Sometimes when people reach retirement age, they like to reflect on their life and see all the things they have achieved. Bob has been doing this. In the process, he has learned just how much his life has been a series of building blocks and that each experience helped him with the next one.
This journey story was written by Bob Bolam 2002.
Family, work, and hobbies
help us grow and live
through the challenges
life throws our way.
My life has been blessed with a devoted and very supportive wife, Kathy.
We have been blessed with two great kids, Tracy and Brian. They have blessed us with four grandchildren, Cody, Marcus, Sam, and Katelyn.
Family is very important in our lives and we cherish the moments we get to spend with each and every one of them.
Check below to see a few pictures from "a long time ago" !
Hobbies in life do not take anything away from your private or work life. In fact they enhance, support and sustain the other two.
Family, work, and hobbies help us grow and live through the challenges life throws our way.
Many hobbies started slow and dwindled in importance, others lasted years and more importantly, introduced life long friendships.
Classic Cars & Motorcycles
Motorcycles and classic cars started early. The motorcycles hobby has dwindled other then the interest to restore some of my early favorite motorcycles (early 60’s Honda’s). My interest in classic cars started during high school, mostly because that was the only car I could afford. But, my favorite car of all time was my ’55 Chevy.
As you will see later, that was one of three most important events in my life out side family and work (hydroplanes, classic cars and fishing).
Bob with his Classic Chevy's after High School
Bob with his
In the mid seventies, I met a guy at work who raced hydroplanes. At first I just started going out to watch the races. One day I asked if I could help. My first job was, wiping the deck off after the boat came back from a heat race. Eventually I was promoted to being able to turn a wrench on items that were not critical to the operation of the boat or motor. One day I was able to actually work on the boat and motor.
Over a period of time I moved onto another team to expand my knowledge. This evolved into becoming crew chief for that owner (we are still very close friends after all these years).
J-101 Buccaneer - This is the first boat Bob crewed on he's the one in the water in the middle of the picture.
A-45 Crew's Delight - This is the first boat Bob was crew chief on.
A-68 Ole Blue
But, it seemed like something was missing (boy what an expensive “missing something” was!!).
In 1979, I decided to take another step; I became an owner of a limited hydroplane. Wow, what a knowledge crunch…. I named the boat, My Rose, in memory of my mother who had recently passed away.
My Rose - on the red portion you can see ash from Mt St Helens in 1980
In my early adulthood I was involved with the Junior Jaycees of America. I worked on the Miss Bellevue Pageant and was treasurer for our club. These early experience interested me in becoming involved with club politics. In my boat racing days: I was a club board member, newsletter contributor, vice commodore, race chairmen, and APBA 225 hydroplane national tech chairmen. I enjoyed that experience and as you will see, it leads to other opportunities later in my life.
This video is a copy of a "How Come" TV show segment (about 1979)
of the My Rose boat. They put a camera on the boat while it ran around
Green Lake in Seattle, WA. In the video is Kaye Neeson, Jeff Richards, and myself.
(This is a very old bit of film copied several times but you will get the idea).
Now, back to boating racing. My Rose campaigned very successfully for two years. We were lucky enough to never have a major mishap and won (and lost) our fair share of races. Like my ’55 Chevy in high school, My Rose holds a very important section of my heart. She campaigned as a 280 hydro (273 cubic inch, stock, two barrel carburetor, Plymouth engine) and a 225 hydro (221 cubic inch modified, four barrel carburetor, Ford engine).
My Rose on
My Rose was a used 1977 Don Kelson hydro that I bought after it wrecked on Green Lake (Seattle) in 1978. We fixed her up and changed classes from 225 to 280. Then back to a 225 hydro for the last year that I owned her. She was sold in 1980.
My Rose on Lake Cullaby in Oregon
Bob & Kath with My Rose in 1980
In 1981, I decided that again that something was missing in my life.
I ordered a brand new Don Kelson 225 hydro. They started building her in June of 1981 and her first race was Green Lake, May 1982. She was named, DeMoss Special and she used America’s first Chevrolet V-6, 229 cu in, 4 barrel carburetor engine in a hydroplane. We later named her Bolam’s Express.
Here we are with Scott Harger driving on Lake Cullaby, Oregon
DeMoss Special on Lake Spanaway in Tacoma, Washington
Bolam's Express on Green Lake in Seattle, Washington
Here is one of my favorite races on Green Lake (1984):
After many trials and tribulations, I finally figured out how to make this engine perform with its V-8 competitors. She won (and lost) many races over the next few years.
The last race that we raced her as her owners, she set a WORLD RECORD for a one-mile course. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer for Monday September 9, 1985 stated: “Boat Racing; Island Security Systems, driven by Roger Otwell averaged 86.178 MPH for five laps pm Spanaway Lake to set a world 225-class speed record for 1-mile courses and highlight the weekend’s limited racing show near Tacoma. Mike Hanson, who’d taken the 225 mark from Otwell earlier in the day with an 85.751 clocking, but did not start the final heat.”
Bolam’s Express was sold that day and I retired from active boat racing.
on Lake Lawrence
in Yelm, Washington
on Lake Spanaway
in Tacoma, Washington
with Dr. Pepper
on the Snake River
in Clarkston, Washington
Being out of boat racing did not mean we didn't want a boat so we bought this one and I pretended to fish while relaxing in the sun.
Early fishing technique
Bob and Captain Rosie in 1986
After bouncing around for a while, we (I mostly) decided I needed a new project. I noticed that my neighbor had a ’55 Chevy in his garage. I went over and struck up a conversation with him. I asked if he ever wanted to sell his car. It was a hardtop with a V-8 and power glide. My original idea was to put my V-6 hydroplane engine in it and make it a street rod. When he finally decided to sell it to me, we discovered she was mostly an original ’55. I just couldn’t make it a street rod. At that time we were just going to make it look better and drive it.
