The Pasch Family Nears 50 Years In Boating Along The Delaware
July 16, 1995|by DENISE REAMAN, The Morning Call
Richard L. Pasch was, is and will always be a Delaware River water rat.
Even the flood from Hurricane Diane in '55 couldn't sever the bond between Pasch and the flow in front of his Lower Mount Bethel Township farmhouse. That August surge 40 years ago ruined the new appliances in his family's boating and refrigeration business on Route 611, and damaged the homes of his relatives.
In fact, he saved his father-in-law's cottage by tying it to a large oak on the river bank as the level swelled.
But still, Pasch remained along the water's edge where he raised his family.
Next year marks the 50th year that his late father, Joseph, started his Easton area boating business. Joe Pasch's grandsons are following in the wake.
Richard Pasch was born in Easton in 1929 to Joseph Pasch, a city native, and his wife, Anna, who moved here from Austria/Hungary when she was 11.
Joseph Pasch worked as a service manager for the former Easton Sanitary Milk Co., a dairy operation which stood on Front Street, now Larry Holmes Drive. There, he maintained the company's refrigeration services and performed similar work on the side. His sons, George and Richard, helped their father during the summers.
But, the family's hobby was outboard motors.
Richard, like his father, loved to tinker with motors.
"We applied for a Johnson franchise in 1940, but the war broke out," says Pasch. "We did get a license, but no motors. We got our first shipment in 1946, and that's when it all began."
At 15, Richard built his first boat, using a model from Popular Mechanics. He spent countless hours tooling up and down the Delaware with a new 100-pound, 22-horsepower Johnson attached to the craft's transom.
During one of those summers, "I was going up in my boat and I saw this little girl who was here on vacation." He married the girl, Margaret "Peg" Balentine, in 1951 after he had studied at Pennsylvania State University and entered the Army.
"I was in the service from 1950 to '53 and was in Japan for a year. I came back from the Korean War and went right into business with my father," he said. "Our first shop (on Ferry Street) was a 10-by-30 room with no heat.
"We were real small," he said, "and we were all broke."
The shop was too small to store boats and motors, so they kept and repaired most of them at home. Thus, customers shuttled from place to place.
"We had boats at our house, at my father's house . . . It was a little hectic," he said.
In April 1955 the family bought their current shop, then a 12-by-60-foot room which was owned by the former C.K. Williams, now part of Pfizer.
"We drove by the place almost every day, so we knew it was here," he said. "They mined soapstone right behind here. We called it a paint mill."
The Paschs loaded the shop with their equipment and new Frigidaires since they were appliance dealers.
"Then in August, the flood came. By the time it was over, the structure was five feet under water," he said. "The refrigerators were turned upside down. It was a mess."
During the storm, Pasch and others watched as homes along the river were destroyed. His father-in-law's summer house, which stood on stilts, faced the possibility of floating away. They had already witnessed the river swallow another cottage.
|"I said, `Hell, I'm going to tie this thing to a tree.' So I did. I tied it to a big oak tree."
As the river level rose, the cottage slowly lifted from the stilts. But, the house remained.
"Everybody had laughed at me, but when they saw it worked, they asked me to help them tie their houses down," he said.
After the flood, the Paschs bounced back from the loss and expanded their business.
"When we'd rip things out to expand, we'd find silt and mud in the walls," he said. "The last time we did work, we found dirt still there in the walls."
Another lasting reminder of the flood is the odor it brought.
"I can smell it yet. That smell hasn't left me. If I think about it, I can just imagine it," he says.
His brother, George, joined the business in 1956, the family's most successful year.
"In those days, boat businesses were like gas stations," said Richard Pasch. "It was a boom. It was a big heyday. We sold them (boat engines) for Christmas presents. We'd be putting them under trees.
"We sold boats to people who didn't know a thing about boating," he said. "The Delaware River was full of nuts. They wouldn't fasten the motor on right, and they'd be out there in the river and the motor would fall off."
On Sundays, customers would approach Pasch for help on the river. Peg, his wife, would often shoo them away, saying: "It's his day off."
Michael Fackenthal bought his first outboard motor from Pasch in 1948 when Joe Pasch was at the helm.
"The first outboard I bought from him was a 5 horsepower that cost $168.50," saidFackenthal who also lives along the river. "I still have it. I last fired it up 20 years ago."
Fackenthal went through the "horsepower race" with Pasch, watching engines grow increasingly faster, and increasingly more expensive.
He remembered how he bought a strip pine boat from Joe Pasch. Over time, the sun had dried out the bottom of the boat and the wooden strips separated. The result?
"We put the boat in the water and it leaked so badly that I never got the engine on the transom," Fackenthal recalled. "I spent the whole trip down paddling water out of the boat to keep the boat afloat."
Years ago, Richard Pasch and his friends tried water skiing on the Delaware -- only they used snow skis instead. And even earlier, they'd aqua-plane, an early form of waterskiing in which riders stood on a board and held on to two long ropes that were attached to the boat.
"In April, we'd take off and go from Easton to Port Jervis by boat," he said. "Sometimes we'd have 10 or 11 boats make the trip. We'd make it an annual trek."
By this time, Richard and Peg had started their family.
They have a daughter, Patricia, 43, and two sons, Richard, 40 and Michael, 32.
Patricia became a dental hygienist. She's married with children and lives in Virginia. But, the boys steered toward the family business.
"I always worked days doing refrigerating, and I did boating at nights," their father said. "The boys always helped out. When they got out of high school, they came here. It's what they wanted to do. They were interested in boats, not refrigeration."
Rick Pasch remembers his grandfather as a man who "did things in extreme ways. He'd have these big wing dings at his house," he recalled. "He'd roast a bunch of chickens over a fire. He was also an amateur photographer who had his own darkroom. He even made his own Coca-Cola dispenser that he kept in the basement.
"As a kid, I could go down and tap my own Coke. It was a big thing," he said. "And he said he only had a sixth-grade education."
But that didn't matter, Richard Pasch said.
"You don't need to go to college to be smart," he said. "Everybody knew Joe Pasch and they knew he was an innovative man," His father, who died in 1981, was president of an area bowling league for years. He and his wife, Anna, bowled for many years.
"They are good people to deal with," Fackenthal said about the family. "They are honest dealers. I'm glad to see that they are in the third generation. As for the boys (Rick and Michael), I have a lot of admiration for their mechanical ability. They really are a nice family, a nice local business."
Fackenthal is still trying to buy a 1947 22-horsepower engine that he bought and later traded in at the dealership.
"Richard Pasch has that engine and I would like it in the darnest way," he said about the rope-started machine that had "a lot of torque. I understand why he's kept it.
Since the early years, boating has come a long way, the family agreed.
Today, Richard Pasch has three boats: a 19-foot jet boat, a 23-foot Carlson cutty cab and an 18-foot cruiser. However, he doesn't get on the water as often as he did.
After Peg Pasch died in 1988, Richard continued to live in the house they bought nearly 40 years ago. He lives there today with Linda whom he married two years ago.
"I just love it here. I love the Delaware River," said Pasch. "You're not going to get rid of me. They boys live along the flood zone, too, but we're not afraid. They turned out to be water rats, just like me."