Possible Uses for the Big Bass Lake Store Today

How about the Big Bass Lake Ice Cream Parlor? Of course, that would limit its use from about May to late September but at least it would be occupied. Ice Cream doesn’t sound too great for the winter months.

But just take a gander at the view offered from the deck overlooking Big Bass Lake-

How about this view for enjoying a banana split or chocolate sundae? The customers would be coming for miles!

Or maybe Tiny’s Bait Shop could be relocated here? For added revenue, Tiny could put in another gasoline pump dockside for the convienance of boaters. What a perfect location for a bait shop!

Or what about the Big Bass Lake Bingo Hall? Maybe even a few other gaming tables could be added? Or what about moving the Camp Martin Johnson Museum to this location? It would be better served on Big Bass Lake over that in Irons?

Any other ideas for how the Big Bass Lake Store could be preserved for history?

Jack Knysz and the Deer!

5e486027adc58d016568a6738085d74b--funny-signs-funny-memes back in the 1980s, I had sold Jack my green station wagon. Jack was the owner of the Big Bass Lake store at that time. He was driving   it home on Michigan Highway 37 when he met one of those suicidal deers. The car was totaled but Jack was okay. In 10 years of driving that car I had never had an accident. Jack was not as fortunate. Oh well he still had the store. Jack never told me what he did with the deer.

What To Buy at the Big Bass Lake Store?


It seemed like on almost every boys club trip to Big Bass Lake we spent a part of each day at the Big Bass Lake store. We arrived by way of either Big Bass Lake Road on a hike or on Big Bass Lake via rowboats. The kids would either buy soda pop, candy, or comic books. Some liked the Big Bass Lake area post cards and would mail some info home.

My drink of choice in those days was Squirt as it seemed to refresh the best. After days of trail pack foods and other canned foods the kids always looked forward to going to “Otto’s” store. He was always considerate and warm to the kids. Lest I forget ice cream bars was another favorite of the boys.

I think the only days we didn’t get to the store was if we were on a trip to either Ludington or the Lake Michigan Recreational Area. But decisions were hard to come by each day for those boys as to how they planned to spend their money

Memories of the Big Bass Lake Store

The only two owners of the store I knew were Otto Bartlett and Jack Knysz. I know there are others but I’m not sure who they were. On boys Club trips up there from 1970 to 1983 we used the store on almost every trip. If for nothing else it served as a snack Center for the boys. My grandmother Barbara Noreika knew Otto and Ruth rather well. I was just a boy then but they were very nice to me and kept a very clean store. I knew Jack as an adult and he was a cool guy. He took me to his home to show me around. What are your memories about the Big Bass Lake store? Leave us a comment and.start the discussion rolling.

The Big Bass Lake Store in the 1980′s


Yes, that is me by my old Pontiac. I now drive a Chevy Caprice which has much more room. Behind me is the Big Bass Lake Store which is about a mile walk from the family farm. As a boy the walk was on a hot sandy road, at times more gravel than sand. On bare feet it could be difficult. Other times we went to the store via rowboat and under a bridge pictured elsewhere on Big Bass Lake and Beyond.

Otto Bartlett owned the store back in my younger days and he was one of the nicest men I have ever known. After a hot walk a bottle of Squirt went down refreshingly fast. To this day that is still my favorite beverage.

For all those who have wanted to know what I look like now you know. You will see more of me later on with other photographs.

The Bass Lake Store had somewhat higher prices than the stores 20 miles away but it was close for necessary items. The gas was also higher there as I recall. To this day part of the road that goes around Big Bass Lake remains unpaved but the road to our farm from the store has been paved for many years now. The store also had an excellent view of the lake from its balcony. More on this store in a later post.

As you can plainly see, at this time the Big Bass Lake Store was open for business.

Motoring to the Big Bass Lake Store

I thought I’d take out the boat this morning for a short ride to the Big Bass Lake store. I was in the mood for some powdered sugar donuts and Otto Bartlett had the best in the area. Plus I would get to go through the store for a few other items. Otto always gave great service with a warm friendly smile. He and his wife and daughter lived next door to the store and for a Time lived in the store. Fortunately my motorboat didn’t have to go around the Big Island like speed boats did as when I got close to the bridge I lifted the motor out of the water and glided through. That was your fun in the early 1960s. I kind of miss those days.

Otto Bartlett: The Face of the Big Bass Lake Store

Many people probably aren’t aware of this but in the original Big Bass Lake store, the Bartlett’s lived in that facility. Later they moved slightly west into their own cottage. Yet as I was growing up, Otto Bartlett was the focal point of this store with his cheerful countenance and great service. He was such a kindly man with a wonderful smile.

In the early days of my youth, the road in front of the store was sandy. I loved the Bass Lake postcards, the comic book rack, the great bottles of Squirt that tasted so good after either a long walk to the store or a row across the lake, and the wonderful tasty treats he had in his store. Always friendly to kids, Otto made a huge impression on me.

The store was never quite the same again after Otto sold it. But he was a hard act to follow. Any other thoughts on the Otto Bartlett era at the Big Bass Lake Store?

