Return to: 1928

(         )

Memories of Hamlin Lake

Betty Bergeson Hrodey

 The Bergeson family first became acquainted with the Hamlin Lake area when my Dad, Harry, came up here with Pastor Joshua Oden and a group of young men from the Irving Park Lutheran Church in Chicago.  Pastor Oden came to Chicago from Ludington and his mother lived here until she passed away.  Dad told us stories of taking the Dummy Train up to Upper Hamlin and staying at Camp Arcadia. 

In 1928 my Grandparents, Lars and Anna Johanna Bergeson bought land from Albert Johnson as did Ethel and Lenard.  These lots were located next to Olga and Albert’s cottage on Piney Ridge Road.  That summer while our cottage was being built, Grandpa and Grandma rented the Johnson cottage and we watched their dream come true.  After our trip to Norway and Sweden several years ago, we realized why they enjoyed their time on Hamlin Lake.  I am sure the lake and woods reminded them of their homelands. 

The builder was a man nicknamed “Blackie”.  The cottage consisted of a kitchen, pantry, a very small room with a chemical toilet in it, a living room, two bedrooms and a large screened in porch.  We were probably the only place in the area with an indoor toilet as Grandpa had “hardening of the arties” and had trouble walking.  There was no electricity up here in the woods so all sawing and other work had to be done by hand.  There was no basement or foundation and house rested on wooden posts.  The outside was painted white with maroon trim around the windows and the shutters.  In fall the shutters were closed and hooked and very large wooden shutters were put in place to cover the screened porch and French doors at the end of the living room. 

Piney Ridge Road was nothing more than a logging trail.  It was just two ruts with turn outs in case you had the misfortune of meeting a car coming the other way.  There wasn’t much traffic in those days.  These turn outs were solid, but other area were sandy and if your car got stuck, a team of horses had to come out from town to pull you out.  

As I said, there was not electricity so we had kerosene lamps and an ice box.  This meant that ice had to be brought out from town in 75 or 100 pound chunks and in hot weather this had to be replaced often.  When the milk or cream soured, Grandma made the best Swedish pancakes you could ever eat!  Sometimes the pan under the ice box that held the melted ice water would overflow and the kitchen floor would be flooded.

Our cottage had its own well with a small hand pump in the kitchen.  Water had to be heated on the stove for washing dishes and cooking.  Baths were taken in the Lake.  You always had to remember to take down your bar of soap and towel!  Grandma had a large galvanized wash tub which hung on a nail on the back porch.  She also had a wash board and this is how she washed clothes, bedding and towels.  When everything was washed upstairs it had to be carried down to the lake to be rinsed.  It was brought up the stairs again and hung out to dry.  Things were pretty rustic back in those days!  Once electricity came to the woods, life changed drastically, but every time a storm blew up the electricity was turned off to protect the woods from fire. 

We now had electric lights, refrigeration, a regular toilet and running cold water.  Our baths were still taken the lake.  Our only heat was the fireplace so our cottage was only used from Memorial Day until Labor Day.

Uncle Rudy, my dad’s youngest brother, loved it up here at the cottage and made lots of improvements.  He built cabinets in the kitchen from rough lumber, put in cement sidewalks around the house, brought up French doors and enclosed the porch with them, relocated the pump to make it easier to get at to prime in spring and put a wash basin in what was the pantry so we could wash ourselves.  The original pump site was under the kitchen floor accessible only by a small square hole.  I’ll never forget my dad going down in that hole to prime the pump, I’d never heard such language!

During those early days, Ludington was a poor town after the logging industry closed down.  Thee depression came and there was not a lot of work in the area.  There was no State Park and no Route 116 going out along Lake Michigan.  Aunt Ethel used to make us peanut butter and Spanish onion (sliced very thin) sandwiches, fruit and cookies for our lunch and we would hike over the dunes to Lake Michigan.  We swam, ate our picnic lunch and hiked home having been gone most of the day.  No one thought about the possibility of us drowning or meeting with foul play.  Life was simple then without all the problems we have today.

Our cottage wasn’t very large, but Grandma always managed to make room for everyone.  After Grandpa died in 1934 our family of four and Lisa and Sam Carlson would spend a week or two with Grandma.  Dad and Mom had one bedroom, Lisa and Sam the other one.  Grandma and I shared a drop sided bed on the porch and brother Howie slept on a cot.  I remember being up here one time with my grandparents, Uncle Rudy and one of his many girlfriends.   He had a small speed boat and took her out for a ride, ran out of gas way up north and had to paddle home.  The girl was red as a lobster and in a lot of pain.  Guess who had to sleep with her that night?  Yes, it was me.  I was afraid to move and sure did not get much sleep, but neither did she!

When the Carlsons came up all the Borgesons and Bergesons enjoyed going to West Side Inn (now Hobby Crest) to drink beer, pop or whatever and dance.  West Side was a very rustic fishing camp back then and was owned by Mrs. Shuster.  She also owned the Grand Hotel in town.  West Side was run by the caretaker named Herman.  The building had a long front porch with many rockers on it and we always enjoyed going up there.  Our dads and uncles enjoyed playing pinochle and played for nickels and dimes.  My cousins and my brother made up this verse and chanted it to them:

North Side, South Side, East Side

We want a nickel for West Side!

It wasn’t very poetic but we usually received the nickels and hiked to West Side for our candy bars.

Grandma was a good cook and I’ll never forget the special cardamom rolls and coffee cake she made.  I can still see them raising on the bed in the bedroom next to the kitchen.  She also made strawberry jam from wild strawberries that was delicious.  She made New England Dinner which consisted of smoked butt, potatoes, carrots, cabbage and onions.  She knew I did not care much for the vegetables so she would mash time for me with her fork and put lots of butter on them.  She sure made them taste good!

My dad loved to fish and would rent a boat from West Side.  He would always take grandpa with him and as grandpa’s health failed Dad would have to lift him into the boat.  He always sat right up in the front end of the boat.  Fishing was very good on Hamlin Lake and with the perch we caught in Lake Michigan we had many delicious fish dinners.

One summer Eugene and I went fishing with my dad and Uncle Art Bergeson.  we were way up north on the lake when a bad storm blew up.  Dad rowed with one oar and Uncle Art the other.  They managed to pull the boat into shore and made Eugene and I get out and walk home.  They were able to get the boat to West Side, tied it up and then walked the rest of the way home.  Storms can blow up on Hamlin without much warning so everyone has a healthy respect for the lake. 

As our family grew, we decided we needed more room.  In 1969 we tore off the hold kitchen and built a basement, a new kitchen and dining area on the north side of the cottage.  We now had a wall furnace and could spend more time at the lake in spring and fall.  The outside walls were covered with rough sawn cedar and stained green.  We had added a bathroom with a shower and hot water tank so no more baths in the lake.  In 1989 as our family continued to grow, we took off the old porch and added a lower level, a large family room, deck and a second bathroom.  Once again the outside walls were sided with grey permanent siding and the windows were replaced with Anderson windows.  No more painting, staining or shutters to close each season.  Since then a new septic tank has been put in, a new well was dug and a furnace system has been installed. 

We are all thankful to my grandparents for building the cottage so many years ago and for all the love and good times we have shared on Hamlin lake.


  Hamlin Lake Preservation Society, PO Box 178, Ludington, MI 49431