Behind the Victory Flagpole – A Special Lake

Good news! I recently read in the Camden News that Ryan Lake has its own little park. Well, it’s about time! Not that it has gone unnoticed all these years.

It was first noticed by my sister, Lorraine, and I when we were quite small. That was about 88 years ago. You see, Ryan Lake was situated on the north end of our Grandpa Albert Nordby’s farm. He told us that two-thirds of the lake was on his property and the other third belonged to the Great Northern Railroad.

So we grew up thinking this was our lake and we made good use of it. I first wrote about Ryan Lake in October 2005, the 6th article I had written for the Camden Community News. It also appears in the book Behind the Victory Flaqpole.

So here’s how it started. Our house was about a block away from the lake, going down Xerxes. It was very handy. As Lorraine and I were young, swimming lessons were needed. This job was assigned to our aunt, Henrietta Nordby, who was an excellent swimmer. She took us to the lake and proceeded to give us lessons. The first chore was to get us into the water and out of the squishy weeds which got caught in our toes, and away from the slippery minnows, vying for swimming space.

The next thing was to explain the usage of water wings, to keep us afloat. We were told to always wear them. Lesson #2 was how to do the “doggie paddle,” a basic stroke for kids. After this came the “dead man’s float,” which was frightening, and not for the faint of heart. You had to lay on top of the water, face down and hold your breath for as long as you could. After a few lessons, Lorraine and I were on our own.

So that was the beginning of many wonderful days of swimming, and later fishing on Ryan Lake. Mr. Jensen lived on Xerxes, across the street from the lake and rented out boats. He gave them to us for free, knowing it was on our grandfather’s property. Our two cousins, Dick and Keith Nordby, who lived on Lake Drive west of our grandfather’s house, would sometimes go swimming with us.

As the years went by, the Nordby farmland was sold and divided into lots for sale. A nice little community began — I think in the ‘40s. Houses were built all the way down to the lake.

Xerxes was paved and more people discovered Ryan Lake and enjoyed its peaceful and serene atmosphere, aside from the swimming and fishing. And now the final touch. It’s an official park! Congratulations to all who made this possible.