Record-breaking couple featured in speed boat racing docudrama
The first husband wife team of record-breaking speed boaters is back to charm Canada.
Harold and Lorna Wilson fell into the public eye in 1934 when they became the first husband wife speed boat racing team, becoming the first world champions for any motor sport in Canada that year.
They went on to win three world championships, set two speed records, and take Canada to the forefront of international powerboat racing. Lorna’s involvement also broke down barriers as to what women could do.
The media didn’t know what to do with her, said Harry Wilson, the youngest son of Harold and Lorna.
On Wednesday night, Aug. 22, the Gravenhurst Opera House premiered the film Harold and Lorna, World Water Speed Champions to a full invitation-only audience of friends, family and those involved in the film.
Harry works in theatre and is the president of Muskoka Film Works, but said he never thought of writing about his own parents.
“I know a pretty good story when I see one, and I didn’t see it,” he said.
Even when he was presented with the idea it took him some time to embrace it.
“Nobody makes a film about somebody else’s parents,” he said.
He became involved, and three years later the film emerged. The famous Miss Canada IV was taken out of the Ingersoll Cheese & Agricultural Museum where it was on display and is being restored here in Muskoka.
Ernie Wilson, Harold and Lorna’s oldest son, remembers riding in Miss Canada IV.
“It was fast. It was noisy. It was hot,” he said. “Everything was a blur except what’s right in front of you.”
As a nine-year-old boy, he wasn’t afraid; he was already racing boats as well. It was in the family’s blood.
As Harry grew older, he took up racing and fixing boats, sometimes asking his mother what was wrong with a boat. He said she would come out with her knitting, take a look, make a suggestion, and 99 per cent of the time she was right.
Since then the Wilsons were all but forgotten in local history, until the making of the film which brought people together from around the world.
“This is a film made by friends from all over the world,” Harry said.
They especially thanked Bobby Genovese, who fell in love with the wooden boat and convinced the museum in Ingersoll where Miss Canada IV was housed to part with the boat. The craft is being restored and Miss Canada IV is scheduled to be back in the water in Gravenhurst this fall.
“It cost roughly the same amount as having a child, putting it through private school, then Harvard. Twice,” said Genovese.
He considers Miss Canada IV a present, and is working on collecting all of the Miss Canadas. He already owns Miss Canada III and is close to buying another one, both of which are in good repair.
Miss Canada IV has only had one mover since the Wilsons met Allan Crisp in 1988. After the boat ended up in the Ingersoll museum, they lost touch — until Crisp saw a news story about how the Wilsons were trying to get the boat back. He called Harry and went back to doing what he loved, moving the boat.
You’re very careful when you’re driving down the road because everyone slows down to look at the boat, he said.
Most of the many Miss Canada boats were racing boats, but Miss Canada V was a pleasure craft. It is still in the family, belonging to Harold and Lorna’s nephew. Their great-nephew, John Joseph Mitchell was an actor in the film.
He said he’d seen bits of the film as they produced it, but seeing everything together taught him a lot about his heritage and about his great-aunt.
Harry was close to tears just before the film began.
“I feel like I now have in my hands my parents’ history and I’m the custodian of it. It’s an incredible feeling to know that somehow you have it all, and it’s a gift,” he said.