The late Frank Pintauro told me at a fishing lure collector show a few years back that one of the best things in my collection was my vintage fishing club car toppers. To the unknowing eye, a license plate topper was the metal logo attached to the top of license plates of the early surf fishing beach buggies in the 1950’s and 60’s. Nowadays they are difficult to track down and collect as most have all but rusted away or ended up in the junk yard still attached to the front of the long-retired buggy.
Frank was really only fooling around with me when he called the license plate toppers the best part of my collection, but in his own way he paid me a great complement in that I filled a niche in the striped bass collecting world and it excited him like a little kid in a candy store. Frank always had more questions than I had answers when came to anything collecting related as he made it a point to seek out the details behind anything surfcasting related from the infancy of the sport.
Other long-gone collectibles that we search for from the bygone era include the flags anglers hung from their cars to the armbands worn by men in courtesy patrol trucks along beaches that were customized with club names or personal nicknames. But one thing was for sure, Frank realized that I filled a gap that was indeed a striper/beach buggy related historical relationship that you no longer see in today’s fishing world. He was happy to see a display of these vintage license plate toppers from different states and local fishing clubs back again in the present for everyone to enjoy.
The first gift that I ever received from Frank was a copy of Grays Sporting Journal, the Summer 1976 edition, which includes one of the best articles ever written on early surf fishing. It was an article by Frank Woolner called, “Time & Tide.”
Woolner and His Crew
As members of the Worcester Striper Club, Frank Woolner and friends won the Schaefer Grand Award three years in a row from 1950 to 1952. They were the very first club from New Jersey through Maine to win this contest for three years in a row collecting the most points for catching striped bass. Before this the trophy was on loan for a one year cycle and given up to the following years champion. The Schaefer contest judges ended up giving the Worcester Striper Club the Grand Champion trophy to keep forever and set a new standard in the tournament. The only other striped bass club to achieve this again was the Martha’s Vineyard Fishing Club from 1972 to 1974 out of the many hundreds of striped bass clubs that participated in what at that time was the largest contest of its kind put on by the famous Schaefer brewing company.
The Woolner brothers fished with some of the best on the beach in the likes of Arnold Laine from Phillipston, MA, Bob Williams from Worcester, MA, and the Townsend and Webb families from Shrewsbury, MA. Most if not all of them lived in central Massachusetts and they drove their 40-mph beach buggy’s about 85 miles just to the Cape Cod Canal followed by another 64 miles to Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod. From there they would cruise the beaches searching for striped bass from midnight until dawn and from tide to tide.