My idea of a boat is a kayak, so that is the boat I own.
As I tool around Huntington Harbour during spring and summer, I still marvel at the many yachts that dwarf my blue plastic Ocean Kayak, so I was pleased to accept an invitation to ride in the parade of boats that opened the 46th season at the Huntington Harbor Yacht Club.
I had recently spoken to the Sea Belles, a women's group at the club, about local history. Afterward, club member Mim Strickler generously invited my wife and I to join her on the Coral Queen, owned by Frank and Virginia Buccella. And so off we went last Sunday.
Despite the overcast skies, there was great pageantry in the air as the yachts lined up to be saluted by commodores past and present before the dozens of crafts wove in and out the harbor channels to cheers and waves of residents on the shore. Seeing the many kayaks in the water, this perspective felt a bit odd for me. I belonged down there! But we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
The food and drink was wonderful, but it was the company that made the day.
One man in particular I had a long conversation with as we cruised around before heading to the club for the ceremonies was Richard Zamboni. And if the last name sounds familiar, yes, it was Richard's dad, Frank, who actually invented the Zamboni — you know, the machine that resurfaces ice-skating rinks.
As I learned, the family history is fascinating. Some background: Frank Zamboni and his brother built an ice rink (after being in the refrigeration/ice business), which opened in Paramount in 1940. Frank found that the process of ice resurfacing was labor intensive, and so he began to experiment with various prototypes until the Zamboni Model A ice resurfacer was able to produce a good sheet of ice in the summer of 1949.
After inventing the world's first self-propelled ice resurfacing machine, Zamboni wanted to name his company the Paramount Engineering Company, as he helped to form the city of Paramount (by bringing together the cities of Hynes and Clearwater) in the late 1940s. However, the name Paramount Engineering was already in use, so he used his family name.
Richard told me all kinds of marvelous stories about what it was like to help build the brand name that has come to define the category. He told of how he got to know the famed skater Sonja Henning when she purchased a Zamboni for a rink she owned. As well, how they came to meet the legendary cartoonist Charles M. Schulz. See, Schulz actually owned an ice skating rink in Santa Rosa, where he lived. And he not only purchased a Zamboni, but in more than 40 Peanuts comic strips, he actually referenced the iconic ice cleaning machine.
Richard and his wife Alice's children help run the family company today, and the business has never been stronger. Also, the ice-skating rink that Richard's dad opened is still in business and, if you visit, you can even see the very first Zamboni machine.
Some Zamboni trivia:
•Twenty Zamboni machines were on hand to resurface the various ice sheets during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Fifteen machines (all electric, Model 552 resurfacers) were used in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.
•Frank Zamboni's first patent (1,655,034) was for an adjustable electrical resister, which was awarded Jan. 3, 1928.
•Machine No. 4 is in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth, Minn., and machine No. 21 (originally sold to the Boston Bruins in 1954) is presently at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
•In 2000, the Zamboni machine was immortalized as an authentic Monopoly board game token in the NHL version of the game.
Thank you again to Mim Strickler and the Buccellas for having us aboard.
The deadline for the annual In The Pipeline Student Writing Competition is Friday. If you're a high school student who lives in Huntington Beach or Fountain Valley and you'd like to participate, here's the assignment: In 600 words or less, write a story that reveals something unique and original about a person, place or thing in the city where you live.
Photographs are fine but not mandatory. What is important is telling a good story that will leave the reader feeling better for having experienced it. Email entries directly to me Chris@ChrisEpting.com. Your work will be published here in the paper, I will sign one of my books for you, and you and a guest will be invited to the ever-amazing Taste of Huntington Beach food festival on April 28.
Here's an update on the Air Quality Management District's proposed ban on beach bonfires throughout Southern California:
The final meeting to decide the fate of this draconian ban will now be at 9 a.m. June 7 at the AQMD offices in Diamond Bar. We are planning to have many people out there to speak their mind, so I hope you can attend.
In the meantime, it is important that those of us opposed to the ban keep up the pressure by emailing the board members with our thoughts on the matter. You can contact the AQMD directly via email. Find the email addresses here.
A source at the last meeting told me that they are really feeling the pressure from we, the people, and they are not happy about it. All the more reason to keep it up and let them know how we feel. This column will remain dedicated to providing up-to-date information on this issue — which is less about fire rings and more about preventing this sort of government overreach in the absence of any real, specific science as it applies to our city — and the process, which has all but excluded any real public involvement or transparency.
That said, we noticed that the AQMD did in fact post some monitoring devices to try and back into some science that supports their claims. Where? Right next to the AES power plant — where 60,000 cars a day pass along Pacific Coast Highway. Coincidence?
CHRIS EPTING is the author of 19 books, including the new "Baseball in Orange County," from Arcadia Publishing. You can chat with him on Twitter @chrisepting or follow his column at http://www.hbindependent.com/opinion/epting.