McCullen, Jack and Edna (Murtagh)
Warners Lake has a lot of fond memories for me. My father Joseph and my mother Alice (McEneny) McCullen used to stay at Strevell’s boarding house around 1938, 1939 and 1940. Grace Strevell used to cook the greatest meals and I was a young man with a very large appetite. I remember her chicken and dumplings and breakfast with pancakes that just kept coming and I kept on eating.
I remember the little spring outside the side porch, it always fascinated me. I got quite chummy with Elias Warner who lived in a shack behind the big house. He would invite me in every once in a while to talk. It seems to me he was very elderly but he would walk around the lake every night. There are only two boarders I can recall, the first was named Goodrich and he went to CBA and was quite a bit older than I was. The second is George Fay, who was a renowned fisherman. He worked in New York City but he loved it up at the lake. He eventually quit his job and moved up to Warners Lake on Lakeview Road.
My family used to board for two weeks at the Strevells. We would play softball, horseshoes and other games, which were played by all the boarders and the tenants in the many camps that were rented. We also had swimming, boating and fishing. I remember very fondly, Harriet Hochstrasser, who was my age at the time and was very nice to me. I was into archery at that time and she was too. We hit it off very well and would practice shooting at a target set up on the lawn in front of the Hinman cottage.
Then there were the Warner’s, Mary, Homer, Robert and Carl. I didn’t know Carl very well because he was older and always working. Mary, Homer, Robert and I had many grand times jumping in the hay in the old barn. We would be jumping from the third level; it’s a good thing our parents didn’t know what we were up to. Occasionally I was given the privilege of going along haying or picking peas in the field across the road. We rented there for a few years and then my father bought a camp on Dyer Rd. Our camp was up the hill from the Dyer camp on the point.
When Edna and I were first married, I worked for ATT on the midnight shift. My father would pick me up at 8:15 and take me out to the lake until around 5pm, so I could help him restore our camp.
Edna and I got married in 1956 and spent a weeks honeymoon at Dorato’s camp on Ridge Lane. We had a wonderful time; it was such a beautiful place. I think at that time houses cost about 15000 and 25000 was spent to build this camp. It was like an estate to us, with a great boathouse down on the water. The roof or the top deck as it was called was where Jack and his friend Joe Mooney got sunburned the first Saturday we were there. The first morning of our honeymoon, Edna wakes up and tells me there is someone outside the camp. The bedroom had high horizontal windows, so I had to get out of bed to look out. Our visitor was one of Chester Warner’s cows. During the week we had my father and Jacks father out for a day at the lake, to celebrate Fathers Day. On our last day there we had a big party with both our families and we made good use of the boathouse. The boathouse had a stove, refrigerator and a cot, how we loved that place. Edna and I felt like we could live in just the boathouse.
Edna and I knew each other in kindergarten, our families were good friends. I had a crush on her in the third grade. We didn’t see much of each other at the lake, because I was at one end of the lake and she was on Jones Lane. I went to school at VI and she went to Holy Names. It wasn’t until we got older that we started dating and eventually got married.
My father had the camp on Dyer road until our families got bigger and we didn’t go out to the lake as often. The camp was sold to the Junco’s, and we were away from the lake for many years.
In 2000, we had the opportunity to buy the Cochran camp on Ridge Lane, and we returned to Warner’s Lake for the summers. We have been restoring that camp ever since. The land was originally owned by the Warner’s, who sold it to Hochstrasser who eventually sold to Jay Engle. I don’t know for sure if Jay built the camp, but he must have lived there at one time. There was a fake well out front and one of the posts had 1938 carved into it.
I can remember going down to Engle’s store to see the bear. They kept it across the road where all the ice-fishing shanties are now. It was chained to a very large tree. Edna say’s when she and her sister were bad; her mother would threaten to take them down and feed them to the bear. That bear would stand up on its hind legs and scare the devil out of us kids.
Ed Ahern and Aunt Edna Ahern were brother and sister and they bought a camp at Warners Lake on the corner of Jones Lane. I remember a big white fence there so my sister and I could not run out onto the lake road. We would color in our books and then hang the pictures on the fence like an art show and people would stop and admire them. So many people used to stop that my sister and I decided to open a store. We were selling toilet paper, napkins, canned goods and whatever else we could take out of the camp. My mother thought it was funny until someone stopped one day and bought some items, then she made us close up shop.
We used to swim at the Bailey’s with Ann, Barbara and Robert. Many years later I taught Susan Bailey, Roberts daughter. My twin sister is a daughter of charity. Ann Baileys real name was Elizabeth Ann Bailey, named after the founder of the Daughters of Charity in the United States.
My aunt and uncle who owned the camp, also owned a chow dog named “Skippy” who even had a black tongue. Skippy would go down to Tom Hayden’s and steal chickens. He always brought them home alive and would take them under the front porch. Tom would discover the missing chicken and show up at our house looking for it. My mother would insist that Skippy had been home all day, but then the chicken would come running out from under the porch and my mother would be terribly embarrassed. This episode used to happen quite often, but I do not remember Skippy ever hurting any of the chickens. I think it was just a big game to him.
We twins were very rambunctious and always in trouble, so my mother would send us down to East Berne each day to get the mail at the post office. This got us out of the house and gave my mother a short period of peace and quit. The post office was located in the house across from the mill. Many times the mill owner would call us over because we were twins and looked so much alike. He would ask us if we would like to get weighed. Even though we were scared to be inside that mill, we would go in and take our turn on the scales.
My favorite memories of our camp at Warner’s Lake are the sunsets. We had an enormous back porch that faced west, and we would sit out there every night to watch the sun go down. I remember watching all the red boats from Camp Orinsekwa. They would teach the kids how to row and paddle. We used to think how much fun those kids were having and that someday we would have a red rowboat. My twin sister the nun now tells me that frequently she has dreams of boats going by on the lake, or the grasshoppers when we would sleep out on the lawn. Those are her happiest memories, plus seeing all the daisy’s growing around the camp. It was a very beautiful and peaceful place and we just loved it there.
The Geiers lived down the road, Irene, Jean and Mary. My sisters and I would play down at their house almost every day. We had such fun with the Giers.
Later on in life, I taught at Holy Names, and I taught Ruth Wallace O’Connor’s daughter, Mary Ann. Ruth and I had become great friends because of the time we shared together at the lake.
There used to be a May Crowning at Saint Mary’s of the Lake church. My sister and I were the pages, because we were twins. Peggy Ann (O’Connell) Hansen was crowned May Queen, with Mary (Hayden) Rissacher and Ann (Gallagher) Mull as attendants. My older sister Mary Patricia was the ring bearer.
When Jack and I got married, my father offered to send us to Jamaica for our honeymoon, but I preferred to go to Warner’s Lake. We spent a week at Dorato’s camp on Ridge Lane, where the Sweeney’s live now.
Now here we are in our seventies spending our golden years back at Warners Lake, reliving all the wonderful memories of our youth.