When you have the opportunity to chat with some of the folks who have been here in the Paupackan Lake community for some time, you find yourself wrapped up in their stories. It occurred to me that many of you would love to hear those recollections. So I asked Rich and Lucy Damiano to dig through their old pictures and share with us their story.
Lucy and Rich were living in Queens when they decided in 1974 to look for a vacation home. They came across an ad indicating that the Great American Land Corporation was selling and developing lots around the Paupackan Lake. At that time the only roads built were West and East Shore Drives, Sheridan Rd, Ferris Rd. and Westerly Rise only as far as Ferris Rd. Lucy and Rich selected Ferris Rd. and their house was placed there in December of 1975. They were the only house on the street but they could hear the constant drone of machinery and chainsaws as the three roads behind them were being developed. In the spring of 1975, PP&L brought electricity to the area. Keep in mind Rich and Lucy took possession of their home months before that. Add that problem to the fact that the water lines were usually frozen. They both laugh when they tell what visits to their vacation retreat were like back then. “We can’t count the number of times that we had no water which meant no washing, drinking or toilet facilities. So, when that happened we would pack up and go back to civilization. We were happy that it was only a 2 1/2 hour drive home.” They remember a sign on Ferris Rd. indicating the site for a tennis court that was being planned. Obviously, that never materialized.
Rich continued with one of their funniest stories. “We were told there were few insects. Since we bought in October and being city folks, we believed them. Then May came with the May Flies and Gypsy Moths. Not knowing what to do, we put paper bags on our heads with eyeholes so we could clean up our property. After cleaning up the property we decided to take a walk down the road with our bags on our heads. We ran into other city folks who had their heads wrapped in gauze. So, we were not the only ones who looked insane!”
As Lucy and Rich settled into the community and more residents came to the area, the developer asked Rich to serve on the board of directors. Rich remembers that the association dues at the time were $35 per year with an additional $15 for water. An empty lot was significantly less. Nonetheless, even then it was difficult to collect these fees. Rich remembers going from door to door to explain what the money was needed for and to request payment.
Lucy added, “As the development grew we were involved with a small contingent of people who made arrangements for various social events. There were Christmas parties at local restaurants and Valentine’s Day and Halloween affairs. During the summers of the 80’s and 90’s we had a Fourth of July BBQ that was run by 8 – 10 volunteers. In 1995 we moved here permanently. Things sure have changed dramatically since 1974.”
It would be hard to find anyone who knows more about Paupackan Lake than Tony and Margery Mazaitis of West Shore Dr. They don’t just talk the talk they have documentation for everything that they told me. It’s amazing to spend a few hours with them and peruse their files and geographic maps. They not only lived the Paupackan history they have made it a point to fill in the blanks and connect the dots and learn all that they can about the area’s past.
Who else in the community could go back to just after WWII? Tony remembers that as a Pittston boy he would come with his father to fish in our lake. At that time the lake, then known as Long Pond, and the acreage around it was owned by Harold von Waldburg. Boats were available for rent for a day of fishing on the lake. Tony thinks it might have been a $2 fee which he pointed out was considerable amount of money at that time. But the lake was considered a great place to fish and worth the money. Afterall, prize winning were caught here. Von Wahlburg operated his lake business from about 1925 until 1959 when he sold his holdings to Lester Male.
In 1962 Mr. Male put out a flier that put lots for sale “exclusively to outdoorsmen and their families who want to enjoy the quiet and privacy of one of nature’s untouched beauty spots.” At that time only twelve cottages had been built. Ten of those were considered “year round” homes. Male worked to develop his “Paupackan Lake Shores.” Quarter acre lots cost $1185. Add another $5000 to put one of his cottages on your lot. Male oversaw the enlargement of Long Pond to the current Paupackan Lake. Tony reminds us that all those tree stumps that you see out in the water indicate where the land along the Long Pond shore once was. If you read the brochure copies posted below that Male used to promote his venture, you will see reference to the “Lake of the Floating Islands” as a name associated with the Long Pond. Tony and Marge brightened as they spoke of these floating islands. These were actual land masses with small trees and other vegetation that loosened from the lake bed and floated freely. “One passed by and Tony wanted to go down to the beach area and tow it back,” Marge said. They were big, Tony insisted, as big as a house.
Male established the Paupackan Lake Association and saw to its incorporation in 1961. Roads were intentionally designed to slow traffic to 15 mph. He planted the large evergreens still visible in the community as water shed protection. Big game hunting was allowed within the community. Dues were established at $15. Male oversaw the rebuilding of the dam, built wells, laid pipelines, etc. If you violated the rules established you might lose the right to use the lake. A first offense merited a warning but if you dared to offend again you lost use of the lake for 2 weeks and “your name was put on a bulletin board” for all to see as a violator.
Marge and Tony came to Paupackan Lake in 1970. By 1971, 115 families owned property with about 73 ‘cottages’ built by 1973. Marge remembered, “The early 70’s were difficult.” Male had decided to sell to Great American Land. A major problem developed in that Great American created a new association. Among other things, they wanted to control the amount of dues community members paid. They could raise dues at their discretion. Community members argued that we already had an incorporated association that had been functioning for ten years. GAL did not recognize the Paupackan Lake Association and its by-laws. A lawyer was hired and action was taken against GAL. The result was an agreement signed in 1975 that gave the original owners transferable lake rights and recognized the Paupackan Lake Association and its by-laws. Tony was secretary of the board at the time so he was right in the thick of it. To this day it stands that dues cannot be raised without the agreement of the majority of the association.
Under GAL the name of our community was changed to Paupackan Lake Estates. By 1977 there were approximately 650 lot owners. During the 70’s and into the 80’s, various activities were organized by the growing community. Hayrides, picnics, golf gatherings, arts and crafts, card groups, dinner parties, softball teams, bake sales and a horseback riding club helped the community enjoy their country homes and their neighbors. In 1978 Great American Land declared bankruptcy and the property went into foreclosure. First PA Bank took over Paupackan Lake Estates at a sheriff’s sale on 11/28/79. The Paupackan Lake Estates Development Co. took over from the bank 2/13/80. In April 1980 the association took over the water company from the bank.
Obviously, there are now more years to this story. We’ll let those wait for another community story. As for our historians, Marge and Tony, they still stay active in the community.