MOBERLY, Mo. — There’s a correction to part of last week’s story. Gerald Browning called after reading about Lakewood Park in Tuesday’s Monitor-Index. Gerald said he was involved with the starting of White Oak Christian Camp back in the 1980s. He recognized that the White Oak Camp Lake label on Google Earth is incorrect. The camp lake is much smaller — it’s located slightly north of the camp.
That put a big fat question mark on the three-acre lake. It was referred to as Miller’s Lake in a 1900 newspaper clipping. It was still called Miller’s Lake in 1923, when the amusement park opened. It may have been known as Paradise Lake mid-century, and some research shows it as Twin Lakes in 1985, which seems appropriate based on the satellite photo.
Feeling totally confused, I made a quick trip to the new Randolph County Courthouse in Huntsville and had a great visit with Mark Price and his staff in the County Recorder’s Office. He introduced me to the GIS mapping feature on County Assessor Richard Tregnago’s website. It’s a fabulous research tool. When you use it, you will feel like you’re sailing above the earth in a drone!
From the GIS mapping, we learned that old Miller’s Lake is now privately owned, and it stands to reason that the new owner may have given it yet another name.
There’s a lake in Africa that has about a dozen names in a dozen different languages. It has become known as Lake of Many Names just to keep things neutral among the tribes. Maybe that would be a good choice for this once-famous lake in Randolph County!
News stories about Lakewood Park vanished after the 1924 season. Further research showed it was under new management in 1925 and that Billy Goetze’s Hollywood Orchestra did not return for the third season. There was no further mention of the airdome, the swimming beach or the merry-go-round. There were several small ads promoting bands like Red Jones and His 6-Piece Orchestra from Kirksville or Thiehoff’s 6-Piece Orchestra from Brookfield. Dance bands were booked from many places throughout the state, including Hannibal and Sedalia.
Lakewood Park had opened in 1923 in the early days of Prohibition. As discussed a few months ago in this column, “Prohibition in the United States was a nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation and sale of alcoholic beverages that remained in place from 1920 to 1933. But prohibition did not ban alcohol consumption, and many Americans found legal and not-so-legal ways to carry on drinking. The speakeasy was born, organized crime moved in and alcohol became big business.”
Indoor dance halls and outdoor dance pavilions were springing up like mushrooms after the rain. The Moberly competition was intense with places like, Joyland, Harris Springs, Merchants Hotel, Randolph Springs, Lyric Hall, Moose Hall and Hellensmith’s Dance Pavilion. Business at Lakewood Park was declining rapidly, and they began to rent to private parties.
One of those private parties honored my great-uncle and his family who lived in Anthony, Kansas. A Monitor-Index clipping from July 2, 1930, reported, “Mr. and Mrs. T. M. 'Mart' Yager and daughter Mary Jean, and Miss Mary Yager, all of Anthony, Kansas, were honored guests Monday night at a dance given for a number of friends at Lakewood Park by Mrs. W. S. (Lucille) Christian.”
Ironically, Lucille’s son, Kenny Christian, stopped by my office to visit today. According to Ancestry, Kenny and I are “2nd cousins 1x removed.” He will be 93 years old in August and is the oldest World War II veteran in Randolph County.
Kenny remembered fishing in “Lake of Many Names” in his youth. I have no recollection of ever meeting Kenny prior to today. It just proves the old adage, “Family — like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.”
Mr. Terrill was struggling with the Lakewood Park operation and had been trying for about one year to lease it or sell it to others. But the problem was solved when a fire of “undetermined origin” destroyed the dance resort on July 26, 1930. The newspaper article stated, “Lakewood Park, several years ago one of the most popular dance resorts in north central Missouri but lately used only for private parties and square dances, was completely destroyed by fire about 1 o’clock last night. The dance floor itself, the concession stand with all its contents, and a number of trees in the immediate vicinity of the pavilion were burned. Some insurance was carried on the structures, but it will not be enough to cover the loss.”
In April of 1931, it was announced that Lakewood Park had been purchased for use as a Boy Scout camp. It became Camp Winnetka and was used by the Boy Scouts until 1947. That’s when it was purchased by William C. Orscheln and Cleveland H. Longnecker.
It then became Paradise Park, where hundreds of picnics and fish frys took place over the next three decades. In 1984, Mrs. Lucille Orscheln sold the property to the present owner.