Remembering History, Fourth Of July Celebrations At Lake Condy

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Lake Condy was once the site of Fourth of July celebrations with barbecue, Brunswick stew and lemonade. At one time, fireworks were displayed to end a day of festivities at the lake. For many years in early Opelika history, Lake Condy was the only recreational area for swimming and picnics. PHOTO BY ANN CIPPERLY / FOR THE OBSERVER

By Ann Cipperly

On the Fourth of July weekend, many families will be heading to Lake Martin, Lake Harding or the beach in search of cool breezes. Years ago, Lake Condy was the only recreation area for families in Opelika to enjoy for swimming on sultry summer days. Families would pack a picnic to enjoy for lunch and swim in water so clear stones could be seen at the bottom.

Diaries from old Opelika families recall visits to the lake, telling of making the trip in wagons. Many children spent most of their summer days at Lake Condy, learning to swim or racing to the diving platform in the middle of the lake. Later, barbecues and festive Fourth of July celebrations were held at the lake.

When the late Doris Condon Canon lived at Lake Condy, the Fourth of July celebration with barbecues and picnics was her favorite time of year. Big pits were dug to cook the barbecue. Brunswick stew was cooked in big black pots, and there were barrels of lemonade. At night there were fireworks lighting up the sky.

Doris remembered there was something going on all the time. It was the only other place to swim besides the high school pool.

The history of Lake Condy was recorded in a diary belonging to the late John Fletcher. The lake was built by Zabud Fletcher in 1878. Zabud was born in 1842 north of Opelika in Mt. Jefferson, a small pre-Civil War community.

Zabud enlisted in the Confederate Army of Tennessee in 1862 at Opelika. Since he was small in stature at 5-feet 2-inches, he could not carry a rifle and was delegated to driving a mule wagon. He was wounded in Perryville, Kentucky, and became a prisoner of war at Camp Douglas, Illinois, and later Atlanta.

When he was paroled in June 1865, Zabud was penniless and had to walk from Atlanta to his home in Mt. Jefferson.

Zabud, his wife Janie and six children moved to the area that would be known as Lake Condy. The lake was built mostly by farm labor. In his diary, Zabud makes references to digging and hauling rocks to dam the water and building a bath house.

Two springs were at the head of the lake, which was called Fletcher’s Lake at the time.

In 1912, the property was sold to M.L. Wilson who resold the property in 1917 to H.L. Condon, grandfather of Doris Canon, who owned the Condon Jewelry Store in downtown Opelika.

Doris’ family’s history in Opelika stretches back to pioneer days. Her great grandfather Joshua C. Condon, H.L.’s father. operated the first jewelry store, Condon Jewelry Store, which was later purchased by the Goodsons.

Known as an expert in his field, Joshua installed the original clock in the steeple at the Lee County Courthouse. He was also on the first board of education, which established public schools in Opelika.

H.L. Condon and his family moved their belongings in a wagon to the property. Fletcher’s Lake was changed to Lake Condy. The name being formed from Condon by dropping the “on” and adding a “y.”

In 1917, a pamphlet on Opelika stated, “For the benefit of those that are not familiar with Lake Condy we offer the following: The delightful recreation center is located two miles north of Opelika, only a short distance from the Dixie Highway.

“The grove has four acres of beautiful shade trees. The lake proper occupies about one and one-half acres. The entire body of water is supplied by 14 pure water springs. The outflow is 58,300 gallons every 24 hours.

“The grounds and lake are electric lighted. Accommodations are convenient. Lunches, ice cream and soft drinks are served.

“It is known as one of the most delightful bathing places in the South. It is operated under orderly management and kept in tune to meet with the approval of the most particular.”

Doris’s great-grandfather, Joshua C. Condon, lived with his son at the lake. In 1926 he wrote a letter to his niece telling her about Lake Condy. He wrote, “The home is 2 1/2 miles from the city with excellent gravel road between. Henry and Josie own 45 acres of land on it, a beautiful lake surrounded with a most beautiful grove of large oaks, hickory and pine trees, with large dressing rooms for the bathers.

“The roads being good, the people come from 50 miles or more for swimming during the summer months. It is a great resort for different secret organizations to have picnics also the churches and Sunday schools for their suppers, picnics and barbeques.

“The past summer has been a busy one for them. The lake has been well patronized this season. At times we have had 75 to 100 in bathing at once, reminding me of Coney Island.”

Doris and her family lived in a two-story house built by her grandparents. In 1930 the house burned, and the family moved into a smaller house on the property.

When Doris on was growing up at the lake, they would let the water out during the winter months and clean the bottom of the lake.

Along with picnics, she remembered the Kiwanis Club ate lunch there on Thursdays, and her grandfather cooked the meals.

