Many people have very dear memories of times spent at Big Star Lake. Here are just a few that have been shared with us.
I am searching for information on my mother's family who vacationed at Big Star Lake in the late 20s - early 30s. She is now almost 92 and has written a little reminiscence about a particular incident when she was about 6 and tried to take a rowboat out by herself. Apparently, members of the Westphal family were there ns she thought they owned something called "th Nutshell." Ellen Westphal was her aunt. She remembers the fire tower and her cousin climbing it, and the little store at the Bowery. Their name was Boberg and they came from the Chicago area and/or south Berrien county. She thought they took the train up. I wonder if anyone remembers the names Westphal or the Nutshell o knows anything about h one would get to Big Star on the train from the lower part of the state.
Thank you passing this on.
family vacationed at Big Star Lake from 1962-1974. Our vacation
was always the first week of August, always a cottage at the MilJon
Resort. We drove up from Anderson, IN. I LOVED it as a
From: Barbara Koss Milecki,
It's so nice of you to record the stories around Big Star Lake. I
remember when my family rented a cottage near the Bowery and Odd Fellows
camp. We had an outdoor john which we had to go across the road to
use. My mother later moved into Oak Lodge because she got tired of
cooking for all the relatives that came. My Uncle and Aunt rented
the cottage next to Oak Lodge, which I believe it was McKinney's
cottage. We resided at Oak Lodge until it became the Czuhknas.
We remember the pizza parties where everyone would come across the lake
for pizzas. We stayed in a cottage right across from the kitchen
rented cottages at Czuhknas resort for my lifetime. Now my
children and grandchildren are privileged to enjoy the lake and Jones'
Ice Cream. We remember when the Blue Horizon was around and the
Bowery. We used to roller skate there when I was younger.
I'm still going to Big Star Lake and will continue until I die. I
look forward to the warm water (although we have warm water in AZ), and
the way you have to go out in the lake before you reach waist high.
Many happy memories remain for me at Big Star Lake.
From: Judy Wilson Matzen,
My grandfather, Harvey (Tom) Shriver built a log cabin on Big Star before I was born. I was born in 1950. My mom, dad and siblings would go every summer for vacation at Grandpa�s cottage. I will have to see if I have or my mom has any pictures from there. I have the most wonderful memories of that place. It was on the dirt road that the Bowery was on. I don�t remember the name, but was very sad to hear the Bowery had burned down years ago. My sister, brother and I would walk to the Bowery and with a quarter, would buy a soda, comic book, and some stick pretzels. We would sit on the boardwalk around the Bowery and enjoy our comics and treats. Gramps cottage is still there, but sadly no longer in our family. I will try to get more info on names, dates, and photos. My grandfather, Tom Shriver was one of the originators of the association for Big Star. I remember him and my dad pike fishing and an accident where gramps buried a hook in his hand and went to Baldwin to have it cut out. He was quite the character. Dad built him a Martin house that was there for as long as I can remember. Dad also built sections of the dock when gramps could no longer do so and get the dock in and out of the water. We have many stories����..like a black bear sharpening it�s claws on gramps screened in porch!! Thanks for letting me share.
