In Memory of Don Baer

I just learned that Don Baer passed away. Don was the community center director for the Honeywell Center in Wabash Indiana. Every Saturday when I was a teenager he had a boys club at the Honeywell Gym. It wasn’t an official Boys Club of America unit but it was a place for boys to go. He also was in charge of the Honeywell camp located at the scout cabin near the Wabash Country Club. I worked closely with him there. Don was a warm caring individual with a great sense of humor. He will be missed by all knew him.

Pier Talk

how many people on Big Bass Lake leave their pier in year round? I remember one year some kids in the YMCA helped Al Matson put in.his pier in June in return for a pontoon ride around the lake. The water was very cold and mucky. Al said he always took in his pier every Labor Day. He never left it in all year. But how many around the lake do that? I know we left our pier in year round. If any of our readers that live on Big Bass Lake want to share what they do please leave a comment. By the way, this is not “pier” pressure!

The Selling of Camp Martin Johnson- Part Two

When the Hyde Park YMCA suggested that the reason for closing Camp Martin Johnson was that it had gotten too expensive to operate then why not sell lakefront plots on both Little Bass Lake and Bluegill Lake to continue to be able to operate the camp? The main camp is largely located near Big Bass Lake so why not sell other less used areas to keep the main camp alive? I have outlined the areas that could have been sold on the map.

Did the Hyde Park YMCA make every effort to try and sell the camp to another YMCA, perhaps in Michigan, or even a Boys Club of America? Perhaps the Detroit Boys Clubs might have been interested? I would like to know how diligent the Hyde Park staff were in trying to keep the camp with another youth organization? Or what steps were taken by the Chicago Metro YMCA to connect with other youth organizations?

Camp Mishawaka, where I served as a counselor, is celebrating its centennial this year and they sent me an invitation to come to Grand Rapids, Minnesota, to join in the celebration. However I saw it as a massive fund raiser as events related to that very thing were taking place every day of the three day event. I wonder if that camp is also in financial distress?

Why not also raise campers fees to attend camp or add a gasoline fee? I do believe that if Hyde Park had tried to just sell parcels of land on Little Bass and Bluegill Lakes they could have kept operating Camp Martin Johnson for several more years if not much longer.

I also don’t buy that dwindling attendance argument as in 1976 the camp was full of over 500 campers for their 50 year anniversary. And, what about Martin Johnson’s will? It was his vision for this property to remain a camp for kids even if those kids were no longer from the Hyde Park YMCA.

No, I think the Hyde Park YMCA took the easy way out and destroyed not only a man’s dream but also the dreams of countless campers that could have enjoyed this camp for decades to come. Now the area is full of residential mansions and even the boulder over Martin Johnson’s grave has no marker to it. One would think that something could be done about that for a man with such a vision as Martin Johnson.

A Lot of Snow for April

this was taken very close to my friend Ed’s property. It almost shows where Wax’s Resort once was kitty corner across from our property. Michigan’s April with much snow here than previous years. One thing I do Wonder is why that fence is a long Big Bass Lake? It looks similar to the snow fences on Lake Michigan. Thoughts?

Dusk at Union League Camp

Dusk at Union League Camp overlooking Fox Lake and the camp pool. I am still amazed today how close the pool is to the lake. You can actually jump from the pool into the lake. Even when I was a counselor there, several counselors used the pool at night. This was my first experience with Boys Clubs of America. That was way back in 1970 but my Hoffman Estates Boys Club was able to take advantage of the camp in 1977, 1978, and 1979. We even used the camp in the offseason. Al Mackin was the camp director at that time. I really enjoyed that camp and it is still in operation today.

The Selling of Camp Martin Johnson- Part One

I have been asking many questions of late about why Camp Martin Johnson was sold. In 1976 the camp celebrated its 50 anniversary and things were going quite well at that time with up to 500 campers attending CMJ and then a scant four years later it was being sold. The Hyde Park YMCA came up with these reasons:

(1) Dwindling Enrollment: That reason I find hard to fanthom giving what was said a mere four years earlier.

