On the very first trip up to Big Bass Lake with the Marion Boys Club Gertie made her first appearance as we were setting up camp. Mark jumped up and shouted, what’s that, as he pointed to the lake. All the boys rushed to where he was and glanced out into the lake. And there was Gertie. One of the boys named it that. Suddenly it disappeared under the water. Well that was the talk of the camp as we were setting up. When I announce the First Swim I didn’t get a lot of takers. Two of the older boys went in but not too deep. One of the younger boys yelled there’s Gertie and they got out of the water fast. What was Gertie? Even I’m not sure but it never made another appearance and by the second day the kids felt safe to swim. On all our other trips to the property we never saw Gertie again. But we did see you certain monster which is on another post on this website.
Ronnie ever so much wanted to go to Michigan on a camping trip but he got scared at night and that would not do. I took Ronnie and four other boys on a preparation trip to Salamonie State Forest near Wabash. The trip was for two nights. Ronnie enjoyed the day part of the trip but at night he began crying and he wouldn’t stop. So after a harrowing night, the other boys asked to go home so we cut the trip short. Ronnie’s mother later told me that he had always been scared of the dark and she planned to take him in for counseling. I left the Marion Boys Club for the salesian boys club in Ohio before I heard of Ronnie’s progress. He finally overcame his fear of the dark and was going camping again. I was glad to hear that.
on a trip with the Marion Boys Club we took a lot of Night Trips on Big Bass Lake. The kids eyes would get real big especially at night. They would watch the darkness of the water and trying to find out how deep we were. We circled the haunted island one night and the kids thought about how they would react on the night we would be going there. Especially they watched the interior of the island hoping to get a glance at the haunted house. I think they were all relieved each time we returned to Camp after an evening on the lake.
The kids of the Marion Boys Club took the opportunity over an early spring break to visit Big Bass Lake in what amounted to the end of winter. We took as our base of operation the resort on Seaman’s Lake a mere mile from Big Bass Lake. Winter was still upon the area as a light coat of snow covered the ground and Seaman Lake was still iced over but only with a thin coat. I say that because in about two feet of water it caved in under the weight of both Calvin Little and Kevin Hansel. Only their feet got wet but both were frozen as they entered the cottage to change clothes and shoes.
Fortunately the cottage was just up a hill from where they went in. And despite warnings to the contrary about the dangers of ice told them continuously on the way there, they just had to experiment. They wrapped themselves in two Indian blankets that kept them quite warm to the point that they didn’t want to leave them for over an hour.
Our second day there saw the temperature rise into the low 50’s and the snow cover was gone by mid-day. I took the boys over to our property on Big Bass Lake and I parked the car just off Noreika Road where we usually parked for summer trips. To both the boys and my surprise, the area we usually camped at was under two feet of water! The lake extended all the way to the swamp behind our camping area.
So we opted instead to take a hike on the logging trail all the way to Matson Road. The kids marveled at how “naked” the woods appeared without leaves and how far they could actually see across our property. We ate our lunch near the creek by the phone lines before heading back to the car. Our next stop was at the Big Bass Lake store where the kids purchased some snacks for the night ahead.
We were only at the area for four days over a brief school break. On this trip we took no night hikes as the weather was still kind of brisk and the nightly wind went right through you. The next to last day there we took a trip to Driftwood Valley and the boys were taken aback as to just how desolate that area was at this time of year. There was no talk about wading in the Little Manistee River that day as the temperature was only in the mid 40’s with a stiff wind.
All in all the boys really enjoyed the trip and especially the nights in our heated cottage. Instead of campfires we rallied around the old heat burning stove. Graham crackers with strawberry jelly really hit the spot on those nights. The following day we left the resort for home and the boys looked forward to our summer trips there where tents would be the order of the day at Big Bass Lake.
Day is done, almost gone the sun. Big Bass Lake has also retired for the day as nary a ripple of a wave is upon her. At the campfire all you can hear is the crack of the fire with six tired boys around it.
The Marion Boys Club kids had a rugged windy day At Lake Michigan which even meant wading work. I had made some hot black cherry belly wash which was welcome to all. Suddenly an acorn dropped into Otis mug. Some squirrel had lost it. David giggled asking Otis if he planned to return it. Otis was too tired To argue the point.
Within a half hour all were asleep but Demmie and me. He visited the commode and then it was back to total quiet at the lake. How restful it was.
Often mornings at Big Bass Lake had a low fog hanging over the lake for a few hours. One aspect I haven’t mentioned much about our early morning routine was on getting the water for the days meals. In the 1970’s all our camping trip drinking water came directly from Big Bass Lake. However, water purification tablets were added to each jug of water that was pulled from the lake prior to drinking it.
The jug was used to fill canteens for hikes and when the boys drew the water from the lake they were to stand perfectly still for several minutes allowing the sand they had stirred up to settle back on the bottom. Then the jugs were filled and Helazone Tablets added and then the jugs were set aside for several hours.
On a trip with the Marion Boys Club the same boys were used each day to fulfill this purpose so they would get it right each time. Water for any given meal was fully boiled to take out the impurities. Never once on any trip did any boy get sick from water that was not treated prior to drinking it.
Water could be drank from area rivers such as the Little Manistee and the Pere Marquette as in those days the water from there was pure. I’m not sure if the same could be said for that today.
Alex Reynolds was bound and determined not to go into the water this day as he wanted to sun himself on the pier. The other boys of the Marion Boys Club were also determined to splash him to get him wet. But Alex stayed his ground as long as he could. the others were just as persistent and since they outnumbered Alex, he reluctantly jumped in to join them. After about an hour of swimming the other boys left the water to prepare for dinner. Alex had a Cheshire Cat smile, climbed back on the pier, and took that opportunity to get some sun with no interference this time. In the end, Alex won the day!
