The first time I saw Milford Lake no one was boating, swimming or fishing on it.
It looked more like a farm pond than a lake.
I was probably 11 or 12 when Dad took us for a Sunday drive sometime in 1967 to what would soon be the largest body of water in Kansas. That was the year the lake began to fill, starting on Jan. 16.
The dam was constructed for flood control. Six months later the lake, being fed by the Republican River, was full.
Rumor at the time was that someone wanted to make a restaurant out of an elevator.
As I reviewed the history of the lake, I found that a chiropractor wanted do just that with the Alida Elevator. Corps of Engineer studies showed that the base of the elevator would not support the structure.
Today Milford Lake is a weekend destination for many wanting to escape daily life and next weekend, if you don’t have a reservation, don’t even try to find a spot to camp.
For my friends and me, Milford Lake was the place to be on Sundays.
Keep in mind, back then the lake and beaches were free to use and never crowded. We sometimes just pitched a tent and spent the night.
My boss, Bob Murry, the former president of Green Ford, had a boat and though I was only 16 years old at the time, he often let me drive it.
Today, Memorial Day weekend for me usually involves painting, planting flowers or staining the deck.
It was Memorial Day when my junior class, soon to be seniors, of Abilene High School held a party at the lake at Thunderbird Marina now Curtis Creek.
That turned out to be an important day in my life.
Four of us headed to the lake in my 1962 Chevy.
How does that Meatloaf song go about being blessed?
“’Cuz we were barely 17 and we were barely dressed.”
It’s one of those stories like “we ran out of gas” that parents get told but don’t believe.
The late Pat Callahan took us to a part of the lake I had never been to and we all had a great time. Then he left.
It was getting late and we needed to get home with a curfew of midnight.
And I was lost.
GPS in those days was the North Star. I started heading south, hoping to run into Interstate 70.
We were running late so of course my car started to overheat. Turns out there was a small hole in a radiator hose.
Luckily, we had some ice in a cooler and were able to get the car cooled down.
We made it to a closed gas station located at I-70 and South Milford Lake Road where the sign read “Eat and Get Gas” next to Easy Jack’s Salvage.
Some young 16-year-old, like myself, had fortunately left a garden hose out and while I was able to cool down my car and fill up the radiator, the other couple and the girl I took to the lake were scrounging for dimes to call parents on the station’s payphone to tell them we would be late. It was well after midnight by then.
I cooled down the vehicle, hoping to make the trip back to Abilene. We filled up some pop cans with water just in case my vehicle got hot again.
Then I went to call my folks. And just like that, the payphone quit working.
Again, if my son had been telling me this story, he would have been grounded. It’s pretty unbelievable.
I delivered everyone home safely but when I got to my house, the front door was locked.
Oh, there is no key to the front door.
But that was not a problem. I climbed up the TV antenna on the west side of the house. Scaled the roof and opened a window to my room on the second floor.
Home at last.
I frequently see that girl I took to the lake that Memorial Day, when she’s not watching “Dancing With the Stars,” “The Bachelor,” or “CNN” in our family room.
Contact Tim Horan at firstname.lastname@example.org.