More of Four Winds Island


Currently, Four Winds Island is privately owned but could you imagine a resident camp on that island now? Of course it would have to be a primitive camp, and a small one to boot, but wouldn’t that be great? Can you imagine the old camp buildings being used again for kids? As I understand it none of the facilities on Four Winds Island are winterized but it could be used for summer.

Yes, a camp with limited facilities wouldn’t attract the number of kids that Camp Martin Johnson once did. Still an island summer camp does have possibilities. A swimming area could easily be put into place and the old ceremony campsite could be reopened.

Even a limited usage of the island would make for a great camp. Or even a two week wilderness camp with tents erected on the island. As I’ve said before, Big Bass Lake deserves a resident camp of some sort. I had always envisioned one on our old property before it, like Camp Martin Johnson, was sold. Maybe some day Four Winds Island will again be available for kids?

Ladies Island


During the era of Camp Martin Johnson on Big Bass Lake, the ladies in effect had their own island known as Four Winds Island. There were several structures on that island for living such as cottages and even a fancy outhouse. They still had to take meals at the Dining Hall on the mainland.

But what a paradise away from the mainland camp on their very own island. Aside from sleeping quarters I would be interested in knowing what those cottages were like? Was there a general room for meetings or a small kitchenette? I would think sleeping on the island would be better than at the regular camp as they caught all the breezes off of Big Bass Lake.

If you were one of the ladies that stayed on the island let us know what each cottage there was like. How many girls per cottage? And did boys ever use the island for their quarters? There was a tribal council ring quite close to the lake as that is pictured elsewhere under the category Camp Martin Johnson or at the tag “Four Winds Island”.

Perhaps even Dan Schultz could enlighten us as to what each cottage was like as to how many rooms they had and what they were used for. Comments are more than welcome.

Snow Storm at Four Winds Island


This morning Big Bass Lake will be experiencing a wind bomb cyclone. Sustained winds up to 60 miles an hour could last for up to four hours. Most of the damage will come by way of wind. With temperatures near 50 degrees precipitation will start as rain and as temperatures drop snow will begin flying and near whiteout conditions can be expected. The best place to stay is at home during the storm.

The “In House” of Four Winds Island


This facility was used to shower the boys or girls and it had two shower units. Presently it is used as a storage shed by the new owners. But this begs the question, where was the outhouse?

I still have to believe that the current owner of the island uses that facility as well. I doubt if any of the regular cabins had indoor facilities. Also, where did kids wash up? Was it in the lake or were there some sort of sinks set up outdoors where kids could wash up and brush their teeth?

Some Things Remain Nearly The Same at Camp Martin Johnson


This is the road that leads to the old CMJ infirmary. It is now called Homestead Circle Road but I’d wager the road looks just about the same when CMJ was operational. But aside from the tennis and basketball courts, little else is recognizable about the former camp that ceased operations in the late 1970’s.

That is unless permission is granted to tour the now privately owned Four Winds Island which largely remains the same as in the days of the camp.  Graffiti is still found on the walls of the cottages of that island from campers and staff alike. 

The dirt road also has appeal especially since the full course around Big Bass Lake has been paved for years now.  For a time the section around Lakeview Cemetery and the camp was unpaved.  Sadly even the nameplate on the burial site of camp founder, Martin Johnson, as been removed and only a boulder marks his grave. 

For the man who wanted his land to remain a camp forever, he was betrayed by the Hyde Park YMCA for many youth organizations in Michigan could have made use of that land for a summer camp.  Johnson’s house is now a Heritage Museum in nearby Irons, Michigan, at the entrance to Skinner Park. 

If you want to locate traces of Camp Martin Johnson they are strewn all about with the exception of this dirt road leading into camp.  Yes, some things DO remain the same!

Canoe at the Ready by Cottage


An interesting thing about Four Winds Island on Big Bass Lake was as a part of Camp Martin Johnson, everything was at the ready for campers that lived there. A canoe sided each cottage and since the island was not all that large it afforded campers the ability to step out of their cottage, grab their canoe, walk not over thirty yards, and put their craft into Big Bass Lake. It was that simple.

The island itself was a couple of hundred away from the mainland camp but it came complete with cottages and its own council ring. It had an area to swim from and perfeft sleeping accomodations. Meals had be taken back at camp unless a cookout was in oider that day. I suppose going back and forth for meals was a sort of headache but one well worth it to be separated from camp like they were.

Four Winds Island is the real only link to Camp Martin Johnson history yet today since the camp closed in 1978 and most of the mainland camp is near unrecognizable to even the most ardent one time camper. But the camp remains nearly intact at Four Winds Island with only some slight remodeling by the new owners. Graffiti remains on many of the cottages there.

