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The Summer of '36

Although by 1905 summer residences had appeared around Green Lake, among them the Tallman, Young, and Robbins cottages on Crescent Beach, the number increased in the 1920's and 30's, then boomed after World War H. The following account it typical of summer living in a cottage i . n the mid‑30's. The younger sister had taken her first steps at Green Lake; 35 and 45 years later than the account, the sisters and their husbands retired to Green Lake.

They sat in the rocking chairs, the mother and two sisters, watching the heat lightning illuminate the western sky. They had not bothered to light the kerosene lamps; after

spending most of the day swimming, diving from the big rock, and riding smooth driftwood logs to Timbuktu, they were too tired to do anything else. Another evening they might have lit the Aladdin lamp and read, played Sorry, Wings, or Chinese Checkers. This night they were content to sit and watch the pyrotechnics in the sky, to listen to the loons, to play Twenty Questions or "I'm thinking of a person whose name begins with M‑‑L‑‑" Only if the rumbling turned into crashes, the sheets of light into jagged bolts splitting the sky and striking the nearby woods, would they lift the trapdoor in the kitchen floor and go down into the small, clean basement that served as pantry, cool storage, and storm shelter. A sudden shift of wind, detected first in the uneasy sighing of the trees before one could see the effect on the waves, might drive, they hoped, much needed rain ahead of it. They longed to hear the first big splats against the windows and go to sleep with the gentle patter of raindrops on the roof.

Seven summers had passed since they'd bought and built upon newly developed Indian Beach, where their parents had picnicked years before that. The dreams of the Home Builders Investment Company of Willmar for a thriving business center at the south end of Indian Mound Drive had faded fast. For those who came to stay, however, life was almost idyllic.

Each day brought a new adventure: "How far under water can we swim today?", rowing up the lagoon at the Public Beach, stopping for an ice cream cone at the cafe, or watching more daring persons go down the toboggan slide with a whoosh and a splash. They walked beyond the point to Sunset Beach and Oakdale Beach, but the road stopped short of Medayto Farm so that land remained a mystery. Only on boat rides could one admire the Spicer Castle and its environs. They walked to the new bridge over the outlet leading to Lake Calhoun to watch for fish among the reeds. Fishing was permitted after June 15. The new bridge had been built by the Works Progress Administration, replacing one authorized by Irving Township officers with an appropriation of $25 in 1870. The rumble of cars crossing the old bridge could be heard half a mile away and more. They biked to Ye Olde Mill Inn‑‑unless the washboard road by the Lone Tree shook loose the nuts and bolts or loose gravel caused a spill. They visited the gypsy camp on the vacant lot beneath the hill on the north shore.

They picked wild roses, chokecherries, and wild grapes, planted and tended heavenly blue morning glories, hollyhocks, moss roses, and a small vegetable garden. They went swimming and fishing and swimming some more. There were no days when the presence of green algae discouraged or prevented swimming.

Neighbors were few and often far between, but numerous people stopped by regularly. Emil Olson delivered ice three times a week‑the clearest, purest ice imaginable. No wonder the Great Northern railroad used Green Lake ice for its water in their dining cars. Fred Harris, grandson of one of the first settlers of Irving townsite, delivered milk every other day. He often said if everyone drank as much milk as they did, he'd have to add another herd of cows. Arvid Engwall sent his Red and White truck around the lake with groceries at least twice a week. Bob Christianson was one of his drivers. Another grocery store also delivered; they'd leave from Spicer, one going around the north side, the other, the south. They often met midway along Indian Beach. Mrs. Alfred Olson, "the bake lady," came by twice a week with fresh home‑baked bread, cookies, pies, etc., along with freshly picked sweet corn in season. Mr. Thorvig, in his green Model T, delivered the mail every afternoon at 3:00. The Minneapolis newspapers, especially the Sunday ones, were delivered right to the door. Local farmers furnished fresh eggs, and they kindly made their telephones available for summer residents in emergencies.

When fathers who commuted to work during the week or weekends (in the case of clergy) arrived, the families would go for drives to Spicer, New London, and Willmar. In two more years, they could spend evenings at the Green Lake Bible Camp in the big tent with the wooden planks that became harder and harder by the hour.

By 1936 the golf course that had been near Spicer, on the southwest comer of the lake since 1912, had closed. No longer could one tee off on Oak Crest for the first of 18 sand greens. The clubhouse became the Green Lake Inn.