From: Lance Ward, Grayslake, IL
I don't have pictures (sadly) but would like to relate about my summers at Big Star when I was a youngster. My Grandfather, Gerald Ward, and his brother Jim Ward built a pine log cabin on the West, swampy end of Big Star in the 30s. It had a dock out front and another dock at what we called the "the point" at the other end of our property. The dock out in front was used only about half the time as the lake in that area was constantly too shallow to get a boat all the way to the main dock. So we used the dock at the point. I remember many naps in the two hammocks that swung on the big screened porch and nights on the floor in front of the stone fireplace. I also remember spending my allowance at the Blue Horizon store which I think was about a mile or so from our cottage. A lot of time watching the ant lions catching the wayward ant and bullfrog hunting with the frog spears. I asked my Dad, Keith Ward sometime ago just how much lake frontage Grampa had and he said he thinks it was about 1400 feet. Sounds like a lot but since that end of the lake was sometimes very swampy it's not as great as it sounds. I think they sold the place sometime in the late 60s while I was away in the service. I recently purchased a boat/motor from a friend who got it from his grandfather and the main reason I bought it was because it had a 1953 Johnson motor that was exactly like the one my Grandfather had and when I saw it I immediately knew exactly what every switch and button did. We would also go to Jones for ice cream and on the way back to the cottage stop at the dump and wait for the bears to come in to forage at twilight. Looking at a map I believe the dump was about halfway between the east side of Big Star and M37 on the north side of 76th st. That's from a memory about 50 years ago when I was 10. If I remember correctly everybody arrived around dusk and there was often quite a few cars lined along the edge of the dump. The bears would come out of the woods and start rooting through the trash and people would turn on their car lights and the bears would just keep foraging with the added light. Kind of neat as I recall. Our cabin was about a mile or so west of the Blue Horizon and at the time was the only cottage on the east side of the far west end of Big Star. My grandparents lived in Cutlerville and we lived in Caledonia.
From Jack Laansma of Mt Prospect, Illinois
My family began vacationing at Big Star Lake in 1936 when I was 3 years old. Our first rented cottage was on Pine Grove Beach and then began vacationing on Minising Point beginning at the western end. My mother took the following picture.
Donald, Marvin, John, Jack, Beatrice Laansma & Timmy
We gradually worked east until my dad bought a cottage in 1950 from the Waldmillers. In the early years we traveled from Grand Rapids with my parents, four of us children, and one or two dogs. Prior to the chapel being built, church services were held in cottages and outside on folding chairs. In the early days there were only a handful of motor boats and most people made do with a row boat.
John, Jack, Jo Laansma
Fishing evolved from drifting a Junebug Spinner with pork rind, to trolling a small Flatfish, to casting Plunkers, Jitterbugs, Yellow Shannons, Bass Orenos, and finally using plastic worms and live crawlers. I spent a lot of time at my folks cottage from 1950 until my mother sold it in 1994 to Don Passenger. My largest bass was a 20-�� Largemouth Bass weighing 4-� # caught with a Shakespeare Swimming Mouse on August 16, 1948. In the early days most of the bass were largemouth, but later on all we caught were smallmouths. Also, in the 1930s and 1940s we only knew of one Northern Pike being caught. By the 1950s we could almost expect a Northern each time we fished. The last time I fished from the cottage with my son and son-in-law in 1993, we caught bass, pike, and walleye.
Up to WWII the public was allowed to climb up the fire tower just to the south of Big Star Lake. When we got to the top, the ranger gave us each a card that made us a member of the Order Of Squirrels. About 1942 the public access was stopped and eventually the ladder was removed and the tower was no longer used to spot fires.
Marvin Laansma on the Tower Ladder
My sister, Beatrice Scheltema, did a history of Minising Point on Big Star Lake dealing especially with our cottage as follows:
In the 1920s Minising Point was owned by Frank and Nellie Burtless. They had purchased this property from the state of Michigan. They platted the area and mapped in right-of-ways and beach paths. These right-of-ways were public domain. A ten foot wide path along the beach was dedicated to the public. Consequently, the cottage owners on this beach do not own the lake. Their property ends at the bottom of the bank. This plat was approved on 2 Sept 1924.
Olaf Ostman bought lot 7, block 2 in 1925. The Ostmans had three daughters; Pauline (Waldmiller), Hilda (Gardiner), and Dorothy (DeVoe). They built a fisherman�s cottage. It was on cement blocks with no windows on the ground floor, only wooden flaps. The interior was one large room with a toilet in a small closet. There was no paneling, only open studs. There was no ceiling but stairs went to a loft where they slept. This was open and could be seen from downstairs. It was simple but functional. I am not sure when Olaf died but his daughter, Hilda and husband Cliff Gardiner took over the cottage. A second daughter, Dorothy with her husband, Earl DeVoe, bought property on Miller�s Point on Big Star Lake, right around the corner from the Odd Fellows and Rebecca Camp. About 1947 or 1948 the other daughter, Pauline and her husband, Fred Waldmiller bought the cottage from the Gardiners. Earl and Dorothy DeVoe were neighbors of ours in Grand Rapids. I believe we heard about Big Star Lake from them. They had a son, Richard, who was my age. I visited him a few times at their cottage. The DeVoes owned a Chis Craft speedboat and Dick gave me a few rides when we were older.
