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Spending Childhood Summer Days At Cheney’s Point

CHENEY’S POINT — On Chautauqua Lake between Stow and Ashville is a bay where the waters are generally calmer than elsewhere.

Cottages face east, so the sun rises each morning from across the lake and sets each evening behind them.

The view includes much of the lake’s southern basin.

This is a place called Cheney’s Point.

Those who spent summers here in decades past recall the 10 p.m. flares each fourth of July.

As fun and impressive as they’ve always been, Independence Day was much like other summer days.

Whatever chill occasionally remained from clear nights usually dissipated quickly as the sun climbed into the morning sky.

Gentle breezes substituted for air conditioning that nobody — or almost nobody — had.

These were years when herbicides kept lake weeds in check. After those herbicides were applied, swimmers needed to stay out of the water for a week or so. Yes, the task of controlling weeds was approached differently then than in some subsequent years.

By Independence Day though, the time for staying out of the water had passed, and the lake was ready to be enjoyed again.

Not much of any sunny day lapsed before grandchildren in swimming suits headed for a particular dock.

Along the way they passed a tree with a bracket holding their grandparents’ 48 star flag. No new flag was acquired after states numbered 50.

Water that was still cool on Memorial Day had warmed up considerably. It was even warmer from mid-July through Labor Day, the day of the annual blueberry-pancake breakfast hosted by neighbors Carl and Helen Swanson, and their daughters, Pat and Sandy.

So the deeper one moved into the summer months, the more conducive the water was to swimming, jumping, and diving, plus all that children can come up with to take advantage of summer days. Including badly cutting one’s knee on the road or one’s foot in the lake, which a grandson did.

If the afternoon was a weekend afternoon, the day may also have included time on a boat.

And after a grandson received a small rowboat for his ninth birthday – his favorite birthday present – he could take it along all the docks, and on some days all the way to the point.

The always-worn life preserver never proved necessary, but one day it almost was. Waves that could have overpowered the rowboat seemed to come from nowhere. But the grandson followed what he had read in his Cub Scout book, turned the boat into the waves, and rode them out.

After summer dinners – usually outside – it was time to dig up worms and stand on the end of the dock to try to catch perch, sunfish, or an occasional bass. When the evening was finished, the fish went back into the lake.

If grandchildren were lucky, they spent the night with their grandparents.

When grandchildren stayed at the grandparents’ house, on James Avenue in Jamestown, the next day was spent playing at the house, playing canasta with their grandmother, rolling snowballs down the driveway, romping through a woods called the One Hundred Acre Lot, or walking across the street to the former municipal golf course to hit golf balls or have a picnic.

Yet when grandchildren stayed at the lake, the lake activities started all over again the next morning.

And it was on the front porch of the grandparents’ cottage at Cheney’s Point where a song was first taught to grandchildren by their grandfather who had emigrated from Sweden at age 6.

The song — in the original language — later became the hymn of the day at a grandson’s wedding, coincidentally on the grandfather’s birthday.

Randy Elf’s paternal grandparents had a cottage at Cheney’s Point, on Chautauqua Lake, for than 40 years.

Copyright 2020 by Randy Elf

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