Remembering Ben

Memories of the Mailboat Man

When I was growing up, visits to my Uncle Ben at Camp Bertha (resort on Bertha Lake of the Whitefish Chain) were filled with a lot of wonderful memories. His father, John G. Knebel, named Ideal Township and was the first clerk.

There were a lot of family reunions over the years at Ben's with my mom's cold fried chicken, Grandma Brann's unforgettable baked beans, sliced tomatoes from the garden and, of course, the homemade ice cream that we all helped to make by taking turns at the turning crank.

We usually stayed at cabin #1, as there were seven of us. Ben would always have ice for the [ice]box, as no electricity was in yet. That came later. The kerosene lamps were always full and we had our trusty flashlight for the trek to the outdoor biff at night.

Fishing was the best, with lots of crappies (one to a cast iron skillet), sunfish, northern and of course, walleye. Ben's favorite meal was my mom's fried crappie and sunfish supper, which he had with us at least two times a week. He would come over for supper around 5 p.m. and we would visit for awhile before supper was ready.

My mom's folks, Herb and Minnie Kernkamp, and my dad's folks, Lon and Lydia Brann, would be there too. Lots of homemade fried potatoes, corn on the cob, Postem to drink (Ben's favorite) and Mom's homemade rhubarb custard pie. There was no oven in the cabin, so Mom did all her baking at home.

The highlight of our visit would be the ride on the mailboat. We would meet Ben at the dock and my dad would help get the cover off the boat, and help passengers get into the boat. Ben had many people who loved to go on the ride and sometimes he would even pick them up at a dock along the way.

On the mail route, just before he got to the dock, Ben would let them know he was near and give a blast of the horn. There was always someone at the dock to greet him. A quick chat, maybe an, "Is that right?" comment from Ben, and then a wave of his hand as we pulled away from the dock on to our next stop.

We would always stop at Father Foley's (Camp) for a break and a Coke. That was Ben's favorite soda and he always had a case on board.

Ben never missed a day of delivery and during the other months, Ben delivered [the mail] by car.

My husband, Duane, and our children were privileged to vacation at Camp Bertha also


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