Grand Bend was a magnet. The small resort town with its miles of wide sandy beaches on Lake Huron mushroomed to a major metropolis in the summer. They say as many as 50,000 people took over the sleepy downtown every summer and made it a happening place for families and rowdy teenagers alike. On weekends the infamous Hell’s Angels would parade up and down the main street with their noisy Harley’s, showing off their tattooed bellies and their beach babes sitting on the back. The local bars hosted battles of the bands and blasted live Motown music well into the night. The ice cream stands offered triple scoops and French fries and a coke were the staple foods of choice. Yet despite the constant energy and wide cross section of visitors, Grand Bend never seemed to get so rowdy as to discourage folks from coming. It was the place to be in the ‘60’s.
It was our first trip there without “family accompaniment”. Three 15 year olds staying at a cottage at the ‘Bend under the less than watchful eye of Earl’s eighty four year old grandmother Cali. “Grannie C” we called her but never to her face. Mrs. McGuffin was what she insisted we call her. She loved her grandson Earl and knew he could do no wrong. If we were his friends that was good enough for her. We were all “good boys” and she felt no need to reprimand us for anything.
Grannie C went to bed promptly at 9 o’clock and was up bright and early at 6. When she wasn’t cooking for us she sat on the front porch watching the visitors go by and catching “forty winks”. Grannie C owned a cottage in Grand Bend. How lucky was that! Apparently she and her husband bought it many years earlier and the cottage was on the main street about 500 feet from the famous “Bluewater Beach”. Comfortable and close to everything. Today such real estate must be worth a fortune. N the 60’sit was heaven on earth.
Getting up at 6am had advantages as we found out the first day. We ate our breakfast and immediately went out to the beach. At that time of the morning the beach was virtually deserted. You could even take out a bar of soap and wash up in the lake. Saves showering. Quickly cleaned we started up the main drag and came across the famous Grand Bend wishing well. Not sure what they ever did with the money but tourists were known to be very loose with their change and every morning the well was full. Dave carried his magnets with him everywhere and by attaching a string to it we could simply throw the magnet into the well and pull up enough change to keep us in ice cream, fries and cokes for the whole day. This worked very well every morning we were there. The ultimate in cheap vacations.
We spent a good deal of our time laying on the beach, taking in the sights and working on a tan. By about 2pm we were burned and needed another activity. At first the main drag seemed exciting but after a while the novelty wore off. We decided to walk down one of the side streets and in the distance we noticed a golf course. We all played golf so it was fun to watch the golfers hack their way around the course. One of the most interesting holes was the par three 16th. Golfers hit from a tee over a hill that made it a blind shot to the green. It was fun standing in the woods by the green to watch shots come over the hill. Then Earl had a brilliant idea. Why not pick up the balls that came over the hill and put the ball into the hole. We waited for a group to hit and noticed one good shot that went right on the green. Earl ran up to the ball and dropped it into the cup. We then went back to hide in the deep rough by the green.
Sure enough, the golfer who hit the good shot eventually checked to see if his ball was in the hole and voila, there it was. A hole in one! A whoop, a scream, much backslapping and merriment. Then they went on to the next hole and shortly thereafter finished their round. The unwritten rule of holes in one is that when finished the “acer” must buy a round for all those in attendance at the bar. A busy day like today meant fifty to sixty golfers were happily sharing a beer at the expense of the lucky golfer that we helped obtain vaulted status among his fellow golfers.
This was fun. We waited but the next couple of groups had pathetic shots. Then, another chance. Earl ran up and placed the ball in the hole. When the group arrived the merriment scene was repeated and on finishing their round the same scene of camaraderie and benevolence to fellow jealous golfers was undoubtedly repeated in the club house.
We didn’t think about what must have been going on at the club house. We just felt this was such a hoot. And then as we sat in the woods waiting for the next group to hit their shots over the hill we could see what appeared to be a mass exodus from the club house. And all of the golfers were coming toward the hole we were on. Someone pointed at us, yelling “Death to you!” That scene didn’t look to promising and we started running down the side of the fairway and charged into an area where the grass in the rough seemed tall enough for us to hide in. By that time there was less interest in chasing us and the crowd laughed at our hideaway area. We lay in the tall grass hidden from view for some time. As we started to walk home we noticed a sign buffering the area where we had just hidden. “Beware the Poison Ivy”.
When we got back to Grannie C’s cottage, Dave noticed little red blotches on his arms. Next day he was swollen from head to toe and red as a boiled lobster. Fortunately Earl and I escaped the fate but it just wasn’t as much fun with poor Dave having to spend his final days at the cottage with Grannie C on the front porch covered in calamine lotion.