Skip to content

San Antonio to Corpus Christi Boat Race

July 14, 2016

Last month’s Texas Water Safari, the annual race down waterways from San Marcos to Seadrift, calls to mind an earlier boat race that took place in 1926. The San Antonio to Corpus Christi race was organized both for fun and to celebrate the opening of the deep water port in Corpus Christi.

The race course was based on a 1924 two-boat competition, involving San Antonio businessman Porter Loring, Sr. and Fred Christilles of Medina Lake. Christilles, winner of the 1924 event, issued a challenge for another race that would include a larger number of entries. The race was planned so that the boats would arrive in Corpus Christi shortly before the official opening of the port on September 15, 1926.

The San Antonio Light newspaper immediately decided to support the event and commissioned a trophy for the winner of what the editors called “The Light Cup Race.” The paper published numerous articles before and during the race. These articles describe the numerous challenges faced by the participants, including encounters with log jams, sandbars, submerged debris, and rough water in the bays.   The Christilles entry, the “Play Boy,” was the first to arrive in Corpus Christi, completing the trip in 5 days, 11 hours, and 42 minutes. With torn shirts and blistered bodies, the men limped from the boat after receiving keys to the city and a large bouquet of roses from welcoming officials. Nearby in the bay, the crew of the City Public Service “Live Wire” were discovered unconscious, due to “hunger, privation, and exposure.”  They were disqualified after a tug towed them to shore. The Dean brothers in “Canvasback” arrived next. A few days later, they were declared the winner after the “Play Boy” crew were disqualified because a pilot boat had accompanied them into the harbor.

These are photographs taken before and at the beginning of the race by Light staff photographer Jack Specht.

Shortly after the beginning of the race, the eight boats head downstream from the Houston Street Bridge on the morning of September 6, 1926. In the lead are the Dean Brothers in “Canvasback,” a skiff with wooden sides and a canvas bottom. Texas Theater under construction at upper right. (MS 359: L-0676-E).

The eight boats head downstream from the Houston Street Bridge, the starting point, on the morning of September 6, 1926. In the lead are the Dean brothers in “Canvasback,” a skiff with wooden sides and a canvas bottom. Texas Theater under construction in background at upper right. (MS 359: L-0676-E).

 (L. to r.) Bill Busching, skipper, Bob Edgar, and Ray Samuels, pose with their 300 pound skiff "King Fisher," outside San Antonio Planing Mill, September 1926. (MS 359: L-0676-F)

(L. to r.) Bill Busching, skipper, Bob Edgar, and Ray Samuels, pose with their 300 pound skiff “King Fisher,” outside San Antonio Planing Mill, September 1926. (MS 359: L-0676-F)

Tom Dean, Jr., first mate of the “Potchernick-Dean,” shows one of the wheels he'll have in the skiff for use in shallow water. (MS 359: L-0686-E)

Tom Dean, Jr., first mate of the “Potchernick-Dean,” shows one of the wheels he’ll have in the skiff for use in shallow water. (MS 359: L-0686-E)

Skipper Will Levin (right) and his chief engineer, Leroy Lanning, practice on Woodlawn Lake in Levin’s 18 foot craft, “The Eagle,” with a semi-V bottom reinforced with sheet metal, August 1926. (MS 359: L-0676-E)

Skipper Will Levin (right) and his chief engineer, Leroy Lanning, practice on Woodlawn Lake in Levin’s 18 foot craft, “The Eagle,” with a semi-V bottom reinforced with sheet metal, August 1926. (MS 359: L-0676-E)

Fred Christilles (left), skipper, and his son-in-law Jimmy Hanway, first mate, pose in the “Play Boy” shortly after it was launched into the San Antonio River a few days before the race. (MS 359: L-0804-A)

Fred Christilles (left), skipper, and his son-in-law Jimmy Hanway, first mate, pose in the “Play Boy” shortly after it was launched into the San Antonio River a few days before the race. (MS 359: L-0351-C)

Large crowd watches the beginning of the race from the banks of the San Antonio River, September 6, 1926. (MS 359: Detail of L-0804-B)

Large crowd watches the beginning of the race from the banks of the San Antonio River, September 6, 1926. (MS 359: Detail of L-0804-B)

Roscoe K. Blaine (left) and Riley Harris in the San Antonio Public Service Company entry, the “Live Wire,” travel through a downtown stretch of the river shortly after beginning of the race. (MS 359: L-0804-A)

Roscoe K. Blaine (left) and Riley Harris in the San Antonio Public Service Company entry, the “Live Wire,” travel through a downtown stretch of the river. (MS 359: L-0804-A)

Dean Brothers (left to right) Elbert, Harry, and Sam, winners of the race. (MS 359: L-0686-D)

Dean brothers (left to right) Elbert, Harry, and Sam, winners of the race. (MS 359: L-0686-D)

 

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Thomas R. Hester permalink
    July 18, 2016 11:02 am

    Tom: Absolutely terrific!!
    Tom Hester

  2. July 26, 2016 5:57 pm

    I love old photographs and these are quite entertaining ones. Smiles, Robin Cochran, Delaware, Ohio

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: