‘Hot town, summer in the city’Fourth of July holiday rekindles memories of growing up in Lake Nebagamon
By: By Don Leighton, Superior Telegram
The following is another “Have Fun or Get Out of the Way” column by Don Leighton and Mike Granlund and their alter egos, Lance Boyle and Billy Pirkola, which runs occasionally in The Superior Telegram.
OK, so Lake Nebagamon is not a city, but a village. With respect to the Lovin’ Spoonful and their best song of all time (according to the Lance and Billy Library and Archives of Great Oldies) the year was 1966 and it was hot in the Village of Shangri La.
Lance was 14 and was enjoying life most of the time. With the exception of the occasional acne or overwork at the Leighton family super market chain, times were good. Baseball every day, pinball at my cousin’s drug store, listening to the Cardinals every night on 1120 KMOX from St. Louis, going to the beach, checking out the Friday night roller skating and Saturday night dances at the auditorium, waiting for Karen Ranta to arrive from Kent, Ohio, and for the Tamburitzian’s to arrive from Pittsburg, Penn., were just a few of the memories I will always cherish.
Summers were always long and hot in Nebagamon, and with the village population of 600 swelling to a couple of thousand between Memorial Day and Labor Day, it was the place to be.
This was really great because it increased the number of kids, baseball players and girls, not necessarily in that order.
For those not familiar with the beach scene, there were times when you could not walk between the Auditorium and the lake without stepping on somebody. I certainly didn’t do this, but some of my friends used to study the landscape and take the most advantageous route to an unknown destination. Oh, my friends.
Danny Hildebrandt used to take his lawn mower and, in the big field behind his house, carve out a baseball field. The baselines would be cut shorter than the rest of the field to add to the “major league” field we played on. After the contest, the 15-20 kids who participated would go the Rock Stone drive-in for fries and root beer. Duluth residents Anthony and Marge Gardonio opened for the summer and served the best food in the world. Lance extends apologies if we ever got out of hand.
The Rock Stone was about a mile from downtown, or “downvillage,” and the kids would walk or ride their bikes. Those were the days when parents did not need to be involved in their kid’s life 100 percent of the time. There were no videos, video games, cell phones or computers, and kids had to create their own fun.
As long as we were home before dark, everything was cool in the hot village.
Those baseball games were where we honed our social, creative and cooperative skills still used today. I know I will forget some players, but they included Danny, Randy, Karl and Stan Hildebrandt; Scott Nichols; Tony and Skip Gardonio; Sever Johnson; Roger and Gary Lynn; Tom Miller; Gary Snydle; Bobby Nelson; Keith and Jay Anderson; Jimmy Arnold; Bruce and Larry Johnson; Greg Knoll; Ray Nelson; Jim Koivisto and Lance Boyle.
The Fourth of July in Nebagamon was, and still is, one of the summer’s greatest celebrations and good times for people of all ages from 2 to 200. If you have never experienced the fireworks around 10 p.m. on the Fourth, something is wrong with you.
The Lions Club, one of the driving community forces in LN, was formed in 1968. My dad, Frank Leighton, was a tail-twister, whatever that was. I suppose he twisted tails, just like the name says. Volmer Anderson was the first president-elect of the organization. His grandson, Volmer R. Anderson. is currently the head man. (Lance used to golf at Green Acres Golf Course with Volmer and his brother Vern. They had the strangest swings, would hit the ball about 250 yards down the middle, and kick butt by 10 strokes. They were a couple of great guys.) Please pardon my time-travel.
Look at the upcoming weekend the Community Association, Fire Department and Lions Club have organized for the enjoyment of all. On Saturday, the celebration is off and running, literally, with the 5-mile Dragin Tail Run/Walk. Registration is from 7:30 to 8:45 a.m. at the Village Auditorium. The 9 a.m. race will begin and end at the LN Volunteer Fire Department. (To keep it fair, Lance and Billy have decided to bypass this event. We are aware that the Vegas book had us the prohibitive favorites.)
Also on Saturday, the Volunteer FD is sponsoring its annual drawing and Chinese auction at the auditorium. Kids in Nebagamon is hosting a book signing in front of the auditorium by Louis Daniel Brodsky, author of “At Water’s Edge, Poems of Lake Nebagamon, Volume One.”
At 8 p.m. the crowning of Miss Nebagamon/Little Miss Nebagamon will take place at the bandstand by the auditorium. Halie Makela, 15, and Morgyn Lombard, 15, are the contestants for Miss Lake Nebagamon, while there are six lovely young ladies vying for the title of Little Miss Nebagamon: Clarissa Ericksen, 4; Alayna Miller, 5; Sophia Hanson, 7; Heidi Paulson, 7; Taylor Davies, 7; and Kyla Smith, 7.
Immediately after the coronations, a free street dance will be held, sponsored by Bridges Indianhead Tavern and the Waterfront Bar.
There are more great happenings on Sunday. Kids games will be held behind the auditorium and are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. They are sponsored by Rose’s Bakery, Waterfront Bar and Grill, and the Chippewa Valley Bank. The annual parade will be held at 4 p.m. and is sponsored by the Community Association. Get there early since a large crowd is expected. The boat parade, or flotilla, will pass in front of the public beach around 7 p.m. And finally, one of my great childhood memories, when the sun goes down, the area’s finest fireworks will be on display behind the auditorium.
Without the generous donations from local businesses and individuals, the Lion’s Club would not be able to provide this great entertainment.
This year’s show promises to be bigger and better than ever.
If only Karen Ranta could be there.
I can hear John Sebastian now, “Hot town, summer in Lake Nebagamon…”
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