If a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, the late Carl Bernard's scrapbooks must be worth several million of them. One of the inaugural inductees into the Madison Sports Hall of Fame back in 1963, Bernard was among the greatest champions in the history of the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club, winning six Hearst Trophies, four Stuart Trophies and nine Northwest Ice Yacht Association Class A championships between 1935 and 1954.
He died in 1983, but his legacy endures in the magnificent collection of scrapbooks he bequeathed to his daughters. Now, thanks to the efforts of former Madison resident Tim Murray and current club members, those scrapbooks are being digitally archived, and finding a wider audience.
The son of a former Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club commodore and an iceboater in his own right, Murray now lives in Vancouver, a few minutes from one of Bernard's daughters, Debra Bernard Ericksen. Upon learning of the scrapbooks' existence, Murray secured permission to photograph each page, using a medium-format camera. He then scanned the photographs, along with a tray of Bernard's vintage slides, devoting months to the painstaking project.
"He did it with the care of an archivist," marvels Deb Whitehorse. "Real meticulous." As secretary and Web site manager for the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club, Whitehorse is at the center of an effort to put these now-digital scrapbooks into a searchable Internet database of Madison iceboating photographs, newspaper clippings and other documents spanning most of the 20th century. It helps, she notes, that "Carl was really good about labeling things."
Setting up her notebook computer on the kitchen table, Whitehorse leads a two-hour tour of the digital scrapbook. The experience is like taking a winter walk through Madison history, without the wind chill. Here in vintage black-and-white images are the great old Madison-style iceboats invented by Carl's father, William. On page 22 in the third scrapbook are the timing sheets for the 1939 Hearst Trophy, which Carl won that year in Detroit. Another page shows him sitting on the hull of his iceboat. "Carl was quite famous," Whitehorse notes. "He was front-page news here."
Here are photos of the iceboat Princess II. Emil Fauerbach, of the brewery family, commissioned William Bernard to build the Princess II in 1906, and it won the Hearst Trophy in 1914, 1926 and 1927. That same year, Carl's father built his last Madison-style boat, the Miss Madison. It is now owned by former Monona Mayor Richard Lichtfeld. "He keeps it in period condition," Whitehorse notes, "and still sails it."
Here are the trophies and champions at the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club's 1934 banquet at Club Chanticleer in Middleton. That was the year Carl won the Hearst and Stuart trophies and the Northwest Ice Yacht Association's Free-for-All. "That was an amazing accomplishment," Whitehorse says, marveling at the impressive collection of shiny hardware.
Whitehorse - whose father, Dave Rosten, and husband, the artist Harry Whitehorse, are both on the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club honor roll with Carl Bernard and 24 other names - estimates about 75% of the scrapbooks are devoted to iceboating. Also among the treasures are photos and yellowed newspaper clippings chronicling noteworthy events: UW-Madison athletic director Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch gets a raise - to $31,000; Charles Lindbergh arrives in the Spirit of St. Louis at Royal Airport (now the site of South Towne Mall) for a visit after his trans-Atlantic triumph; the Madison Sports Hall of Fame hosts an induction ceremony in 1963.
The latter, billed as a "stag affair," was hosted by the Madison Pen and Mike Club at "the new Park Motor Inn." Tickets were $7. The main speaker: Vince Lombardi, the new coach and general manager for the Green Bay Packers.
With six volumes ranging from about 40 to more than 100 pages, these scrapbooks add up to thousands of photos, clippings and other paper mementos. As one decade yields to the next, the cars and fashions change before your eyes. "Tim was sending me a disc a week, and when I got these things, I couldn't get anything done," Whitehorse says. "I couldn't tear myself away because they were so fabulous."
Another measure of the project's allure: Debra Bernard Ericksen flew in from Washington last month to join iceboating enthusiasts at a Bernard Scrapbook Project benefit and preview. On a cold, wet Saturday afternoon, 200 people showed up at the Whitehorse Gallery for the event.
To raise yet more funds for the preservation effort, the club has published a 2007 wall calendar containing highlights from the collection ($25) and a set of note cards ($15 for 12, three each of four scrapbook photos). For details, log on to iceboat.org and click on the link to Ice Boat Gifts near the top.
The Bernard Scrapbooks span from the late 1800s into the 1970s. "Carl moved to California in the 1960s," Whitehorse notes, "but people kept sending him stuff." And he kept adding stuff to his scrapbooks. At current exchange rates adjusted for inflation, their value in words may be priceless.