Tucked into one of the slips on Dock 6 at Portman Marina is a boat that is as old as Hartwell Lake itself.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the creation of Hartwell Lake this year, and Glenn Parks Warnock is also celebrating the same anniversary of the completion of his father’s dream — the Mar-Be-Gln.
The Mar-Be-Gln is a cabin cruiser that took Glenn’s father, Glenn Phines Warnock, across the water for the first time on the newly-created Hartwell Lake, on May 17, 1963.
A black-and-white, glossy 8-by-10 photograph kept by Warnock’s only son, also named Glenn, shows Warnock leaning over the side of the boat as his wife, Bette, and his daughter, Marcia, celebrate the momentous launch.
After all, it had been more than six years in the making.
“Dad would come home from work for his lunch break, and he would do something on the boat,” his son said. “Every day, he would make some sort of progress on it. He just plugged along and it magically grew.”
The boat was a project that the man, who was raised on the Ohio River in Kentucky, had dreamed of for a while. When he finished building his family’s house on Broadway Lake, the Mar-Be-Gln was his next project.
At the time, Hartwell Lake did not exist.
Glenn Warnock’s goal was to build the boat and then pull it to Savannah, Ga., where he would launch it upon the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway. The ultimate destination that he had in mind, his son said, was Bimini Island in the Bahamas, his son said.
Buying a boat outright was not an option, because that required a larger sum of cash up front, all at one time. By building one, he could pay for the boat a bit at a time.
“We have no way of knowing how Mar-Be-Gln cost to build because Poppa scrounged so much of the materials to build her and he kept no documentation,” his daughter, Marcia, in a story she wrote about the boat.
And he could enlist help. Besides, he had some experience in building, mechanics and electrical work. He worked for Bell Laboratories in the 1940s, and ended up installing and maintaining radar equipment on U.S. Navy ships in the South Pacific during World War II.
“In his youth, Poppa and his older brother built an airplane,” Marcia added. “The plane flew briefly and no one was seriously injured.”
So building a boat was just a new challenge but not an insurmountable one.
He started the boat’s construction in 1957 after he obtained architectural drawings for the boat he wanted from A.M. Deering and Son, a naval architectural firm in Chicago. His son was 6 years old and his daughter, Marcia, was 8 years old.
Marcia became the one who would get coffee for him when he ran low. His son was the one who cut all of the bolts for the boat, mixed the glue they needed and worked on any other task that his father felt he was old enough to handle. His wife, Bette, would make all the curtains and linens for the cabin cruiser that as a table, a sink, a bathroom and a small bed in the cabin at the boat’s bow.
“This was a family affair,” Glenn said. That is why the boat’s name is a combination of all of their names “Mar” for Marcia, “Be” for Bette and “Gln” for the father and his son, who were both named Glenn.
After the war, and a short time in New York, Glenn and his war bride, a model from Australia, moved to Anderson County. He went to work as the general manager for Wilton E. Hall, who owned the Anderson Daily Mail, the Anderson Independent, a local radio station and a television station. From 1948 until 1974, he worked for Hall, Glenn said.
In his off-time, he was rounding up parts for the boat. He kept old cigarette lighters from his cars at trade-in time, the boat’s instrument panel was salvaged from a brass kick plate off a restaurant door and the boat’s engine was from a 1956 Oldsmobile. He even had to rent the Anderson Recreation Center for one weekend so he could have enough room to work on part of the boat.
Most of the time, it was assembled piece-by-piece in the driveway of the Broadway Lake home he built.
“Construction went on so long that the boat had to be treated for termites and the topsides had to be refinished twice,” Marcia wrote in her story. “Poppa almost lost the boat one time, before it was even finished.”
A neighborhood kid set the corner of the boat’s canvass cover on fire. A passing motorist who saw the blaze, quickly put out the fire, saving the vessel.
None of that mattered in the end.
In 1963, the Mar-Be-Gln had her maiden voyage on Hartwell Lake. Nearly every weekend after that, the Warnock family could be found on the lake.
“Portman Marina had one dock at the time,” Glenn said. “It had four boats in it, and this boat was one of them.
Since then, this boat has never left this lake.”
Curtains have been replaced over the years, and some maintenance has been done on the boat’s mechanics. . It’s mahogany cabinets and woodworking still glisten from the varnish and its cabin still boasts a cozy spot for playing cards or resting a while. But the teak wood along the side deck and forward deck is still in pristine condition. All of those electric cigarette lighters, all six of them, are still on the boat as well and its electrical work is still original.
Bette Warnock died in 1964 after a sudden case of pneumonia, and her husband died in 1974, leaving his beloved Mar-Be-Gln to his son.
That boat is now largely to blame for Glenn, a 13-year veteran with the Anderson City Fire Department, being such fixture on Hartwell Lake.
“I was out here nearly every weekend after dad finished her,” Glenn said, sitting on the deck of the Mar-Be-Gln. “I grew up out here. Now, when I am not firefighting, I’m repairing boats. I love it.”
And it is Glenn who has kept his father’s dream afloat. Without any children or grandchildren to pass the vessel on to, however, Glenn said that the story of the Mar-Be-Gln likely will end with him.
courtesy Anderson Independent-Mail