My great grandfather was a college professor. An extremely successful local businessman was unhappy with his sons’ performance in college, and hired my great grandfather to tutor the sons during the summers. He and his family spent their summers in a primitive camp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, on an island, and so my great grandfather had to do so as well.
In 1909 he had locals build a log cabin on a nearby island, which the family used for bad weather shelter and to store supplies over the winter. The family built tent platforms and stayed in tents all summer long, and built two outhouses, which served the camp for nearly 100 years. They named the place Camp Llywelyn, for their Welsh ancestor.
There were no improvements to the camp until my Grandmother brought up her fiancé. It has always been family tradition to bring intended spouses up for a ‘trial run’, so to speak. If they didn’t like the place, the marriage was ill advised. Grandfather loved it, and to prove his worth, installed a hand pump from the lake to provide cooking and cleaning water without having to carry it up in buckets.
After they married, he started building cabins atop the old tent platforms, and all but one remains to this day.
He also built a large, covered porch and a kitchen onto the camps original cabin. There is still a large rock in that kitchen, which I used to love to sit on while watching my mom cook. He had tried to dig it out, but the deeper he dug, the bigger it got, so he finally gave up and poured the cement floor right around it. He had to remove one leg from the wood burning cook stove and prop that corner on the rock.
That wood burner was fantastic! It kept the kitchen wonderfully warm, and even had shelving built above the cooking surface that managed to keep breakfast cereals perfectly dry on that extremely humid Island. Mom cried her eyes out the day the firebox fell through as she put the morning wood into it.
By that time the camp was no longer referred to as Camp Llywelyn, because Grandmother preferred the idea that our ancestor had been French instead of Welsh. One published book even claimed that he couldn’t have been Welsh because the Welsh were not sea farers… Which, if you know anything about Welsh history, is ludicrous. So it was simply called by the current family name.
My father had refused to do any upgrading besides the occasional re-roofing until the cabin my family slept in was in such bad shape that I told him I wasn’t going to be going there every summer anymore – my allergies couldn’t take it. Hundreds of bats were living in it while we weren’t there, and we couldn’t do anything about it because there was no glass in the windows to stop them, and ancient wooden shutters couldn’t keep them out.
The very next time I saw Dad, he plopped two books of small home plans in front of me, and said “Pick one.” He preferred the least expensive one, with one bathroom, while I preferred the second least expensive one, with two bathrooms. Considering we had my husband and I, our two children and my parents who were both in their 70’s, it didn’t take too much to convince him that two bathrooms would be wise.
And so we actually built a house! Everyone else in the bay was in shock, as we were generally considered to be of extremely modest means. Many theories made the rounds, but my favorite involved one of Dad’s odd habits. He never threw out old nails, he always straightened them for re-use. In fact at one time a good friend stopped by while Dad was re-building the porch floor. Dad was of course using old, straightened nails and the friend slammed down a box if brand new nails in front of him and said, “For God’s sake, use these!” So the joke was that maybe Dad had saved so much money by reusing old nails that that’s how he afforded to build the place.
And so Bent Nail Lodge was born.
I keep meaning to make a sign for the place using bent, rusty old spikes, but haven’t managed it yet.