The Casablanca. Movies on the drive-in. Thanksgiving and Christmas at the same time. Flamingos. Ashtrays for drink coasters. $5. Ethel Merman disco. Mickey Jordan. Chairs from the Baker Hotel. Evil Easter Bunny. “What If?” No flying off the exit ramp. Pyrex.
I remember my first time going out there. It was the Miss Casablanca Pageant in 1957. I remember stressing far too much about how I, a barely 17 year old, was going to tell my parents I had been invited to a party at a lake. The key is to first, tell them about the theme of the house. Then tell them that it’s just one county over, barely. Tell them of all the adults that they know and trust that have RSVP’d. Then once they realize it isn’t one of “those parties,” you can tell them it’s at Lake Diversion.
Now it’s 1962 and the lake will be closing at the end of the year. All leases will be ending due to a new owner purchasing the ranch that the lake sits on. I originally wanted this post to be all of the “in front of the house” group pictures I was a part of, but I soon realized that we didn’t always take those and there were some really important events with no official group picture.
The first time I went out there, I was so excited. I had known about the parties, but I wasn’t super close with Mickey and I thought Patricia hated me so I didn’t really ever think I’d get invited. One day though, I was at a third floor work call at the theatre. I don’t build, so I helped Mickey clean. That was the day he found the credenza that now sits in the bedroom at the lake. I think us sharing in that excitement was a bonding event. He was excited that it would be there for the upcoming party. I asked him how the preparations were going and where he would be putting the credenza. I wasn’t outright fishing for an invite, but I secretly hoped I would get one. I think I said something like “I would love to see the credenza in its new, loving home.” Long story short, I did. It was a bit awkward only because I wasn’t super close to anyone yet. I figured that would be the only party I’d go to. I never thought I’d be one of the “cool kids” later on down the road who actually got to help plan parties.
Well, it wasn’t the only party I went to. Due to scheduling issues, the next party I made it to was Thanksmass 1957. That was another party I wasn’t originally invited to. Mickey and I had gotten to be closer friends by then though. I would participate in late night painting parties after theatre rehearsals. Anyway, I wasn’t invited. But someone had asked me if I was so I knew about it. I also knew it tended to be a smaller party and I was still relatively new. I wanted to go, but it didn’t upset me that I wasn’t invited. As it got closer to when I knew the party was, I had just found a good fudge recipe. One night, I was helping on stage and we were talking. I told him about the recipe and how I needed a reason to try it out. His response: “Well come to Thanksmass and bring it!” And that’s the story of how I got invited to Thanksmass 1957.
After Thanksmass, there was a movie party. Sometimes when the weather isn’t too miserable, there would be parties planned just to watch a movie on the outdoor “drive-in” screen. This particular party, we watched Singin’ in the Rain. I don’t remember much about it, but I’m in the picture so I know I was there!
The next party will always remain a highlight of mine. We threw a surprise birthday party for Russ. It was nautical themed. I remember the surprise was almost foiled when Russ got the lake slightly early and a couple of girls got there slightly late and they ran into each other at the toll gate. Somehow they convinced him that they were there for a picnic and had no clue Mickey was even there that weekend!
Summer’s End. Another Casablanca tradition that I got to be apart of. I think this was the last party before the miserable heat starting ruining summer because I don’t remember ever having another outdoor meal like this. Yes, sometimes people sit out there and eat, but it’s always because it got too crowded inside. I miss this.
I only went big for one Halloween. Halloween 1958. The theme was something that involved Doctor Who so naturally I had to be the TARDIS. I put 30+ hours into that thing and only got 2nd place. I’m not still bitter or anything.
A few short months after the Halloween party, we had Thanksmass. At the Halloween party, only the wall frames were up. For Thanksmass, it was all up. We had a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the new addition to the house.
1959 marked my first spring break dance. Previously, I had always been out of town during the dance but this time, I was able to go. I don’t think I danced with anyone, but it was still a wonderful night. Lynn and Stephanie won King and Queen and three years later, still remind everyone of that.
Summer’s End 1959 was a happy/sad party. It was the first without Andrew. He had actually RSVP’d to attend the event so Mickey framed a photo of him so that he would still be in attendance.
Sometimes, the Casablanca would host cast parties for whatever show just finished. This particular one was for West Side Story. We had a themed dance, as if it was the dance from the show. It was complete with performances and a refreshment table to end all refreshment tables.
As I said last year, I only went big for one Halloween. I was a pumpkin for all the subsequent parties.
Thanksmass 1959 had a few kinks in it. There was a terrible ice storm and no one could get to or from or up or down the hill at the lake and crossing the bridge on the way there was also very dangerous. In the end, the theatre allowed us to have an Emergency Thanksmass in the upstairs space. There were still people who didn’t come, but most of the people did brave the weather and make it, if only for an hour or so. I won Pyrex at that party in the gift exchange! If I’m remembering correctly, there was another ice storm a couple weeks before this, right after Thanksgiving. I was supposed to help paint the walls but wasn’t allowed to drive out there. I did make it out the next day for the second coat! We had it all ready for Thanksmass and then we had to relocate…
The week after Emergency Thanksmass was the Christmas Party. It’s bigger and more casual than Thanksmass. It was also the first and only party my family went to.
Once again, the Spring Break dance. I like how in each picture, the house gets further away because there are more people.
Late Easter holds a special place in my heart. It is traditionally held too far after Easter to be an actual Easter party. Margaret and I planned it after a show while we were at IHOP one night. Mickey didn’t have time to plan a party so he said “If y’all do it all, I’m game” so we did it all. We had an egg hunt, a basket exchange, and Mickey’s world famous Coke Ham. We also got to use the pretty dishes since there were so few of us.
The summer of 1960, the Casablanca took a road trip to Disney World. We stayed at a 1950s themed resort at Universal called Cabana Bay Beach Resort and had the best time in the world.
That same year, there was another cast party. This time, for Hairspray.
Once again, a pumpkin.
Late Easter grew a bit between 1960 and 61. We had to have a bigger table this year! We played croquet that day and I didn’t do well.
This particular spring break dance was my favorite. Chris and I won King and Queen! It was a small party as far as Casablanca parties go, but that didn’t change anything. It was a great night. This was the last event without the knowledge that it was the final year of the Casablanca.
This final party was just that. The final party. As soon as the memo went out that the lake was being closed at the end of the year, this party was planned. It was the first party where I saw the fire pit in action and even though it was really hot, it made the best hot dogs that I had ever had. There were also s’mores. And Ginger Ale. And Rocky Horror. It was the perfect final party. It reminded me of the parties of old.
There are so many things I remember from the lake. So many inside jokes that I will always remember and some that I don’t remember but I know happened and some that I wasn’t there for but heard about enough times that I pretend I was there for (sticky trap incident.) We created games out there (one involved voting people off the island until only one was left. That game got hostile.)
I am going to miss the Casablanca more than I can say. In 1957, I never imagined I’d still be going out there five years later. During the 1962 Spring Break dance, I never imagined I’d NOT be going out there five years later. Oh how things change. I’m upset that the lake is closing, but the spirit of the Casablanca will survive.
The Casablanca. Friends. A visit to the past. Laughter. American paradise. Pure, clean fun. One of kind. Warmth. Friendship. Genuine. Family. Home-Away-From-Home. Love.
Thanks for the memories.