Cover image for Lake of the Ozarks : my surreal summers in a vanishing America
Lake of the Ozarks : my surreal summers in a vanishing America
Large print ed.
Physical Description:
251 pages (large print) ; 23 cm.
The drive down/ now and then -- The strip -- The tourist trappers -- Uncle Ed -- The Chili Pond -- Extreme dishwashing -- Another day, another dollar -- Amateur night in the kitchen -- The great salad bar debate -- Ozark bellhops -- The Pow Wow Room -- La Noche de la Larry Don -- Sisterhood of servers -- I don't get it -- Night desk -- The Ozark outback -- Getting to the point -- Cross-cultural exchange -- The best laid plans -- Autumn leaves.
Local Subject:
Bill Geist reflects on his coming of age in the American heartland of the Midwest and traces his evolution as a man and a writer, in the summers between high school and college, before he went off to Vietnam and the country went to Hell. --


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book LP 977.8493 GEI 0 1
Book LP 977.8493 GEI 1 1
Book LP 977.8493 GEI 0 1

On Order



A New York Times BestsellerBefore there was "tourism" and souvenir ashtrays became "kitsch," the Lake of the Ozarks was a Shangri-La for middle-class Midwestern families on vacation, complete with man-made beaches, Hillbilly Mini Golf, and feathered rubber tomahawks. It was there that author Bill Geist spent summers in the Sixties during his school and college years working at Arrowhead Lodge -- a small resort owned by his bombastic uncle -- in all areas of the operation, from cesspool attendant to bellhop. Geist takes readers back to a bygone era and reflects on his coming of age in the American Heartland.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Humorist and former CBS correspondent Geist follows up Way Off the Road with another enjoyable look at an offbeat corner of the U.S., the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. Geist, as a teenager in the 1960s, spent summers working there at his uncle's resort, Arrowhead Lodge. He recounts his summers in this "Midwestern Shangri-La," where "frugal, middle-class Midwesterners could rent speedboats to ride on the water during the day and spend evenings on a midway where you could play Skee-Ball or shop for souvenirs." Geist writes about the other young men and women he met while working at the resort who all enjoyed "an opportunity to be on our own and away from incessant interrogation about where we were last night." Describing his most recent trip to the area, which he hadn't visited since the lodge was demolished in 2007, Geist delivers a tenderhearted remembrance for "the whole menagerie of wonderfully bizarre eccentrics drawn by their own peculiar circumstances to this remote, unlikely destination." Geist's entertaining account of life in a resort town in the 1960s will certainly resonate with folks of his generation, and will offer younger readers a glimpse into a bygone era. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

The Emmy Award-winning correspondent of CBS Sunday Morning reminisces about the wonderful days of his youth.During the 1960s, Geist (Way off the Road: Discovering the Peculiar Charms of Small Town America, 2007, etc.) spent his summers working at a resortthe Arrowhead Lodgeowned by his aunt and uncle. In the middle of nowhere, down a winding road, the lodge provided the author with a place to work and make friends, drink beer, and meet girls. In this memoir, Geist takes readers back to those bygone days, sharing his escapades of what life was like for a young man with few experiences under his belt. The author often uses folksy humor to contrast those times with today. "A gas station attendant was a guy who filled your gas tank, checked your oil, coolant and battery fluids, and tire pressure," he writes. "But those old gas stations did not sell hats and T-shirts, sixty-two different candy bars, fifty-seven kinds of refrigerated beverages, including twenty brands of bottle water. There were no brands' of water, only God's. It was free. I know. Sounds crazy." Threaded throughout this lightweight narrative are amusing, harmless memories of working in the kitchen during rush hour, cleaning out the open-air septic system, and fraternizing with the girls who moved in and out of Geist's orbit. His portrayals of his fellow co-workers and his family are well-rounded, showing the good and bad in each individual. Geist's writing is consistently nostalgic as he shows how those carefree summers helped mold him into the man he became. The book is a quick, pleasant read that effectively reflects how his time at the lodge showed him that "life is more difficult and rewarding and fun when you manage to do things your way."Old-fashioned, wistful stories that will appeal to fans of Geist's previous books. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Geist (Way off the Road, 2007) pays tribute to the summers of his 1960s adolescence spent working at the Arrowhead Lodge resort in central Missouri at the Lake of the Ozarks. In this meandering, free-association ramble through Geist's memory bank (he will often break into a recollection with yet another, tangentially related anecdote), readers time-travel through the rites of passage of a midcentury, midwestern teen boy. Accidentally broken air conditioners for rooms rented by pretty girls? Aplenty. Shenanigans involving the youthful staff and stolen booze? By the case. Thwarted attempts to lose his virginity? Loads. The wistful retelling of these halcyon summers becomes clear towards the end as Geist turns to the next chapter in his life, combat photography in the Vietnam War. The juxtaposition of his raucous, fun-filled days with the stark realities of war sinks in even further when he attempts to revisit the lodge; like his youth, it now exists wholly in memory. Readers of Geist's vintage will enjoy sauntering through his formative summers and perhaps recall some of their own on the way.--Erin Downey Howerton Copyright 2019 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

