Before her passing in 1996, Jean Melling Kopplin recorded some of her most wonderful Clark Lake memories in this story. In addition to her love of the lake, Jean was a published poet. She began writing when she attended a class in poetry at Jackson Community College. Her work was published in The Best Poems of the 90s, and Pebbles on the Sand. Her daughter, Susan Kienholz, assembled photos and other material for Jean’s Clark Lake Story, which follows.
My first recollections of Clark Lake are from when I was very young. I am guessing my parents bought their Victorian cottage about 1920, but I don’t know for sure because I was born in 1924.
I grew up summers on the North Shore of the lake. Leo Clark owned the cottage on the west side of ours. The Clark’s had four sons. We kids all played King of the Raft on their raft.
On the east side of us was my dad’s vacant lot, and then a big old cottage owned by the Walter Schucert family who were from Toledo. They had four children, one of whom was my very dear friend, Isobel. She and I played in the water every day around our docks when we were very young. I wore little red rubber bathing shoes so I wouldn’t cut my feet (according to my mother).
When we were teenagers we would walk the path up to the Pleasant View Hotel. It was owned by Larry and Cecelia Miller. Mrs. Miller’s mother, Mrs. Kimble, was an authority figure. You didn’t get out of line with her…not that I wanted to. She wore a long skirt and high shoes and her white hair plied on top of her head. She was a pretty woman. Her husband ran the bowling alleys underneath the dance floor. He was well liked by the kids.
There were dances on Friday and Saturday nights. Isobel and I loved to dance. So, we would walk the path together to go to the dance. I can’t remember how much it cost to get in, but if I remember correctly, they stamped our hands. There were some handsome guys there a little older than us, and we thought wouldn’t it be wonderful if one of them would ask us to dance—especially Bob Lehr. But, of course, they were looking around for something a little different. We were still a little young, and skinny. So, we danced with each other. Isobel could lead I would follow. It was such a lot of fun!
Our cottage had a porch all across the front with a hammock and several chairs. Relatives sometimes came on Sunday to sit on the porch with mom and dad. Aunt Alice and Uncle George Melling had a cottage across the lake on the south side. They often came over and my Aunt Ella Drake came out from town. Drawing by daughter Sue Kienholz, January 1981
Cottages were not so plentiful then. And I remember fields of Red Bee Balm and white Queen Anne’s lace out in back across the road. Orange Tiger Lilies and peppermint grew close to the lake. I remember making peppermint tea.
There was a tiny Catholic Church near our cottage, and the Millers from the hotel would park their car in our vacant lot.
Inside, our cottage still had the original pretty gas lights that had been converted to electricity. Few of the cottages in the 1920s had inside plumbing. So, like many others, we had an outhouse. Ours was across the road and through a stand of pine trees. I never went out there alone at night when I was young, because it was very dark. A flashlight helped. But Isobel and I often walked out together, and if a twig snapped under our feet, we were ready to run. We imagined all kinds of things. My job was to empty the potties in the morning. Being extremely embarrassed should one of the Clark boys see me, I looked all around before dashing across the road in back of the hedge and down the path to the outhouse. Then, they must be scrubbed with hot soapy water.
Our cottage set up high and had cement steps leading down to the water’s edge. There was a wonderful artesian well with pure ice cold water to drink. Most people at the lake had an aluminum pitcher to carry the nice fresh water up to the table. Also, by the lake was what they called a cold box. Most folks didn’t have an ice box or refrigerator in the 1920s and 1930s. So, mother stored her crock of butter and crock of eggs in the ice water that flowed from a pipe to the artesian well. Other things, too, could be stored there, such as watermelon.
Next to the Schuchert’s was the cottage of Minnie and Zim Davis. They were a lovely old couple who had no children. Mr. Davis developed the Osage Melon, principally for use at hotels. It had thick meat and a small hole with only a few seeds. They did a lot of early morning fishing.
Down the path a little way from our cottage was property belonging to Judge Graziani. He and his family lived in Kentucky and brought his family to Clark Lake because of a doctor’s recommendation. The doctor, in Covington, told the Judge he should take their little baby girl to the lake because she was frail. He built a southern home on Kentucky Point and owned five other small cottages built around 1893. There was a cottage for each child when they grew up. All around their property was a white picket fence. The path went only that far, so it was quite private. On land that was in between was a large boulder. In stenciled letters, it said KENTUCKY POINT. [Carlotta Graziani was that frail girl. She wrote an extended story about the Graziani’s on Kentucky Point. Click here to view it].
My father sold our cottage sometime in the 1940s. When our children began to want to go to the lake, we purchased one of those dear little cottages from the Wilson’s [probably Carlotta Graziani Wilson]. The windows were not square, but that was part of the charm. We loved our cottage dearly. But in 1980, my husband, John, was hit by a car and nearly killed. Fortunately, he has made a good recovery, but it took several years. So, I sold the dear cottage because I had so many responsibilities at the time.
