Bullinger’s Cottage on Kentucky Point
80 years 1942-2022
by Josie Hones
Grandpa Bill and Grandma Nell started it all. William James Bullinger (b 1889) and Mary Ellen Landers (b 1888) were classmates at St. John’s Academy in Jackson in the class of 1908. Grandpa tells me that he left school before graduation because he had to work and that “Grandma graduated, you know”. In the summertime, Grandma Nell and her girlfriends would rent a cottage near the Pleasant View Hotel at Clark Lake. On the weekends Grandpa Bill and some other guys rode the train from Jackson to Clark Lake; they’d walk or take the ferry from the depot at the west end of the lake to the hotel. They pitched a tent behind the hotel for the weekend to be near the girls. They enjoyed the lake during the day and attended the dances at the Pleasant View pavilion at night. These were special days in their courtship.
Grandpa Bill married Grandma Nell on September 6,1910 at St. John’s Catholic Church in Jackson; they were both 21 years of age. They built a home near Foote Hospital in Jackson where they raised 14 children. Bill worked as a tool maker at Walker Manufacturing and Nell left her job at the bank downtown to become a stay-at-home wife and mother. They were a loving, and hardworking family who were known to “feed the bums and care for the needy of their neighborhood”. Yet, as busy as they were, Bill and Nell frequently recalled their cherished time spent together at Clark Lake.
My father, Jack, was their second child. Over the years Jack heard his parents tell stories of their wonderful memories of Clark Lake. When Jack was in his 20’s, he and his friends (including his future wife, Louise) frequented the Ocean Beach Pier at Clark Lake. They enjoyed the music of the Big Bands who played there between their bookings in Detroit and Chicago. The Ocean Beach Pier pavilion was well known “for dancing under the stars and over the water”. So, during the 1930’s Bill and Nell’s son, Jack, began his own memories of Clark Lake.
Jack and Louise were married on Thanksgiving Day, 1935. On Sunday afternoons they often drove around Clark Lake wishing they could own their own cottage. In 1942, they saw a cottage on Kentucky Avenue that was for sale. It was “The Blue Grass Cottage” built by the Graziani family prior to 1900. (Click to see plat map). The cottage had been sold to an outsider and had not been used for years. Jack stated that he had to “walk through grass past his knees” when taking his wife, Louise, out for a closer view of the house. Since Dad was an independent businessman, he justified that they could afford the cottage and could use it as collateral for second mortgages, as necessary for his business endeavors. The cottage selling price was $3700, furniture included. (Click to view sales agreement) Jack and Louise purchased the cottage on a land contract with a down payment of $500 and monthly payments of $75. To read the Graziani story at Kentucky Point, please click here.
Jack and Louise were my parents. They bought a cottage when they were 32 years old with four children, aged 5, 3, 2 and 1. Their plan was to move from their home in the city of Jackson when school ended, enjoy the peacefulness of the lake during the summer, and return to the city just in time for the school year to resume. Before moving in, a few improvements were needed. That first year they reconfigured the upstairs to make more bedrooms by removing the large clawfoot bathtub and installing two electric wall heaters downstairs. Over the years this family added three more children. I am the baby, born in 1950.
By then, Grandpa Bill and Grandma Nell’s younger children were in their 20’s or already married and moved out, so Grandpa and Grandma spent many weekends with us at the cottage. Sleeping accommodations were minimal: Mom and Dad were upstairs in their small bedroom and the 5 kids were in the other 3 small bedrooms while the two older boys were on a trundle/couch at the south end of the porch. Throughout the summers Bill and Nell (grandparents) slept on a trundle bed/couch on the north side of the porch. All was cozy, except when the rain, wind, cold came in through the screens on those sleeping on the porch!
After Grandma Nell died in 1956, Grandpa continued his weekends with us. It was no problem when he gave up driving because Dad would pick him up each Friday after work and drive him back to town the following Monday morning. I was his driver in the 60’s after I got my license. Grandpa would be waiting outside his family home with a small satchel and a jacket. Grandpa was so happy to go to the lake. He was such a pleasant man as comfortable as a favorite chair. I remember Grandpa’s smiling eyes when he saw the full moon rise above Eagle Point. We called it “Grandpa’s Moon” and I still look for his smiling face in it. Grandpa had 70 grandchildren.
