Our family has been at Clark Lake since 1949 when my Great Uncle Bob and Aunt Ada Hamilton discovered how fun it was to catch fish here. He used to catch huge Northern Pike and save their jaws as trophies by attaching them to the basement door. As kids when we saw those smelly fish jaws we were scared half to death even to swim in this lake. One of them could eat us!
Both Uncle Bob and Aunt Ada served in WWI. He was a medical assistant and she was an R.N. Some of you will remember his chili joint called Johnny You Like ‘Ems on Francis Street. They lived in Jackson on Mechanic Street in the winter and here at Clark Lake in the summer.
After WWII my father returned from Europe and started a family. Dad loved coming out here to the lake with us to help his Aunt and Uncle open up the cottage. Back in those days, there were no windows, but only screens and that had been boarded up during the winter. It was a real project when it rained because upstairs we had to place these 3’x3′ heavy boards over the space and they never quite fit right. During the winter, the cottage had been boarded up. As a result in the spring, the house was full of dead flies and dust. We worked hard to clean it all out, paint the raft, put in the dock to prepare for my aunt and uncle to come and spend the summer here. But we didn’t stay at the lake all summer. We went back in town to take swimming lessons at Frost and find other things to do like run through hydrants and eat ice cream at Loud’s.
Clark Lake always meant work to us growing up so we didn’t look forward much to coming out here. My uncle had suffered a stroke and growled at us most of the time, which we thought was on purpose. He rarely smiled, but now we know that he wasn’t able to smile. I realize now we just trusted our Dad to lead the way and not be so afraid of our uncle. Those years taught us compassion. Then finally, when we were allowed to come here for a few weeks, we discovered the magic of Clark Lake.
It was a big project when we painted this house with 23 gallons of paint. My father had me get up on the top of the ladder in front to paint the gingerbread trim. There was a hornet’s nest there at the time, so I worked fast. We had painted all the old wicker furniture on the porch white and put in new red corduroy cushions. The roof still leaked. When it rained, we would sit in the house with pots and pans on the kitchen floor filling up with water. My mother called this place “camp.” There was an old TV set here, and every time you turned it on, it smelled bad. This was before solid state, and we figured the tubes were cooking a dead mouse in there. It was always a mystery and amazed the neighbors’ kids.
The nights were so dark, and I miss that now. Why do we need our lights on all night long out here anyway? But when we were little we were afraid of the dark. We would catch fireflies, put them in a jar, and take them upstairs thinking they would light up our room.
With our collective imaginations, we made our own fun here at the lake. At night we would play ditch ’em and kick the can. The neighbors were great fun. Chamberlains had two horses. Valerie Chamberlain and I would ride bare back around the lake. One day we gave 17-year old Cyclone a bath in our front yard. Dummy me! I thought we might rinse him off with a bucket of spring water because it was cleaner than lake water. I threw the whole bucket of ice cold water on his back and poor Cyclone reared up on his back legs, broke the rope and took off down Woodland back to his barn. We ran after him all the way– like we could catch a freaked-out horse!
There were seven kids in our family. After the raft was painted, the dock was put in, and the lawn mowed, we asked my Dad to buy us a speed boat. Never happened. We found an old flat bottom boat at the dump and put a 10 hp Johnson motor on it. We failed miserably at all attempts to ski behind that, but it was still fun trying. Our Dad brought us a huge old tractor tire inner tube and we would get inside of it and roll down the hill. Someone always had to stand at the bottom to catch you but sometimes they’d just let you roll by and land in the lake.
Instead of a speedboat, my Dad bought an old Nipper 12-foot sailboat, with a green canvas sail. Into our teen years, Dad heard often about our wanting a speedboat. He finally said, “Put on your bathing suit and sit at the end of the dock. You’ll get your speedboat.” Of course he denied ever saying that in later years, but it did work. Four speedboats! We did get the opportunity of learning how to water ski that summer of 1968. Now that we had our speedboat-connection friends we decided to break the world’s record of hauling 10 skiers behind one boat. (Our own record, really.) We gathered all the rope and skis we could find. There were ten of us…HIT IT! We went about 50 feet and someone fell, but we did it!
