Lake cabin the end of an era

Wayne MitchellThe end of an era. That’s what my sister, Donna, said after signing the paperwork last week to sell the cabin that my father built on the Lake of the Ozarks, near Camdenton, Mo.

It is, too, in a way. The cabin was the only remnant left from our childhood growing up in Missouri. My sister and her husband, Homer, had kept it after my mother died nine years ago. My father had died three years earlier.

When I was in high school in the suburbs of Kansas City, we would make the two-hour trip to the cabin nearly every weekend from spring into fall.

It was my parents’ favorite thing to do when the work week ended at their factory jobs in the city.

In 1959 they had paid $850 for the vacant lakefront lot, reachable by eight miles of a pothole-filled gravel road with embedded rock capable of busting a tire. It was what they could afford, and my father thought it would be a good investment over time.

He had a hole dug and the walls poured for a concrete basement. To save money, he decided we would put in the basement floor ourselves.

Many loads of concrete mixed in a hand mixer later, we had a floor. He always took pride that, over the years, his floor never cracked.

He built the two-bedroom cabin, too. He didn’t have the money to do the finish work inside, so he tacked large cardboard sheets to the studs for room dividers. It stayed that way for years.

As soon as the cabin was up, the number of friends and relatives anxious to spend weekend time with us multiplied. Many weekends we would have 15 or more visitors for the day, and sometimes four or six sleeping on air mattresses overnight.

My job was driving the 14-foot boat with its 40-horsepower motor, while my father would teach visitor after visitor to water ski. Most of the time, I preferred being in the boat because I never got over a fear of water after falling into a creek when I was 5.

But I did learn to water ski. Because I was skinny then (hard to believe, I know), I would pop right up on one ski while heftier skiers struggled to come out of the water behind our small boat.

The lake cabin also brings back a bit of nostalgia because the gravel road is where I learned to drive. As soon as we would turn off the main highway, my father would let me take the wheel.

“Keep it under 25,” he would say, as though there was any other choice as we bounced from one pothole to the next.

A couple of years ago was the last time we visited the lake cabin, which my sister and her husband had upgraded to a nice house with sweeping decks down to the lake.

The road to the cabin is now asphalt and most of the lakefront is occupied. Lots now sell for $1,000 a lakefront foot.

My father was right. The lake lot was a good investment, both financially and as a gathering place for the family for 50 years. Now it’s another family’s turn.

T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by email at

About Wayne Mitchell

Publisher of the New Albany Gazette