Harveys Lake History

The Hanson's Amusement Park
Speed Boat Rides

On June 9, 1891, the Lehigh Valley Railroad opened the Harvey's Lake Picnic Grounds. The park's Lake frontage had an immense L-shaped long dock to accommodate the Lake's steamboat passenger service. In March 1906 the railroad leased operation of the park to John A. Redington who purchased the park in July 1923. Redington then leased the park later in the year to Alfred and Netti Wintersteen who purchased the park from Redington in May 1930.

John E. Hanson, a Kingston contractor, became the park manager in 1929, and he acquired a one-half interest in the park from the Wintersteens in the May 1930 sale. Alfred Wintersteen was in failing health and would pass away in October 1933. In the meantime, Redington had retained ownership of the beach front which he sold to Hanson and Netti Wintersteen in May 1934.

John Hanson at park, 1944
Courtesy, Bruce Hanson

In May 1935 John E. Hanson acquired Netti Wintersteen's interests in the park and waterfront, except for the merry-go-round and dodgem ride. The Wintersteen family retained ownership of the two rides through the closure of the park in 1984. After his purchase Hanson made major improvements to the Lake front with new bath houses, swimming and fancy diving shows, and other water sports attractions. In 1937 Hanson built a completely new bath house on top of the underwater cribbing of the old steamboat dock. Women used the left side of the bath house while men were on the right. On the second floor there was a roller-skating rink. This facility is the only remaining structure of the park at this time (January 2020).

Hanson removed the popular and massive Lake-side Shoot-the-Chute (a water slide), built in 1910, with the reconstruction of the waterfront's features. To replace the Shoot-the-Chute, Hanson introduced a speed boat ride for the 1937 season with a stylish Hacker-Craft motorboat.

The Hacker-Craft Company was founded in 1908 by John L. Hacker in Detroit, Michigan. The company is the oldest builder of wooden motor boats in the world. In the 1930s, Hacker-Craft boats were known as the "Steinway of Runabouts" and were a preferred model of capitalist royalty. The company is still the world's largest producer of classic mahogany motorboats but has relocated to facilities in Lake George and Ticonderoga, New York. In 2019 there were classic boat listings for a restored 1937 21-foot Hacker-Craft for $59,000; a 1937 24-foot Hacker-Craft for $95,000; and a 1937 24-foot Hacker-Craft for $100,000.00.

Hanson's Hacker-Craft, 1938
Coutesy, Willard N. Harrison Collection

Too little is known about the 1937 Hanson Hacker-Craft but the park, still advertising as the Picnic Grounds, featured speed boat rides in its newspaper ads. It is very likely the 1937 Hacker-Craft was the speed boat John Hanson was operating on Saturday afternoon, September 2, 1939, near Warden Place when the boat made a hard turn and Millard "Slim" Haefele, 34, fell from the rear seat of the boat and in to the Lake and drowned. In the craft at the time where Haefele's son and four other passengers, three of whom were servers at Hanson's restaurant at the park. A professional diver was called by Gov. Arthur H. James, Plymouth, who had a cottage at the Lake, but the diver failed to recover Haefele's body. A week later John Hanson, with a grappling-hook team aboard the Hacker-Craft, recovered Haefele from a 75- foot depth in the Lake. Haefele had been a salesman for an Allentown meat-packing company.

In June 1940 Hanson purchased a $3,000.00 22-foot Deluxe Utility Chris-Craft. Chris-Craft built only 386 units of the 1940-1942 Deluxe Utility model. All were 22-feet in length with a mahogany hull and blue interior. The U.S. Army purchased 84 of this limited-edition Deluxe Utility production for War use.

22' Deluxe Utility: 1940-1942
Chris-Craft advertising photo - Hanson's 1941 model

An early version of the Chris-Craft Company was founded by Christopher Columbus Smith (1861-1939) in 1910, although Christopher and his brother, Hank, were building boats since 1881. The name Chris-Craft was formally adopted in 1924. The company's success was attributable to mass production of affordable motor boats to America's growing middle-class, and the company's reputation for high-quality construction with quality mahogany and brass. In the mid-1950s the company began production of fiberglass and metal boats. The company is now known as Chris-Craft Industries. There is an active trade in the restoration and sale of classic Chris-Craft speed boats. For an on-line YouTube video history of the Chris-Craft company click HERE.

Wilkes-Barre Record
May 29, 1940

Hanson's 1940 Chris-Craft had a top speed of 35 miles-per-hour and it was available for lease to groups for trips around the Lake. Hanson also used the boat to operate a short-lived taxi service at the Lake. For park visitors a ride was 20 cents. (By comparison a round-trip ticket on the Laurel Line trolley from Public Square to Rocky Glen Park, Moosic, was 25 cents.)

There is little information regarding the Hanson speed boats during the WW II era. Presumably, the 1937 Hacker-Craft and the 1940 Chris-Craft jointly served the park in the early war years. The last ad during WW II for speed boat rides was for the annual end-of-season Children's Day on Saturday, September 12, 1942. Gas rationing in the eastern United States began in July 1942 and became effective nationwide in December 1942. Hanson's park was open during the war years but had virtually no seasonal newspaper ads.

