My grandfather and his brother-in-law built two cottages from lumber they got from an old church on Grass Lake, one of three lakes which make up the Cloverleaf Lakes near Embarrass, in east-central Wisconsin. Today only one remains, and most of the cottages on the lakes are year-round homes.
The cottage has a porch facing the lake. The upstairs is a big bedroom with two double beds and two singles. Everything is open and airy. There’s no better place than in bed listening to the rain at night and later waking up to sunshine.
With three sons, my grandparents gave each family one month at the cottage every summer. My dad and his two brothers ran the family shoe store in Shawano. Dad would bring home a carton box before our month, and say, ‘Whatever fits in the box goes to the cottage.’ That meant clothes, toys, books, etc. We fished, swam, explored an island with picnic lunches, caught frogs and turtles, water-skied, and canoed. The lakes had specific hours for water skiing and still do so that anglers can fish undisturbed.
Winter meant skating, ice-fishing and sledding.
In the early 1980s, the cottage received a $10,000 modern kitchen and bathroom. Everyone on the lakes was required to hook up to the sewer system. No more outhouse or heating water for dishes or washing up. The old outhouse building got a second life, too, and was moved down to the lakeshore to be a storage shed for lawn chairs, fishing rods and toys. The cottage changes didn’t affect the feel of the original cottage. It is still our place to relax and enjoy time with family and friends.
We all grew up, went to college and had families but, in my 66 years, the cottage and lakes have not changed much. The speed boats have been mostly replaced with pontoons, and we now sit on the shore and watch the eagles overhead. Life is slower and more relaxing. The next generation of grandkids is enjoying all the fun we did.
I just recently retired and moved to Minnesota to be close to my family and the cottage. It is a four-hour drive and gives us time to remember all the good times we’ve had there. I know my grandparents and parents would be proud to know we all still love the place just as much as they did.
Hey, family, I think it’s time for a real reunion.
Chris LaNasa, Apple Valley