What kinds of experiences stir emotions for the past within you?
Lake Poinsett Nostalgia
The word that was suggested for the one-word prompt recently was nostalgia. It was a photo challenge, but the photos I’m using here are not current. The beautiful lake named Lake Poinsett in northeastern South Dakota is where I will take you on my nostalgia trip. I was born in 1940 and grew up witnessing many changes at the lake. With this post, I hope to take a short trip back down memory lane and recall different things about Lake Poinsett. It has seen dramatic changes in usage, population, residences, year around homes, food, drink, bait and tackle places and a multitude of water level changes.
We lived on a farm less than a mile south of the lake, our parents were Frank and Frances Olson. A lot of time was spent either fishing or swimming in our lives. Our great uncle Simon Hoel built a stone house on the hill just east of the park in 1885, part of it still stands. My grandfather Andrew Olson helped him farm the land.
Tall, virgin prairie grass grew for a mile along the south shore of the lake. Simon and my grandfather cut hay from it for forty years. There is a beautiful state park on that land today, trees and campgrounds everywhere.
A few tall original cottonwood trees were growing along the shoreline but through the centuries ice knocked most of them down. A wagon trail can still be seen in places, it went to the east boundary fence and on for another mile to the Hendrickson farm, what is now Runia’s farm. There were no homes or cabins on any of that land.
Just to the west of the State Park property, there was a very lively, noisy dance hall named Smith’s place. It flourished in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It was a very lively dance hall, where many big name bands played as they traveled through this area. We knew Charlie Smith the owner and his family very well. Their daughter babysat the three Olson boys on occasion.Karlton, Harlan, and Leland. My brother Harlan was a banker, writer, and collector of artifacts who helped start the Museum at the state park entrance. Harlan loved every minute of it, even the many volunteer hours. He passed away on March 8, 2016. I can see him searching for artifacts on old Heavenly terrain now. I would imagine there are some very nice artifacts to be found near those streets of gold.
Smith’s dance hall and the property was all sold to the Methodist Church, they may have become the first church to have a beer license. The original dance hall building where Lawrence Welk played still stands, in the same place on that stretch of shoreline. Today it is used for meetings and as a dining hall, that says something for old-time construction.
Arlington Beach, the next place west was run by a lady named Ann Oburn. This picture is of the Lake Poinsett water slide in the 1920’s. I think it was located at Arlington Beach, as far as I can tell from looking at the Hills and the trees in the background. I will be glad to edit this story and change the location if it is wrong. Ann Oburn had a few rental cabins, cafe and bait house.
Bud Mueller from Estelline gave boat rides at Arlington Beach in the 1940’s. This was his fancy boat.
In the nineteen forties or early fifties it was purchased by Russ Weiland and his wife who operated it for many years. Russ was possibly the original Evinrude Johnson dealer in this part of the country. His daughter and son-in-law relocated Weiland Marine, which is now on Highway 81.
West from there were only two or three houses until you got to the little hill top farm with the goats. I think Madsens lived there. There were only two cabins between there and Mundt’s Resort. Mundt’s had several small cabins that they rented out. There was a farm between Mundt’s resort and what is now Pier 81.
There was another dance hall that later became Wieland Marine on Highway 81 just north of the corner by the Poinsett Cemetery, it closed after the War. It was near a gas station, some called Hilltop, others Ann’s Place. She served lunches and usually had a lively crowd, Ann and Clyde served beverages to those with the most discriminating tastes. The place later became Ole’s repair shop. It was Gene’s repair until Weiland Marine bought it.
Ernie Edwards moved a building to the lake and started Edwards resort, possibly in the late 40s early 50s. Edwards served good food and had a bar and live music.
Edwards Resort had dances through the 50s 60s and 70s mainly Country Western and Rock and Roll music. They usually had very good crowds. I believe it was sometime in the 1960’s a truck driver must have gone to sleep at the wheel and he tipped his semi over in Edwards parking lot wrecking cars and almost taking out the gas pumps. I can’t imagine the call that fellow had to make to his company explaining he just wrecked a few dozen cars while tipping over at a crowded dance. I was there that night I recall there was a lot of commotion. It was a miracle that no one was even hurt, many people were outside.
On the west side of the Lake, there was a resort called Sportsmans Lodge owned by Nessen’s, the Hawley family was there too, it burned down. It was a very long large building with a restaurant, I believe they also had cabins and rooms in the lodge that they rented out.
What is now Lakeview Resort was a small resort opened by Ole Mikelmier. It later became Fish Haven, home of the famous Carp Sandwich. They had a secret BBQ sauce, It brought out the best in a big chunk of carp. From Lakeview North, there were two or three homes.
The Grape Farm had no homes until the first one was built right on the point in the 1950s. From there North to Saarinen’s the state purchased part of the shoreline and later sold Lots to private owners. That closed it for skinny dipping. From Saarinen’s Point North there were a few homes because it was close to the highway.