The island is like a glance, or glimpse, if you will, into what CMJ stood for.

Boating to Four Winds


It would be fun to take a leisurely boat ride around Four Winds Island in the summer by rowboat in the early morning to determine just how much of that island could be seen through he forest green. How many of its current buildings, from the days of Camp Martin Johnson, can be clearly seen from the lake. Or would a better time for that row be in the early spring or late fall?

Can you imagine landing on that island to take in the view? What would exploring those old buildings be like? If you were a former camper, what memories would come to flood your mind from the days long gone? I understand there is still some graffiti on the walls of those cottages yet to this day. What thoughts would come rushing into your mind as you viewed the thoughts of former campers? Perhaps you either knew them or you were the one posting that on the walls yourself?

You might be glad to know that with the exception of some new repairs, the island remains virtually untouched frrom the days of the camp. I would think former campers would have a field day fully exploring Four Winds. How about it?

Four Winds Island Tribal Area


It must have been great for the campers of Martin Johnson to be lodged on Four Winds Island. It must have given them that elite feeling. After all this island was separated from the mainland camp and offered them great vistas of Big Bass Lake. I can almost imagine the great campfires that took place in this location.  Think of all the stories that were told and how the kids must have been in awe on this island. 

It would be interesting to go to this island and explore some of the only history that remains from Camp Martin Johnson as the mainland camp has now been turned over to a housing complex with very few things remaining of the original camp. Not so on Four Winds Island. There the CMJ atmosphere still exists.

Say, maybe someone will get the idea that Four Winds Island itself could house a small camping experience for kids?

A Couple of Antique Views at Big Bass Lake


Here find a great view of Uncle Otto’s Big Bass Lake Store taken in 1950 by my Dad, Clyde Bartlett. At the time of this photo the store was a bustling mercantile catering mainly to the many visitors in the area.

And an earlier view of the YMCA Camp also taken by Dad. I don’t remember much about the camp but there are many memories on this blog.

Winter on Four Winds Island


Today wasn’t too good on Big Bass Lake as the temperature dipped to 9 above zero but that’s not coming the wind chill which was brisk. Four Winds Island does not look to warm. It may well be a good day to stay indoors. But the bad news is next week we could get heavy snowfall. Oh well, that’s why they call this a Four Seasons lake. Snowbirds only get to experience three seasons. And while you’re trying to avoid frostbite the snowbirds are getting a tan at Miami Beach.

CMJ Shapiro Five


I would like to thank Linda Shapiro for providing us with these fine pictures to share with everyone about Camp Martin Johnson.

I’m counting here and this Cottage has three steps up. A point could be made for 4 steps as well. This looks like the thin Cottage.

Here is my favorite activity rowing. It’s good for the arms, the shoulders, and the back.

This is a nice lift off pathway into the water of Big Bass Lake.

Here is my second favorite island on the lake called Four Winds Island. My favorite is Haunted Island since so many of my boys Clubs visited there at midnight.

I wonder if this is Linda water skiing at camp? I like this color photograph that she had. A great look at the camp and its facilities.

Camp Martin Johnson History Denied- 2


Four Winds Island on Big Bass Lake that’s seven buildings connected to Camp Martin Johnson that relate to the very history of the camp itself. Perhaps the owners of the island could confer will Tom Curtin The Curator of the Camp Martin Johnson Historical Museum in Skinner Park, Irons, Michigan. Can you imagine one week with coordinated activities between the two to celebrate the history of Martin Johnson? The YMCA of Chicago sold him out but this could be a way to keep the memory of camp alive forever.

Can you imagine a closing campfire of the week’s activities at the old campfire ring on Four Winds Island? Think about the flow of memories. The week could conclude with a memorial service in regards to Martin Johnson himself. What a way to keep his memory alive for generations to come and make Big Bass Lake a home with a heart to the former camp. Just one week a year to celebrate the Legacy of Martin Johnson and his camp.

I hear Taps playing now so think about it.

Camp Martin Johnson History Denied- 1


There is one place on Big Bass Lake that still has an abundance of Camp Martin Johnson history but because it’s privately owned the owners deny entrance to their Island to View that history. Four Winds Island has that history on the island intact and if the owners really cared about the lake and the history they have right under the very noses, they would share it with those of the camp still alive.

An Anonymous reader sent me these pictures and I’m glad he did for all this history should not be denied those of the camp. Perhaps the owners could open the island for tours one week a year and charge for the tour to cover their expenses?

Just think what it would mean to former campers to tour these buildings or read the graffiti on them? History should be shared and not denied. All other times the island could be off limits but one week a year to preserve history? I will have more in part 2.

Did you notice the Ward Hills sign? That’s the skiing area a few miles away