My love affair with Clark Lake started 90 years ago. I’m told I was just 3 weeks old the first time my feet touched the water of our lake.
When I think about it, the trip from our home in Toledo and our summer stays at the lake must have been a challenge for my parents. I’m sure my sister and I never realized it until we had families of our own. Consider how it was. In the early days, our car’s running boards would be strapped with suitcases and boxes as we made the two-hour journey north. Many of the roads weren’t paved, including where our cottage was located on Eagle Point Road. It could be very dusty, so neighbors would chip in to buy oil that would be spread to keep it down. At first we didn’t have plumbing. Water would have to be hauled in to wash clothing and linens by hand. My sister, Bernice, like to take baths. That involved heating the water for a wash tub. I’m sure my mother urged my father on as he enlisted the help of neighbors to install indoor plumbing. But even that was not easy. Papa never swore, but he made an exception as he crawled under the house and tried to make the new system work.
As kids, you tend to dismiss those kinds of challenges and remember only the carefree days at the lake. I’m sure my memory parallels others from that time. When we weren’t playing in the water in front of the cottage, we would go swimming off the Eagle Hotel Point dock. The bottom was hard and sandy, and there were no weeds.
Eagle Point was also a place where you met other kids and took advantage of what the Point had to offer. Bill (I don’t recall his last name) ran a small store and soda counter that was attached to the hotel–it was the best place to buy a chocolate milkshake.
There was miniature golf on the point. I wasn’t very good at it, but it was still fun.
Then there was softball. A baseball diamond was laid out where the Marina warehouse now stands. Were there moments of mischief? Katie Rensch and I would sneak off into Rollo Every’s field and make cigarettes out of corn silk.
As a family we occasionally had dinner at the Eagle Point Hotel, but the real treat was going into Jackson and dining at the Regent. That would be followed up with a trip to the Cascades. All other meals were at the cottage, and prepared foods just weren’t available then. It all had to be made from scratch.
When we were older, we roller skated at the Eagle Point pavilion above, and bowled down below. Dick Ligibel, a next-door neighbor at the lake, had a summer job setting up the pins. Dick would play an important role in my life later. While Papa worked in Toledo during the week, we had no car. My mother, sister and I would catch a ride with the Ligibel’s to go to the Ocean Beach pier to enjoy the famous big bands that would play there.
For me, and for many others, there has always been a strong connection between Clark Lake and Toledo. Even though we lived in the Westmoreland neighborhood, I attended Ottawa Hills High School. And then, as I have found out, much to the discomfort of future members of my family, I graduated from The Ohio State University. My senior year, Papa bought me a car. I had narrowed the choices down to Ford, Chevrolet and Pontiac. Papa made a list of what I should tell the salesman. I added something not on the list, and In fact, Papa had warned me against it. I bought a brand-new 1950 Pontiac with a trendsetting option–hydramatic transmission. Well, I’ve been known to have a mind of my own. And so it was that I was first among my friends to drive a car with automatic transmission.
That green Pontiac allowed me to drive to the lake on my own. What freedom! It was about this time that a life-changing event occurred. Dick Ligibel was friends with Gordon Mathis, who had a place at the lake but was from Jackson. He was friends with Roger Lyons, also from Jackson. It was through this connection that I would meet my future husband.
Roger Lyons and I were married in 1952. While he attended dental school at the University of Detroit, we lived there. The military draft was active at that time. Once he graduated, Roger accepted a commission as an officer in the Air Force, which took us to Austin, Texas. Two years later, we returned home. Roger joined his father’s dental practice, and we settled in Jackson.
The cottage at Clark Lake was not winterized. For many summers, Sunset Glen created the most wonderful memories of swimming, sunning, water skiing, and sailing. I recall how Roger and I crewed with Art Adams on his Lightning sailboat.
Roger built one of the first rafts on the lake. He took a swimming raft, cut a slot on one side of it, attached a motor, and so began our new way of enjoying the lake. When factory-made rafts came along, we acquired one of the first–a Riviera Cruiser. Since then, there have been several more.
I am so happy my children also experienced Clark Lake. Roger, Barbara and Bruce grew up indelibly connected to this place. It played a role in how their own families developed. Roger’s son, B.J., married Sally Dandar, part of the Ligibel family. B.J. and Sally now have a baby daughter, Blake Lemon, who also has Clark Lake in her DNA. Roger’s daughter, Kaci, married Andy Babineau. Their son, Parker, their daughter, Peyton and two dogs, Murphy and Miles, spend serious splashing time at the lake. Our daughter, Barbara, married John Czyrka. I’m happy to say that Barbara, John and their daughter, Cristina, spend lots of quality time here, too. We miss Bruce and his wife, Carol. They visit but now live in Chicago.
After my husband’s passing, I decided to become a permanent Clark Lake resident. I sold our Jackson home, and started building here. First the old cottage had to come down. It was sad goodbye to Sunset Glen, but it had to happen if I were to live here during all seasons. I became my own general contractor. I freely admit I didn’t know what I was doing, but I learned. Dave Faling, a local builder, put up the new house. Reed Lowden’s design of the house customized it for our needs. I live on the second floor, which is at street level to Eagle Point Road. The first story opens up to the lake. It has three bedrooms, bath facilities and kitchen for my children to use when they visit. The slide show below takes you from the original Sunset Glen to the house on Eagle Point Road today.
It hardly seems possible that my Clark Lake adventure started 90 years ago. I don’t know how life would have been without it, but I do know this. Clark Lake has been a difference-maker for my family and me. All of us will be forever part of it.
Dorothy’s 90th birthday celebration at Clark Lake
Editor’s note: For Thanksgiving 2017, this website produced a video entitled “Grateful for Clark Lake”. Members of the Lyons’ family participated, including Dorothy.
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