Big Bass Lake Store and Grandma’s Hat

This photograph provides you with an excellent look at the tiny island known as Grandma’s Hat behind the former Big Bass Lake store. Even with Larry Bender’s new store right across the street, I am surprised that no one has come forward to renovate the old Big Bass Lake store with some commerical element to it. How about a novelty store complete with an ice cream parlor? There are many ice cream venues that are only open during the late spring to early fall times of the year.

With the view from the back of the Big Bass Lake store it would be a natural for an ice cream shop.  Or what about a combined barber and beauty shop?   The vuew is probably one of the best on the lake as you can observe the Big Island along with the small one and even take in the narrows in the distance of the lake.  I know that the old store would need a lot of remodeling or even perhaps starting over from scratch.  But that store deserves better than to just sit there empty.  For decades it has well served the greater Big Bass lake area.

Maybe a roller skating rink could be erected on that location?  Then the old Loon Lake Roller Rink would give place to the Big Bass Lake Pavillion.  Or put a new “Fun Spot” in that location with bowling lanes and an arcade.  It’s in a prime location on the lake and needs to be reopened whatever the venue.  Other ideas?

The View Behind the Big Bass Lake Store


Otto Barlett used to have some chairs kind of dug into the grass that you could sit in taking in this view. Both as a child and as an adult I used to enjoy taking in this view while partaking in a bottle of Squirt which I learned to enjoy as a boy as my favorite beverage of taste.

I could take in Grandma’s Hat (Tiny Tim to some) and almost a full view of the lake. I could see (out of picture) the bridge to the island that had many houses on it. Oftentimes after that bottle of Squirt I would get in our rowboat and take it under that very bridge on the way back to our property, past the haunted house island and then straight ahead to our dock. In those days the lake was not so crowded with high speed boats. Now about the only time that you can take that journey safetly is before Memorial Day or after Labor Day.

But I’ll never forget that view behind the Big Bass Lake store. Isn’t it breaktaking? By the way, in this picture you can observe a gasoline pump. That is a luxury that no longer exists on the lake as all gasoline must now be carried in to the boats.

Postcards from Big Bass Lake

IMG_20170922_073144 in the 1950s  the Big Bass Lake store  sold postcards of the area. You could get pictures of Bass Lake  Loon Lake  and Sauble Lake  along with quite a few other lakes in the area. Otto  Bartlett  was the proprietor of the store  and he had a wide assortment of postcards. The one with the Bear in it should really attract tourists. In those days all the postcards were in black and white. To tell the truth I miss those days.IMG_20170922_022643

The Big Bass Lake Store Grass Stairs

The Marion Boys Club largely made all their trips to the Big Bass Lake Store by rowboat for any extra supplies we needed at our wooded beachfront campsite. They also liked the store for an occassional snack or postcards. These were the steps leading up from the pier to the store.

There were also “dugout” wooded seats embedded in the hillside where one could relax with their snack or soft drink until everyone was ready to head back to camp. Grandma’s Hat, the tiny island, was in full view out north into the lake. The island was just to the right of where we turned west and under the bridge that led to the Big Island.

For some reason, Hostess Snowballs was a big favorite of the Marion Boys Club kids on any trip. We usually took two boats over to the store always keeping close one to the other in the event of any emergency. All the kids had life jackets on for added protection.

Our trips to the store were usually in early morning just after breakfast. The lake was fairly quiet at those times. The boys always looked forward to that store for their needs including a comic book or two. It was their personal oasis from their camping experiences that brought them a taste of a return to normalcy. Even so, they were always ready to head back to camp for whatever activities and side trips awaited them there.


rest in peace are such comforting words. The Big Bass Lake store, Sauble Lake Emporium, Loon Lake roller rink, Ward Hill Ski Area, hotspot, the Paul Bunyan Museum, peacock Resort, North Shore camp, and Camp Martin Johnson remain in our memories but are no more. With some the structures remain but the spirit inside is gone. Perhaps you know of another entity that belongs on this list. Add a comment and let us know what it is and your memories of it. That also applies for any of our list above. I would also add to my personal list the Marion Boys Club, the salesian boys club, Hoffman Estates Boys Club, and Bradenton Boys Club. Of these only then Hoffman Estates Boys Club is gone completely. Rest in peace!

Big Bass Lake Store Many Reinventions Later

Here stands the Big Bass Lake store today wih one probable exception that being the fence around it. It is now for sale presumeably to a homeowner but that would require EXTENSIVE work on the building and in all likelihood, it would be razed and something new erected in its place.

Otto Bartlett built that store intially and for a time it served as a residence as well for his wife Ruth and himself. Later it was all store and Otto kept it up well. When he sold it the store went through many owners including Jack Knysz who I knew in the early 1980’s.

Today it stands as a mere shadow to what it once was. At the bottom of the hill behnd it stood a gas pump ready and willing to serve the residents of the lake with a convienant gas service. Built into that hillside were little chair like structures where kids could sit back and watch the doings on the lake.

I doubt if it will ever serve as a store again given the fact that Larry Bender’s store stands just across the street and is doing a brisk business. Yet the memories of that store can be found here on BBL and Beyond for the many generations that grew up using that facility. It will NEVER be forgotten!