Memories of 50 Years and More
Mr. Linderman has asked me to write the history of the Cabaret commemorating its 50th anniversary in 1984. I have intertwined the history of the Cabaret with the history of the Johnson family and the town of Webb Lake and it’s a little longer than I had planned.
To give you the setting of the Webb Lake “Country House”, later named “Cabaret”, I’d better go back to about 1922 The big logging camps run by Mr. Hayward and financed by Mr. McCormick, along with other camps, had come and gone, with the exception of James Corcoran, of Webster who still had logging operations going on when I moved into the town of Webb Lake as a bride at age 20. I dated and fell in love with, and in about a year, married a man I knew to be a good catch, lven Johnson. He had quit Telegraphy school in St Paul the year before to take over the “Indian Trading Post” at Webb Lake and was appointed Postmaster at the same time. He was also a good sportsman and hunter.
We slept in a room above the store and had living quarters attached to the back of the building. We worked hard in those early years and as Iven enjoyed stalking game, we usually had plenty of meat. Many of his trophies from Montana, the Dakotas, Canada, etc are still hanging on the walls of the Cabaret.
There was plenty of local game also, deer, partridge rabbits and ducks were easy prey. We sometimes enjoyed goose and sharp tail grouse also. The sand trails winding from place to place were mostly built by Indians. The first trip | made to Webb Lake from Markville, Minnesota, where I was teaching school, was to a one room school house west of the Trading Post to a dance. It took us two hours (14 miles one way) with lven’s old Mitchell car to make the trip. Iven would gun the old car to make it up a sand hill, backing down, time and again, before we finally made it. The “Red Top Fisk” tires would dig deeper and deeper in the sand. Do you remember them?
In addition to poor roads, we had no delivery wagons coming through Webb Lake, not even a bread truck for several years. There were no long distance telephone connections. A farmer’s line did connect one household to another that is, if they built their own line. There were no electric lines either. I can remember how happy we were to get a gas lamp to replace the kerosene models we had been using.
Ice was cut for us from Des Moines Lake by the Kimball and Augustine boys. John Holmes hauled it on his sleigh to our newly built ice house in back of the store. We used that ice to cool our ice boxes, to pack fish for shipping, and for drinks at the bar–until we bought a windmill with storage batteries from Iowa. My how nice it was to have electricity, that is, most of the time. Sometimes the lights would dim when the batteries got low, but they were so much better than lamps. We later bought a diesel engine to help charge the batteries.
There weren’t many fishermen coming to the area in those days. Kilkare Resort on Birch Island Lake had a few quests. Joe Merkle on the west end of Des Maines Lake had two or three cabins on the Namekagon River About ten families from Iowa owned cottages-on Sucker Lake, which was later changed to Des Moines Lake, in their honor. Some of the Iowa folks came to Danbury by train, then hired Joe Cameron, a Ford dealer, to drive them to their summer homes as they didn’t want to drive their good cars out here.
Another group, mostly from Iowa, had cottages on the Northeast end of Birch Island Lake. Judge Preston, from Oskaloosa, Dr. and Mrs. Rogers and several other families spent their summers there.
It was not unusual for our household to offer free meals and lodging to strangers in those early days. We enjoyed meeting the new people who were walking or driving through. About 1926, there came a man out of the blue–a baseball pitcher and sports writer from Chicago, Gus Munch. He had come to fish and asked If we would put him up for a few days. We obliged and he had good luck fishing, especially for bass on Webb Lake. Before leaving he said, “If you will build a couple of cabins, I will keep them full during the season by writing a skit in a sports magazine.” We weren’t very impressed and did nothing until a year later when the following article appeared in “Outdoor Life and Recreation.”
“Weblake Wisconsin tucked away among the hills up in the northwestern part of the state, is a veritable paradise for the bass fisherman looking for virgin waters as yet but little fished and less known. It is about twenty-five miles northeast from Spooner on the C. & N.W railroad, and fifteen miles northeast from Danbury on the Soo Line in a section of the state as yet unfarmed and sparsely settled. There are no good highways leading to the lake, nothing but winding sand roads that prohibit anything but small cars, but after you get there, man! What bass fishing!
“Weblake has about twenty-five or thirty miles of wonderful bass shoreline, lily pad coves and bays, big reed beds, stumps and everything that the big mouth bass love. A five pound bass is common and six and seven pounders are taken occasionally.
