Vicarious vacations 09: Lake Michigan chalet, 1966

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THEN: Standing in front of the 1-year-old chalet playhouse at Michillinda Lodge on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan in July 1966 are (from left) Renee DePlanche, 5, brother Brad DePlanche, 4, and their cousin, Kristen Lidke, 6. (Courtesy Brad DePlanche)
NOW: The chalet survives behind Kristen Lidke (now Woodward) in summer 2019, more than six years after fire destroyed its parent lodge. Her arms outstretched, Kristen unwittingly echoes her pose for portraying “the horizon” in a chalet play when she was a girl. (Patti Eddington)
Lake Michigan chalet, 1966
‘It was magical … The soul is still there’
Kristen Woodward
By Clay Eals

Arms outstretched as a young girl, she had a nonverbal part in a makeshift production. Kristen Lidke was portraying “the horizon.”

The play was “Let the Pages Go Walking through the Yellow Fingers,” spoofing a Yellow Pages ad slogan. The setting was a tiny stage inside an A-frame chalet, part of a western Michigan lakeside resort whose origins stretch to 1894 and whose name — Mich-Ill-Inda, (later Michillinda) —stems from the investors’ home states: Michigan, Illinois and Indiana.

It was the destination for yearly trips taken by two Michigan families in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The memories of the three tykes who shared the summer sojourns are a sensory extravaganza: walks and sunsets, bonfires and sing-alongs, wild raspberries and fragrant pine trees.

“It was magical,” says Kristen (now Woodward) of Seattle’s Westlake neighborhood, who grew up in Ann Arbor. Readily agreeing are her cousins, siblings Renee DePlanche Snyder and Brad DePlanche, who were raised in the nearby Michigan town of Plymouth and as adults settled separately 30 miles away in Brighton.

Their childhood Michillinda recollections tumble out: A father winning a “best legs” contest. A first dive into a swimming pool. The ring of a dinner bell. The tree-lined driveway to the massive lodge.

The lodge burned down in 2012, but the chalet, built in 1965, remains standing to unite the trio in warm chats and yearnings to return.

“It holds such memories whether the lodge is there or not,” Kristen says. “You can still feel everything. The soul is still there.”

WEB EXTRAS

Here is a video interview of Kristen Lidke Woodward and her cousins, siblings Renee DePlanche Snyder and Brad DePlanche, conducted via Zoom, along with 5 more photos of Michillinda from their childhood.

VIDEO (22:40):Click the photo to see Kristen Lidke Woopdward, Brian DePlanche and Susan DePlanche Snyder talk of their childhood trips to Michillinda resort on the east shore of Lake Michigan. (Clay Eals, via Zoom)
The three cousins on the Michillinda beach (from left): Kristen, Renee and Brad. (Courtesy Brad DePlanche)
The three cousins with a canoe on the Michillinda beach (from left): Kristen, Brad and Susan. (Courtesy Brad DePlanche)
The cousins and other youngsters at the Michillinda chalet. (Courtesy Brad DePlanche)
Young Brad climbing the Michillinda steps. (Courtesy Brad DePlanche)
The three cousins at a 1996 reunion on the Michillinda beach. (Courtesy Brad DePlanche)

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