No Rules at the Louievilla

I feel so lucky when recalling memories of staying at the Louievilla, an old and worn-down farmhouse in Fish Creek, Wisconsin, in the heart of Door County. My college friend, Betty, started the whole thing when she had a job that gave her time off in the summer. So, that’s when she took her vacation, two weeks, renting the Louievilla.

Liking and wanting company, she began inviting friends to join her. She rented the house and then asked for a nominal nightly rental fee from each of us. How lucky was I to stay in a house in the center of a tourist’s paradise for a mere $10.00 a night.

A misfit among the up-scale summer homes and cottages that surround it, the house does have location, location, location going for it; the public beach is across the street and the heart of this busy tourist village and harbor is less than a block away. But that’s not why we loved it.

The owners of the Louievilla lived in Louisville, Kentucky and had a local real estate company manage it for them. They’d owned the house for a long time and came up only for a week, usually right before our two weeks around the fourth of July.

Betty did lots of decorating, red white and blue banners and signs. Our trademark was a large stuffed flamingo that sat on the front steps and announced that we had arrived.   Quite festive. Once a man came into the porch thinking he was entering a drinking/ eating establishment. We had a good laugh, then sent him down the street.

The Louievilla has six bedrooms, a large living, dining room and kitchen on the first floor. The one bedroom on the first floor belonged to Betty. The living room furniture was old, of garage sale caliber. Mismatched and worn. Bed sheets hung from rods as make-shift curtains throughout the house.

The kitchen cupboards were filled with cracked and faded dishes and cookware. I’m pretty sure this was mostly made up of a collection of items former renters had left behind. I recall one year finding a mug I’d left there years before. The rent was quite high, $1500.00 a week, and I got it that the owners felt no need to fix up or improve since there was a waiting list. I’d have to call the place a dump if you think of décor but to us it was a castle.

Each year upon arrival, after unpacking, we’d tour the house to see what was new. There was always one thing that was new.  It could be something as simple as the addition of a new toaster to replace the dilapidated one that always burned the toast. Imagine our joy the year we found a real shower in the downstairs bathroom. No more sitting in the tub leaning under a shower sprinter.

Then there’s the porch, a glassed-in room that spanned the entire front of the house which became the center of our social life. The porch was also filled with rickety and shabby furniture. Since Betty was renting and paying top dollar she got to designate her chair on the porch.  All she had to do was appear at the door and if anyone was sitting in what we lovingly called the queen’s chair, they relocated without a word.

We were known to spend many days sitting on the porch. Sometimes never leaving the house at all, except for a few brave souls who walked across the street to the beach or set up a card table out on the front lawn to do a jig-saw puzzle while taking in the sun.

It could be confusing sometimes when we planned a dinner out only to be discombobulated trying to time our departure. Just when it seemed everyone was ready, someone would say they needed a few minutes to finish their beer.  So, then someone else would start another and not be done for a while. Pretty soon, snacks came out and once the board games appeared, the trip to the Bayside for a burger was lost in the wind.

It was an easy time with no pressure to do anything. As soon as we got up we headed, in our pajamas, for the porch with a cup of coffee, lounging and thinking about what, if anything, to do that day. Morning ritual was for someone to walk down the street to get ice for the cooler and the newspaper.

I recall at least one time, I never started by car for the whole two weeks I was there. And yet I was busy. We car pooled when going out and designated an early and a late car that was sure to serve the needs of all. Shopping and restaurants were just down the street. In fact, I did more shopping and drinking during that two weeks than I did the rest of the year.

But all good things must come to an end. Betty retired and reasoned why spend so much money and drive so far when the peace and serenity she wanted was right there in her own back yard.  So, wistfully I recall the walks down to the sunset each night, the trips to the educational book store with several of the teachers in the group, the annual dinner at the Greenwood, and bean bags at the A-C Tap. The Bayside still has the best mushroom swiss burger in the world.

The Louievilla was a summer respite for this very special group of friends for over twenty-five years. Toward the end of our time there I recall Betty calling a meeting and sheepishly, almost apologetically, saying that the rent had gone up and she needed to raise what she charged us. I gasped then laughed when she announced from now on she’d be charging $12.00 a night. Still lucky!



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