Don and Wilma Nichols

Wilma and Don Nichols

As I read the stories of Clark Lake residents, I note many anecdotes which dovetail with my own memories. My first conscious memory of the lake begins in the water, lying on a board, learning to paddle with my hands, no fear only the joy of the moment with family members close.

Life began at Clark Lake on Memorial Day. It ended on Labor Day, when the Chevy was loaded for winter residence in Jackson. How interesting that my memories are predominantly filled with images of summers in/on the water. Memories of a canvas kayak, early morning sun and paddling off to turtle town with no thought of telling my parents where I was going or when I would return. Return by dinner or when you hear the bell is the only rule I remember.

I learned at 4 or 5 years of age, that I could start the 1 ½ hp rope-start Johnson outboard motor, which gave me even more freedom to roam the lake and explore where the turtles were, where to fish, where the sand was best for swimming. Rollo’s Eagle Point Hotel had a wonderful dock and the best hard bottom. New friends frequently began with hotel guests, usually from Ohio.

Don Nichols age 4

Don Nichols at Clark Lake, Age 4

We learned to water ski behind Waldo Andrews’ Chris Craft when Waldo brought a skier from Cyprus Gardens who taught Sally Shawaker, Johnny Bannasch, David Andrews, Jeannie Andrews-Schweitzer and me the art of using two skies, instead of a single board attached to the boat. What fun with most of my summer memories revolving about water skiing from that day. We started with two skis then a single ski, jump skis, shoe skies and trick skies. Harold Barden and I built a ski jump with dimensions 12 feet long and 5 feet high from water edge to full height. We found paint does not allow a slippery service so Harold and I encased the surface in tin. Many skiers learned their first jumps on that relic. The jump was dangerous and replaced when the Pine Riders Ski Club was formed.

yellowraft 2

Photo: Carolyn Nichols

No tale is complete without stories of the “yellow raft”. To avoid liability the raft was owned as an LLC, by the Bannasch, Shawaker, Andrews and Nichols Families. It was a source of endless fun, picnics and seeing if a “townie” would fit into our group. Many of those who passed the test are still here as lake residents.

Finally, “The Lake” continues the inexorable attraction of an old friend, ever the same and yet continually evolving. I return to the “cottage” each year with the anticipation of new memories to be built on those of the past 77 years.

Don H. Nichols MD