Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Photo taken a few years ago.

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.

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.

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...

Some photos from the mid-1970s. The horse and dog belonged to Nancy Warner,
(Photos courtesy Charlene Cole, Sandy Creek Town Historian)


  1. AnonymousJune 17, 2011

    My grandfathers "camp" was right behind the "Lodge". I remember my parents hated the place because of all the loud music and teenagers drinking beer. One time there were a couple drunken girls who came out, took off all their clothes and hopped in the Pond. What a sight for a 14/15 year old boy! Of course it was the mid 70's and the drinking age was 18. Anyway, when I was old enough I'd go in there and we had a blast. Do you remember the "Poor Girl"? That burned down as well.

  2. Steve - Pat Hurley (Mary Beth's brother). You bring back some great memories as we used to rent camps / or stay with the Saveges for many summers during the 60's and 70's. Remenber the Lodge very well - especially trying to "navigate" back along Lakeshore Road after last call! (Never been anywhere as dark as that walk at 2:00 AM). Other memories include watching Kip play the Lodge, 10 cent beer night at both the Lodge and Bay View, stopping off at "Scotty's" (or "Kaps") after hours to sit on the dock and just marvel at the stars (and possibly "borrow" a few rowboats). O )ther great memories include "The Night Owl", Sandy Island Beach, The "Turtle Races" in Eddies parking lot, the boat beach, the Bay View and it's sea food diners (and skanky rooms upstairs), etc. Most of all I remember as a young kid around every Labor Day thinking the Beach's and Kappesser's where so lucky to live YEAR ROUND at Sandy Pond! Great blog Steve and glad to catch up with you.

  3. Good to hear from you Pat Hurley! I remember your family well, esp. when you would all stay at Camp with your Savage cousins. What a fun crowd. I even bought a car from your Dad (Huck) in '74. He sold me a '72 Dodge Challenger 340. Sweet. You have recalled some good times in your comment. I still have one of those rowboats...Kip has one too.

  4. I guess it was between 87-91 my dad and I would to stay in the rooms up stairs at the Wigwam, and fish out in the lake. When the lake was too rough to make it through the channel, we would fisn in the pond, or my dad would hang out at the bar, and I would fish from the docks. I can't remember the name of the owners at that time, but they had a son, (Andy?) about my age, and we would fish in the area, or swim from the docks. I loved that place, that whole area, I now live in Charlotte, and miss places like that, that had character.


  5. AnonymousJuly 04, 2012

    My grandparent's Len & Helen Maute' built a cottage up the hill from the Wigwam on Rocking Horse Rd. Is is a wonderful place to visit.

  6. Captain Best was 'The Hermit of Wigwam Cove'
    by Richard Palmer (Railroad@twcny.rr.com)
    One of the most interesting characters who once lived in a small cabin at the edge of Lake Ontario on Sandy Pond was Captain George Best, commonly known as the "Hermit of Wigwam Cove." When he died there on Feb. 9, 1925 at the age of 98, his only companions were his faithful dog, "Curl," and a dozen cats.
    Born in East Greenwich on Narraganset Bay of a Scotch-Irish father and a mother of Dutch descent, young George Best inherited a love for the water. He made his first cruise in 1842. For many years thereafter he weathered the storms of the Seven Seas. Into the far north he went on sealing and whaling expeditions. He learned his trade in the 'school of hard knocks." Finally, at the close of the Civil War, he dropped anchor in Lake Ontario, where he was accepted into the "Old Guard" of Oswego sailboat owners.
    It was here he befriended Captain Nelson Stone, proprietor of a ship chandlery and grocery store on East First street. Stone owned a yacht called the Ella, which had a reputation of being a speedy sailer. As the years rolled by, Best became one of the most well known yachting skippers on Lake Ontario.
    He sailed the Ella in many races sponsored by the Lake Ontario Racing Association, at Oswego, Charlotte, Kingston and Toronto, winning victory after victory. Probably the greatest race was between the Ella and the Katy Gray, owned by Commodore John P. Phelps of Oswego. It is written:
    "Came the day of the greece; the day when Captain Best laid his hand on the tiller of the restive Ella and brought her across the line - a winner. Then and here was it established her unquestioned position as the speediest lake sailing craft of her time. that "Captain Stone's cup of happiness was filled to overflowing when Skipper Best brought Ella across the line as the winner of one of the greatest of the association races of the period."
    Eventually the "Old Guard" passed away and "Captain George," as he was affectionally known, was left alone with his memories and his faithful dog. Through balmy summer and rigorous winters he tended to the homely tasks of his simple household.
    Spring was always a busy time at Wigwam Cove, for that was the season the old-timer devoted his time to catching fish and systematically salted them down for winter use. Summer brought its sociable campers who stopped to "chew the fat" at the old man's shack. The fall brought the duck hunters. During the winter he was by himself with his four-legged companions.
    As he became older and older, friends tried to persuade the old salt to move to more comfortable quarters of the winter, fearful he could no longer withstand its hardships. This he indignantly refused to do. Had he not "weathered the winter storms" for many years in his small cottage surrounded by his pets? "Why should I move now?" he would say.
    So the hermit continued to live the rugged life of a frontiersman, subsisting on a simple diet of salt fish and pancaked made from a mixture of corn meal and wheat flour with a dash of buckwheat. His liquid diet consisted only of black tea. A wisp of smoke from the chimney was the daily sign all was well at Wigwam Cove. The sailor he was, Best was a creature of habit.
    But there came a morning when no smoke curled upward through the bare branches of surrounding oak and chestnut trees. Captain Best died just as he desired, alone in his cabin with his pets where he had resided for nearly 50 years. His lonely life in later years was in direct contrast to the old days when he was a central figure in yachting circles. He could not weather life's last storm at his beloved abode he called "Castle Best."

