Tahoe boats to be featured on postage stamps
Tom Turner knew he wanted to own an antique wooden speedboat ever since his family first rented one during a vacation to Lake Tahoe in 1965.
Turner, now the owner of Gar Woods Grill & Pier in Carnelian Bay and Riva Grill in South Lake Tahoe, made that dream come true in 1995 when he purchased a 33-foot mahogany speedboat, which he christened Dispatch, the name its original owner gave it in 1931.
Still, he never imagined the boat would be immortalized on a postage stamp.
“I got a letter about three months ago from the (U.S. Postal Service), saying a picture of Dispatch had been forwarded to them and that they wanted to know if I would allow them to use it in a stamp, so I just signed it and sent it back,” Turner said.
Last month, he received a phone call from the Postal Service, saying the stamp had been approved and would enter circulation next year.
“These boats are treasures,” he said. “They come from a timeless era and it plays into Lake Tahoe.”
Turner is one of four area residents whose boats will be featured next summer in postage stamp series entitled “Vintage Mahogany Speedboats.”
Each pane of 16 first class stamps will feature photographs of Dispatch, Duckers (a 1954 Chris-Craft from Loomis, Calif.), Frolic (a 1915 Hutchinson Brothers launch from Danville, Calif.) and the famous Thunderbird (a custom designed 1955 vessel moored at the Thunderbird Lodge on the East Shore) – still one of the fastest and biggest boats on the lake.
“This is the wooden motorboat capital of the world,” said Mark Saunders, a community relations specialist with the Postal Service.
Saunders arrived in Carnelian Bay Friday to take photographs of the boats for advance publicity.
“The reason we selected these four boats is that we wanted to show the evolution of American Mahogany speedboats,” Saunders said. “We’re hoping to … get people interested in boating and maybe stamp collecting.”
The stamps were the brain child of Carl Herrman, one of six Postal Service art directors in the country, and the only one of the West Coast.
Herrman, who has more than 400 stamp designs to his name, first presented the idea of doing a wooden boat series to the Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee’s subject board three years ago.
Herrman’s stamp portfolio includes a series of sports cars from the 1950s, Cary Grant, Marilyn Monroe, Dr. Seuss and D.C. Comics superheroes.
“I try to find things that are Icons of American culture such as movies cars, boats, etc. and fortunately they translate beautifully into stamps,” said Herrman. “I’m a real aficionado of American design … I thought we should do something on speedboats, particularly because they are pieces of art like sculpture and need to be in (our) program.”
After doing some additional research, Herrman decided to attend the 2005 Concours d’Elegance Wooden Boat Show Festival to find material for the series.
But the stamps almost didn’t come to be.
First, Herman said he hadn’t realized how close together the boats would be, or how many people would be crowded the docks. To make matters worse, he wasn’t able to rendezvous with a colleague at the boat show and his camera failed – forcing him to rely on a $125 digital camera he bought at Costco a few days earlier.
All was not lost, when he downloaded the pictures a few days later, he was shocked to see how well they turned out.
“It was a beautiful day, and all the boats were shot at approximately the same time under the same lighting conditions,” Herman said. “This actually gave (the pictures) a consistency I wouldn’t otherwise have gotten. I would have loved to have had a dingy so I could go out and get different angles, particularly on the Thunderbird, but I … was able to get the combination of the stainless steel with the mahogany that I wanted.
“It was a miracle day.”
The Postal Service will release the stamps’ designs on their Web site, http://www.usps.gov, later this month with an official unveiling ceremony next summer when the stamps enter circulation across the country, the location has yet to be announced.
“If it was up to me, I’d say the unveiling should be in Tahoe,” Herman said.