(2) Financial Problems: Funds for transporting the kids 350 miles to camp but that always existed. They also cited stiff and rising real estate taxes as well as strict Michigan Building Codes. Yet these all existed in previous years too.

(3) Too expensive to Operate. A slight raise in fees would have solved that problem.

Four years earlier NONE of these were mentioned as problems. Mike Reynolds has informed me that schools in Ludington and Scottville often rented the camp for various purposes in the off season and that was additional income. The Hyde Park YMCA also gave an alternative option of using Pinewood Camp also in the area but would not that camp have the same financial problems? The real culprit in all this was the Chicago Metropolitan YMCA which had the final say on CMJ.

Initially, in 1926 the camp was sold by Martin Johnson himself for the fee of $9,000 of which he was to receive a 6% annual anuity of about $545. Johnson’s lawyer urged him to sell the camp to the YMCA for $50,000. But Johnson had a God inspired vision for his property to be used by boys and girls for camping. He was also to retain his personal house to live in at the camp.

If the camp was in financial problems why not sell some of the land off of Bluegill Lake or even Little Bass Lake to pay for the taxes and upkeep while retaining the main camp area around Big Bass Lake?

I would also be interested to learn about the will of Martin Johnson and if it allowed selling the camp for any reason. In Part Two tomorrow morning I have even more questins to purpose about the selling of this camp. Presently this seems to be the only website that is active about the camp. Former campers can send pictures to my email address page on the menu.

Last Hurrah for Winter on BBL

the haunted island at winter time. I think the ghosts are undercover right now trying to stay warm. The bone Pickers are probably warmly Underground. And all is quiet at haunted island. To you get there now, you can just walk across the lake. It will be as desolate as can be. Only the Eerie sound of the Wind rustling through the trees can be heard at this time of year. The haunted island on ice!

Salesian Center- 4

at one time this was the cadets game room. The club had three game rooms one for each age grouping the remaining two being for the juniors and seniors. The kids had ping pong, pool, bumper pool, air hockey, and shuffleboard. this was our swimming pool located on the third floor. It had an adjacent locker room. The one thing that always made me nervous was that instead of a diving board we had a mini Tramp to catapult you into the pool. I formed a water soccer team that was competitive and also a swim team that traveled to other boys clubs. Next time, the gymnasium and the running track.

Aqua Fun Day

Wednesday was Aqua fun day at the Marion YMCA pool. The boys had a series of games such as relay races, paddle ball relay, backstroke relay, towel and bucket relay, and water soccer. The winning team would dive for 100 pennies. The boy who found the most was awarded a $5 bill. The kids really had a great time on Aqua fun day. We also had an individual contest once per month to see who can hold the Kickball underwater for the longest time only using their hands. It was real fun to watch the ball pop up when a kid got tired.

Just Grin and Bear It

Hey, Ed! I’m back and hibernation is over! How about a grub steak? I’ll take mine rare and plenty of juices. I’m as hungry as a bear. Hey Ed, do you hear me? Stop hiding under the bed.

Ed? Brownie was here yesterday. I’m here for my honey and you can send her out anytime. No that’s not me growling it’s just my stomach.

Salesian Center- 3

this area was the ballroom on the second floor of the building. It was used for a variety of purposes. Twice a week Bingo was held here for the community to help support the Boys Club. It was also used for dances and parties. Once a year it was used for the boys club Awards dinner. Now that the building is up for sale this is how it looks now. But here is how it used to look. quite a difference wouldn’t you say?

The Small Softball Field

this is a softball field at the Hoffman Estates Boys Club where are Cadet program held their softball league. The championship game was always held at the larger field just behind the boys club. We had four league teams that played twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Practice times were scheduled at any time during the week. The mother’s club opened the concession stand for the championship game each year. The smaller field was also used for our Bubble Ball games Plus kickball.