Summer memories – part one

Posted on May 26, 2021


hickory lodge

As Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, is coming this weekend, it got me thinking about my summers when I was a kid back in New Jersey. In particular, I have lots of fond memories of summers spent at a summer cottage that my grandmother owned near a lake. Without a doubt, some of my happiest times as a kid were spent with my family at this simple, rustic cottage.

In part one I will set the stage by talking about the cottage, the lake and surrounding area, which was in a picturesque, rural part of NJ. In part two I’ll talk about the things I did there that made for wonderful life long memories.

Our family cottage was in Hope Township, NJ which is in the northwestern part of the state, not too far from Pennsylvania. Hope is rich in history, having been settled by the Moravians from Germany in 1769. There are still many of their limestone structures that are still being used today. In the sixties the town was much like Andy Griffith’s Mayberry, complete with a general store, hardware store, luncheonette / soda fountain, butcher’s shop and one gas station called Ralph’s Gas, owned, of course, by Ralph. Yep, just like Mayberry!

living room

The cottage was purchased in the late forties by my grandparents. Because it was surrounded by hickory trees, they called it Hickory Lodge. It was a simple, rustic, strictly summer cottage with two bedrooms, living / dining room, kitchen and bathroom. Note, the house originally had an out house! The bathroom was added after several years of ownership and only had a toilet and small sink. No shower / tub! You had the lake for that! The only source of heat was a Franklin wood stove, which was needed on chilly mornings as there was no insulation or interior walls to keep out the cold. It could get surprisingly chilly overnight and it was not easy to get out of bed and step on an ice cold floor to get dressed for the day some mornings.

bunk bed

The bedroom where my brother and I slept had a very wobbly, creaky bunk bed. This was a thrill for us kids though. We didn’t give it a thought climbing the ladder to get into bed. The other bedroom was for my parents. No doors for the bedrooms, just cloth curtains you slid open. The cottage was much simpler than our all year round house and that was part of the fun of staying there!

front porch

I think the best feature of the cottage was the big screen porch that went across the front. It was filled with old rocking chairs, a day bed and a simple folding table where we enjoyed many meals. At dinnertime, you could see the lake through the trees, sparkling as the setting sun reflected off the water. Just a dirt road to other cottages went by the front yard where only a few cars passed by a day.

The lake, Silver Lake, is about 630 acres with a smaller lake attached by a channel. It’s fed mostly by cold water springs, which you can feel with your feet sometimes as you swim. It’s just the right size for having lots of fun but not big enough for motor boats, etc. It was always nice and peaceful out on the water. More about that in part two.

In the sixties there were still many farms in the area, which made for very scenic drives when doing errands or just taking a nice drive in the country. The air always smelled so good too, especially when driving by a field of newly mowed hay!

So that’s my narrative about our beloved cottage, Hickory Lodge. I hope I painted a scenic, tranquil picture in your mind because that’s the way I remember it. Do you have any special places where you spent your summers growing up?