Thursday, October 3, 2013

Klinger Lake, We'll Miss You!

Places we spend time with family often take on new and deeper meanings than what they actually are. A special gathering place can see multiple generations come and go and lead to so many unforgettable memories. This has been the case for my family.

On November 19, 1954, my grandparents bought a house on Klinger Lake in Michigan and since that time, it has seen five generations gather there to celebrate holidays, birthdays, graduations and so much more! They purchased it after the difficult years of the War and for them, it was a slice of their American Dream. It was a modest house that would grow over the years—both in size and in meaning. Today, October 3, 2013 that house is being sold. After nearly 59 years, the time has come to let it go. Grandpa and Grandma have passed from this Earth and we are left with their wonderful memories and the memories of their home.

Circa 1954
Their home became a special place to each of us in our own ways. For my mom, aunts and uncles it was the house they grew up in, the place they learned values, hard work, and compromise. Every time we gathered we were sure to hear a story about the old days. There was the time my mom and aunts sent their little brother (my uncle) around the lake to sell pot holders, trying to make a quick buck. There were stories of “Little Grandma” climbing up Turtle Hill on some hiking route, memories of them taking the boat out when they were told not to—and getting caught, or just reminiscing about Grandma’s ability to make 5 lunches in what used to be a tiny little kitchen area!

There were stories about the neighbors and childhood friends who would visit for the summer. I found out during one story telling time why all the pines along the driveway have, to this day, a bend in their trunk: the snow piles from the Blizzard of ’78 piled on top of them leaving them with that deformity. Why does the old maple tree in the back yard also have a bend in its trunk? It had to grow that way around the old garage which use to stand right next to it—and for anyone who was wondering, their use to be a “tiny room” connected to that garage. There were stories of the milkman coming and Saturday nights spent watching The Lawrence Welk Show in the small room beside the stair case. They had adventures of playing in the apple orchard behind the house, and later us grandkids would too!

We have heard stories of people being thrown off the end of the dock, pushed through windows and fires starting at the neighbor’s house! There have been trees that have been cut down, and others that fell on their own timing—almost taking out the neighbor’s summer cottage. There were additions which transformed the look of the house and made room for a growing family.

The family came together for so much: New Year’s, Grandma & Grandpa’s anniversary, birthdays, Easter, graduations, spring cleaning, aka: dock installation, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, July 4th—which was also my Grandpa’s birthday—Christmas, Thanksgiving, fall cleaning, aka: dock removal and on so many other occasions.

As I said, Grandpa’s birthday was July 4th, and that meant big crowds, lots of food and fireworks being shot from the island just out in front of the house. In the later years we even started an annual “4th of July Obstacle Course” which had some of the hardest laughing I’ve ever done before. My cousin and I also had a long tradition of playing patriotic music on the end of the dock right before the fireworks began—one year during a lightning storm!

What impressed me as a child? A driveway ½ mile long which very rarely saw a car travel down it, the sprinklers in the back yard which I used to run through, the small bell by the front door which I would ring with annoyance to everyone else, the landing on the staircase where my cousins and I would play school, the dozens upon dozens of old National Geographic magazines which Grandma and Grandpa stored upstairs on the bookshelves, the different colored rooms which reminded me of the White House, the music box in my grandpa’s room which use to play “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” the accordion style wall lamp which was in Grandma’s room and feeding ducks out on the end of the dock.

What marks have I left on the house? In Grandma’s room I tore the wallpaper at about the age of four when I was bored during nap time, and a blue marker spot on the wallpaper leading upstairs from playing school. My mom told me just this past weekend that when they were kids they removed a loose brick from the fireplace and placed a note behind it—as far as she knows it’s still there!

Grandpa and Grandma’s legacy is still very much a part of Klinger Lake. Grandpa was brilliant when it came to designing and crafting. In 1961 he began his own business, Con-De Manufacturing, selling a uniquely designed dock which telescoped its pieces together, making for easy installation and removal. Grandma helped him run the business by keeping the books and answering the telephones. It was a small business but had a large imprint: today the majority of docks on Klinger Lake are Con-De built, and even many surrounding lakes have them dotting their shoreline.

What I’ve learned over the years is that although we cared for that house very much, it wasn’t the house which made the memories: it was the family! When you empty a house of all its stuff, it’s left with a void, but if you follow the family that once lived there, that is where you can find life. If Grandpa and Grandma were alive today, I know they would be proud of our family for keeping old traditions and making new ones. They would be proud to have known that 13 of their great-grandchildren were able to come visit that house they bought way back in November of 1954. They would be proud to see what each of us have done with our lives and how we have grown.

Today we are thankful for having been blessed with that house, with Klinger Lake and all the memories there. We grew and became closer because of our time spent together at that beautiful place. Most importantly, I know we are thankful that we still have each other and that will never change!

The family gathered together this past 4th of July.

The north side of the house.

Original field stone around the fireplace.

The wallpaper I tore at the age of four is still up in Grandma's old room.

View from the lake.

As kids we enjoyed playing on the stairs!

Looking over the dock from upstairs bedroom.

The heaters were a bit outdated, but classic... they made the clinking noise as the hot water flowed through the pipes.

The large maple in the middle of the yard which was forced to grow around the old garage!

Grandpa's original Con-De Dock from 1961, still standing strong!

Sunset on Klinger.

The old pine had a twin until it fell towards the neighbor's house several years ago...this one has survived the test of time!

Klinger Lake on July 4, 1980.

A younger generation enjoying the lake...July 4, 2013.

Summer evening 2013.

Summertime recreation!

The driveway to Grandma & Grandpa's

Early April 2009.

April snow, 2009.

We love you Grandpa & Grandma!!


  1. Great writing Kyle, you summed it up very well! Great pictures also! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thanks Alison! I thought of all of you while I was writing it, and the words came to me easily. Very happy Eli and the other great-grandchildren were able to enjoy the lake too!