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Saturday, September 05, 2015
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Published: Saturday, 8/9/2003

Warm memories of summer fun at Devils Lake

Did you ever open your notebook on the first few days of school and daydream about your summer vacation? That's when you wrote about the best times, and perhaps even scribbled pictures of the new friends made on those carefree days that went all too quickly before the first day of school. It was then, too, that you secretly made plans for all the things you hoped you could do next summer, including seeing new friends and returning to favorite places visited.

Though it takes years to reach senior status and realize what a gift youth is, the summer diary is one thing that we can relive and share. Let's try.

The Adrian High School class of 1946 picnic was held in my Farm House one more time, and though each year I say no more, each spring I say why not, because of the pleasure the picnic is. It's a typical senior gathering where it takes three or four of us to remember the details to complete a story. The work is much easier now that it is catered by the Adrian College catering department, with the exception of the main dish, which I like to do. Last year it was a turduckin (the turkey, duck, and chicken product from Louisiana) and this year the choice was the $25,000 National Chicken Contest chicken burgers. It was only after several requests that a local butcher agreed to grind chicken. You have to wonder why ground turkey is plentiful, but no chicken.

The chicken contest winner, who lives on Maui, insists that panko, large flaky Japanese crumbs, are essential in her recipe. Fortunately, a bag brought back from Hawaii two years ago was still good. Panko is on my shopping list for this month's visit to Maui. Returning to Maui is like the class picnic - just one more time, I always say.

Devils Lake is a favorite memory stop for '46ers. The lake, which is 20 miles from Adrian, was a common family vacation destination. When we became teenagers the lake was the exciting place to share a cottage with friends and attend the dance in the old pavilion, hoping a Toledo boy would ask us to dance. Some of us even admit to hitchhiking to get to the dance during the gas shortages of World War II.

Years ago the dance hall was converted to a supermarket where shoppers now push carts on the same wooden floor on which we jitterbugged and danced close under a crystal ball, and fell in love at least once each summer.

I wonder if today's thousands of Devils Lake summer visitors know that the Manitou Beach area was once a thriving little village with many things to do, with several eating places, and that the Devils Lake Yacht Club was once a hotel for train passengers.

For example, at Manitou there was Driggs Lighthouse, which looked like a lighthouse, where ice cream and soft drinks were served; Mabel Cheney's and the Roundup restaurants; a carnival-style concession stand, and a shooting gallery where you could also get your picture taken. I believe some of these buildings were in the path of the 1965 tornado that also took the Devils Lake Hotel.

But the Manitou Beach Inn, which began as the Coffee Shop and was later Chick and Frances', is still in full swing. Say hello to Marie, the owner, who has held her own for many years as the queen of Manitou Beach.

What has been the yacht club since 1940, when a group of sailboat owners purchased the Oak Grove Hotel, goes way back in Devils Lake history to the 1800s. Train passengers who arrived at the north end of the lake were transported by horse and buggy to the hotel. The club is home to Lightning Fleet 31, which will host a regatta Sept. 13 and 14, and to Sunfish Fleet 31.

The building's history as a hotel is revived each summer when seasonal rooms and small apartments are rented, but it is the 380 club members, half of whom are Toledoans, who put life in the vintage building, according to managers Nancy and Bob Sroufe. Club management is a second career for the Sroufes - they are retired from the Addison, Mich., school system.


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