Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Great Way To Spend A Summer Weekend

I was very fortunate that my family went on a vacation every year during my adolescence. My parents, two older sisters, and I packed up our big ol' Chrysler and Tent trailer and hit the open road. We saw most of "The Lower 48" and had some memories I'll never forget and cherish forever.

Now what's a family to do the rest of the Summer, after vacation is over? Why, buy a boat,too! My father found a good deal on a sixteen foot Ski Boat and decided we could all enjoy camping and boating weekends at Berlin Reservoir, a huge lake just south of Youngstown, Ohio. I don't know where my dad got all this money to buy all these extras to daily living. His adage was, "Live today, pay for it tomorrow." He was right. We had a ball! Every weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day, we usually could be found at the Berlin Campground.

My oldest sister was recently married and my new brother-in-law would haul the trailer out to the campground on Friday night and Dad and I would follow behind pulling the boat. We would set up camp and launch the boat into the water. We took the boat about two hundred yards down the lake and beached it in front of our camp sight. We were all set for the weekend. Dad always had to work Friday night, so he would leave for work straight from the reservoir and return Saturday afternoon after a few hours of sleep.

Friends and other family members would trickle out to our campsite during the day on Saturday or even Sunday. It was understood to bring your own food and refreshments. Let the party begin! We skied and boated from sun up to sun down. I especially liked to water ski first thing in the morning when the lake surface was like glass. I tried to Barefoot Ski several times, but the boat just wasn't fast enough. By the time I was fourteen, I could slalom ski, (one ski), and actually touch my shoulder to the water as I cut back and forth across the wake of the boat.

We even talked my mom into trying to get on our hard plastic sled that we pulled behind the boat. Let's not say my mom was fat, we'll just say she was fluffy. we went into very shallow water and even with the help of my brother-in-law and me, we couldn't get mom on top of the sled to go for a ride. We all laughed so hard we cried. What a sight to see my mother flop from one side of the sled to the other! We all gave her an "A" for effort. What a good sport.

I had an uncle who thought he was a Hot Shot on Water Skis. He would play around with jumping real high over the wake and even skiing backwards. His Hot Dog antics finally caught up to him one day. His plan was to let go of the ski rope and glide quickly into shore and jump out of his skis as he hit land. However, his speed was way to fast and he hit the shoreline at probably twenty miles per hour. He was vaulted head over heels several times and separated his shoulder. We teased him about that stunt for years.

I was never bored when we went to the lake. Over the years, I made many friends there, who's families also camped there every weekend. Many late nights were spent in front of a campfire roasting marshmallows or making smores. My favorite campfire treat was dripping juice from hot bacon fat on to fresh Italian bread that was covered with onions. Talk about an instant coronary! Ahh, anything in moderation is OK, right? It wasn't uncommon for some of us kids to fall asleep in front of the fire while telling ghost stories.

All good things have to come to an end and our days at Berlin Reservoir slowly dwindled to rare occasions. My sisters were both now married and had little children and my high school activities and work cut in to my time to camp or ski. Mom and Dad weren't getting any younger either, so they decided to sell the camping trailer and boat. We all felt bad about it, but understood. We all resolved to do the same thing with our kids when they got older. Truth was, it never happened, for a variety of reasons. At least we all have the memories of some great times.


  1. My husband's family always had a boat at Lake Milton (or as we called it then "Milton Dam.") He tells similar stories about being out on the boat for days at a time. When Lake Milton was being rehabbed, we spent a lot of time on the boat out at Berlin, too. Very nice.
    My mother-in-law just sold the boat a few weeks ago - the same boat we had been going out on the lake in for 20+ years. Great memories. You really had such a great childhood, Tom!

  2. I also had a summer full of fun camping trips with my family. We never had a boat,though. Our lake excursions were from the shore on blow up rafts. It was fun , but not near the fun that you guys had! I am fortunate enough to say that I have the same type of great memories from my childhood that you do!

    I laughed out loud at the "fluffy" adjective. Who could complain about being called fluffy? :)