Life was simple for the Bullinger’s at the lake. We didn’t venture far from Kentucky Point. We knew neighbors in the cottages near us: the Blanchards, Hungerfords, Winters, Martin’s, Kortens and Wilsons. (Mrs. Carlotta Wilson was a Graziani daughter; she wrote the Graziani story about the cottage that became the Clark Lake Community Center). We also knew some Jacksonians who attended Sunday and Holy Day Masses at St. Rita’s Catholic Church. We looked forward to seeing our summer friends: the Graziani grandkids, the Winters’ grandchildren from Ohio and Missouri as well as other classmates from our schools in Jackson who had cottages on the lake. We also had yearly visits from Bowser Eagy, our plumber, to turn the water on/off. Our family doctor, Dr. Phillip Riley, Sr., lived five cottages away and still made house calls, if necessary.
Each Spring we’d prepare the cottage before moving out to the lake for the summer. Since we didn’t heat the cottage during the winter months, it aged as we did. Upon opening the door, we never knew the condition we would find. The interior was dark because the tarps were still up on the screens and all curtains/drapes drawn. There were some years when animals had taken up residence and left a mess. The cottage had a woodsy, musty odor which fortunately evaporated with the onslaught of people, cooking, and fresh air. Our official change of venue was on the day that the professionals arrived; Buell’s Moving Van Company was our sign of summer! Mom was the master coordinator; she oversaw the packing of two large barrels (one for linen, one for kitchen goods), the loading of the washing machine, clothing for the nine of us, our personal items and boxes and cans of food. Mom had packed everything we’d need for our summer vacation. The final items loaded were the bikes…after we rode them in…and out, in…and out, probably a dozen times. On moving day, Dad went to work as usual; he left his home from Union Street in Jackson and came home to Kentucky Avenue at Clark Lake.
Since we were the closest catholic family to St. Rita’s church (located at the curve of Kentucky Ave and N. Shore on land donated by the Graziani family), we were responsible to clean it for summer use. Again, we checked for animals and insects, removed the nuts, wiped away the cobwebs and even moved the pews outside to hose them down. St. Rita’s was a very simple, wooden building. It was small and white, about the size of a pole barn, with a tall steeple. Some would call it an old-fashioned country church. There were two entrances, one at the front for churchgoers and one at the rear for the priest, ushers, and altar boys. The rear entrance had a double door with a beautiful view of the East end of the lake. This area was attached like a shed with one side open to slip around to the altar. At the main entrance there was a windowless double door that opened to a center aisle about six feet wide. There were simple pews and kneelers that extended to the right and left toward the windows. Most of the pews were made of wooden slats, maybe 3 or 4 on top and bottom.
The altar was white but not too tall and probably made of plaster with just a few swirls on it which seems pretty fancy for the small mission church. There were painted statues of Mary, Joseph, and St. Rita in addition to Jesus on the cross. There were no heating and air condition units, so the windows were essential. This church had stained glassed windows! They swung open from a center hinge and, if they still operated, they either kept the rain out or caught whatever breeze was available on a Sunday morning.
It was summer and we’d always find things to do. We had boats, a swimming/diving raft, an original water bike (a bike with pontoons welded beneath it), a backyard sandbox, a swing set, a dollhouse, and an outhouse! We never learned proper swimming techniques but instead knew “survival swimming” which was necessary for “holding your breath the longest underwater” contests. We fished, hunted turtles, played baseball on St. Rita’s church parking lot, picked black raspberries, and hunted the roadbeds for returnable bottles. We were in the water for hours and hours. Our boats pulled a “surfboard”, “ski-bob”, inner tubes and eventually water skis. We took the boat to Elsie’s for burgers or just took joy rides around the lake. We played tag, capture the flag, hide-n-seek, and kick-the-can on land during the day and night. We also played croquet and badminton in the backyard which provided additional challenges at night when the brackets and/or net hampered our movement. We walked to the Pleasant View Hotel to purchase ice cream or candy and run through their porch on the way home. We rode over to Eagle Point to get a treat or roller skate. We bought vegetables from the corner farm market on the North Lake curve. Every day we walked or biked on the unpaved North Shore Drive past the many cottages and Beaver Lodge to Hop’s grocery store and to the post office to ask, “Is there any mail for the Bullinger’s?” (There never was since our permanent address was in Jackson.) We rode the horses at Preston’s…Gypsy knew her way to our cottage! As did other summer residents, we occasionally even put on some real clothes and shoes to shop in Brooklyn or see a movie at the Star Theatre.
