Surprises Above & Below the Water

I'm working on a book series, so they turned me loose in the museum!


8/2/20232 min read

To be clear, I don’t live at the lake.

My first exposure to Buckeye Lake, though, was Grandpa Don. He’d been a little boy when the amusement park there was beginning its heyday, and he’d tell us stories about his family driving there from Mt. Sterling, Ohio.

My next experience, which lasted more than a decade, was my first job out of college. I was hired as a staff reporter for The Buckeye Lake Beacon newspaper. Grandpa was thrilled, and he doubled down on his stories of how the lake used to be.

Then the stories started coming from all around me.

To be clear, Charlie Prince’s Beacon could be a “hard hitting” publication that didn’t shy away from tough local issues, even as it celebrated the community the lake area had become as the Millenium approached. As for me, I got to join that team armed with an English degree and a passion for stories.

I was in the perfect place.

Anyone who knows anything about the lake's history would envy me those years as a young features writer. I hung out in photographer Chance Brockway’s garage, where thousands of photos were cataloged of his years growing up behind a camera at the park. I got to sit down with Donna Braig, who would write a fascinating book about coming of age and raising her own family at Buckeye Lake. They had seen it all. I got to document the historical society’s groundbreaking for their new museum (which I was privileged to see celebrate 25 years this summer with the restoration of the original park fountain). I got to photograph the extrication of bumper cars from the burned pier being pulled from the muck of the lake bottom by crane.

The place and its people, challenged in so many ways during the twentieth century, became larger than life in my imagination. So much so that it inspired me to write a three-part series of fiction set there in the years immediately following World War 2.

At any rate, for me Buckeye Lake has always been full of surprises, then and now. I’m talking about facts I thought folks were making up to “pull my leg” that turned out to be true. Someone really did haul an old canal barge up onto a sliver of the towpath and live in it. Someone really did live submerged on the lake bottom as a publicity gimmick. There really was a seal exhibit in which the seals escaped all over the lake. You really can walk across the lake on boats during the Fourth of July fireworks. There really were chain-tire motorcycle races on the ice, and a piece of Canadian marsh still sits in its spongy glory in the water, a gift from a long-ago glacier.

The surprise of these stories hooked me.

I need to share some of them, especially since so many people I talk to who visit the lake today have no idea there used to be an amusement park there.

That’s what this simple B.L.og will seek to do - honor what was, what is, and what will be. And hopefully surprise all of us along the way.

I can’t wait to hear your stories!

Kim Garee (like the late Donna Braig who started the lake’s historical society) is a reporter-turned-teacher who loves to share stories. If you have one she needs to hear, please reach out at

Stories are everywhere at the Buckeye Lake Historical Society Museum!
Stories are everywhere at the Buckeye Lake Historical Society Museum!