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Beach Dreams

July 17, 2012

Oh it’s a hot, breezy afternoon here in the Southland and I am in a beachy kind of mood. I realize that for most people the word beach conjures up visions of the ocean, but it really just means the shore of any body of water covered by sand or rocks or pebbles where the waves wash up. So for me there are many memorable beaches in my life. Growing up in Wisconsin meant lots and lots of lakes. They call Minnesota the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but I looked up the stats in my handy dandy Wikipedia and found that there are 15,081 lakes in Wisconsin. So there ya go, Minnesota! Granted 9,037 of Wisconsin’s lakes are four acres in size or less and are unamed, but that still leaves 6,044 with names. That’ll do!

As a kid there were two main beaches in my life. One was at Green Lake, just eight miles from our home in Berlin, Wi. It is actually the largest inland natural lake in Wisconsin covering over 7000 acres with 30 miles of shoreline. It is also the deepest natural inland lake with a maximum depth of 237 feet and an average depth of 100 feet. It is one popular tourist spot with great fishing, hoards of marinas, natural sand beaches, beautiful resorts and fancy schmancy homes ringing its perimeter. In the winter it is home to some of the world’s great ice boat races as well as the popular sport of ice fishing.

Of course I didn’t know any of that as a kid. What I knew is that on very hot summer evenings when my dad would come home from his carpentry job hot and sweaty, my mom would grab the soap, the shampoo, some towels, and off we would go to Green Lake to swim. Yes, you read it right…..the soap and the shampoo! We would pull of the then gravel road and find a secluded spot and in we’d go. My dad would walk out a ways, up to his chest, and proceed to lather up and have a fine ole bath right there in the lake. Thinking about it today makes me both laugh and cringe. Talk about pollution….to say nothing of fine, genteel ways! But we weren’t the only ones. It was common practice back there in the hot midwest summers and certainly much more fun than a bath tub!

The other lake that I frequented often during childhood was Pearl Lake, just outside the sleepy village of Redgranite, and only a few minutes from my grandparent’s tiny dairy farm. My paternal grandparents were immigrants from Hungary who came through Ellis Island in the early 1900s, met and married in Chicago, and found that they had grown up in the same village outside of Budapest, Hungary! My grandfather was a hard worker who worked 50 years as a brake inspector in Chicago for the Milwaukee Railroad, as well as bought and maintained the small dairy farm in rural, central Wisconsin with the help of my grandma and my dad.

Every summer hoards of Hungarians would make their yearly pilgrimage from Chicago to the farm for vacation. I am sure, in retrospect, that it had to be extremely hard on my grandma who cooked day and night, week in, week out….and still had to make sure the farm kept running…. every summer for all those friends and family members who flocked north for fun in the sun. To my sister and I it was one big summer long party and we reveled in the kids, the food, the chaos, the people, the attention……and the lake! To this day Pearl Lake remains one of the best kept secrets in Wisconsin. It is a moderate sized lake at 350 acres, but has a purely sand bottom, crystal clear water, and sits as a tiny, gleaming gem in the Wisconsin woods. With its big diving platform, shallow shores, and a rustic restaurant that served up the best hamburgers, hot dogs, ice creams bars and soda pop any kid could want, it was paradise on earth to us. We spent every minute possible there and begged for more as daylight waned and the fireflies began to twinkle.

As a high school student I worked as a lifeguard and swimming, water skiing, sailing, and canoeing instructor at summer camp. Spending time on the beaches of Portage Lake and Lake Wakonda bring back some of the best memories of a lifetime. We were teen agers with big responsibilities during the day and lots of free time for summer romance, hanky panky, starlit dreams, and midnight walks. Oh yes, those beaches have stories to tell!

Other beaches that I love include the shores of Lake Michigan in Door County, Wisconsin. Known as the “Cape Cod of the Mid-West” it is one incredibly beautiful place all four seasons of the year. Offering lodging from the quaintest cabin to the finest 5 star resorts, ice cream shops to gourmet dining, quaint shops and fine galleries, every kind of water sport one can imagine, hiking, and just doing nothing……it’s all to be found in Door County.

Out here in California we are known for our world class beaches, but honestly, those are not the ones that appeal to me. My favorite California beach is Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, up on the wild and rugged coast of Northern California, Once used as a city dump it has become a well known spot for sea glass hunters world wide and is said to have the most glass of any beach on the planet. I fell in love with sea glass many years ago, but rarely have had the chance to look for it or find any of much significance. It is one of the world’s endangered species, as less and less glass is used commercially and certainly it is no longer dumped in our world’s oceans. To find sea glass is to find rare treasure and Glass Beach in Fort Bragg is one of those places you can still do that. At low tide the beaches become broad and easy to maneuver in spite of the fact that you have to climb down steep banks to get to them.

Oh yeah, I’m in a beachy kind of mood. Guess I will just have to get out my beach glass, my travel books and old photos and dream away until the next time my barefeet hit the sand.

Sandy toes to you all,

Chatty Grandma




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One Comment
  1. Shannon permalink


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