Movies in Willmar and roller‑skating and dancing in the Spicer Pavilion, where Lawrence Welk had once appeared, made a change of pace for adults and teenagers. The Pavilion was moved to the south side of the road to make room for another public beach. County Park #5 on the north shore of Green Lake had been established in 193 1.

The days of the big resort hotels, Interlachen and Tepeetonka, were dwindling down to a precious few. Impressive from the lake and road, Interlachen would close its facilities in four years and be razed in 10. Tepeetonka would be torn down in 1960. The Fredolf Hultgren Lodge, built in 1934, would thrive for another 30 years before making way for a supper club that eventually burned down.

The drought of the 30's took its toll in the Little Crow Lake Region. Green Lake dropped 20 inches, creating beaches from 30 to 50 feet in some places and what seemed like a block in others. Many smaller lakes dried up completely. Hundreds of trees died, with the sturdy hackberry, basswood, oak, and some cottonwoods surviving. Residents planted quick‑growing Chinese elms to fill the gaps, along with elm, maple, and ash trees for longer lifetimes.

Later Years

More than 50 years later Green Lake might still be considered "The Gem of 10,000 Lakes." Though not so pure as once they were, the spring‑fed waters still supply hours of cool, refreshing relaxation and entice thousands of visitors to resorts and campgrounds, summer residents (in some instances the fourth generation and more) to their cottages, and an increasing number of year‑round dwellers. Neighbors are more numerous than wild roses; boathouses have replaced chokecherries and wild grapes. Condominiums rise on one of the historic estates, the Cushman Rice summer home, on the lake, as they do on other lakeshore sites. Spicer Castle, on another estate, is now a Bed and Breakfast. One no longer runs outside to see the rare speedboat zip by; instead one wishes the sleek boats with their multi‑decibel motors would find another place to race. Sailboat regattas and catamaran races are welcome alternatives.

Other changes abound. The gypsies are gone. The Westwood Inn, successor to Hultgren's Lodge, burned to the ground after a change of ownership. For years only a concrete platform and large vacant lot remained, until present owners built a new residence.

The Public Beach on the east side is Kroneberger's Indian Beach Resort. Bob Whitney's Old Mill Inn is once more generating enough electricity to supply its needs and sell some back to the electric company. Electric power, first available in the county in 1939, entered cottages during the next 10 to 15 years.

Chrysalis House replaced the main building that replaced the tent at the Green Lake Bible Camp. A "stave church" was erected in 1940.

The Green Lake Inn became Saulsbury's Antiques and then, a few years later, Safari South, an award‑winning dining establishment. Now it is Melvin's on the Lake. The Pavilion was condemned and torn down in 1973.

The Little Crow Country Club between Spicer and New London, begun in 1968, joined the Willmar and Paynesville golf courses in offering rounds of pleasure‑or frustration‑to area golfers.

Hundred of trees were uprooted by tornadic winds in 1953. More went down in the Labor Day week storms in 1983. The Chinese elms fulfilled their role, and most of them died and were gone by 1985.

Some things have not changed at all. The interplay of sun and clouds still creates the distinctive bottle‑green, emerald, almostthe‑green of glacier‑fed lakes that prompted the early Dakota Indians to name it "Mdeto," "Mde‑" meaning "lake," and "to" meaning "blue, green, and intermediate shades," pronounced "Medayto."

The high water of 1983‑86 once more revealed the reddishpurple sand that led the first white settlers to rename, temporarily, the lake "Lake Carnelian." When beachcombing, one can still find occasional pieces of carnelian (a wax‑like red chalcedony), agate, jasper, or a soft red stone that crumbles into that reddish sand. If one is persevering, one might even find a rarer Indian arrow point or scraper, stone hammer, or grinding stone.

Although only five of the 69 Indian mounds remain, silent reminders of an earlier civilization, these arrowpoints, some cracked, some imperfectly chipped, as though some little Indian lad was trying so hard to get it right, help provide a continuity of time and place. One still hears the loon and owl call eerily, the squawk of a great blue heron, the melodious song of the oriole and wren. One watches kingfishers and blue jays and for the return of the bluebird. One still admires the aerial ballet of swallows and purple martins, the migration of ducks, geese, and swans‑all as the inhabitants of this land did hundreds of years ago.

Spicer, founded 1886, following its predecessor, Columbia, founded 1856; Green Lake‑here since the Ice Age, when the great glacier retreated. The dates are a graphic reminder that one of the three existed very well without the other two. What a precious heritage to care for and protect!

(This information first appeared in an article by Gloria Benson in the "Kandi‑Express, "June, 1986, and is published here courtesy of the author and the Kandiyohi County Historical Society.)