7/6/2018 7:25:00 AM traveling trails less traveled Northwoods summers, 1950s style
"Buckshot" Anderson Columnist
Now that I'm into my eighth decade of Earthly existence, and have spent well over 90 percent of that time as an up-north resident 12 months nearly every year, I have a very long tunnel of time to look back upon, and oh, there have been so many changes as to "what's in vogue" during our short summer season.
To borrow a quote from Bush 41, the 50s were a much quieter and gentler time. Unlike presently, few people seemed to be in a rush. Traffic on our major highways was much less and those who wandered the north country did so on a much more relaxed pace. There were very few drivers, unlike presently, who seemingly were training to become race car drivers.
Motels were few and far between, but all of our popular, larger lakes were homes to numerous mom and pop housekeeping resorts intermingled with swanky American Plan resorts that pampered the rich and famous, plus numerous people who were simply rich (by local standards) but not so famous.
Many vacationers arrived via train and were whisked away to a rustic or semi-rustic log cabin tucked away on a tree covered shore on a reasonably quiet lake. Most all cabins had a screened in porch overlooking the lake where folks relaxed and washed away the stress of urban living for anywhere from one week to a month.
Those who opted to drive their sedans north on Highways 51 and/or 45 were willing to endure a 10 to 12 hour or longer drive north, passing through every small village, burg and hamlet along the route. Especially frustrating were the routes through downtown Stevens Point, Wausau and Merrill on 51 and Fond du Lac, Oshkosh and Antigo on 45.
The meandering route through Wausau and its suburbs often took nearly an hour, which seemed much longer due to Billy and Susie whining from the rear seat, "Are we there yet?"
But, once settled into their cozy lakeside cabin - it was all worth it!
For many years, fishing was the most popular reason given for spending time up-north. Not so in this day and age! There were few golf courses and few golfers. There were a much smaller number of excellent supper clubs, but most meals that were "eaten out" were in the plush dining rooms at the American Plan resorts.
For example, during the decades of the early 1900s through the '60s, there were a half dozen or more American Plan resorts on Big St. Germain Lake. Hunter's Resort (presently Fibber's Rentals and supper club), Clear View Lodge (still operates rental cabins and its supper club dining rooms), Musky Inn (presently Deer Run, no dining) Y-Z Lodge, (burned and torn down in the '80s), Normandy Court (now individually owned condos), Wawona Lodge (ditto), Jack Pine Lodge, (ditto) and Leisure Lodge (presently rents cabins and also contains a trailer park.)
Most all the boats were wooden row boats, the most popular brands being 14- or 16-foot Thompson and Rhinelander, that could accommodate three adults. A few boats were powered by small outboard motors, the most popular being 3 H.P. Johnson's and Evinrude's. By the decades of the 50s, the old time fishing guides were beginning to complain about the monster motors a few vacationers were using - up to 7.5 H.P. My dad often quipped - "Yep the North is going to hell!" (Oh Dad, you should see it now!)
Every resort had a beach and there was usually lots of activity at lakeside from early morning to full dark. Evening campfires at the lake were highly popular and resort owners were happy to supply free firewood. Some of the smaller housekeeping resorts sponsored daytime side trips to our area's most popular tourist attractions, which involved a small convoy of vehicles following the leader from site to site.
Popular gathering spots included a stop at Cathedral Point at Trout Lake to gaze in awe at the 300-year-old white pines, which still invoke awe to those who visit. Up Highway M a few more miles north of Boulder Junction was Shrimps Wildlife Museum, a must stop and see icon, (now Gooch's A-One Bar and Grill). Another "you must see attraction" was Wilsie's Aqualand on Highway K between Boulder Junction and the historic logging village of Star Lake. This unique zoo contained all sorts of native wildlife, and the star attraction was its musky ponds, where visitors could feed frogs to the savage beasts, no doubt a throw-off of the Roman's feeding Christians to the lions.
Arbor Vitae boasted two five-star attractions, Henkelmann's Wildlife Museum on the northeast corner of the intersection of Highway 70 east and Old 51. Today, all that remains of that popular stop is a vacant lot.
Less than a mile south on Old 51 from Henkelmann's, evening viewers could sit in wooden grandstands and watch stock car racing on an oval dirt and sawdust track once every week. Smoke, roaring engines and roaring crowds made for a memorable evening.
Most every vacationer enjoyed spending time at the original Bosacki's Boat House in Minocqua. This huge over-the water complex was home to numerous expensive Cris-Crafts and fancy fishing boats, plus the shade provided by its roof drew hundreds of native fish, which visitors could see relaxing under the walkways and tendered watercraft. As a kid, it was my go-to spot when Dad and Mom drove to Minocqua to shop or visit with friends.
Every township maintained rustic hiking trails then wound and wended their way through pristine landscapes. Few of those original trails remain, but the area does still provide newer more modern trail systems for hikers to enjoy.
And not to be overlooked, for an evening of enjoyable sports action, was attending a night, fast pitch, 12-inch softball game under the lights. Nearly every village and town boasted a softball team made up of good old local boys of summer. Minocqua, Woodruff, Hazlehurst, Lac du Flambeau, Boulder Junction, Conover, Land O' Lakes, Eagle River, St. Germain, Plum Lake, Lake Tomahawk, plus other communities fielded top-notch competitors.
Today, most all of this has been replaced by more sophisticated and fast paced activities, which makes one wonder - what comes next!
But those long gone days of yesteryears, now gone, are, at least for me, fond memories!
Buckshot may be reached at: email@example.com.