We’ve had a few home grown celebrities over the years. One was George Henley, or Smiling George as he was often referred.
George was a master when it came to driving hydroplanes. He built a reputation by driving the Record 7, then became the pilot of the Burien Lady in 1970.
“Henley gave promise of things to come when he drove the Burien hydro, a low budget entry, to a second place finish in the 1970 Seafair,” writes David Green.
Green adds, “George then drove Bob Fendler’s Lincoln Thrift for three years before being names Pay ‘N Pak driver in 1974. That year brought the Pak and Henley seven victories, including a Gold Cup, en route to the High Point Championship. Bill Muncey is the only other driver to win seven victories during that year.”
All I know is that in 1974 everyone in Eatonville seemed to be following a certain hydroplane racer and celebrating like crazy when he came home a champion!
He retired in 1976 and went on to run Henley’s Silver Lake Resort.
Photo courtesy of Thunderboat Magazine, which have photos of Henely and others for sale.
Click on images to enlarge.
2 responses to “George Henley, Hometown Hero”
[…] was mid 70s and Eatonville had hydroplane fever. George Henley (aka Smiling George) was wracking up wins and securing himself a position as one of the greatest […]
George was a true character. I met him, must have been just after he retired. He was working for, or rep-ing I think, a jet drive company, Hamilton rings a bell. I was working for a hydraulic steering manufacturer in Fife. The two companies were collaborating on a project. All we talked about was boat racing. Yes, the man certainly could smile and was fun to be around.
Now this may be a bit of a news item, if my memory is serving me well. I’m sure he said the “Pak” was his least favorite boat to drive. With it’s cockpit positioned so high the boat threw him around something fierce. The boat was a real handful but fast and after all … racin’ is all about winnin’ … and the PAK did that, but he was certainly humble about it.