WILLIAM “Captain Bill” LEBER (6/11/29--)

Interviewed May 4, 2008

By John R. Shack


[To be linked to the Saugatuck Yacht Club file and to the Leber-Switzer file]


William “Bill” Leber (b. 6-11-29) was interviewed alone on May 4, 2008 for a focused look at his early experience with the Saugatuck Yacht Club.  Bill was about to turn 80 and had some memories of sailing on Lake Kalamazoo from 1941-46.   After college, the US Navy, marriage and starting his family, he was able to return here for summer stays.  His children and grandchildren have since benefited from the SYC sailing instruction program.


St. Louis was Bill’s primary place of residence through most of his life until he recently retired to the area.  His summers in Saugatuck were spent in such places as the Valentine Inn on Campbell St. and the Idylease Boarding House run by Cora Campbell of the Captain John Campbell family.  He also stayed in what was then called the Elkhorn Lodge on Lakeshore near Center, which is now the Joseph Bredeman home.


Bill recalls that the SYC sailboat fleet was moored near the present SYC site and was then the West Shore Marine facility, where the Singapore Condominiums now stand.   The SYC at that time was across Lake Kalamazoo in Saugatuck, at the foot of Butler Street on the water.  An old garage had been moved to this site by club members.   A “fashionable” screened-in porch was attached to allow family and friends to sit in the shade while watching the races held each Saturday and Sunday during the summer.  The racers would sail over to the start in front of the club house, a bell would be rung after all the competitors arrived and jockeyed for position to start the race around a triangular course.  The bell was again rung as each boat crossed the finish line.


The two boats used during that era were the 19’ round bilge Mower sloop and the 16’ Papoose.  19’ hard chine Lightings and 16’ Snipes slowly began replacing the Mower’s during time as they were faster, more stable and becoming nationally popular.  Bill crewed with his brothers on a Mower and recalls being beaten often by a team of girls.