You may have noticed that a small piece of our past, the Oakwood Stand, disappeared from the landscape in May. Not to say its hadn’t seen better days, because frankly, it was falling apart as were the adjacent guest rooms and dining hall, but it was a wonderful reminder of small town America long before Ray Kroc purchased a dairy bar from the McDonald brothers.
Oakwood was owned and operated beginning in the 1930’s by my great aunt Hazel Markham Coe Gilmore. At Oakwood, you could get a sizzling burger or hotdog, hand cut French fries, a shake or an icy Coke while you relaxed at a picnic table overlooking Lake Pocotopaug. The only historical culinary experience comparable in the area still operating is Harry’s in Colchester. Oakwood also had guest cottages and rooms available for an extended stay and it was, in its heyday, one of nearly a dozen locations on Lake Pocotopaug such as Edgemere, Lakeview House, Pocotopaug Lodge, Clearwater, and the Terramaugus House providing accommodations to the city dweller seeking refuge from the summer heat.
Thinking about the demise of the vacation resorts and camps is somewhat maudlin but also a bit poetic. As the walls were crushed and crammed into dumpsters, it signaled and vividly portrayed the end of an era on Lake Pocotopaug. Although unrelated, within days, Helen Condon, Hazel’s daughter, passed away peacefully in the night. Helen and her sisters, Dorothy Peterman who had died just a few years ago, and Marion Roberts, worked summers at the stand and guest cottages as did my Dad, Don Markham during his high school years.