The Nov. 5 front-page article by Angus Phillips about Fletcher's Boat House brought back warm memories.

One Saturday in May 1970, when I was 16, I went to Fletcher's Boat House for a picnic. I so enjoyed looking at the boats on the river, the cyclists on the towpath and the paddlers in the canal that I asked for a job. Joe and Ray Fletcher wanted to know what I could do, and I said I could fix bikes and handle canoes. They told me I could start the following weekend.

My first day was a bright, sunny Saturday, and I started fixing flats, oiling chains and hoisting canoes. It soon clouded up, though, and began to rain hard enough to send away all the customers. Ray sent me home too.

But by early afternoon, the sun had come out again, so I went back to work. Ray was so surprised and grateful that he gave me a 15-cent raise. No one since has given me a raise that quickly.

It was good work, standing on the porch of the bike shack fixing a flat while looking out across the green, shady grounds to the river. When someone wanted a canoe, I would deftly flip one over onto my back and set it down gently in the canal by the dock. Some canoeists had little or no idea what they were doing, and I enjoyed providing them with tips.

In those days there was a ferry, a rowboat really, that one could use to cross the canal from the upper parking lot to the Boat House grounds. A rope was tied to each end of the boat, looping through pulleys on each bank, so the half-dozen or so passengers could pull themselves from one bank to the other. I would still much prefer that to the hour-long commute on the freeway I endure now to get to my job.

Both Joe and Ray gave me a lot of latitude. What more could you ask for, when you're 16 and it's summer, than to have a job that feels more like play than work with bosses who leave you to your own devices?

Whenever I visit the District, I try to stop by Fletcher's Boat House to rent a canoe. Joe is usually there, and sometimes I see Ray, too. Joe remembers me, gives me a grin and tells me to have a good time as I walk up to the row of canoes, flip one on my back (not so deftly anymore), set it down in the canal and paddle away. Goodbye, Joe. Goodbye, Ray.


Santa Monica, Calif.


No one has the time, patience or devotion to give Fletcher's Boat House the care it has received from Joe and Ray Fletcher, who have announced their retirement. So why worry about the condition of their 50-strong, pale-red rental fleet, the annual perch fry or getting a poor replacement?

End the controversy about the size, volume, height and location of the proposed Georgetown University boathouse by putting it at Fletcher's.



The writer is a member of the Washington Canoe Club, which is opposed to the Georgetown boathouse project.