Remembering Sammy Lane Resort

20, August 2010
Enjoying the pool at Sammy Lane Resort
with my sister Kristi (right) in 1977.

On a recent phone conversation with my mother, she informed me that she and Dad are taking a vacation to Branson, Missouri. Neither my parents nor I have been there in years, but Branson was a popular destination for my family when I was a child in the late 1970s.

Mom and I talked about the days of loading the family (five of us kids and my parents) into the yellow station wagon for a few days of relaxation at our favorite resort in Branson, Sammy Lane, and lamented its demise, having been torn down long ago in the name of progress.

Sammy Lane Resort was what many would consider a rustic retreat. Families could either stay in the lodge or in one of several log cabins on the property, and my family always opted for the latter. Although the lay of the land is no longer clear in my mind’s eye, I do remember a huge swimming pool with water falling over a rock wall, volleyball nets and tennis courts, views of the lake dotted with pontoon boats, and a playground.

My sister Kristi and I loved to take slices of bread down to the lake, where the geese were so accustomed to people that they would walk up to us and snatch pieces of the bread from between our fingers.

For some inexplicable reason, my mom derived pleasure from dressing Kristi and me in matching ensembles. Let me say that Kristi is two years older than I am and has—still to this day—an unfair height advantage. Yet, this didn’t stop some people from assuming, loudly, that we were twins. To our chagrin, we had to endure the oft-repeated phrase, “Look, there go those twins again!”

One of the many "twin" outfits that my mother loved to dress Kristi (left) and me in. Note my indignation as Mom snaps a photo!

One year, Kristi requested that we take a short jaunt from the resort to visit the nearby town of Rockaway Beach. Her former first-grade teacher, Mrs. McGowan, was spending her summer there scooping up ice cream for milkshakes and sundaes at a small lakeside ice cream parlor, and Kristi was very excited about the idea of an ice cream cone served up by her teacher!

Shopping was another favorite pastime on vacation, and there certainly wasn’t a dearth of stores in the resort environs. At a popular candy shop, an intoxicating smell of warm sugar would lure tourists to linger in front of the confectionery, where a large window invited onlookers to peer inside. There were oohs and aahs of delight, and the children would clamber toward the front of the crowd to try to see what the fuss was about. Two workers were standing about five feet apart, braiding two rather large pieces of warm, stretchy candy—one red and the other white—into an enormous candy cane. (I suspect the candy cane has grown in my memory, or maybe it really was big to the small child I was then.)

One of my favorite stores offered screen-printed T-shirts, a fad at the height of popularity in the early 1980s. I got a souvenir T-shirt from Branson every year, but my favorite was my Tweety Bird shirt. I chose a navy blue T-shirt on which to attach the Tweety image, and I recall the excitement I felt when thinking about debuting my new wardrobe addition when school started!

Branson has changed greatly and grown exponentially from the place where I spent so many summer vacations. I’ve heard it referred to as the “Vegas of the Midwest,” but to me, it will always conjure up memories of the quieter, slower days spent with my family.

—Keri O'Brien, Editor