Humorist Bill Geist on a vacation wonderland, and his new book, “Lake of the Ozarks: My Surreal Summers in a Vanishing America” – CBS News

Before today’s colossal theme parks, families used to drive to more modest vacation playgrounds, like Missouri’s “Beautiful Lake of the Ozarks – Family Vacationland.”

Those were simpler times. We were thrilled at the sight of monkeys driving little cars, amazed by the five-legged deer. The lake was beautiful and big, yet somehow no one from out of state seemed to have even heard of the place.

You are probably asking, “Bill, is there any way I can I find out MORE about this fabulous Vacationland?”

Now, yes there is! In this easy-to-use, handsome new volume that will add beauty and a burst of color to your home library. It’s titled “Lake of the Ozarks,” written by one of our foremost authorities on the subject: me.

In his new book, “Lake of the Ozarks: My Surreal Summers in a Vanishing America,” humorist Bill Geist shares memories of his youth working at a modest Missouri resort. CBS News

I worked there for seven summers in my high school and college years, at my crazy uncle’s 42-room resort, Arrowhead Lodge. It’s gone now, but the memories still echo.

It’s taken me a good forty years to write (I do tend to procrastinate and type ten to fifteen words a minute).

I’d figured working at a resort would be all speedboats and bikinis. But upon my arrival I was handed boots and a shovel and sent to the outdoor septic field, also known as the chili pond. We couldn’t complain. We were at the top of Uncle Ed’s pay scale, pulling down five bucks a day plus room and board. When I was promoted to bellhop, I had to take a pay cut, to a dollar a day, because I was in a position to make tips. Theoretically! Ozarkians didn’t seem to GET tipping. You might get a tip if you had change for a quarter.

I met lots of great characters with big ideas, like Larry the Souvenir King, who dreamed of boat tours to see those rare “Ozark seals” which would be youngsters swimming about in brown costumes for a dollar an hour. Everyone thought these characters were nuts. So did I, but I liked them that way. Never cared much for normal people.

It was the beginning of my entire career seeking out people across the country, and around the world, who were nutty entrepreneurs with crazy ideas – hundreds of whom you’ve met on this very program – a dress rehearsal for my life at “Sunday Morning.”

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Story produced by Sara Kugel.

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