“Good sized northern pike are also frequently caught but no Muskies. There isn’t a house on the whole lake! And only three leaky, flat bottomed boats, down in one end that a nearby farmer rents out. That’s the only farm on the whole lake too, not another building near anywhere. There are no accommodaticns, no resorts of any kind, but there is a wonderful location for a fisherman’s resort at the bridge between the two parts of the lake. This is 2 good tip for some enterprising resort builder who wants to establish a real fisherman’s resort out in the wilderness.
“It is a beautiful country. High hills covered with hardwoods and evergreens and some real brook trout streams (with trout in ‘em) winding their way about the hills from one lake to another, for there are numerous other fine fishing lakes close at hand, all as wild and unsettled as Weblake, but none so large. I saw one bass taken out of Weblake weighing seven and one-half pounds and several more seven pounds in weight. Deer, bear, partridge, and chicken are plentiful but no ducks to speak of.
“Iven Johnson, Postmaster, Weblake Post Office, Weblake, Wisconsin, can or will take care of two people. His little Indian Trading Store is about two miles from the lake and he sometimes acts as guide when he has time. He will also call for you in his flivver at either Spooner or Danbury. Most of the lakes have no boats, but can be fished from shore. ‘Tis indeed a delightful country for the sportsman who wants to camp out in the wilderness and not be bothered by tourists. They can’t get in there. The roads are too bad, but the fishing! Well, go on up there and try yourself, you’ll see! A letter addressed to Iven Johnson, Weblake Post Office, Weblake, Wisconsin, will put you in touch with the only man in that neck of the woods who can put you up for a few days.
“Some day before long, some enterprising wideawake resort builder is going to drop in there and start something and when he does, he can put me down as guest number one. – Gus Munch. (Weblake was later changed to Webb Lake by yours truly.)
As a result of this article by Gus Munch, we began to receive a lot of mail from Chicago and outlying cities and from as far away as St Louis. You’ll never believe the number of fishermen wanting to come to Webb Lake, writing to ask us if we could accommodate them.
We got busy answering the mail. At the same time we were making preparations for their arrival. We rented an old log house, the former home of Rolla Marsh, on Fairy Lake, built two small log cabins, naming them “Munch and Evans” in honor of our first guests.
We also built a dining room onto the east side of the store and extended a porch out from the dining room that would sleep six people.
At first, as it was too primitive for the women, only men guests came. They came by train to Spooner where we picked them up in our “Flivver” (Model T Ford) that we now used instead of the old Mitchell.
Later on as we became more modern, we had built several cottages, so the women came also. We tried to rent our cottages to adults only. We were always filled to overflowing so that we were able to send guests to two or three other resorts that had sprung up following Munch’s article about our good fishing. One of the larger new ones was the “Webb Lake Hotel” on Big Bear Lake now known as “Lumberjack” resort.
By the early 1930s, we had completed twenty-five cabins, a large dining room, feeding from 20-30 guests plus our employees on the American Plan – three times a day. Many of our cottages were built on Des Moines Lake.
During this same period, Guy Johnson, who owned a resort on the narrows of Webb Lake was elected Town Chairman, He had the foresight to do something about the roads. Instead of hiring men to shovel sand out of the ruts, he learned from visiting a project in an eastern county that sand could be mixed with hot oil and rolled out to make a good road. The Town of Webb Lake hired the men and machinery used on the job Guy had seen done, and we got our first mile of blacktop road from where the town hall is now, south to County Trunk H. It stood up so well, many more miles of blacktop roads were built including County Trunk H. We boarded and housed the county road crew.
Fishermen could now get into our area with cars and a sort of boom took over Webb Lake. Delivery trucks bringing groceries, bread, etc, started to make the rounds. We didn’t pay much attention to the depression years that people were talking about I guess it was because none of us living out here had much, and we all expected to work to make a go of things.
A short time after F.D. Roosevelt was elected President of our country, the 18th amendment to the constitution became law, legalizing the sale of intoxicating beverages. Up until that time few of us knew much, if anything, about drinking liquor or beer much less the effects of drinking too much.
