By DONNA HUNT, used with permission from the the Denison Sherman Herald Democrat
When a yellow jacket dies, the only thing left is the stinger!
That statement became true and also the reason for the name of a boat building company that sprang up in Denison after Yellow Jacket Boast went out of business in 1959.
Elvin E. Gaines, who was known as “Dutch” growing up and as “Art” or “Gaines” to family and friends he worked with at the Yellow Jacket Company, began his own business after the demise of the Yellow Jacket. Appropriately, he named his company The Stinger Boat Company.
Gaines’ granddaughter, Karen Gaines Johnson, who lives on a farm at Rockwall, has been searching high and low for a Stinger Boat and after last week’s column on the Yellow Jackets contacted David Kanally who is with a group of wooden boat owners in Dallas, to inquire if he knew anyone who has a Stinger.
David forwarded his email to me and a week-long search has not turned up a Stinger, but we have learned a lot of interesting information about how the company came to be and why it still isn’t around.
Gene Ramey, a supervisor at Yellow Jacket Boat Co., said Gaines went to work as a truck driver, delivering the Yellow Jackets all over the country. R.A. McDerby, owner, then promoted him to supervisor over the fleet of delivery trucks. Then McDerby established a retail boat store at Chestnut Street and Houston Avenue as Gene remembers. Gaines took over management of the store as long as the boats were available.
Victor Brown was paint supervisor at Yellow Jacket almost from the time it opened until it closed, according to his son who still lives in Denison and whose name also is Vic Brown. When the Yellow Jacket Company closed down, both Victor and Gaines felt like a piece of themselves was missing, according to Vic. Victor had no money so Gaines put up the money and Victor pitched in with the labor.
At first Gaines’ son, Jack, who was about 24 at the time, and Vic went on sales trips all over the country with one of the Stinger boats that were more racing boats and were very fast.
A race in September 1963 strengthened Gaines’ faith in wooden boats when 14 of the boats he had designed and built competed in the National Outboard Association’s World Championship races wining four firsts, three seconds and three thirds. But that’s not all. The boats set five new speed records before 20,000 spectators in Portsmouth, Ohio.
Gaines stuck with the molded mahogany hulls made by the Theakston Corporation of Denison, making one change, the addition of a bucket seat out of fiberglass instead of the wooden rocker type.
When he returned from Portsmouth he said “I could have sold 500 right there if we were able to produce that many. He added that there still was a market for fine wooden boats and his boat fit in that class, but it still was a great family boat.
But Gaines wasn’t looking for a 36 boat a day production. He was looking more at 500 to 1,000 boats a year.
Wyman Tamplen, who lived in Denison at the time but now lives at Lake Kiowa, and Ernie Lewis raced the boats. Tamplen broke the 65 horsepower record in a national race held in September 1963 at that Portsmouth race. The record had been held by William Flagg of Dallas. Four other Stinger boats in the 70- 80- and 100-horsepower classes also set new records.
This Stinger Boat broke the world racing record in 1963. It was piloted by Wyman Tamplen (r) standing with E. E. Gaines and the national trophy.
While the boats were successful, fate stepped in and took the life of Gaines just when he began making money. In March 1964 while he was trying to sell boats in Laredo, he went across the border to Mexico and was killed in a one vehicle accident.
Gaines had no insurance, all his money was tied up in the business, and he left a widow and three sons. Three unsold Stingers and the equipment in his shop made up the bulk of his estate.
The North Texas Pleasure Boat Association stepped up and announced The E.E. Gaines Memorial Race, to be held at the group’s first area boat races at North Lake near Dallas. A fleet of 35 of the Stinger boats built by Gaines’ company, all carrying flags at half mast, passed in review single file in front of the judges, Mrs. Gaines and her sons. Mrs. Gaines, who was pleased with the tribute to her husband, told a newspaper reporter, “I know that Gaines (she always referred to her husband by his last name even in life) has sponsored a lot of races since he formed the Stinger Boat Co.”
Drivers received no trophies and the amount that would have been spent on the trophies went to the Gaines family as a tribute from the drivers to Gaines and his boats.
Just 60 days before Gaines had taken in Victor Brown as a partner. Since both had been plant superintendents at the Yellow Jacket Boat Co., they agreed that Brown would take care of building the boats and Gaines would hit the road locating dealers across the nation. Gaines had been on his first selling trip when he was killed.
Brown and the Gaines family agreed after the funeral to continue to build Stingers using the same hulls from the Theakston Corp. in Denison that were used by the Yellow Jacket Boat Co.
At first Jack Gaines and young Vic Brown went on sales trips all over the country with one of the boats with the Stinger name on it. Vic, who still lives in Denison, said the boats were pretty much racing boats and were very fast. The boats were taken to a lot of races and won a lot of trophies.
Eventually Victor Brown went on his own building Victor Boats until they quit making the molded mahogany hulls. He said that was pretty much the end of the story. Vic took the last hull for himself and made a special boat that was extra fast, but was destroyed in the very first race in which it ran.
If anyone knows the whereabouts of a Stinger boat, Karen would love to hear from you. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.orgI’d like to hear too.
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at email@example.com.