Echo Lake Ranch Resort may be long gone, but it lives on as a pleasant memory in the minds of people who spent time there.
"It was an every summer thing for my family for about 10 years-all through the '60s," Denise Daugherty, 53, of Overland, said of the resort that is now the city of Byrnes Mill. "In a way, it does remind me of 'Dirty Dancing.' But, it wasn't that refined at Echo Lake."
Byrnes Mill Alderman Grant MacLaren is doing his part to keep Echo Lake Ranch Resort from fading completely away through a Web site dedicated to the old summer hot spot. He has collected photographs from when the resort was in operation and posted them, along with some historical information at www.echolake.info. Once there, click on the red button by "Echo Lake Ranch Resort."
"I think, the very first I heard of it was a year ago November, when we decided to build a house in the area that had been the Echo Lake Resort," MacLaren said.
"The developer had pictures of it. Recently, I borrowed those photographs from the developer and scanned them in. When I brought them back to him, they had more pictures on CD."
MacLaren said he can tell by the photographs that Echo Lake Ranch Resort was a unique gathering place in the region.
"I don't think there were too many places like this in the St. Louis area," he said.
Daugherty seconds that opinion.
"What I liked the most were the meals," she recalled. "They'd have family style meals at every meal. When meal time was over, they'd remove the tables and you'd play shuffleboard. There was also a jukebox. There was swimming, horseback riding and fishing. My dad and I did a lot of fishing.
"My sister and I and my parents would spend a week there each summer, usually. Sometimes, we'd spend two weeks. I looked forward to it. We lived for it. I would save my money to go horseback riding. It was $1.50 a ride. We'd also play miniature golf and softball."
There was a sense of community among those who stayed at the resort, Daugherty said.
"At night, they'd have different activities, like square dancing one night, movie night another," she said. "They would have a camp fire and we'd do a conga line down to it. Then, we'd have a wienie roast and sing along.
"It meant so much to me. It was a family run place. The grandpa was a real character."
Harry White III, 58, of Columbia, Mo., knows who Daugherty meant.
"My grandfather, Harry B. White Sr., started it," White said. "He began operating it in the '40s. I guess, in the mid-1970s, it finally closed down.
"It was different. Normal kids would be in Cub Scouts or play baseball. I'd be surrounded by hundreds of people at a resort all summer long."
People considered it quite a hike to reach Echo Lake Ranch Resort, White said.
"Now, it's close to St. Louis," he said. "But, Gravois used to be two lanes. It was dangerous and quite serpentine.
"It's hard to grasp the concept of where it was. People would take the bus out. We'd pick them up in High Ridge."
He looks back fondly on his summers spent at Echo Lake Ranch.
"I guess I was in the lake three times a day," White said. "I wasn't a big horse fanatic, but it was nice for a kid to have eight to 12 horses in his backyard.
"I made a lot of friends. People would come back year after year. I'd wonder, 'Don't they want to go somewhere else?'"
White is glad people have pleasant memories of the resort.
"It wasn't anything fancy," he said. "The toilets were outside. People might come out for the weekend or just on Sunday. We had famous Sunday chicken dinners. It was also a big picnic destination.
"It's important to keep the memory alive. The history. It was unique. It was a forerunner to the real nice resorts."