The first beer sales at Webb Lake were over a marble top soda fountain, in the store with high stools to sit on. It had been used for fancy ice cream dishes previously. Soon thereafter, the Post Office Department made a ruling. “No more sales of intoxicating beverages in establishments having a Post Office in connection.”
The bar or the Post Office had to be moved if we were to continue beer sales. Up until that time we hadn’t sold any hard liquor.
We thought long and hard and early in 1933 decided to build a bar and recreational center across the road from the store on land we already owned. We liked log structures, so we started making plans for the building. Henry Garbelman, who then lived 2.5 miles east of our store, had several piles of choice jack pine pulpwood. Iven and his hired hands picked over the piles selecting logs that were sound and straight and purchased them for the structure. The logs were peeled and Charles Nutt hauled them to his saw mill, where they were split In half and delivered to the building site at Webb Lake.
Local men were hired to do the building. Adolph Nyman, who roomed and boarded with us was overseer of the building. George Schaaf, Sam Enger and Charles McDowell all worked on the project. The wages, I recall, were $1.OO per day, and they brought their own lunch.
Iven had an old truck by then as everything we used had to be hauled In. Much of the material needed in the building was purchased from Marshall Wells and Co. of Duluth. The following winter, Adolph Nyman carved out the back bar with his jacknife, gathering wood from the forest. His workshop was also his sleeping room above the garage. He did a splendid job and we all said, “Well done.” The structure fit perfectly in the space allowed for it and all the drawers worked smoothly just as they do today. The building want up quickly, and when completed we had a building to be proud of. I understand people are still stopping by just to look at the place, Our building inspired “Log Gables” and “What the Heck” to incorporate many of the features that we used in the Country House.
About the time the tourists arrived, the place was ready for the “Grand Opening.” We named it the “Webb Lake Country House.”
We agreed that the Country House was to be kept neat and clean, and an orderly place where families could come and bring their children for an evening of entertainment. The children were made to sit on benches surrounding the dance floor as the tables we had were needed for the adults. On dance nights, bartenders were to wear white shirts, black bow ties and a white jacket. Waitresses were to be in uniform, wearing a white apron. Two Cheney boys from Spooner, who were employed at Kilkare Lodge, came to our place on dance nights and assisted with table waiting.
This was quite a contrast to what had been seen in the past in our primitive surroundings. I can still visualize Jack Schaaf, dark and handsome, dressed up behind the bar. He was our first bartender. Tony Milbert from Chicago, who owned a cottage on Fish Lake helped out behind the bar and taught our men to make mixed drinks. No place in the area that I knew of served mixed drinks. It was a “shot and wash” at most places.
A salesman came by one day who talked Iven in to buying 12 barrels of Kentucky bourbon. He explained how it could be made any proof desired, and that it would be bottled, taxed and shipped from Milwaukee under our own private label. Iven chose “Webb Lake Private Stock” as our brand name. It was bottled in pints and quarts. When customers came into the bar asking for a “shot and a wash,” the bartenders were taught to ask, “Have you tried our Webb Lake Private Stock?” at the same time setting a bottle in front of the customer saying, “If you don’t think that this is as good as your regular brand, this one is on the house.” Needless to say many customers were converted to Webb Lake Private Stock. Special guests were given a bottle of our Webb Lake Private Stock as a parting gift when they came to say good-bye, their vacations having ended for another year.
A man from the Air Force Stopped at the bar one day to ask if they could have a directional arrow for planes painted on the roof of the Country House. Iven gave his O.K. Soon thereafter a big orange colored arrow pointing north was painted on the roof. It is still there.
Not many planes flew over Webb Lake back then but I think more than now. I remember one flier called “Whitey” from St. Paul that was very welcome. He buzzed our place. as he said he would, dropping off enough tea to last us through the war.
George and Herb Benz, from the Benz Liquor Co., St. Paul, were friends of Whitey and they were our frequent quests. They liked fishing and our home style cooking. Whitey missed his tea though, and decided to do something about it.
Needless to say we had a good stock of Benz liquors on hand at all times.
We decided to hire big name bands for dance nights. Some of them were too large to set up on the stage, so they used the floor in front also. Whoopee John played for us several limes and many others.
Opening night there were so many guests, it was standing room only. We had a cover charge of $1.00 per person and the back of the hand was stamped as they came in There were about 50 boys from a CCC camp between Webb Lake and Danbury who were the first to arrive. They sat on the hill in front of the place for hours before the band started to play.
