"[History is] a cyclic poem written by time upon the memories of man." -Percy Bysshe Shelley

Friday, October 22, 2010

Memories of Clear Lake with Carol Keller Minch

Interviewer:  Karen Theil

I am interviewing Carol Keller Minch on August 9, 1991 at her cottage on Clear Lake .  And we're going to be talking about some of the things that she remembers from the past as a young girl and as she was growing up up her in the summers. So any time you want to start .

As I recall my folks purchased the property on Clear Lake in 1922 or 1923.  There was no road available into the property and I do recall that they had to stay at Voss' and come in through the channels.  And when he[my father] viewed the property here it was not a question as the west exposure which is a requisite and he also wanted a nice sandy gradual beach, cause after all I was just a youngster at the time, and they had a lot of family friends that came up here with their children.  So when he spotted this property he knew at once that it was what he had been looking for.  It was purchased from a lumber company the name I do not recall .  And they built immediately.  They built a cottage.  The whole upstairs was dormitory size, and we could sleep fourteen (14).

It took a year to build because of the weather , apparently they started later in the season .  And I recall my mother cooking and baking on a kerosene stove that had to be primed.
And every time she'd prime it I'd leave the house I was frightened to death. (you mean she'd have to put more kerosene in it?)  I don't remember what she did but she had to prime it with kerosene and then the flames would shoot up and I would exit the house immediately.

I do remember being in bed one morning and a friend of hers who had offered to make the breakfast for the workmen the next morning, she finally came in and she said "I don't mind making pancakes but when Ted Miller eats 14 pancakes I draw the line".  So the rest of the family had to pitch in.

I do recall a skunk getting into a tin can and walking around with the tin can on his head.  They had to shoot the poor little guy.

Then the next thing on the agenda as I recall was cleaning up the beach area.  We had these huge stumps and of course in those years we didn't have the dam so our beach was quite wide, it was beautiful.  It was a miniature Daytona.  (Did it go down quite farther down than it does now?)  Oh yes we had a wide sand, beautiful beach.  And the way they cleared it is they would pour kerosene or gasoline on these huge  stumps and then ignite them and they'd burn them that way.  And then we would have,  family would have as we called them the wienie roast .  We would have wieners and marshmallows and we would invite our only neighbors who was the Devine family an Indian family over there right off of Haskins bay .  (Now that was Dan Devine?)  That was Dan Devine, his sister Mary and her family.  Dan's parents were still living in what we called the big house on the hill.  And when they would come over they would eat their wienies raw.  They didn't even know enough to toast them.  And that went on for a number of years before we got the beach cleared to their satisfaction.   
( Now how many people, do you remember how many people were in his family?) In the Devine family?  (Yes)  Dan had two daughters and one son and then I remember oh it was maybe seven, eight, nine years later they had a little girl.  So there were four all told.  And from what I understand today none of them are living.  Now Dan was shot by a hunter .  Dan was at the end of our driveway talking to my father and a stray bullet hit him. Ah just missed my father.  Dan was standing next to the open window and it could very well  have happened the other way around.  So my father some how or other got Dan into the car and headed for Ironwood which was the closest medical help.  But he died enroute.  (Now do you remember how old you were when this happened?) I would say this was when I was about 20, 22 years old, it was before I was married.  And then Dan's sister had two beautiful daughters.  Dan's sister's name was Mary Haskins .  Apparently that's where Haskin's Bay got their name.  And the one daughter lived in a new home that was built on the premises over there.  You can see it when you come down the hill off of K and you make a sharp turn to the left it looks  like you're running right into the lake and you make a sharp turn, the first house there was Mary Haskin's home.  She lived there with her husband .  The two girls were long gone, they were married when the house was built.  Both the girls attended Holy Angels High School in Milwaukee.  They did not graduate.  However, they went for a short time.  And we always said that Angie who was the older of the two was a gorgeous, beautiful girl, but she had the mixed blood in her.  And, the other one was a very pretty girl also .  What happened to her I don't know she eventually married the barber in Mercer.  But then we lost track.  I guess they moved away.  (Now these girls were friends of yours when you were little?)  No, well yes they were the only ones I had to play with .  I was very happy when I could look down the beach and see them hidden around the bay there , then I was going to have someone to play with .  Now when I think of how the youngsters have so much going for them up here and I had nothing .  (How did you get together?) Well Dan was (Did you walk?) Yeah we walked over there and Dan of course acted as a guide for my father when he would bring up his business associates.  And Dan was the one who cut the ice in the winter and put it into the ice house so we had some sort of refrigeration for the summer months.

