Where once stood a kitchen, only an old stove remains. It lays on the ground, flopped on its side, once-white enamel slowly rusting to grey-brown. Sheet metal and tin scatter across the grounds, holding back the scotch broom and blackberry bushes. Bedsprings jauntily poke out of the creekbed, sagged and twisted. Among the debris, a thick piece of handblown glass dating from the turn of the 20th century sits, only a small slice of what once was a gallon jug. The winter sun barely pokes through the hazy sky. It doesn’t look like the map Steve Prather had scribbled on the bottom of a 24 pack of 7-Up a week earlier. His map had squares on it, marking houses and the location of the spring. I look at the torn piece of cardboard in my hand one more time, then look up. There’s nothing here.
For decades, Loch Lomond Resort ran on a predictable routine, filling each year from Memorial Day to Labor Day, then emptying each winter, leaving boarded-up cabins and a few hearty year-round residents.
The summer of 1967, known in San Francisco as The Summer of Love, was an eventful year for Loch Lomond. Not only did the resort have its own hippy crisis, but it also changed forever.
Soon after setting up the lodge for Loch Lomond, Lilburn and Ruth Prather Moody opened a campground, had the land subdivided, and began selling lots. At this time in America’s history, a working-class family could own a vacation home. And the Loch Lomond Resort was no exception: If someone wandered into the bar on a Saturday afternoon, they could have a chat with Ruth, and she’d write up a deed of sale on the placemat. For $500, a person could buy a lot and build a cabin.
In the days when Loch Lomond Resort still ran, seven Prather brothers roamed the mountain, raising hell wherever they went (That’s their words, not mine): Steve, Mike, Gary, Danny, Donny, Timmy, and Darryl. At the cabin on Prather mountain, I’m chatting with three of them. Danny’s rummaging through the icebox for ice while Steve and I sit at the table and talk about the past. A few minutes later, Mike walks in, takes off his coat, and kicks back in a chair. The cabin’s made entirely of wood from the mountain, milled on-site, and built by the Prathers. Framed pictures of bobcats, cougars, and bears caught in a game camera line one wall, surrounded by old guns hanging from hooks.
Danny Prather bears a striking resemblance to his great-grandfather, William Robert. Broad-shouldered and solid-footed from years of felling trees, he hunches over the steering wheel, winding among dirt roads that zigzag across the mountainside. A controlled burn heads into the distance off to the left, eating away at the greenbrown leaves and needles and leaving behind a smoldering haze.
I first met Danny at The Roadhouse, Loch Lomond’s long-time, and now closed, bar, where he and his brothers would regularly play music together.
He peers through the dusty windshield as we climb a steep hill. “Some people call this Siegler Mountain,” I say. The woods around spread in a patchwork of pine, fir, cedar, and oak trees, all groomed and free of undergrowth.
“Yeah, and some people call it Prather mountain,” Danny quickly replies. “It’s been in our family longer than anybody else’s. Siegler was there only a few years.” He cranes his neck to look up the road. “It looks like Gary’s doing some burning,” he says, slowing down. “There he is!” He pulls over and begins walking up towards the burn line.
To understand Loch Lomond, you need to get to know Ruth Springston (Prather) Moody. You met her last week; she’s the one who named the place, helped build it, and maintained it for years.
Ruth was there from the beginning. She cleaned rooms, checked guests in and out, filled in at the restaurant, ran the bar, and did everything else in between. After her divorce from Lilburn Prather, Ruth took over the resort and ran it for several years, influencing many. Her strong opinions and tough-mindedness still can be seen in her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
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.
Weekly newspapers, the Lake County Bee and the Clear Lake Press, both published in Lakeport, the Kelseyville Sun and the Lower Lake Bulletin, kept Lake County’s estimated 5500 residents informed with the hard news and the social news columns.
Lake County’s day to day life unfolds in the antique social media. Routine reports of property sales, cattlemen in town on business, and relatives visiting each other are interspersed with flu cases and flu deaths. Red Cross volunteers reported on making clothing for soldiers in combat and for European refugees, and on making gauze anti-flu masks.
The newspapers convey a sense of Lake County fighting influenza on its own. Relatives, friends, neighbors and nurses cared for patients at home. Overwhelmed caregivers begged for volunteer nurses. Doctors like Walter Fearn, Henry Stipp, J.B. Baker, county health officer Murdock Craig and Calistoga’s Walter Blodgett coped with the crisis as best they could.
Local newspapers printed Surgeon General Rupert Blue’s “Advice on Flu” that recommended avoiding crowds, covering coughs and sneezes, getting fresh air, eating wholesome food, and wearing masks.
In October Dr. Craig advised people to avoid public gatherings for a week. Although the moving picture show, churches services and schools closed for few days, some folks doubted the need for concern.
The Lake County Bee scoffed, “There is no epidemic of influenza here, nor of anything else unless it is fright. The Board of Health acted on the theory that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and that a majority of the people of Lakeport wanted them to take the action they did.”
The social news tells the other side of the story. People came to Lake County from cities to avoid the influenza. Social customs changed as small unostentatious weddings and outdoor funerals became the norm. Masks became fashionable.
“In the past, the city had tried three different times to get a road tax and failed for several reasons. We didn’t want the money to go into the general fund; we wanted it to go into the roads. The third time that we tried, it passed because we focused on the roads. That required a 2/3 vote, and it was close.” He chuckles at the thought. “It’s been three years since it went into effect. Before that, our average road repair maintenance budget was approximately $200,000 annually. In the last two years, we’ve spent $2.5 million each year. And we did that. We, the people of Clearlake, did that. We’re proud of that.”
“Life was different in the ’60s here,” Russ begins. Clearlake Highlands was a going concern. In the summertime, it was busy on Lakeshore Drive, with people walking up and down. Austin’s Beach was full of people. Back then, cruising Lakeshore was a big deal. Have you ever seen ‘American Graffiti?’ he asks. “The Highlands was like that back then.”