TMM’s Newest Acquisition

TMM’s Newest Acquisition

Stroll across the Lake on 1960-vintage Water SkateWater Skatess


Have you ever wanted to walk on water? Have you imagined what water shoes would look like?  Have you ever tried on a pair of Water Skates? The Museum’s newest acquisition, a pair of Water Skates donated by TMM members, Drs. June and John Phillips, just might be the answer.

These water ski-sized rigid foam (plastic) shoes made of urethane were “inherited” by the Phillips family when they purchased their Lake Tahoe home in the 1970’s. For more than 40 years they have remained in storage, and only came out again when June and John were doing some cleaning this summer. Rather than discard the old water toys, June contacted the Museum to see if we were interested in having them for our collection, and after a quick review of the donation offer the Water Skates were accepted.

With some very preliminary research we learned that the Water Skates were manufactured by Water Shoe, Inc., of Buffalo, N.Y., in the early 1960’s. Advertised in the likes of Boating and Popular Science magazines, the product was mostly marketed as the newest recreational device for enjoying the water. However, the company also saw other uses for their shoes and tried to sell them to the U.S. government as the latest equipment for soldiers conducting water-based maneuvers. More research is necessary, but we believe Water Skates remained a civilian water sport fad of the 60’s and never saw combat operations, despite the well publicized pitch to the Pentagon in 1962. 

Nonetheless, we are excited to add the Water Skates to our collection as they will allow us to interpret the different kinds of sports and activities people have enjoyed on Lake Tahoe over the years, as well as showcase the different inventions people have created for water recreation. (If you look there are over 100 years worth of different patents for water shoes!)

If you ever donned a pair of Water Skates on Lake Tahoe (or any body of water), we’d love to hear your story and see your pictures of the fun!  Your first-person accounts and additional information on water shoes will be added to the artifact files to help us further tell the story of walking on water.



Thank you again to June and John Phillips for the donation of the Water Skates!