Pine Lake Waterpark, located four miles west of Berne, Indiana, has been a family-run business since 1922. The story of Pine Lake begins with a farmer, Levi Augsburger, who, in 1908, began to dig for sand. Before long, Augsburger had turned a flat field into a sand quarry. The quarry was workable, but only for a few years. Water became a problem early on because of natural springs feeding the quarry. So that digging could continue, the spring water was pumped out into a creek adjacent to the quarry. However, the land between the quarry and the creek gradually eroded, leaking more water into the quarry. Another problem, perhaps more limiting, was that the deeper Augsburger dug, the more the sand was contaminated with dirt and clay. Augsburger decided to put the quarry up for sale.
In 1918, Abraham Biberstein purchased the property. The quarry sat idle for several years and the water level gradually rose higher and higher. Back then, with no air conditioners, people chose the closest swimming hole to cool themselves off. Not surprisingly, people started heading to “Biberstein Lake,” as it was often called, to take a dip. Two local businessmen, Lawrence Yager and Clayton Smith noticed people’s interest in swimming at the lake and proposed an idea to Biberstein. In 1922, Biberstein agreed to rent the land to Yager and Smith for $150 per year, and the partners opened the Berne Swimming Club in 1922. They built up the land, which separated the lake from the nearby creek. Families bought season tickets for $2 and were assigned a “beach house,” essentially a small cabana, where they could change clothes beside the lake. The Berne Swimming Club soon became a popular swimming destination, perhaps too popular for Biberstein’s liking. Biberstein increased the rental price so much, $300/year, that Yager and Smith refused to run the operation. Biberstein closed the lake. This did not prevent dedicated swimmers from coming, causing Biberstein to use increasingly drastic measures to keep people off his property. He put barbed wire around the lake, poured oil on the water, and threw rolls of fence and tops of pine trees into the water.
Eventually, a rental price was agreed upon by Biberstein, Yager, and Smith, and people were swimming once more. More improvements were made to the Berne Swimming Club. A toboggan slide was made from crating lumber. Between 1929 and 1932, Hank Ehrsam rented the property and offered swimming lessons. A concession stand was built to sell sodas and hot dogs. With no electricity, ice had to be brought in daily to keep the drinks cold. Lawrence Yager's son, Jerome, ran the concession stand.
In 1933, the lake was sold at a public auction. Dr. Daley D. Jones, Lawrence Yager, and Everett Schug bought the property for $2,400, and the name was officially changed to Pine Lake. The three owners hired people to manage the lake. Doris Braybender was one of these managers; being an avid archer, she set up an archery range on the property.
In the late 1930s, Yager and his two sons, Jerome and Luther, obtained complete ownership of Pine Lake. Yager had wanted to build a 40-foot tower, but Schug and Jones felt that it would be too dangerous. This disagreement was partly responsible for the breakup of the trio. Jerome Yager bought Daley D. Jones' share, and Luther Yager purchased Schug's share of the property. Each share sold for $1,000. And yes, the 40-foot diving tower was built.
Throughout the middle part of the 20th century, Jerome Yager directed building projects, including a retaining wall for the beach, a pier, a raft, and a water slide. This metal slide, located in the shallow swimming area, was approximately 15-feet high and had water running down it. Two tennis courts and a basketball court were added. Pine Lake managers during this period were Ed Spehiger (1942 to 1946), Jim Hedges (1947 to 1950), Doit McCrory (1951 to 1954), Ed Smith (1955 to 1957), and Paul Bixler (1958 to 1960).
In 1961, Jerome Yager's daughter, Judy, expressed interest in operating the lake, and from 1961 to 1964, she and her husband, Glenn Scholer, managed Pine Lake. The arrangement worked well because Scholer was a high school math teacher who wanted a steady summer job.
Mother nature intervened in the history of Pine Lake on Palm Sunday, 1965, when a tornado ripped through Berne and devastated the Pine Lake property. The concession stand and the 40-foot diving tower were destroyed. The destruction of the property, coupled with the Scholers’ interest in settling down to raise a family, led to another ownership change. Luther Yager agreed to sell his portion of the lake to Glenn and Judy Scholer for $10,000.
Since the 1965 tornado, Glenn and his family have worked to build Pine Lake into what it is today. For starters, land adjacent to the beach was bulldozed to create a sloping grassy bank for people to lay their blankets and sunbathe. To improve the beach, high-quality sand was, and still is, brought down from Lake Michigan. Pine trees were planted. A new concession stand was built on top of the bank. The diving tower was rebuilt to a somewhat less breathtaking height of 30 feet.
