Monday, August 11, 2014

Summer vacations at Lake May

I got a picture from my brother a few days ago- of Lake May near Walker, MN.  He is vacationing up there, the lucky duck.  Anyway, the picture made my eyes sting a little, with tears of remembering.  The very sight of Lake May brings back fond, fond memories of summer vacations.

Little Debi with Grandpa Oberley
We used to load up the car most every summer and drive up to Walker, MN from our home between Beloit and Janesville. We had to wait until mid to late summer so my dad could come with us.  He had to stay home a few times, but usually he was with us. It was such an exciting time- we would spend several days planning what books we were going to bring, what activities and games we might bring, begging mom to buy us a few snacks for the road.  As I recall, we didn't usually have too many snacks, though.  Of course any sibling of mine remembering things differently, this is totally through my eyes, ya know??   There were 4 of us kids, plus mom and dad- a bit of a crowded car- so Rose always sat in the front seat between them.  I remember thinking that it was because they liked her best, but I am thinking in the cold light of adulthood that she managed to get in trouble with everyone, so it was probably safest for her to up there!!  (sorry Rose! :) )  

My Great Grandma Dickinson with me and I assume brother Ed.  (nice face there Debi) I must have been 3
We packed our clothes, when we were old enough, with special attention to the fact that we spent most of our time in the lake.  We would take along nose plugs and those face mask things and of course a swim suit.  We could NOT wait to get up there to that lake.  Even packing the car was exciting, my dad would cram all the suitcases in and the fishing equipment and then they would stuff as much food from the garden in as they could.  We would frequently stay for 2 weeks, so we undoubtedly ate them out of house and home.  But I am pretty sure they enjoyed having us there.

Rose and Debi on a tube in Lake May
It was a 9 hour drive to get up there.  How in the world my parents put up with 4 little kids in the car for that long is beyond me.  I do remember stopping for lunch up in Hudson at a little A&W for burgers, and then driving through downtown St. Paul.  I loved it!  I still love cities.  Later when the Twin cities bypass went through, we went to a Burger King somewhere on the north side of the cities.  We rarely went out to eat as a family, so this was a very special event.  One of the many things that made the trip something we looked forward to every year.  Then we passed by the prison somewhere in the middle of Minnesota, the Paul Bunyan statue in Bemidji (or was it Brainerd??  Lol) and all the land marks that came up as we traveled.  When we finally turned on Lake May road and were almost there, we craned our necks and argued about who saw the lake first.... 

Grandma and Grandpa Oberley's house.  My mom and most of her siblings were born there
We did our best to get into that lake at least 2 times a day- after lunch and then after dinner, and once in a while we managed to get a before lunch swim.  For some odd-ball reason, they would not let us go into the lake for a minimum of 30 minutes after lunch, it could have been an hour, but I don't remember that for sure.  I know they couldn't have really believed that old adage,  but I suppose it is possible. Talk about exquisite torture!!  The anticipation was horrible!  Kind of like putting on a wet cold swimming suit after supper!  Yikes. There had to be a darn good reason for us not to be in there as long and as often as possible.  We would get out only when our lips were blue and we were shivering.  It was great. 

Rose, foster child, Penny,  me, Russ Ed and Alice, also a foster child.
There was more to going to Walker than just swimming in the lake, though.  My dad loved to fish and it was one of the few truly recreational things that he did.  He never, as far as I know, fished anywhere else besides in Walker.  We would go out pan-fishing in the early evenings and sit out in the boat as the mosquitos descended and the fish started to bite.  Lake May and Long Lake had a good crappie and sunnie population and it was pretty fun to catch those fish.  Grandpa usually went too, and he was always so fun to have around.  If we were being reasonable and we wanted to, we would go Northern fishing at least once every summer.  That involved sitting and not doing much else.  You needed to be patient to sit and fish like that, and I am surprised in retrospect that he would sometimes take all 4 of us. I, at least, did not go a lot.  Not my cup of tea.  I am not sure about my youngest brother, but my brother Ed, who is one year younger, liked to fish and definitely still does.  He went fishing in a row boat one year, with my cousin Mike, and caught a BIG northern. I do not remember the size but it was a beast.  My Grandpa was spying on them through the monocular from their house and saw it happen.  The story is best told by Ed, but in essence, Mike had to row them back to the dock (probably a half mile or so) and Mike sucked at rowing.  I imagine he was pretty worked up when Ed caught that thing, and he ended up having to sit on the fish while Ed paddled home.  I saw some of the paddling that Mike did- it was pretty funny.  That fish was a proud moment for my brother!

