The Bass Lake Boat Club gathered at the Pine Slope picnic area on the south shore of the lake July 20 to celebrate the club's 40th Anniversary.
Primarily a social organization, Mountain Area club members and friends gather once a month for what's more a party than a meeting and last week's gathering centered around friendly conversation, drinks and a pork rib barbecue served with homemade potato salad and fresh fruit.
Founded in 1973 as a vehicle to continue the July 4th fireworks display, the club at one time boasted of a membership of 40 couples. Original club members included Bob and Lenore Creech, Buzz and JoAnn Baxter, Bob and Wanda Nelson, Roy and Donna Williams, Ray and Norma Colbern, Chuck and Evelyn Welch, and Barney and Shirley Bernard.
For several years Bud Williams of Williams Resorts Inc. put on a small fireworks display, but when he decided he could no longer do it, three men, Al January, manager of PG&E, area dentist Buzz Baxter, and long-time area resident Tucker Luhm, decided Bass Lake should always have fireworks on July 4.
According to the club history, compiled by Lenore Creech 15 years ago, to accomplish this the men formed the Bass Lake Boat Club, soliciting donations from businesses, clubs and individuals for fireworks. At least one year Ducey's Lodge dedicated the proceeds from one bingo night a week to the fireworks fund.
Club members built a float, which was used as a platform for launching the fireworks and the rest of the year it was used as a swim float. The original float was replaced years later with a new one. Members of the Club spent many hours contacting businesses, the Chambers of Commerce, etc., collecting funds for the fireworks.
At one time, 30+ years ago, the club allowed the swim float to be used for children's American Red Cross swimming lessons, but due to liability issues, the lessons were discontinued around the early 80s.
The well-known July 4th fireworks display over the lake was eventually turned over to the Bass Lake Chamber of Commerce, as the club became concerned with the liability of putting on the show, and the swim float was donated to the sheriff's department lake patrol.
Club trips and $7 jackets
When originally founded, the club went on many excursions to the Delta, Lake Tahoe and Reno. The first Delta cruise was in 1978 when boats were trailed to the Delta with club members staying in a motel right on the water.
In 1975, club members Ray and Norma Colbern, who owned Colbern's Department Store in Oakhurst, made available Boat Club jackets, unlined but with a Boat Club insignia, at a cost of $7 for adults and $6 for children. By 1993, the jackets were available from Ts and Things for $16 to $20.
Community support activities have included the 1977 donation of a $275 resuscitator to the sheriff's department, $200 donated that same year for the Bass Lake Spring Clean-Up day, a $300 donation in 1978 to Sierra Health Facilities (now Oakhurst Community Living Center), along with canned goods to Manna House at Christmas time.
In 1994, the club donated $150 to the Bass Lake Lions Club to be used for repair of Bass Lake Elementary School tables.
Current activities, in addition to monthly parties, include the traditional boat parade on July 4 prior to the fireworks display, participation in the Bass Lake Parade of Lights Christmas parade, the ladies lunch-bunch and continued financial support of the fireworks.
In the early years, club membership was limited to 40 couples and there was a waiting list to join. Today, the membership consists of just under 20 couples.
Grace Weaver has been a member of the club for 36 years and sites a couple reason for the reduced membership. She feels many full time lake residents travel more and younger couples don't seem to be interested in joining.
She also feels the Bass Lake Lions Club is more active than it was year ago and many community members are active in that club.
In addition Weaver said the lack of a "gathering place" at the lake makes it hard for residents to meet other home owners.
"I remember way back when on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, the Pines always had music and dancing in the old Pines Fountain," Weaver said. "In current years, a lot of people anchored in front of Ducey's on the Lake for the "Jazz on the Lake" concerts, but they don't hold those anymore. Now there is no gathering place for newcomers to meet people."
"Of course some of our members have passed away," Weaver added.
Weaver has enjoyed all the friendships she has made through the club and encourages people in the area to join.
"Getting together with all our friends once a month is something I have looked forward to the past 36 years," Weaver said. "We all have the common bound of the love of boating. Being a member of the club is a good way of being a part of the community. We do allow people to join the club even if they do not have a boat."
"The Bass Lake Boat Club has served as an anchor for our community for 40 years," Weaver said with a smile.
Membership in the club is limited to residents of Eastern Madera County. Those interested should contact membership chairperson, Bob Kelly, (559) 692-2627, (559) 908-8400, or Commodore Hal Berg, (559) 417-0803.