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Chevy Chase at Caroga Lake

July 10, 2011
By KATHRYN SPIRA , For The Leader Herald

After reading my last column, our neighbors John and Trish Reese - who summer here in Caroga Lake and winter in Connecticut - said they were interested in my columns on the Biography TV channel.

One of the bios I mentioned last week that I was interested in seeing was that of Chevy Chase.

They mentioned Chevy Chase in particular and how Chase used to come up to camp here in Caroga Lake when he was young.

Article Photos

This photo shows, among others, the actor Chevy Chase’s height marked July 7, 1951, at a camp at Caroga Lake.
Photo submitted

See, John Reese's uncle wound up marrying Chevy Chase's mother when Chase was very young.

This intrigued me so much I went ahead and watched the bio on Chase and had Herman make a copy and give it to the Reeses to watch.

Chase's actual birth name was Cornelius, named for Cornelius Vanderbilt Crane, who had adopted Chase's mother. The nickname Chevy was bestowed by his grandmother, derived from the medieval English "The Ballad of Chevy Chase."

But Chase didn't have a very good relationship with his new stepdad, who was a strict disciplinarian. Of course, Chevy was a cut up from an early age.

According to the Reeses, when Chase visited and his mother wanted to leave him here in Caroga Lake for the summer, John said he and his brother both threatened to leave if Chase came to stay.

Reese said Chase was the kind of attention-seeking child who would, for a laugh with the other children at the table, pour a bowl of soup over his head.

According to the Biography show of Chase, he became best known for roles in movies such as "Caddyshack" and "Family Vacation."

Reese said when he saw Chase at a family wedding celebration, he asked if any of the characters in Chase's movies may have come from people he met here in Caroga Lake during summer vacation. Chase smiled and said, "They may have."

According to the show, it was mainly Chase and producer Lorne Michaels who shaped "Saturday Night Live" the way it still is being made today. The popular Weekend Update sketch that still goes on was mainly Chase's invention.

Whether or not Chase used any of the characters or incidents from his time in Caroga Lake in his movies and skits, it can be documented that he left his mark here in Caroga.

The Reeses had a custom that anyone who stayed at camp had to mark off their height on a post in the living room.

Sure enough, a close inspection revealed Chase's height with his name and date?- July 7, 1951, 60 years ago - when he was 8, as can be seen in the attached photo.

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in New York City and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County. Previous columns and contact information may be accessed at her website at



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