Slot machines were legal at that time and there were three in the Country House—a nickel, a dime and a quarter machine. Iven asked that they be set to pay out often, creating more enjoyment for the guests.
Our guests came from long distances over crude roads to our dance. Businessmen and wives from Superior, Grantsburg, Spooner, Siren, Hinckley, Webster, Minong, Shell Lake, Danbury, Riverside, you name it, were often present.
It was our policy, at that time, to post dance bills in every place of business possible, occasionally they were posted on large trees along the trails. Just about any place to bring in the crowds. Within a year or two after the opening, Jack Molitor from Rice Lake informed us
that he was a dance promoter and had booked traveling bands for a week or more at a time He chose our place for Wednesday and Saturday nights. We agreed to give him the gate receipts. This worked out very well for us and the bands were SUPER. Molitor once brought an orchestra from a school in Piney Woods Mississippi. They were a large group of black female musicians and could they play! They really woke up the crowd.
Kilkare Resort had been purchased by a businessman from Chicago, Grover C. Elmore. He changed the name to Kilkare Lodge. He formed a club and sold memberships to many fine Chicago families They upgraded the lodge and we could depend on a goodly number from there each dance night. Walter and Ruth Johnson of Chicago who owned the Johnson Candy Co., were two of their members. Walter would invite his salesmen from various states to vacation at Kilkare Lodge. They all frequented our dances and I recall those southern belles with their beautiful formal gowns and high heeled shoes dancing around our floor. What a contrast to the rustic setting!
We never had seating enough it seemed. One evening, the manager of Kilkare Lodge said “Iven, if you will send your truck over we will give you the extra new tables and chairs we have in storage.” What a gift! Our truck was sent there the next morning to pick them up and I note a couple of them are still in use at the Cabaret. The green tables, and green and orange trim chairs.
Five Lakes Club members on Oak Lake also came in groups to our dances. We felt lucky to meet and serve so many fine people.
One winter, lven and his hired men cut logs for telephone poles and Mr. Alstad, owner of the Danbury Telephone Company, built us a line to Danbury. Now people vacationing in our area could get in touch with their families and business at home, when needed.
Electric lines were also built and things were looking up. The war was over, the boys were coming home including our eldest son Pat. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood.
About that time, a young high school lad, Kenneth Hallman from Aurora, Illinois wrote and asked if their high school band could play in the Country House on nights that we weren’t featuring big bands. We accepted them and what a fine group of entertainers they turned out to be. We built a cabin for the boys to sleep in. They painted “Rhythm Hawks” on the roof. They ate with the family and other employees. The laundress washed their clothes and darned their socks. Their wages were $10.00 per week each. Of course they made considerable in tips. Kenneth Hallman was their leader and played piano, others played the sax, trumpet, drums
and bass violin. Another of their classmates was invited to come up and sing with their band, a pretty, talented singer, Dorothy Crowley. She added a lot to the band. Her parents made sure she would be cared for as one of the family, before they sanctioned her coming. Two or three of the parents visited their boys the first year and were real happy to have them up here. They couldn’t believe that even their socks were darned.
The drummer, Jack Diendorffer, liked nothing better than getting out on the platform to imitate W.C. Fields, Roosevelt and others. “What a comedian” guests would say. After leaving us, he changed his name to Jack Denton, went to California, wrote scripts for Red Skelton and Bob Hope and the last I heard he was lighting director for Lawrence Welk.
Hallman came back for a few years and played piano. Then one season he surprised us, bringing in his new organ that sounded like a full band. He was a fine lad and entertainer.
We decorated the Country House on special occasions, especially July 4th. We used red, white and blue crepe paper and blown up balloons hung from the ceiling, some with $1.00 bills in them. The balloons would be cut down at midnight and dancers would clamor to find the dollars. On Halloween, pumpkins were brought in. Jack-O-Lanterns were carved out and lighted candles placed inside after dark. Two large ones greeted folks on either side of the front door as they came in.
In the fall, Iven had colored leaves brought in and tacked around the walls of the dance floor. They were so pretty and inexpensive, too!
