A Childhood in the Mountains: The Beginning of Loch Lomond

In 1936, Lilburn Prather, W. R.’s son, decided to move and start a new resort a few miles down the road from his father’s resort at Adams Springs. There, on the edge of Highway 175 and hidden beneath the massive pine trees, he started building a rustic lodge.  His wife Ruth, inspired by the mountain air and her Scottish heritage, named the resort that sat at the edge of a small vernal pond Loch Lomond.

Their son, Lilburn Prather, Jr., made the most of his childhood at the resort.  Eighty-four years later, Trudy and I sit at his kitchen table.  Known to most as Bob, his shoulders, though hunched, still stretch broadly in his flannel shirt. His son Danny sits next to him, flipping pages of a scrapbook. It’s a crisp day outside, and waves from Clear Lake splash against the bulkhead.  A few grebes squeak calls to each other.

Bob points a weathered finger at a photo of the resort in its early days, directing our attention to it. 

“I got a picture here of the Loch Lomond Resort.  This is before the bar,” he says. “The bar was over here on the right. We used the porch in the middle to stow wood.  Then we had no water. We had to haul water from Adams. And no electricity.”

Bob leans back, takes a glance at his prepared notes, and continues. “My uncle Don Springston, brought work horses over from Adams and a scraper and scraped a place to build a house and a yard, out to the highway.  Then he built a log cabin out of logs down by the field.  He even split the shakes from pine.  Then we built a house out of rough lumber.  It had a kitchen, living room, and a hallway that had bunk beds for my brother, and that went on each side of the hallway.  Then it went to a bedroom, my dad and mom’s, and we had a flush toilet.”

Trudy and I smile, and Danny laughs.  “How times have changed.”

Bob smiles, looking back in his mind to recall the years of his childhood. “That was just the beginning. There was a little lake that used to be much deeper than it is now. Sometimes my brother and I would dam it and flood the highway. Then the sheriff would complain to my mom, and we would have to take it out.” He smiles. “The old carpenter who helped build the resort made us a little boat. We used a bed sheet for a sail and sailed around on it.  One time my dad put lights all around it.  It was so beautiful to see it at night. There would be a million pollywogs there.” Bob laughs. “The tree frogs would get in the shower, and we’d have guests complain.”

“He also drove a car across the Golden Gate bridge when he was ten years old,” Danny says.

“What?”

Bob smiles.  “We started driving really young. One time we took one of the Model A pickups with a body on it and a rumble seat.  We drove down the highway to the city.”

The bar at Loch Lomond. Photo credit Lilburn R. Prather.

 “That’s crazy,” Trudy adds.

Bob’s smiling now, as the memories of his childhood in the mountains return. “Where the church is now, the hill used to be a lot steeper,” he begins.  “My brother Jim was driving, and I was riding with him. He could hardly see over the steering wheel. I saw the lawman go by, and said to Jim, ‘Stop!’ I got out and ran over to the driver’s seat, and Jim ran and hit behind a tree, then beat it down to the resort and locked himself in the bathroom.”

 We all laugh. 

“The sheriff come down, and he said to my mom, ‘I saw your kids driving on the highway. They can’t do that.’  And my mom said, well, you got all the drunks driving on the highway, and you don’t do anything.” He didn’t do anything, then. I don’t know if he was afraid to do it or not.” 

“But,” Bob looks at his notes for a second, then continues. “We kept adding cabins. Finally, by 1950, even before that, we had 19 cabins scattered around up the road there. They were all housekeeping cabins. We moved a lot of beds as we grew up, hauled the garbage.”

The scrapbook lies on the kitchen table, and Bob turns a few more pages. There’s his high school diploma. Bob drove the school bus his senior year.  “Well, I had to go anyways,” he says, flipping the page, “And I made $50 a month.”  A few pictures of Loch Lomond in several feet of snow come into view.  “It was in ‘48 or ’49,” Bob says. “Loch Lomond got about five foot then.  We had an earlier snow in 37.  More than three foot.  We always had snow.”

“Not like now,” Trudy says, staring at the photo of men shoveling the roof of the lodge. “I can’t remember when we’ve gotten that much snow.”

Photo credit Lilburn R. Prather.

Bob turns the page again.  Photos of the Loch Lomond Pool appear.  For a rustic resort, one might expect a small pool. But Lilburn Prather had some of his father W. R. in him; he knew a publicity opportunity when he saw one.  In 1946, he decided to build an Olympic-sized swimming pool, the largest in the area. (It’s true; you can see the plaque for yourself at the Loch Lomond Market.)

“So, what was the decision to make such a large pool?” I ask, looking at a picture of at least a hundred people swimming and sunbathing. 

“My dad wanted the biggest pool in the area, so he decided to make it that big,” Bob replies, matter-of-factly.

Danny pitches in. “You said you worked seventeen hours straight on it.”

“Yup. Us boys, six of us, we would take turns. There was the guy who dumped the water.  That was the easy job. The gravel was next harder. The wheelbarrow was hardest yet. So, we rotated. My dad didn’t want any seams in it, so we did it in a single pour. We made a rich mix, and it got harder and harder.”

The Loch Lomond Pool. Photo credit Judy Cortesi.

“They said that they ever had to jackhammer out when they redid the pipes,” Danny says. “It was the hardest they had ever seen.”

We chat for a bit more, flipping through the pages of the scrapbook until we reach the end and somewhat reluctantly close it.  “Well, that’s about it,” I say, sliding my chair backward.

“Thank you,” Trudy says.  “That was special.”

Bob stands up, stretches his shoulders backward, and reaches to shake our hands.  “It’s been nice,” he says.

Bob at his home on Clear Lake.
Jonah David Wakefield

Jonah David and Trudy Wakefield started The Bloom in 2018 to showcase the best parts of Lake County and to provide a local outlet for community events, arts, music, and writing.

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