In the spring of 1995, after retiring from the Berkshire Eagle, Lew Cuyler started the rowing club, Berkshire Sculling Association. After considerable effort he convinced Canyon Ranch to offer their guests a rowing program on Stockbridge Bowl. This teaching program became and continues to be popular among Canyon Ranch guests. Stockbridge Bowl was also a good venue because of the tourist population in southern Berkshire County. Each morning Lew traveled to the Bowl with a trailer of mostly Alden Ocean Shells and Alden Stars. He would rig the boats and give lessons most of the morning then de-rig, pack the trailer, and travel home in Pittsfield until the next day. Through newspaper articles, photos, and word of mouth, the program grew. All participating rowers automatically became provisional members of the club for insurance purposes.
Members were encouraged to purchase their own boat so they could row when and where they wanted to. Lew organized a small regatta at the end of each season. He named the regatta after Bernie Ryan who lived and rowed on the Bowl. Bernie had learned to row and race in Philadelphia, PA. Bernie often helped Lew with lessons. The Regatta gave the beginner rowers a chance to experience racing against their peers. It was an end of season celebration followed by a breakfast party and awards at Jack’s Place in Housatonic.
Also that year Lew taught Holly Brouker how to row and then hired her to help teach.
In the fall Lew and Holly and a number of more experienced rowers participated in one or more of seven regattas.
The activity continues to grow in popularity. Canyon Ranch program directors were given a Learn to Row lesson so that they could better promote sculling lessons to their guest.
Michael George was added to the staff as boat boy.
1997 & 1998-
Berkshire Sculling Association continued at Stockbridge Bowl. Elissa Supranowitz joined as a boat girl.
Lew was treated for cancer thus was unable to run the program.
Todd Haynes, who Lew had taught with at Florida Rowing School, offered to step in. The club continued to grow. Todd added a session for the more advanced rowers on Saturday morning.
By the end of the season, Lew established a steering committee to hear from members and explore the future of the club. This started the serious discussion of the need for a boathouse.
In the spring, Berkshire Country Day School with some Lenox High School students asked to be taught to scull. Lew and Harriet ran this program in the afternoons. The club acquired two 4’s. When Todd arrived from Florida, he started teaching this group to sweep row. The two 4’s competed in several regattas in the fall.
After much looking, Todd and Lew spotted the unused old Lifeguard building at Burbank Park, Onota Lake, Pittsfield. Lew received permission from the city to rehab and use the building. The fund drive began.
Many hands including Taconic HS Voc Ed, Petrucci Co, Steve Nieratka and his father, Craig and all members helped ready the boathouse for use. A plaque was hung in the boathouse thanking all major monitory donors. The club adopted the acronym BRASS for Berkshire Rowing And Sculling Society as our daily user name. The boathouse was named “Cuyler Boathouse.”
All operations moved to Onota Lake. Todd continued to coach the Juniorsprogram plus a men’s 4. The Bernie Ryan Regatta was opened to non members.
Steve Nieratka was the boathouse coach. Bob Wiley coached the Juniors and a recreation women’s 4. BCD and Lenox had acquired an inhouse coach. The new BRASS Juniors was made up of teens from Pittsfield HS, Taconic HS, Wahconah HS, and Monument HS.
Both men and women had a racing 4 for this season. The Junior’s program continued.
All programs continued with Steve as boathouse coach and Bob as Junior’s coach.
Steve moved to Florida. Mike Dostal joined us as head boathouse coach. After rowing on our Junior’s team for four years, Stephanie Chivers started her college life at UConn on a four year rowing scholarship.
The “Young Moms”program started this year.
Lew Cuyler resigned from active participation on the board. He encouraged the board members to create a long range plan for “a community boathouse including showers,office, meeting rooms, to include all non motor craft.”
Mike Dostal continued to be head coach. Jackie Boulais, former BRASS Junior now rowing at Skidmore College, assisted Mike. All programs continued as in the past. We added a second level of beginners. We also added a once monthly “club day” during which club members rowed for free, socialized with other members and could try different boats.
Mike started a public school teaching position in September. Chris Parkinson took over coaching the Juniors in the fall.
Former BRASS rower, Lauren Miller expressed interest in helping at the boathouse. Harriet and Carol Morrison volunteered to teach the various programs and show Lauren the ropes. Lew taught the Young Mom program. Without a coach and only four Juniors returning, BRASS cancelled the Junior’s program and arranged for our four to join the Lenox program if they wanted.
Lauren returned as head coach. Carol and Harriet continued to help out. Lauren added two one-week middle school programs. They were well received.
The trustees established our mission statement.
Ann Dinshal offered a three day rowing clinic for all interested members.
All other programs continued under Lauren’s leadership.