‘Gosh. Illinois’ largest lake has been around for 50 years’
Now before you Whippersnappers out there start in with “Hey, isn’t Lake Michigan Illinois’ largest lake?” Or even “What’s so all-fired old about 50 years? There are lakes (see afore-mentioned Lake Michigan) that have been around for, like, a zillion years,” let me point out that Carlyle Lake (or if you’re feeling fancy “Lake Carlyle”) is the largest lake within the borders of Illinois, and that it’s a man-made lake that’s been around since 1967. So there.
This picture from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch shows the Carlyle Lake dam and spillway in all its glory. Nice stats, too, if that floats your boat
Carlyle Lake is also the only lake named after my personal home town, Carlyle, Illinois. But I’m not going to get into Fun Lake Facts. My mission here is to entertain. And so, actually, was (and is) the Lake’s. Oh, there was some serious flood-control going on. But for my family and friends, The Lake was really all about fun and games.
Oops. There was in fact some serious Lakley stuff linked to us. Our Dad was one of the visionaries who made said Lake happen. I won’t go into details, but if you’re interested, you can click here for the full story featured in the fuzzy old news page below (which my newsman Oldest Younger Brother Scott dug up). Or click here for the Wikipedia entry on The Lake.
That’s my Dad, Dale Henry, smack-dab in the middle in that group of super-grainy news photos
Anyway. Back to fun and games. Speaking of ‘floating your boat’, one of the first things my Dad did (after doing his bit to make the Lake exist) was to buy a houseboat. Bet you five bucks you can’t come up with a name as good as his: Sir Launch-A-Lot. This shot of Sir Launch is of the back, so you can’t see the nameplate. But, trust me, it was there, proudly displayed front and center.
Yup. Here it is. Boy, if those pontoons could talk
Now, I have bittersweet memories of Sir Launch-A-Lot — and The Lake itself, for that matter. See, I was a tad long in the tooth when the Lake became a reality. I was actually in high school when it was dedicated, um, fifty years ago. (Stop doing math, this instant!) Which means that I didn’t get to spend Golden Years of Youth frolicking on the Lake and/or in the houseboat like my younger siblings.
The title of this piece, in fact, is something my Youngest Brother Doug used to say practically every summer day to our mother: “Yet’s go to ye Yake!” (Translation: “Let’s go to the Lake!“) He was there so much that the Yake was the inspiration for his Man-to-Man Talk from our Dad. Doug (upon seeing male mallards, um, ‘courting’ the females by biting their necks and, double um, hopping onto their backs): “Daddy! Those ducks are hurting those other ducks. Make them stop!!!” Dad (buying time): “No, son. They’re just playing.” Nice try, Dad.
Youngest Younger Brother Doug (middle) enjoying poker and brews on Sir Launch-A-Lot with (left) Best Bro-in-Law Dave and (right) The Dude. I’m pretty sure Doug knew about the ducks and the bees by this point
Yes, I may have missed Childhood on The Lake, but I got my share of Young Adulthood Fun whenever I visited my fam back in the Midwest. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Southern Illinois and its climate, but I can assure you that it’s hot and sticky as all get-out there in the summer. Why, I can remember the metal handle of the fridge being hot to the touch. But we kids didn’t mind so much. We of the pre-Lake Generation just hopped on our bikes and rode to the public swimming pool. A frozen Milky Way savored on the ride home helped a lot, too. (If you’re interested in how we Midwestern Millennials, Last Century Version, spent our summers, see “Remembrance of Watermelons Past“. We had a heck of a lot of sweaty fun.)
So. Because it was so all-fired hot, I spent a goodly amount of time on that boat when I visited my parents. Why, sometimes we didn’t even take the boat out of the dock. I remember spending long afternoons lying on its roof leafing through my Mom’s women’s magazines (Ladies’ Home Journal, Redbook, Woman’s Day, and the like) which invariably featured a luscious photo of some fabulous dessert on the cover next to a headline that said something like “Melt Away 10 pounds in time for Swimsuit Season!”
That’s me, cooling off during Swimsuit Season when I was, oh, 25 or so. I know, I know, that water looks brown. It was, kinda (it was river water, you see). But it was indeed refreshing on a 90-plus-degree day
I need to wrap this up, partly because the house where I’m writing this is about as air-conditioned as the house in Southern Illinois where I grew up (which is not at all), and it’s getting hot here. Also, there’s so much about our houseboat and the Lake in our family history I can’t begin to tell it all. Like, there was the time we rocked our Dad’s huge video camera back and forth and filmed ourselves almost sinking in a ‘storm’. And the time the barbecue grill slipped off the back and sank when my Dad mistakenly put the Sir L-A-L into reverse and bonked into the dock. And the many times we watched Fourth of July fireworks from up top. And the time a big ole bare foot was imprinted into a cake my Mom was going to serve. And the time one of my brothers ran full tilt into the glass sliding door.
G-Rated goings-on featuring Nobody-Doesn’t-Like-Jenn and Middle Younger Brother Roger
And I’m sure my brothers and sister have many memories of floating hijinks with their friends aboard, details of which I, but more importantly our parents, are blissfully unaware.
Yes, the Lake is now officially 50 years old. There was an anniversary dedication ceremony just this last weekend, to which my family was invited, my Dad being a big figure in its development and all. But alas, nobody in our family lives there anymore, so we passed. Not sure if the Governor showed up, or even his lieutenant. Though someone told me Dad’s name was mentioned. Which is nice.
And Sir Launch-A-Lot? When my parents relocated to the Oregon Coast, they sold — or maybe even gave — the houseboat to friends. Who continued to enjoy it, like we did, for many watery years.
That’s The Dude and The Child, jumping from the top of Sir Launch-A-Lot into the sunset — and Lake Carlyle
Amagansett, New York. June 2017