In August 1946 the park advertised the sale of a 6-passenger Chris-Craft runabout with a 100 H.P. Chrysler engine. This may be the 1940 Chris-Craft or a different WWII-era Hanson purchase. By the end of the war the Hacker-Craft was seemingly out-of-service too.

For the 1947 season Don Hanson, on behalf of the park. purchased a 22-foot Sportsman Chris-Craft motorboat. The Sportsman model was similar to the discontinued Utility Chris-Crafts built through 1942. The Sportsman model was built in 16, 18, 22 and 25-foot lengths during the 1946-1954 period with either Chris-Craft or Chrysler engines of varying horse-power. The 22-foot model, which became the Hanson standard, had a 20-inch draft, 5 foot 10 -inch height, and weight of 2500-2900 pounds. The Chris-Craft company built 2082 units of the 22-foot model during its nine- year production run. They were titled by the Chris-Craft company as Hull Series Nos. U-22-001 to U-22-2082 and are commonly known today in the classic boat trade as U-22s. Hanson's 1947 Chris-Craft was named Bruce by the Hanson family for John E. Hanson's grandson, Bruce J. Hanson.

Wilkes-Barre Record
September 12, 1942

There is no information whether the 1947 Chris-Craft was supplemented by other Hanson speed boats at the Lake in 1947-48, but after WWII the park boomed in the summer months and the park and speed boat rides reportedly operated past midnight.

In January 1949, Robert Hanson, acting for the park, purchased two 1949 22-foot Sportsman Chris-Crafts each with 130 H.P. Chris-Craft engines. In April 1949 Hanson purchased a third 22-foot Sportsman Chris-Craft with a 145 H.P. engine. The deck and hulls were natural mahogany wood, with blue interior upholstery. All four Chris-Crafts were purchased directly from the factory. Donald and Robert Hanson were sons of park owner John E. Hanson. The father was a WW I veteran and both sons were WW II veterans.

The three new Chris-Crafts were named Corry, Danny and Donnie Lee, after John Hanson's other grandchildren. The four 1947-1949 Chris-Crafts became bed rock memories of Hanson's Amusement Park for the 1950's generation of Lake visitors. The present-day cost to acquire a classic 1949 Chris-Craft similar to a 1949 Hanson boat will vary widely depending on condition and restoration expenses. A model requiring extensive restoration may be only a few thousand dollars. In late 2019 a fully-restored Hanson-era 1949 Sportsman 22-foot Chris-Craft was advertised on-line for $35,000.00.

Hanson's crowd for speed boat ride, c. 1955
FCP Collection

A famous 22-foot Sportsman Chris-Craft of the time was the 1948 "Joltin Joe," a gift of New Haven, CT, fans of Yankees star Joe DiMaggio on Joe DiMaggio Day on October 1, 1949, at Yankee Stadium. In 1954 DiMaggio entertained his bride, actress Marilyn Monroe, at a reception and cruise on the Joltin Joe at Martinez, California, where DiMaggio was born. Joe DiMaggi - the "Yankee Clipper" - donated the boat to the city of Martinez in 1991 where it was on display outdoors until 2008 when the city removed the badly deteriorated Chris-Craft to a warehouse. In recent years the city's Sons of Italy and a carpenters' union led a campaign to restore the Joltin Joe to an original award-winning condition. For a 2015 YouTube video of the restoration process click HERE.

A 1950 22-foot Sportsman Chris-Craft was a central feature in the 1981 motion picture On Golden Pond starring Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn. Fonda won his only movie Oscar at age 76 for this final film performance. The fully-restored Chris-Craft from the movie, in real life the Thayer IV, was sold on Ebay in 2002 for $47,000.00, its cost enhanced by its movie association. There are numerous clips on YouTube from the movie On Golden Pond including footage of the Thayer IV and a replica built for the boat's "crash scene." The Thayer IV has been restored and a 2012 video of the Golden Pond boat running at Lake Hopatcong, NJ., may be seen on a YouTube clip HERE.

In the 1950s the major adult rides at Hanson's park were the Roller-Coaster, Whip, Pretzel, Flying Scooter and Dodgem. The Merry-Go-Round and miniature train served adults and children. Hanson built a Kiddie-Land in 1950 with a children's Coaster, Whip, Jeep Ride, Boat Ride, Horse Cart Ride, Fire Engine Ride, along with live Pony rides. There were sheltered picnic areas for families, reunions, organizations and church gatherings. There was also a penny arcade, ball field, various games, and Hanson's beach. Here, in the 50s the four 22-foot Chris-Crafts, with a maximum capacity of ten each, offered a 35 cent, 4-mile ride around the Lake. The ride was often a "triangular trip" from Hanson's to an area near Pole 254 (roughly mid-way between Point Breeze and the Outlet), and then across the Lake to Warden Place and then back to Hanson's. In the early 1950s Hanson installed a larger $1,500.00 200 H.P. Hercules motor in the Bruce which then became clearly the fastest of the four Chris-Crafts. Among the Chris-Craft operators were Don Hanson, Robert Hanson, and Tommy Hilburt, who was a WARM radio personality. In the c. 1955 photograph, a Hanson speed boat is returning to the park dock. The other craft alongside the dock is a 1941 or 1942 Chris-Craft Custom Runabout owned by George Walters.