as A journalist, Bill Geist has traveled the same cornball, goofy and sometimes unimaginably wistful back roads of America as long as I have: for over 40 years. Writers are often not generous, especially to people who cover the same turf, but I'm stepping aside, flourishing my hat in a princely bow and declaring Bill Geist the reigning Zeit-Geist of the baby boomer generation. In his charming new book, he has perfectly captured what middle-class life was like in the midcentury American Midwest. "Lake of the Ozarks" is a personal memoir. Geist hasn't overreached and tried to define a whole generation from the East Coast to the West. Instead, he has cut himself a small slice of the American culture that he was part of, offering it up for the rest of us to enjoy and remember. "Write what you know" is advice often given to aspiring writers; it has served Geist perfectly. This is a memoir that could have slithered off the road with colorful characters flattened to "??? Haw" hillbilly stereotypes. Geist avoids that, while also nimbly sidestepping the kind of groan-inducing lecture given to teenagers by people his age: "I had to walk 10 miles to school barefoot in the snow, and after I walked home I had to milk 100 angry cows before facing a dinner of beanie-weenie casserole." The span of the book takes place as Geist grows from a gawky redheaded teenager to a slightly less gawky sunburned older teenager, all during the summers he spent working at his uncle's hotel, Arrowhead Lodge, at, as the tourist billboards have it, "Beautiful Lake of the Ozarks." Uncle Ed, a small-town Donald Trump, is painted larger than life. He drives big new Cadillacs, smokes huge cigars and runs his hotel kingdom with the precision of General Patton. If you're looking for a book with crazy plot twists and a supersonic narrative arc, this one may not be for you. It's a slow meditation on a time gone by. Like a photograph whose Kodachrome has started to turn sepia, it may not be modern or hightech but it's a meaningful and accurate rendering of times past. With a deft hand, Geist shifts between how he saw Arrowhead Lodge as a boy (grand in both scale and importance) and then looking back from adulthood (a generic hotel, somewhat shabby and small). Arrowhead Lodge may not have been the Taj Mahal, but it was still the big fish in a small pond. As the employee of a tourist paradise filled with rubber tomahawks, souvenir salt and pepper shakers, artificial vomit and black velvet pillowcases bearing the image of the nearby Bagnell Dam, Geist knew that his behavior reflected on both Uncle Ed and Arrowhead. Their reputation was not to be trifled with. Only people of our generation will remember the long-gone, truly "surreal" tourist world that unfolded along the Blue Highways. One after another, there were tawdry roadside wonders like Monkey Jungles and Reptile Gardens. Because many of these attractions were billed as "educational," you didn't feel creepy paying a small admission fee to see a taxidermied jackalope or a fivelegged deer. If I could make a list of everything illegal, politically incorrect or certain to kill you, you might be able to imagine this past. It was a land of greasy chicken-fried steaks, unfiltered cigarettes and flirting with truck-stop waitresses hired because they were pretty. It was an innocent world without seatbelts and bicycle helmets and cholesterol and germs. Like me, Bill Geist knows it was heaven. Maybe a dangerous, unhealthy and low-minded heaven, but boy was it fun. jane stern is the co-author of the Roadfood guidebook series.