When Doris’s grandparents were ready to retire and keeping up Lake Condy became tiresome, Katherine and Earl Barks purchased the property in 1946. The Barks were living in Mobile at the time. Katherine, who was related to Doris, had grown up in Opelika.

The Barks moved to Lake Condy in 1947, bringing azaleas and camellias with them from Mobile. Katherine planted many of them around the lake.

They stopped serving barbecue and slowly grew into a garden business. They built a fishing lake below the original lake.

The Barks were thankful no one drowned at the lake, but there were close calls. One day when the lifeguard was having lunch, Earl saw a baby go under the water. He jumped in and quickly pulled the baby from the bottom.

The last several years the lake was open for membership only. Lake Condy closed to the public in the mid-1980s. The Barks later sold the property.

Earl Barks was always so thankful they lived at the lake. He wrote a poem:

Lake Condy

“It speaks well of our place-

The children love it so.

For ‘tis full of plain-

And simple things

‘Tis countrified.

Even the road to our place

Is dirt-not vitrified.

The water from our spring

Is as God intended-not a thing

Is added.

‘Tis nature’s water-not

citified.

Whether you are celebrating the Fourth of July this year at a lake, the beach or your backyard, take time to remember the reason we are celebrating, as you enjoy a barbecue or picnic with your family. The following recipes from wonderful local cooks offer ideas for a Fourth celebration. Doris Canon’s daughter, Barbara Sims of Opelika, is sharing three of her mother’s recipes.

Memories of Lake Condy are from family diaries and interviews with Doris Canon and Katherine and Earl Barks in 1988, who are now all deceased, by Ann Cipperly.

Doris Canon’s Down South Barbecue Pork Roast

Barbara Sims

2 sliced onions, divided

4 – 5 lb. pork roast or fresh picnic ham

5 – 6 cloves      

1 apple, halved

2 cups water

Put half of onions in bottom of crock-pot. Then add pork and other ingredients with remaining onion and apple on top. Cover and cook overnight or 8 – 12 hours on low.

16 oz. bottle barbecue sauce

1 large onion, chopped

Remove bone and fat from meat. Pull meat apart and return to crock-pot. Add chopped onion and barbecue sauce. Cover and cook additional 1 – 3 hours on high (4 – 8 hours on low) stirring 2 – 3 times. Serve on buns.

Doris Canon’s Potato Salad

Barbara Sims

5 lb. potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

3 – 4 boiled eggs, chopped

3 – 4 stalks celery, chopped

Chopped green pepper

Several large spoonfuls cubed sweet pickles

Mayonnaise

Salt to taste

Celery seeds

Cook potatoes in boiling salted water until tender; drain. Cool thoroughly. Add chopped eggs, celery and pepper to cooled potatoes. Add sweet pickles and mayonnaise (start with 1 large spoonful – add more as needed). Mix well. Salt to taste. Sprinkle generously with celery seeds and mix well.

Doris Canon’s Bean Medley

Barbara Sims

1 can white shoe peg corn, drained

1 can small English peas, drained

1 can diagonal cut green beans, drained

1 can French cut green beans, drained

1 small jar pimento, chopped, drained

1 cup diced onions

1 cup bell pepper, chopped

1 cup celery, chopped

Combine all vegetables.

Heat to boiling:

1 cup vinegar

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup oil

2 Tbsp. water

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

Cool to room temperature. Pour over vegetables. Mix well. Refrigerate at least overnight. Drain before serving.

Grilled Chicken Breasts or Thighs

½ cup lemon juice

½ cup soy sauce

1 tsp. or more garlic powder (or fresh garlic)

2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs or boneless chicken breasts

Combine marinade ingredients. Pour over chicken. Marinate in refrigerator overnight. Grill chicken on each side until fully cooked.

Mini Conecuh Sausage Dogs

Will Herring

1 pkg. Conecuh sausage, grilled

1 pkg. hotdog buns

1 bottle mustard

1 bottle honey

Grill Conecuh. Cut into 4-inch sections. Cut hotdog buns in half (or use mini hotdog buns). Assemble hotdogs topped with either mustard or drizzled honey.

Slider Burgers

Small ground beef patties seasoned with salt and pepper

Slider buns (available at local grocery stores)

Topping Selections:

American and Swiss cheese slices

Crisp cooked bacon

Guacamole

Pickles

Sautéed mushrooms

Salsa

Lettuce, tomato and onion slices

Mayonnaise, ketchup, barbecue sauce and mustard

Shape burgers to fit buns. Grill burgers and toast buns. Serve patties on slider buns with assorted toppings.

Crock-pot Baked Beans

Mary Skinner

1 onion, chopped

1 lb. ground beef

3 lb. can Van Camp pork and beans, drained

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup ketchup

1 Tbsp. mustard

Dash Worcestershire sauce

Brown ground beef and onion; drain well.

Mix all ingredients and bake 4-6 hours in crock-pot.

