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Huddle’s Resort made history on Leech Lake by: Gail DeBoer – Pilot Independent

The history of Huddle’s Resort on Leech Lake began 93 years ago, back in 1927 when Roy’s grandpa, also named Roy, and his parents, Les and Bernice Huddle, moved to northern Minnesota. They bought land on Leech Lake at Whipholt and started building the resort; first a cabin for themselves, then the lodge and next, four resort cabins.

In those early years, each cabin came with its own outhouse. Guests got water from hand pumps and used ice boxes, cooled by lake ice the Huddles cut each winter and stored under a layer of sawdust in the ice house.

Gradually the family added more cabins, and the resort grew. At its peak Huddle’s had more than 50 cabins after Roy purchased adjacent Merit Lodge and added Margarita Mulligan’s Restaurant.

In 2006, Roy and Kay sold that part of the resort to Odyssey Development of Duluth. That left Huddle’s with 30 fully-furnished units (one-to-four bedroom cabins, or two-to-four bedroom condos), all air conditioned and TV equipped; Huddle’s Restaurant, Lodge and Lounge; RV sites and harbor dockage; amenities like boat, pontoon and motor packages; free paddleboats and canoes; kids’ activities; a swimming pool and more.

Roy was born in 1938. In a 2008 interview for the resort’s 80th anniversary, he remarked that he wasn’t sure how old he was when he started doing meaningful work around the resort.

“When you grow up at a place, you think you’re working, when maybe you’re really not!” he admitted. But at age 10 or 12, he became “the dock boy,” with all the duties that come with the title: fueling outboard motors, cleaning boats and cabins, fileting fish, mowing lawns, hauling garbage, pulling water skiers and telling fish stories.

He’s guided anglers a few times, but he mostly left that to the pros. His specialty was teaching water skiing. Over the decades, he’s taught about 5,800 kids and adults how to water-ski.

Roy didn’t spend his entire youth at the resort. From age 3 to his last year in high school, he and his parents spent three months each winter in Los Angeles, Calif.,  where his father worked, so he attended school  in both Walker and California.

During high school, he briefly considered going into engineering, when a resort guest offered to pay his way through college.

But when Roy was in 10th grade, his dad suffered a broken neck. That required him to be more involved in the resort and strengthened his eventual decision. He did attend the University of Minnesota and Bemidji State University. 

In 1957 he received an  honorable discharge from the US Army after being injured on the docks at Huddle’s. He also worked away from the resort for short stretches.

Roy and Kay met when she was a guest at the resort and he was pulling water skiers. Before they married, he asked her seriously, “Are you sure you want to be in the resort business?” 

Kay said ‘Yes.” She had worked as a registered nurse in a Twin Cities hospital’s cardiac intensive care unit and later for two area hospitals. There is a similarity between being a nurse and being a resorter: both have to love the people they’re dealing with. 

The hardest part of resort life, Kay reflected, “is always being ‘on,’ and not having any time off for six months.” 

To be  successful, “You have to like what you’re doing!” Roy added. “This affects how you relate to customers and everything else, all the way down the line. And another important thing: you have to be able to multi-task!”

After Roy passed away in December 2016, Kay continued to run Huddles for another four plus years, with the help of a group of good friends and employees.

“But it’s time to move on in my journey,” she reflects philosophically. “I welcome Jeff and Terra to continue the family resort concept, and thank ‘my’ community for its support and friendship!”

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