Marin Faure wrote:Shing---
The photo you posted of John prompts a question I have wondered about from time to time. The early wood GB36s had a step-down or lowered aft deck, somewhat similar to what was done on the GB32. I don't know if this was feature of all the eary GB36s or was an option,
And one other question, sorry..... Why were the Newtons in Hong Kong to begin with and
what prompted them to begin building boats there?
I think I can answer the 2nd and 3rd questions better than the 1st one.
Regarding the step-down aft deck, I always thought the step-down aft deck was an option. I seem to recall a conversation I had with the former owner of my friend's 1968 Grand Banks 36 and he may have told me that his father ordered the boat with a step-down aft deck. He wanted a safer platform when he fished in open water. However, I cannot be certain of that.
> One of the features we really like on the original GB46 Classics is that
> step-down aft deck, which makes it much easier to get to and from the
> deck from the swim step via the transom door.
This is definitely not the case for my friend's 1968 Grand Banks 36. It does not have a transom door so the step-down aft deck actually makes it harder to get to the swim platform. It also makes it a bit "hazardous" to exit the aft cabin via the aft cabin door because it is a big step down into the step-down aft deck.
As for why the Newtons were in Hong Kong, the short answer: Robert Newton was an adventurist, or as Marcia Newton likes to put it adoringly: "Whit's father was a crazy American"
The long answer involves one big name company, another company that no longer exists, a World War, ... and fate
I think Robert Newton was born and raised in Oregon. When he was a young man, he got an overseas job working for Del Monte in the Philippines. On the eve of World War 2, Robert Newton either got relocated or promoted back to Del Monte's Honolulu (Hawaii) operation.
Here is a quick side story ... when Robert Newton was in Honolulu, the island was filled with sailors and marines getting ready to be shipped to the war in the Pacific. Robert Newton saw an opportunity and started a side business selling cheap gin to the young GIs. He named his gin "The Five Islands Gin" but for the sailors and marines, it was remembered fondly as "The Five Ulcers Gin"
Whit still has an original bottle of this famous gin in his living room and will proudly show it to you if you ask
That story pretty much covered Robert Newton's "great contribution" to the war effort
After World War 2, Robert Newton's friends told him about all these great business opportunities in Manila. So he went back to the Philippines and Robert became the first American to move into the historic Manila Hotel after the war. He applied his American ingenuity to fix the hotel up. In appreciation of his efforts, they raised his rent. After all, it was now a nicer place.
In any case, Robert Newton did become prosperous in the import export business and his family settled down into a nice "mansion" in Manila. If Robert Newton was an ordinary man who liked to settle down, that probably would be the end of the story and the world would never see a Grand Banks.
Robert Newton, however, was no ordinary man (I remember my family still talked about him with the utmost respect as the elder Newton long after he had retired and moved back to the U.S.). While in Manila, he heard that this upstart soft drink company named Bireley's was looking for someone to start a franchise on the Island of Guam. So goodbye to their beautiful house in Manila and hello to this little hut in Guam ... his wife must have really "loved" him for this
Robert Newton must have done well in Guam because a few years later, he was offered a better franchise in Hong Kong to sell sugar water to millions of Chinese.
Hong Kong at that time was a British colony. Some Brits, definitely not all, had this arrogant attitude toward the Chinese and therefore were not loved by the locals. The Newtons, on the other hand, were different. First of all, they were not British (which was a good start at that time), Whit and John literally lived among the Chinese in their farm house, Marcia Newton even volunteered at a homeless shelter at the poorest part of the city, and Whit eventually learned enough Chinese that the locals knew they could not say bad things in Chinese in his presence
I think the Chinese respected that.
Of course, some of the Brits' (I emphasize NOT all Brits were like that: my father did have some very nice British friends) arrogant attitude was not just toward the local Chinese. For instance, I was told that the Hong Kong Yacht Club, sorry correction, the ROYAL Hong Kong Yacht Club would not even allow women into their club house back then. Deidre (John's wife) and Marcia had their last laugh though. John and Whit Newton, who grew up in Hawaii and Guam, were expert sailors. Deidre and Marcia, sailing frequently with their husbands, had become quite good also. So when they entered the regatta sponsored by the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, guess who won
I bet those sailors from the "Royal Navy" didn't feel too good when they were beaten by an American boat with "girls" trimming the sails
Score one for American women
Sorry, I better stop telling stories and answer Marin's last question:
> and what prompted them to begin building boats there?
In the book "Black Swan," the author pointed out that history is written AFTER the facts and the writers (usually the victors) have a tendency to portray the facts in a way that fits the grandeur of their narrative. If I were a professional history writer employed by American Marine to glorify this part of the company history, I would say:
"Our company founder, Robert Newton, had the vision to see that the world was longing for a well built boat. In response to his vision, he decided he would rather start a company to change the world than spend the rest of his life selling sugar water."
Despite how good that may sound, that just was not the case. Robert Newton started building boats because ... his friend in Hawaii wanted a boat to be built. Robert Newton just happened to have this empty parking lot at his Bireley's bottling plant so he decided to build the boat for his friend. Since Robert Newton did not have that much experience building boats, he had to hire some help. Fortunately for my family, my father, who had just graduated from a naval architecture program at a night school (this school was so good that it later evolved into the Hong Kong Polytechnic University), was hired as his first and only engineer for the project. Truth be told, my father probably did not have that much experience building boats at that time either.
I guess one thing you can say about great men like Robert Newton and my father is that these people are not afraid they might fail at anything. They take chances, they don't wait for things to happen. Want to start a business in the war torn Philippines? That sounds like a great opportunity
Want to start a soft drink franchise in Guam? Sure, why not. Want to build a boat? Yeh, we can do that. It cannot be that hard ... and the rest is history
In case you wonder what Whit and Marcia Newton look like today, attached is a picture of them at the site (or near the site) of the 100-year old farm house they used to live. The farm house is long gone.
If and when you run into Whit and Marcia at your next Grand Banks gathering, say hi to them. They are nice people with great tales to tell. Just don't ask Whit if he ever worked for the Livingstons. I am sure Whit wouldn't mind. I guess we Grand Banks owners just don't want Whit to think of us as poor students of history
I am always amazed by how history is shaped by small random events. I guess we just have to be thankful when things turn out nicely in this totally random world. Well on that note, this will be a good place for me to stop and wish everybody a Happy Thanksgiving
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