A Vacation to Remember
by Rebecka Hoyt, Editor & Photographer
How would you feel if someone told you that where you would be spending your vacation was in a home that you used to live in many, many years ago?
Well, for an 80-year-old Florida resident, Larry Rosenquist, this happened to him!
His daughter, Janet Lopez asked him if he would like to go to Buchanan, MI (out on Clear Lake) to celebrate Father’s Day and his 80th birthday. And he said sure! When she found a vacation rental on Airbnb, she showed him the picture of it and he said, “That’s the house we stayed in while we were there!” Janet had no idea this was the house until she showed him the photos! Now how lucky can you get?!
Throughout the emails I received from Janet, I fell in love with this article suggestion. I recently met this very nice family out at Clear Lake for an even greater time getting to know them and what the house was like before and after renovations were made to it. Janet and Larry weren’t the only ones at the house. Those who tagged along stayed at another property closer to Fuller’s Camp Resort. Their family of 7 attending included: 2 grown children and 2 grandchildren, Larry and his wife Marilyn, and then Larry’s cousin Judy (Gruber) Schraeder and her husband showed up while we talked. This was the first time for Larry’s children and grandchildren to come to Michigan. They brought along memories that were in old photo books and a cabin log book that consisted of families who stayed at the Clear Lake house over the many years until the house was sold in 1967.
Larry’s grandfather, Lawrence Rosenquist built the house in 1934 and retired in 1943/44 from the rockway railroad and his grandparents came up here for the summers. A house that is no longer here on the corner burned down in the 1950’s belonged to Larry’s mother’s uncle and she lived in Fort Wayne, IN and she would come up occasionally with her sister and that is how his parents met; his Dad from Chicago and they turned it into a family home. Lots of family roots have been laid here. The house didn’t have hot water. They had a pot belly stove for heat. No TV. Bathing was down at the lake and they also had a pump by the kitchen sick for their water. The house has been renovated. It is modern on the inside and cozy with nautical decor on the enclosed porch where a big dinner table is meant for meals and puzzles/games. Of course, Janet told the owner of the house that this house used to be where Larry came for many summers as a kid. She welcomed them with snacks, wine, gifts and a special welcome sign. The beach was public and he referred to it as Ronnie’s where Bingo and a live band would be. The home owners association in 1951 purchased the beach and claimed the lake as private as before it was public.
A memory of Larry’s was when he was around 10-11 years old that his parents told him that you could not swim across the lake, that was a rule. Well, in the years leading up through the generations, Larry said “ It was a Rosenquist tradition and my father was a teenager in the 1930’s that if you swam across the lake that would mean you became a man. So, as curious as I was at that age, I wanted to do that as I had swimmed many times in the lake. So, I got two guys, Bobby and Jimmy, and told them that they were going with me in a row boat and one of you row and the other one watch me, and I swimmed AROUND the whole outer edge of the lake. My cousin Judy ended up telling my parents what I did, but I said that I swam around the lake, not across the lake. You didn’t say that I couldn’t swim around the lake!” And his grandfather said, he didn’t break the rule! 10-15 kids would be up on the lake with their Mother and then the Fathers would come up on Friday for the weekend.
Clear Lake brought a lot of memories for when he would come over from Chicago with his parents from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Lots of fishing adventures as they would catch 6-10 inch Blue Gills. Part of the lake had a great amount of lily pads where they would go out and catch bullfrogs. And then they would fix up the frog legs. “You killed frogs and ate them,” said Larry. Swimming was the favorite activity as your swimsuit became your clothing for the day as much in and out of the lake was happening. You also had to be careful on how loud you talked with others as you could hear others’ conversations across the lake! Then down at the pavilion there was music and dancing in the evening and a payphone that you could use to call someone.
One of the first things Larry would do when they arrived each summer was to plant a vegetable garden, and then they had a farmstand on the side of the road for others to purchase the produce. His family had the tradition of planting pine trees (aka Christmas trees) for each kid after they were born. Three pine trees are still standing today.
Before I met Larry and his family, I was able to meet with Sandra Lake and Rene Klitsch, who have lived on Clear Lake for quite some time. They told me about a guy named Cliff Rosenquist and they wondered if he was related to him. Larry is older than Rene, so she didn’t remember him much, but she was able to tell some history of the lake as she came out here when she was young too. Larry had heard of Cliff’s name and he did his research on the Clear Lake property owners through Berrien County and that’s how he found Cliff. Well, there is no relation that he knows of.
Larry’s emotions were conditioned after seeing the house on the website. The house has only been added onto with a porch on the south and east side facing Clear Lake. The kitchen is rearranged because it was where you entered the house. When they arrived here, he had amazement and joy that somebody did something with this place. The gal who owns it bought it two years ago and a lot of work had been done already. It has a clay wall basement, with a staircase going down from the kitchen, but it’s gone now. His son found a crawl space and he could see an entry door under the house, he wanted to know if it was still clay or cinder block, and he told Larry you won’t be able to crawl under there. He was thinking about convincing his grandson Blake to crawl under there with a flashlight! Three bedrooms, one bath, one entertainment room and the kitchen made the house. The house was sold in 1967 and offered to the family, but they declined because of finances.
He googled, and zillowed the property in the past and knew it was here, but it’s been quite some time since he’s been here. Some inspiring words from Larry, “It wasn’t on the bucket list, but I wondered why I didn’t put it on the bucket list.” So, if you enjoy a place when you’re young, put it on your bucket list for the future.