Harry Woods Remembered
The late Harry Woods is one of those individuals that I wish I could have known better.
His friend Mike Fitzsimmons penned a fine eulogy to Harry at the time of his death. As Mike pointed out, "It was a good feeling, knowing that Harry was there and in charge of things."
Woods first involved himself with boat racing in the 1920s as an outboard competitor. His wife Lucile was his crew chief. Safety equipment and standards left a lot to be desired in those days. Harry once told me that he stopped driving and started officiating when he saw so many of his fellow drivers losing arms and legs as a result of accidents.
Harry and Lucile officiated at countless Limited races over the years. From the 1930s to the 1970s, there was hardly a race of consequence in the Pacific Northwest where Mr. and Mrs. Woods were not present and actively involved.
When the Unlimited hydroplanes came to Seattle for the first time in 1951, the Spokane-based Harry and Lucile were asked to lend a hand.
Harry worked at the grassroots level on a number of Unlimited race committees in the 1950s and '60s. These included Chelan, Washington, and Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
At the West Coast Unlimited races in the 1960s and '70s, Harry served as Assistant Referee to Chief Referee Bill Newton, who was a very good friend of Harry's. When an airline strike prevented Newton from attending the 1966 Coeur d' Alene Diamond Cup, Woods replaced him.
As Assistant Referee, one of Harry's responsibilities was the qualification of rookie drivers. Woods was a straight shooter. He went by the book. With Harry, you didn't lie and you didn't hedge.
You'd better know the answer or tell him that you didn't.
One (unnamed) rookie tried to put one over on Harry. He rattled off an impressive list of Limited boats that he had supposedly driven. Woods was not impressed: "Look, bub. I know who the guys were that drove those boats. And I've never seen you before!"
Harry Woods's most legendary accomplishment was when he almost single-handedly "saved" the 1965 Ogden, Utah, race.
The Ogden race was promoted by a man out of Detroit named Erv Steiner. This was a new and inexperienced committee. Steiner hadn't followed through and had left this group of beginners to their own devices.
When the Unlimited hydros arrived in town in August of 1965, nothing was ready! The fledgling committee had installed a Public Address system and published a program book. The pits were not ready. The judges stand was not ready. Nothing was ready!
Harry sized up the situation and immediately took charge. It was a frantic race against time. In the space of 72 hours, everything was in order. The Utah Cup race was run as scheduled. And the sport breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Harry Woods left this life over 25 years ago. But he is fondly remembered as one of the sport's hardest and most conscientious workers.