If you can hear the whir of a motor starting up in the distance, it’s probably a fisherman moving to a better spot. The plaintive cry of a loon and a soft plop as a turtle submerges also can be heard in the stillness. The sound of hammering echoes across the lake as someone puts in a dock.
These familiar sounds of summer signal the lake’s awakening after its smooth, icy rest during the winter.
Our lakes mean different things to different people. For the boat lovers, it means plenty of room to skim around on the lakes. Fisherman of all ages can try their luck, and the swimmers have a good beach for their recreation. The lake has also been a timeless attraction for those who just like to enjoy the natural beauty of the lake and trees.
One particular date that has had a terrific impact on Forest Lake through the years is the fishing opener.
In the early morning hours of the fishing opener before the Interstate was built, all highway traffic came through Forest Lake.
Parties of fishing friends and also family groups parked up and down Lake Street in cars, trucks, and campers.
Joking, laughter, expectation and excitement filled the air as the fishermen bought their bait, more lures and other gear.
Stopping off to have hamburgers and coffee or a big hearty breakfast at one of the excellent restaurants also was part of the fun of the trip.
Wagner’s Hamburger Shop was open 24 hours a day, and at 3 in the morning, it wasn’t unusual to find it jam-packed with hungry fishermen waiting for the dawn of a new fishing season. Every fisherman was hoping that lady luck would smile upon them this day.
Pat (Lee) Picotte remembers working there as a waitress during one of the rush seasons. She recalls that if there were 40 fishermen in the restaurant, they wanted their eggs fixed 40 different ways.
The popularity of fishing, plus hunting and other sports, generated a new business in Forest Lake soon after World War II.
Laurence and Teller Sporting
Two well-known sportsmen, Carl (Kayo) Laurence and Roy (Rocky) Teller started a sporting goods store. In addition to stocking a complete line for the sportsmen from bait to guns, they also had a supply of war surplus clothing.
Garments that had cost the government large sums to manufacture for the Air Force and Arctic survivors sold for a fraction of the cost. Civilians eagerly outfitted themselves with fur-lined parkas, leather sheep-lined pants, and insulated flight boots for ice fishing. Leather and down-filled jackets and gloves were popular items too. The sporting goods store took on new ownership in March 1948 and became Bob Johnson Sporting Goods.
Laurence moved to California and Teller opened another store in Duluth. He also entertained and informed sportsmen with radio and TV shows.
Bob Johnson Sporting Goods
If you like to sleep late in the morning, the sporting goods business is not for you.
On Saturday and Sunday from opening day of fishing through Labor Day, Bob Johnson opened his store about 2:30 a.m. Cars filled with fishermen pulled up in front of the well-lit sportsman’s oasis. Some even left their cars running while they stopped here to pick up bait and supplies before traveling to their favorite fishing spot. The rest of the week Bob could sleep a little later; he opened at 5 a.m.
Bob was assisted by his wife, Gwen, in many phases of the business.
With hard work, long hours and the friendly atmosphere in the store, the name Bob Johnson’s Sporting Goods store became well-known in five states, as sportsmen from Iowa, Wisconsin, and the Dakotas passed through Forest Lake.
Local bait suppliers
The farm boys of the community kept Bob supplied with worms to sell. It was a case of Bob scrounging for tin cans to have enough containers for the worms.
After the store closed at 9:39 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Bob and Gwen had to package the worms for the next day. The worms sold for 15 cents.
When Jim Sederholm was about 9 years old, he was Bob’s main “frogman.” When a supply of frogs was needed for bass bait, a call from Bob would send Sederholm out on their farm on North Shore Drive to catch frogs. Sederholm said at one time the smashed frogs were so thick on the road that cars were in danger of slipping and sliding. He earned 30 cents a dozen.
Fishing contest for kids
The local boys looked forward to the fishing contest for kids. Local men, including summer residents, volunteered to help. The rules were one adult to two boys in a boat. Excellent prizes were donated by sporting goods’ suppliers, and, of course, by Bob. Even as young boys, there was fun and rivalry among the boys about the size and number of fish they had caught.
All Elsie Vogel material is excerpted from her book, “Reflections of Forest Lake.” Vogel was a former columnist at The Forest Lake Times.