Before the Mackinac Bridge: Remembering the Chief Wawatam

Chief Wawatam, St Ignace, MI by Bill Johnson

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!

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Dearborn’s Ford-Wyoming Drive-in Theatre #1 nationally!

Off Season by Derek Farr

Off Season by Derek Farr

The Freep tweets that Dearborn’s Ford-Wyoming Drive-in Theatre was the top grossing movie theater in the nation last weekend. The Henry Ford shares a little of the history of this Michigan icon:

The Ford-Wyoming drive-in was built by Charlie Schafer, opening for business in May 1950. He and his family grew a veritable movie house empire in the Metro-Detroit area under the umbrella of Wayne Amusements, but the Ford-Wyoming is the only evidence of the legacy that remains. When it was first built, there was only one screen—the backside of the immense Streamline Moderne structure that sits at the front of the property. One screen with accommodation for 750 cars grew to nine screens and a 3,000-car capacity, and the theatre began to make the claim of being “the largest drive-in in the world.” Today the theatre has downsized to five screens.

Read more at The Henry Ford & visit the Ford Wyoming Drive-in online for current shows.

Derek took this photo way back in 2012. See lots more in his massive Detroit album on Flickr.

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Detroit March to Freedom – June 23, 1963

Walk to Freedom Detroit June 23 1963

Detroit March to Freedom by Jim Yardley (courtesy Walter P Reuther Library)

Dr. Martin Luther King speaks at Cobo Hall
Dr. Martin Luther King speaks at Cobo Hall

Click on Detroit shares that the Detroit March to Freedom on June 23, 1963 was at the time the largest civil rights demonstration in U.S. history, with 125,000 marching down Woodward Avenue culminating in a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King at Cobo Hall:

The crowd carried signs and moved in relative silence as tens of thousands more watched from sidewalks and buildings.

The route of the march started at a twenty-one-block staging area near Adelaide Street. It followed Woodward Avenue to Jefferson Avenue, then headed west through the Civic Center. An hour and a half after it began, it ended at Cobo Hall, where 25,000 people, an estimated 95% of them African American, filled the building to capacity.

Thousands of demonstrators who could not find a seat spilled onto the lawns and malls outside, and listened to the programming through loudspeakers. Inside, public officials, African American business and civic leaders, and dignitaries including John B. Swainson, Congressman Charles Diggs, and Rev. Albert Cleage were among the speakers.

They note that the rally is remembered primarily for Dr. King’s first delivery of what became the “I Have a Dream” speech two months later at the historic March on Washington. Read on for more.

You can see a bunch more photos in the Walter P Reuther’s Equality & Civil Rights Activism in America photo gallery. Here’s a cool overview of the massive crowd from the Detroit Historical Society & listen to the speech right here:

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Michigan, Ohio, and the Best Worst Deal Ever

Lake of the Clouds by Tom Mortenson

Lake of the Clouds by Tom Mortenson

CMU’s Clarke Historical Library reminds us that on June 15, 1836 Congress passed the Northern Ohio Boundary Bill to resolve the ongoing boundary dispute between the state of Ohio and the Michigan Territory. Both claimed the mouth of the Maumee River (present-day Toledo) and offered surveys supporting their positions. The congressional compromise awarded Toledo to Ohio and granted Michigan the western Upper Peninsula and immediate statehood. Ohio was elated, but Michigan struggled, and eventually accepted a solution they believed was unfair.

Michigan State University’s Geography Department takes a deeper dive into the Toledo War and its aftermath, explaining that:

Sentiment against the proposed compromise was almost universal at first. A resolution adopted in March had dismissed the area that Michigan was to receive as a “sterile region on the shores of Lake Superior, destined by soil and climate to remain forever a wilderness.” The Detroit Free Press called it “a region of perpetual snows—the Ultima Thule of our national domain in the north.”

Senator Lyon said the region could furnish the people of Michigan with Indians for all time and now and then a little bear meat for a delicacy, but he was nevertheless one of the few who thought that Michigan might eventually find it got the better of the bargain. There was resentment of the fact that Arkansas had been granted statehood unconditionally the same day that Michigan had been offered admission only on conditions that most Michiganians regarded as disadvantageous to the state.

