1969 snurfing competitors courtesy Tracy Tebeau Kirksey
The Freshwater Reporter has an interesting story by Stewart McFerrin on the Michigan-invented Snurfer and the roots of snowboarding that says (in part):
Snowboarding has become a worldwide phenomenon. The big air tricks of mega stars, such as Shaun White in the Olympic Half Pipe, rival the traditional Nordic pursuit of Alpine skiing. You may be surprised to know it all began in the dunes of West Michigan, where my friends and I pursued the sport of snurfing, a.k.a. snow surfing.
…The Snurfer was invented by a man with ties to the Brunswick Corporation. Brunswick produced bowling equipment and flooring at its headquarters in Muskegon, Mich. Sherman “Sherm” Poppen created the Snurfer, a shorter and wider version of a ski, and talked his kids into trying his invention on the “Sugar Bowl” at the Muskegon State Park. Friends of friends joined in and rode the deep powder on Snurfer boards all the way to the bottom, in a style and stance that would later become snowboarding. After obtaining a patent, Poppen licensed Brunswick to make the Snurfers.
This all happened in the late sixties and seventies when, after a long afternoon of snurfing, I recall my “bell bottoms,” frozen and encrusted with snow, ringing out as they brushed together during a trick performed from the edge of a steep dune. Lake Michigan loomed large as the lake-effect powder snow piled up to cushion my falls off the Snurfer.
Read on at the Freshwater Reporter for much more!
The photo is courtesy Tracy Tebeau Kirksey & shows Snurfer inventor Sherman “Sherm” Poppen (R) with the 1969 snurfing competitors and their Snurfer boards. From left: Rick Tebeau, Tom Metzdorf, James T., and champion Ted Slater. There are two types of Snurfers. The wooden ones had a metal skeg (similar to a boat’s keel fin) at the rear, to facilitate turns on hard-packed snow or ice.
1930s Michigan Snowplow
With a major winter storm bearing down on Michigan, it seems like a good time to feature this old Department of Transportation video featuring winter fun & battling blizzards. MDOT relates:
This 1930s-era newsreel was recently discovered by sisters Nancy and Barbara Sleeper of Newberry, whose grandfather, Sanborn Sleeper, was the superintendent of the Luce County Road Commission from 1928 until sometime around World War II. The Sleepers donated the film to MDOT for public display. Enjoy this glimpse of the era when Murray Van Wagoner, a future Michigan governor, ran the department from 1933-1940.
Michigan Sign at State Line 1958 by State of Michigan
January 26th is Michigan Statehood Day, Michigan’s 184th birthday. I put together some fun facts about Michigan back in 2012. They’re still true and still fun!
- Michigan is derived from the Indian word Michigama, meaning great or large lake. (more about Michigan’s name on Michigan in Pictures)
- French explorers Étienne Brulé & Grenoble are the first recorded Europeans to set foot in Michigan (you never know though). In 1668 Fathers Jacques Marquette and Claude Dablon established the first mission at Sault Ste. Marie, and in 1701, French officer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac founded Fort Pontchartrain in Detroit.
- The Michigan Territory was created, with Detroit designated as the seat of government and William Hull appointed as our first governor.
- Michigan became the 26th state on the 26th of January, 1837. Is 26 our lucky number? FYI, our first State governor was Stevens T. Mason, the 25 year-old Boy Governor (the youngest state governor in American history).
- Michigan’s nickname is “the Wolverine State”. It is generally believed to have been coined during the 1835 Toledo War between Michigan and Ohio, when our southern rivals gave us the name due to the wolverine’s reputation for sheer orneriness!
- The Great Seal of Michigan was designed by Lewis Cass and was patterned after the seal of the Hudson Bay Fur Company. It depicts an elk on the left and a moose on the right supporting a shield that reads Tuebor (“I will protect”).The interior of the shield shows a figure on the shore with the sun rising over a lake. His right hand is raised, symbolizing peace, but he holds a rifle in his left hand, showing readiness to defend the state and nation.Below the shield is the inscription of our state motto Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice: “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.” (I just learned that Michigan has an Office of the Great Seal – how cool would it be to say you worked there??)
- The original State Capitol of Michigan was Detroit, and it moved to Lansing in 1847 to help develop the western side of the state and due to the need to develop the western portions of the state and for easy defense from British troops. Here’s a pic of Michigan’s original Capitol Building and an 1890s view of the current Michigan capitol.