Then, as stated above, my folks, John and Jo Laansma bought the cottage from the Waldmillers in 1950. My mother would only be happy if my dad had windows put in as the cottage got quite dark on rainy days when the flaps had to be lowered. So he had windows put in on the sides and the front. There were windows in the corner where the kitchen area was located. In 1951 I helped my dad put in a ceiling and paneling on the walls. Later he put knotty pine paneling on the walls. Later projects included a bathroom with shower, and enclosed front porch, cement patio in front, and an attached utility shed on the back.
While growing up I was a friend of the Gardiner�s son Norman. We used to catch frogs and turtles and generally do what small boys do at a lake. We would sometimes walk to the Bowery with our older brothers and sisters and go roller skating. My brothers would often play the pinball machines there. In the 1940s and 1950s we bought most of our groceries at the Blue Horizon Camp Store. Later on we bought at the Bowery Store.
Norman Gardiner, Jack & Bea Laansma, Elaine Gardiner
Some of the same families came the same time each summer so we children became acquainted with other children our age and used to play card games or board games on rainy days. Some of these were Phil and Chuck Ryskamp and their cousins Elaine, Joyce, and Mavis. Many names I have forgotten. I remember sermons at the chapel by Rev. Arthur Hoogstrate and Rev. Mulder. I was slightly acquainted with Barbara Hoogstrate and remember that she had several sisters.
Mr & Mrs Clarence Ryskamp, Jo & John Laansma
We did a lot of swimming and several times we walked as a group around the lake. One of the fathers would meet us on the other side of the lake with our lunches. Several years we finished the vacation time with a treasure hunt created by some of the fathers followed by a hot dog roast on the beach in front of what was then the Guy Husband cottages. The treasure hunt would take place after dark by using flashlights. One year one of the clues was by some yellow flowers in the woods. Unfortunately these particular flowers closed up at night and we had a tough time.
Tall Girl is Mavis Ryskamp with Bea Laansma next
Back then the mail boxes were all on the main road, in our case across from where the Big Star Lake Chapel now stands. Part of the routine was to walk to the mail boxes and wait for the mailman. Later the mail was delivered to mail boxes on the road in back of our cottages.
When I was a teenager I remember the Golden Bun restaurant. Although the customers were few and far between, the owner always gave us a number when we ordered and would shout it out when the order was ready. I remember that he startled some motorists driving by when he shouted out the numbers. The homemade �golden buns� were very good, especially with a fat hamburger in them.
Jack & Cocker Spaniel �Chip�
In the 1960s and 1970s my wife and I and our two children rented a cottage at what was then Snug Harbor Resort on the Southeast part of the lake just West of Canterbury Park. While we were renting, the Snug Harbor Resort was owed by Mr & Mrs Snyder. From there we could also visit my parents on Minising Point. My son and daughter enjoyed the swimming and such. We usually went in July so could take in the Troutorama carnival in Baldwin and enjoy a Jones Ice Cream cone. When our son, John, was a baby he developed a fever while at Snug Harbor. We drove to a hospital in Reed City and the doctor who examined him was married to Barbara Hoogstrate.
The Gardiner, Waldmiller, Laansma Cottage
I miss the cottage but I still get together once a year with my older brother, Marvin, and do some trout fishing on the Pere Marquette River and its branches. Over the years we have caught many brown and rainbow trout from the Middle Branch of the Pere Marquette River. In September of 2003 my wife and I rented a cottage from Ken Jipping and spent a week fishing and reading. This cottage was near our former cottage. It was fun to spend some time on Big Star Lake again. I managed to catch one bass and lost a couple of fish of unknown species.
