South Haven, Revisited


Summer is in full swing this week.  School is finally out.  I drove up to South Haven to spend time with my favorite kids, Jonah and Eliza, and their parents Karen and Gordon, who were on vacation at the cottage.


Sherman’s is a South Haven institution.  I’d recommend a baby cup or cone, which is the smallest size available but is still huge.  My choice this time was Sherman Tracks, which can be described as a delicious mélange of the finest vanilla ice cream, chocolate fudge, and mini peanut butter cups.


Jonah and Eliza both chose birthday cake ice cream.  Way better than fro-yo, right, kids?


When you’re old enough to stay up till 9:30 PM Eastern Time, you can see this light show every night when you’re in South Haven.


The next day, my parents, Adam, Madi, and Bohbie drove up for the weekend.  Bohbie has been coming here since the 1940s when she was a counselor at Workmen’s Circle, a Yiddish-speaking socialist camp which used to be across the road from the Mt. Pleasant Subdivision.  The way we got our original cottage is kind of funny, Bohbie recalls.  My grandparents had rented a different place each summer for many years.  Several of their friends owned or rented cottages in the subdivision.  Legend has it that one summer in 1969, the owner of the cottage where Bohbie and Zaydeh were staying offered to sell it to them for $2,000.  Even so, they weren’t sure if they wanted to accept the deal, as they had never owned property.  They finally agreed when they learned that the summer’s rent they had already paid could be used as the down payment, and most of the furniture and household items would be included in the sale.

Back in the old days, the entire subdivision was Jewish.  The women and children would stay for the whole summer, and the men would drive up from Chicago on the weekends.  (This was before the expressway was built, so if you ever want to take the scenic “old road,” follow Route 12 to Red Arrow Highway to Blue Star Highway.)  As my mom recalls, when she was a child, they used to walk to Sophie’s store at the entrance to the subdivision to buy milk, use the payphone, or listen to the jukebox.  “It was like out of Happy Days,” my mom says.  Each family had a credit account at the store, and all purchases would be tallied up in a book and paid at the end of the month.  They didn’t have a TV, nor a washing machine or car, until the weekend when Zaydeh would drive up and take them to the laundromat.


Since 2002, we’ve had a different cottage two doors down from our first one, with more space and a big deck.  The subdivision has changed a lot over the years.  There are many new “cottages” that are much larger than the simple ones that were here originally.  Or as Bohbie says,  “Some are nice, but some of them look terrible, because they’re show-offy.  But OK, that’s the future.”


Earlier in the day, Adam, Madi and I had gone to our secret beach spot.  It’s a bit of a hike, but if you walk north past the crowd, keep going past the boulder (also known as the Potato Rock), and look for the stairs up to the deck nestled against the bluff.  Its origin is a mystery, as it’s not near anything and doesn’t seem to belong to anyone.  Whenever we’re up there, we always feel like somebody might come by and say, “Hey, why are you on my deck?”  Has never happened so far.  Here we are later in the evening, approaching the elevator to go back down to the beach.


This transliterated Yiddish sign has been here since who knows when.  “Go in good health,” it reads, according to Bohbie.


The ride in the elevator is much smoother than it used to be.  Before the technology improved, you really had to hang on because when you got to the bottom, it was kind of a crash landing.  You can also take the stairs.  When I was a child, the stairs were in total disrepair and unusable.  One day many years ago, I was down at the beach with Bohbie when someone realized that the elevator wasn’t working.  Hours passed, and it became clear that the elevator was out of commission.  So we had to brave our way up the bluff on the treacherous stairs.  It was actually quite dangerous, or at least that’s how I remember it.  Gery Chico, who eventually became the head of the Illinois Board of Education and once ran for mayor of Chicago, led the charge, holding a small child in one arm and helping people leap across the broken boards with the other.  Oh, the memories…

The “magic hour” glow


Adam and Madi ascend up the Potato Rock.


The sunset was unreal.  #puremichigan

Somehow these two convinced me to jump into the lake with them, in my clothes.

It’s hard for us to believe that this will be the last South Haven sunset we will see for awhile.


Bye, South Haven!

One thought on “South Haven, Revisited

  1. This is great, Rachel! You really captured the essence of why South Haven is so special to all of us (especially us old-timers who have memories going WAY back). Love it!

    Liked by 1 person

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