If Michigan did not want the huge area in the northland that Congress offered, it is equally true that some of the residents of the Upper Peninsula did not want to be part of Michigan either. Congress had received a number of petitions from persons in this region asking that the area south of Lake Superior be organized as the territory of Huron. Michigan Territory, as originally established in 1805, had included the eastern Upper Peninsula, including the settlements at the Straits of Mackinac and at Sault Ste. Marie. These areas had been represented in the 1835 convention that drafted Michigan’s constitution and had defined the new state’s boundaries so as to include these parts of the Upper Peninsula within that state. Thus the statement that Michigan received the entire Upper Peninsula in return for surrendering the Toledo strip is not correct, but nevertheless the error continues to be perpetuated. It was approximately the western three-quarters of the Upper Peninsula that was involved in the compromise. Some people in the eastern section preferred to become part of the proposed Huron Territory, pointing out that Sault Ste. Marie was cut off from Detroit for six months each year and claiming that the region was treated by the rest of Michigan as a remote and neglected colony. Congress, however, paid no attention. Politics was more important than geography, and Michigan was saddled with the problem–never satisfactorily resolved–of uniting two areas which nature, for many thousands of years, has set asunder.

…Sure, Michigan did “lose” to Ohio in a way. At the time, we didn’t get what we wanted, the Toledo Strip, and they did. However, as a state we never really lost anything. While Toledo was conveniently located on the water, we still had Detroit, which was and continues to be the center of industry here in Michigan. We lost a little bit, but gained tremendously. At the time of statehood, surely the acquiring of the Upper Peninsula was thought to be a disadvantage. Time proved to tell that it was nothing like that at all. We really lost nothing, and gained immense mineral wealth, fortune from logging, and vast natural beauty.

I’ll definitely take that trade! Tom took this photo back in October of 2013. See more in his Upper Michigan gallery on Flickr.

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Earth Day at 50

Untitled by Brooke Pennington

Untitled by Brooke Pennington

Happy 50th Earth Day everyone! It’s without a doubt the weirdest one on record, but I thought you might be interested in the Michigan roots of Earth Day, at the University of Michigan to be precise. James Tobin of Michigan Today shares the story of the Teach-In on the Environment that UM held in March of 1970 because Earth Day fell right in the middle of exams. Students and teachers formed a group called Environmental Action for Survival (ENACT) and booked Democratic front-runner Senator Edmund Muskie, Ralph Nader and biologist Dr. Barry Commoner.

Michigan’s Teach-In on the Environment was not the first Earth Day. It was the huge and spectacularly successful prototype of the first Earth Day, which happened five weeks later—“the most famous little-known event,” one historian has written, “in modern American history.”

…The crowd in Crisler Arena overflowed into the parking lots. Workshops and rallies were swarmed by Michigan students, schoolkids, retirees, and PTA parents. When it was over, the New York Times said Michigan’s Teach-In on the Environment had been “by any reckoning…one of the most extraordinary ‘happenings’ ever to hit the great American heartland: Four solid days of soul-searching, by thousands of people, young and old, about ecological exigencies confronting the human race.”

Measured against the extreme rhetoric and violent protests that set the tone of the era, it was an earnest, even quiet, event. A few speakers were heckled and a few showy demonstrations drew heavy media attention—the “trial and execution” of a 1959 Ford on the Diag; the dumping of 10,000 non-returnable pop cans at a Coca-Cola bottling plant (afterward students picked up the cans and threw them away, an irony not lost on reporters); the smearing of tar and feathers on a building where an oil company was interviewing job prospects.

Read the rest right here. & dig into 2020 online events at earthday.org.

Check out Brooke’s Spring photo album on Flickr for more!

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Happy Birthday, Dianna Ross!

Diana Ross, 1976 by Motown Records

Diana Ross, 1976 by Motown Records/Wikimedia Commons

Today is the birthday of Detroit-born Motown singer, actress, record producer, and all around legend Diana Ross. The Black PR Wire Power news release in honor of her birthday says:

Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Ross rose to fame as the lead singer of the vocal group, The Supremes, who during the 1960s became Motown’s most successful act, and are the best-charting female group in US history, as well as one of the world’s best-selling girl groups of all time. The group released a record-setting twelve number one hit singles on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, including “Where Did Our Love Go”, “Baby Love”, “Come See About Me”, “Stop! In the Name of Love”, “You Can’t Hurry Love”, “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”, “Love Child”, and “Someday We’ll Be Together”.

