North Star Lodge in Star Lake Wisconsin....
The place where I spent my youthful summers from age 5 until I was 26 years old. They were splendid years for me - free from all responsibilities or concerns of any consequence.
I'm the kid in the sailors hat
After we stopped spending summers at Star Lake most of my memories stayed with me, but each year I realized small bits of those memories were being lost to time past. Certain pieces no longer fit together. Names of other guests, friends and employees were now forgotten. Many events were misplaced in the wrong year of their actual occurrence. As the years past more and more of my happy memories of North Star Lodge all but vanished. By the time I was a grown man the memories of North Star Lodge had merged into a single non specific remembrance of a pleasant part of my childhood. Life marched on. Years turned into decades and all the decades merged together as I entered my sixty first year of life.
Not too long ago I began thinking back upon the years behind me; as I suspect many of us do at a certain point. It came as no real surprise that the long ago memories of Star Lake and North Star Lodge would return to me. When they did, they came in waves of specific names, years, adventures. It was like reading a book. The book of the "lost years" of my now long ago youth. An evening spent on the internet gave me all the information I needed. Of course the lake was still there but so was the lodge and from the photographs everything looked, almost, just as I remembered. The lake, which 90% was always owned by the state of Wisconsin, had been saved from the over development of summer homes and condominiums. The lodge, cottages and dining room of the resort had been restored by the family who now owned North Star Lodge. Each building was lovingly restored to how it had looked when I was a child and even long before then (The lodge was built around 1896). The only major change was the growth of the trees and some of the shoreline which had been altered by weather conditions over the 40 years I had been away. The next day I made reservations and three weeks later I returned to the site of my childhood summers. It was like time travel in many ways. The drive from Chicago was now an hour shorter than it had been in the 1940's through the very early 1960's - the reason being was interstate highway 51 was now a large freeway and bypassed the small towns whose "Main streets" were once used for stops which provided the motorist, food, gas & supplies and/or overnight lodging.
The two weeks I spent at North Star Lodge were pure magic. I did many of the things I had done as a kid - at least as many of those things I could still do at (now) 63 years old. The cottages and lodge rooms were all now housekeeping not the American Plan they used to be. The dining room was now a restaurant open to guests as well as non guests and there was a bar (!) - something that had never been at the resort "in my time"! When it was time for me to leave my mind was filled with thoughts and plans to return every year for the rest of my life; maybe even try to buy a little land, which was then available for sale, and have my own lodge built on the lake. I spent the hours of the long drive back to my sister's home, outside of Chicago, thinking of my plan to relocate to Star Lake. I was as excited as I had been as a kid when it was time to drive up to Star Lake for summer vacation. Then it hit me - came over me like a full bucket of ice cold water. What I thought I had found was my lost youth. True, North Star Lodge was as special as I now remembered.... but what I was seeing, in my thoughts, was the place I remembered. Even if it did look much the same... it wasn't the same place. My childhood at Star Lake had passed. I could always return (and do) but not to search for something lost... rather I now return looking for something new and not in any way associated with the innocent years of my childhood.
Bradley (A.K.A. Oak)
North Star Lodge as it is today