All of us here at EverPresent are passionate about a lot of things. History, art and preserving memories are at the top of the list, but we are especially passionate about our clients. Oftentimes the photos and videos you see on our website and social media sites are materials that our team really loves and our clients have allowed us to share.
We recently received permissions to use a collection of 35mm slides that were full of vintage photos of her family, but also the participation of one of her relatives in the celebrated Albany to New York City outboard marathon
in 1950! We were immediately excited to the discover the connection between this group of slides and our new location in the historic Capital District of New York.
More than just a race
The Capital Region includes both Albany and Schenectady along with Troy with Hudson Valley running through its core. The Albany to New York Marathon was a 136-mile annual race down the Hudson River by outboard boaters.
Nearly 300 outboard pilots queued up to for the race in 1950, including our clients relative who’s name we know to be Pete. This race was about speed, crossing the finishing line first and bragging rights. The New York Times called it “one of Sportdom’s most amazing spectacles” in the May 28, 1950 edition of their Sunday paper.
You can see from the slides that the excitement must have been palptable. Spectators line the historic, former dock of the Hudson River Day Line steamboats. Steamboats operated by The Hudson River Day Line between Albany and New York from the 1800’s to the 1940’s. Its former ticket office still stands today. An easily recognizable fixture of the area even today, the tower behind the dock is now a part of SUNY’s
In the water dozens of outboard racers, shined, numbered and fueled, line the docks as their pilots and pit crews do their final checks before the start of the race. Not every racer makes it to the finish line. In 1951, only 128 of it’s 205 boats made it to New York City. Between engine failures, the pounding of the Hudson and even crashes, these pilots had to be prepared. 40 m.p.h 136 miles down the Hudson was considered an amazing and dangerous speed and not many were up for it. Katherine Grippin of Saratoga Springs was the first female contestant in 1936.
The resources, nerve and respect for the river that a race like requires, it’s likely most drivers would argue it’s the boats themselves that will win you a race like this. A first hand account of the race from the May 1950 edition of “Motor Boating” reads like a thriller where you don’t know if the author will make it to the end.
“There was a stiff wind blowing upstream and the waves became larger and larger. To me they seemed almost mountainous. Back in Ohio…the biggest waves were never over a foot high, but this was something different. Riding on your knees in a 100-pound hull, you would sail off the crest of a big wave and slam bang against the next one so hard you felt you were going through the bottom, aside from breaking every bone in your body…a quick investigation revealed that one knee did go through the floorboard in spite of the thick padding.”
The last race was held in the 1960’s but if you do a Google search for the Albany to New York Outboard Marathon you will find a rich trail of forums, magazine articles and newspaper clippings lauding this fantastic event and the river culture of the area. There is even a fascinating video of the 1949 race you can view on youtube here.
As you watch this video and look at these slides, you may ask yourself why anyone would want to do something that seems so outlandish and our first person account says it best:
“When you looked over the majestic Hudson and you seemed to sense a powerful force mocking your human effort conquer it, but holding forth a tantalizing challenge to come back and try again another year.”
As EverPresent expands into New York and the Hudson Valley region it was a pleasure to learn more about its rich history that was brought to our attention from a handful of slides. It is the power of our memories and of our history that makes their preservation so important. To learn more about EverPresent and our services, visit us here.