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  • Emily Cusack

OC, Pine Lake tradition dates way back

Taking the backway on old U.S. Highway 21 to Marshall will take you past a little bit of Olivet College history.

In the archives of Olivet College, numerous postcards can be found. Many depict Pine Lake. The oldest postcard of Pine Lake in the archives collection is stamped 1904. Embossed on the front are grainy images of Pine Lake, the resort house, the many cabins, people enjoying the water and picnics, while others show the great toboggan slide. Pine Lake became a very popular destination for Olivet College students in the early 1900s, while just down the road.

In the 1961 Olivetian yearbook there is a paragraph dedicated to the time spent on the lake by Olivet College students: “Pine Lake will always figure prominently in every Olivet student’s memoirs. The early breakfasts beside its placid surface, the twilight canoe rides, the picnic on the island, the glorious swims in it… are our memories of Pine Lake. Olivet would not be complete without it...”

Other Olivetian yearbooks stored in the archives hold photos of college events and traditions that happened on or near the lake. One old event occurred during Homecoming. Classes would compete against each other by racing floats of their own designs on Pine Lake. The 1961 yearbook photos display a float that looks like the Titanic sinking next to an iceberg.

Back before highways became a common way of traveling, people would come from all around to spend time at different resorts (including the Pine Lake Resort) during the summers. Pine Lake was a popular place to go and was popular with people who lived in Mid-Michigan. Residents of Eaton, Ionia, Calhoun and Ingham counties flocked to the resort come summer time, according to the article that ran in a February 1998 edition of the Auction Exchange.

As Olivet started to grow, so did the resort. In 1907, Linus and Lucinda Cook and sons, Chauncey and Archie, purchased the resort, according to Mary Jean Baker, the author of the article. The Cooks added nine cabins, a bathhouse and a dance hall with hardwood floors to the resort. Doris Masters, the great-granddaughter of Lucinda Cook, recalls the “dance hall had an electric piano that could be played for a nickel a song. Later a Nickelodeon was put in for dancing pleasure.”

In 1945 the resort changed hands and was sold to the Holdridge family, who also ran a restaurant in Olivet. The Holdridges owned the resort for seven years before they sold it to the Altenheins in 1952.

Emmett and Wilmuth Altenhein and their four children, Judith Fuller, Janet DeGroot, Emmett “Jimmy” and Jean Ann Gibson cared for the resort. According to an interview done by Baker and Judith Fuller, the children did much of the cleaning. They painted and cleaned the cottages and swabbed the bathhouse every day.

Janet DeGroot, current owner of the resort campground and second daughter of the Altenheins, recalls that pricing was $15 a week to rent a cabin in the 1950s. She explained that her mother also rented bathing suits out for 10 cents to anyone in need. During the years the Altenheins owned the resort, Pine Lake became a popular destination for school children to swim in. Baker’s article states that nearly 500 students came by school buses to swim.

In 1955, the toboggan, a popular attraction on the lake, was removed. The toboggan was essentially a slide where a wooden sled was placed at the top and ridden down to skim across the water like a skipping stone. DeGroot said it was removed after an accident was caused by the improper use of a sled, resulting in injury.

After 15 years of owning the resort, the Altenheins sold it in 1967 to the LaPoints, according to Baker’s article. The resort changed hands quite a few times in the late-20th century. Somewhere during this time Olivet College students seemed to lose interest in the resort.

From the LaPoints, the resort went to the Moffats in the 1980s, to the Bogars, and then to the Criptons in the early 1990s. In 1996, DeGroot bought the resort from the Criptons.

The old house and many of the cabins had been torn down in the mid-1990s. But that did not deter DeGroot. She transformed the old resort into a campground and renovated one of the few remaining cabins. “The new store is located in what used to be cabin nine,” DeGroot said. The remaining two are rented out. She has also added two new rustic cabins to rent out for the week.

Along with maintaining the campground, DeGroot holds various events at the resort. The DNR Free Fishing Weekend, typically the second weekend in June, usually includes a party and food on the lakeshore. In February, ice fishing is the main event. During the summer, the campground’s beach is available for all those who wish to spend the day swimming and picnicking for only $1.

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