UNJ: How did Wildroot Charlie come about?
Schroeder:George Trimper was, at that time, the Unlimited Race Chairman. George and I had been very good friends for years from the Buffalo Launch Club. We just thought Buffalo should have an unlimited boat. Before Wildroot Charlie was in existence, Gordon Deneau let us take the What A Pickle! We brought it to Buffalo just to show everybody and put it in the water and ran it around. That really did get the interest started, but they didn’t think that was the boat they wanted. [Trimper] had been talking to Mr. Schoenith, unbeknownst to me. He had other friends from the Launch Club and was very good friends with the Wildroot Charlie people.
It was the Friday before; the race (Detroit Memorial) was on Saturday. I was in the excavating business putting in a sewer line. Friday at noon somebody came to get me and said George Trimper was on the phone. He said, “How soon could you get to Detroit? We’re going to buy a boat.” Continued, click here...
FROM THE UNJ VAULT:
A talk with Bob Schroeder.
Bob Schroeder was what one could safely describe as a journeyman unlimited driver.
During a career that spanned the years from 1957 to 1974, he would see action behind
the wheel of seven different hulls, yet would never hoist a trophy in a winner’s circle.
Remembering a legend:
Perhaps his greatest claim to fame was that he was the first of many drivers to sit in the cockpit of a Miss Budweiser hydroplane and also the first to drive an Atlas Van Lines. Born in North Tonawanda, New York, on New Year’s Day in 1927, Schroeder was the son of a mechanic who ran a garage that did general repairs. He would say that he was “born and raised in a collision shop.” As a result, he grew up with a well-rounded background in mechanics.
Heerensperger poses next to his “Winged Wonder” Pay’n Pak in 1973.
Known as “Rapid Robert,” Schroeder was working in Bell Aircraft’s rocket lab when he and a co-worker decided to became racing associates. The two even became partners in an excavating business so they could adjust their work hours to accommodate their racing schedule. The early years of Schroeder’s racing career would be in 225-class hydros, primarily in a boat named My Ambition, then eventually to an invitation to drive an unlimited named Wildroot Charlie in 1957. Meanwhile, his professional career led him to make outboard motor control parts for a company in Canada, as a plant manager for Shepherd Boat Company, as a pile driver, and into the business of crushing cars. He would pass away on
June 28, 2009, at the age of 82.
The following interview was conducted by a young Craig Fjarlie while in Madison, Indiana, during the summer of 1979. The Unlimited NewsJournal originally published the interview in three parts in the December 1979 issue and in the January and February 1980 issues.
by Stephen Shepperd
The world of hydroplane racing has lost another of its legendary owners with the passing of David Heerensperger at the age of 82.
Heerensperger died on December 2 of complications from a medical procedure. Members of his family were at his bedside.
Born on June 5, 1936, in Longview, Washington. Heerensperger made his initial fortune as a Spokane and Seattle electrical/plumbing supply company owner. His Eagle Electric and Plumbing, Little Buzzard, and Pay’n Pak stores were highly successful in the Pacific Northwest region.
As his fortune grew, so did his involvement and success with unlimited hydroplane racing. Over the 19 years he was in the sport, Heerensperger invested in seven different unlimited hydroplanes,
winning 25 races, two APBA Gold Cups, and three straight national high point championships.
The list of Heerensperger hulls includes such iconic boats as the 1968 “Screamin’ Eagle” Miss Eagle Electric, the 1973 “Winged Wonder” Pay’n Pak, and the ground breaking 1980 turbine-powered Pay’n Pak, which was the first non-piston powered unlimited to win a race. Continued, click here...