Following her departure from the Supremes in 1970, Ross released her eponymous debut solo album that same year, featuring the No. 1 Pop hit “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” She later released the album “Touch Me in the Morning” in 1973; its title track was her second solo No. 1 hit. She continued a successful solo career through the 1970s, which included hit albums like Mahogany and Diana Ross and their No. 1 hit singles, “Theme from Mahogany” and “Love Hangover”, respectively. Her 1980 album “Diana” produced another No. 1 single, “Upside Down”, as well as the international hit “I’m Coming Out.” Her final single with Motown during her initial run with the company achieved her sixth and final U.S. number one Pop hit, the duet “Endless Love” featuring Lionel Richie, whose solo career was launched with its success.

Ross has also ventured into acting, with a Golden Globe Award-winning and Academy Award–nominated performance in the film “Lady Sings the Blues” (1972); she recorded its soundtrack, which became a number one hit. She also starred in two other feature films, “Mahogany” (1975) and “The Wiz” (1978), later acting in the television films “Out of Darkness” (1994), for which she also was nominated for a Golden Globe Award, and Double Platinum (1999).

She is the only female artist to have number one singles as a solo artist; as the other half of a duet (Lionel Richie); as a member of a trio; and as an ensemble member (We are the World-USA for Africa). In 1976, Ross was named the “Female Entertainer of the Century” by Billboard magazine. In 1993, the Guinness Book of World Records declared her the most successful female music artist in history, due to her success in the United States and United Kingdom for having more hits than any female artist in the charts, with a career total of 70 hit singles with her work with the Supremes and as a solo artist. She had a top 10 UK hit in every one of the last five decades, and sang lead on a top 75 hit single at least once every year from 1964 to 1996 in the UK, a period of 33 consecutive years and a record for any performer.

In 1988, Ross was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Supremes, alongside Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard. She was the recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2007, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.

Dig into the Supremes at Motown Museum!

Happy 131st Birthday to Michigan’s Best Porch!

Mackinac Bridge from the Grand Porch, photo by Marilyn Bogle

Happy 131st Birthday to The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island which opened on July 10, 1887. Here’s some historical highlights about Michigan’s most iconic hotel:

1887 Grand Hotel opens, billed as a summer retreat for vacationers who arrive by lake steamer from Chicago, Erie, Montreal, Detroit, and by rail from across the continent. Rates are $3 to $5 a night.

1890s Grand Hotel’s Front Porch – longest in the world—becomes the principal meeting place for all of Mackinac Island, as well as a promenade for the elderly and a “Flirtation Walk” for island romantics. Grand Hotel Manager James “The Comet” Hayes invites an agent of Edison Phonograph to conduct regular demonstrations of the new invention.

1895 Mark Twain lectures in the Grand Hotel Casino. Admission: $1.

1897 The West Wing is added to the hotel.

Turn of the century – The automobile finds its way onto the island. Grand Hotel supports an island-wide ban. A law is passed, but not strictly enforced until the 1930s.

1919 Hotel rates: $6 a day per person.

1935 A radio salon where patrons can listen to Jack Benny and other popular programs is added.

1947 This Time For Keeps starring Jimmy Durante and Esther Williams is filmed on the island and at Grand Hotel.

1960 Grand Hotel owner W. Stewart Woodfill appoints R.D. (Dan) Musser president of Grand Hotel.

1976 Musser and wife Amelia begin the redesign of the hotel’s interior and exterior with the help of architect Richard Bos and decorator Carleton Varney.

1979 The Mussers purchase Grand Hotel.

1980 Somewhere In Time, filmed at Grand Hotel and starring Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, and Christopher Plummer, is released.

1989 The U.S. Department of Interior designates Grand Hotel a National Historic Landmark.

View Marilyn’s photo background bigilicious and see more in her Mackinac album.

More Grand Hotel and more Mackinac Island on Michigan in Pictures!

House Drop: L Frank Baum, Oz & Michigan

The house began to pitch… by Cherie

“Oh rubbish, you have no power here. Be gone before someone drops a house on you.”
– Glinda the Good

On May 15, 1856, L Frank Baum was born. 44 years and 2 days later, he published the first of my personal favorite series of books and one of the most beloved children’s books of all time, The Wizard of Oz. While I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a gateway to the Land of Oz hidden somewhere in Michigan, I have no doubt that the magic & wonder of the Oz owes a lot to the time that the Goose Man of Macatawa spent in Michigan!

I’m not sure if there’s a wicked witch under this house, but you can check it out background big and see more in Cherie’s Rural Exploration album.

 

March 3, 1875: Mackinac National Park

The National Parks Traveler has a great article by Bob Janiskee titled
Pruning the Parks: Mackinac National Park (1875-1895)
that says (in part):

Though few people seem to know or care, Michigan’s long-ago abolished Mackinac National Park was America’s second national park. Yellowstone got there first, but not by much.