Jack and his Last Bass from Big Star Lake
I spent my summers at
Stephen Lawrence, C.P.A,
The mobster was Vinnie Theresa and he wrote My Life in the Mafia. Rumor had it he was the third highest ranking member in the "family" over in Chicago.
|I've been at Big Star Lake every summer of my life. It
has played a big role in my family's history. My mother, Claire Hofman
(who was born in 1919) vacationed at Big Star before she was married in
1941. She and my father, Rev. Arther Hoogstrate, then vacationed there
every year of their marriage of 50+. I came on the scene in 1955 when my
father was the minister of Alpine Ave. Christian Reformed church in
Grand Rapids. At that time we rented a small cottage from the
D'Archangels, just down from Munising Point. I believe that they owned a
bigger and grander cottage on the point at that time. We then moved west
and were in the Owen and Spaak and Stroven cottages. Marv Huizingh used
to pull us on skiis, as well as entertain all of us with his water
antics such as being pulled by a boat while sitting or standing on a
chair on a disk. It was great!
We called the western swamp area "Mucky Harbor," but that is probably only a Hofman-Hoogstrate term. We'd take a canoe into Mucky Harbor and, yes, we would pick the white and yellow water lilies before it was illegal to do so.
The Blue Horizon, the Bowery, the Nook-in-the-Woods, and the Bait Shop also played an important role in our vacations. My mom and aunts would do the laundry at the Blue Horizon, and we kids would walk to the Blue Horizon to get candy or the GR Press, or to ride the coin operated horse out front.
Speaking of the horse. We knew we had arrived at the lake each year when the first person in the car spotted the horse!
Big Star Lake was quite primitive back in the '50s and '60s and I remember having huge kettles of water heated on the stove to be poured into the big kitchen sinks for our Saturday night baths. Of course, there were no telephones in the cottages back then, and with my father being a minister, he would have to leave his name at the Blue Horizon in case someone in his church/parish happened to die or be in need of immediate pastoral care. The Blue Horizon personnel would then drive down Chapel Road and alert my dad that he had a telephone call. This didn't happen often, but there were a few times that this scenario played out.
One last memory was that of July of 1969. Only a few people had TVs in their cottages, and so many people crowded into the Klassen cottage to watch Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin take the first steps on the moon. Each summer, Gerry Klassen, always interested in space, often had a telescope pointing into the heavens. It was through his telescope that I first saw Jupiter's moons. He also meticulously built a beautiful wooden canoe, which was passed on the Marv Huizingh, which was further passed along to my brother Bill Hoogstrate. We now have this relic at our own cottage in the north bay, near the current MELs.
Thank you for this opportunity to reminisce. Deborah
I can remember my folks and our family & friends being at Blue Horizon when World War !! ended. My uncle who passed away a year ago and whose wife still lives on the lake was on leave from the army. He had rented a horse and was in the campground when the fire trucks and sirens came by declaring the end of the war. The horse took off real fast with him on it. It was a big celebration in the camp that night. It was something I will never forget.
I also remember that Tigglemans were the first ones on the lake with an inboard motor boat.
We used to roller skate all the time at the Bowery. That was the hangout for all the kids on the lake and it was so sad when it burned down. We used to watch the butcher cut meat at the Bowery grocery store and pump gas out front. Those were the good years.
Blue Horizon was a thriving grocery store with a laundrymat next door. That was so convenient. My folks had a cottage behind the chapel and I stayed there all summer with my Grandmother and walk to Blue Horizon to get groceries and walk back to the cottage.
My aunt Evelyn Groters has lived behind the chapel for years and could probably tell you a lot.
Blue Horizon had a resort across the street from Bozo's and that is where we were staying at the time of my story. Bozo's was the grocery store and the laundromat was attached to the side of the store.
If I sat and thought about it I could probably come up with more stories.