Mike on the left and Ed with the BIG one that he caught in a row boat- and cousin Mike almost missed it with the net.  Oops!  
We also did a lot of day trips and camping as well- I really don't remember all the places we would go over the years, but the one really low point was having to leave Minnesota and go see my aunt and uncle and cousins in God Forsaken North Dakota.  That is all I need to say about that.  We went several times to Lake Itasca where the Mississippi begins.  There are so many memories of campfires and sleeping in the front seat of Grandpa's truck or the back seat of a car.  Of Grandma making those pie things out of bread and pie filling and picking berries and so many outdoor adventures.  We would have been happy never leaving the lake, but in retrospect there are a lot of great memories in those events.

When I got a little older I spent a lot of time with Grandma, baking and cooking.  There are some stories to this, too, but I don't think everyone needs to know about rolling the molasses cookies in salt instead of sugar.  Grandma was a very sweet little lady, and very frugal- she'd tell us if we didn't finish up some little left over from supper, that we would have to have it the next morning in a bowl with milk and sugar on it.  I have her old cookbook and I treasure the memories that I have when I  look at it.

Some years we would be there alone and some times some of the other cousins would be there as well. It was always the best when the Seversons would be there- the family of my mom's oldest sister.  I loved hanging out with my cousin Connie and the rest of them were just fun to have around.  The other cousins sometimes showed up as well, which was not always as welcome.  We hated sharing Grandma and Grandpa and the lake and most importantly the bedrooms in the basement.  One of the most vivid memories I have is that basement. Mom and Dad slept upstairs in the other bedroom up there, and we were in the basement.  There was a big room that had two double beds in it and a smaller room that had one.  There was also a dark back room that sometimes had a bed in it, plus a little functional bathroom with a pull string where we would change to get into our swimsuits.  When other people showed up, we had to then sleep in other places.  Like cars and campers and I think once in a tent when there was a ton of us there.  

Even though this is in Florida, here is my aunt and uncle- the Seversons, Grandma Oberley and mom and dad
So many things have surfaced while writing this, and it is impossible to get it all in one spot.  The rootbeer from the rootbeer stand for floats, being on a pontoon on Leech Lake, walking to town to buy souvenirs, picking the raspberries that would ripen in the late summer that Grandma would give us with cream. So many fun times, so much love in that little house.

As time went on, we quit going as a family.  We grew up, we went to college or started jobs.  One of the last times I went, my sister and youngest brother and I went "nature camping" as in Rose did not want to take any food along, and just catch fish.  Mom and Grandma made us take potatoes and a few candy bars.  Rose was resentful!  Lol  We had the potatoes that night, but the candy was off limits until we got home.  Anyway,  we canoed through Lake May and Long Lake to get to 3rd, 4th and 5th lakes- maybe there was a 6th, I really don't remember now.  And we camped on an island off of one of them. It was sort of a creepy night, lots of noises in the night.  I got the hints of my claustrophobia when I  couldn't BEAR to have my feet caught in that sleeping bag- you know one of those mummy kinds?  It didn't zip down all the way and so I ended up trying to sleep with the thing on top of me, with my sides getting cold.  That was quite a night.  While we felt totally alone, it was a bit annoying when my mom and Grandma and Grandpa drove around the lakes and found us.  We were on the island, so they couldn't actually get to us, but they found out where we were in case we needed to be rescued apparently. 

My brothers and I sitting on the road looking down at the creek that went through Grandma's yard
I believe after Grandpa died,  Grandma's house was sold to one of my Grandpa's cousins.  I have no idea who owns it now, but I think it is still in the family.  I am glad that it is being well taken care of, and no matter what has happened to it, I will always remember it as it was when I was little.  Before the remodeling downstairs and the plain little bathroom with the pull chain was renovated and the downstair was turned into Grandma and Grandpa's summer home.  They headed to Florida for the winter!  

An old picture of the lake, looking at Grandpa's boat from the hill where the garden and the raspberries were
My Grandma and Grandpa lived to good old ages.  My Grandpa was in his mid 80s and Grandma was into her 90's.  Unfortunately, my poor Grandma was stricken with the same thing that has its evil grip on my mom.  We only saw them a couple of times a year, but we felt so close to them. The summers in Walker were magical.  I can only hope to give my little grandkids as special memories as I have of my Gramma and Grandpa.  They were certainly some of the biggest joy givers in my life.

Thanks so much to my brother for giving me the gift of reliving some of the best times of my childhood.  Muah!

1 comment:

  1. I could not find one of my photo albums, so that is the reason why so few pictures are here. I will find and update I hope!