The Clubhouse at Big Lake

August 13, 2010

Of the buildings at the Big Lake site, the Clubhouse was the largest and most interesting.  The two-story, with walk-up, unfinished attic, served as the sleeping quarters for those who would stay at Big Lake, most often during duck hunting season.

The largest portion of the main floor consisted of a sitting room with a huge fireplace as the primary focal point.  Large maps of the area decorated the walls, as well as humorous, vintage hunting illustrations advising hunters to practice safe acts of hunting at all times.

The majority of sleeping rooms were located on the second floor of the structure.  Because the large building would remain quite cold during the hunting months, each bed came with an electric blanket and each room with a floor heater.  Because the building remained mostly empty during the majority of the year, the odor of the rooms would be familiar to any child sent away for summer camp.

Below is a photograph of the Clubhouse as it was when a person would travel down the Big Lake entrance road.  The square building on the right was added for a place for hunters to remove and store their hunting gear and muddy boots.

In this room, a large, hand-made, wooden device existed to help hunters remove their boots without forcing them to bend over.  At one point the device came up missing and after the Monte Ellis family moved from the Big Lake site in 1975, one of the Big Lake owners came to their house and demanded the return of the boot remover.  Monte explained he did not have the device, nor would he have taken it.  The owner did not believe him and accused him of being a thief.  While Monte did not take the boot remover, he knew who did and never told who was responsible (the person was not an Ellis).

The Clubhouse rested against the side of a raised portion of land and was built upon concrete pilings.  Bats would roost beneath the structure in the back where the building met the raised dirt.  Swallows also built nests beneath the building.  Often,  Monte’s son Eric and other children would disturb the bats enough to be chased out from beneath the building.

Above is a photograph of the Clubhouse during a receding flood.  Prior to winter time flooding threats, Monte and others lashed together a protective system of barrels to prevent the Big Lake Clubhouse from being damaged by ice.

For some time, Monte’s art studio was located within the main house at Big Lake.  After a time, Monte received permission from the owners of Big Lake to move his studio to a room within the Clubhouse.

When the Monte Ellis Family children were young, often times when dinner  was ready, one of them would be required to fetch Monte from his studio.  While the sidewalk to the Clubhouse was illuminated with pole lights and the trek not too far, for small children, when it was dark, it still could be creepy.  Especially when the child that did not leave the main house would turn the lights off on the other one making the mad dash to the Clubhouse.

The Clubhouse also served another function for Monte and Sharyl.  When they were a younger, volatile, married couple, from time to time, arguments would result in Monte’s banishment to the Clubhouse for residence.

Above is a photograph of the Clubhouse during one of the many floods.  More will be posted later about the flooding of the Big Lake site.  The above photograph is posted to illustrate one way Monte tried to “dress up” the Big Lake Clubhouse.  At the right front of the picture, a Mallard Drake and Mallard Hen pair of decoys can be seen affixed to the outside of the Clubhouse.  Monte painted these decoys and drilled holes in their sides for nesting wrens.

The Big Lake Clubhouse was damaged beyond repair by ice and water in 1979 and replaced with a non-descriptive steel building.

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