Tigglemans had the first inboard boat and they tipped over in front of our dock and my Dad and my husband helped get them out. Also one summer we were on the lake with our boat and was pulling a winter toboggan on the back. We were having a blast on the lake. Then Dick DeVoe made a water toboggan and patented it. But it was us that started it.
If I think of more stories I will let you know.
Lorna & Bob Lubbers
My family have been vacationing at Big Star since 1950. After my sister told me about your site, I scanned the attached pictures from the 1960's. I will be looking in some other archives later that we have of the 1950's.
Big Star is our most favorite place on this earth.
I will send several e-mails so the picture files are not too big.
Thanks for this opportunity,
Richard W. Rabold
General Manager, The Worthington Pools
I remember when I was a kid, my Aunt & Uncle Blanchard had a cottage on Big Star Lake about 7-9 cottages from Canterbury. This is where my Uncle Chuck had taught me how to water ski. Canterbury at the time when I was little was a little store and a bunch of very small rental cottages. Look at it now! How things change.
When I got married and had children we still went now and then to my Aunt and Uncle's cottage and then she told us of a friend from Ohio that would rent us their cottage in Canterbury Park (Geo. & Ruth Peters). We rented from the Peters for around 12 years or so and then bought a place in Irons, MI. My children thoroughly enjoyed it up there every summer, and now my son owns a cottage in Canterbury Park which used to be owned by Skip Aring from Ohio. It's really funny because Skip wanted to sell it to us but our kids were teenagers and college coming up we could not do it financially. Now, my son owns it and we go to his cottage. In fact, we stay there for about 8 days every summer.
Talk about going full circle. Big Star Lake is a beautiful lake and a place I really love going to.
|A wonderful work in progress! As one of the 7 Hoogstrate
kids, I have so many fond memories of weeks spent at various cottages
behind the chapel. We now own our own, just south of the new MEL's
(formerly Bozos, formerly Blue Horizon). I have just returned from there
and the youngest of us, Deborah Cooney, is on her way north today.
Thanks for the memories.
|I was glad that to see that history is such an important
part to this site. My parents were the owners of the old Big Star Lake
Hotel. They have since passed on and I will be traveling to Big Starr
for a memroial for them in October. I have many old pictures I would
like to share. I remember the summers of my youth on the lake. Going in
to town for an ice cream at Jonses. Taking a ride in the back of the old
truck to the dump and to Green Acres ranch. I remember the cold winters
when we would open for the deer hunters. Watching my dad and brothers
build the cottages at the resort. I have not returned in 36 years. I
look forward to see what Big Star has become.
|My husband and his family have been going to Gifford Lake
(across the street from Big Star) since the late 40's. It is fun to read
some of the history of the area, and being part of the family for almost
42 years now, a lot of it I know about too. It is a great website and I
check it often for updates.
My name is Tootsie. My sister Mildred and John Merlo owned the Bowery,
the rollerskate rink, the store, and the cottages at Big Star
Lake during the late 40s. I'm not sure when it was sold, but she owned
it for quite some time. I spent many summers working with my sisters, my
brother, and many nieces. We traveled to Michigan from West Virginia
every summer to work. I worked at the soda and ice cream shop. We sold
ice, worms, and many other things. The undated photo of the store is
circa 1945. I have many wonderful memories of spending my summers there.
I remember people coming from Wisconsin, and various other places to
camp in the cottages. There was winter fishing, a lot of rollerskating,
and boating. I hope to locate some old photographs and brochure of Big
Star Lake. I enjoyed looking your website.
My aunt Mildred Merlo and her husband John bought The Bowery in 1947 from Stan and Doris Bayak. At that time it was very rustic with no electricity or indoor plumbing to the cottages (13 of them). By the time I arrived in the summer of 1949, my handi-man uncle installed electrical service and indoor plumbing to most of the cottages. It was a magical place to me that summer.
We had a store which had everything from groceries, fresh cut prime meats, fishing gear, fish and hunting licenses, souveniors and even some clothes.