Speaking of fall, we usually had a glowing fire in the fireplace each chilly day. People would sit around the tables near the fire, with a drink to sip, talking and enjoying the atmosphere. Jack Hanley, who vacationed here, wanted to help entertain those by the fire. On several occasions, he went out and bought sweet corn from the farmers and roasted it over the glowing coals, passing it out to all who gathered there.
Another gentleman who enjoyed good food and good people, asked if we would cook lobsters for a selected group, if he brought them to us. Who would say no! Louise Mayo, her husband Red, the Ed Uhls and of course Iven and I and others were asked to join in the party. Bill Dersey lived in Minneapolis. He had the lobsters flown in from Maine, picked them up in large cages and brought them to the bar and set them on top of it. Those huge lobsters crawled over the ice for hours until the chef came to prepare the feast. What fun and what luxury up in the North Woods. This celebration went on for 2 to 3 years.
Iven also added a sparkle to the tavern in the fall by serving a free game dinner, moose, elk or deer to all who came, following a successful hunt to Canada or elsewhere. Beach Pearson of Spooner did much to promote the Country House, and other places he worked. He never forgot a name, and was a graceful greeter of guests. He was a professional painter and map maker. He painted road signs for us and put them up for miles in each direction. We especially needed signs to tell people how to find Webb Lake. Beach tended bar at Kilkare Lodge several summers, talking up our dances to his customers during the week, clearing out his bar on dance nights and joining them at ours. On his arrival at the Country House, he donned a white jacket and started serving drinks. Some of the partakers were guests of Kilkare he had sent over.
Beach liked our dog Muggs too, as did most people. Muggs would obey both Beach and lven as he sat on a bar stool where either of them would put a goodie in front of Muggs and point their finger at the food and say “Now don’t touch that.” The poor dog looked and obeyed. Then when one of his masters would say “You can have that now,” Muggs gulped it down. Muggs was a part of Webb Lake over the years but died sometime after we’d sold the tavern to June Millscott. His remains, at June’s request, were buried between the Cabaret and the off-sale liquor building.
A lovely young lady, a school teacher, Norma Perry from Rice Lake, played piano and sang on off nights at the tavern for a few seasons. She was with “Randy’s Band” the first time she played at Webb Lake. It was for a sunrise dance on July 4th “What a piano player and voice!” Our state senators, Phil Nelson and Bert Connors were frequent callers. They enjoyed Norma’s music immensely. Phil was also an excellent entertainer and would get on the loud speaker and keep people spellbound for hours with his Swedish stories. poems and jokes. He later married Norma and they moved to Washington D.C.
Both Norma and Nan, our pianists, played some evenings for “Sing-a-Longs” at the tavern. They passed out pamphlets containing typewritten words to the old songs. The guests would sing for hours.
It was customary at the Country House to invite talent from the audience to sing, play or act. Someone would get on the loud speaker asking for volunteers to come up on the stage. It was surprising how many would respond. A few knew ahead of time that they were going to be called upon and brought their instruments with them.
Quite often Iven was asked to do his snowshoe dance. After the snowshoes were strapped on his feet, he would jig on the slippery dance floor to the tune of “The Dark Town Strutters Ball.” The audience would yell and clap for him I don’t think anyone else ever tried his act. It was both tricky and risky.
Russell Vogel had a cottage on the Namekagon River. He was another excellent story teller and poet.
Hale Byers, one of Wayne King’s first musicians, was an announcer on WCCO when we first met him. He hardly missed a weekend at Webb Lake during the season and enjoyed telling Mickey Mouse stories.
In the early 1940s, | was called to North Dakota to visit a very ill sister. I changed trains in Minneapolis and had time between trains for a meal. I walked to the Hotel Nicollet coffee shop. It was crowded. I was told by a waiter that a lady sitting at a table would enjoy having me join her. We got along well and upon leaving we exchanged addresses. I didn’t know until sometime later that she was Dr. Charles Mayo Sr.’s daughter Louise from Rochester, Minnesota. I won’t write all the details, but we did keep in touch. I told her how rustic our place was and she seemed all the more interested. After her father passed away. I invited her to come up and get away from it all for a few days. She accepted my invitation and loved it out here in the boonies. We met off and on for a year or so until she asked to buy our largest cottage on Des Moines Lake. We gladly sold her the best we had, furnished for $2,500.00. Just the name Mayo brought folks in to see and meet her. She was a delightful person who especially liked meeting people, fishing and hunting and occasionally some fun at the bar. She put her name on one bar stool and her husband’s Red, on another. They claimed them whenever they dropped in, She never needed to buy a drink, the bartenders were given instructions to set out a bottle of “Three Star Hennessy,” her favorite, and let her pour her own. She added so much to our area as a whole, She invited some outstanding guests to Webb Lake from Rochester including Julius Estes and wife, Dr O’Leary and many others. She was also instrumental in bringing the Ed Uhls from Minneapolis to Webb Lake. She wanted them for neighbors on the lake. The Uhls bought a log cottage next to Louise and Red. Mrs. Uhl still lives here during the season.
