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Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, Published July 18 2010

Halgrimson: Lake cottage held many memories

When my parents built a cottage on Minnesota’s Pelican Lake in 1940, it was just a cottage.

It was nestled in amongst the trees on a long lot with a boathouse and stone retaining wall on the beach and a dirt road at the back. The yard was surrounded by a split cedar fence, and the entrance was framed by stone pillars.

I was not born yet that first summer Mom and Dad were at the lake, but a photo of my mother sitting on the dock in her bathing suit, large with child, is labeled, “Phyllis and Throckmorton” – the name my parents called me before I was born.

The building had a galley kitchen, living room and three bedrooms – one with built-in bunks and a small vanity, one with a built-in double bed with drawers below for storage and a small closet, and a third with twin beds and a small closet.

In the living room, there was a built-in bench along one wall. The top of the bench could be lifted for storing wood. A picnic table and bench were in the dining area. A large fieldstone fireplace dominated one wall with built-in sofas and bookshelves on either side. A window, which was 9-feet square, looked over the lake. As I recall, the wood in most of the rooms was knotty pine.

Although the cottage had an outhouse, there was also an indoor toilet, sink and tin-lined shower. I loved the sound the water made when it hit the tin.

The summer before last, I stopped at the cottage for the first time since my parents sold it 1949, when I was 9 years old. But no one was home. Memories flooded my mind. There was the heavy pipe for the swing that Daddy used to climb once every summer. He’d shimmy across the top and come down the other side.

I remembered playing a game of bocce on the lawn. The wooden balls, painted green, red and white were stored in a wooden box. I though about a game of bocce I’d played with Lowell Boulger when he visited us with his sister, Pat.

I remembered catching fish from the end of the dock, usually only bullheads that Gram would clean. Everyone on the beach brought her their bullheads. She was the only one who would deal with them.

If we’d gone out in the boat and had some luck, I’d take the fish next door to Art and Hannah Malme’s yard where Art showed me how to gut and scale the fish. He had a hinged board on the side of his boathouse that was hitched up and used for the purpose. The Malmes’ children were Bev and Jerome. I thought Bev was so beautiful, and I had a huge crush on Jerome. I called him Jeromie.

Dyer’s store was down the beach, and I remembered the hill behind the store. It seemed to have gotten much smaller and less steep. We went there for groceries as well as to play the pinball machines.

There were two farms across the road, and I made friends with the daughter who lived at one of them. Her name was Marjorie, but I’m not sure how to spell her last name, Isaacson. I looked forward to our reunion every summer.

The other farm had an ice house in the trees at the side of the farmhouse, and I loved going into it on a hot summer day with its lovely smell of sawdust and melting lake ice.

I remembered a hail storm coming across the lake one summer and afterward Gram out in the yard with a pail collecting hailstones no doubt to be used in drinks later in the day.

I also remember swimming one day in the spring before the ice had gone out of the lake and was only 10 or 15 feet from the shore.

As I walked toward the beach two years ago, a neighbor two doors away from our former cottage came over and asked if she could help me. I told her my parents had built the cottage and she said, “You must be Andrea Hunter.”

The cottage no longer looks as it once did, and the neighbor told me that the owners were going to tear it down and build anew. I cried on the way home.

Readers can reach Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com