Boats and scoreboards

A few weeks past I read of the upcoming construction of a new Kwik Star on the west side of town. I am a student of “rabbit trails” (as you’d know if you’ve heard me present a talk on a subject).

The article was about the demolition of the former Naden Industries building. I’ve sat through numerous sports games, indoors and out; never did I give a thought to who made the scoreboards.

It was interesting to dig a bit deeper, (resulting in those rabbit trails), and learning about the company’s history. When I saw the logo of their later boat building division, I was hooked, so to say. I spent many wonderful times planted on the seat of a Naden boat as a kid up in Minnesota, hoping for a nice walleye strike.

William “Bill” Naden was born in Orchard, Iowa, on November 14, 1891. His parents soon moved to Osage where he was raised and educated, though he later attended Stout Institute in Menominee, Wisconsin (now UW, Stout).

Naden taught school in Red Oak and up in South Dakota and then back in nearby in Eldora.

Bill married Ruth Gardner in 1914; they would eventually have four children.

When the First World War began, he took a job as an inspector with the Martin Aircraft Company.

In 1923 the Nadens moved to Webster City and Bill became part of the public school faculty here. His interest in sports was legendary; he coached, helped officiate games and was a fixture at the table used for scoring and time keeping.

It was not long before Bill, using his ingenuity and experience gained at Martin Aircraft, began working in his basement and garage, designing an automatic scoreboard.

By the mid 1930’s he had started producing one based on rotors that would change scores electrically by controls located at the scoring table; students helped him in production.

On January 19, 1938, an article in the Daily Freeman Journal stated that Naden scoreboards had been installed in all but one of the states in the nation; more than 500 having been produced and sold.

When World War II began, Naden scoreboard production was directly affected by the restrictions in materials needed for war production.

The three Naden sons were all serving in the military and the youngest, Charles, died in 1944 while in the Eighth Air Force in England. After the war ended, production resumed and by December of 1946 Naden Sons was advertising for new positions in the company.

Eventually they would add the aluminum boat division in the 1950s while continuing to produce scoreboards.

William Naden passed on May 25, 1960, in Webster City. I think The Daily Freeman Journal paid a fitting tribute to him in an article the next day…

“Bill was always one of the finest gentlemen we ever knew, and that’s the way he tried to conduct his classes and to instill into the minds of young athletes the right principles for playing the game.”

I know his love of sports, inventiveness and business success had an impact on many, including a young Minnesotan, who loved to sit in a Naden boat and catch crappies.

Our Neighborhood is a column by Michael Eckers focusing on the men and women whose presence populates Graceland Cemetery in Webster City.


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