The Old Barn


Our old barn is no longer standing. The new owner wanted to convert it to his living quarters to preserve the history but the trouble was that there was too much history and the building wouldn’t support his plan. So instead he put up a red barn like structure in its place.

I used to climb the hay stacks which led right up to the rafters of the barn as a kid and it was great fun. The barn was great to explore although I remember only one summer when there were cows there and then only two of them.

Our barn once even served as a hanger for an ultra-light airplane complete with an FBI warning sign posted on the outside about trespassing that “hanger”.

The picture taken in winter is of the new structure that resembles a barn. Resembles, yes, but nothing will take the place of that original barn that my grandfather constructed ever so long ago.

The Still at Big Bass Lake

Bass Lake EveningStill

In the 1920’s, I just learned that my grandmother, Barbara Noreika, was once arrested for making moonshine. No, not the kind that glows on Big Bass Lake, but the kind of stuff that my grandfather once sold at his bar in Wisconsin before making the move to the farm. No doubt this moonshine made by my grandmother was prepared for my grandfather. I wonder if Elliot Ness was in on the bust?

My grandmother, I am sure, would have rather been in the kitchen preparing pasti with cole slaw over that of that other activity. Farm life then was difficult as the family faired largely on chicken, eggs, and milk, all home grown or produced by the animals of the farm.

There was a Lithuanian language barrier in the area and thus many people like my grandparents were segregated. Yet, like the Amish, they came together for barn raisings, to cut hay, and of course for social gatherings.

You just never know what things one might find out about their grandparents these days!

Our New Cottage Then and How It Looks Today

This is our “parking lot” in front of the new cottage on Big Bass Lake. Our whole front yard could have covered that purpose although we did have a garage right next to the gravel driveway. As you entered the door immediately there was another staircase leading to the basement. To its left were a washer and dryer although my grandmother preferred clothes lines.

Just to the right of the doorway led into a full kitchen and then into the living room with several windows facing Big Bass Lake. With the dinner table situated right there it gave a great vista of the lake. Off to the side of the living room was our deck that also faced Big Bass Lake.

Off the living room was a hallway that led to the bathroom and three bedrooms. The basement was one large room complete with a second television set. I suppose during storms that would have been the place to view television the most safely.

The new owners have done extensive ground work as the basement now has an exterior entrance leading out toward the lake. The hillside has been rendered less steep and there is now a stairwell leading down to the lake. Also the house is now yellow in color. The dock area has been widely expanded from s simple pier to what you see here.

The farm was always a great place to visit especially due to my grandmother’s talents in the kitchen. Many of her recipes of a Lithuanian origin are found elsewhere on this site.

By the way, the cottage was never winterized and I don’t know if the new owners have done that or not.

Family Reunion

Our 1994 family reunion at our property on Big Bass Lake was over the 4th of July weekend and the weather was more than brisk for that time of year and that is why you see sweaters and jackets on us. This picture was taken on the old logging trail that cuts through the forest section of our property.

In the back I am in the blue jacket and just in front of me is my sister Treva and her boyfriend Charlie. Next to them is Treva’s son Bobby and his girlfriend Julie. Then next to them is my sister Kathy’s three daughters. Blond Sarah is next to Kristen and in the front is Laura. My sister Kathy was taking the picture.

Our entire stay that weekend was rather cool. I was the only one that was brave enough, or stupid enough, to swim at the Manistee Beach but only at the request of my niece’s who wanted a picture of their uncle in Lake Michigan. The sky was very overcast and the lake quite wavy.

I stayed in the water long enought to get a bad cold once we returned to Indiana.

Visiting Our Property in Winter

The Michigan Highway Department is super as they even clear off the back roads in record time.  However they do manage to push the snow across driveways making the even deeper snow worse in those areas.  Take our old driveway for example.  Our driveway is surrounded by open field and the wind driven snow piles up almost faster than it can be remoed making winter habitation near impossible. 

One winter I took some college friends of mine to our property from Muskegon, where we were staying for a three week off campus course, and I parked the car on Noreika Road on a night where it had just begun snowing.  We walked down to our beach area and it was tough going with the ever increasing snowfall.  I’m glad that I had help that day as it took all of us to push out my car three times getting stuck on Noreika Road before we could get back onto Big Bass Lake Road. 

Getting down our driveway that evening was even worse as all the drifts made walking near impossible.  It wore us all out just gong that hundred yards or so and did not make our return trip back to the car very exciting.  Our property was nice to visit during the winter but not to live there.  Even then our cottage was not winterized.  Though it had a wood buning stove, only the front room and  kitchen would have been liveable.

Activities at Dusk

Often times this was about the time that we set out on our night time activities at our property either toward the Bloody Antler Trail or into our own forest. The boys from various boys clubs for the first few times preferred staying in our woods until they got the “feel” of the land so to speak. Actually they wanted to get their night bearings right.

The large percentage of our hikes were without flashlights, even though they were carried in the event of an emergency. Flashlights tend to rob us of our night vision. In time the boys saw right good even in the dark. They learned to listen better to the sounds of the forest. Kids enjoyed the trek to the tree farm at the end of the Bloody Antler Trail which was in the Manistee National Forest.

When we played scouting games the boys were paired in teams of three and were told to stay together as a team. Two teams of three were the hares, also to stay together, and I was the ref. The final pair of three were the hounds chasing and trying to locate the hares.