During the time we owned the cottage on Kentucky Avenue, Laura Solar lived in the original home on the Point. She was one of Judge Graziani’s daughters and by then approaching 80-years old. She told me many stories of what went on when she and her sisters and brother were children growing up there.
Graziani family posed on the steps of their cottage for this photo taken in 1910. To improve details, the photo has been colorized.
She told me some funny stories about things that happened when they were children living in their own secluded area. The judge used to like to have fireworks for the 4th of July. One year he put them all in the living room, and told the children not to light a match. Well, someone did, and they went off. So, Judge Graziani went to Brooklyn and made the store owner get out of his house…it was a holiday…and go over to the store so they could buy some more. [Scroll down for Carlotta’s version of the fireworks incident.]
Laura’s brother, Ben, who was the youngest child eventually owned a motor boat. It was the first one on the lake. That did make the fishermen cuss.
All my memories of Clark Lake are precious ones.
-Jean Melling Kopplin
Jean’s daughter, Susan Kopplin Kienholz adds some memories of her own:
I was 17 when I first walked into the cottage. [Scroll up to see Susan’s drawing of the cottage]. It was as if I were taken back to another time, as the cottage was full of antiques. After we purchased it, Mother didn’t change much over the years. We all liked it as it was. She did however, buy a long dinner table that fit on the porch, where we took most of our meals. My father would stop at a roadside stand and bring home fresh corn after work for corn on the cob. Quite often Mother would go to a farm on the northwest side of the lake to buy strawberries. She made strawberry shortcake with real whipped cream. Mother always said that they were the best because the soil was so sandy, and it grew really good strawberries and delicious corn. I’m sure many people at the lake have memories like that. Perhaps you do, too.
When my Mother bought the cottage next to the Graziani’s on Kentucky Point, a lot immediately adjacent to the Graziani’s came with it. When my brother, John, married, my Mother gave the lot to him and his bride as a wedding present. John passed away in 2020.
Behind the lot was a shed. It contained various items that I will call “treasures” because they are evidence of Clark Lake’s past. Most came from the Graziani cottages. The washstand has two burn marks. (See the arrows). Was the washstand impacted when the fireworks went off inside the Graziani cottage? We’ll never know for sure, but it seems like a possibility.
The wash tub bears the initials of “JSW, Jr.”, likely one of the Graziani’s.
These glass pieces were from the cottage my Mother wrote about.
In 2021, the family gathered at the Clark Lake Community Center. Here they are on the veranda of what once was the Graziani cottage.
From Carlotta Graziani’s Clark Lake story, here are her memories of the fireworks incident:
At long last that new summer arrived and we were again at the lake. It was nice to see the cottage getting into shape for papa’s arrival on July the 3rd. Finally all was in good order and we went to meet the Cincinnati Northern that would bring him to us. With him came toys and boxes of the most beautiful fireworks. When we arrived back at the cottage, papa opened a large box and handed out many packages of firecrackers, snakes in the grass and other small ones that were safe for us to use during the day. He also gave each one a package of punk as he didn’t want us using matches.
Early on the morning of July 4th, 1906, we were all up and busy shooting off the firecrackers that papa had given us. Around noon time, Florence, who was then 6 years old, ran out of her supply. Thinking that she could find more in the front parlor where all the larger fireworks had been stored, she went in with lighted punk. In a few seconds, I saw the largest display of fireworks that I had ever seen in my life. It was coming through the windows and doors and apparently even the walls. The next I knew, Florence, Bennie and I were being taken back into the fields by our good nurse, Lillie.
Kind people came from all around the lake to help put out the fire that started. A bucket brigade was formed by many men passing water from the lake to each other. My father had crawled on his hands and knees through the midst of the fireworks to see if any of his children were trapped. In a remarkably short time, all was quiet. The fire was out and much to my sorrow, all the beautiful fireworks were gone.
With everyone gone, we all went inside, only to see a much damaged cottage and our plans for the evening gone. While mama and papa looked over the damage, my sisters, brother and I started to cry. Dear papa came and put his arms around us and said that there was nothing that could stop our celebration. He had sent Marcus to one of his friends and ordered a team of horses and a surrey to take us to Brooklyn to get all the fireworks that hadn’t been sold. The tears were soon gone, and with hugs and kisses for papa, we were soon on our way.
That being the Fourth and a holiday, of course, all the stores were closed. When my father wanted anything, however, nothing every stopped him. He went to the homes of the hardware stores owners and told his sad story. Well, they in turn got out their keys, opened up their shops and were glad to get rid of all the stock that was left. That was one of the happiest Fourths we ever had. Our friends came as usual, and I believe it was one of our loveliest displays.