- Michigan is the 10th largest state by area if you count the water … and who wouldn’t count the water??
- Speaking of water, we have 3,288 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, good for second to only Alaska in coastline!
I originally got this photo from the Archives of Michigan’s Flickr account, but they’ve gotten rid of that. You can get all kinds of fun stories & facts from Michiganology.org though!
2 Doors Down by Carolyn Gallo
CMU’s Clarke Historical Library says that on Nov 30, 1885, the Northern Michigan Asylum for the Insane opened in Traverse City. It’s now known as the The Village at Grand Traverse Commons and 10 years ago I worked there and was able to lead and was able to lead a group of photographers including Carolyn on a tour of the then un-renovated parts of what was known as Building 50. FYI, the section we toured is now the luxurious Cordia senior residential club.
The facility was a Kirkbride Institution, designed by Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride. Kirkbride was a Pennsylvania Quaker and founding member of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane who developed a concept of treatment known as the Kirkbride Plan. This plan proposed a particular way of housing patients that included segregating by severity of mental illness and fresh air and natural light where possible:
It was believed crucial to place patients in a more natural environment away from the pollutants and hectic energy of urban centers. Abundant fresh air and natural light not only contributed to a healthy environment, but also served to promote a more cheerful atmosphere. Extensive grounds with cultivated parks and farmland were also beneficial to the success of an asylum. Landscaped parks served to both stimulate and calm patients’ minds with natural beauty (enhanced by rational order) while improving the overall aspect of the asylum. Farmland served to make the asylum more self-sufficient by providing readily available food and other farm products at a minimal cost to the state.
Patients were encouraged to help work the farms and keep the grounds, as well as participate in other chores. Such structured occupation was meant to provide a sense of purpose and responsibility which, it was believed, would help regulate the mind as well as improve physical fitness. Patients were also encouraged to take part in recreations, games, and entertainments which would also engage their minds, make their stay more pleasant, and perhaps help foster and maintain social skills.
There’s lots more from Kirkbride Buildings where the author has done some spectacular scholarship and created an excellent resource for these amazing structures. The Kirkbride System produced a photographic environment of uncommon richness that is evident in the photos from the group A little trip up north… It’s also reflected in the grounds and the shops, restaurants & businesses that are part of the Commons today.
See this photo bigger in Carolyn’s Photogs Up North gallery. You can learn more about her on her website or Facebook page!
Ship’s Bell by Bill
Today is the 45th anniversary of the sinking of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald, and if you’re in Michigan, you’ll probably hear The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot today. I’m pretty sure, however, that you won’t enjoy it more than when you’re watching this video.
Joseph Fulton put together this amazing tribute to the 29 men who went down with the Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. This video is one of the best I’ve ever seen on YouTube and I hope you can watch it.
Bill took this photo of the bell from the Fitzgerald at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point. See more in his Whitefish Point album on Flickr!
Dawn Donuts by scott_z28
In honor of National Doughnut Day, mLive’s John Gonzalez & Amy Sherman have released their Essential Guide to Michigan’s Best Doughnut. They have their baker’s dozen of 13 winners at that link & you can also follow them at MiBest on Facebook. or @MichiganGonzo on Twitter.
Scott took this shot of the Dawn Donut sign in Flint back in 2011 & shares that Dawn Donuts was a Michigan-based chain that at one time had nearly 50 locations across the state. Most closed after Dunkin’ Donuts purchased the business in the early 1990s. You can see a bunch more great signs in his Vintage Signs album on Flickr.
There’s still a Dawn Donuts & the cool sign at this location – the last in Michigan. Check them out at Dawn Donuts on Facebook!
PS: Head over to Roadside on Michigan in Pictures for more vintage coolness!
The Big Sweep by Mark Smith
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was officially authorized on October 21, 1970 making today the 50th birthday of Michigan’s most visited national park. Our Sleeping Bear Dunes History page says in part:
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was established by Act of Congress October 21, 1970. Public Law 91-479 states, “…the Congress finds that certain outstanding natural features, including forests, beaches, dune formations, and ancient glacial phenomena, exist along the mainland shore of Lake Michigan and on certain nearby islands in Benzie and Leelanau Counties, Michigan, and that such features ought to be preserved in their natural setting and protected from developments and uses which would destroy the scenic beauty and natural character of the area.” The Congress also directed that “…the Secretary (of the Interior) shall administer and protect Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in a manner which provides for recreational opportunities consistent with the maximum protection of the natural environment within the area.”
