For seven decades, families from Ceres and the neighborhood have found recreational opportunities and many a meal galore at the Tuolumne River Lodge, which held a reception to celebrate 70 years on Thursday evening.
The event was organized by the board and its leader, Diane Battilana, to give a chance for old-timers to reflect on the lodge's heyday years, as well as introduce the facility to prospective new members and promote rentals for weddings and parties.
Linda Miner Brewer remembered the lodge starting in 1947 when a collection of "farm people got together and built a swimming pool so us kids would have something to do."
Corine King, a member of the Tuolumne River Lodge board, said the lodge started as a park with land adjacent to the river donated by the Osterberg family.
"The pool began as an artesian pool," said King. "It was dug by the members and then the flood came and wiped out that pool."
"I can remember as a little girl sitting down playing in the dirt while all the adults were getting ready to build the pool," said Brewer, who also attended the reception. "It started out as a swimming pool and then they used to have picnics down here and things for us kids to do. Then they built the lodge up here. In high school we had our last week of school party here."
As charter members, the names of her late parents, Carl and Margaret Miner, are engraved on the plaque attached to the wall of the lodge. Also on the plaque are the names of charter members Chuck and Carleen Goodrich who dropped by Thursday. Chuck recalls working his dad's tractor on the lodge property "practically every weekend for a couple of years, I think." He also helped build the masonry block building.
Chuck remembers the artesian pool was always warm because the waters came from a deep well that the Osterbergs (brothers Maniford and Mortz) drilled. "It came from about 6,000 feet down. It ran all the time. It was always warm and came up the pipe in the middle of it."
The artesian well was removed and a new pool was built and filled with water from a less shallow well source.
The Goodriches remember their kids using the lodge and pool nonstop in the summers.
"They'd have Christmas parties," said Carleen. "They always had a new year's party. Lots of parties went on here."
Other Charter members included the Osterbergs, Claude McKnight, Frank Mancini, and W.W. Wallen.
Tom Dimperio dropped by for the reception, remembering the time he helped dig out the ground for the pool.
Vern and Sharon Vierra dropped in, and remembered how their children enjoyed the use of the pool. One of them was their son, Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra.
"He used to swim down here but he never liked to get his face wet," said Vern.
Vern used to be partners with Ceres druggist Roger Strange in the mid-1960s.
"We were members from 1966 on. We would come down here for Monday night potluck and we would play volleyball to midnight and then I'd have to go to work at 8 o'clock and open up Ceres Drug the next day. I was always tired."
Former Ceres High School coach Art McRae said he remembers swimming in the lodge pool, playing volleyball games with the Jorgensens, and attending many Monday night potlucks.
"I always remember the Crab Feed and the great Harland Smith and his prime rib. I'd come to the Crab Feed because Harland would do a prime rib along with it."
The lodge happened to be the venue for McRae's 1963 wedding reception, a poignant fact given that his wife Donna had just passed away.
The Lodge board is trying to promote rentals of its facility, something that has become more competitive since the addition of venues in the county and since weddings will now be able to be performed in agriculturally zoned lands.
"We do have a lot of weddings here."
The lower area below the lodge is used for bridal parties during the wedding.
Membership costs $275 per year with an initial fee of $50. Members are given a gate key to access the grounds for barbecues, picnic tables, and volleyball and horseshoe games unless there is a reserved event, and discounts on reserving the hall. Members are allowed to use the pool, if the board can find the money to refurbish the pool.
"That's kind of a major thing that we're trying to work on right on," said Battilana. "We're trying to fund raise for that. It's like $40,000. It's an Olympic sized pool."
Plans are also to rebuild a dock which was wiped out in the flood of 1997.
The board is attempting to work with the Tuolumne River Trust to offer children's educational programs, said Battilana.
"We want to be able to have the kids come and see the nature," she said. "They used to have all kinds of scouting events, campout here, and stuff. I think people have kind of forgotten about the place and just need to be reminded."
Information about the lodge is available at tuolumneriverlodge.net or by phoning 537-6651.