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New Club (1926-1939)

“The New Club consisted of descendants of old members; especially the Walbridges, Bakers, Berdans, Beckwiths, Baumgardners, Kinseys, MacAbees, Brooks, Mennels, Logans, Hixons, Wrights, Straters and Harold Norton.  Most of the New Club members were from prominent Toledo families.  The tempo of life had changed significantly.  Morals, manners and dress were all far more casual.  Hard drinking and informality were probably the hallmarks of this younger generation just as a heavy and somewhat pompous stiffness, formality and correctness was the hallmark of the Old Club.  Back in 1928 all the young people were well-to-do and everyone owned a speedboat buzzing around at great speed over the lake and accomplishing just nothing.  Swimming consisted of changing into swimsuits then walking down to the Club dock to dive right into the lake.” 18

“Circa 1926-1928 some of the cottage owners anted up enough money to buy the Old Middle Bass Hotel, grounds and Rehberg Hall.  The reason was there were no kitchens in the cottages and the hotel was the only place to eat.  Rehberg was the German family who actually lived year round and ran the winery; mother told me stories of the small catholic school operated there and the anti German sentiment during WWI towards the Rehbergs.

In the 1890s the hotel had been a big summer resort and flourished until WWI.  The attempted revival was moderately successful but there was not a Middle Bass Club per se.

Alphonse Mennel (my great grandfather) was NOT one of the buyers; the Stranahan family from Toledo ws never involved with the enterprise.  Most of the cottage owners were from Ohio (Toledo, Cleveland, Cincinnati) and one from Indiana.  The day trip steamers went to Put-in-Bay not Middle Bass; the boat’s names were “Greyhound” from Toledo, “Put-in-Bay” from Detroit, “City of Cleveland” from Cleveland and “Chippewa” from Sandusky.  The “Chippewa” carried supplies to and from North Bass, Middle Bass and South Bass Islands. 

There were no permanent houses on the so called Club property.

By the late 1930s, early 1940s the organization ceased to function and only one of the cottage owners returned after 1945.” 19

The Middle Bass Club was a family place in the late 1920s, early 1930’s.  Families, mostly from Toledo, shared summers together; the Club members were a close knit group with the kids referring to the adults as “Aunts” and “Uncles” even though they were not actual relations.  The Members would ride the Old Erie Isle ferry from Port Clinton to Middle Bass and get off at Rehberg Dock.  The ferry had penny slot machines on the lower level and a bar on the upper level.  Kids would be given a roll of pennies to play the slot machines while the parents would go upstairs to the bar to have a drink.  Families would take their Model T cars over on the ferry so they could drive to their cottage or the Club House as well as visit all parts of Middle Bass Island. 

Most cottages had added in a small kitchen, basically a sink and a burner, so breakfast could be eaten at home.  Lunch and dinner were to be eaten with other members in the Club House.  The cottages had big claw foot bathtubs where you turned on a heater (kerosene?) to get hot water.  People spent little time in their cottages; they were mostly at the Club House or outside.

Members and guests signed into a Guest Book at the reception desk when they arrived at the Middle Bass Club so that their meals and rooms could be charged to the members appropriately.  The reception desk had a glass case where the children could buy candy and adults could buy cigarettes without having to travel to Put-in-Bay to purchase them.

Behind the reception desk, there was a staircase which led to the guest rooms. Upstairs, the guest rooms (which all had a view of Lake Erie) had iron beds with brass knobs.  The mattresses were placed on top of a “flat” metal spring.  

In the parlor on the main level of the Club House, there were wicker love seats where the seats faced opposite directions, not the traditional love seat that has seats side by side.  This type of love seat was known as a conversation bench where members could have private conversations without anyone in the room overhearing their discussion. 

The Club House had two slot machines that were in the hallway just past the reception desk toward the dining room. 

In the Club House dining room, the children sat together at round tables while the adults sat at long tables.  It was elegant with tables adorned in white linen tablecloths.  The manager at the Club House realized that the children’s table was always dirty, and it was costing the Club a lot of money to launder the tablecloths after each meal, so he came up with an idea of how to reduce the laundry bills.  He asked all the parents to give their children an allowance.  If a child made a “spot” on the clean tablecloth, he or she had to cover up the entire mess with coin(s) from their allowance.  Children under five used pennies, children under ten used nickels and teenagers used dimes and quarters.  The manager’s idea really made the children eat carefully because they wanted to save their allowance to buy candy or play the slot machines. 

The Club House had a big front porch which faced south, toward Put-in-Bay and the Club Dock.  Club members enjoyed sitting in rocking chairs on the porch enjoying the lake breeze.

The Boat House was no longer in existence, but the Club Dock was still used for small boats and swimming.  Club Members enjoyed swimming off the Club dock and would also swim at “Sandy Beach” on the east side of the island because the shore around the Middle Bass Club was very rocky. 

The Chapel was still in good shape, but it was “deserted” and no longer used for church services.  There was a bible open on the pulpit and hymnals in the pews.  The children would play inside the chapel on rainy days but were extremely careful to keep the chapel as they found it.

 Rehberg Hall and some cottages were “deserted.” The children enjoyed exploring the “haunted houses” and playing inside them even though their parents were concerned that they might get hurt.  The children enjoyed the island: swimming, sailing, fishing, looking for beach glass, hunting snakes, putting on plays and concerts and exploring the attics of old cottages with trunks filled with dress up clothes.  The adults enjoyed swimming and diving off the dock, sailing, fishing and enjoying alcohol (especially during Prohibition).

Excursions to Put-in-Bay were common to explore the caves, ride the carousel, go to the roller rink or bowling alley, go to Jim’s Place to hear the piano player or get something to eat. 20