On March 1, 1872 President Ulysses S. Grant signed a law establishing that Yellowstone would forever be “dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Yellowstone thus became the first true national park in America and the world. What few people seem to know is that Congress created a second national park just three years later. Michigan’s Mackinac National Park, which existed from 1875 to 1895, is the “forgotten” national park.

…Despite a location well removed from the main population centers of the Midwest, Mackinac Island was well served by Great Lakes steamers and became a significant summer resort after the Civil War. The island developed a tourism-based economy and a reputation for being a “healthy” place (though not a cheap one) in which to relax and reenergize in scenic surroundings. By the late 1800s the island had acquired several large hotels and a number of large Victorian homes (called “cottages”) built by wealthy summer residents. The resident population remained small due to the harsh winter climate of the place. There were still only about three dozen residences on the island in 1895.

Island-born U.S. Senator Thomas W. Ferry (1827-1896), whose parents ran the island’s mission school, was concerned that Mackinac Island would end up in private hands and be subjected to development that would ruin its scenic-historic character and slow paced lifestyle. Not long after Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872, Ferry began gathering political support for making a large part of Mackinac Island a national park as well.

It was tough going for several years, not least because Congress was loathe to spend money on parks and the island’s scenic and geologic attractions were not jaw-dropping wonders on a par with those of Yellowstone. Ferry finally prevailed, however, and Congress established Mackinac National Park with legislation that President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law on April 15, 1875. The enabling legislation was virtually identical to that used to create Yellowstone National Park in 1872.

This was a deal done on the cheap. Most of Mackinac Island was already federal property, and the park itself was small. Most importantly, Congress gave the park to the War Department to administer. That meant that soldiers from the Fort Mackinac garrison could be used for the requisite operation and policing of the park.

The arrangement actually worked quite well. The Fort Mackinac command gave serious attention to its park-related responsibilities, and although park superintendents irritated island business interests by nixing some inappropriate development proposals, islanders generally appreciated that their economic interests were best served by protecting the park’s scenery, geologic features, and historic landscape.

Mackinac National Park lasted just 20 years. In the 1890s the Army proposed to abandon Fort Mackinac, an action that would leave the park without a custodian. Alarmed at the prospect, Michigan governor John T. Rich petitioned Congress to turn the park over to the state of Michigan. This was done in 1895. Mackinac Island State Park, reportedly the first state-operated park in this country to be officially titled a “state park,” remains a Michigan state park to this day.

Read more at the National Parks Traveler and learn about this 1936 replica of Fort Holmes from Mackinac State Historic Parks.

Farewell, Jud Heathcote

Jud Heathcote, photo courtesy MSU Basketball

“Michigan State has lost one of its icons today. And yet nothing can erase his impact on the program, the players he coached and the coaches he mentored. Spartan basketball is what it is today because of Jud Heathcote.”
~MSU Basketball Coach Tom Izzo

Legendary Michigan State University basketball coach Jud Heathcote has passed away at the age of 90:

George M. (Jud) Heathcote coached the Michigan State men’s basketball team from 1976-95, guiding the Spartans to 340 victories, three Big Ten titles, nine NCAA Tournament berths and one national title during his 19 seasons in East Lansing.

Heathcote is the second-winningest coach in MSU history with a record of 340-220 (.607), including a 14-8 (.636) mark in the NCAA Tournament. His overall record was 420-273 (.606) over 24 seasons, including five years at Montana.

In his third season in East Lansing, Heathcote led Michigan State to its first NCAA men’s basketball championship in 1979 and won back-to-back Big Ten titles in 1978 and 1979. During those two seasons, Heathcote had the opportunity to coach one of the game’s greatest players, All-American Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who propelled the Spartans to a 51-10 record in his two seasons at MSU.

A two-time Big Ten Coach of the Year (1978 and 1986), Heathcote coached seven All-Americans (Johnson, Gregory Kelser, Jay Vincent, Sam Vincent, Scott Skiles, Steve Smith and Shawn Respert) and 22 NBA players. Five of his players won the Big Ten scoring title a total of six times. During Jud’s tenure, MSU had at least one player among the first-team All-Big Ten selections in 12 of his 19 years.

Prior to his retirement, Heathcote ensured that the future of Spartan basketball would be in good hands. In 1990, he promoted assistant Tom Izzo to associate head coach, and fought for Izzo to be named his successor.

Read on for more and please share articles about him that you enjoyed in the comments!

Here’s a brief video on Heathcote from CBS Sports…