Art Curow grew up on Lakeshore Drive.

Art belonged to the Lakeside Sea Scouts shown with their old 27' Coast Guard Surfboat.

Ginman Boat CoBert Ginman taking a break at his Lakeshore Drive one man business. Courtsy-Ginman Family

surf boat1930 Surfboat Coast Guard 28'. Photo by Art Currow 2012.

1935 Chris Craft 27' photo by Art Currow 2012.

Art Currow in his garage workshop in 2012. Photo by Stan J. Woodard

Boat HouseBoat House View by Art Currow 2012

In Port With Art Curow

North Muskegon – Art Curow leads a most authentic life. He will be 71 this coming January and he’s still doing what he has done most of his life and that is being in and around boats and waterways. Art grew up in Muskegon on the south side of Muskegon Lake. His father who Art is named for was a toolmaker for American Coil Spring Company. Art’s mom Lillian was always busy raising their kids in Lakeside.


   Our featured subject went to the Muskegon Public Schools and one day he found an 8-foot dingy along the Muskegon Lake shoreline. It was in desperate need of attention and repairs. This small craft would be the first boat restored by our subject. If you enjoy fishing and Art did and does, you often need a way to get to where the fish call home and more times than not, you get to the prizes by boat, and you learn this by doing at a young age. Art spent some of his teen years learning more with the Lakeside Sea Scouts of whom he belonged.


   While still a kid, the family moved from 1964 Miner Avenue to a home with history, which overlooked the lake. It was one big place. There is a lesson here – a house can’t buy a piano factory but a piano factory can build a home, and in this case more than one. Milo Chase founded his musical company in Ripley, Ohio in 1863, then moved it to Richmond, Indiana in 1877. From there he pulled into Grand Rapids in 1894, then son Leon came to Muskegon in 1889 to start a branch store. In 1890, the senior Chase and the other two sons, Bratan and Clarence built the Chase Brothers Piano Company on now Lakeshore Drive. A large family home was erected overlooking the facility. There was also a large horse barn that was moved twice and the last time right next to the main Chase residence. This horse barn was then converted into a home by one of the Chase sons in 1896.


    Mr. Curow purchased the place from the grocer Bergland who had bought it in 1919 for $3,400.00. Somewhere in time there had been a devastating fire, mostly on the upper left side of the house. It is here that restorations of an electrical nature were learned by Art who worked painstakingly with his father to replace the pull chains with then contemporary wiring and also to toss out the destroyed wallpaper, some of which was still hanging high in the air in the chandeliers. The Chase Brothers – then Chase-Hackley Piano Company had long since ceased operations back in 1929.


    Not far from Art’s 2235 Lakeshore Drive address was a little place on the lake called Smith’s Diggings. Harold Smith was the owner and he also was the sole proprietor of Tri-Cities Beverage Corporation at 476 W. Sherman in Muskegon Heights. He distributed Schlitz beer, Bosch beer, Champagne Velvet and other beverages.


    One guy who docked his 36-foot Chris Craft Correct Craft boat there and was once owned by Continental Motors Corporation was Marty Fielstra. He owned Marty’s Tap Room, now called the Marine Tap Room, again in the heart of Lakeside. Art restored this boat at a tender age to the satisfied minds of admiring onlookers plus Marty and Elsie Fielstra.


   Some time passed and Smith’s Diggings became Balcom Marine then Art joined the Navy in 1959. His military occupational specialty (MOS) was as a boat cockswain and he ran a 36-foot LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel Carrier) and then a 58-foot LCM (Landing Craft & Mechanics) boat. Prior to his discharge in 1963 Art covered a lot of water in the Far East and this included exotic and historic locales like Hong Kong, Midway, Guam, the Philippines, Christmas Island near Australia and a venue called Pearl Harbor.


   Upon his discharge Art returned to Muskegon and married Oklahoma born Judy Countiss on April 18, 1964. For his paying career Art became a professional residence and commercial painter. Along the journey the couple were the proud parents of Art III and Anna. Eventually Art’s mom sold their large Lakeshore Drive home to Peter & Mary Oakes and Art & Judy bought a house on Mills Avenue in North Muskegon.


   The Bear Lake Channel on the north side of Muskegon Lake would become a home away from home for Art, as the kids grew up and Art got close to his passion again, which he really never had lost during his other working years with paint.


    Pointe Marine at the Bear Lake Channel also has a history of its own. Way back when Anita Asmussen’s father had owned almost all of what Doctor Jackson didn’t Mr. Asmussen sold his hunk for $400.00 to buy his wife a fur coat. Charles Cihak was the new owner and the rest is history. John “String” Andree’s buildings and docks escaped the carnage near and at Pointe Marine.


   At Pointe Marine Art hooked up with Shaw Walker who was the son of L. C. Walker who founded the Shaw-Walker Company in this city. Upon the senior Walker’s passing, Shaw continued to run the privately owned firm and continued to acquire more watercraft. Since the 1980’s to this date Art Curow has been pretty much the caretaker and a lot more for these boats and others. When Shaw Walker died a few years ago, Mark Moulton bought the boats and the boathouse at the channel.


   An inventory of these boats includes a 1930 28-foot U.S. Coast Guard lifeboat, a 1929 Hacker Triple cockpit 30-footer (Hull #26), a 1935 Chris Craft 27-foot triple cockpit with the original engine that was once owned by Sealed Power and also an American Coil Spring executive is still appropriately named the ‘Springtime,’ an 1895 Trusket that awaits Art’s restoration and we know that’ll work out well because Art has already done a complete restoration for an identical 16-footer that a Muskegon dentist Ray Hilt bought over two decades ago in Hessel, and there is the Mary T., which is a 1949 Chris Craft Speedster which awaits a shiny rebuilt blue engine completed “out of house.” There’s also a 1954 18-foot lapstreak Lyman Islander and one more 16-foot “clinker” Ginman Boat Company rowboat from the mid-1920’s. Art purchased one just like it from Bert Ginman’s (1877-1960) great granddaughter Julie not long ago and it’s currently in his garage at his home at this printing. It is now 95% restored awaiting several more coats of vanish and some more paint.


   Two more “clinkers” from the historic Ginman Boat Company (1913-1960) were restored and donated by Art to the Milwaukee Clipper Heritage Association, for perpetuity.


   Lest we forget, Doctor Moulton also has two 1920’s-1940’s era duckboats that are once again in mint shape thanks to Art. We may have left out a boat or two for his article but you get the idea of this gathering of watercraft.


   Art’s son is now 46, his daughter is 42 but sadly his wife Judy passed away six years ago after 42 years of marriage.


   An old boat could not have a better friend, in any season, in any year. Art Curow’s understated and multi-faceted talents culminating in perfection are worth much more than a second look. In Art’s words we close our feature for this month – “Being on the water, anything that floats, that’s my passion. . . . .”