Scholer believed that prices needed to be kept low for Pine Lake to be successful, and very importantly, people needed things to do. In 1967, Scholer developed the first of dozens of Pine Lake attractions. When he heard of swimmers using fiberglass bobbers in Lake James in northern Indiana, he inquired about purchasing the bobbers for Pine Lake, but they were too badly damaged to use. As another option, he took a chance by purchasing two steel buoys designed for use in the Great Lakes for $500. A local welder, Dave Lybarger, welded platforms onto the buoys and custom-made two of Pine Lake’s most popular and long-lasting attractions, the two-man bobber and the crow’s nest bobber.
On the heels of the success of the bobbers, Scholer added another Pine Lake original in the early 1970s. The waterpark industry was still relatively young when he decided that fiberglass water slides would be the wave of the future. During the summers of 1971-72, Greg Drake, a college student, helped Scholer build a dual-lane100-foot racer slide. Now, with the bobbers, the racer slide, and a diving tower, Pine Lake had several attractions to keep people busy and keep them coming back. Over the decades, Scholer has kept prices low and frugally reinvested earnings, slowly and steadily improving Pine Lake’s offerings.
Pine Lake projects, listed by decade, include the following:
Crow’s nest bobber (single)
Two-lane blue racer slide (100 feet)
Kiddie slides (remodeled in the 2000s)
Swing set on the beach (removed in the 2000s)
Horseback riding (discontinued)
Bush maze (replaced by the Splash Pad)
Curly blue slide (210 feet)
Reconstruction of the path to the tower
New 30-foot tower
Lilly pad walk
Annual Pine Lake sand sculpture competition
Black hole slide
Zipline from the tower
Ice cream and hamburger stand
Kiddy slide reconstruction and light tower
Red drop slide from the end of the pier
2nd Parking lot was created from an adjacent field
Duck paddle boat
Green space (replaced tennis courts)
In addition to building things for people to do, an important part of Pine Lake’s history is that of building relationships among family and friends. Not surprisingly, many stories of new relationships have blossomed because of Pine Lake. Shaun, one of Glenn and Judy’s five children, was a lifeguard at Pine Lake when Becky, a young lady from a nearby community, caught his eye one day. A courtship ensued, and Shaun eventually built up the nerve to pop the question. As an amateur pilot, Shaun decided to go all out. He asked Becky to take a flight with him one day. Of course, one of the flyovers that day would be Pine Lake. He lowered the plane several times to ensure that Becky could read what he and his family members had written in large letters on the sand of the Pine Lake beach, “Becky, will you marry me?” His low-altitude, yet high-attitude, verbal proposal, was brief: “Well, will ya?” Given that Shaun had control of the plane, it is possible that Becky had little choice in how she might answer. The couple has two grown children and has been happily married since 1993.
Pine Lake has had an economic and educational impact on the Berne community. Building projects have been completed using local individuals and companies. Scholer always focused on hiring high school and college students. The Sprunger family is an example of how teenagers and young adults, often in the same family, have worked at the lake. Kim and Leslie Sprunger served as lifeguards and managers during the 90s when they were in high school and college. The Sprunger's and hundreds of other lifeguards have used their Pine Lake earnings to pay their college tuition bills. When asked about hiring people at Pine Lake, Scholer stated, “I am here for the college students.” Interestingly, Kim and Leslie’s cousin, Kyle, who started working at the lake at age 14, continued his summer employment through college and then managed the lake for over 20 years. Andy Lehman, who began working at Pine Lake in 2018, manages the schedules of approximately 30 lifeguards and leads in-service training sessions throughout the summer to ensure that each guard has safety training specific to the waterpark.
Pine Lake continues to be a family-run business. The Scholers’ five children, who worked at the lake during their high school and college years, stay involved as they are able. One of the children, Christa, and her husband, Jim, worked his way through graduate school, managing the lake for several seasons in the 1990s. Christa returns every summer that she can to keep up a tradition that she started in 1981, the Pine Lake Sand Sculpture competition held annually on the Saturday of Swiss Days, Berne’s summer festival. Shaun, who romantically used Pine Lake beach in 1992 to start his own family, has been particularly dedicated to keeping the family business going by helping his father manage the lake every summer.
Glenn Scholer was asked in the summer of 2020, his 60th as head manager at Pine Lake, what has motivated him over the years. He replied that his goal has been “To give people an inexpensive place to go. Family members have been pressuring me to raise prices since the 60s. With low prices and high volume, you get a satisfied customer. Better to make a little and sell a lot than make a lot and sell a little. Often, people have told me that they appreciate the prices.”
We hope that you have enjoyed the history of Pine Lake. Please come to visit us soon.