Thursday, June 24, 2010

Crooked Lake - Angola, Indiana

- Crooked Lake, Angola, Indiana.

I left Cincinnati after stopping at a Subway sandwich shop in Fairfield and proceeded to verbally argue with the artificial intelligence of my GPS unit as the "#1 Corolla Rager" (aka: My Car) trudged up I-75. The sky's were gray and the rain came and went as I passed through St. Mary's and Van Wert before reaching the firework store border of Indiana. Shortly after, I was in Indiana's second largest city; Fort Wayne. After meeting up with my cousin Jeff, who explored Bush Stadium with me last summer, I got to visit with my aunt, uncle and other cousins. We ended up in downtown Ft. Wayne at an Irish pub sharing good beers and great food while the rain outside came pouring down, preventing us from attending a Ft. Wayne Tincaps game. Despite the game's cancellation and being unable to see the new minor league stadium, a quick tour around the city revealed how vibrant and nice the downtown area is becoming. Downtown Ft. Wayne is kind of like downtown Dayton, but cooler. After spending the night in Ft. Wayne, Jeff and I woke up early to head out to Angola, Indiana, a place that held many childhood memories for us.

My grandparents had formerly lived in a house on the lake that served as a gathering place for our whole extended family in the summers and during the holidays. They passed away in October and December of 2003 and I hadn't been to the lake house since we all helped remove the belongings from it after their passing. Jeff and I decided to go back.

The day started out with the rain pouring down and us looking for the ice cream stand our Grandmother used to take us to. The stand was known for its "Trash Can Sundaes" where they served you ice cream topped with gummy worms in a small, plastic trash can. I still have one of the cans on my desk.

- What used to be the "Trash Can Sundae" place.

Unfortunately the ice cream place had closed some time ago, become a barbeque place and then closed again.

We took a drive around the lake and past my Grandparent's former home. The first place we stopped was Casey's Cove; a gas station we used to pull the boats up to when out tubing or going for a ride on the lake.

- Casey's Cove.

Not much had changed in the years since I can remember being there. There just happened to be an abandoned amusement park in the area (which will be featured in a later update) that we ended up exploring. After the amusement park we went to "the beach."

- The Steuben County, Indiana Crooked Lake Beach.

- When I was younger I thought this was comparable to the beach at the ocean.

As I stood on the beach and breathed in the air from the lake, I could remember all those days Jeff and I had spent tubing, swimming and hanging out up there with family. It was a pretty bittersweet moment. Frequent vacations to Crooked Lake as a kid were always just as fun as those "big vacations" your family saves up for every couple of years.

After driving around the lake a few more times, we decided to stop by the old house and get a picture. I pulled into one of the driveways next door and a neighbor came out asking: "Excuse me, do I know you?" We explained who we were and why we were there, she couldn't have been any more friendly.

She explained to us how much she missed having our grandparents as neighbors and introduced us to the new owners of the house (who were also originally neighbors to my grandparents). Despite being soaked by the rain and covered in mud from the exploring we had done earlier, the new owners invited us in to show us how the house. The first thing they pointed out was a photograph of my grandparents that they still kept in the house.

- A photograph of my grandparents that still remained in the house.

The interior had changed, the walls had been repainted, the deck was redone and the shelf that once held all our toys and an original "Battleship" game had been re-purposed. The new owners had changed the house a lot, but did this is an effort to add more living space for when their family came to visit. Despite the changes, they also use the house as a gathering place for their family, just as my grandparents did. No matter how much of the house's appearance they've changed, what they do for their family more than makes up for it.

My grandfather and I on my third birthday in 1992 on the same red steps seen above:

- The dock in the lake as it appears today.

- The way the dock looked when my cousins Jeff (left), Jeremy (center) and I (right) were fishing off of it in the mid 1990's.

- I once even caught a fish.

We thanked them for letting us see the house and decided to take one last look at Angola. We stopped at "Tom's donuts and dogs" for lunch, a joint donut and hot dog stand.

- 199?

- Inside Tom's Donuts and Dogs.

After leaving the lake we went to "downtown" Angola. The two lane road in and out of town was now a four lane road. The original McDonalds playland was a cell phone store and had been replace by two more McDonalds play places. WalMart, a Menards and a Lowe's all dotted the "skyline" while the center of town was in the processing of receiving new bricks and street scaping. Jeff and I stopped by one of two retro movie theatres in the town square. One we had gone to numerous times when we used to visit.

"You missed the matinee," said the owner as he wiped down the windows outside. "Stopping by tonight for the evening shows?" We explained who we were on our way out and how we used to come there (James Bond: Die Another Day is the last movie I can remember seeing there). According to him, business has been dropping steadily by about 3000 less customers since 2001. He chalked it up to people wanting to stay home with their entertainment systems and large tv's. Hopefully people business starts to look up for this guy.

We hopped in the car and headed back, all in all a good trip that brought back some great memories.

As I mentioned earlier, we came across an abandoned amusement park during our trip. That story is here.

Dedicated to my awesome family and the memory of Doris and Alfred Bushey.


  1. I share a very similar story, separated only by few years and a lake just up the road in Fremont called Clear Lake. Thanks for the memories.

  2. osurickbee, thanks for reading, glad it brought back some memories for you.

  3. Another beautiful story..can't wait to see the park pics-is that a demon twin I see in the background??

  4. Kelli, thanks for checking it out and yes that is a demon twin, Arrow's first working prototype actually. More to come soon.

  5. What a sweet story; a gift you have (telling stories) along with your great eye for photography. I also look forward to your amusement park post.

  6. I recall just about everything that you had written about. My grandparents owned a cottage on this lake and was a part of generations to come. It wasn't until 2000 they sold it. I learned to slalom, we would have 5-6 individuals being pulled at once (2 ski's of course..haha)...The amusement park was one that the family would entertain; it was great. I remember when the blue roller coaster was new and of course. Time flies.... This is bittersweet. You appreciate the time you had and the memories maybe for some wish you could have it back. Thanks for the sharing.

  7. Great post. I have a good friend with a place on Lake Gage, near Crooked Lake. It is God's country up there...great fishing and relaxing.

  8. Thanks for that. I lived in Angola until I was 15, and for about 6 months we lived on Crooked Lake.

  9. 6th picture down is me Jason Betz out in my boat walleye fishing.
    Bought crapped when I come across a picture searching Google of me on someone else clip. Nice write up about crooked lake! Thank you for letting me be apart

  10. 6th picture down is me Jason Betz out in my boat walleye fishing.
    Bought crapped when I come across a picture searching Google of me on someone else clip. Nice write up about crooked lake! Thank you for letting me be apart

    1. What a small world. Thanks for writing in. If I'm ever back up that way, could I swing by and bring you a beer?