Lake ‘n Sea Comes to Traverse City

 

lakensea-n
Lake ‘n Sea Division of Parsons Corporation “test drivers” driving a 1958 Lake ‘n Sea 15 foot Pleasure Runabout (later the Biscayne model) at the mouth of the Boardman River entering into East Grand Traverse Bay, Traverse City, Michigan in early 1958. (Image courtesy of the John T. Parsons collection (Ms-1987-016), Digital Library and Archives, University Libraries, Virginia Polytechnic and State University)

On June 18, 1957, the Chris-Craft Corporation purchased the rights and molds to the Lake N Sea boat line from Lakensea Boat Corporation of Boca Raton, Florida, to get into the fiberglass boat building business, but it did not last long. On January 7, 1958, the Parsons Corporation of Detroit, Michigan, purchased the Lake ‘N Sea boat brand, tooling (including molds), and six boats from the Chris-Craft Corporation for the selling price of $17,932.92 making it the third company to manufacture the brand. Parsons moved the manufacturing process of these boats from Chris-Craft’s Pompano Beach, Florida facilities to its Aircraft Division in Traverse City in early 1958 and was testing the newly acquired 15-foot Pleasure Runabout model on East Grand Traverse Bay in early 1958.

Lake ‘n Sea Division of Parsons Corporation “test drivers” driving a 1958 Lake ‘n Sea 15 foot Pleasure Runabout (later the Biscayne model) at the mouth of the Boardman River entering into East Grand Traverse Bay, Traverse City, Michigan in early 1958. (Image courtesy of the John T. Parsons collection (Ms-1987-016), Digital Library and Archives, University Libraries, Virginia Polytechnic and State University)

Prior to purchasing the boat line the Aircraft Division was best known for its production of military grade fiberlgass helicopter rotor blades and airframes. Brochures that appeared in early 1958 were the same design used by Chris-Craft except the company name change as were the Lake ‘n Sea logo stickers affixed to the boats.

lakensea-e
1958 Lake ‘n Sea brochure (Courtesy of Lee Wangstad)

In March 1958, Parsons formally entered into a contract with Oxford, Michigan-based boat designer/builder Hilman Barger to use his molds to build fiberglass boats ranging in size from 12- to 19-feet. Barger and his brother, Merle Barger, who had recently moved their Custom Molded Fiberglass Products Company from Arizona to Oxford, oversaw production of the Barger line and were paid a monthly wage and royalties on on all sold boats while other Parsons staff worked on the more established line purchased from Chris-Craft as well new designs for the 1959 model year. Four models were offered, both the Barger-designed line and Pleasure Runabout, and were marketed by Parsons alongside each other in advertisements in June 1958.

Lake 'n Sea advertisement (Popular Boating 06-1958)

In July 1958 Parsons decided to stop producing the Barger-designed boats and the Barger brothers left with their nine molds to start the Barger Boat Company in Harrisburg, Illinois, near their hometown of Eddyville, Illinois. At the end of the 1958 model year production cycle 281 Lake ‘n Sea boats from both lines had been built according to company records. The previous month the division name changed from Aircraft Division to Lake ‘n Sea Division and included newly created departments for research and development, production, marketing, and sales. Early summer advertising stated that eight different models of boats were offered for the 1959 model year. The 1959 model year brochure appeared later that summer and included the original 15-foot Pleasure Runabout, which was renamed the Biscayne and six new models with different options and interior layouts were introduced to consumers as the 12′ Manistee, 14′ Au Sauble, 14′ Caribbean, 16′ Arrowhead, 18′ Saratoga, and 18’ Grand Traverse.

Lake 'n Sea (Parsons) brochure 1959_Page_01
1959 Lake ‘n Sea brochure (author’s collection)

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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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 )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: