Saturday’s Pick: Lake of the Ozarks Back in The Day

Have You Ever Spent Your Summer Vacation at Lake of the Ozarks?

The Lake of the Ozarks was a destination for this kid from Iowa.
Have you ever been to the Lake of the Ozarks and Bagnell Dam?

Mother grew up in Missour-a (get it right!). That’s why a trip to the Lake of the Ozarks to stay at the Arrowhead Lodge was a given when I was a kid.

Since the interstate highways didn’t exist back then, the drive to the resort seemed rather like a trip to the moon. It was a hair-raising trip, especially the winding roads through the Ozark hills. My father’s cigar smoke filled the flashy car he drove as he swung through every curve. My stomach still remembers the drive.

Geist paints a picture of life back when we were growing up that is a perfect description of the boys of the times. From the drive across the top of Bagnell Dam to the first drinking binge, his nostalgic view of what it was like to be a kid in vacationland is perfect.

We were like all the vacationers who visited the Lodge. We begged Mom to pick up an official Lake of the Ozarks shot glass. Later, we insisted on miniature license plates with our names stamped on them. We delighted in playing Hillbilly golf and putting corncob pipes in our mouths, pretending to smoke. Who can forget the rubber tomahawks and fireworks that were plentiful at the lake gift shops?

Party Time

Geist describes the Pow-Wow-Pub downstairs in the Lodge. Now I know where our father wandered off to drink in the evenings.

The author describes perfectly the nonconforming misfits, rebels, eccentric renegades, and one-of-a-kind people who inhabited the lodge and bar back then. I was so in love with the place that I convinced my husband to go there on our honeymoon. It wasn’t quite the same! We did, however, see the mermaids perform in a vast aquarium that Geist describes in his book.

I was a kid from Iowa, listening to the Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ USA,” and life couldn’t have been more perfect back then.

I’ll always wonder now if we were there while Bill was working at the Lodge. What I do know for sure, is that my father was a man like Geist’s uncle who owned the place. These men were bigger than life, partied hard, drank far too much, and drove flashy fast cars. Experiences were different back then. But if you witnessed the shotgun holes in the signs leading up to the Lake of the Ozarks, you owe yourself this fast read.

A Warning

Just remember if you want to go there today, in Missour-a, you don’t talk politics or religion, and you’d better be a Cardinal fan like my grandma.

Osage Beach Satellite View at Lake of the Ozarks

About the Author

William Geist was born in Champaign, Illinois. He served his country in Vietnam. Bill graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and continued to graduate with an MA in Communications from the University of Missouri in 1971. Upon graduation, he worked for the Chicago Tribune’s Suburban Trib subsidiary as both a reporter and columnist until 1980.

Bill Geist was a New York Times Columnist before joining CBS as a correspondent in 1987 and contributed to the CBS Evening News, 60 Minutes II, and CBS Sunday Morning. He retired in 2018, and how spends his time enjoying life with his wife, Jody, and his children (Willie and Libby) and four grandchildren (Lucie, George, Russell, and Billy). They live in Riverside, Connecticut.

Geist is a best-selling author of several books during his career:

  • Toward a Safe & Sane Halloween & Other Tales of Suburbia (1985)
  • The Zucchini Plague and Other Tales of Suburbia (1987)
  • City Slickers (1990)
  • Little League Confidential: One Coach’s Completely Unauthorized Tale of Survival (1992)
  • Monster Trucks and Hair in a Can: Who Says America Doesn’t Make Anything Anymore? (1994)
  • The Big Five-Oh: Facing, Fearing, and Fighting Fifty (1997)
  • FORE! PLAY: The Last American Male Takes Up Golf (2001)
  • Way Off the Road: Discovering the Peculiar Charms of Small Town America (2007)
  • Lake of the Ozarks: My Surreal Summers in a Vanishing America (2019)

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