After sitting outside for many years in Buckman, the boat gets a face lift
By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
A past resident of Little Rock, near Buckman, now has the boat his stepfather put together from scrapped material in the 1960s while working at Crestliner. The prototype was created by Boeing Aircraft Company, but never manufactured.
Today, David Czech, who now lives in Fairbanks, Alaska, has refurbished the boat and it looks brand new.
Czech’s stepfather, Max Muehlbauer, now deceased, worked at Crestliner Boats in Little Falls for more than three decades, beginning in 1956. He was a tool and die man repairing machines by making the necessary parts as well as making parts for boats.
Czech said he learned from talking to old-timers who remembered his stepfather that Muehlbauer could create a boat from engineer’s designs that came to him on napkins or a piece of cardboard. He was that good.
“But he was also humble, I was told. He was happy to design the boats that others, higher up, got credit for,” said Czech.
While college-educated engineers received the credit for the boat designs, Muehlbauer, a blacksmith before he went to work at Crestliner, was the one who designed the parts and the machines to make those parts.
“I learned there wasn’t a part he couldn’t fix or a boat he couldn’t make. Everyone has told me he was a tremendous asset to the business,” said Czech.
One of the trademark designs of Crestliner is the ship-lap design on the sides of the boat, similar to siding on a home.
“Dad designed the machine which created that process for Crestliner,” said Czech.
Muehlbauer and his wife Jenny loved to fish. They spent many happy hours on Platte and Sullivan lakes with their boys.
Working at Crestliner, Muehlbauer was able to bring home scrapped materials, rejects or pieces with flaws. From those pieces, he would create boats for himself and Jenny to use.
“Dad and us boys would work for hours in the shop where we lived in Little Rock, making a boat. He would use it for several years, then sell it. Then he’d make another,” said Czech.
Crestliner had the Boeing Company in Washington stamp the two halves of the boat because Crestliner did not have the machinery to do such a large piece, said Czech. This was to be the first welded hull put out by Crestliner.
“Dad told me those two parts sat around the plant for two years, getting in the way,” said Czech. “He said that Crestliner just never got around to making a large enough welding machine.”
When Crestliner decided to scrap the two halves of its prototype boat, Muehlbauer asked if he could take them home. He did. That was in about 1963.
The boat was riveted together instead of the original intention of welding. Muehlbauer created the transom and seats to complete the boat.
That boat became the family’s fishing boat and is still in the family.
Muehlbauer retired in 1989, and due to declining health, his trips to the lakes with his Crestliner grew further and further apart.
Czech, moved to Alaska in 1972 with his wife, Lilly Rose (Walcheski) from Foley, after he returned from Vietnam. When visiting his parents in 2007, his stepfather gave him the boat as a gift.
“I had such fond memories of that boat and offered to buy it, but dad told me it was mine,” said Czech. “I got the boat back to Alaska, and with my boys, Josiah and Joshua, refurbished it.”
Because the boat had spent many years in the elements, the Alaska family had to replace the plywood floor, sand and scrape the aluminum exterior, then repaint it. They also refurbished the trailer that Muhlbauer had originally made.
“I named it ‘Little Rocky,’ because it came from Little Rock,” said Czech. The boat made its maiden Alaskan voyage on Birch Lake near Faribanks in August 2013.
Czech is now retired from the construction business and fishes as often as he can in the boat he remembers as a teen.
“This boat is something I will pass onto my sons or my daughter, Sarah,” he said. “It’s full of good memories, helped along by a gifted man who put Crestliner ‘on the map. She is running good, Dad, because she is a Crestliner and that makes it part of you. Thanks, dad.”
Max Muehlbauer passed away at age 85 in March 2013. Jenny, 84, passed away Sunday, April 20, and was laid to rest in Buckman, next to her fishing partner and loving husband.