Other times we would stay together as a group and just enjoy the hiking experience. Night hiking was very popular on our trips. The kids of the Hoffman Estates Boys Club enjoyed tracking games the best and became quite good at it. Alan, one of our younger members, excelled in tracking games.

Big Bass Lake Bridge From Noreika Pier

This is the wonderous view from our pier on Big Bass Lake looking eastward. There in the distance is the bridge leading to The Big Island. That bridge was built in 1956 linking that island to the mainland. Just to the left of that bridge was the home of Clyde Waite and that island was first known as Waite Island.  It’s newest name is Isle of the Wilds.

To get to that island from our dock one had to first pass by Haunted Island and then just under that bridge, to your left, is the smallest island, Grandma’s Hat which today is known as Loon Island.  It was a pleasant row from Labor Day to Memorial Day but in the summer one is always dodging speedboaters along the way.

I used to take that course daily as the Big Bass Lake store was just past that bridge to your right.  By the way, does anyone know how many homes are found on The Big Island?  Also the view is quite the same in either direction from the Waite Bridge. 

Walking Our Big Bass Lake Shoreline

I enjoyed walking the tree-lined hilly shoreline from Big Bass Lake Road to about one hundred yards north of our barn.  The trees concealed much of Big Bass Lake from the very beginning as I walked northward.  I would cross our farm field and then past our orchard.  In those days, our new cottage was not yet built so I passed that location and moved just behind our old cabin.  Even closer to my position was the two room cottage which stood just above the trail that led down to our pier.

From that point northward I entered our forest which continued to lead me above our tree-lined hillside.  After about 100 yards it gave way to another field which led to the Matson’s property that my grandparents had sold to them.  All the way to that point, though, was that tree-lined hillside.  Now, sadly, much of that hillside is gone as new cottages have graded all the way down to Big Bass Lake taking many of those trees with it.

Even our new cottage was greatly concealed from boaters on Big Bass Lake by the many trees that lined that hillside.  Through our several windows in the dining room, we could make out boaters speeding by or even those that were casually fishing just below us.  They could make out the cottage but little else. 

There was even a trail from just below our new cottage all the way to Big Bass Lake Road along the shoreline of Big Bass Lake down that tree filled hillside.  I often took that back from our mailbox at Big Bass Lake Road.  It was a great walk with a fantastic view of the lake.

Noreika Field and Road

The Salesian Boys Club was one of the few clubs that used our farming field for some of their activities.  Being that their trip to our property was largely in a light rain we often came to this main field for some sort of sporting activity.  Soccer was a favorite as was tag with a plastic ball.  Our field was used at least three times during their time in Michigan and they released a lot of energy in those games.

Our farm field ran from Noreika Road almost to the public landing but our main area of play was just near Noreika Road which also provided the boys about a half mile hike to and from our camping site each time we opted to use the field.  Our field ran by Big Bass Lake Road and the lake itself was not visible until one was nearly to the turn east on that road. 

Eight boys made the trip from Columbus, Ohio, to our property from that boys club for a ten-day stay and it rained all but two days.  Still, since their was little lightning with that rain, the drizzle did nt dampen the kids fun one bit.

A Creek Runs Through It

Although three Boys Clubs of America organizations sed our property in Michigan, only one explored the creek that cut through our land and that was the Marion Boys Club.  It was funny that the same thing never happened before or again as those boys asked to follow the course of that creek from the time it entered our property to where it left it.

The strange thing about that creek is that it began somewhere in the swamps making access near impossible.  Then for a time the stream took an underground course past the phone lines before emerging just past them.  At one point near the phone lines it was at its widest and then later on toward Big Bass Lake Road it was a mere trickle.

Several of the boys waded in the section that you find photographed here and, as most boys do, they searched under rocks and other such things in full exploration mode.  Inquiring minds just want to know so much.  Because it was so shallow at this point some kids went into the creek with their shoes on while others opted for bare feet.  One boy, Kenny Huffman, wondered why the other kids had such an interest in just a creek but then he was the oldest boy in the group and other things were on his mind. 

I often wonder why that creek was never again fully explored by other boys clubs?  Yet there were some aspects to our property that some clubs explored and others did not.  I suppose some things just don’t have an answer to them.

The Pointe Tent

On this particular trip to our property, the majority of the way there, all we heard from our oldest member were the reasons why he should have been picked the Boy of the Year instead of why he lost that honor to another member.  Kenny Huffman nearly drove us all crazy due to his rantings so when the Pointe Tent was erected on the Pointe, we were all relieved to see him hold tha honor all by himself so that his complaining would come to an end. 

The first night out there by himself, late at night, I heard him still debating the point with someone.  Since he was occupying that tent by himself, naturally I wondered who had joined him.  Out of concern for his safety I made my way down shore to see who he was conversing with.  To my surprise he was complaining to a squirrel.  I often wondered if it was that same squirrel who was gave a humorous oratory about the boys on one of our trips that was done in humor?

It wasn’t until the third day of that trip that Kenny finally got that loss out of his system.  I think the rest of the boys really appreciated the Pointe Tent that trip.  It was always used for the older members to allow them a measure of privacy.  But this time it permitted the rest of us a chance to avoid Kenny’s continual rants as to why he didn’t win the Boy of the Year award.  Perhaps his attitude was one of the reasons he did not win that prize?