Our story of Pay ‘N Pak begins with a young man named Stan Thurman, who graduated from Kelso High School in 1941. He answered our nation’s call and served in the US Navy from 1941 – 1947. Upon his discharge, he returned to Portland, OR and began a career in electrical parts sales.
In 1954, Stan and his young brother, Bob, started T & T Electric in Longview, WA to serve the local community needs for lighting and residential electric work. As the business succeeded and thrived Stan’s interest in home services for the individual consumer grew. At the time there were none of the modern one-stop retail stores for equipment and tools serving the general public. In 1961, Stan Thurman opened his first Pay ‘N Pak store in Longview, WA to start the idea of having electrical, lumber, tools and other goods and services for customer home maintenance needs.
As Pay ‘N Pak grew and opened up new stores, Stan Thurman started to help out others by providing them with startup money for new businesses. A young employee in the sales office at T & T Electric by the name of David Heerensperger had an aspiration to move to Spokane, WA and start a new electrical and plumbing company. Backed by Stan Thurman, Dave Heerensperger founded Eagle Electric and Plumbing in 1959. Shortly after that, a new opportunity arose for Dave. Responding to an article in a 1961 local Spokane newspaper, Dave answered the call of the Miss Spokane Hydroplane Racing Team who were in need of a new sponsor. The team accepted his sponsorship of $5,000 and the boat was changed to the Miss Eagle Electric. The racing team had some uneventful years until 1968 when they purchased a new boat hull. The Miss Eagle Electric picked up its first major victory at the 1969 Atomic Cup in Tri-Cities.
In 1969, Pay ‘N Pak Stores, along with T & T Electric, and Dave Heerensperger’s companies Eagle Electric and Buzzard Electric all merged into a new Pay N Pak Corporation. The company had a stock IPO and Stan Thurman was its first CEO. Pay N Pak now had 22 store locations around the Pacific Northwest and moved to its new headquarters and flagship location at the 1200 block of Central Ave S in Kent. This photo taken in August 2015 shows the building as it looks today. It was called the Pay N Pak mall because it had one door that lead to the Lighting section, another door went to the Plumbing section, and others went to the Tools section and Lumber yard in the rear by the railroad tracks.
At the 1969 Shareholders Annual meeting, David Heerenspeger was elected Chairman. As the new CEO for Pay ‘N Pak, Dave implemented many changes that focused on quality trained staff in each store, and emphasis on customer services that would help people be able to better use tools and materials from their stores.
Later as Pay ‘N Pak expanded its operations it built a new flagship store right next door on the property, shown here in today’s 2015 image.
After the merger, Dave Heerensperger continued to manage the Pay ‘N Pak operations in Spokane, WA and that included the sponsorship of the Hydroplane Racing team. The Pride of Pay ‘N Pak was their first major boat that reflected Dave’s competitive drive, and search for new and better ways to operate. The outrigger design was popular with fans for its novelty, and the paint scheme was a nod in honor of the Eagle Electric former colors.
In 1970 the team redesigned the Pride of Pay ‘N Pak and experimented with dual Hemi automobile engines instead of conventional piston aircraft engines. This idea didn’t take hold in the sport, but it did inspire radio-control models of the boat.
The 1973 redesign of the Pay ‘N Pak was dubbed, “The Winged Wonder” designed by Crew Chief, Jim Lucero and featured a new aluminum honeycomb hull instead of marine plywood. The hull material was built by another City of Kent Company, Hexcel Industries.
During the life of this boat, it won four national championships, and 22 race victories making it the most successful boat in US unlimited hydroplane history. Dave Heerensperger retired from racing in 1976 and Bill Muncey’s Atlas Van Lines bought out his share of the Pay ‘N Pak Racing Team.Dave Heerensperger’s retirement from Hydroplane racing ended when an opportunity presented itself to create the first turbine powered unlimited hydroplane. The 1980 design of the U-25 Pay ‘N Pak made history when it was the only turbine powered boat in the competition. However during qualifiers at the 3rd race of season while demonstrating the capabilities of the boat to reach speeds of 160+ MPH the following happened…
The driver survived this accident, and the boat was repaired. Dave hired a new driver, John Walters, to drive the 1981 & 1982 seasons. Dave and John would share in the joy and success of being the first turbine powered boat to win an unlimited race. During the second race of the season in New York the Miss Pay ‘N Pak set a course record of 124.78 MPH in the Final Heat.
Dave retired from Racing at the end of the 1982 season. It would be eight years before another Turbine powered hydroplane boat would appear, now they are universal.
For more cool hydroplane info, visit the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum. It is the only museum dedicated solely to powerboat racing and it is right here in Kent!