Commodore Steve Harris, September 2018
Not all historic “artifacts” are flashy or “cool.” Sometimes, they’re just everyday items from days gone by. Recently, Tom Blake found a few things at his house he thought I might be interested in. Tom and Dona live on North Bank in what was Commodore John Sproat’s house. If you haven’t been by lately, you should see what they’ve done to the place! It is truly beautiful. In the basement shop area, Tom found an old key labeled “BLYC Fire Pump.” It is now on display upstairs in the Library. On the back of the tag, it reads, “Not for pumping out boats. – Board of Governors.”
In my time at BLYC, I’ve heard talk that it might be good to have a pump that we could use to pump lake water should the Clubhouse ever catch on fire, but I didn’t know that we once had one. Frank Foster tells me that there was indeed a “fire pump” for just that purpose. It was stored under the Commodores’ Lounge. He thinks that this key was likely used to start it and that it probably belonged not to John, but to his uncle, Roundy Sproat, who lived in the house previous to John. Frank tells me that each work day, the pump would be serviced and started to ensure that it was ready should the need arise. He says that it sucked water out of the lake and put out quite a high pressure stream. Sounds like it would have been a great asset if fire broke out in the Clubhouse.
I never knew him, but I’ve heard that Roundy was well known along North Bank and at BLYC as a tireless volunteer. If there was a project that needed completed, Roundy was always willing to help, or often took it on himself to complete. In 1980, then BLYC Historian “Whitey” Limes wrote an article in the Log about Roundy. I thought I’d share it with you this month…
Who was once called the “Mayor of the Towpath?”
It was the spring work day at BLYC in 1965. It was also a rainy, dismal Sunday as is usual in April.
E.C. Metzgar and the writer were given the job of replacing all the state tax dock tags on the various docks around the Yacht Club. In those days each dock had to have a separate tag on it. Now the dock tax is paid in a lump sum.
Metzgar (who later became Commodore) took the front basin docks and the writer took the back basin docks. While working on a rather stubborn dock tag, the writer had noticed that someone had approached where he (the writer) was working. As you have seen in the movies, I am sure, first you see the boots, then the legs, then the body, and then the face. There he stood smiling as always and said, “Hi, I’m Roundy Sproat. Can I help?” This was the writer’s first meeting with Forest “Roundy” Sproat.
“Can I help?” seems to be Roundy’s pet question. He seems to be helping someone all the time. Many of the members of BLYC and the people living along the towpath in the immediate vicinity of BLYC can attest to that.
Roundy does many things on his own. In the summer he can be seen regularly using his large electric mower cutting the grass along the towpath. Not satisfied with that, he uses a hand mower to cut the grass such as it is behind the cottages around his home.
In the winter when snow is on the ground, he converts the tractor-mower into a slow blower and cleans off the sidewalks in front of and the roadway behind the same homes and cottages along the towpath.
To see his workshop is a dream come true for any “tinkerer,” hobbyist, or anyone who likes to work with his hands. The writer was asked upon visiting Roundy’s workshop, “How many power tools do you think are here?” Still flabbergasted, the writer said, “I would say ten or eleven.” His reply was, “Would you believe at least thirty-five?” It was in this workshop that he made the gun rack used by the gun club each trap shooting season.
Roundy and his wife Catherine live at 5031 North Bank (towpath). He retired from active business in 1954. As near as can be ascertained, Roundy and Catherine moved to Buckeye lake in 1957. He joined the BLYC in September of 1941. He was the recipient of the Heber Award in 1948.
His motto, “Ready, Willing, and Able” to lend a helping hand in any way earned him the title of “Mayor of the Tow Path.” One bit of advice if you borrow a tool, a pump to bail out a boat, a special screw, bolt, or nut, be sure you return the tool or item. Not to do so can cuase the willingness to help in the future to disappear.