers would not be ready to install until the following boating season.

Rocket with her engine hatches removed. Out for a spin on Lake Ontario.

On the day when the boat was to be removed from the water Allen decided to take the boat on “one last spin” along the Oak Orchard Creek to the bridges and back before loading the boat on the trailer.

As we proceded along the creek twards the bridges a snow storm began which was bad news for us because, as mentioned above, the hatch covers were not yet installed on the boat and the driving snow could potentially cause the engine to falter or even stall-out completely at a very inopportune time. My job was to shield the carburator and the air intake at the top of the V8 engine from the falling snow. Our effeorts to keep the engine from faltering or stalling-out completely as a result of possible snow ingeston were successful and, with the power provided by a Caterpillar Diesel Tractor, the boat was pulled out of the water on its trailer.

Subsequently, and finally, using a John Deere tractor belonging to Elmer West, I drove from Elmer’s home near Kent, NY, to the lake, hitched onto the boat trailer, and towed Rocket to Allen Moore’s home in Albion for winter storage.

George Irvine on Rocket:

Rocket’s Engine had Chris Smith and Son cast into the valve cover. I tried to buy the motor from Steve Tokotch who ruined the Rocket. He eventually broke it up with a hammer for scrap. A horrendous loss. Rocket was a 1919 Runabout produced with Chris Smith’s collaboration with Gar Wood. I would say the Engine alone today would be worth more than 100 thousand dollars complete in any condition. The Rocket was absolutely the most rare and valuable runabout anywhere.”

My father “Spike” Leonard remembers riding in the boat when Steve Tokotch owned it. He said the large engine turned over slowly and sounded like a tractor as they were flying along.

This is Rocket behind my grandparent’s home on Main St. and Allen Rd. These are the only two photos that show a windshield that is made of mahogany. This may have been something my grandfather added because the style of that era would have been a flat windscreen of glass on a Chris Craft. It looks to be styled much like Statics windshield which may have been the inspiration.

Rocket at Moore's in Albion

Rocket in Backyard

This may be Ed Arcbald’s wife Jean sitting in Rocket docked at Ed Archbald’s Green Boathouse. Across the creek is a view of Point Breeze about where the old Oak Orchard Yacht Club and Black North in would be located.

Rocket in the water next to the Green Boathouse where the State Launch is now located on the west side of the Oak Orchard River. Static may be the boathouse.

Rocket in Water

A closer scan of the photo reveals some more details. I believe that my mother Sally Moore Leonard can be seen standing on the dock in a light scarf along with my aunt Bea Moore Standhart – the shortest of the girls pictured.

The image bellow is a Rosenfeld available at the Mystic Seaport Museum site. The Chris Craft appears to be about the same design as Rocket. I’m not certain when Chis Smith and Gar Wood switched the stearing wheel to the right side, but it is clear that at this time the drivers sat on the left – as in Rocket.

This photo is possibly of Rocket, but the blur makes it uncertain. To my knowledge there were not many runabouts of this caliber on the creek in those days. This photo was in the Moore family collection and that is supporting evidence for it to be Rocket. In the background is the location of Three Bridges. Rocket appears to be climbing up on plane just as she heads towards “Fiddler’s Elbow” the last major turn in the creek as one heads north to the Lake.

Here is Rocket out on the lake. The engine bay doors are off and the seats have been removed probably because it is out for the opening run of the season.


2 thoughts on “Chris-Craft “Rocket” Update Dec. 5, 2010

  1. I just came across this post- I’m curious about the “before” photos of Rocket. There was a Chris Craft runabout named Mischief that raced actively in the early to late1930’s both in the New York area and in Florida. I have a photo depicting the start of a trophy race taken in Miami in 1934. Our family owned the boat in the forefront (C-9 Jay Dee ll) for years in the 1990’s as restored to original racing configuaration. Mischief (C-3) is in the background. I’m thinking they are the same boat. Regardless, it was a 1929-31 Chris Craft with the A-70 Chris V-8. Sad to hear it was destroyed, but most were once they outlived their usefulness.

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