The property at Long Lake in Portage, Michigan, known as Ramona Park and featuring a pavilion called Ramona Palace was in my family for many years. Ramona was named after the “Indian Princess” in Helen Hunt Jackson’s popular novel Ramona, which was published in 1884.
When I was a little girl, my father Rudy Hanson tried to re-create the heyday of Ramona Park and its pavilion. He was young and ambitious and wanted to restore the place. Although Ramona Palace had a magnificent ballroom, the owner had sold the liquor license in 1956 or 1957 to Airway Lanes (according to my father).
So my parents held teen dances and concerts; The Association performed there. I remember my parents taking tickets out front, seated at a table. One time a kid broke in when a dance was going on. Dad took off running after this high school “track star,” caught him, and turned him over to the police. It was mentioned in the paper.
My father preferred booking picnics because he could obtain a one day liquor license. Continental Can held their company picnics at Ramona. Sometimes I helped out or hung out during events. The German-American Club held a dance, and I remember a couple dressed in lederhosen, the girl’s thick blonde braid swinging to her dancing.
My father had invested in this property and lost money on the deal. It was actually owned by a relative named Therese Remine. Therese’s mother was Mary Paak (Peek), the sister of my great great grandmother, Alice Paak DeKorn.
Therese had inherited the property from Henry and Carrie Waruf, who had owned it for years. Carrie was born a Paak, and I believe she was one of the Paak sisters: Mary, Alice, Annie, and Carrie. This is an area for future research. I don’t know why only Therese inherited and not her brother, Harold. Or why the cousins, such as my grandfather Adrian Zuidweg, did not inherit it.
At some point after my father no longer was affiliated with the property, Therese sold and donated it to the City of Portage.
My father has many other memories of the park. He says Ramona was used as storage for years for ice, which was cut from the lake and packed with straw. It lasted throughout the summer and was hauled to town by a train. The tracks ran halfway between the pavilion and Sprinkle Road.
In that front lot off Sprinkle, in the 10s and 20s, was a building and home field for various ball teams. Later on, Airstream trailers held their annual meetings. The circus was set up on the Ramona property; I remember the circus billboard which was up for weeks ahead of time.
When I was young, a row of cottages on the property were leased out to renters by Therese. Sixty years before that, Richard DeKorn, my great great grandfather, had leased his own summer cottage from the Warufs.
Therese’s summer house was on Sprinkle, and a gravel road led back to the park, pavilion, and the lakefront. My friends and I found arrowheads in the cornfield behind her house.
Ramona Park is a thriving park in Portage, Michigan, still today.
I would like to track down photos of the pavilion and cabins and grounds from any period.