I am a native of Chicago but my Minneapolis roots run deep. My great-grandfather, Alexander Gross, immigrated to Minneapolis in the 1880s and started Gross Bros. Cleaning and Dye House, which became Gross and Kronick, which became G & K Services. His son Samuel, my grandfather, was a big outdoorsman and loved to explore Rainy Lake by houseboat with his dear friend Wilfred Wolfson. In 1947, they bought a small island on Rainy Lake and the following summer built a rustic cabin. It had a galley kitchen, a small dining and living area, and bedroom with four bunks, all anchored by a Charter Oak Franklin stove. The walls were knotty white pine and the ceiling was exposed pine beams milled right from the island. Unfortunately my grandpa Sam did not get much use out of the place because he died suddenly the following December at age 50. His friend Wolfson made a few trips to the island, but lost interest because he could not share it with his lifelong friend Sam. So the cabin sat through 21 dark, cold Canadian winters, without so much as a crack of light penetrating its fortified shutters.
In the summer of 1970, when I was 7 years old, my dad, Howard, who had not been up there since he was a teenager, packed up the car and made a trip to the island. He brushed the pine needles off the porch and turned the key in the lock. Beyond the heavy wooden door was a virtual time capsule. Life magazines from 1950. Sleeping bags, tackle, canned goods, kerosene, even a half-full bottle of Old Overholt Rye. Sam and Wilfred’s wool jackets in their respective closets and my grandma’s chipped dishes in the cupboard. The place was built tight. Not so much as a squirrel had visited in 20 years.
Today, the cabin is a special place for me and my family. I visited nearly every summer growing up, and my dad finally got to take his grandkids up there on his last trip in 2003. I still go up there with my friend Bill Wolfson, grandson of Wilfred. I use the Gross closet, and he uses the Wolfson side.
SAM GROSS, NORTHBOOK, ILL.
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