When first asked to write this article for the Lake Life section of The Citizen, I thought, “How will I do this?” Since I’ve never had the pleasure of living directly on Owasco Lake.

But once I started, I realized that the lake was part of everyone’s experience growing up in Cayuga County.\

My earliest memories of the lake began on Swift Street. My parents took the family to see Vic & Jack’s play Swifty’s at the Y-Field. Afterwards, we would head up to the lake to Jitch’s for a Hofmann hot and an ice-cold Coke. Next-door was Johnny’s for ice cream, and from the parking lot you could watch fully clothed people jump off the white bridge into the outlet. It was a lot to pack into one night.

We were members of the Owasco Yacht Club, and I couldn’t wait to go. My mother was always late. I didn’t know why organizing, dressing and packing lunch for five kids and a husband took so long. After my fifth trip from the car to the house, my father would say, “Here comes Pestering Pete again.” We took swimming lessons from Paul Klieber. You were nervous before your raft test and worried that you might not make it on the first try. Nobody wanted to be rescued by the lifeguard. I learned to sail — one way — and usually found a ride back. What’s tacking? Swimming, playing tag and tetherball all day, topped off by a milkshake that didn’t cost anything, was hard to beat.

Middle school years at the Lake Dance came next. Kids from all over the county came together at Emerson Park every Saturday night in the summer to enjoy music and dancing. I don’t know how those adult chaperones made the night be so safe and fun for all. If you walked your best girl home afterward, you never quite forgot it.

High school next. Imagine, as juniors, finding out that with six of your best friends you could rent a camp on Owasco Lake for two weeks and be on your own. It became an annual summer ritual right through college. We all worked, but we didn’t let that get in the way. Many a night at Curley’s followed by little sleep and then work at 7 a.m. in one of the local factories. We always agreed to leave the place better than when we found it, so we were often invited back. We remain friends to this day.

During the next 30 years, there were picnics, fundraisers, graduation parties and reunions under the shelters at Emerson Park. There is something special about a wedding at the pavilion. It always leaves a fond memory of the day or night. Who hasn’t been to a Great Race? Who hasn’t attended a Thursday night of music? Who hasn’t been to the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse? Who hasn’t attended the Fourth of July celebration? Who hasn’t watched a Little League game? Who hasn’t had ice cream at Tom Thumb or (Seb’s) Green Shutters? Been on a barge with Capt. Ross?

There is a cycle to life. My wife and I joined the Owasco Yacht Club. Our daughter became a lifeguard and taught swimming. We don’t swim to the raft very often. We do enjoy a quiet evening with our swim group friends. We watched some wonderful sunsets over the lake.

If you have fond memories of the lake, please consider joining the Owasco Lake Watershed Association or Save Owasco Now. We need your help in protecting our lake. Do not wait for someone else to act. It might be too late.

Bill Foster is a member of the board of directors of the Owasco Watershed Lake Association, actively involved with the tributary sampling program and political outreach efforts. For more information, or to join OWLA, visit owla.org.