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Back of Beyond: A Memoir from the North Woods Chapter 5


Jean stood up in the aft of a white row boat pulling hard on the starter rope of the one and a half horse Johnson outboard motor. The rest of the boat was filled with laughing, shrieking kids who urged Jean to hurry. It was 10:00am on a beautiful warm July day. It was a known rule that only four people could be in a boat at the Buena Vista Resort. The kids were in violation of that rule.

“Hurry before she sees us,” Anna Marie said excitedly. “Get us out of here!”

All the kids were wearing swimming suits. Their intent was to take a leisurely ride around a nearby island. Up on the hill away from the dock a screen door slammed. There was a flash of bright colored clothing. A stern voice yelled out.

“You kids get out of that boat this instant,” Aunt Mary hollered.

Aunt Mary, Father’s sister was barely five feet tall. She wore granny glasses and was dressed in a blue and white flowered housedress. Over the dress she wore a crisply starched white apron. Her mouth was set sternly. Her arms flapped in the air. Her short legs moved quickly and anchored her body to the ground with sturdy black low heeled shoes. She hurried downhill towards the dock. She was hopping mad! Reaching the dock, she was out of breath. She put her hands on her hips as she addressed the boat load of kids.

“No swimming for any of you kids this afternoon. Now get out of that boat!”

The crew grumbled before slowly abandoning ship. Silently they trudged up the hill towards the resort’s store. The store was a haven for the kids, a place to play Monopoly or Royal Rummy on rainy days. When the resort first opened Mother had stocked the shelves of the store with groceries. Now, only pop and candy remained on the shelves for purchase.

Revenge. What to do?

The kids continued to ponder their situation:

“Boy, she sure is mean! She isn’t fair. We weren’t doing anything. Just you wait!”

The disgruntled group sat around the store perched on the counters, chairs or whatever was handy in the room. Anna Marie, one of the youngest in the group listened thoughtfully. She was thinking.

If only Mother were here.

Mother was at home in Duluth running a daycare center for working mothers. It was during World War II and the women were needed in the shipyards of Duluth and Superior or at other jobs vacated by men who left for the military. Aunt Mary agreed to run the resort in Mother’s absence during the week when Father was away. And that she did with a firm, but loving hand.

The morning flew by.

“Let’s all meet back here at one,” Jean suggested.

She had a date that evening and knew that it would likely end up being cancelled by Aunt Mary unless they could change the woman’s mind. Someone suggested that they plan a revolt for 3:00pm. Posters were quickly made out of pieces of cardboard.

Down with Aunt Mary. Heil Hitler!

Some of the kids ran up and down the trails between the cabins hanging posters on light posts and trees. A few ran back to their cabins for tin pans, covers and wooden spoons. All of a sudden the War with Germany seemed more real. The kids had seen newsreels at the movies of ranks of German soldiers goose-stepping. Newspaper and radio accounts of the war filled in the details. Pots became helmets. A large upside down kettle became a drum. Wooden spoons became drumsticks. One of the guests contributed an air raid siren. The guest was an air warden back home in Indiana and carried the siren and helmet on vacation just in case of a sneak attack. The siren would be the loudest noise maker! Alarm clocks were tucked under the marchers’ arms and set for 3:00pm.

“OK. Let’s go. Get in line, now! Hup, two, three, four. Hup, two, three, four. Hup, two, three, four.”

Jean led the group single file as it marched up the trail past Cabin One. The curtains inside the cabin moved and Aunt Mary peeked out. She watched as the kids, goose-stepping and pounding on kettles, pots and pans on their heads, marched past. Duke howled when, simultaneously, the alarms rang and the air raid siren went off. The would-be soldiers marched up the trail to Cabin 4 and back down to the store. The summer breeze caused a sign on the door of the store to flutter. It was a picture of Aunt Mary with a Hitler-style mustache! The kids marched into the store and locked the door, waiting for retaliation. The wait was not long.

Aunt Mary climbed the stairs to the store with determination. Her hands were behind her back, her fists clenched around sand she had picked up.


Aunt Mary threw the sand at the screen door. It flew back in her face striking her glasses. She threw her starched apron over her face so the kids couldn’t see her laughing. Her bright blue eyes filled with tears.

“You darn kids. Now scat and put those pans away!”

Aunt Mary left the stairs. The screen door opened a crack. The kids inside the store feared the worst.

Was she really, really mad?

That evening two car loads of kids from the resort went to the movies in Ely as guests of Aunt Mary. Afterwards she treated them to ice cream cones and yes, Jean was able to keep her date. The kids drove home under a full moon, a soft summer wind blowing. From the back seat of one of the cars someone started singing “Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” What a day it had been: Revenge and a revolt! But love had won the battle; the love of Aunt Mary for Jean, Anna Marie and the resort kids. Tomorrow the signs would come down and the beach would again be filled with all sizes and shapes of sun-tanned bodies. The revolt was over, perhaps to be forgotten. It had been part of a fun-filled carefree summer during a horrific war.

Somewhere there are adults who recall, maybe vaguely the summer day when they marched up and down a forest trail with pots and pans on their heads while beating kettles and pan lids with wooden spoons. Thanks Aunt Mary for your love and laughter.

Timber Wolf  Lodge is honored and excited to share the delightful book “Back Of Beyond” A Memoir from the North Woods. We will be sharing a new story in the blog from time-to-time.

 From Susanne Schuler’s memoir “Back of Beyond”.  Susanne’s family founded Timber Wolf Lodge over 70 years ago and her book recounts her childhood days growing up here.  

You can find her book on Amazon at: 

2017-03-20T18:42:04+00:00December 22nd, 2016|Ely, Minnesota Travel & Tourism, Uncategorized|