And all the time that I remember as a young girl my father always wanted to build down in the present spot.  So, at the beginning of World War II before he realized what was going on he sold the cottage to ah... Charlie Quarels an attorney from Milwaukee.  And who he knew and who would come up here and fish with my dad and hunt with him and was also a friend of Al Houlton whose cottage was next door to ours at the time. So ah he sold to Charlie Quarrels and started to build down where we are now and couldn't get any lumber.  There was no way he good get anything to build.  So what we are living in now is an improvised Winchester home that he built on to.  But he had to do it piece meal as he could get the lumber consequently we do not have what you would call a typical northern Wisconsin cottage.  (But your first home is that still standing now?)  It's still standing there and Mary Quarrels owns it ,and that's Charly's daughter.  She no longer comes up but the Camps come up and Betsey the one daughter comes up on rare occassions .  (Now what relationship are Camps and Cooks to Mary Quarrels?)  Ah, John Camps and Charlie Camps is the grandson of Charlie Quarrels. (I see) Mary was their mother , who was Charly's daughter.

Then  another thing I recall was Keith's Island.   When my father bought this property and moved up here it was against the ... well his parents really did'nt think this was the best idea for him to come up this far and Grandpa Keller said where are you going to get milk for that child?  So he starts scouting around and he follows the Keith road and comes to a farm .  Well this farm turns out to be owned by the Keith family who have caretakers there.  And we ah dickered with them and they gave us milk every day the Houghtons and either myself or my mother or whoever was here as guests we would walk back , it was a mile walk, and we'd have the little milk pail and we'd get that full of milk and believe me that was milk.  You let it stand and you had cream that was way up to the top.  And we also could get fresh eggs and when it was available, that the family wasn't up and using all of it, why we could get some other goodies, but we were very happy for the eggs and the milk.  (Now, this was over on Big Lake?) This was on Big Lake and this place was owned by the Keiths. It still is in the Keith family.  They're scattered around a lot of the children, grandchildren have their own spots here. But the island is still owned by the Keith's estate I guess.

ah, what else do I recall that would be of interest?  (What about other places on the lake? Were you the only ones here?) No, we had one place across the lake that was owned by the Aikens family and that's where Barb Lindal is now.  She bought that home.  And that was owned by a family from Chicago. And Mrs. Aikens was not enjoying good health at the time that I remember.  And they would fly her up like in June and that was a rarity to see a plane land on Clear Lake. We'd all run like crazy just to witness it.  And then she would be up here for the entire summer and then they would take her back the same way she came.  And that went on for a long time.  Other than that there was no other place, no other place here on Clear Lake.  It was a lonesome life as a child.  And my folks would have would bring up a friend for maybe four to six weeks in the summer months, but that's all I had.

(Now how long would you stay?)  They would take me out of school before school was over with in June.  And then we would go back the end of August, well right after Labor Day. The day after Labor Day was moving back to Milwaukee. And the hair wasn't cut from the time I got up here til the time I got back to Milwaukee.  We really looked like ah we had spent the summer in the northwoods.  Ah there was something else I thought would be of interest.

