Life at the Lake: Nature’s Gift to Morrison County

The setting sun cast its rays, brightening the already glorious clouds. In turn, the clouds repeated the rays in reflections across the lake. We sat in the restaurant looking out across Lake Alexander to the shore where I had lived as a child. When we left the restaurant, driving around the east end of the lake, I looked head-on into the beautiful pink hues of the setting sun. And I remembered.

It was the 1930s when my parents and I lived in what was a typical lake home at that time. It was owned by my father’s employer, Dr. Robert Green, whose scientific laboratory was located in a wooded, hilly area south of the lake. Dr. Green’s summer home was also tucked away in the woods. Our cabin consisted of three rooms. The interior walls were unfinished with the two-by-four steadings exposed. We lived there through one of Minnesota’s harshest winters. I recall my mother putting the potatoes at the foot of the bed, under the blankets, so they wouldn’t freeze. In spite of the cold, it was a beautiful place to be.

Summer arrived and nature began to come alive. Iridescent dragonflies by the lake, wild columbine in the wooded hillside, and poison ivy. And the people began to stir. The John Krantz’s owned a two-cabin resort and boat rental. I can still see Mrs. Krantz in her overalls and hip-waders at the lakeshore, washing her fleet of wooden boats. My mother helped Mrs. Krantz with the cottages. Lake Alexander was crystal clear to the bottom. I know because after some of the young cottage guests mischievously stole my bathing cap and threw it from their boat, my dad and I later spotted it at the bottom from our own vessel. On the north side of the lake was the Blue Front resort with a fleet of Larson Boats to be rented.

Private cabins around the lake were summer dwellings. Most of the year-around homes were farm houses. Near our cottage was the cabin of Dr. Baker. I recall Bob Baker, the teenage son, and his friends roaring by at “break-neck” speed on the little dirt road that ran behind our cabin. That is, as break-neck as a Model “T” or Model “A” could go. We would frequently hear the laughing and shouting of the young people enjoying themselves at their beach.

The lakes provided an important social setting for the residents of Scandia Valley and Cushing townships. The Cushing lot on the south side of Lake Alexander provided easy access for fishing boats and a sandy beach for swimming. People who owned lakeshore often hosted church picnics, family celebrations and community events. I remember the wonderful gatherings at the Pete Anderson farm where we went swimming or enjoyed the porch swing.

I’m not sure I care to mention fishing, although it was no doubt the primary recreational activity at the lake. For me, a curious five year old, it became a painful experience. I was told not to touch the rod and reel that was standing in the corner of the living room. But the temptation was too great. When I lifted it up, the line, with its cluster of hooks, began to swing around and caught me in the mouth — where else — just like a big fish. The ensuing task of removing the hook is far too detailed to report. Suffice it to say, I had a healthy respect for my father’s fishing gear after that.

Stories similar to mine could be repeated by many other people about other lakes in Morrison County. The varied landscape of Morrison County makes its lakes some of the most beautiful in Minnesota. And in the 1930s, when the Morrison County Historical Society was organized, the lakes of the County were in a more pristine setting and folks moved at a relaxed pace. The call of the whip-poor-will is, for me, a haunting memory. I haven’t heard its call since I lived at Lake Alexander. Do we care about the whip-poor-will? Are we in the process of displacing what is of value to us?

by Jan Warner
Copyright 1996, Morrison County Historical Society

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