By Tucker Henderson

Special to the Dispatch

They say when an elderly person dies, it is akin to a library burning down. Well, a great wealth of knowledge was lost this past week when my grandmother, Lynnette (Menze) Henderson, passed away. I feel as if I just wrote a history column as I just finished her obituary clocking in at 764 words. I’d appreciate it if after you finish this article, you made your way to the obituary page and read hers. She lived through a lot and it’s only human for me to feel the selfish desire to have her back here with us.

I often ask questions to my elders about what life was like when they grew up or information about the generations before them. My grandma would often say, “I don’t know. I’m not the one interested in all that history.” I quickly learned that she only answered that way when I asked about my grandpa’s family. When I sought out answers pertaining to her side of the family, she would tell me what she knew and offer conjecture for the rest.

I had hoped to write a lengthy and well-researched article about my grandmother’s home, which just happens to be an interesting (former) community feature. Instead, as life often does, other projects, hobbies, and obligations pulled me away from focusing on that article. Although I wish she could have read that nonexistent masterpiece that I dreamt up in my head, I feel that I am able to honor her interest in history with this column.

My grandmother’s parents, Orlie and Dede Menze, had a business idea in the ‘50s for a “Youth Recreation Center” as the NYM Herald called it in November of 1963. Through their tenacity and drive, they succeeded in building a 56×120 foot log structure to start their dream. The building was actually a kit of native cedar logs specially ordered from Northwoods Log Cabin Mill in LaPorte, Minnesota. Orlie, with expert help of Burgess Bach (he worked for the Cabin Mill) designed the building to fit the business’ specific needs. Orlie had help from his father and his sons to construct a building from the massive kit that sat at the east end of Rush Lake, ready to be assembled.

Orlie had already bulldozed a hill to make room for the building and a parking lot. Most of the construction was done by the Menze family, only needing extra help for the flooring and roof. They even landscaped the grounds and laid sod over top of the sandy soil that made up the ground there. The roller rink was named “Orlie’s Log Cabin” and had a grand opening in December of 1963. The building had 6,720 square footage, 5,600 of which made up the roller skating area.

The plan was to expand upon the business as profits increased and made it possible to do so. Orlie and Dede’s future plans were to add trapshooting facilities, lawn bowling, cart track riding, boating, horse riding, and a place to camp and picnic. This site was located off the beaten path, though not too far. The Herald gave directions from Heinola, so that tells you how easy it was to find.

The business was successful and well enjoyed and my grandma recalled working in the concessions stand. She said the only part that she didn’t like was cleaning up stale cigarettes and spilled booze on Sunday mornings before church. This only happened after a set-up party was booked on some Saturday evenings. The business didn’t have much of a chance after Orlie had a massive heart attack in 1965 that made it so that he was unable to work or farm. I’m not sure of exact dates, but I believe my grandma said that it was totally closed by 1968 when she graduated high school.

After being empty for about ten years, my great grandpa Orlie was sick of people vandalizing the building, so he offered it to my grandma and grandpa for sale. They bought it around 1976 and remodelled it as a home. 

They’ve lived there ever since and due to its large design, it even afforded my grandma enough room to have a dedicated industrial sewing room. She named her new seamstress business “Lynn’s Log Cabin” and it has been called that off and on by the family ever since.

Though Orlie’s heart attack led the business to an early closure, his son Dale Menze continued his dream and recently opened Rush Lake Range not far from the roller rink and closer yet to Orlie’s farm in Otto Township. Rush Lake Range is a shooting range outfitted with trapshooting facilities, which was on the list for Orlie’s Log Cabin years ago.

I will forever cherish my memories of my grandma and she taught me something that I didn’t even realize until writing this column: though she said she didn’t care for history, she was much more interested and involved in her own history than she likely even realized. Buying her family’s old roller rink, renaming it after her business while honoring her parent’s business, and keeping up the building show her dedication to history. Be it big or small, we are all a part of history. Make sure to make your dent in the memory of your community. My grandma certainly did and I hope to do the same.