Sepia Saturday – Grandpa at Lake Okoboji

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. 

Today’s prompt image is of the Spa and South Foreshore, Bridington, 1922, from the Archives of the East Riding of Yorkshire. I don’t have any photos of people in their fine hats and clothes walking or reclining on a beach in England in 1922, but I think I can hit a few common themes – and even the year.

I’ll begin with a photograph of my grandfather, Thomas Hoskins, as a young man in his swimming suit. I don’t know when or where this was taken, but we can probably narrow the location down to Iowa near a lake or river and the year could be 1922. Grandpa was born in 1896, so he would have been about 26 in 1922. It’s a possibility.

Tom Hoskins grew up in the small town of Mystic, in southeastern Iowa. He began working in the coal mines there after completing the 8th grade. Tom married my grandmother Eveline Coates, also from Mystic, in 1923. Here is Eveline wading in Walnut Creek (Mystic) – I’m guessing during the time they were dating.

During the summer of 1922, Tom and some friends took a trip to northern Iowa where there are several large lakes.

When Tom and his companions arrived at Lake Okoboji, he sat down to write a letter to Eveline. I’m lucky to have a poor quality copy of the letter and I want to kick myself every time I think about this! I hosted a family reunion at my home in 2003 and copied the original letter to make a memento for everyone. Luckily, I saved a few of the souvenirs because I haven’t seen the original letter since. I made some big ugly fans with poster board, paint stirrers, and photocopies – including the letter in question.


Okobogi Ia       July 3, 1922

Dear Eveline: I have just arrived at Okobogi, I have been here but about two hours, so you see I am prompt in writing. It is sure a beautiful place here.
We are camping in Highland Park, I think I will like it fine. There is plenty of shade and as I am a fish you know, I will enjoy being in the Lake. I think I will go down and catch a big fish pretty soon but not until I get something to eat for I am nearly starving. I am sending you some pictures of Storm Lake we just left there this morning. There is going to be lots going on here tomorrow. We have just been trying to find out who was the cook of the bunch but nobody seems competent of the job.

Well if you want any fish you had better get in your order as we are going to make a shipment up there the last of this week. Well I will close for this time as the boys are naging me to get a bucket of water.

I will try and write more next time.

Write soon.

Thomas Hoskins

Grandpa was obviously intent on impressing his beau as he made it a point to tell her that he sat down to write to her within two hours of his arrival at Lake Okoboji. I found a couple of postcards with no writing on the back that are likely the pictures of Storm Lake that he mentioned sending to Eveline.

This letter leaves me with a few unanswered questions:
Were the mines closed in the summer? Did they get vacation time? Was there a strike?
Was this a pleasure trip, or were the boys looking to earn some money?
Who were “the boys” anyway?
How long did they stay at Okoboji?
How did they get there?
How would they receive mail?
How in the world did they ship the fish they caught?
Did any of the boys eventually admit to being able to cook?

These questions may go forever unanswered.

The July 6, 1922 issue of The Lake Park News  told readers what “everyone” was planning for July 4th. Hmm – guess that item missed the deadline for the previous issue.

The website for Arnold’s Park – the amusement park at the Lake Okoboji recreation area, states that “1922: On July 4, The Park hosted its largest crowd to date, with approximately 25,000 guests in attendance.” I’m wondering if that celebration in Excelsior, several miles to the west of Lake Okoboji, really drew the largest crowd as predicted by the newspaper?

Did Grandpa and his friends stay at the lake? Probably. There must have been lots going on. And lots of people-watching to keep them entertained.

The sheriff put a damper on the Independence Day celebration for some of the county residents. I wonder if the predicted crowd size in Excelsior had anything to do with this still in the western part of the county?

I don’t know about his younger days, but I never saw my grandfather have a drink of anything stronger than coffee or root beer, so he may not have been fazed by the loss of the celebration hooch.

It’s fun to speculate about what Grandpa and his friends did and saw and talked about during their stay at Lake Okoboji.

Perhaps they saw the new steamboat – the Des Moines – or took a ride if they had the money.

06 July 1922 Lake Park News

Surely they heard about the little girl who drowned on Saturday, July 8th.

And how did they sleep that night? Had they heard of the drowning? Would they have been smiling about the heavy rain overnight as they camped?

13 July 1922 Lake Park News

Did they take their laundry to the barber shop?

27 July 1922 Lake Park News

Tom loved to read Zane Grey books. Was he still in Okoboji on Saturday, July 29th? Did he have the money to attend?

27 July 1922 Lake Park News

Were they there for work in addition to enjoying the lake? I suspect that they were.

29 June 1922 Lake Park News

There was a train station at Arnold Park. Was that their mode of transportation?

I’ve played this guessing game long enough. Except … I wonder if that first picture of Grandpa in his bathing suit was taken at Lake Okoboji?

Please take a walk along the beach to Sepia Saturday and enjoy other interpretations of the prompt image.

All of the newspaper clippings were found at Lake Park News (Lake Park, Iowa).

10 thoughts on “Sepia Saturday – Grandpa at Lake Okoboji

  1. I enjoyed your guessing at what your grampa may or may not have been aware of during his time at the lake. It’s hard to say as communications back then weren’t anywhere near what they are now. Even in my teens, when my family took off on a camping vacation I was blissfully unaware of what was happening anywhere else but right where I was.

  2. Even though you left me with many questions, I found this post most interesting about your grandfather…it’s always good to see the young side of the lives of our elders!

  3. Wonderful set of photos, and even with the original misplaced it’s great that you have a copy of that letter! July 4 fell on a Tuesday in 1922, so It’s possible your grandfather and his friends could get 10 days off by only taking 4 days (July 3 and the 5-7). And I’ll bet they traveled by train, since it was so conveniently located. Good luck resolving your many questions. You are off to a good start!

    • Thanks for figuring out those dates! A definite possibility. Once I found that picture of the train, I thought that must be how they got there. Makes perfect sense.

  4. So many questions you may never know the answer to! All very interesting, but that first photograph of your grandfather as a young athletic looking man in his costume is the best, and lovely to have.

  5. A fascinating detailed research story that gave us a vivid picture of your grandfather’s Life. I also enjoyed finding out more about the Iowa landscape.

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