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A Crystal Lake Story

Part One

As summer draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on summers past. Inevitably, one place comes to mind. Enjoy this multi-part post: “A CRYSTAL LAKE STORY”

For many years in my younger adult life, I enjoyed spending the summer months at a tiny lake in central Saskatchewan. Crystal Lake is little more than a pond, yet its perimeter is surrounded by cottages and even a few permanent homes. It’s peaceful and quiet and mostly private, which is part of its appeal. The water is cold and clear (thus the name), and great for swimming and other water sports.

I was first introduced to Crystal Lake in 1980 when my father purchased the little nine-hole golf course at the lake. He was an avid golfer, so it seemed like a dream come true. He soon learned that owning a golf course is much different than getting to play golf. Often the responsibilities took over and he didn’t have that much time to golf himself. In any case, I had just graduated from high school and was ready to test my wings so I declined the offer of a job that summer, opting to work in a hospital in the housekeeping department instead. (Go figure…) But I did visit a couple of times.

In the fall of 1980, I started university in Regina, quit after one semester, worked at a daycare which was the worst job of my life, and finally decided to try working at the golf course in the summer of ‘81. I guess I’d matured enough to realize it was probably a better fit. My brother also worked at the course, and both parents came and went.

The clubhouse

We all lived together in a very rustic cabin on the golf course. I loved the extended daylight since it was farther north than where I grew up. I also loved the lonely call of loons on the lake in the evening and the fresh pine air. 1981 was a fun summer and many of our patrons became like family. Later that summer, my boyfriend (who later became my husband), took a job in Churchill, Manitoba, at the large grain terminal there. It was good to have family and such a scenic location to keep me occupied.

I was off to university in Saskatoon in the fall, thanks in part to a patron who came to the clubhouse each day for coffee. “Education is never a waste,” he said. “Even if you think you won’t use it now, you just never know what the future holds.” His words turned out to be true and I’m forever grateful. I enjoyed my career as a teacher and my skillset has served me well in multiple locations.

After a good year in Saskatoon at the U of S, I returned to work at the golf course for the summer of ’82. It was another great summer of making memories and enjoying the scenic location and surrounding towns. Since I was in the art program at University, I did a fair bit of painting and other artwork that summer, too.

Welcome cut into the grass

Hole # one

Lo and behold I got married at Christmastime in ’82, but was ready to work at the course for the summer of ’83, even though my new husband had to leave for his seasonal job in Churchill that summer. We’d been through the tragic loss of his brother that spring and it didn’t take long for us to realize we didn’t like being apart. I quit the course and moved to Churchill for the rest of that summer, then returned to Saskatchewan for my third year in Saskatoon.

In the summer of 1984, we were faced with another choice. Gerald could return to Churchill for the next season of work or we could run the Beach Store at Crystal Lake. (My dad bought it that winter.) We decided to give the store a try. My dad also convinced us to buy a septic tank business, since all the cottages at the lake had to get their tanks pumped regularly. It was a crazy busy summer of slinging hamburgers and scooping ice cream while also taking summer classes so I could finish my degree. Gerald pumped poop—smelly work for sure, but I think he enjoyed hob-knobbing with the cottagers.

cabins on lake

The bathroom at the Beach Store was out back and had no hot water or shower, so every morning I ran into the lake for my “shower” before work. Once a week I’d go to the golf course for a proper bath. We enjoyed ourselves, although the hours were long. One of Ger’s sisters came for the summer and camped on the beach with her kids. By the end of the summer they’d bought their own cottage, so we had even more reasons to stay!

lake view

That fall I had to go back to Saskatoon to do my four-month practicum while Gerald stayed behind with my brother at the golf course. (My brother opted to stay in the vicinity to work at another job for the winter.) After Christmas, I moved to the lake permanently, so the three of us shared that little cabin on the course. It was cozy if not very private! I was also pregnant with our first child.

That winter was both exciting and grueling. We were dirt poor. We literally survived on deer meat and Faba beans (a gift from a lady at our church.) I put my education to use by substitute teaching that winter in various small towns in the area. I also wanted to try to make money with my art, so went to some craft fairs and the like. Turns out, it’s hard to make a living as an artist! I did some commission work, but it was tough.


The summer of ’85 was full of changes. We did not run the Beach Store again, but my dad rented it out and then later sold it. I worked at the clubhouse until our baby was born and Ger helped at the course and continued with his septic business. He also did odd jobs around the lake. (Need a retaining wall built, anyone?) What fun we had at his sister’s cabin, too. I spent lots of time on her beach, a “beached whale” if ever there was one!

When our daughter was born in July, she became the star of the golf course! I’m sure no baby before or since has been showered with so many gifts or doted over by so many golfers!  All that deer meat must have been good for growing babies, too, since she was over 10 pounds when she was born!

Near the end of that summer, we bought our first house in a nearby village. We loved the area, but we knew we couldn’t continue living in the cabin on the course permanently. We paid exactly $2800 cash for a little three-bedroom house in Hyas, SK.  That fall Gerald started working for a nearby farmer as a hired hand and I did a bit of substitute teaching. We were on top of the world!

Is that the end of our Crystal Lake story? Not by a LONG SHOT! stay tuned for more crazy happenings and a crazy-gargantuan building project!


  1. Tina says:

    I now live here, where your memories are of years past and mine are of years ahead. Blessings.

    1. tracykrauss says:

      This is so cool, Tina! We love that area.

  2. Holly Hutchinson says:

    What a wonderful walk down memory lane! I love being reminded of the timeline of all these events ❤️

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