The O’Neill Family Cottage at Indiana Beach
Writer / Patrick K. Rocchio
Photography Provided by Chris Beushausen and Patrick K. Rocchio
A few weeks ago during this rather dismal and self-isolating hot summer, it was announced that Indiana Beach was reopening under new ownership. The promise was to provide patrons with an immensely improved amusement and water park experience.
During my teen years (class of 1965), Indiana Beach was a go-to destination for Kokomo’s youth, specifically those with either a driver’s license or a friend with a driver’s license, and, of course, a car was the required means of transportation.
The main attractions were the games of chance lining the midway, the thrilling and exciting water toboggan slide, the two-person paddle boats for excursions on the lake, a variety of tasty junk food vendors, and the spacious open-air concert or dance pavilion.
The most frequently traveled routes from Kokomo to Indiana Beach for my peer group were via either highways 22 West to 29 North to 18 West, and onward through Flora and Delphi to 421 North, or by Highway 35 North to Logansport then on to 24 West to the large billboard marking the entrance for Indiana Beach near Lake Shafer and the town of Monticello.
Typically, day visits to Indiana Beach would be reserved for our weekends. The preferred venues for weekday gatherings were the water and dance hall at Seashore Pool on West Park Avenue. After the pool closed around 9:30 p.m., those living the American Graffiti lifestyle would relocate to the food service drive-ins, the most popular being the Big Boy restaurant at the southeast corner of East Markland Avenue and South Apperson Way.
Hitting the jackpot for Indiana Beach was having a friend with a lakeside family cottage, a power boat with a 45-horsepower motor, and a set of adjustable water skis. In our group of friends, the unrivaled popular hostess who checked all the boxes was Maureen O’Neill and her hospitable family.
Further, Reenie, as she was known by me, was an attractive girl whose presence alone served as a teen guy magnet. What’s not to like about the O’Neill family cottage on Lake Shafer?
Actually, the best of the many features at the O’Neill lake cottage was the kindness of the parents. Addressed by me and my respectful friends as Mr. and Mrs. O’Neill, and absolutely never spoken to on a first-name basis, they always had a warm smile when greeting us upon our arrival at their summer cottage. We never felt out of place or unwelcome at the rustic log cabin cottage, which had been built by Reenie’s father and grandfather with layers of family love applied to the walls.
We always were invited to remain for a midday meal of hot dogs, chips and soft drinks, generously furnished by the O’Neill family. Absent any sense of social etiquette, we never considered the thought of offering to cover the expense or at least to contribute to the cost of the plentiful food and beverages.
The friend who most often accompanied me to the O’Neill cottage was Gary Huls, occasionally his fraternal twin sisters Susie and Mary Jane, and Steve Black. There were others for sure, but their names cannot be listed due to a woeful lack of certainty in my memory of those days.
If Indiana Beach, indeed, has reopened and remains operating this summer and for many years hereafter, both its enjoyable attractions and the adjacent water of Lake Shafer may provide a wealth of fond memories for young friends gathering at a family cottage on the lake’s shore.
Patrick K. Rocchio is the author of the recently released book titled “Keep the Hat on Your Head and Your Boots on the Pedals”, available for purchase through Amazon Books and other online retail book sellers such as Barnes & Noble. Many stories in the book have a Kokomo connection.