Makes 10-12 servings.

Fresh Green Bean, Walnut and Feta Salad

Marian Scharpf

2 lbs. fresh green beans, trimmed

1 small purple onion, thinly sliced

4 oz. pkg. crumbled feta cheese

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted

¾ cup olive oil

¼ cup white wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill (can use dried)

½ tsp. minced garlic, optional

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

Cut green beans into thirds, and arrange in a steamer basket over boiling water. Cover and steam 15 minutes or until crisp-tender. Immediately plunge into cold water to stop the cooking process; drain and pat dry.

Toss together green beans, onion, cheese and walnuts in a large bowl. Cover and chill 1 hour.

Whisk together olive oil and next 5 ingredients; cover and chill 1 hour.

Pour vinaigrette over green bean mixture. Chill 1 hour or longer; toss just before serving. Makes 8 servings.

New Potato Salad

Mary Hodson

5 lb. new red potatoes, diced and cooked quickly (do not overcook)

1 bunch green onions, finely diced

½ cup sour cream

¼ mayonnaise

Prepared horseradish to taste

1 small bunch fresh dill, finely chopped (or dried dill to taste)

4-5 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

Mix sour cream, mayonnaise and horseradish together until well blended. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add mixture to potatoes, onion and dill weed. Toss well and chill until ready to serve.

Just before serving, sprinkle bacon on top.

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes with Red and Blue Sprinkles

Let children decorate their own cupcakes.

18½ oz. box cake mix

24 to 28 flat-bottomed ice cream cones

Prepare cake mix according to directions on box. Fill cones ¾ full with batter. Place cones in muffin tins to prepare topping. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool.

Frosting

½ cup shortening

1 box powdered sugar

4 Tbsp. milk

1 tsp. vanilla

Sprinkles or candy topping in red and blue, if desired

Cream shortening and powdered sugar with milk until creamy. Beat in vanilla. Frost cupcakes. Sprinkle cupcakes with sprinkles or candy in red and blue.

All American Trifle

1 qt. strawberries, sliced

1 or two pints blueberries

1 large box instant vanilla pudding

2 cups heavy cream

4 Tbsp. sugar

Pound cake or angel food cake slices or cubes

Save a few strawberries and blueberries to garnish. Mix pudding as directed on box; set aside. Whip cream with 4 Tbsp. sugar.

Line bottom of a deep glass bowl with a third of the cake slices. Pour a third the strawberries berries over cake and then pour a third of the custard over top, a third of the blueberries (be sure they are along the edges) and one-third whipped cream.

Repeat two more times. Garnish with berries. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Note: Can sweeten berries to taste before using. Can use raspberries instead of strawberries or a combination of both.

Ice Cream Pie with Chocolate Sauce

36 Oreo cookies

¼ cup melted butter

½ gallon vanilla ice cream, softened

Hershey’s Chocolate syrup

1 can sweetened condensed milk

Large container Cool Whip, optional

Chopped nuts, optional

Crush cookies with filling and mix with melted butter. Coat a 9 by 13 inch pan with nonstick spray. Pat cookie mixture into pan. Spread softened ice cream over crust; freeze.

In a saucepan, combine chocolate syrup and condensed milk and cook over medium heat; boil 2 minutes stirring constantly. Cool completely and chill in refrigerator.

When chilled, pour over ice cream layer. Freeze. Top with Cool Whip and nuts, if desired. Store in freezer until ready to serve.

Mom C’s Oven Baked Ribs

3-4 lb. country style ribs

1 lemon, sliced

1 large onion, sliced

1 cup ketchup

1/3 cup Worcestershire Sauce

1 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. salt

2 dashes Tabasco sauce

2 cups water

Cut ribs into pieces and place meaty side up in a shallow baking pan. On each piece place a slice of unpeeled lemon and onion. Place in a 450 degree oven for 30 minutes or until brown.

Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Pour sauce over browned ribs. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for 45 minutes to an hour or until done, basting every 15 minutes with the sauce.

If sauce becomes too thick, add more water. Serves 4.

Quick and Easy Brunswick Stew

Margo Herndon

4 Tbsp. butter

½ medium onion, diced

1 baking potato, diced

2 cups chicken broth

32 oz. bottle Dreamland barbecue sauce, Stubbs or Foy’s (I use as low carb sauce as I can find)

28 oz. can diced tomatoes

14 oz. can shoe-peg corn

1 lb. purchased (or homemade prepared) chipped pork barbecue

1 cooked deli roasted chicken, meat pulled apart and chipped

In large pot, over medium heat, melt butter, add onion and sauté until translucent. Add potato and chicken broth and cook for 15 minutes. Stir in sauce, tomatoes, corn, pork and chicken. 

Cook over medium-low heat until potatoes are tender and stew has thicken, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Add more chicken broth if it’s too thick. Delicious and easy!

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