Once we had our own parade. We had Susan and Valerie Chamberlain on their two horses, Coco and Cyclone. Our Dalmatian followed on their heels as my sister played the tuba. I had a baby goose that would follow us. My sister wore her Mickey Mouse Club t-shirt. The little kids dragged their doll strollers and teddy bears. We were a motley band but we were loud and proud! Oakwood Avenue also featured VanWagnen’s homemade go-cart, and Gallants had a neat mini-bike.
Also on Oakwood Avenue, Chauncey, Sparky VanWagnen’s English bull dog, used to sleep in the middle of the road and cars had to drive around him. To this day I have only owned English bull dogs.
Mark, a friend of my sister, used to maintain Mr. Anderson’s house on the east side of Eagle Point. We heard the stories of his entertaining the stars–Debbie Reynolds and Irene Ryan who was Granny on the Beverly Hillbillies. It was Mark’s job to drive Mr. Anderson’s Chris Craft wooden barrel back boat around, and of course we helped him out by skiing behind it.
Once I remember taking off from the dock on one ski and snagged my bikini bottom on a nail. The boat took off dragging me and my pride for about 20 feet…
Towards the end of the summer we would sneak into the orchard under the barbed wire fence up the hill. I remember stories of people getting shot at with rock salt. We only were caught once and were too scared to return.
When the train used to run behind Hyde Road and we would run down to the tracks and place our pennies for the train to squash. Going to Roberts Grocery store for a penny pretzel was worth the walk on bare feet. You knew you had arrived at the lake when your feet were tough enough to go barefoot on Oakwood Ave.
In 1971 during and after high school, I got a job at Foote Hospital working as a medical transcriptionist. I saved my money; and with my father, invested in a Hobie Cat. I went to work fulltime at night after graduation. My brother, Dan, had learned how to sail by then and would call me at work. He would say he had good news, and bad news. Tell me the good news, I would say. “Well, Beck, we got the boat back up after we turtled it but had to tip it over again to wash off the muck.” Great. I’m stuck working and he gets to have all the fun sailing.
Dan was my crew member when we sailed in Fleet 58. I’ve always heard that it was the largest Hobie Fleet 16′ on an inland lake in the world. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe it. The lake was so beautiful on Sundays during our races. Everyone was pretty excited zooming around in their Hobie Cats. I don’t recall ever really winning one of those races. But one Fourth of July there was a “fun” race. We all put our boat numbers in a hat and I drew John Avis’ boat. It was a Captain’s Only race. I had watched how Beffel’s always took their own course and sailed away from the pack. So I sailed that boat towards Pierce’s Cove, tacked back on fresh wind and blasted out in front of the group. I was in the lead!! As I sailed past our house, my father realized what was going on because I was whistling my head off at him. He was so excited for my being in the lead he grabbed the pan he was scrambling eggs in, got everyone in the house on the raft and headed to the finish line to cheer me on. I did win that race and it was great because there weren’t too many female captains in our Fleet. Hooray for the women sailors! My father always said it takes more brains to sail a boat than drive a speedboat–and he was right.
In 1978, my parents sold their house in town and moved out here. During the same year I moved to Connecticut. I came home every six month for about 33 years.
After our Dad passed away, and then our Mom, six years later, my husband and I bought and moved to this place. Now I’m retired. It’s interesting how the past catches up with you. Last spring I was digging next to the back door planting flowers and found my father’s wedding ring. He had lost it over 15 years ago—and there it was under 7 inches of dirt. I was amazed to find it and had remembered how devastated he had been over losing it. Bob Burdick, my Dad, was the man who loved flowers. I remember him every day here where the flowers love to grow. He used to set up chairs on the road, play classical music and watch the evening primrose open.
Life is great at Clark Lake.
I am writing this on October 1st, 2013. This would have been my mother, Marion Burdick’s 88th Birthday. Happy Birthday, Mamie.