The Way it Was: Memories of family's summer cottage at Brady Lake

by John Straka Published:

Brady Lake is between Kent and Ravenna. It's supposed to be called Brady's Lake because a long time ago a man named Brady was being chased by Native Americans. He escaped capture by hiding in the lake and breathing through a hollow reed.

In the 1930s there was an amusement park and many cottages on the shore. A cousin of mine owned one which had a sign with gold letters proclaiming "Just A Mere" cottage.

I have photos of our family vacationing there from 1934 to 1938. I was 16 in 1934 and my classmate and close friend Leonard and I spent many hours exploring in and around the lake and amusement park.

We got a good deal renting a boat during the week -- something like five days for $1. First thing in the morning the lake would be flat as a mirror and the boat left a trail with marks on both sides where the oars dipped into the water.

One time I had rolled up my pant legs to keep my pants dry and the resulting sunburn on my legs kept me awake all night.

Another time I spent hours making a viewer that would work like a reverse periscope. It would reduce reflections the way a glass bottomed boat does and would let us see the bottom of the lake. It didn't work.

Photos of the cottage show a screened porch. I suppose some of us slept there. I think I slept upstairs, although phots don't show a second floor. I don't recall any indoor or outdoor plumbing, although cousin Jimmy said there was an outhouse. I don't remember electric lights.

We got drinking water from a well halfway down the hill and had to be careful when priming the creaking pump so as not to make noise that would wake people who were still asleep in the early morning hours.

One night the banging of a nearby screen door kept me awake. I couldn't figure out why anyone would be going in and out so often and making all that noise. The next morning, I found a pile of empty .22 caliber cartridge cases nearby. The noise wasn't a screen door, but a target rifle.

Since we were residents we had free access to the amusement park, even when the park was not open to the public.

I recall watching a man service the machines in the penny arcade. One of the games of skill was a kind of vertical pinball machine using pennies instead of steel balls. Coins that missed the slot fell into bins at the bottom.

When a coin went into one of the slots, it allowed the player to open a bin and collect its pennies. When I saw the inside of the device I found that not all the pennies fell into the bins. Some landed in a wooden cheese box and that was the owner's profit.

The amusement park wasn't very big and all I remember is a few rides and that penny arcade. It was the first away-from-home vacation for my family and my first experience with a lake resort surrounded by summer cottages.

Those cottages were built like garages with four walls and a roof. I'm pretty sure the inside was one room and I do not recall any furniture except a table and chairs for eating and cots for sleeping. The cottages were not used in winter.

Years later, my sister and her husband went to see where she spent summer vacations with her girlfriends when she was much younger. They found the cottage abandoned and falling apart.

They retrieved the brown and gold "Just A Mere" sign, took it home, cleaned it up and hung it in their rec room, where it stayed for decades. After they died, I inherited it and put it on the wall in my garage. Eventually, I gave the sign to cousin Jimmy's son to give to one of his children, who wanted to mount it on her cottage near Chippewa Lake.

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