There were 2 gas pumps across from the store in front of the oil house which sold oil for autos as well as oil mixtures for outboard motors.There was a boat house for boat and motor rentals. An icehouse for 24# and 50# blocks of ice sold to the public and delivered free to the cottages that were not yet equipped with refrigerators. We would have fun being in the bed of my uncle's 1949 chevy 1 1/2 ton stake-bed truck when he delivered ice around dinner time to the cottages. There was also a large outhouse on the property which was used before the plumbing was installed.
But best of all was the roller skating rink, with popular music blaring while all the kids/teens skated. A huge soda parlor was attached to the rink whereby you could skate right in. My younger aunts Tootsie and Diane who were young teenagers worked there, that's where all the action was in the evening when the teens skated and hung out. Great hamburgers (fresh ground from my uncles butcher shop) as well as every ice cream and soda treats all made from scratch.
Along with many family and some close friends my aunt hired about 6 teens from Baldwin to work for the summer, I believe they stayed there at the Bowery and she paid them a lump some after the season was over.
Since I was too young to work, I was able to have fun. I learned so many things that summer. I learned to swim in the lake as well as fish and row a boat. I learned to roller skate with the clip on skates we rented out, very few people had shoe skates then; I did this in the afternoon when only a few people were there. My aunts took me horse back riding at the stables up the road from the Bowery, I never mastered that skill. There was an old bike I found that had been left by the previous owners and it was quite a challenge to learn to ride on the inner property since the roads and paths were just sand. But I really got a fast lesson one early evening just at dusk when riding thru the tent section of the property,when all of a sudden the bike and myself were parted. The occupants were startled when there pup tent collapsed and a skinny little kid was being strangled by the cables./They were more than startled when my aunt found out about it, since their tent was sent up in the wrong position. She was one tough cookie, never raised her voice, but you knew she meant business, everyone was a little afraid of her. She had a great presence.
Since I had so much fun that summer, I decided to stay there and go to school (5th grade) at Carrs a country school with 3 grades in one classroom.
Everything changed after labor day when all the vacationers left, it was quit and a bit lonely. We looked forward to deer hunting season, the store would open for a couple of weeks with limited supplies and a few cottages were rented to the hunters.
I learned to play baseball and basketball with the Bayak boys across the street. I would go bike riding with the croft kids who lived at there resort near the Bowery on another lake. We would attempt to ride around Big Star lake, but never made it. We would always have to call and get a ride and have our bikes brought back on a p/u truck.
In the winter we would ice fish, my uncle drove the truck on the frozen lake and we towed a little ice fishing house on to the lake, it was fun.
I returned to WV that summer because I missed my family and friends. But 5 years later I returned for another year.
I really enjoyed the web sight.
Till next time
am lost in my families history...they have all died and I am trying to
find as many little details as I can to piece this ancestry together.
Our cottage was on Millers(?) Point-Next to the "oddfellows"...I
have numerous pictures-it was built by my great grandfather or great
great...a log cabin that still makes me feel all warm inside. Devoe is
the name...Earl,William,Ella(Afton)Russell and June DeVoe(he had his own
cottage on the lake I believe) and Richard(my dad). They always had
really amazing Chris Craft woodies and were quite a bunch of wild things
as I was told. I remember hearing that great grandpa built it...that
would be William Elias DeVoe-but it is all so foggy that I was hoping
you had some info that might fill me in. We sold the cottage-tough
memories for my father and the desire to sail led him to do this in the
late 60's I believe. We sold to the DenBrabers-I still remember the name
because as a child I hated leaving that beautiful cottage and they
seemed like the very devil to me :) Anyway...I know that my dad pretty
much grew up on the lake although he lived in Grand Rapids...The Millers
had a cottage behind us-off the lake-I still have the little Hummel they
gave me when I was born(1957). I have a "rules of this tavern"
notes book filled with notes that people wrote when they visited.
direction you know of that I can go in to find out who actually built
the cottage or any other info would be great...
forward to hearing from you-