When it’s 90 below (or so) in Wisconsin, it’s always nice to remember the warmer times we’ve had. I like to think back to my youth and our many trips to Lake Michigan, fishing for perch, smelt or just swimming. (See my earlier blog articles on those topics)
Living on the south side of Kenosha, the kids in our neighborhood usually went to Southport beach for our lake outings. Living near the old Sunnyside (now Grewenow) school, the lake was less than two miles from our house. In the summer, after our morning paper routes were done, we’d often ride our bikes down there to fish for perch. Later in the day, we’d go back for a swim.
From where we lived, we’d ride down 79th street and carry our bikes over the Chicago Northwestern railroad tracks, right where the current Sheridan Lanes bowling alley is. From there, we’d go through the path that went right by the city dog pound, which was down in that area at the time. I always got a kick out of seeing all the dogs as we went by, and of course they’d bark and yap at us, coming and going.
Once down by the lake, we’d lock our bikes up in the bike rack. (Because everyone in town wanted to steal our twenty-year old balloon tire bikes) Then, we’d get a basket from the attendant in the beach house, and change into our suits. There was a tall wall separating the boys and girl’s locker room, and there was always yelling and whistling going on back and forth. Every once in awhile a boy would scale the wall to get a peak, to the accompaniment of screams and shouts from the girls on the other side. If he got caught, he would be banished from using the locker room for the whole summer.
Once out by the water, we walked gingerly through the rocks into the frigid waters of Lake Michigan. It usually took about ten minutes to get “used to it”, so we’d slowly walk in deeper and deeper until we could stand it. From there, we’d usually find other friends in the water and swim over by them. We’d keep an eye out for “non-friends”, and we’d either avoid them or start a dust up just to keep our feud healthy.
We’d often walk out onto the rock piers, jumping back into the water in the deeper spots. The little channel between the two rock sections let out to the big lake, and the older kids would usually be out there jumping in and out, swimming around, and showing off.
After a time, we’d leave the water and maybe sit around on our towels on the beach. If we had any money, we might get a soda, or ice cream bar from the vending area in the beach house. We didn’t like to stay out of the water too long, otherwise we’d have to spend another ten minutes getting “used to it” again.
Usually, we’d spend two hours or so down by Southport. Once in a while, from Southport, we’d swim all the way to the North Pier in Kenosha. If we did, it would take most of the day, swimming there and back. We’d leave the water for a rest now and then, each way.
Back at Southport, we wouldn’t leave until everyone in our bunch agreed to go. When we did leave, we’d head back the same way, again being greeted at the dog pound by the yapping mutts. Sometimes coming and going, we’d have to wait for a train to go by before crossing the tracks. If we managed it in time, we’d lay a penny on the tracks for the train to flatten out. (This was considered a high technology process) We couldn’t always find the penny after, but we took the financial risk anyway.
Once back home, we’d head in for a snack, then back out to shake all of the sand out of our shoes after Mom yelled. Before she could load us up with too many chores, we took off for another adventure.
NOTE: in order to maintain my PG rating, no information on the sand dunes was included in this article