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?

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!

The Old Marion Boys Club

Marion Boys Clubthis is the boys club in Marion Indiana where I got my start in Boys Clubs of America. I was the educational director at this club. The club had a library, two game rooms, a concession area, and a TV room. After I left they added a gymnasium over the playground area. It was a great location and we serviced a lot of boys. I took camping trips to Salamonie State Forest and also to our property in Michigan. The club also utilize Wagner Lake for a Day Camp one week each summer. this is Big Bass Lake in Michigan and our pointe where a Hammock was located. It was a great four years at the Marion Boys Club. To bring the club in focus use  the two white brackets and move them about until the club comes in focus.

The Lily Pads of Big Bass Lake

went out rolling on Big Bass Lake I like to drift into the lily pads which are all around the lake in various coves. When in the midst of them I just listen and sooner or later the croaking will start. I like to watch the frogs and listen to their music. The best time to do this is early morning or just Before Sunset when the lake is really calm. Now and then you can actually see one Leap between the pads with such great precision. I usually spend about a half hour when I do this. It’s actually quite relaxing.

Ever so Dark Big Bass Lake

I used to like rowing on Big Bass Lake at dark. Ever so often I would find a fisherman out trying his luck. But by and large I was the only one on the lake at that time. It was ever so peaceful then. Aside from the dripping of my oar you could almost hear the beat of your heart. My destination usually was where we swam at the pointe. It was our wooded beachfront. I usually had a fire prepared where all I would have to do is touch it off then I would enjoy either a hot dog or two and maybe a few marshmallows. The crackle of the fire was very relaxing. After I put the fire out I would row back to our Cottage. Night completed.

Cannonballs at Big Bass Lake

Here three boys from the Salesian Boys Club of Columbus, Ohio, were about to hit the drink at Big Bass Lake. On this particular trip we had a float put out into the lake off our wooded beachfront and the kids were leaping off of it right and left during any swimming session. This is the trip where it largely rained for the majority of the seven day trip only letting up on the next to last day.

The kids really had a blast on this particular trip as they agreed not to let the weather detour them from having a great time. The only time swimming was banned was if there was any lightning in the area. That only happened at night once on that trip but well after the kids had fallen asleep. Night hikes were limited on that trip to the downpours that happened three times in the overnight hours.

I think this trip we spent more time in the general Big Bass Lake area than any other trip there. The boys never seemed to tire of swimming. And, why not, for what better lake is there for swimming than Big Bass Lake?


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.

John and his Pontoon Boat

there was a man that lived just off of Matson Road by the name of John. He lived there with his wife who was a hairdresser. John was in the Vietnam War where he contacted Agent Orange. He was near blind when I met him and he used to take me for rides on his pontoon boat. What little he could see of his beloved Big Bass Lake he enjoyed immensely. We had to go out near dusk so he could see somewhat better. He knew the lake like the back of his hand. Since his Cottage was located in the Narrows we usually traveled North as he knew that part of the lake the best. John would speak of the lake in terms of colors and shapes. He was a fascinating gentleman and I enjoyed our company greatly. Directly across from his property was our Forest and I used to take him for hikes on our property. He died the following summer and as I took our motorboat around the lake that year I thought about John as I passed his cottage. I sure miss his friendship but I’ll never forget him.