For Hollister Pond, completely restoring a 19-foot Chris-Craft utility boat is just another day in the shop.
Pond, 93, a former U.S. Air Force pilot, has taken to restoring things since he retired. The Chris-Craft is the latest project and will take to the lake when Pond comes back to his native Whitefish this weekend for Whitefish Woody Weekend IV.
Even though his hobby is fixing up things that need fixing with help from two of his friends, the boat presented new challenges.
“We have a group of three who have been working on these sort of things for years,” he said. “Cars, planes, houses … but we had never worked on a boat. In a nutshell, there was a surprise every time we worked on it that we couldn’t have anticipated.”
Pond lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with his high-school sweetheart and wife of many years, Cornelia Doris Pond (née Spears). The two met while going to Whitefish High School, and her family had a house on Whitefish Lake.
So the Whitefish Woody Weekend is just homecoming.
“We found the boat for sale in Bigfork and I trucked it down to Colorado Springs,” Pond said. “The three of us have been working on it for a few years now.”
Wayne Crowley and John Peters are the other two craftsmen responsible for restoring the boat. Neither will be coming to Whitefish, Pond said, partly because one of them is selling a restored Shelby Mustang in Denver.
“We’ve restored stuff together for the last 25 years,” he said.
The craft, a polished, low-in-the-water boat, is a gorgeous example of the wooden boats this weekend’s event is meant to celebrate. Pond said he has taken it out on lakes in Colorado.
Judy Kudlow, Pond’s daughter, is one of 40 family members coming to Whitefish for a reunion of sorts. She said her father’s passion for restoring crafts like the Chris-Craft has gone back decades.
“He used to build and restore and fly his own airplanes until very recently, actually,” she said. “He’s very modest, but he does an amazing job.”
Pond flew B-17 Flying Fortresses in World War II as a flight instructor and was based in Seoul during the Korean War flying C-119 Flying Boxcar transport planes. In Vietnam he was based in Long Bình flying C-130 Hercules transport and cargo planes.
“It’s really not very interesting,” he said in the manner typical of his generation.
This weekend, some family members plan to go to Glacier National Park, others to golf and play tennis. Pond is excited to see the family at gatherings every night, but also to spend warm summer days floating on the lake he grew up on.
Woody Weekend is Friday through Sunday at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake.
— Ryan Murray / Daily Inter Lake