The Life and Times of the Floating Tavern: A Look at the Turtle Club

by John Amato

You’ve probably never heard of the floating tavern on the Ottawa River or its history as the Turtle Club.

So, naturally, you’re bound to give us a quizzical brow when we tell you that this enduring club has footprints all the way to the moon.

But it does.

Fascinating accounts exist of the Turtle Club and we know you’ll find it exciting to discover some of them, including how its legacy started long before floating on the Ottawa River.

We’ll be exploring how the Turtle Club started, going through its evolution over the years, and answering fundamental questions including:

  • Who founded the Turtle Club
  • The inspiration behind the Turtle Club name
  • How the club landed on the moon’s surface
  • The best place to find Turtle Club Merchandise

But first, are you a Turtle?

The Turtle Club, a Bond Forged in the Crucible of World War II

Are you a turtle?” seems like an unusual question to ask anyone, but to the members of the Turtle Club, it’s a tradition that dates back to World War II.

Veteran American fighter pilots, who founded the club, used this question as a unique identification code for its secretive members, which enabled them to associate freely without the fear of infiltration.

The question also served as a form of motivation with the expected cheeky response being, “You bet your sweet ass I am.”

This humorous response created a sense of banter and brotherhood on top of being a secret password, which motivated members and added to the club’s popularity.

The Turtle Club name came from the veteran pilots’ shared wartime experience in Europe, where they observed the resilience and tenacity of the local sea turtle hatchlings.

Upon hatching, these comrades in shells dashed in solidarity for the ocean in the face of imminent death from preying birds.

And once at sea, the turtles navigated great distances together and survived more predators including fish, sea birds, and crabs.

These admirable traits strongly reflected the personality of the veteran pilots who similarly stood together in the face of danger and survived long combat missions. This inspired them to name the club after the bold turtles as a symbol of their shared indomitable character.

The Turtle Club as a Floating Tavern on the Ottawa River

Long after the war, the Turtle Club’s reputation exceeded fighter pilot circles.

Recollections of the brave pilots who’d stick their necks out for each other inspired great admiration from other military personnel who wished to be associated with them.

Naturally, when a waterfront establishment catering to military staff popped up on the Ottawa River in 1956, the only befitting title was (yes, you guessed it) The Turtle Club.

It was the perfect word-of-mouth marketing strategy to popularize the tavern amongst military circles and beyond, and boy did it work!

Soon, droves of patrons, military and civilian, filed into the establishment in the summer, creating a perfectly informal and cheerful atmosphere.

This is how the Turtle Club morphed into a floating tavern on the Ottawa River in Point Place. It even bore the same iconic turtle emblem as its logo.

Turtle Club logo on T-shirt

For over three decades, the tavern kept the enthusiastic Turtle spirit alive with a lively atmosphere of patrons and a delicious menu of burgers and beers.

And in keeping up with Turtle tradition of banter, any member who failed to respond correctly to the question, “Are you a Turtle?” had to pay the amusing penalty of buying the next round of burgers and beers.

“This was a great place to enjoy yourself. Great people, great atmosphere, and yummy burgers. Oh, the burgers and beers!”
Vickie E, Verified Patron of the Turtle Club

In the summer, the calm and scenic view of the Ottawa River gave its patrons a wonderful relaxing feel. Meanwhile, the incoming breeze and sounds of water splashing against the tavern completed the experience with the perfect chillout ambiance.

This is why, after its closure in 1993, this floating tavern on the Ottawa River remains one of the most unique and memorable experiences in Point Place.

Residents and former frequenters still organize nostalgic reunions celebrating the Turtle Club Tavern, proving that it was among the best reinventions of the Turtle Club after the war, which included fraternities, social clubs, and fan clubs.

Turtle Club photo snippet

The Legacy of the Turtle Club, the Apollo 12 Mission

The Apollo 12 was the second manned mission to the moon that successfully landed the Intrepid Lunar Module with pinpoint accuracy.

During the mission, a member of the crew, Walt Cunningham, held up a cue card addressing Paul Haney (then NASA’s public affairs officer) with the question, “Are you a Turtle?

It was a cheeky reference to the secretive society that made the Apollo 12 mission possible, the Ancient and Honorable Order of the Turtles, which was another reincarnation of the Turtle Club.

From its World War II origins of American fighter pilots, the Turtle Club blossomed to include aerospace engineers, space pilots, commanders, and the 1969 Mission Control director Gerry Griffin.

Their collaborative effort accelerated space exploration and pioneered navigation techniques such as pinpoint landing, and so defined the legacy of the Turtle Club as the society behind the Apollo 12 Moon Mission.

By Turtle Club law, Paul Haney was humorously required to answer Walt over the open microphone and during the live Apollo telecast, “You bet your sweet ass I am,” or the next round of beers was on him.

Naturally, he did. The buying that is.

Fun Fact: Although the Turtle Club was closed in 1993, the Ancient and Honorable Order of Turtles still exists with the same historical significance.

Commemorating the Turtle Club

Today we commemorate the Turtle Club with a vintage-inspired T-shirt available for purchase at Jupmode.

vintage-inspired Turtle Club T-shirt

We chose vintage because it’s a classic look that stays fresh, which is perfect for capturing and enshrining the illustrious legacy of the Turtle Club in Point Place.


Celebrate the Midwest and Its Turtle Club Affiliation With Jupmode

So there you have it, the life and times of the Turtle Club, from its piloting origins to floating on the Ottawa River to the Apollo 12 Mission.

But the fun doesn't stop there.

There are plenty of reasons to be proud of the great Midwest besides its lasting Turtle Club heritage, and we’ve got all you need to celebrate. From mint embroidered sweatshirts to limited-edition printed coffee mugs.

The table below shows some of our vintage sweatshirts.

Product Name Description Available Sizes

grey sweatshirt with “Great Lakes” embroidered on it

Great Lakes Blue Embroidered Sweatshirt
  • Made of 80% cotton and 20% polyester fabric
  • Unisex relaxed fit
  • Blue

white sweatshirt with green and red embroidery at the front

Vintage MacQueen Orchards French Terry Long Sleeve
  • Made of 55% cotton and 5% polyester fabric
  • Unisex relaxed fit
  • White
XS, large, 2XS and 3XL

black sweatshirt with white embroidery at the front

Pick It Up Euchre Sweatshirt
  • Made of 55% cotton and 5% polyester fabric
  • Unisex relaxed fit
  • White
XS, large, 2XS and 3XL

Expert Tip: Wash these garments with like-colored garments. We recommend washing them in cold water.

“Jupmode was always very responsive with pricing and recommended a great, comparable shirt when the brand I selected was out of stock. Nice staff and very reasonable turnaround time. Easy to review and approve proof and a little quicker than the needed deadline.”
– Eric P. Verified Buyer 

So reach out today or visit our dedicated collection and start repping your Midwest in style.

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Turtle Club Facebook promo


  • Comment Author: Jesse Griffin

    Are you a Turtle? You bet your sweet Ass I am.

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