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Listening to the lake

• Jun 26, 2018 at 3:00 PM

“The Interurban electric railway connects with Grand Rapids, Grand Haven and Fruitport, where “Pomona” the picturesque dancing pavilion is located. In the resort season the commodious pavilion of the Interurban is gorgeously illuminated by hundreds of electric lights that bed its handsome outlines and present from the water at night a scene of fairy beauty, to which is added the enchanting strain of ‘music with its voluptuous swell,’ while in distant view is seen the lovely figures of youth and beauty gracefully portraying the pleasures of the dance.”  — Mary Kitchel, “The Spring Lake Community Centennial, 1869-1969.”

Sometimes in the summer, I hear music from the Spring Lake Yacht Club traveling over the water.

When I ride my bike down the bike path, which used to be part of the Interurban line, I think about all the history in Spring Lake, and what a magical experience growing up in a resort community can be. I ride fast under the canopy of trees and catch glimpses of the lake sparkling as I fly past.

Growing up, every summer we went to Macatawa Park, which is between Lake Macatawa and Lake Michigan, to visit my mother’s childhood friend, Jane, and her family. Her parents owned a cottage called the Odessa (all the cottages there have names), and my mom used to visit there every summer.

Since there are no cars allowed at Macatawa Park, it’s like going back in time. When I was a kid, I was fascinated by the old photos from the ‘40s and ‘50s that lined the walls, the damp lake-cottage smell and the brightly colored, chipped Fiesta dishes stacked neatly in the kitchen cupboards.

I loved the Victorian quality to the rows of cottages, which were close together with lots of huge screened-in porches. Kids ran barefoot until after dark, swam in the lake and played in the sand. Our moms read magazines and books, and talked.

We ate dinner on the screened-in porch and then the adults talked while we ran around outside in the dark.

So it was only natural that I would live in a cottage when I grew up. I live in an old cottage near Spring Lake. There is a set of brightly colored, cracked Fiesta dishes in my cupboard. The houses are too close together, and kids run around with sandy feet all day.

My son, Connor, grew up at the little beach. I would (try) to read a book and he would play in the sand with the other kids. The lifeguards would yell to the kids to “get off the rocks!” periodically as the kids played. Usually there was too much going on to read, but it was nice to have a book just in case. One impressively strict lifeguard turned out to be his first-grade teacher, who also happened to train horses.

After dinner we would take a long bike ride around Strawberry Point and down the bike path as the sun started to set. Other nights, my parents would take us boating — sometimes to the main body of Spring Lake, on the Grand River or into the channel at Lake Michigan.

When I walk with my mother in my parents’ neighborhood, occasionally we run into their neighbor, Courtney. He grew up in Spring Lake and tells me stories about how the street where we now stand was just a field, and what it was like to fish in Lloyd’s Bayou when there were no houses around. 

Courtney tells me that he had a job delivering ice when he was in high school. He laughs and says that when he stayed up late after the prom he overslept for work. Early the next morning, his boss ran up the stairs to his bedroom to wake him because Courtney was late and needed to deliver ice.

Can you imagine that your boss could actually run up to your room and wake you up in the morning? Can you imagine the importance of not missing a day of delivering ice?

To learn more about the Interurban, you can read about it in “The Lake Line,” which is a book my former supervisor Dave Kindem co-authored. Although sadly Dave passed away two years ago, he loved researching and writing about the Interurban.

Carrie Brown is a freelance communications professional and writer who lives in Spring Lake, Michigan. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan where she won the Avery Hopwood Award for Poetry.

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