My Grandma and Grandpa purchased The Cottage on July 27, 1957, the day of their wedding anniversary. They had been camping each summer in what is now the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes National Lakeshore Park for several years, and had been discussing buying property in the area for a while. On that fateful day in July, my Grandma and Grandpa decided to make a trip the real estate office in Beulah. They were shown the piece of property with the modest sized green cabin on Otter Lake. They purchased it that day. Mr. B* owned the property at the time, and had his own cabin across the lake.
My Dad, Aunt, and Uncle were young kids at the time and my Grandparents began taking them to the cottage for six weeks every summer. Grandpa had a four week summer vacation so he would spend his four weeks with the family, then come back on the weekends if they were there while he was working. The family would also spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s at the cottage when the kids were young. My Grandma told me that they had to park on the main road and walk in to the cottage pulling their belongings behind them on a toboggan through the snow because the road wasn’t plowed. She said it would take the whole week to get the place warmed up enough to be comfortable, and then it was time to leave.
The cottage originally had one small bedroom and one large room that served as a kitchen, living room, dining room, and I imagine the kids bedroom. There was a chemical toilet that my dad says burned your butt when you went to the bathroom, and the bucket of chemical had to be taken out and dumped when it got full. When they needed water for drinking, cooking, or washing there was a hand pump inside the house. One of the first things that my Grandma and Grandpa did was hire someone to build an addition over the winter, and fortunately for those of us that came later, my Grandpa was a plumber.
I do remember having plastic mop buckets in the sinks and we had to run the water into the buckets when we washed hands, faces, or dishes. Then the buckets had to be taken out and emptied in the woods so that the holding tanks didn’t have to be pumped out too often. But I’d take the mop bucket of dishwater over a chemical toilet any day. By the time spouses and the next generation of kids began spending summers on Otter Lake the structure boasted three bedrooms, a bathroom complete with a shower, tub, and flush toilet, a kitchen, and a screened porch. It was by no means a “summer home” as the wealthy would consider it, even with the additions it was perhaps 700-800 square feet; perfect for actually seeing your family while on vacation together.
The original dock was built by a man named Mr. Brown. It was a great dock, but fifty years of hard use put it to the test. It had to be repaired numerous times that I recall, and in the last years that we spent there it was rather like walking on a rope bridge that shifted and swayed as you walked, always threatening to give out completely, but somehow managing to hang on as long as it was needed.