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  • Writer's pictureDoak Turner

Lake Norman 1989-2002

When Mom, Jerry, Jason, Kara and I used to go to our condo in Garden City, SC, just below Myrtle Beach (another chapter) we drove by Lake Norman, about 20 miles north of Charlotte, NC. We would sometimes stop by the Lake and I started thinking on trips as I started driving to the beach in the late 70’s and 80’s, part of the interstate went over Lake Norman, that I would live there someday in the future.

In 1986 while working in radio at Super 102 WVSR, my boss since 1983, David Chandler told me that Beasley Broadcast Group bought a station in Charlotte, WLIT at the time and later to be known as KISS 102, WCKZ.

I had told David several times – probably every time I went to Carolina for vacation, that I wished Beasley would buy a station in Charlotte as I would like to move there in my future – bigger radio market, live in the South and eventually on Lake Norman.

I moved to Charlotte by South Park Mall on February 1, 1987. I would drive to Lake Norman on the weekends, the quiet place, two lane road, one or two restaurants at Exit 28 and imagine living on The Lake.

February 1, 1989 I moved into a condo on Lake Norman in Wynward Harbor, the first group of condos off I-77, just 20 minutes and 20 miles from downtown Charlotte, no traffic, I could leave at 7:30 and be in Charlotte for an 800 meeting in the mornings. My condo was in the first building, 2nd floor in the middle, closest to the marina.

Dream accomplished, rented a condo for $600.00 a month, two bedroom, deck overlooking the Lake, a small boat yard, little cinder block restaurant on the water, wooden boat docks, hear the clang of the sailboats masts when the wind would blow, and only six condo buildings in the development, that would eventually be fifteen or sixteen buildings with twelve units each.

September 20th, 1991 I bought and moved into a condo building #4 and moved in – big dream accomplished. That day will be in my mind forever – see radio stories and one of the happiest and saddest day of my life in one up to that point in life!

The neighborhood grew to a bunch of the friendliest and greatest neighborhoods in my life. More and more professional people moved in the neighborhood that was like a finger on the lake, with the marina, a sidewalk around the finger shaped inlet to a nice sandy beach and swimming pool area. The beach turned into a volleyball court in the spring and summer and every weekend, all day the volleyball games, pool parties, boat rides and getting to know so many great people.

If someone bought a new boat, they would have to buy hamburgers and hotdogs and we would all bring food or beverages to share for a “Name The boat” party. Anything for a celebration! July Fourth meant Stacy and Lisa would do Red, White and Blue Jello shooters to add to the fun.

One or two summers seemed like some of us would end up at John (forgot his name) unit and he had the best recipe for grilled shrimp to conclude the weekend.

We all had a list of each other’s phone numbers, would call to get together at someone’s condo on Friday evening to kick off the weekend with food and our family at The Lake. Sometimes during the week someone would call and say they are having a birthday party for someone and one call was to celebrate a divorce party complete with pizza and cake on a Thursday evening! Neighbors would bring friends from their work to meet more people and friendships grew within our community. What a neighborhood!

A couple New Year’s Eve parties including a couple of the neighbors on the top floor of one of the building who had a parquet floor, turned it into a dance floor, complete with a jukebox! New Year’s Day we would go to Alma’s in building sixteen for brunch and talk about the crazy night to bring in the new year we had all shared!

However those were some of the most special times of my life. I miss the people, wish we’d have a reunion weekend of our neighborhood that will never happen again in our lifetime. I still see Richard’s smile, Stacie and Lisa with those Jello shots, Dwight and Mike giving each other a hard time, Fred and his sailboat and friendship with he and his pretty wife.

Susan Tarleton (who passed away a couple years ago) was like having a momma at Lake Norman – so many great times with her on the Lake and Hornet basketball games. She gave me the keys to her boat when I first met her, told me to take it out anytime! She sold that boat and bought her sailboat, “LaPearla”. I still hear her calling me and asking me to go sailing at night, being so kind to may parents when they came down to take them sailing. She would call and say, “What do ya have in your fridge, I have so and so, let’s have dinner!”

Ann and Dean Benton , who lived in the next cove being there with their laughs and hugs and their chili parties. Ann and Dean took my family sailing on Lake Norman I think right after I moved to The Lake and I still have those photos.

The building of the restaurant that is now the Rusty Rudder, the smell of going to Jack’s little cinder block restaurant that was where the Rusty Rudder is now for shrimp on the paper plates during the spring and summer season.

The other restaurants we would hang were the Irish Q when they opened in the early 90’s and the NASCAR guys would hang and play pool with us, the restaurant across from the entrance of Wynward – several names and that was one of the three original restaurants, going dancing at Boppers at The Lake, my closest neighbors Ruth (downstairs in building 1) the beautician – what a wild woman, Mrs. Smith and her boys Gary and Walter who lived in building #1 on the top floor, own the Nautilus and worked with NSACAR teams and she lived in building #4.

I still see a couple faces in my mind, Mary Beth who worked in the food industry as a sales rep and a couple others that I cannot recall their names that were special, Bruce who hosted the New year’s Eve parties, Karl who lived in building 4, one guy sold shoes – was the Hush Puppy and other lines rep and others will come to me as time goes by!

We did a benefit for someone – I forgot who, on the front lawn of the property one Saturday evening while listening to the race as we had a bunch of NASCAR auction items and Benny Parson said hello to us on the radio during the race!

My brother Jason moved with me in 1991 and lived there while he attended UNCC for two years. Special times with Jason and for that – I will always be grateful. That was a change for both of us and we still love each other as brothers!

I loved the time on Lake Norman, so many memories to mention here and was glad to move away in 2002 as the whole Lake Norman area became so overpopulated, probably sixty restaurants between Exit 28 Cornelius and Exit 25, the quiet two lane road is now four or five lanes. What took twenty minutes to drive to Charlotte, it now would sometimes take twenty minutes just to drive to the interstate.

I was truly blessed to make some of my dreams in life come true and Lake Norman was a part of my life, one of the reasons I moved to Charlotte and will always be thankful for those memories and friends! THANK YOU special friends of Lake Norman!

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