Yellow Jacket boats get displayed in Dallas show

By DONNA HUNT, used with permission from the the Denison Sherman Herald Democrat
Cowboys movie star Roy Rogers was a part owner, along with R.A. McDerby, in Yellow Jacket Boat Company that produced the wooden boats right here in Denison.

One of those, a 1956 Yellow Jacket 14-foot molded plywood boat manufactured here that now belongs to Denison businessman Chuck Pool, has undergone a complete makeover following 1956 specifications. That boat is on display along with others from the Wooden Boat Association in Dallas in a good, high-traffic area at the Dallas Winter Boat Show that opened Friday in Dallas' Market Hall. The show continues through Feb. 14.

Chuck's Yellow Jacket has been restored by Lew White, Bob Adair and David Kanally, all members of the Wooden Boat Association of Dallas. Kanally said other members of the club also helped with the restoration.

Market Hall was a beehive of activity earlier last week as boat retailers brought in semi tractors to move their yachts into the hall. During the morning Wooden Boat Association/ACBS Yellow Jacket Boats, including Chuck's, were moved onto the mezzanine level of the hall.

A five-stage forklift was used to hoist the boats and trailers onto the second level, where they are being displayed.

The Denison Yellow Jackets were in the news on sports pages across the state this year as they came so close to winning the state football championship. Yellow Jacket Boats are getting their share of publicity, too, as they get a place of honor at the Dallas Boat Show.

Pool is quick to give credit to White, Adair and Kanally for putting his boat back exactly as it was in 1956. He had always wanted a Yellow Jacket, and his son, Charlie, heard about one for sale in Dallas about two years ago. The boat had been in a garage for 35 years and was in surprisingly good condition for a wooden boat that was more than 50 years old. So Charlie bought it for his dad.

After my columns began running last year and so much interest developed in the Denison-built boats, Chuck contacted Kanally about where to go to get his boat restored. The three members of the Wooden Boat Association in Dallas and others volunteered to do the work to set a standard for Yellow Jacket Boats today. Chuck said they made it 100 percent original after doing a lot of research and acquiring specifications used when the boat was built.

When Chuck was growing up in Denison, his family lived across the street from the R.A. McDerby family. It was McDerby who owned the Yellow Jacket Boat Manufacturing Plant north of Denison near Red River. He later brought Roy Rogers into the company as a partner.

Rogers and his children spent a lot of time in Denison and Chuck remembers that the Pool boys, Clifton McDerby, the Rogers kids, the Keith Hubbard kids and others formed the French Street gang of guys and girls. They played together and had a great time. He said that McDerby, whom they called "Uncle Mac," had just as much fun with the neighborhood kids as any of the youngsters. They played a lot of baseball and other outdoor games.

McDerby made a 6- or 7-foot scale Yellow Jacket boat for Clifton, Chuck remembers, and it was kept at the Denison Rod & Gun Club, now known as the Denison Country Club.

Chuck has a 1961 white, 50 horsepower Mercury motor from the same time period as the boat that he plans to use on his Yellow Jacket.

Another Denisonian played a role in the restoration when Merle Bullock did the upholstery on the seats in the boat. Chuck said that, like the hull, even the seats are to the period the boat was built right down to the gold metal flake where the seat covers are sewn together.

Once the Dallas Boat Show is finished, Chuck said, the boat will be kept in the back of the Main Street Lumber Company where he is co-owner with his brother, Robert. He welcomes people interested in seeing the boat to come by the store.

Information provided by the Boat Show staff said that Yellow Jackets have always been dear to Boat Show organizer Franklin Pillsbury IV since his dad sold the boats for many years in Houston and Dallas.

Robert Macaluso has loaned his Catalina to the Market Hall display as well as WBA members Tom Weber and Josh Needleman, who loaned their Yellow Jackets. Many of the WBA members are volunteering during the show.

DONNA HUNT is a former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at