Fairview Man, 92, Still Collecting Antique Outboard Motors: The Last Word
I've done stories about people collecting all kinds of things. Model trains. Nutcrackers. Pinball machines. Well, let's add to the list. Let's talk with a man who's been collecting outboard motors for many, many years.
I met 92-year old Chuck Thomas at his home in Fairview. While some people's basements and garages are filled with hunting trophies or other kinds of memorabilia, his garage and basement are filled with outboard motors. I asked him how many outboard motors he has.
"I have no idea,” he answered. “I never counted them. I don't want to count them."
Chuck picked up a love for the water from his father. Chuck was riding in a boat before he could walk. As he grew older, it wasn't the boat that fascinated him the most. It was the motor that powered the boat. He now has a collection that could easily be called an outboard motor museum. The collection includes the very motor that was on his dad's fishing boat.
Chuck shared his love of motors with his son, Howie. They have been buying outboards together for many years.
"Howie and I will buy what we like. Not just to have a quantity of motors,” says Chuck. “I'm not interested in having a quantity of motors. Only the motors that we like, and that we want to study, and look at, and repair and run."
That's right. The collection of outboard motors do not just sit in Chuck's house. They are all operational. Chuck and his son take them out with their boat on Edinboro Lake. The motors in Chuck's collection date back to 1913. Other boaters show up at the lake with their modern outboard motors and simply turn a key to get them started. Chuck and Howie are seen cranking a knob or pulling a cord.
"And pretty soon a crowd starts coming around and say, 'Wow! How old is that motor? 1917? You're still running it?" says Chuck with a laugh.
Chuck on a boat with an antique motor is a sight to see. He says people in kayaks can go faster. But, it's not the speed. It's the history and the old-fashioned engineering of his motors that keeps Chuck collecting and cruising on the water. Even at age 92.