Our Arrival

©copyright 2015 Glyn (Bud) Roberts

June of 1944 is significant for me because it was the time my parents, Glyn and Marie Roberts and I first arrived to purchase Blue Island Resort from its owner, Mrs. Elizabeth Dertz of Blue Island, Illinois

In 1944 our country was deeply involved in World War II accompanied by material shortages and rationing.  The word ‘primitive’ comes to mind when describing the condition and operation of the resort, its cottages, boats and serv ices. 

This was not unique to this resort, alone, because many other resorts and related businesses were subject to the effects of gasoline and tire rationing, as well.

There were numerous signs of how World War II delayed the modernization of the rural North.  As an example, Oneida County Trunk Highway “J” was extremely crooked and unpaved.  Until 1949, Blue Island road’s surface remained unpaved, sand and gravel until 1958.

Telephone service arrived in 1954 just four years after the installation of electric lines installed by Wisconsin Public Service.  It was all due to the lack of steel and copper that was consumed by wartime needs.

Electric current, prior to 1950, was supplied to the resort nightly between 7:00 PM and 11:00 PM by a four cylinder gasoline powered 1500 watt Kohler direct current light plant.  Eight cottages and the main lodge depended upon kerosene lamps for light during the time that the light plant was dormant.

Rationed gasoline for the light plant limited its operation to four hours daily.  Cooking in the lodge and eight cottages was done on three burner propane gas plates.

Each cottage and the lodge had an icebox to keep food cold.  The ice source was the log ice and boathouse structure.  During the previous January three hundred blocks of ice had been harvested on the frozen surface of Big Arbor Vitae Lake and stacked in the ice house.

A two foot wide space surrounded the huge ice mass and was filled with sawdust to insulate the area between the ice and the outer wall.

Powdery snow was swept in to any crevices remaining between the blocks.  Additional sawdust from a back storage area was shoveled on to the top tier of ice for added insulation.

The individual ice blocks measuring sixteen inches wide, thirty-two inches long and varying thicknesses of twenty to twenty-four inches made up a full icehouse that was intended to last from the opening day of fishing season until late October.

In the late fall any remaining ice had to be removed and the dirt floor raked level in preparation for refilling in January.

My mother and I managed the resort the first summer.  My dad, as a machinist doing critical naval contract work, returned to Kenosha and was only able to return to the resort a few times and again in the fall to close up.

The next two summers my dad was able to be with us.  The first three winters were spent in Kenosha while I completed high school and my dad worked at the machinist trade.

In April of 1947 our family of three moved permanently to the resort.  It would be three more years until highline electricity would reach us and seven more years before our party line telephone would be installed.

Adjusting to life in the Northwoods was not difficult for our family because we had done a lot of tent camping.  As former city folks having all of the amenities of urban living, we adapted readily to the rustic life style.

The beauty and wonders of nature soon helped to overcome the loss of the conveniences and comforts of city life.

Becoming business owners of a resort held a variety of surprises and challenges including some that required learning how to do new tasks. 

The guests were already occupying every cottage and most had been reserved as much as a year previously.  The guests were an interesting lot.  The guest registration book included small business owners, farmers, brewery workers, milk delivery drivers, pastors, and the list goes on.