Lakeside, Ohio. Those back-to-back names seem too ordinary, too mundane to be considered a desired vacation destination. For our family, though, like thousands of others, that’s exactly what Lakeside, Ohio means.
We have been traveling there every year at least once a year for three decades. To other Lakesiders, that’s chunk change. Families have been returning to the Chautauqua on Lake Erie for generations.
It’s no wonder. Founded in 1873 as a church retreat, Lakeside has become so much more than that. Indeed, its Methodist roots run deep into the thin soil atop the limestone bedrock of Marblehead Peninsula.
Given its founding, religion certainly is one of the four core pillars of the seasonal programming of this summertime magnet. Arts and entertainment, recreation and education are the other pillars that have lured thousands back to Lakeside’s comforting grounds, cottages, eateries and camaraderie year after year.
Our family is one of those. My parents took my brothers, sisters and me to Lakeside only on occasion. We lived many miles away, and with no expressways, it was a time-consuming trip, to say the least. I never forgot the happy memories we shared there. We picnicked under giant shade trees only yards away from the alluring Lake Erie.
But as we grew, left home, formed our own families, Lakeside was forgotten. Then came the summer of 1987. It was the most heart-wrenching three months of my life. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, one tragedy after the other unfolded. While serving on the local rescue squad, I faced first-hand the hurt and hardship, the pain and anguish of too many folks and their kin that I knew.
After the son of a close friend and colleague had been killed in an auto accident, I’d had enough. I desperately needed a reprieve before school began in late August. The peaceful memories of Lakeside flooded my brain.
My wife, son, daughter and I spent an extended, restful, spiritually rewarding weekend lounging in the quietness, enjoying the scenery, the relaxed pace of Lakeside, mini-golf under those even bigger shade trees and sunsets on the dock.
Besides being renewed and refreshed, we were hooked. A summer vacation at Lakeside became a standing reservation. The kids could ride their bicycles freely and safely in the gated community. Activities for all ages abound, even if it was just sitting on a park bench watching the boats sail by. A different program finished off each evening unless we made an ice cream stop on the way back to our quarters.
As the kids grew, our vacations expanded into a full week. When we became empty nesters, Neva and I found a bed & breakfast that we called home for several consecutive summers. Besides relishing the amenities of Lakeside, we made lifetime friends with the other guests.
Ironically, our friendship circles expanded exponentially when that bed & breakfast closed. We found a new summer home just down the street. We’ve been enjoying the sweeping front porch of Maxwell Hospitality House on the corner of Walnut Avenue and Third Street for years now.
To help celebrate retirement, this year we expanded our loving Lakeside to two weeks. We enjoyed friends, dominoes, entertainment, lectures, presentations, strolling, sunsets and, yes, exchanging greetings with strangers, an unwritten Lakeside requirement. The second week, we added shuffleboard and children’s activities since our grandchildren and their parents joined us.
There’s only one Lakeside, Ohio. It’s gratifying to know its goodness and kindness will continue to be appreciated by family members for years to come.