When I went off to Navy boot camp on March 11, 1980, my mind sort of “photographed” Sandy Pond the way it was that day.
I have been living far away from there since so that photograph is tainted but vivid. The Wigwam Hotel is part of that old picture.
Growing up at Sandy Pond we took the Wigwam for granted as a run down local business who‘s hey-dey had come and gone many years ago. Mom and Dad took us there once in a while for a Friday fish dinner and Dad would take the opportunity to chew the fat at the Bar with the former owner old Nick Kendradt. I have forgotten who owned the Wigwam before old Nick - after all, I was a small child then.
Mr. Kendradt lived on a pension and chose not to sink much money into his hotel, content to let it coast down a slope while he made a meager living off the regulars - mostly card-playin, stogie-smokin’ beer drinkin buddies and “fish-heads“.
There always seemed to be a lot more activity at the old Wigwam in the winter. Fishermen would descend on Sandy Pond every weekend to try their luck through The Ice. There were hundreds of them on the ice on the weekends, many of them relying on the Wigwam, The Comfort Hotel (burned down from “faulty wiring” in the early 70’s), Sandy Lodge (which later changed hands and became “The Lodge“), Eddie’s Cove (or, as we used to call it Eddie’s “Cave”), and the Bayview Hotel (also burned in the 70‘s, from a lit ciggy-butt in the ladies room trash).
Seems like the Wigwam got the most customers, looking for chili, burgers, and beer for lunch - then back out on The Ice. Mr. Kendradt also sold bait and a very basic assortment of tackle available in the basement.
STOCK CAR RACES…
Living in my own teen world, I never knew who arranged or sponsored them, but there used to be stock car races on the ice in front of the Wigwam. Once or twice a winter, on a typically cold winter-cloudy-gray Saturday afternoon, huge crowds of people would watch dozens of cars compete in several classes, including “powder-puff” for the ladies. A few days before, a crew would plow the snow in the ice to form a big flat oval track with snow banks for walls. Tires and hay-bales were piled around the curves for extra protection. The cars were typically back-yard budget creations, right down to the tires outfitted with spikes. The spikes helped, but ice is still ice and the lack of friction provided the crowd with plenty of crashes (more like slow-motion fender-benders). Top speed, if a driver was skillful, was probably a brief 40 MPH, and none of the cars had mufflers, so you could hear the roar no matter where you were within a 3 mile radius. Beer flowed freely among the race-fans, and there were plenty of tailgate gatherings. If it snowed it just made the races MUCH more interesting…
I also remember a demolition derby in front of the Wigwam one or two years, with similar noise and crowds.
CARS KICKED OFF THE ICE
In the late 70’s, the Sandy Creek Town Board passed and ordnance that prohibited automobiles on the ice of any body of water in Sandy Creek township, which includes Sandy Pond. My Dad was one of Sandy Creek’s Town Justices in those days (Maurice Hurd being the other). He attended the Board meetings that debated and finally voted yes to the new ordnance. Despite the loss of revenue for local businesses, the town wanted to prevent any more drownings. Over the years too many cars had broken through the ice and fisherman drowned. In those days, once in a while, springtime yielded a body or two on the shore after the ice went out. Grisly...