…The Lakeshore mission is to preserve outstanding natural features including forests, beaches, dunes and ancient glacial phenomena along 100 km (64 miles) of Lake Michigan shoreline, in order to perpetuate the natural setting for the benefit and enjoyment of the public, and to protect it from developments and inappropriate uses that would destroy its scenic beauty, scientific and recreational value.
I know that there’s few people in Leelanau who would disagree that the park has helped to maximally protect our area’s incredible natural beauty with over 60 miles of shoreline open & accessible to all as well as miles of forest, dune & farmland. Head over to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Facebook page for all kinds of 50th Anniversary fun!
Mark took this photo back in 2018. See lots more in his Sleeping Bear/Glen Arbor gallery on Flickr!
More from the Sleeping Bear on Michigan in Pictures!
Wreck of the Nordmeer by Chris Roxburgh
The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary page on the 471′ cargo freighter Nordmeer that wrecked in 1966 in Thunder Bay says:
The career of the motorship Nordmeer ended abruptly when it miscalculated a turn and ran aground 7 miles northeast of Thunder Bay Island. Some crewmen stayed on board, but they evacuated a few days later when a storm struck and tore open the ship’s bottom. Part of the vessel stands out of the water, but years of storms and ice have broken and twisted the hull. The big diesel engine stands amid the wreckage, but the cargo has been removed. A steel barge rests alongside the wreck, a relic of extensive salvage work. Some artifacts may be seen today at NOAA’s Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center.
Chris dove the wreck a week ago and writes: “Bea and I had a big day of diving in Lake Huron today. We visited three shipwrecks and can’t wait to share some photos. This picture is the engine from the Nordmeer shipwreck near Rockport Michigan.”
Definitely follow Chris’s adventures on Facebook & check out his videos YouTube!
Tons more Michigan shipwrecks on Michigan in Pictures!
Sailing the Les Cheneaux by Susan H
The Les Cheneaux Historical Association shares author Philip McM. Pittman’s summary of the Les Cheneaux Islands aka “the channels”:
Located at the northern tip of Lake Huron, on the south shore of Michigan’s eastern Upper Peninsula, the Les Cheneaux area was once a strategic international northern outpost and center of early exploration. But it was not until the early eighteen eighties that permanent homesteaders came in earnest to Les Cheneaux: Anthony Hamel came over from Mackinac Island, William A. Patrick arrived from Ontario, the Westons migrated north from Chicago, and the likes of Henry Clay Wisner and the McBain-Coryell clan appeared as the area’s first seasonal visitors.
From this decade can be traced the story of the evolution of the Les Cheneaux area from unwanted real estate into highly desirable timberland and, almost simultaneously, homestead settlement and summer resort community. Our story is an individually distinct as any in American history and as important as the opening and development of the Great Lakes and the integration of two great peninsulas into the State of Michigan.
More history on their website.
See more of this beautiful slice of Michigan in Susan’s Cedarville album on Flickr.
Chief Wawatam, St Ignace, MI by Bill Johnson
Central Michigan University’s Clarke Historical Library shares that on August 21, 1984, the Chief Wawatam sailed for the last time:
Since she first sailed the Straits of Mackinac between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan in 1911, the Chief Wawatam carried thousands of passengers, automobiles, and railcars. The last coal-burning vessel on the Great Lakes, the Chief Wawatam made a name for herself for reliable, efficient service across the often-treacherous waters of the Straits. It was often the Chief who would deliver food and fuel to other Great Lakes vessels who became stuck in the thick winter ice.
After the Mackinac Bridge opened in 1957, the crossing time was slashed from nearly an hour by ferry to a matter of minutes by car. While other ferries ceased running almost immediately, the Chief Wawatam stayed in service for another twenty-seven years before finally retiring. Four years later, the boat was sold to a Canadian firm that cut the 338-foot ferry down to a deck barge.
Bill took this photo back in 1979 & writes:
The Chief is closing in on the dock at St Ignace, MI after crossing the Straits of Mackinac with another load of freight cars. There’s a Soo Line crew waiting for the Wawatam’s arrival. They’re taking a break right now, as are the deck hands on the Chief. Soon, everyone will be hard at work, moving their share of America’s freight. This was a daily scene way back when and will never be repeated. I was lucky enough to catch the action on September 24, 1979.
See more in his Boats, Ships & stuff that sails album on Flickr & have a great weekend everyone!