Some Dunham Lake Memories
I was fascinated by the article on Dunham Lake that appeared in the June, 2006, issue of the Signpost since I myself had some wonderful experiences at the lake in the summers of 1929 to 1931. My age was 11 to 13. My father was the rural mail carrier that serviced the people living on Dunham Lake road. This was a dirt road that ran north from Highland Road (now M-59) to Dunham Lake, then west past two cottages, then north (some 10 to 20 feet from the lake) and up a hill where you were even with the lakes north shore. At the top of this hill there was a house, a factory, and a very large garden with all kinds of fruit and berries.
The western-most cottage on the south side of the lake was owned by a Mr. Harris. Mr. Harris was the postmaster for Pontiac. He, his wife and their son, Jack Harris, used to spend the summers at the cottage. Mr. Harris used to commute from Pontiac and spend every other night or so at the cottage. Mrs. Harris found out about me when I was riding around with Dad on his mail route. She invited me to come and spend several days with Jack (who was about my age) at the cottage. Dad would drop me off in the morning as he drove around Dunham Lake.
Jack and I used to hike along Dunham Lake road. Sometimes we would climb up on the steep bank on the west side of the road. The trees on the bank were quite large and close to each other. We would look at the birds and sometimes pick a few flowers. Mrs. Harris would fix us a good lunch. After lunch we would swap stories of things that had happened at our schools. Then we usually went for a swim or went fishing. At dinner-time Mr. Harris would sometimes arrive from Pontiac, and Mrs. Harris would always fix a delicious meal. I would spend the night with Jack, and after breakfast we would play checkers, etc. Dad would then pick me up as he came by with the mail.
When you came down Dunham Lake road to the lake there was a large white house (a year-round dwelling; not a cottage) on the right side of the road. The yard was nicely landscaped and was fenced off so that you could not walk or drive around to the east side of the lake. I dimly remember that the house was owned by someone in township government.
The factory on the north side of the lake was owned and operated by the Hares, who manufactured the Liberty Fire Extinguisher. The extinguisher was a tube about two inches in diameter and thirty inches long. It was filled with a mixture of fine sand and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). If the mixture was scattered along the base of a fire, the heat would release carbon dioxide (CO2) and snuff the fire out. My Dad used to pick up cartons of these extinguishers (2, 4 or 6 in a carton) and carry perhaps several hundred pounds of these cartons, in the back seat of his Model T, to the Highland Post Office. I believe the Hares were of German extraction. They were very friendly and often gave Dad boxes of strawberries, etc.
I am not certain of the year, but the Hares were taken to court with the charge that they had moved the road by their house a number of feet to the west. My Dad was asked by the Hares lawyer to be a witness. The trial was held in Pontiac and Dad testified that in all the years he had driven the mail route past the Hares home there had been no change in the roads location. Based on this and other evidence the case was dismissed. Afterwards the Hares and their attorney invited Dad and me to dinner at a fancy restaurant. I can remember having Great Lakes white fish, which was quite tasty!
As you drove past the two cottages on the south side of the lake and made the turn to go north there was a house on top of the steep hill. It was not possible to reach this house from Dunham Lake road since the hill was too steep. This was home to a family that had recently emigrated from Finland. Very little was known about them, although they had several children whom we used to see playing in the yard. In the back of the yard was a small metal clad building with a conical metal roof and chimney. This was a Finnish bathhouse or sauna. Several times, especially on weekends, you would see smoke coming from the chimney!
Dunham Lake was always a very quiet and peaceful place. It was a good place to relax and think about your past and future, and I will always remember the good times I had there with Jack Harris.
Dr. Eugene H. Beach was born October 9, 1918, the son of Ulysses S. and Edith (Huff) Beach. He died December 9, 2007. See the Beach Family Photo Album for more on this family. This item was originally published in the Signpost - the newsletter of the Highland Township Historical Society.