Nitteberg’s Resort was just east of the Stonebridge. That highway washed out west of the bridge in the spring of 1969 as flood waters from over a hundred inches of snow came in from the river and Dry Lake.
Nittebergs must have had a couple dozen summer cabins that they rented out along with boats and bait. They also had some carnival rides in the summer months and afternoon roller skating in the dance hall. The dance hall was built over the lake at one time, but ice damage made them move it back to shore. It was a family run business.The brothers John and Clair ran the bar and maintained most jukeboxes, pinball and other game machines in a large area, their sisters operated the cafe.
The Dance Hall was very busy and a lively location during the 50’s and 60’s and into the 70’s. There was all types of music, old time music was the most popular for many years, until Rock and Roll moved in. There were many big-name bands playing at Nittebergs Resort in the early years, the Model T and Model A days. Lawrence Welk who was from Strasburg N D played there in his younger days. Miron Florin from Rosholt South Dakota managed the Welk music when Lawrence stepped down.
Leo Fortin’s Orchestra was a regular at Nitteberg’s Stone Bridge Resort for many years.
They had Thursday night dances in the fifties. I recall our football coach at Castlewood kept telling us “you guys have a good football team but just think how much better you would be if you didn’t spend all night at the dance on Thursday night.” I guess he had a good point there.
We danced a lot to Big Tiny Little’s Band who played with The Lawrence Welk Orchestra. He was born in Worthington Minnesota and was a regular there in the 50s and 60s.
Dry Lake was north of The Stone Bridge. In the dryer years, it was full of muskrat houses. The Game Warden Ed White with his Smokey the Bear Hat would fire a shotgun to open the trapping season. From what I have heard it was like the Boomer Sooner land rush in Oklahoma. Trappers made a mad dash to claim as many muskrat houses as they could.
The County’s had a bounty on pocket gophers at one time. It was rumored that some entrepreneurial muskrat Trappers took the front paws from their muskrats and turned them in to claim pocket gopher bounty in the spring.
When you went east from Nittebergs cabins, there were only one or two houses, the one right below the hill was named ‘The Mouse Turd Inn.” The west side of that hill was real steep, just a dirt trail going straight up, many Model A’s some Model T’s, later newer cars had drivers who challenged each other to make it to the top. The dust really flew! I think some got sideways on occasion and rolled back down the hill.
The resort on top of the hill was known as Jim Bagley’s place. A long wooden staircase went down the hill to the lake. They also had a café, fishing equipment, and bait. The name was changed to the Hilltop Resort later when owned by Louie Morales and his family. Louie rented out boats at Thomas Lake one summer when perch fishing was hot.
Just down the hill, east of the hilltop resort, there were three or four homes before you got to Hammer’s pasture and to the outlet of Lake Poinsett, that led to Stark’s Bridge where flood gates were installed. There have been several fish winterkill years when oxygen in the lake got so low most of the fish died. Dead fish in windrows around the lake at one time. The worst spring brought out the National Guard with front-end loaders, trucks and lots of shovels.
The Bakke farm and Cemetery took up most of the east shore. Two homes were on the hill overlooking Prestrude’s Landing. Lots were developed and cabins built to the south of the boat landing in the 1950’s. Goulds opened a beer and bait place there in the late forties but it didn’t last. The next mile of shoreline was only recently developed by the Hansen family. Going south from the Hansen development to Hendricksons or now Runia’s there were two cabins.
This has been a rather selfish nostalgic trip around Lake Poinsett. I’m really young to have nostalgia for the water slide or for the swimming attire. So actually I feel a lot younger by taking this trip back just a few years before my time. I thought I would like to share these memories of Lake Poinsett while I’m still able to share them. The changes at Lake Poinsett are hard to imagine if you didn’t witness them. The number of very large homes today must reflect a great prosperity in this country or something?
At night the lake and all of the country side was darker than pitch, this was in 1945, before REA, no all night yard lights, no electric lights period. We played cards with light from a kerosene lamp on the table. This country at night was a whole lot darker, the small glow in the sky to the west was Lake Norden’s lights. The smaller glow to the east was Estelline in the Sioux River bottom. You could barely make out a tiny glow for Brookings, that was a long way off. You might say nights were a bonus for ghosts and goblins in those days. On a night with no moon or stars, you best hope your lantern did not go dry. Can you imagine going back to live in those times?
NOVEMBER 15, 2016 / LELAND OLSON HOEL / EDIT
Swimming attire has gone from one extreme to the other throughout the centuries. In classical antiquity, swimming and bathing were done naked. The swimming suits here from the 1920’s seem a wee bit extreme, the weight of the wet swim suit could pull you under. Now close to 100 years later we saw, peered, peeked our way through the teeny weeny, polka dot bikini era, we are almost back to swimming in the nude again.
What goes around comes around, with nostalgia or Murphy’s Law.