Uncle Joe’s Motor

This is the information plaque on an antique outboard motor that was beautifully restored by my cousin Charlie Viosca and donated to the Louisiana State Museum in Baton Rouge for display.


This Johnson Sea Horse outboard motor was manufactured prior to 1937, when I was 11 years old. It was purchased new for $72.00 by Joseph Pleschia, a dear friend of my father Felix Viosca. Dad was an automobile mechanic and we had use of it any time for fishing, crabbing, and hunting trips, with or without the adults.

During the Great Depression few people had boats, but you were able to rent skiffs for a dollar at various marinas. Some of our favorite locations were: the “trestles” at North and South Shore, Lake St. Catherine, Irish Bayou, Grand Isle, and Gulfport.

From 1941, when WW II began, until I returned home from service in the Air Corps, the first order of business was to contact uncle Joe and get the motor that was unused since the war began and get set up for fishing and hunting. When I picked up the motor, uncle Joe told me to keep it as a welcome home gift since he was in poor health and not using it anymore. My younger brother Jerry now became a fishing buddy since Randall died as a gunner in a B-24 in Europe. While attending Tulane, I could be seen most Fridays on Lake Pontchartrain at Bayou St. John using the motor to run the 100 crab nets my childhood friend Tom Satterlee and I had knitted.

Upon graduation I moved to Pittsburgh and stored it “out of the way” in the rafters of the garage of our home in Lakeview where it roosted from 1955 until 1970. When on a visitation I noticed it and put it in the luggage compartment of the Cessna I had flown there, planning to rebuild it “someday.” It therefore found a resting place in the rafters of my garages in Minnesota, where I then lived, and it suffered uncomplainingly through 31 severe winters.

Upon retirement I moved back to my ancestral breeding grounds here in Louisiana. On the last tour of my Minnesota house I discovered the motor in a not too visible place in the garage rafters. It became the final item put into the moving van, still waiting for its “someday.”

Its salvation finally came when my cousin Charlie Viosca was at a crawfish boil here at my Mandeville home, and noticed it in my garage.  He is an expert restorer of antique cars, and a model airplane builder of extraordinary skill at the air museum in Dallas. We put it in his car with the idea that he will see if it is worth restoring. Some months later he gave it back to me in the incredible pristine shape you see here. Rather than use it again, we decided to donate it to the museum where others can appreciate it here in Louisiana.

Uncle Joe’s motor has found its “someday”.

Bob Viosca,
Mandeville, Louisiana

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