Saturday, October 17, 2009

Vic's Photos: Dunlap Square

Dear George,

My dad was an excellent photographer, and an important part of his legacy is the many family photos and albums which he passed along to us.  Peter worked from his negatives, sending many images to us all via e-mail as well as printed postcards, and that’s where this shot comes from.  When we were kids, Vic had his darkroom in the utility room of river house where the oil furnace and the washing machine were located.  Steve and I would be his helpers and watch as the image from the negative was projected onto a sheet, then reproduced on the paper in the tray of chemicals.  The whole process by which a black-and-white or color photo slowly emerged on the paper under water was like magic and inevitably elicited cheers of wonder from us helpers.

This photo is of Dunlap Square in downtown Marinette, just as you come off the Interstate Bridge from Menominee heading to south into Wisconsin.  This is the intersection of Marinette’s two major thoroughfares.  Main Street, where our family drugstore was located, goes off to the left, and Hall Avenue is straight ahead.  Riverside Avenue, heading west to the Hattie Street Bridge, goes directly to the right though not visible in this photo.  The Marinette public library is on the square, behind and to the right of where the photographer was standing.  The building at the left edge of the photo is Lauerman Brothers, the Twin Cities’ biggest department store and our primary family shopping destination for clothes, furniture, and household goods.  As I grew older, I frequented the Boy Scout department in the basement to look over and occasionally buy camping gear and the record department in the second floor where you could play demo records and listen to Patti Page or Frank Sinatra. 

The building at the right of the photo is the Marinette Hotel which included a fancy dining room where Katja and I joined my father for lunch once in a while after we were married.  Next to the hotel, around the corner and out of sight, is Goodfellow’s, a dingy tobacco and variety store, where we kids would sometimes stop for candy and watch the older kids playing the pinball games.  Grizzled old men sat at the soda fountain counter, and rumor had it that Goodfellows sold dirty books, though we never saw any.  One of the two movie houses in Marinette was in that same block, and our parents would drop us off for Saturday afternoon matinees there (Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, Charlie Chan, etc.)  As we got older, we were allowed to walk home after the movies across the bridge and over to Sheridan Avenue in Menominee.

As you can tell from the photo, Dunlap Square is to Marinette what Times Square is to New York City.  Bright lights, fancy Xmas decorations, busy traffic, the very center and symbol of the city’s life.  Well, maybe the comparison to Times Square is stretching it a bit, but when we drove around the loop as teenagers, this was definitely the center of the action. 


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