We would come up on the fisherman's special which left Milwaukee at seven o'clock[a.m.] and would arrive at Manitowish Waters at seven ten[p.m.], I remember that time because we'd meet that train every weekend when my father would commute back and forth.  And we would ah come up here that way and Dan Devine of course would be the one that would pick us up and bring us in and get us all, the place was all opened and ready  for us to enjoy the summer.  If we would get to Winchester on a Tuesday when the train came in we got fresh fruits and vegetables.  Other than that it was all canned goods.  Once about a week or every ten days my father would have two barrels of fresh fruits and vegetables sent up from a fruit store in Milwaukee.  And I can remember two watermelons were always included in that.  (What other kinds of foods did you have then?) Just oranges.  (Fresh meat?)  We ate a lot of ham , we ate a lot of bacon, we ate a lot of fish.  Those years we could go out and catch fish.  If my mother would say I'd like fish for dinner, out we would go and get some beautiful walleyes.  I recall one evening we went out , my cousin and I, and we sat out in front of the cottage in the weed bed and we ran out of bait we were picking up the dead minnows off the bottom of the boat and we were catching beautiful walleyes.  I remember Claire talking about that for years.  But those were the years we had fish . And I use to go out all alone I was trusted.  I knew my limitations on the water.  I respected the water and I would troll up and down this weed bed which is now by the way back. I guess they've taken all the crayfish out which destroyed the weed beds and now we have them and somebody must have caught a big one in the weed bed because now they're cruising up and down there in front of this place.  (Right out here in front?)  Um hm.  And that was, didn't have to go any farther than that as I said we had a lot of fish.  My mother knew every fish recipe that was around.

(Did you take advantage of berries and things?)  Oh yes, we went blueberry picking and we picked blueberries back which is now the Fallon road back in that area , beautiful blueberry patches.  We had lots of blueberry pies and we had uh we ate blueberries.  In those years blueberries were a no no on my grandfather's menu because he was a diabetic.  Today they have found that blueberries are very healthy; they regulate the sugar content in the system.  So whatever we were eating was good for us.  And I know they often spoke that this place prolonged his life that he with his diabetes being up here and eating properly and the smell of the pines evidently was very very healthy for him.  ( So your Grandfather was up here ) My Grandfather would come every summer and spend the summer with us.  (And what is his name?) His name is Miller.  That was my mother's father.  (what was his first name?)   Oliver.  (And he was from Milwaukee?) Milwaukee.  And he would come up when we came.  And then my Grandmother who didn't like it .  My Grandmother was like my husband: could live very well without the northwoods.  She'd come up maybe around the fourth of July and sit there and crochet for the rest of the summer.  She didn't like it.  You either like this country or you don't like it there is no middle road.  ( So how many years did you come up then?)  I came up until I started to work .  Which was right out of school then I was teaching for , up until the war.  And so I (up until the 40's) Yeah and my husband if he came up here for a long weekend that was really pushing it.  (He didn't like it?) He didn't like it either.

(Then what about your daughter Ann when did she start coming up?)  She started coming up , we brought her up when she was about four or five years old but she didn't like it either. But I think she didn't like it because she knew her father didn't like it.  As she has gotten older now she loves it and of course she's kept busy with Jessica and its very interesting.  Jessica is the fourth generation up here. (Jessica is how old now?)  Jessica is going to be nine years old in a week.  (and how old is Ann?)  Ann is thirty‑nine. So we kind of know this country pretty well.  (And your mother was here with you several years too wasn't she?) My mother was here with me the last fifteen years.  She liked it.  As Lynn Cookingham said she's the only one in the world that she knows rakes the woods.  She just loved working.  She was like her father.  And he remembers as a child while he was still in school those years they went to work in the summer and he would work in what he called a pinery.  I just surmised that what he was talking about .  When you're young you don't ask questions.  You're just not interested, however now when I look back he probably came up into this country and worked cutting wood because this was all owned by the lumber companies.  (So this was her father that did this?) Yeah that's right.

(When you were up here as a child did you see a lot of animals?)  I remember seeing a lot of deer .  I remember seeing a bear in our yard, only once.  I see more animals today than I did then.  I do remember we had to go down to the school on Highway K and the intersection with P?  And that's where our little mailbox would be lined up and all the people from Crab Lake had there mailboxes there.  They had to come in that far and the Houghtons and our family had to go down there.  That was the big social event of the day, we'd all gather down there a half hour before it came and we would have to tell what was going on to each other.  Anyway I was walking home from the mailbox alone one day and I saw this animal and Dan Devine was quizzing me trying to figure out what it was.  He came up with the answer that it was a fox cause he said did it have a pointed nose and a head? and I said yes.  So I suppose those years they went right out and tried to hunt that baby down.  But ah, No I would say there are more animals around today .  I've seen more bear up here in the last two or three years than I saw all the years of my childhood up here.  (Quite a change then.)  Yeah.

