Monk Watson Remembers Childhood

Monk Watson remembers his childhood in Colon


Monk Watson had a very long and illustrious career as a bandleader, magician, and all around entertainer. As a matter of fact, he once worked vaudeville as a partner with a man by the name of Benjamin Kubelsky.  Benjamin changed his name later on and became famous as the stingy, violin playing,  perennial 39-year-old comedian. His new name was Jack Benny. Monk was born in 1894 and retired back in Colon. He died in 1981 and is buried in the cemetery west of town. Monk wrote this memory in about 1978. “Early on Sunday morning little Donald (me) was busy hauling wood for the wood upright boiler of the Lioness. This was the big boat that was to carry 50 people at a time for the trips across Palmer Lake. The ride started at the boat dock on Swan Street, which is now the public access. The boiler was fired up early and I think the first trip started around 10:00 in the morning. Mel Lyons had built the big boat in back of what is now Fisher Automotive at the corner of East State Street and Michigan Avenue. It took such a long time to build such a boat, and as it took shape people would yell, “How’s the Ark coming, Mel?”

He’d just laugh and think, “I’ll show them one of these days.”

That is just what he did, because I really don’t remember such a large boat on any lake around Colon. As I look back, I believe it must have been 50 or 60 feet long, and 10 or 12 feet wide. I do know it carried a lot of people. It would follow the channel along the shoreline to a hog pen, and then make a sharp turn east to about Ken Matt’s home, then another sharp turn across the lake to a clearing just east of Bill Tompkins’ home. There were tables and benches where the church people held their summer picnics, and where the Lamb Knit Goods band would hold it concerts. About 20 stumps were marked with boards, and at night a lantern was hung on the board. Then on the last trip home, I would lean out and bring in the lantern, and that ended another beautiful day on Palmer Lake. I believe the cost of the trip was a dime. I went free for working on the boat. I was about 15 at the time (that would have been in 1909). Great days to remember, and I love them to this day.”

The picnic area would have been just east of 58588 Palmer Point Road. Can someone out there tell the Colon Community Historical Society what happened to Mel Lyons’ boat?