By RAY THOMAS
Go down to Quincy's waterfront and you will see the historic North Side Boat Club. Walk up close to the sign in front and it may be a surprise to see that the club's logo is a pair of oars.
And further down Front Street at the South Side Boat Club resides a collection of photographs and trophies documenting the glory this part of Quincy's waterfront produced, fame that was not powered by motors but by strong backs and oars.
From the 1890s to the 1940s, Quincy was a regional rowing powerhouse. Workers in Quincy's manufacturing and construction industries gathered after the workday ended to take their racing shells containing anywhere from one to eight rowers -- referred to as singles, double/pairs, fours and eights -- onto the Mississippi River and Quincy Bay to practice and compete.
The protected bay waters and riverfront provided a good straight stretch of water and enough shoreline (along what was then called Edgewater Park) for 5,000 Quincyans to turn out in July 1910 to watch and cheer on their favorites. Even the Quincy Naval Reserve entered their cutter and whale boat into the races.
Historian Carl Landrum noted in The Quincy Herald-Whig that the South Side Boat Club was founded in 1886 and the North Side Boat Club in 1894. The original South Side Boat Club was organized in a cooper (barrel) shop
Longtime South Side members Allie Lymenstull, 88, and Herb Gustafson, 89, recall they were the youngsters when older club members brewed beer for club dances and used nickel and dime slots to raise travel money to attend regattas.
The numerous trophies on display at the South Side Boat Club attest to the fact that the distance from other rowing venues was no problem; club boats (more than 60 feet long for a racing "eight") were loaded onto train cars on the tracks next to Front Street and hauled to races in St. Louis, Peoria, Detroit, and Chicago on a regular basis.
Quincy rowers even won the national championship in an "eight" in Philadelphia in 1904.
Quincy's rowing culture ended after World War II, when soldiers returning home were preoccupied with the needs of new families and the dream of home ownership. [Herald-Whig 9/17/11]