Plant a Memory

by | Oct 2023

Propeller Garden Decoration

Photo: Alison Feik

Walking along Third Street in Excelsior, I saw a box of free items. Among the discarded treasures was an old, beat up boat propeller. I thought it would make a great flower garden sculpture. After I retrieved it, I saw the owner of the house, Tom Knowlton, come outside, so I meandered back to report I was taking the prop. “I saw that,” he said. “That was from a boat my friends and I made back in 1957.”

Knowlton explained that he had written a story of that beloved boat, named Bachelors Delight. He asked for my address, so he could mail me a copy of the piece. A few days later, I received a manila envelope, containing the history of the watercraft. Four young men had built the boat on an empty lot at 166 Maple St. in Excelsior. It was made of 55-gallon drums, donated windows, car parts from the junkyard and some new lumber. From the pictures Knowlton included, it looked quite presentable.

My determination to make the propeller into a piece of garden art grew. On this past Memorial Day, my father (a talented fabricator with a pole barn filled with tools) and I (the one with an artistic vision) collaborated on the sculpture. That afternoon, to Knowlton’s surprise, I delivered the completed, reimagined art piece, formerly known as a boat propeller, to his home.

Knowlton invited me to sit for a time on the porch with him and his wife, Carol. Through his words, he brought us back to 1957 Excelsior when he and pals Don Hermanson, Dallas DeGrote and John Fink gathered to build their treasured boat on Maple Street.

Alison Feik of Excelsior has a degree in landscape architecture and holds a wealth of knowledge about local plants and gardening. Grow more at

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