(Now tell me when you would go down for the mail and the school was there)  The school was not there.  (The school wasn't there it was just the place for the mailboxes.)  Uh no the school wasn't there and I don't recall exactly when the school was built but I'm sure that you have that on some of your records.  (What was there before the present school?) Nothing.  (Nothing at all?) Uh uh.

(Now when you did go to town, what was the closest town?)  We always went to Winchester for our groceries.  Those years it was still a ah quite a buzzing little village because were still doing they had the saw mill there and it was just like a little city and I was impressed they had sidewalks.  And as I say, if we got there on a Tuesday we got our fresh vegetables otherwise there was no Manitowish Waters .  There was just Manitowish.  In Manitowish you can still see where the tracks went up.  And otherwise we'd have to go to Mercer to do our shopping.  Why we never went to Boulder Junction, I don't know we just never went that way.  So I really can't, I can't recall anything else. I grew up with , up here, with a with Chesapeake dogs and a monkey.  A little capuchin monkey who would swing around in the trees here.  He was a cute little guy.  Other than that Karen I can't think of anything that would be of those years.
(tape off and on)
I recall an Indian spear that was found over in the Island Lake area when they were building homes over there.  The homes that you get to when you come in off of K not off of highway 51.   He picked up this spear and I have it somewhere and I have been looking for it.  Paul Brenner wanted it and I said I would get it and he could have it.  It didn't mean anything to me and he could have it for his lectures.  I was sure I could go home and put my hands right on it and I can't.  And I looked, and looked and looked and during the winter one time I found it and this is what Paul wants now I can't remember where it was in the house.  I'm sure it's in my desk and I have torn that desk apart and I can't find it. Someday I'll come across it and I will give it to him because as I say it means more to him than it would to me.

Then I do recall how we made our own ice cream.  We had ice cream every day.  It was a lemon ice cream recipe that had been in the family for years.  Had to go to the ice house and get our ice, chip it very fine and it was always done in the wheelbarrow.  The ice was put in the wheelbarrow then wheeled to the side of the house and that's where we would shave it. And we would have a gallon of ice cream and we would dig into that. (Everyday)  Everyday we had it .  It was a lemon ice cream it was made from the juice of fresh lemons and oranges and the cream which we got from Keith's farm.  Today you would have to probably make it just with cream because your milk is not that rich.  That was our interesting thing.  I recall as a matter of fact I've still got the freezer.  (One of the hand crank type?)  Oh sure, we didn't have electricity those years there was no such thing.  (What did you have, did you have kerosene lamps?)  We had kerosene lamps and many is the time that I would read by the light of the fireplace at night.  We had our fireplace lit constantly in the coolish weather.  And sometimes in August we were going into a period of two or three weeks of  rainy cold weather.  I think those are the years that I really learned how to read.  I'd pick the books there was nothing else.  They didn't have tapes and TV.  (You knew how to entertain yourself?)  Had to.  Had to. (Did you have games, cards and things like that?)  Oh yes , the good old parchesi game that was, the card table was up on the porch all the time, that was our card table and the parchesi game.  We had good times.  But as I say I had to have my best times were when we had guests and their children and had somebody to play with, somebody to talk to who understood me.  I do recall these trips to Winchester where we would stop at the Wysocki's place because he had a bear in a cage there very much like Art Laha has at his Bear Bar now and that was very interesting.  That was a big deal to see that bear in the cage.  Mr. Wysocki was always very gracious. He'd come out and spend time with us and let me fool around with the bear which today you wouldn't let a child do.  We just don't realize what can happen but it seemed like he was pretty tame.  But that was a landmark, that Wysocki farm and it looks today as it did when I was a child.  It has changed not one bit.  Not one bit.  He's kept it clear and apparently the family, his nephews are going to keep it that way.  (Did he have his garden?)   Oh yes.  (When you were growing up he didn't sell vegetables or ?) If he did we didn't pursue it because we had what we wanted from the Keith farm and we also had what the shipments would bring us from Milwaukee and what we could pick up on Tuesday at Winchester.  No, that Wysocki farm is identical to what it was years ago.  And it was a big clearing.  I would assume it took many many years to get it the way he had it.  And he worked the farm just like he did right up until I think it's three years ago that I still saw that man in the garden weeding.

(OK well thank you very much Carol.)

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