Spending ’60s summers in Shangri LaIf there was the “best place on earth” to grow up, it surely had to be Lake Nebagamon, or as I have come to call it, Shangri La. During the three plus years that Lance and Billy have experienced the honor of coming into your homes, Lance has written a summer article about this magical place. Following is his meager effort to capture and express what Lake Nebagamon was like during summer in the ’’60s.
By: By Don Leighton, Superior Telegram
If there was the “best place on earth” to grow up, it surely had to be Lake Nebagamon, or as I have come to call it, Shangri La. During the three plus years that Lance and Billy have experienced the honor of coming into your homes, Lance has written a summer article about this magical place. Following is his meager effort to capture and express what Lake Nebagamon was like during summer in the ’’60s.
Moving there in 1962 as an almost ten year-old, I immediately realized that things would be different. Carlinville, Illinois was a metropolis of 5,000; Nebagamon had 600 inhabitants. The population in the summer swelled to well over 1,000 when summer homes became occupied by those from Illinois, Ohio, and other exotic locations. Since most mothers were stay at home, they and their kids would arrive on Memorial Day and stay until Labor Day, usually without the father who went back home and had to work. This was OK with me since most fathers seemed to be really strict and overly protective.
Remember the Friday nights at the Auditorium? There was always roller skating to the recorded organ music. People of all types, young and old, boy and girl, man and woman, came from all over to enjoy the skating and the post-skating sojourn to the Dairy Queen that Eric and Evelyn Johnson owned. There was nothing better than having a Dilly Bar and discovering you won a free one by the stamp on the stick. Make mine chocolate.
Then the day we had all been waiting for, Saturday, finally arrived. The weather was always nicer and was “accurately” reported to WEBC, 560 AM radio by my dad, Frank Leighton. Being the official weather reporter to the station gave him great powers. I believe on more than one occasion he “misread” the recorded temperature by at least ten degrees. I always looked up to him because he was all about bringing people to Nebagamon. Because of his “warmer” temperatures, all of the businesses in the village benefited.
On Saturday morning, we always had a ball game somewhere but always ended up at the Rock Stone Drive-In. Their French fries were the best. Many a potato was consumed by Lance and his friends. Being the busiest day on and around the lake, I needed to get to our “supermarket” grocery store. We had one shopping cart, thus it was a super market. I worked the counter, stocked shelves, carried out groceries and was abused by my parents. Having to work on Saturdays was cruel and inhuman punishment for a lad my age. When it slowed down in the afternoon, my dad let me loose to go to the drug store that my Aunt Mary and Uncle Joe Robutz owned. There was always a cool pinball machine and juke box to occupy the down times. Remember when you could get five songs for a quarter, and a game of pinball was a dime? We did not realize how lucky we were.
Starting around 6 p.m., the village started to fill up with cars and kids from Duluth, Superior, Ashland and points in between for the dance at the auditorium. From Memorial Day to Labor Day there was a dance every Saturday night in Shangri La. Chet Orr and the Rumbles, Bobby Price and the Dynamics which became John Murray and the Dynamics, the Del Reys, Dynasty and The Titans were a few of the bands that graced the stage. As many as 1,000 to 3,000 kids would occupy the streets, the beach, and the auditorium to enjoy the weather, the music and Saturday night in Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin. The Titans had a couple of regional hits and on one hot summer night brought go-go dancers to spice up their act. It worked.
I warned you of my meager attempt to remember those wonderful days, but my meager memory is not what it once was. I have only scratched the surface about what the ’60s were like in Lake Nebagamon. There will be more. In 1940, Thomas Wolf wrote a book entitled, “You Can’t Go Home Again.”
I just did. Apparently he was in never in Shangri La.