Charlie and Joyce Mayer

Published in the Fall 2009 Newsletter

From an interview September 16, 2008 by Karin Arsan

Charlie and Joyce Mayer have a very long history of relationship to Ten Mile even though they are our neighbors on Birch Lake. Charlie thinks he built 200-250 cabins and other buildings in this area including many on Ten Mile. Many of us live in his masterpieces and will forever be grateful for our Ten Mile homes.

Charlie’s parents, Robert and Mable Mayer, moved to this area in the fall of 1938 and bought Shady Shores Resort just across from Woock’s store on Lower Ten Mile Lake Road. Charlie was born in 1942. They had one of the very few telephones in the early days (it was a party line with Hillaway and Al Woock) and many of us received messages through them often brought by Charlie as a child. Shady Shores was also the site of the portage from Birch to Ten Mile for canoers who had paddled through the thoroughfare into Hackensack and were on their way home.

Charlie started working as a child helping at the resort and also helping summer people. He remembers that one of the first people he worked for was Alice Fahr. Charlie remembers that when the Fahrs first came up they took the train to Hackensack and canoed across to Shady Shores and walked over to their cabin which was right next to Hillaway.

“One time…she had a bunch of some 3-4 of her friends from the cities up at the cabin and 2 of them were out at the end of the dock and Helen Dalton and Katherine Cram that owned Hillaway had a couple goats and the goats got out on the dock and pushed the women in the lake off the end of the dock and Alice Fahr just went right over to the office at the girl’s camp and said, ‘Do you like goat meat?’ and they said, ‘Why?’ ‘If you don’t keep those darn goats at home you’re going to have a lot of it.’ ”

Charlie did clean up work when he was young and then got into dock building and putting docks in and out. He thinks he built about 5,000 dock sections. Later he had Mayer’s Cabin Service and looked after cabins in the winter time. By the time he was a senior at the high school in Hackensack he had 12 fellows working for him in the summer mowing lawns and putting docks in and out. At the peak he had 476 places he was taking care of.

Later he started doing repairs and additions and then buildings. At times he had 20 men working for him and also others like plumbers and electricians and heating men he would use. In addition to the many cabins he built he also built public buildings including the First National Bank of Walker in Hackensack and Backus, and remodeled the bank in Pine River and built one in Pequot Lakes. He built Jimmy’s Family Restaurant in Walker…(the one that later burned down); the Up North Café which was called Jimmy’s Deli at that time (in Hackensack) and was where Opal Roby’s used to be; the County Attorney’s office in Walker; the 4-plex in Hackensack; the old liquor store; and an extensive remodeling of the Congregational Church. These are only a few of the projects he did in this area. He also built harbors.

Charlie thinks he built about 50 cabins on Ten Mile and also did a lot of remodeling and repair. “There were several places where you started out and then ended up building for the grandchildren. Things have changed now. That’s when a lot of places stayed in the family. But now more and more of them with taxes and maintenance and everything else, more and more you see getting sold.”

Charlie met Joyce at the old Bromley’s Ten Mile Lake Inn and they married in 1969. Charlie built their present house on Birch in 1975-76. Since Charlie very rarely used blueprints for building cabins, he was the architect and Joyce provided the ideas for many details. When Charlie was building for my parents in 1978, Joyce came out to see the progress and advised my mother she would be happier without the kitchen enclosed which advice my mother took and has said so many times how glad she is to have her kitchen open to the living room and dining room.

Occasionally Charlie would get a request to build from blue prints, but this didn’t always make things easier. When he was building for Chinanders there were blue prints but…“the stairway cut right through a main beam and everything and you couldn’t do it…so I ended up putting in a circular stairway.” A good thing Charlie was a master of building without blueprints.

Charlie built cabins and public buildings until he had an aneurism in 1990 and had to slow down. He still helps his friends and has built a wonderful garden around his home.

Charlie went to school in Hackensack and was a classmate of Charlie Thomas of Ten Mile. Many of you will remember Charlie Thomas’ father, Albert. The school bus stop was a long way from the Thomas farm and a very cold walk and wait in winter.

Charlie also told me stories of his pet crows (one could even talk) and I’ll write about that another time.

Did Charlie work for you? Did he build your cabin? I’d love to know. Please send me an e-mail (karin.arsan (at) or phone 675-6247. 

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