Howard Lyon and his company, SeaLyon, took pride in creating useable pieces of art. Sea Lyon owners paid top dollar for the privilege of owning and using them. At a time when the average American family lived on just $1,524 a year, this boat cost $5,950. The Sea Lyon Co. tried to appear strong through the Great Depression, but by 1934, they were offering models at half price and reducing production. They stopped production entirely shortly after. The company may not have lasted, but White Smoke‘s Tahoe history combined with the rarity of SeaLyons proved too much for Furth to pass up.
George Pope bought land at Lake Tahoe in 1924. Jokingly referencing his last name, he named the Tahoe property, “The Vatican.” During the 1930s, he escaped company difficulties by taking long rides in his then unnamed SeaLyon. Visitors were welcome to join him for a ride, but only if they had shoes that wouldn’t scratch his boat. Pope even provided proper shoes for unprepared guests.
George Pope died in 1942, and his son, George Pope Jr, inherited the SeaLyon. The boat didn’t see much use during these years, and by the time Alan Furth received the boat, he described it as, “a worthless pile of junk.” In other words, it was exactly the kind of boat Furth sought out. In an interview with TMM's Historian, Alan’s widow, Ginny, recalled how her husband came to own Pope’s boat:
“After George Pope (Jr) died, Alan did a considerable amount of legal work for his widow, Patsy, in settling the estate. This was supposed to be pro-bono, but at the end Patsy insisted on paying him the appropriate fee. Alan replied that all he wanted was that boat in the boathouse on the Pope property.”
Furth then continued the tradition of playing off the “Pope” last name, by naming the SeaLyon White Smoke—the name referencing to the Catholic tradition of sending white smoke up the Vatican’s chimney when a new pope is elected. Howard and Judy Guild purchased the boat after Alan’s passing. They fully restored her, and donated her to the Tahoe Maritime Museum in 2009.
Alan Furth with White Smoke at a Lake Tahoe boat show.
Tahoe Maritime Museum, 5205 West Lake Blvd, Homewood, Ca 96141