Betsy before restoration
We went to a car show that summer in Oregon. Oh boy, what a mistake. The cars were GREAT looking and I knew we could never take our car out in public ever again…. So, the restoration project began.
My wife and I joined the BowTie Bunch car club in Tacoma. A great deal of information can be gained by talking with other enthusiasts. The next year, I became a board member (do you see a recurring theme here)?
I worked on the car for three years and three months. We took off for our first show in San Diego California. This was July 1991. Trailering a $30,000 freshly finished show car to the bottom of California may not have been the best decision I’ve ever made, but we did it. We had by this time named our car, Betsy. In her first show, she scored 947 points out of 1000 (silver certificate). Pretty good for a first show and a guy who had never done anything like this before (but, I think earlier learned dedication to detail helped foster the knowledge on doing things right). Over the summer and winter we worked on the car to make her better. Our next big show was in Pleasanton California, July 1992. At this show she scored 955 points out of 1000 (GOLD certificate). And again, we worked on her over the summer and winter. Off to California again. This time, Concord, California. Three years in a row, trailering to California. Judging is very competitive in California and the cars are excellent in the category of Trailered/original restored. This year we scored 950 points out of 1000 (gold certificate). Well back to working on the car over the summer and winter. After this show, Kathy and I were appointed the Washington State representatives for Bowtie Chevy Club, our national car club (we are currently the Idaho state representatives).
Here are some of the National Award certificates Betsy (and Bob) won
Renton River Days Mayor's dinner -
Betsy was the backdrop for pictures with everyone who came to the Mayor's dinner
We purchased an original 1955 four door Chevrolet over that winter. She was a sweet, sweet car. Only 50,000 miles on her and every thing was in great shape. We named her Josephine after her original owner. We were lucky enough to get a binder with documentation from every owner of the car over her lifetime. It contains great historical documentation to read and reflect back upon.
Two things happened over 1994. We worked on Betsy some more and I formed a new classic car club, Rainier Classic Chevy Club. Rainier Classic Chevy Club was much closer to home and we got to shape it in a way we thought a club should be organized.
Betsy at the Fun Run '94 in Tacoma, WA
1995 was the next car show we took her to, a show in Vancouver, Canada; it was the last show that Betsy would go to with us. Betsy scored an amazing 988 points out of 1000 (platinum certificate). One point more then our friends ’55 Chevy in the same class. WOW!!!!!!
Betsy at the
Run to the Roses i
n 1996 Oregon
Bob, Mokie, & Kath with Josephine
Since we retired, we moved to Idaho and have sold our ‘55’s and the ’56 Chevy un-restored truck.
As the full circle goes around, family is still very important and our hobbies now encompass family, camping, boating and fishing. The restored motorcycles are still in the garage, but they are mostly dusty. Maybe one of these days something will happen to them, but for now, they are parked.
Classic Honda CB160 Dream Motorcycle
We still have our motor home, have recently added a 20’ Blue Water open bow boat to our stable and of course, lots of fishing gear. Last year, we fly fished (catch and release only) with family and friends in the St. Joe River, Clearwater River, Kelly creek and the Coeur d’Alene River. We even got our flies wet in a couple lakes.
2002 should hold mostly retirement activities, relaxing, relaxing with family, fishing, and camping and not much else.
To be continued ...
Besides my family, there has been work and hobbies. Work for me started out as a neighborhood grocery delivery boy in Seattle (that doesn’t include lawn mowing and car washing jobs). I was in the sixth grade and made 10 cents delivering groceries to apartments around the store.
My mother said I needed to get a real job, so in the ninth grade I went to work for Safeway as a box boy. I worked for Safeway all through high school and became an apprentice checker before finishing high school. Working as a checker presented many opportunities. One such opportunity came when the manager of the Safeway computing division office. He regularly came through my check stand. We chatted and at one point he said, why don’t I come out for an interview. The prospect of getting into the computer field in 1964 excited me. The interview went very well and he offered me a position. Life has it’s ebbs and tides, one of those ebbs and tides was giving up a day time job for a graveyard shift, another was that my salary went from a whopping $2.12 an hour to $1.88. It seemed like an opportunity that should be attempted, after all, I could always go back to checking…
<- Bob Bolam working for Safeway
Bob's friend Terry Henderson ->
I stayed with Safeway for 5 years. I was always looking for another opportunity. I went into my boss’s office at Safeway to ask, “how does a person get off graveyard shift” (12:00 midnight to 8:30 am)? His answer was, “are you planning on dieing anytime soon”? Well, Boeing was looking for people who had computing experience, so I decided I would give them a try, 30 years later I retired at age 55. Pretty cool.
Boeing presented many, many exciting opportunities such as working on the most powerful computers in the world (except for the US government). In computing at Boeing, there were two paths. Either you went into financial computing, or you went into engineering computing. I enjoyed the engineering more; it usually came with more employment risks because if the program wasn’t funded, well you can guess the next thing that could happen.
Projects that I got to work on included such things as: 747, 757/767, (and later, 777); helping rescue Apollo 13; Space Station; computer programming; Management and project management. My work on Space Station consisted of ordering all of the computers that supported the development of the space station. That was so interesting.
As a manager, I managed the implementation and operation of Boeing’s video teleconferencing system. This satellite based system allowed Boeing to talk to its remote manufacturing sites, sub-contractors and government organizations without traveling. It truly was one of the most interesting jobs I had in my life.
I retired in 1999 as a project manager for the Renton Commercial Division. Basically, all a project manager is, a highly paid baby sitter. But, it paid the bills.