It was to be the first off-site trip for the Marion Boys Club and our destination was to the Lake Michigan Recreation Area. From Noreika Road we hung a right at Big Bas Lake Road and skirted the north portion of our property before making a long turn from it. About a mile later we turned westward onto the Free Soil Road.
On both sides of the road for almost two miles was Bear Swamp (now known to locals as Duck Marsh). Here the forest was very thick and dark. The road was also very narrow. We passed alongside the Big Sauble River twice and son thereafter went by Camp Sauble on the right. I told the boys that Camp Sauble was not for kids but was part of the State of Michigan Correctional Center.
As we went down a hill the forest gave way to meadows and fields for a time as we approached Free Soil. There were no stop lights in that community although we did slow down to cross over some very bumpy railroad tracks. We then went around a long curve before finding ourselves in orchard country and this lasted until we met US 31.
At that point we tuned left onto that highway and proceeded another mile going north until we met the Recreation Area Road on the left. At that point, and for the remainder of our trip, the Manistee National Forest was again our companion on both sides of that seven mile stretch. The road ended at the parking lot right next to a dune that once crossed led us to Lake Michigan.
The boys always liked this off-site trip as at times we stopped at the Orchard Market on the way home on US 31 for snacks. They had great doughnuts there and jars of honey with the honeycomb found within the jar. This was but one, of several, off-site excursions that I took with the various boys clubs that came to our property at Big Bass Lake and nearly all of them were through the Manistee National Forest.
Once on a trip with the Marion Boys Club one of our boys was using the commode late at night and said he heard bushes moving about behind him near the quagmire swamp and thought he had encountered The Quagmire Creature.
This monster is said to have inhabited the quagmire swamp behind our wooded beachfront. This is one thing that I have never mentioned before about our property because only two boys from separate clubs ever related to experiencing it.
We could never find any evidence of any sort of tracks the next morning following that incident. Jay reported hearing low growling sounds behind him. He finished his business quickly and ran back to the tents but told no one until morning.
On a trip with the Hoffman Estates Boys Club, Mark O’Brien also reported seeing the Quagmire Creature. Whereas the first boy only heard the creature, Mark said he actually saw it. He was collecting wood behind our campsite a good fifty yards away from the main site when he saw this creature emerge from the bog and advance toward him. He must have been observing Mark from the swamp for some time.
Mark himself was a troublesome youth and was always getting into mischeif. He appeared angelic but within him were many devils. I can only speculate that Mark may well have seen him and maybe even encountered him. But when the Quagmire Creature came face to face with Mark it was probably more than it bargained for. When the boys heard his accounting of the incident many believed that it was the creature that fled for his life and was never to be seen or heard again.
You’d have to know Mark to really appreciate this accounting. But never again on any boys club trip was there any sighting of The Quagmire Creature. Once with Mark was more than enough for it I am certain. I can almost visualize it jumping headfirst into that swamp never to be heard from again. What a pity for it made for great campfire stories.
This was the house right next to our wooded beachfront at Big Bass Lake. But in all the camping trips I took with boys clubs I never once saw anyone living there during the 1970’s. I always liked their unique boathouse down by the lake. Our kids fished in this area often.
Behind this house was a fern covered pathways leading from Noreika Road down to our camping site. On a trip with the Marion Boys Club, one of our black kids was asked at dusk to run back to the car to get some extra blankets. This youngster would walk some of the most dangerous areas in Marion at night but on this occassion he looked at me saying, “By myself?”
This particular white house had a fence around it and when walking from my grandmother’s home down Noreika Road, we would often follow their fence line to that fern covered path. It was a shortcut from where we parked just off Noreika Road.
In all my travels to our property, even by myself, I can think of only one time that I saw anyone use this property. They must have used it more in the off season. Their pier was a rather simple one even in that time and I never saw a boat tied to it. I often wonder how lived there as the house seemed nice enough. Anyone know who does own it now?
Not far behind our old barn on the field is a strange depression that looks for all appearances to be about the exact shape as the indention of a flying saucer. It is the only place on our half-mile long field with a depression like that. In fact, it is the only indention on that entire field. How did it get there?
Well, it made for a great story line outside our woods for boys club campers. None of the kids could explain that depression either. They were quite dumbfounded as to how it got there but that is the same amazement that has held me captive since I was a young boy. I’ve visited that location many times and sometimes if I had the motivation would start digging there just to check it out more thoroughly.
Can you imagine if you were driving down the Big Bass Lake Road on the southwest side of the lake and saw a flying saucer there? Would you stop to check it out or continue on your way even a tad quicker than usual? The haunted island has a more vivid story to it but this one remains a gigantic mystery as to how that depression was formed in a field that is otherwise 100% flat? Maybe Rod Serling might have had an answer for one of his Twilight Zone programs?
I really enjoyed our metallic rowboat that we used on our camping trips to our property on Big Bass Lake. It was used upside down as a diving platform and upside up for just plain rowing or fishing. It was also used for baths near shore once filled with water. It really got a lot of use and was a major component on all our trips but esecialldy ones with he Marion Boys Club.
The boys took turn learning how to row and learned that craft well along our wooded beachfront. I remember well their initial efforts and how hard it was for some of them to row in a fairly straight line. For fun, I would occasionally splash the boys with water when I rowed to cool them off on hot summer days. Then, at night, some of the kids would sit in the rowboat on shore as cool breezes refreshed them.
The rowboat proved instrumental for fishing as some of the boys preferred using the boat over that of fishing on shore. It was in constant use from the time we arrived until the day we left. And, what a time they had with that rowboat!