Teenagers tanned, gossiped, and flirted. Local radio stations conducted arm wrestling and tug-of-war competitions. A Hawaiian Tropic contest determined the darkest tan. Families — armed with grills, umbrellas, coolers, and floats — came to the five-acre Kramer’s Lake during the summers of the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s in masses. As Lucille Kramer, who owned the property with her late husband Earl, recalls, “They would bring so much. It was like they were moving.” Visitors swung from trapezes, leapt from diving boards, and flew down water slides. On Sunday nights, traveling bands rocked the stage in a revamped garage with dance-floor lights.
It wasn’t always heavy metal concerts and water slides, though.
In 1960, as Earl, a longtime West Side farmer, recovered from a severe farming accident, his doctor convinced him to change careers to avoid heavy labor. He enlisted the help of his sons, Vernon and Paul, to transform his family’s farmland into a family destination.
On May 28, 1961, the Kramers opened a picnic and swimming area with two floating docks and charged 25 cents for children and 50 cents for adults. Their lake soon made a splash in Southwest Indiana, drawing nearly 1,000 visitors a day at its peak. In 1986, Earl and Lucille passed on general management duties to their children, who ceased operations in 1998 to pursue other business ventures.
In June 2000, New Beginnings Christian Fellowship purchased Kramer’s Lake. After refurbishing many of the water slides, trapezes, and swings, “we have preserved all the nostalgic things that are out here,” Pastor Darrick Hayden says. The garage where bands once played is now the New Beginnings sanctuary, and a skate park, basketball and sand volleyball courts, archery facilities, and a soccer field are new attractions.
New Beginnings and Evansville Christian School opened Camp Kramer’s summer camp in 2001. Other summer camps and churches hold events on the property weekly throughout the summer. “The vision,” Hayden says, “was to use this as an opportunity to serve the community.”