Saturday, February 10, 2007

Every Kid Needs An Outlet

This is a very ancient (to me, anyway) postcard of the outlet at the east side of the Lake, which ran out under South Shore Drive and out into the country. When the water was high, you could take an inner tube from the mouth of the Lake all the way out into the cornfields--carrying along a ratty pair of tennies for the long walks back.

One summer, the stream was dammed up near the shore, and somehow a good-sized northern pike got into there. I cast my worm-laden hook like a madman to try and catch it, but an older kid with fancy gear and a shiny lure got the prize.

Welcome to the General Store (circa 1972)

Hello, and welcome to the General Store, in the first of a long series of recollections about the vacation life of Clear Lake, Iowa. Most people have heard about the place from Buddy Holly lore, this being the last place he played before the infamous plane crash just outside of town.

But to me, Clear Lake was our weekend vacation destination. And though it seems that the passage of time has ignored the general essence of the Lake, things have changed here and there. Lakeside condos have popped up. Amusement parks and trailer parks have come and gone. The A&W Lighthouse near the center of town disappeared some time back. The island hotel became the burned-out concrete foundation kids loved to wonder about.

So here we have a place to look back at the funny little things about Clear Lake--things like the General Store, in Touristville (sort of the vacation version sister town of Urbandale), which sat for years on South Shore Drive across from the Touristville Trailer Park. My dad, Virgil, made this drawing in the summer of '72 from across the street at our Schultz streamline trailer. Inside the store: groceries. Ice cream sandwiches. Fish hooks. Decks of cards with animated pictures of Charlie Chaplin on the backs. Miniature Reese's peanut butter cups for a penny apiece. Comics books packed 3 to a bag, for a quarter (and the original comic book prices were an odd 12 cents apiece)--Ghostly Tales, Young Love, the Archie Series. Cups of earthworms from the old fridge out front, and minnows in the tank. Nickel placards with sayings like "If your nose runs and your feet smell, you're built upside down", pre-punched for wall mounting.

Treasures all.

So come back, I'll have more pictures and tidbits. And of course, if you have any, send 'em in!

Have fun. Remember.