  7. Anyone have a picture of "The Hermit of Wigwam Cove?" Where was this log cabin? near the hotel?
    Richard Palmer

  8. Just happened across this posting...I remeber Nick very well and "Butch" the waitress, 3 dozen clams for .99cents... playing shuffle board while the parents chewed the fat with Nick and Butch... I also had the pleasure of bartending at the lodge in 1979-80 summers, it was the place to be on the weekends... The bands (joe whitingm alligators, duke jupiter to name a few....and craming 1000 people in a place that held 300-400 tops!!! spending nights on the dunes, much has changed but still the best place on earth....like everyone else counting the days earth winter until opening camp and hitting the water and beach....

  9. AnonymousMay 24, 2013

    I played in a band, Fair Warning, back in 1979-80 and we played at The Lodge several times. I still have a tee-shirt that the owner gave each band member. It said on the front of it" The Lodge 1980 The best summer ever".

    1. So many great memories from the Lodge, what a WILD FUN place to spend your time being 18 years old - best memories ever - my friend Jim Hood played with his band Fresh, picture this a Thursday night Jim tripping his head off and it was Molson Night - needless to say Jim couldn't sign a note - God that was fun!

  10. AnonymousJuly 30, 2014

    My summers in 60's and 70's were spent visiting the Wigan. Our Uncles owned it..first my Uncle Nick when I was very young and my Uncle Bill later in my youth. Memories flood in for sure. Shuffleboard for hours and hours.....the bar packed with truly happy folks all singing "Ramblin Rose" and "Ring of Fire" as loud and seriously as can be night after night....my Dad running down the lawn and diving off the dock to save me as I fell off while fishing....in 2 feet of water....AND NEVER DROPPED HIS CAN OF UTICA CLUB. I remember the "aroma" of the ever smoldering steel drums near the side of the Wigwam where men would toss in the fishheads....I remember helping my aunt in the kitchen cleaning smelt for hours and cutting potatoes for French Fries....then eating a huge plate of smelt for "payment".......those were truly the good ole days.

  11. It was the 70's and 80's for me.Time well spent at the Pelcher camp.Great people , Great beer , GREAT TIMES..Thanks to all......

  12. Remember the Wigwam, we where young teens (1965) and drove a car out on the ice from there. What a riot!! Also remember the Lodge when it was a local run down place, the owner was an old gentleman named Romeo. We would ,drive up there From E Syracuse to drink on Friday nights, Romeo was so glad to have customers he never bothered to ask how old we were. No one was of age yet at that time 18. So one night we were there and a Trooper pulls in the parking lot, we all run into the mens room. He entered the bar and talked to Romeo for a few minutes and left. Must have looked pretty strange four beers on the bar and no one sitting there. We were the only customers there that night. So the Trooper leaves and we all return to the bar, Romeo says were did you all go! Also remember when the Hotel Comfort burned down, we were staying a friends camp near there, we found a keg of beer at the fire scene the next day. We rolled it over to the friends camp. We didn't have a tap, so we popped the cork out of the barrel. It looked liked Old Faithfull erupted!! A lot of great times at Sandy Pond in our teens.

  13. I remember sitting on a knoll behind the Wigwam on summer weekends in the 40's and 50's, watching outdoor films. Mosquitos never seemed to bother us. Also in the 40's, used to get up early from our rented cottage (Camp Suits Us, or LaCasita on Lakeshore Rd) and run down to the dock in front of the Bayview Hotel to watch the commercial fishing boats come in with their catches. Spent a lot of time in the 40's in a metal rowboat fishing for sunnies and perch along the various waterway marsh across from the Bayview Hotel. In the late 50's came up from Syracuse each summer weekend to dance the nights away at the Bayview, after which row a boat across the Pond to the sandy peninsula to sleep on the sand until the next day...to start it all over again. Those were the fun times!

  14. Is the Wigwam still there? We went up there ice fishing about 1967 and stayed in a room there. We also drove out on the ice which at
    the time was 2 ft. thick. Fish were biting that day.

  15. As kids in the 50's, I must have been about 5-6 years old --- my parents frequently rented a cabin and an aluminum boat at the Wigwam... they fished and us kids spent our days cruising on the water on an aluminum boat with a 7.5 Evinrude motor! My folks liked to fish (and drink beer) at the Wigwam... It was WONDERFUL. I recall 2 girls who lived there year-round - in a 2 story house and I cannot remember their names. But I do remember that one sister cleaned house and rearranged the furniture - and the other sister came home to flop on where the bed used to be. Many years later, (I was an adult) -- the LODGE which I believe was a former fishing lodge -- became an active bar and dance place and I used to drive up from Syracuse to "participate". Joe Hammond was the bartender. Life was good... Jan/Fort Lauderdale, FL

  16. AnonymousJune 11, 2018

    The horse & Dogs were the RICHTERs..

  17. Me and my very large samily spent all our summers on sandy pond starting in 1965. our grandparents the phillips camp was the last camp down the road. the camp with the pump well everyone shared. i remember walking down the oily roads to the store up on the highway. going to the hobby house, playing the dowling machine at the wigwam. lots of swimming with my BFF jay merola, Fishing for jack perch almost daily. today i am 65 and i will return again soon.


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