Doctors from Duluth came to our dances just to meet and visit Louise. Two of her older children worked part-time for us at the resort. She resides in a retirement area in California at this writing.
Two families of Gates from Chicago vacationed with us each year. Charles was with W.G.N Broadcasting Co. and Charles was also fun on the microphone. They all had personality plus, and we loved them.
A few who have read this so far, think I should not omit the following.
A man, l’ll call him John Doe, was a frequent visitor at our bar and one who would, on his own, go behind the bar and start serving drinks, that is until he got caught using his pocket for the till. I ordered him out from behind the bar, never to go back there again. That didn’t stop him from coming though I finally told him I had done everything I knew of to keep him away except threaten him with a gun, and he’d better not come back again.
Lo and behold. one afternoon as I opened the tavern door to check the register who should be sitting on a bar stool, but John Doe. I didn’t go in. I backed out and said “I’ll be back.” I went across the street and got our 22 pistol and returned. As I approached the door, I heard the bartender say “She’s got a gun.” Entering the place, John Doe had disappeared hiding behind the partition. I said, “Where is the Yellow Bellied Son of a Gun” and he called from his hiding place saying. “I’ll go, I’ll go.” l said, “OK, I’ll give you 5 minutes to be on your way.” I went back across the street, and he left. Within a few minutes, I went over to check the register. The folks
along the bar as I came in started singing “Pistol Packing Mama, lay that pistol down.” From then on, for quite some time those who knew about the incident called me Pistol Packing Mama. John Doe didn’t come back. It was fun and exciting for the guests, but I was dead serious. However. the gun wasn’t loaded!!!
Walter Dietz, from Louisville, wanted to see everyone happy at the tavern. He would put $20 bills on each end of the bar and one in the middle when he came in, buying drinks for all present.
Then there was Rum and Lulu from Illinois. He had a stop and go sign made. He watched out the window and when he saw a car coming, he would run out and flash the stop sign. As cars stopped, he would say “Come in and buy a drink and you can go.” It was surprising how many really enjoyed his act, and bought drinks, Most came back, too.
Some of our regular summer visitors started a club, namely “The Ancient and Honorable Order of the Ethiopian Elephants.” The initiation was bad enough and the by-laws were as follows: “Try to vacation at the same time each year Any member not present at the bar every night is subject to a call from any or all members at their cabin, and will be penalized for their absence by giving each caller drinks.”
Some of the original members were Hal Byers, Walter Dietz, Bob and Charles Gates, Doc and Millie Williams, June Millscott, etc.
Dave Neukom was fun and a clown in those days. He would stand on his head for his friends and they would clap for him. Dave also made and sold fish baits. Conrad Kaaresen, who lived on Deer Lake, often brought his accordion and played for guests in our tavern. On dull evenings, Iven would drive over and get him to come over and pep up the place. He often took his accordion when he and Iven went to post dance bills also. His drinks were most always on the house.
A darling young miss from Kankakee, Illinois, Lois Bydalek, always came with her parents and friends on their fishing trips to Webb Lake. When about age 4, she would go up on the bandstand with her starched petticoats and stand out dresses, and swing back and forth to music being played. She later married our son, Pete.
There just didn’t seem any end of things to do in those days. It was Beach Pearson who thought of making tubes float down the Namekagon River. Folks would gather at the tavern with their inner tubes and at a specified time, our big bus or truck would take them to the river, together with a canoe that followed the floaters down with pop and cigarettes aboard. Guests paid $1.00 each for their ride to the river and back, stopping again at the tavern for refreshments and a ride home.
