Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Winter raft racers vie for bragging rights

It’s the dead of winter, and it gets boring being cooped up inside. What’s a high-schooler to do? About two dozen young men cheerfully embarked on a raft race down the Umatilla River on February 16, 1964, with nothing on the line but pride. They emerged from the river wet and cold, but still cheerful, after their exhilarating ride.

More than a hundred people followed the progress of the racers, who put in at Mission Bridge outside Pendleton and crossed the finish line at the Main Street Bridge an hour and a half later. The race, which was arranged by the young men themselves, had only one rule: No one could go ashore until the race ended.

Taking the checkered flag were Bob Cook and Doug Wachsmuth, who had led most of the race. Just a few minutes behind was the three-man team of Wes Luster, Bill Brown and Allen Gill, who were in the lead early on but lost ground due to their unorthodox paddles — brooms. The team of Jack Owens, Dick Jones and Roesch Kishpaugh came in third.

One raft that started out with two racers finished the race carrying four. Jack Hodgen and Maury McCormmach had to hitch a ride after their craft sank.

Others listed in the Feb. 17, 1964 edition of the East Oregonian as competing in the race included Steve Carey, Jay Vaughn and Chris Pope; Leroy Nash and Dan Wicklander; Darrell Eng and Bob Rada; and Vern Hamil, Jack Bascomb, Scott Lerfald and Lamar James. Other racers competed but were not named in the story.

(EO file photo/Virgil Rupp)

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