Painted Lady

Shortly after acquiring BABY BOOTLEGGER, in 1976, I began wondering what happened to Caleb Bragg and his  scrapbooks, trophys and photos.  Somehow I got a copy of his obituary, which noted that he held over 150 automotive pattents, etc.  Also noted was that he died as a bachellor and was survived by his sister Mrs. Marion Aubert of Syosett, Long Island and Montauk, Long Island.  I knew that Bragg had a home at Montauk, so I contacted the Montauk Historical Society and learned that after living in her brothers home for some time, she had sold the property in the 1960′s and moved to Camelback Mountain outside Phoenix, Arizona.

I later checked probate records in Arizona and eventually found the lawyer who had handled her estate.   It turned out that her estate passed to her son, a Langdon Laws living in Coconut Grove, Florida. From information I got his phone number and was speaking to him in the flesh. The last living relative of Caleb S. Bragg.

I introduced myself and explained that I was keenly interested in Bragg and I asked Langdon what became of his uncle’s photos, trophies and scrapbooks. He and was told that he had them all.  He inquired why my interest in his “Uncle Caley” who had died so many years before.  I explained that I owned and was restoring one of Bragg’s old raceboats, BABY BOOTLEGGER.  Langdon said he had trophy’s and certificates which ‘Bootlegger has won in the 1920′s.

He then said that he too had owned a old race boat… “Well not much of a raceboat, but it held an obscure world’s record for a few weeks in 1936″    He explained that it was a 1936 Chris Craft racing runabout which had originally had a Lycoming racing engine, which blew up so many times that it could no longer be repaired and he repowered her with a 6 cylinder Chrysler after the war. In one of his first runs in the fall of 1946 he ran the boat into skim ice and almost sank her.  He barely got her into the chain hoist at a marina, as she sank in the slip.  She was lifted from the water but water had gotten into the engine, so he had the engine pulled out and Laws took it home to clean out. He tore the engine to bits to clean it out. Coated all the parts with grease, intending to put her back together when the marina had the hull repaired in the spring. …..

I asked what had become of the boat and he said he still had the boat. 30+ years had passed and the boat and motor had never been put back together!!   It was stored at Duso’ Marina at Saranac Lake New York, near his summer home at Lake Placid.  I said I would love to see the boat and mentioned that I often came over to Lake Placid for a Labor Day party. He asked “Who’s Party”  and when I said Jay Higgins, he said “I go to that party also” We had probably been introduced and I never knew that he was Caleb Bragg’s nephew or that I owned his uncles boat and that he had this old Chris Craft racer….  (To be continued)