And Now You KnowOrange Annual Boat and Water Show – the Granddaddy of today’s races

Published 3:00 pm Monday, May 27, 2019

By Mike Louivere

When races on the Sabine River started about 10 years ago, it brought back a lot of memories of races on the Sabine in prior decades. There was a time when there were no empty parking spaces in downtown Orange, the Jack Tar Orange House would be filled, and people would be sitting on the railroad trestle that followed the west bank of the River. All those people would be in town for the water show, races, and the beauty contest.

In May 1959, the Seventh Annual Orange Boat and Water Show hosted the running of races sanctioned by the Lone Star Boat Racing Association.

This race brought hydroplanes to the boat show for the first time. The race would be held in the river across from the Jack Tar hotel. The starting of the race would be held at the foot of Third Street and Front Street.


1959 was the return of LSBRA races to Orange after nearly a decade. It had been five years since the Orange Boat Club had included any type of boat races in the show agenda.

The last race, held in 1954, was a fishing boat type race that was a marathon run from downtown Orange to Beaumont and back.

In addition to the hydroplane race, there would be 16 heats of all classes of boats with stock motors.

The top attraction hydroplane race would be boats that would reach 65 miles per hour. The hydroplanes racing in Orange sounded like a swarm of angry bees. The plywood hulls of the boats would be “slapping” the water as they bounced up and down rather than running smoothly like today’s racing boats.

Randy Strong/The Orange Leader 2019-NOW

After the races, at about 4:30 p.m., would be a special water ski exhibition.

At 5:30 p.m. there was a drawing for the three prizes the boat club was giving at this show. The first prize would be a completely equipped 16-foot cabin cruiser. The other two prizes were a kitchen set and an outboard motor.

The boat show had a carnival type start. A boat parade kicked off the festivities, then there was the opening of a massive display of sporting goods and boat equipment at the corner of Fifth and Division Streets.

There was a contest with three out of town judges to crown Miss Water Sport. Miss Diana Ketchell was picked as the winner from a field of 16 of “Orange County’s Most Shapely Young Girls”.

Miss Water Sport 1959. Miss Diana Ketchell

Miss Ketchell received several gift certificates plus a handsome trophy. Winning this title made her eligible to compete in the Miss Splash Day Beauty Contest in Galveston the following year.

Miss Penny Corley and Miss Mary Ford were the runners up and received gift certificates.

All the entries in the beauty contest were given gift certificates by the boat club.

The out of town judges were R.T. Wellons and Tom Beard of Beaumont and Joe Swink of Port Arthur.

Three officers of the U.S. Navy stationed in Orange, Capt. R. R. Sauage, Lt. Cmdr. J.B. Landtrop, and Lt. (jg) O.W. Olszewski, served as judges of the three best-decorated boats in the boat parade.

The first place best-decorated boat was won by the Aqua Demons and Debs, the famed Orange ski club. Their prize was a picnic kit donated by the Goodyear Service Store.

Norwood Coleman and Bob Wing were picked for second and third place best-decorated boats. They were each given a case of outboard motor oil.

James Force, Commandant of the Orange Boat Club, stressed that entry to all events was free. Force invited the public to a special open house at the boat club headquarters on Adams Bayou and DuPont Drive. He said refreshments would be served.

“And now you know.”