Store was a hub near Amor Park

Contributed photo
Getting to Amor Park is easy. Drive along Highway 1 on the northwest side of Otter Tail Lake, east of the town of Amor, and turn south onto Amor Park Road. That road will take you directly to the park.

By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail County Correspondent

In his book, “Memories of Otter Tail Lake,” Fergus Falls native Lance Johnson said that no other place on Otter Tail Lake’s north side has ever evoked more affection and nostalgia than Amor Park Store.

Johnson, over the years, was well known as the owner of Fargo-based Johnson Organ Company. His parents owned a cottage on Roinez Beach, Otter Tail Lake.

“Growing up on Otter Tail Lake produced some of the happiest memories of my life,” said Johnson. “This compelled me to start writing those memories down on paper.”

The store’s most popular product with the lake people was Russell’s ice cream which, said Johnson, “had no equal.”

In his book he describes the Amor Park Store hand-operated gravity gas pump with the glass bubble on top that was used until the 1950s. To use the pump, one had to push the handle back and forth as gasoline would fill the bubble.

Amor Park Store no longer stands near Amor Park. But the memories remain for many residents of Otter Tail County.

Many people recall picnics and swimming on Sunday afternoons at Amor Park. Residents then headed home to see town baseball teams play on Sunday evenings.

In the early 1940s, Thea Lien Ball, who continued running the Amor Park Store after her husband’s passing, had a lean-to added to the store to house motor oil and other related products. Even though she stocked less than ten percent of what a modern convenience store has to offer, Amor Park Store had all the necessary basics for the lake people.

  “One has to remember that in the 1940s and 1950s families lived at the lake from Memorial Day to Labor Day,” said Johnson. “Fathers and husbands would drive back and forth to work. Amor Park Store was an oasis for those on Eldorado and Roinez Beaches.”

The little store did a land-office business on Sundays when churches such as Zion Lutheran Amor held their ice-cream socials and 4-H clubs gathered for picnics and swimming at the nearby park.

“When the weather turned hot, farm families would flock to Amor Park to cool off in the lake and the store would get cleaned out by sundown. By July 4th, Amor Park took on the look of Coney Island,” Johnson recalled.

Ownership changes at Amor Park Store

By the late 1940s, Thea Lien Ball was no longer able to keep up her usual pace at Amor Park Store. In her early sixties, she sold the store to Kenneth and Ella Adams. Ken also operated a tree service and did handyman chores, which meant working seven days a week from dawn to dusk.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Ball returned to Fairmount, N.D., and ran a restaurant for five years. She died on April 18, 1959. In 1957 Al Baum purchased the Amor Park Store and built up its business to record sales.

Business declined, however, during the 1960s and the building was eventually razed.

“All that remained was the tree that used to stand sentry in front of the store,” said Johnson. “An era had ended.”

In recent years a new picnic shelter was built and there are new restrooms, playground equipment and cement picnic tables well secured at the top of the hill of Amor Park overlooking Otter Tail Lake and the swimming area.

This came about through the efforts of many volunteers and organizations working in conjunction with Amor Township.