On a few slow days we walked to meet Dad on his way home from work in Jackson. Our route was Kentucky to North Lake to Reed Road. This activity stopped after Dad decided one day to take “the old road” (Clark Lake Road…so called since it was used prior to the construction of US 127 S.) We had walked all the way to Reed Road and back. We sure were surprised to see his car at the cottage after that long, tiring, hot, four-mile trek! For us kids, that tradition ended.
Tuesdays were laundry days. Mom used the ringer/washer that we brought from our home in Jackson. She would have the boys string the clothes lines in a zig zag pattern across the back yard between the trees and utility poles. It was a hard day for Mom but a good day for us when she called us to catch worms from the emptied sudsy water onto the back lawn. Recycling old style!
Sundays began with walking three cottages to the north to Mass at St. Rita’s. Big breakfasts followed. It was our lazy day. We were never surprised when visitors walked along the side of the cottage from the road to the lakefront without advanced notice. These were family or friends who would sit down to enjoy the view of the lake. We’d always invite them for our Sunday dinner of hamburgers on the special grill that Dad had designed and constructed with its swivel wheelbase (to catch the best wind) and heated compartment next to the charcoal (to warm the buns). Once a year we had a big dinner of broiled chicken halves. Dad saw this design at the Manchester Chicken Broil and made his sheet metal box with grates for our personal use. These dinners were for guests of 50 or more. Sundays were, and still are, family days! But, at the lake, isn’t that every day?
The cottage and its property have change over the years. The wraparound screened porch was enclosed to build a small “changing room”. Aluminum siding was installed, and large sliding glass windows replaced the screens on the lakeside. All windows were replaced over time. A furnace was installed and the fireplaced was capped due to its unsafe condition. In the 60’s, the kitchen received newer cupboards, flooring, and appliances. The outhouse and garage were town down and replaced by a 2½ car garage relocated to current zoning regulations. The four huge trees in the front yard, which were victims of lightning strikes, were taken down and the bushes and fencing surrounding the front property were removed. The unique inground cement cooler at the shoreline connected to the well was buried and was replaced by a simple pipe running excess spring water into the lake. Shrubbery around the house and additional trees, bushes and old fencing around the back yard are also gone. Eventually, the family purchased a strip of vacated farmland across the back road to use for overflow parking and a ball field. Many of these actions helped to lessen the mosquito population.
The Bullinger Cottage has hosted many celebrations. In addition to the summer holidays of Memorial Day, Father’s Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, we had parties for birthdays, anniversaries, wedding showers, baby showers, graduations, class reunions, employee appreciation picnics, poker, slumber parties, golf outings, team finales, etc. Of course, parties are a way for people to enjoy. We’d have a large celebration for Dad’s July 29th birthday as well. During the 1960’s Dad started inviting his siblings to attend. As a partying group, they gladly arrived. The numbers grew, as did the family, and with seven children, their spouses, and 28 grandchildren, what’s another 20 adult guests?
Twelve of Bill & Nell’s 14 children. Jack, owner of cottage, lower left
Although Jack and Louise discontinued living at the cottage for summers in 1968, they continued to drive out for family gatherings. The children used it informally for the next few years. Louise died January of 1979, so Jack deeded the cottage to the children. The families met each Spring to discuss the upcoming summer events, determine the budget and dues, and divide the weeks of summer. The purpose was to continue to build memories with their own families. Jack died in April of 1989. His birthday gift from the family that year was the building of a new, wooden dock. That cottage and that dock are still used by the Bullinger’s in this 80th year. Thanks to Grandpa Bill and Grandma Nell for starting this story and blessing this family with so many memories.