I’ve posted this article several years ago, but with the number of new people now owners. I thought I’d post it again.
On a couple of occasions several years ago I sat down with the late Joanne Alley at her home on the northeast side of Kelly Lake to learn from Joanne’s extensive archives of Kelly Lake’s history (her daughter and son-in-law, Rebecca and Karl Fabry live there now).
Her willingness to share was exemplified by joy in doing so. We had some wonderful conversations about Kelly Lake and sharing our memories from early on. Hope you enjoy Joanne’s article. Roger
Note: To enlarge article pages, left-click on the images below. Full scanned text included below images.
Below is the raw OCR text scanned from the images for archive – needs editing as the scan misses a word here and there.
From the Kelly Lake Scrapbook of Joanne Ellis Alley Newspaper article from Oconto County Times-Herald July 1, 1998
July 1939-Interior of the CASINO bar room. From left: Jack Ell, “Fitz’ Fitzgibbon. Sue Fowler Fsintlbbson,c;iite?,==rouman,17 Kadlec Stasny. Hazel Kadlec Krueger. Dorothy Hyland
If anyone can identify those with question marks, please notify the Times-Herald or Joanne Alley.
After the Johnson and Ellis Resort of 1911-1920 went out of business, their cottages were sold to individuals and, in some cases, moved to other locations. Jack Ellis retained his home, “Trail’s End”, plus land on the road next to OUTSYDE INN where he had garages and a room for rent.
He formed a small band called the “Northern Stars” in 1922, which played in many dance halls from Green Bay to Oconto and Marinette counties. The “Northern Stars” played at the opening of the “Lilac Club”. now known as the “Lilac Plantation”.
Jack was an accomplished jazz pianist, and other members of the band included Fred Christiansen, sax and drums, Lee Nygaard, violin. and I Herb Hall on trumpet. In 1927, Ellis purchased land on the east side of the road from Fred Gidncy, and broke ground for a small building in which he would sell ice cream, candy, etc.
A Red Crown gasoline pump stood at the comer of the building, and I remember the handle being pumped to get the gas to the correct height in the glass top to dispense to the cars. Jack named the building the CASINO, and it opened for business in the summer of 1928. In the fall of 1928, a dining room and kitchens were added. Since few cottages had kitchens, the dining room was a welcome addition. Breakfast cost 60 cents, dinner and supper 75.. , and a weekly rate for three meals a day was $13.00.
1927 CASINO 11.1d, 1929 • Comp.,. CASINO In 1929 Ellis bought additional land from Gidney and added a large dance hall, which was to become famous in the area. The first dance was held on June 15.1929. Every summer thereafter until the early 1940, a dance was held every Friday night from June to September, and name bands were hired to play. They were large bands, and though not of the top caliber in fame, they were perhaps next to the top. Some of them were: “The McKinney’s Cotton Pickers”, advertised as recording for Victor Records and “coast to coast radio presentation; an all-girl band known as “Agnes Ayres and Iler Debs”. with Agnes Ayres advertised as a famous screen star, having appeared in “The Sheik” with Rudolph Valentino, and having starred in the first presentation of “The Ten Commandments.. Another favorite was the “Tom Temple” band. Everyone in a wide area looked forward to Friday night at the CASINO, and for 40 cents one could have his or her hand stamped and enjoy a night of dancing and listening. In addition to the Friday night dances, many wedding dances and proms were held at the CASINO, particularly the Suring prom which was held there every year.
The dance hall took up all of what is now the banquet hall of the HOLIDAY INN, plus the area extending through what is now the bar room. A ticket booth was just inside the entrance, and a large cloakroom was on the left, where coats were laid on bench.. Built-in benches lined the walls of the dance hall, and at the far end was a stage with a small dressing room on either side. There was an open-beamed ceiling always decorated with crepe paper for the proms. When I was very young,) was put to sleep among the coats in the cloakroom on dance nights, as there were no baby sitters hired in those depression days.
The dining room took up part of the present bar room and dining room. The south end of the building became the original bar room in 1933 when prohibition was repealed and liquor could be served. Above the bar room was a small cupola room, just big enough for a cot and a trap door. An iron ladder led to it, and that was where my father or my brother, Jack Jr. slept to guard the CASINO, as there were numerous break-ins and attempted robberies, and some armed confrontations took place. When 1 was a pre-teen, I was put to bed in the cupola room on dance nights when my bedtime came.
When we were teenagers and attended the Friday night dances, we all waited until mid-night to descend on the dining room for one of my mother’s famous harnburgers, as our Catholic friends could not cat meat until then.
One part of the bar room was a soda fountain with one or two booths, and as teenagers, we were allowed to sit there and have sundaes or sodas during the day or early evening, but the minute the adults started coming in to the bar, my father unceremoniously ushered us out. lie was adamant about us not being there when liquor was served.
He also would flat tolerate rowdy behavior or bad language by anyone, and I remember seeing him (a short slight, wiry man) and Roland “Tiny” Holger (a very tall large man who serve.. bar tender and bouncer) hustle anyone who didn’t meet his standards out the door. In the bar room were also a jukebox and both penny and nickel slot machines.
My father and mother spoke of Curley Lambeau and other members of the early Packer team some-times visiting the CASINO.
In the early 1940’s, Jack added a “northwoods” bar at the south end of the bar room, which was pine-paneled and decorated with no.woods antiques, many of which 1 still have. In the mid-1940’s Jack and Winifred moved to Chicago, and the CASINO was rented to Mr. Kurten of Lena, who used the dance .1 as a roller skating rink, and that was the end of the Friday night dances.
Jack and Winifred moved back to their home on Kelly Lake to retire in 1954. In the winter of 1946, Jack and Winifred sold the CASINO to Gerry and Gladys Kania, who re-named it the HOLIDAY INN. They remodeled the front part of the dance hall to make the present bar room, and made living quarters at the south end where the “no.woods” bar had been, plus adding to the rear of the building. There they raised their family and operated a very successful business until they retired to a home north of the HOLIDAY INN where Gerry still lives.
On November 1, 1979, Rom. Wiegele purchased the building, “Rom,” did further remodeling, taking out the living quarters and extending the dining room, modernizing the kitchens and the bar room and banquet hall. The HOLIDAY INN has become one of the most popular gathering places in a wide area, and the old dance hall is still the largest space available locally for large gatherings.
For 40 years it was the meeting place for The Tavern League, and for the last 19 years the home of “Ducks Unlimited”, and “White Tails” and “Trout” Unlimited”, plus hosting many Sportsmen’s’ banquets, weddings, anniversary celebrations, and fund-raisers. Jack Ellis’s letter-head on the CASINO stationery carried this poem, which, as far as I know, he composed himself:
“The Queen of Night, pursued by King of Day, Drop’s in her flight bright gems upon the way. One jewel rare, bedecked in ferns and brake, A son of Erin found and named it – KELLY LAKE.”
Those of us who grew up at Kelly Lake in the ’30’s and ’40’s enjoy the HOLIDAY INN, but still look back on the CASINO and those Friday night dances with great nostalgia.
Editor’s Note: The next feature of the Kelly Lake Scrapbook will concern the Lee Lake Dam and its effect on Kelly and surrounding lakes.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.