Don Hanson pilots speed boat ride, c. 1957
Courtesy, Bruce Hanson

The Chris-Craft rides were last offered in 1960. They were replaced by 28-foot Kayot pontoon boats. The Kayots could carry 50 passengers each. Sandy Beach also began to offer a pontoon boat ride at the same time. Jay's Motel at Sunset, owned by Nick and Julia Arnone, had also offered speed boat rides in a 1955 Century Coronado and later in a 1959 Century Coronado craft, but in the 1960s Jay's withdrew the rides in favor of renting pedal-powered pontoon boats. Their son, Nick Arnone, still retains the 1959 Century Coronado.

Hanson's offered the four Chris-Crafts for sale in August 1963. The initial two Hanson Kayots were also offered for sale and replaced with other Kayots. One of the original Kayot pontoon boats was purchased by Tommy O'Brien as a floating diving platform for his Sunset scuba-diving school. The Chris-Crafts did not readily sell, even for a $500 each asking price. A Lake owner did acquire the Danny but it was eventually purchased by a classic boat enthusiast at Lake Keuka, NY, who still retains it. The Corry and Donnie Lee were later owned by Wyoming Valley interests: one was owned or at least stored by a Larksville sporting goods store and the other was in storage at a Pittston-area trucking company. Their later fate is not known. The Corry's namesake is Justice Correale F. Stevens, now a member of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

In the late 1990s Hanson's 1947 Chris-Craft, the "Bruce," was discovered in New York State by Mr. Bruce Myers, Harvey's Lake, who scouted out classic boats. Myers purchased the "Bruce" and resold it to Mr. Joseph Reilly, Harvey's Lake, who was intrigued by the boat's storied history at Hanson's. This story is recounted in a Citizens Voice article on October 28, 2002:

Some people thought Harveys Lake resident Joe Reilly was crazy to insist on restoring the badly deteriorated 1947 Chris Craft speedboat, but for him it was a labor of love – and historical preservation.
The sleek mahogany Chris Craft is believed to be the last remaining boat from the speed boat ride at the now-defunct Hanson's Amusement Park at Harveys Lake.
The boat was featured specially at B.J. Bobeck's car show at the Grotto in Harveys Lake on Sunday afternoon, where it was the cause of much nostalgic reminiscence.
"It's been a big draw all day," Reilly said. "A lot of people remember the speedboat rides at Hanson's.
According to Reilly, the speed boat was found in upstate NewYork by a local boat enthusiast named Bruce Myers. The antique boat club he belonged to was looking for someone to restore it, and Reilly said he was elected, despite having restored cars instead of boats in the past.
In fact, once upon a time Reilly and his father Charles owned a museum in Kingston where they purchased and restored vintage automobiles.
"I'm more of a car (enthusiast) than a boat enthusiast," Reilly admitted. "I wouldn't have done it if it wasn't for the history."
Although it looks virtually like new now, the Chris Craft was in terrible shape when it was found, badly rotted and full of holes.
"The boat has been worked on for the past five years. It was a basket case when we started," he said, adding that it normally took about a year to restore a boat.
Evidence of the Chris-Craft's history began to pile up. During the restoration process, Hanson's speedboat ride ticket stubs were found in the boat. Then the serial number was sent in to the Maritime Museum in Michigan [Editor's Note: actually the Mariners' Museum, Newport News, Virginia], which provides the blueprints and ownership history of old boats.
Records from the museum showed the boat was originally purchased by Don Hanson, the late owner of the Harvey's Lake amusement park, which confirmed what had until then been a theory.
Reilly said the letter "B" could just be made out on the boat's cover. He had been told by members of the Hanson family that Don Hanson named the boat after his grandchildren, so it has been speculated the boat was named for Bruce Hanson.

Mr. Reilly renamed the Bruce the "Life Of." For a video produced in 2002 by WNEP-TV regarding Joe Reilly and former "Bruce," click HERE.

Appreciation is extended to Mr. Bruce Hanson for permission to use the Hanson Family Films in this article. Additional information was provided by Mr. Nick Arnone, Plains, who owns the classic 1956 Century Coronado which provided Lake rides at Jay's Motel, a former family business at Sunset. Special thanks, too, to Mr. Jim Hooker from the Chris-Craft Archive, Mariners' Museum, Newport News, VA, for invaluable information on the Hanson Chris-Crafts. Mr. Bruce Myers, Harvey's Lake, a classic boat restorer and the Lake's classic boat historian, provided critical information on the Hanson's speed boats' history.


© Copyright January 2020 F. Charles Petrillo