—by Deanne Byrd Thompson

Janet at Lake Ivanhoe c1950s
Janet at Lake Ivanhoe c1950s

When I was a young girl, my parents used to love to fish, or rather, my dad loved to fish. When we would travel up to Wisconsin, my dad had a little rowboat that he would hitch to the back of his car Then he’d pack his fishing gear and bait consisting of worms he and I had caught on the golf course the night before. With flashlight in hand, I helped dad pull those little wiggly night crawlers from the earth. When we got to our fishing spot, my mom would find the shadiest spot, spread out her blanket, and get one of her favorite books, perhaps a Perry Mason story by Erle Stanley Gardner, a Pepsi, a sandwich, and her Pall Mall cigarette. That was Mom’s idea of going fishing.

…you can recapture the memories of yesterday…

There was another couple who were friends with my parents that also drove up to Wisconsin to fish. They had a daughter named Janet who was a few years younger than I, but we were friends and always had fun. On the lakefront there was a large hotel and the two of us would go inside and play games or listen to the music. No television or hand-held video games back then; we had to use our imaginations and entertain ourselves.

A cabin in Lake Ivanhoe c1950s
A cabin in Lake Ivanhoe c1950s

After a few years, the boat lost its appeal and became a pain in the neck to hitch up and pull around, so it sat in the driveway. But even so, in the summer my dad would ripen his tomatoes, or other vegetables from his garden, in the boat. I remember the tomatoes because there were so many and he would bag them up and take them around to friends and neighbors.

Last week I tried to find that place in Wisconsin on a map. It was called Lake Ivanhoe, but it was nowhere to be found, so I went on the Internet and it kept taking me to Lake Ivanhoe in Florida. I called Janet to see if she remembered anything about the place, but she couldn’t find it either. I’m really curious to see if it exists anymore or if the name has changed. It was a beautiful place.

Recently, I heard from my granddaughter in Kenosha, Wisconsin. She and her husband and family knew exactly where this Lake Ivanhoe is. She has given me directions and a map, so I hope to visit there next summer, if I’m able. Because even though you can’t go back to the past, you can recapture the memories of yesterday by bringing them to life today, and that‘s exactly what I hope to do.

Deanne and Janet on a recent visit with each other.
Deanne and Janet on a recent visit with each other. Photo by James Davis

Editors Note: Lake Ivanhoe has an Evanston Connection. Once privately owned by an Evanston resident, the family sold the land to three Chicagoians with the idea of creating a resort for African Americans at a time where segregation was the norm. Others like Idlewild, Michigan and Oak Bluff in Martha’s Vineyard were other destination areas.

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