Tahoe reunion for pioneer family
How could two brothers, Dick and Jack Ray, celebrating their 85th and 90th birthdays last week, possibly be fourth-generation Lake Tahoe natives?
Their great-grandfather, C.P. Young, owned and operated a hotel on the South Shore in 1870 – just 26 years after John Fremont became the first white man to see Lake Tahoe. Their grandfather, Malan Young, was a horse and buggy doctor in both Genoa and at Lake Tahoe.
“I started coming up here when I was 6 weeks old,” said Dick, recalling how his parents, Will and Vida Young Ray, piled six kids and the dog into the car each June and headed to Tahoe. The difference from today was that they had to back up part of the way over Echo Summit for better traction and stop to open a cattle gate on the road at Meyers.
The family home was built by their father, William R. Ray, on the beach at Bijou in 1919. In those days, the Washoe Indians made their summer camp 100 yards from their home.
Over the course of 75 years, the Ray and Young families purchased the Star Lake Hotel and established the original Lakeland Village, Young’s Bijou Resort and the Bal Bijou dance hall (recently housing Smart and Final).
For most of last week, 53 members of the Ray and Young families reunited on the East shore, coming from destinations as far-ranging as Maui and New York. On Friday, many gathered at the original family home, which was moved from Bijou to the East Shore in 1963. Jack Ray, 90, and his wife Carolyn, 86, still live in the house and lead an active lifestyle of boating, fishing and sitting on the back porch reminiscing.
“I love it,” says Jack. “I can’t wait to get up here every year. We are really a pioneer family.”
To which Dick adds, “Our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are carrying on the family tradition, and all of them have a great love for Tahoe.”
Dick, 85, still swims in the lake regularly and plays golf at the Glenbrook Club. He and his late wife, Marcia, built their present home in Glenbrook in 1977. They paid slightly more for the land than their great-grandfather, Charles P. Young, who purchased 280 acres on Kingsbury Grade for $320 in 1870. He bought the land to grow vegetables for use in the Star Lake Hotel and for sale to the constant stream of hopeful miners headed for Virginia City.
For those attending the reunion, it was a chance to relive and revive many memories of times that have made up the history of Lake Tahoe. And for Dick and Jack a chance to see all of their family under one roof in the place that has meant the most to them.
“Lake Tahoe is surely the fairest sight the whole earth affords”, says Dick, who loves to quote Mark Twain. “And the air is the air that angels breathe.”
Those who came to the lake this week to celebrate the birthdays of two pioneers couldn’t agree more.