Valmont David Kittle

Valmont David Kittle

by Thol Simonson

Having been asked by Hollywood Yacht Club for my knowledge of its beginnings the following will give some insight into the early history:

In 1928 I purchased a racing outboard from a newly formed boat company on the corner of Santa Monica Blvd, and Vine street in Hollywood. In order to make payments easier I accepted part-time work helping out in the shop. This newly formed company was called the Hollycraft boat company and built five different types of outboard cruising and racing hulls.

Valmount Von Kittlehoun, one of five brothers who owned one of the largest iron mines in the world, spent the dividends establishing a boat building and dealership throughout Southern California. Val was killed in an airplane accident while hunting ducks at the Willows in Northern California in 1947.

The boat company in 1931 moved to Cole Ave. opposite the Technicolor Plant in the old Creco Lamp Company Building, at which time they were turning out one boat a day. Many of the buyers would return on Friday evenings for impromptu get-togethers discussing boating in general.

In 1932 Val moved his boat company to larger headquarters in conjunction with the William Gregory Company under the Hyperion Bridge on Riverside Drive, and undertook a larger overall boating program. He designed the company’s first sail boat, to be called Hollycraft Sail Boat, and a new class was formed for active competitive racing. This boat was comparative to the Newport areas Snow Birds, which at this time was very popular.

Having, as I said, at one time worked for the company, I knew all the customers, workmen, and Val who I considered a personal friend, and as they continued their informal get-togethers from time to time, I was present when Val mentioned having become acquainted with Dudley Shummway of Los Angeles Recreation Department, and that it would be possible to take over the Cabrillo Beach Area where many of the Holly Class outboards and sail boats were used. The initial group developed the idea of going ahead with the plan to develop the Cabrillo Beach area for boating with the help of the city of Los Angeles and the use of a portion of its buildings situated at Cabrillo Beach.

This new yachting organization was to be known as the Hollywood Yacht Club. After much discussion and preparation as the Club was starting to gain momentum, the City of Los Angeles through the department of Recreation, felt that the name Hollywood Yacht Club too closely identified with the Hollycraft Boat Co. and the enterprise was too commercial.

At a meeting of the Club and the Los Angeles officials, the name was changed to the Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club, and as the Hollywood Yacht club had not as yet printed stationary or membership cards the first membership cards in the ex-Hollywood Yacht Club and now new Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club were issued in the fall of 1932. I have card #62 and as they were in alphabetical order we probably had 75-100 members in the club . The cards were signed by Commodore max Miller (California State Fire marshal and a racing owner of a Hollycraft boat), and Lillian Gregory, Secretary.

Due to the name change Val Kittle lost interest and became inactive, also many of the original members became disenchanted. However, some of the original members and the city of Los Angeles became the guiding light of this newly formed Club. The Hollycraft Company moved in 1934 to Pico Blvd. two blocks west of La Brea, and as many of their friends and customers now had larger boats, they discontinued building small outboards and went into racing inboards. They developed the first longitudinal bottom step and established a marine supply store.

In 1935 Hollycraft built for the first time, power boats 30 feet and larger. They also added inboard and outboard motors. Max Miller purchased one of the new 35 foot cruisers and it was at Val’s instigation the idea for a restart of the Hollywood Yacht Club as a large boat organization was formed.

Next to the boat company was the office of Dr. Archie Steele, M.D. who was the designer and builder of many famous sail boats, and who in 1937 was building at the rear of his office the famous “Stella Maris”, the first to finish Honolulu Race, and the first wishbone ketch rig. (We moved the raraton”, a 40’ motor boat I was building for myself, to make room)

Across the street at the Royal Shade Shop, Francis Moon Mullins was building his 38’ “Dick-A-Bob” and next to him the candy and nut store of Tom Campbell, a very active boating enthusiast also on Venice Blvd., in the same vicinity the Venice Boat shop owned by A. N. Carpenter were actively engaged in the boating field.

These men along with Val and Max, and Roy Worrell, were the nucleus of the founding of the second starting of the Hollywood Yacht Club.

Back in the early part of 1938 there was a nebulous idea on the fringe of the southern California yachting scene that graced itself with the name of “Hollywood Yacht club”. What records exist of the organization at that time show that there were no regular meetings…no treasury…no burgee… no Commodore. the club did have a Vice Commodore however… his name was Max Miller and with Val Kittle’s urging and with as much fanfare as possible, he called a “special meeting of the HYC.

