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A summer tradition? thrives, 50 years on

I sit on the end of the dock overlooking a clear blue lake surrounded by pine trees, with a sky full of clouds overhead. And I think back to the time 50 years ago when, in 1962, my wife's dad discovered this fishing lake with cabins in Ontario, some 600 miles north of Buffalo. It was called Sportsmen's Camp — and still is. First only men went there to go fishing, but then the men started taking their wives and children. Every summer since then, some group of our family members has gone to that same lake and camp.

When I married into my wife's family, it was understood that I would be going also. It turned out that I loved it — and still do. I especially love that the days seem endless and things happen spontaneously without a lot of planning. Somehow, canoeing, blueberry picking, fishing, card games and naps just fall into place. I am able to leave my adult life with its myriad responsibilities behind me for two weeks every year. It always makes me feel like a child again, when days and summers seemed to last forever.

When we had children of our own, along they went with us from a very young age. They joined my wife's brother and sister and their families, and Sportsmen's Camp became a place of fun, fishing, boating, swimming, reading and games for three generations. I didn't mention drinking, but it is after all a fishing camp and fish stories go much better with beer.

In an unbroken chain of summers, sometimes as few as four family members and sometimes as many as 16 have occupied between one and four cabins on the lake. A caravan of cars, vans and pickup trucks, loaded with clothing, cooking utensils, groceries and fishing equipment would set off one morning each summer for the border crossing to Canada.

When our daughter gave birth to our two grandchildren, they joined the annual pilgrimage north, and a fourth generation came to enjoy and value Sportsmen's Camp. Then there is a larger, wider family in camp, composed of other families who also have been coming there for decades. We see each other only once a year, but are warmed when we meet again. We are not blood relations, but a greater family united by our shared sense of place. One year when my son was 13, he said to me, "It's like one big family here." It is, and I would be remiss not to acknowledge the wonderful couple who have run the camp for the past 25 years and who have brought so much of themselves to enrich its life. May they run the camp forever!

I have friends who tell me about similar special places they went with their families but now exist only as fond memories. Fortunately, our special summer place is there for us to this day. And it all started in 1962, when Dick Baxter first drove those long miles north in an old Buick with not much more than a tackle box, a couple of fishing rods and some beer.

But nothing goes on forever. One year, my wife's dad, at 76, was ill with cancer and, though he wanted desperately to go, he couldn't, and never went again. We toast him to this day for inaugurating a wonderful tradition that has spanned four generations. I hope it will extend to yet another generation when, like my wife's dad, I will no longer be able to join them. But I will smile with the knowledge that I have been part of that unbroken chain of family summers at Sportsmen's Camp.

Bob Poczik, of Clarence, relishes time spent at a summer vacation place that has been in his family for four generations.