August 13, 2007

Howard Lake native is a legend on Lake Mary

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

With what appears to be a natural athletic ability on the water and not a hint of his age, Dana Allen, a Howard Lake native, is considered a legend on Lake Mary.

He learned to water ski more than 50 years ago on Allen beach, located on the southeast side of Lake Mary. The beach, which was open to the public, was part of his parents’ 160-acre farm and home.

As Dana tells the story, his parents, Howard and Genoa Allen, bought the beach from Edward Smedberg in the mid-’40s when Dana was about six years old. Smedberg first ran the beach and a picnic grounds.

“He would charge 15 cents a car to come in and go swimming – as many people as you could load into a car,” Dana said.

In 1952, when Dana was about 13 years old, he had the opportunity to learn how to water ski because the sport was really starting to take off on Lake Mary.

“It was a novelty – something new on a Sunday afternoon. The beach would be packed with people with four or five ski boats skiing off of our beach. Then, another whole pile of other boats were running around on the lake because it was a big deal,” Dana said.

Some of the people using Dana’s family beach would see him watching and offer him the chance to water ski.

The first time he tried to water ski, he got up and did not have any trouble.

After a couple of years, he talked his mother into getting a boat, which he describes as “little.”

“It was a 14-foot runabout with an 18-horse Mercury on it. The boat could pull one skier and it was better if the skier was a kid. I’ve been skiing ever since,” Dana said.

Today, he is pulled behind a 17-foot 1982 Glastron-Carlson which has a 135-horsepower Mercury motor. His driver and lifelong skiing partner is his wife, Marcie, who is originally from Hector, Minn. They have been married since 1964.

Marcie became part of the Lake Mary legend after her first appearance on the lake in 1963.

It seemed fitting that when Dana and Marcie decided to build a lake cabin, they built it next to Allen beach in 1977.

Most of the Allens’ friends have long ago put away their water skis for more comfortable forms of recreation.

Not Dana and Marcie. They keep themselves in shape. Since retiring in 1995, each year they snow ski in Colorado for a month, play golf in Florida for a month, and make it back to their Lake Mary cabin in April to start water skiing.

They also ride bikes, and Dana has a garden and yard work that keeps him busy during the summer months. Needless to say, the Allens have never felt bored since retiring.

However, both admit to slowing down a bit.

“The older you get, the longer it takes to get in shape every year,” Dana said.

“If there are a lot of boats out on the lake, we will wait,” Marcie said. “When we were young, we would go out and ski three times with no problems. Now, we ski once, then we rest. Then maybe ski again and then we rest. When you are 35 you do things different than when you are 65.”

Their home is in LeSueur, where they have lived since 1980, just 47 miles from their cabin – about an hour’s drive.

They have two sons: Chris, married to Kalynn, lives in LeSueur and has two children Hannah, 8, and Ciara, 5.

Erik is married to Susan. They live in Shakopee and have three children, Jackson, 8, Brooks, 6, and Lily, 2.

“Both of the boys water skiied from the time they were little, because that is what we did,” Dana said. “All of the grandchildren are learning to water ski.”

The Allens are definitely aware that life has changed on Lake Mary over the years.

“We were talking about the lake a few days ago when it was so hot. We had some friends out here going around on a pontoon and inner tubes,” Marcie said. “In the olden days, when it was 95 to 100 degrees, everybody would be out on the lake. Now, they just stay home in air conditioning.”

Dana feels that in the last 10 years kids have quit skiing and they just ride around “in those tubes.” Tubing has taken over water skiing.

Remembering some of the fun challenges that were part of water skiing, Dana talked about being able to pull three skiers at the same time with only one boat.

“None of the boats had big motors. With my little boat, I went from an 18-horsepower motor to a 35-horsepower motor, which totally overpowered it,” Dana said.

“The skiers would line up, spaced about four feet apart, and one by one they would be pulled from the dock. By the time the third one finally went off, they would all be up on the water and would start to sink back in the water.

“The old motor would try to rev up and finally you would get it revved up enough that the motor was at full throttle, and then you would do a command performance in front of the beach with all of these people looking on. But you would only be going about half-speed because there was so much weight behind the boat.”

A second challenge put to the skiers years ago, was trying to extend the water skiing season. The Allens’ son, Chris, holds the record for starting out the earliest.

“It was early in the year, the end of March and it was cold,” Marcie said. “He had a wet suit on and we were all in winter coats while he skied around the lake just once and said, ‘that is it!’”

The latest Dana could remember being out water skiing was in the middle of October.

The weather was getting colder, and Dana’s cousin was dressed in a stocking cap, sweatshirt, and long pants. He sat on the end of the dock and wanted to make sure he was not going to get wet. (This was before rope was made of nylon.)

“He was given a huge amount of slack in the rope,” Dana said. “Just as he was pulled off the end of the dock, the rope broke and he piled into the water. We got a picture of him dripping wet with the broken rope.”

Sitting on the deck of their cabin with the sun shining down through the trees, it would be hard to think of a spot more perfect for a getaway. It is the end of July, and the lake water so clear, the bottom of the lake was actually visible from their deck.

The Allens talked about Lake Mary and what a great lake it is. DNR records on lake clarity show Lake Mary to be one of the clearest lakes in Wright County. Dana gives the credit to the Lake Mary Lake Association.

“Lake Mary is known as a clean lake. It is still the same, with all of the development around us,” Dana said. “We have a good lake association, and they are working to keep the run-off out of the lake.”

The Lake Mary Lake Association also knows about the Allens.

Mike Ollig, president of the Lake Mary Lake Association, acknowledges, “The Allens have been around here for such a long time – they are just considered Lake Mary,” Ollig said.

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