February 18, 1909 – The Birth of Watkins Island

Commodore Steve Harris – Febuary, 2019

In the Club’s early years, members didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy the Club as much in the wintertime as we do today. The first Clubhouse was much smaller, situated over the water on the east end of the island, and transportation was far more difficult than it is today. But, BLYC members have never shied away from an opportunity for a good party! In those early years, members would gather for a “Tar Social” each winter at various banquet halls in Newark and Columbus.

The Fourth Tar Social – February 18, 1909 – was billed as a “Big Improvement Jubilee.” The Club had its home on “Sunken Island” which had recently been raised with dredge material and the original clubhouse and docks had been built. But, there was more more to do – not only to make BLYC a “real club” but also to help make Buckeye Lake a “real lake.”

The event was held at the United Commerical Travelers building on Goodale Street in Columbus (current location of Hyde Park Steakhouse) and the evening began as scheduled with the Club’s eastern contingent from Newark along with five large delegations from other Inter-Lake clubs arriving by train. The hall was decorated in nautical fare – walls & ceilings draped in burgees of I-LYA and other member clubs intermingled with ship’s wheels, ropes, sailcloth, and other gear. A company of “sailors” in jackets and flared trousers stood at the ready to serve the meal. “Clang, Clang” rang the bell from Commodore Lynch’s station and some 250 freshwater sailors enjoyed the meal…

Oyster Cocktail – Watkins Sauce
Queen Olives – Rownd Island Variety
Almonds & Peanuts – Hole-in-the-Wall
Gerkins – Richardson Sweets
Roast Pig Cunningham
Pea Patties – Shell Beach Cases
Mashed Potatoes – Akron Importation
Veal Loaf a la Frey
BLYC Salad – Stump Dressing
Boston Bread with Grasshopper Dope
Cream Cheese – South Side Beach
Sellers Point Hard Tack
Coffee – Avondale Blend
Assorted Cakes de Worthington
Gasoline Lubricators – ‘Standard’ Grade
Cigars & Cigarettes – 30 minutes in Summerland

Clearly the meal had a “flavor” of both Buckeye Lake and Lake Erie influences.

Following dinner the “Gasoline Lubricators” were served in small “tanks” labeled “Gasoline – A Substitute for Beer for the Newark Trade.” I’m sure there was a good story behind that.

George H. Watkins
President, Ohio State Board of Public Works

Speeches by Commodore Lynch and others followed dinner. The keynote address was delivered by George Watkins, President of the State Board of Public Works, who spoke of improvements at Buckeye Lake – both those that had been completed and those contemplated for the future. He reported that boat registrations at the lake the previous season had brought in $6,000 which was to be used for maintenance and improvements at Buckeye Lake. His remarks were received with “almost irrepressible applause” and at its conclusion a “spontaneous, resounding, unanimous vote was taken to rename BLYC’s once watery home “Watkins Island” in honor of Mr. Watkins and all he had done to spearhead improvements at the lake.

A few weeks later, on April 8, 1909, the Directors of the Buckeye Lake Building Company, who held the lease on the island and owned the clubhouse, reaffirmed the vote of the membership and officially re-christened “Sunken Island” as “Watkins Island.” A resolution was drafted and sent to the State Board of Public Works notifying them of the change, acknowledging the contributions of Mr. Watkins, and detailing the efforts and accomplishments of the Club in improvements at the lake in encouragement of further efforts by the Board to do the same.

This month, on Monday, February 18th, Watkins Island will be officially 110 years old. Now, if we can just find the recipe for “Gasoline Lubricators,” we could properly celebrate this historic occasion!

An early BLYC event, this photo is believed to be from either the 1908 Tar Social in Newark or the 1910 Tar Social in Columbus