Four old members and two new prospects responded… a turnout that was small in number, but big with enthusiasm and energy. Before that meeting was adjourned the club had inducted the two new members, Dr. A. A. Steele and Francis “Moon” Mullins… had elected a slate of officers that included everyone on the club’s roster… and made plans for an ambitious year of activity. The six men who “restarted” the club that was to make yachting history in the next few years were; Commodore Dr. A. A. Steele; Vice Commodore Max Miller; Rear Commodore Tom Campbel; Sec.-Treas. A. N. Carpenter; Port Capt’n Roy Worrell; fleet capt’n F. C. Mullins.

From the beginning the Hollywood Yacht Club sought to draw its membership from the vast number of boat owners who were not already a part of organized yachting… to keep both the power and sailboat men active, happy and away from each others’ throats… and to promote the interest and participation of the members’ wives in club events. Another departure from the usual yacht club activity was the establishment of brief, but valuable, educational classes in rules of the road, piloting, and sea-going safety precautions.

How quickly and successfully these plans were put into practice during the first year is shown by the fact that by-laws were drawn up and adopted before the end of February… club moorings were laid in fourth of July Cove at Catalina in April… in May the navigation lessons were begun and the club’s first competitive event, a dinghy race, was held at Catalina… July found a greatly enlarged club fleet cruising to Portuguese Bend for the first annual Treasure Hunt… in the fall, the Hollywood Yacht Club found it had a roster far larger than required and submitted its application for membership in the Southern California Yachting Association along with a proposed calendar of ten power and sail events for the 1939 season.

On February 3, 1939, the Hollywood Yacht Club was admitted to the SCYA… the youngster had come of age and was privileged to “spit to wind’ard” in any company. In that year the club’s sailing contingent fairly burst with pride as no less than two windjammers flew the HYC burgee in the great Honolulu Race from Treasure Island. They were Bill Merry’s “Viking child” and Commodore Steel’s famous wishbone ketch “Stella Maris II”… the boat that was a sure winner when a broken rudder ruined her chances.

Not to be outdone, the power cruiser skippers went out to make a name for the club too. HYC joined the American Power Boat Association in June of ‘39 and members Lynn McClintock, Ivan Wells and Don Allison celebrated by finishing 1-2-3 in class B of the predicted log race to the Coronado Yacht Club opening.

1939 also saw the establishment of the HYC 47-mile ocean race… an event that drew many of the west’s great windjammers before the war… the Old-timer’s race for sailboats build around 1910… the predicted log races for power cruisers to the Annual Treasure Hunt… and the informal Regatta for the smaller sailing classes. The promotion and staging of these events was a big job, but with an ever-expanding membership and a healthy bank account the club also managed to broaden the scope of the educational programs and the entertainment features of their meetings.

Further laurels came to HYC when in 1940 Don Allison won the King Brugman High Point Trophy for power cruisers and in 1941 staff Commodore Steele made his second attempt to win the Honolulu Race. first across the finish line, Stella Maris II was just nosed out on corrected time.

Today the membership consists primarily of cruisers, with predicted log races (Cruiser Navigation contests) of main interest. The HYC sponsored the annual Predicted Night Race to Avalon, on or near the fourth of July Cove, which was an invitational to all Yacht Clubs. The Ellwood Schultz Trophy was presented. In 1954 the King Brugman High Point Trophy went to Dr. Ellwood Shultz, and in 1955 to Carl Moore, both prominent HYC members. In fact, in the 1955 Midwinter Regatta seven out of twenty boats entered were flying the HYC Burgee.

One of the Club’s more spectacular events has been the annual Pirate’s Cruise to Catalina, with the members dressing like pirates and flying the Jolly Roger flag, where there was a treasure hunt, complete with maps and a worthwhile treasure. A predicted log race was also held with this cruise.

Cruiser Navigation contests sanctioned by the Southern California Cruiser Association (SCCA) have produced a number of HYC participants and significant trophy winners. the Hollywood sponsored Schultz Perpetual Trophy contest moved from a night race to Two harbors to become the Easter Catalina, finishing at Avalon, Catalina. The Shultz-Easter Catalina contest is now one of the high participation contests. with the introduction of the impressive Thol Simonson Perpetual Trophy for the Yacht Club scoring the most points in yearly competition, it was only fitting that the Hollywood Yacht Club was the proud recipient of this award in both 1991 and 1992. Hollywood members have consistently placed in the SCCA Brugman and Top-Ten awards. New Racers have been encouraged to participate in cruiser navigation contests and have taken first-year awards in addition to placing well in the individual events.

We intend to continue recording the history of the Hollywood Yacht club from all years up to the present time. Please research your memorabilia and send information, pictures, records, etc. to:

Nan Tracy
8010-A Sevan Ct.
San Diego, CA 92123

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