Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Your Right of Passage - 2

Portrait of the Joe Fellows Family, Joe and Josie Fellows with their two sons, Robert and Rusty, circa 1912.

Joe Fellows was born in Barth, England in 1865, immigrating to first to Canada as a boy and then later to the West Coast in 1890’s. His trade was designing sail and motor boats and he opened a boat shop on Terminal Island in 1896. The firm grew from a rather small operation into a well-known and respected firm that built, repaired and refurbished boats.

Before retiring in 1937, Joe led an active and dynamic life designing and selling pleasure boats. Of the boats designed by Joe Fellows, his racing sailboats, motor cruisers and speedboats were prototypical of classic designs.

Looking at the photographs of Joe and the family, it would appear he placed a high value on travelling in the state of California with his family.

Snapshot of Joe and Josie Fellows on a Road Trip with Rusty, circa 1915.

An account from a magazine tells of Joe’s early experience building river steamers in San Francisco appeared in Pacific Motor Boat, October 1940 issue in an article entitled: “Joe Fellows – Boat Builder”. According to the author, Fellows was no stranger to near disaster, which may be why he kept cool and calm, and survived the experience. For a selection from the biographical sketch, please see Stories, Joe Fellows' yacht..

Two other stories about Fellows stand out from the usual biographies written about him for the 50th anniversary of his firm in 1949. One chronicles just how much a daredevil appears to take chances, while an earlier story tells of sailing home during a spring storm in San Pedro Bay.

Your Right of Passage - 1

Joe Fellows standing atop a granite marker in California, circa 1930.

In these posts entitled Your Right of Passage, a selection of photographic prints and a character sketch of Joe Fellows previews the Museum exhibit: Fellows and Stewart, Inc., Boatbuilders in Los Angeles Harbor, scheduled to open at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum in May, 2014.

The new exhibit of photographs from the Fellows & Stewart Collection showcases a history of the Los Angeles harbor boatbuilders' firm, following it from its inception until the late 1960s.

By all accounts, founder Joe Fellows's passion for boats and sailing, motorsailing, racing, and speedboating was equalled by his sense of business: he built a long-standing and versatile shipyard. He died in 1942; a Victory ship built by California Shipbuilding Corporation a year later, was christened JOE FELLOWS in his honor.

Visual History and the Right of Passage

Near the roadways as they push through the Sierra Nevada and mountain ranges in California, there are geodetic markers or benchmarks indicating the land surveys taken by the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey to map out the western slopes and they sometimes carry a granite monument that easily marks the spot, especially where snow in season may cover them. Mountain peaks and valleys surround the traveler, and it’s a challenge to scale the steep slopes. Dramatic scenery unfolds as the roadway. For the hiker, biker, auto enthusiast who seeks a challenge, it’s not unlike a voyage in that your right of passage is subtly gained.

You can imagine Joe Fellows was a man who dared to be right on the cutting edge of any pursuit he fancied. One of these concerns was his boatbuilding firm on Terminal Island, but in his personal life, too, he displayed courage and commitment. In the many photographic prints left to his heirs, there is a full engagement with the firm, his family and genuine interest in travel by car over the state of California.

More on Joe Fellows...

right of passage: This term comes from international law at sea and refers to the confidence of a ship to pass through waters of a country without causing international concern.