While the CCC camp was operating near Lake 26, a state chemist named Sid Gordon stopped in at our bar. He said he was testing the water in the various lakes. I recall him saying that Fairy Lake had the softest water in our area. He also said Des Moines Lake would grow fish twice as large as other nearby lakes in a years time. It was that finding that prompted a $50,000 Federal project on Des Moines Lake that following winter. They put in sand boxes for the bass to spawn in and brush tangles all over the lake for fish to hide. Officers and men from the camp were frequent callers to the Country House, especially on dance nights.
Sid Gordon wrote the feature story for a magazine later. On the cover was a picture of our son, Pete, and the article written was “Pete and the Indian Head Country.”
When some celebrity or such sat down al a table in the tavern, the waitress was instructed to set out a full bottle of booze, glasses, ice, etc. and often a tray of snacks was brought over from the resort kitchen for them. The charges, as they were leaving, were figured by the bartenders, depending on how much booze was left in the bottle.
There were several real large parties at Webb Lake back then. One such affair was after the Progressive Party in Wisconsin lost to the Republicans. Believe It or not, we served the state dinner in our dining room, also putting a long table in the store to seat them all. It was fun even though we forgot to get the frozen ice cream elephants and U.S. flags out of the freezer in time to be eaten for dessert. Ed Omernick took care of that by telling the guests he would give a talk in between dinner and dessert. Bless him. Of course, the bar was busy before and after the meal.
One of our most memorable parties at the Cabaret was on our 50th Wedding Anniversary. Bill Jensen owned the place at that time. Friends and relatives came from as far away as Florida. Free beer flowed throughout the day and evening. A lovely program was put on by some talented relatives and “Nan” from Minong played the piano. Lawrence Johnson hired an orchestra for dancing that evening.
There were several other Johnson parties, the last being on Iven’s 80th birthday in 1978. We entertained the Spooner Chamber of Commerce once also in our dining room. Most stayed for the dance afterward.
Those were happy days and our businesses grew and grew. Where we once had to syphon gas from a barrel into a one gallon can, funneling it into cars, we now had electric pumps. We had a small barber shop, a beauty shop and a telephone company, these with the store, post office, cottages, bar and meals kept us occupied. Our hired help were super or we would never have made it. My sister, Vivian, our children, Louise and Chares Hanson, Matte Yanda, Agnes Roach to name a few. Then on top of our own business, we tried to be good citizens. Iven was a member of the school board for years. I was town clerk for ten years and taught at the Webb Lake Consolidated School for one term. We were both deputy sheriffs and I was selected Chairwoman for the Burnett County Republican party for a few years. We also dealt in real estate.
The Kilkare Lodge burned down and is now Voyager Village. Five Lakes Club broke up and one of our old guests, Fred Dhein, bought that place. Good help was hard to come by following the war and we needed about sixteen dedicated workers to run our establishment. It was at this time, about 1953 or 1954 that we decided to sell some of our holdings. The first to be sold with the exception of a few cottages was the Country House. A guest of ours, June Millscott, along with a “chef” friends of hers, Adolph Heitmann bought it. We turned the food business over to them. They added a kitchen on the Northwest end and the meals Adolph put our were super One specialty of his was his “White House Sandwich.” He sold his half to June at the end of the first season. June continued to operate the place for a few years.
June Millscott then sold to Francis Dooley, a young man who had worked as a bartender at the Country House. He and his father, Jack Dooley ran the place for a time, selling to Bill Jensen and wife, Carol. Bill had had experience in the business while working for his parents who owned Riverside Resort, north of Danbury. They had cabins, a bar and a dining room. The Country House name was then changed to the Cabaret when Bill took over. It was soon zooming again like old times. The Jensens were hard workers and good managers. They had Happy Hour each evening, smorgasbord on Sundays and the crowds came. Bill also had interests in Bayfield and it wasn’t long before he had to make a decision which place to keep. He decided to sell the Cabaret to a young couple by the name of Smith from Minong. After the first season, they wanted out, and it was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Lindemann. The place soon took on a look of elegance again as they restored the inside of the building to its original state. They cleaned up the place making it inviting. The food and drinks are excellent. The dancing still goes on during the season and crowds come. We, the original owners can only wish them the best of luck.
Special thanks to Gen Johnson for her time and effort in compiling this book.