My Grandpa and Grandma Scherrman had a cottage on Lake Delhi, or Hartwick Lake as it was once called, since the early 1930s. We have lots of old photos of my grandparents, my dad, and my two aunts up at the cottage swimming and boating. It was a family tradition. Every Sunday in the summer, rain or shine, we would go to the cottage. For a number of years, we would also spend a week there. That was our version of a family vacation and the closest we ever got to camping. The cottage was pretty bare bones. It had running water (just cold -- no hot) and an indoor flushable toilet and electricity. But, that was about as far as the luxuries went. It had an old cast iron pot belly stove that you could fire up if we got a sudden cold spell in the summer and the temps dipped down to 50 degrees at night. Oddly, we have hardly any pictures of our summer days at the cottage. I suppose my mom was busy enough trying to corral five kids and a dog most of the time to try and be all Ansel Adams or Annie Liebovitz.
Going to the cottage seemed like the quintessential childhood summer.
- Swimming for hours and playing on old tractor inner tubes for flotation devices. Of course, swimming was allowed only after the requisite hour had passed since we ate!
- Eating hot dogs cooked on the grill.
- Attempting to fish (the boys...not me). Jerry, mostly, he got particularly frazzled one summer with a bullhead that kept showing up on his hook time and time again.
- Sleeping 7 people in one bedroom.
- Going a week with no shower! Well, we did spend most of the time in the "clean" lake water.
- Lighting sparklers on the dock.
- Running around with my cousins, who also spent Sundays at the cottage.
- Hearing the Cubs game playing on the black and white TV that barely got reception. Grandma Scherrman was a die-hard Cubs fan.
- Ignoring my Grandma's friend Meta (an old spinster) who constantly yelled "Don't slam the door!" The cottage had one of those old wooden screen doors on it with a loose spring. Of course, we would push it open and bolt out...letting it slam against the wooden door frame at least 50 times per day.
- Packing up our life jackets, inner tubes, and toys in the "brooder house." Yes, my Grandpa, the farmer, repurposed an old chicken coop to be our storage shed. (Maybe that's where I get my MacGyver skills.)
Fast forward to 2009. Thanks to Facebook, I started conversing with my cousin Mary Jo. Her family had continued to go to the cottage every summer. She and her husband bought the cottage next door to my Grandma's, and her daughter Rachel and her husband bought the cottage that was originally my Grandma's. Jerry and I went to visit Mary Jo at the cottage in September of 2009. They had already taken the boat out for the winter so we weren't able to take a cruise on the lake that day. We promised to come back in 2010.
|The "cottage" - it looks so small|
from what I remembered
|The chair Grandma listened to the Cubs|
in - now recovered and looking (almost) like new.
|The view from the cottage - it's one of the|
best spots on the lake.
|Mary Jo - Jerry - Me|
|After the levee broke - July 2010|
There is much debate about whether the dam should be rebuilt at all. Of course, I am biased because I know what the lake has meant to my family. Although a private association had control of the dam, the lake was open to the public and had several public areas. The now missing dam has closed a county road because a 30 foot gorge now stands where a road once crossed over the dam. The surrounding areas are negatively affected by the non-existent recreation dollars that were once spent in local businesses.
I have seen some criticism against rebuilding that the lake catered to the upper class. I take issue with that. In fact, I think it is quite the opposite. Sure, in recent times, some large gorgeous homes were built along the lake -- I guess you could call them nouveau lake people. In my opinion, the lake association was built by common lower and middle class folks, like my family, who weren't able to take fancy vacations to California or Europe. Instead, we spent our summer vacation in a little two-room cottage without hot water or a shower. We ate hot dogs and roasted marshmallows, and the bigger the tractor inner tube the better. No, the lake was designed for people who spent time with their families enjoying the simple things in life and who passed on that tradition generation after generation.
I, for one, think Lake Delhi should be restored so that generations to come can have the same memories of innocent childhood fun that I have. Besides, Mary Jo and her husband Todd still owe me that boat cruise from one end of the lake to the next...and I'm holding them to it!