Thursday, November 25, 2010

Archive: Marinette Postcards (#1)

Dear George
This posting is a cumulative archive of “Marinette Postcards” brief postings that have previously appeared in the righthand column of this blog. I’ve changed postcard images of Menominee, Mich., and her twin city, Marinette, Wis., every week since July 2009, and, because these get deleted from the blog each week, I’ve decided to store the old posts in archive files for a new viewer’s potential interest. I’ve previously done an initial archive for “Menominee Postcards”, and I’ll be adding to that in the future. A number of past Marinette postcard posts are given here in the present archive file, and I’ll add more to these in the future too. Marinette is a town of about 11,700 which is located right across the Menominee River from my hometown, Menominee, MI. My grandparents lived there, my dad and his siblings grew up there, and we kids all spent a lot of time in Marinette. Initially a French fur trading post in the 19th century, Marinette and Menominee became the site of the biggest lumbering boom in the U.S. by the turn of the century. Marinette got its name from a French and Native American woman, Marie Antoinette Chevalier, who was the common-law wife of an early fur-trader and who was known as “Queen Marinette”.

Once we turned 16 and got our driver’s licenses, we spent a lot of evening time cruising around town. Mickey-Lu’s Bar B Q, along with Pat and Rayleens, the A&W, the Dairy Whip, the Gateway Café, and Schloegel’s in Marinette were regular spots for teens to congregate and hang out. Mickey Lu’s burgers were famous. It seemed like each burger was a quarter pound of meat mixed with a quarter pound of butter, and they were greasy and delicious. Mickey-Lu’s is in its 68th year in 2010, and, with exactly the same menu and décor as in days of old, the younger generation of our family has become just as addicted as their elders were. It’s often the first place that our family members stop when they drive into Marinette from the Green Bay airport. In my college years I had a very unpleasant, embarrassing experience at Mickey-Lu’s with my friend John Y, and he never fails to remind me of it at high school reunions.

I started working as a clerk and jack-of-all-trades in 1951 at our family’s Marinette Drug Store (at left front in photo). My starting salary was 25 cents an hour, and I had worked up to 45 cents by my senior year in high school. There was a lot of boring time standing around in an oft-empty store, but then some colorful characters would stop in each day. I most enjoyed taking the daily receipts to the bank down the block because I could stop in at Lauerman’s Department Store and get a chocolate malt cone.

Menominee and Marinette had independent hospitals in my youth, though these were consolidated into a single system in the 60’s or 70’s. My mother spent her final days at the Marinette Hospital. She was frightened when all her children flew in and gathered at her bedside. In her last hours she was in a lot of pain and asked Peter and I to leave the room. We left briefly, then decided to return right away, and my mother apologized, saying, “I’m grateful.” I think those may have been her last words.

Chautauqua was an adult education movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that began in New York State in 1874 and spread throughout rural America, with several hundred permanent facilities being established by the 1920s. Chautauqua assemblies brought speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, and preachers for the edification and entertainment of the entire community. The Marinette Chautauqua Assembly was established at Pine Beach in 1897. Programs were open to adults and youth for 25 cents per adult and 15 cents for children. 6,000 people heard William Jennings Bryan speak at Pine Beach on August 5, 1899. We had various family friends who lived at Pine Beach in the 1940’s, most notably Skipper and Ann Burke and their parents, so we spent a lot of time there swimming and playing. My aunt Martha, uncle Ralph, and grandfather V.A. Sr. moved into a Pine Beach home, so we visited regularly.

The Marinette Armory was just behind Dunlap Square in Marinette, and it was the site of Friday night teen dances in the Twin Cities in the 1950’s. It was one of the few places where Marinette and Menominee kids mingled with one another, though we stuck pretty much with our respective in-groups. In the tenth grade, the boys hung out in clumps of boys, the girls with the girls, and, when the girls wanted to dance, they often did so with one another. By eleventh grade we became more adventurous, and it actually proved pleasurable to wrap oneself around the opposite sex on the dance floor. I never learned to dance well, and, now that I look back, that’s one of numerous things I wish I’d done differently in my youth.

This view of the Stephenson Public Library on Dunlap Square in Marinette, circa 1910, is exactly how it looks in 2010. My aunt Martha worked as a librarian here, and Katja and I would regularly visit her and the Marinette library on our annual trips to family reunions. The “Long Bridge” of 1910 was replaced by the Interstate Bridge between Wisconsin and Michigan (Highway 41). As we kids got older we would hike across the bridge to go to Saturday matinees at the movies in Marinette. Then we’d drive across it as teenagers as we cruised around “The Loop”. That, of course, is the Menominee River in the background.

Riverside Drive runs along the Menominee River in Marinette from the southwest corner of the city to Dunlap Square. Many of the town’s handsomest homes are located on Riverside Drive, including the Lauerman’s (now a bed and breakfast that Steve and Margie liked to stay at). When I worked at the Marinette drugstore as a teenager, I crossed the Hattie Street Bridge and drove along this street each day to get to work. Late for work one day, I got my first speeding ticket on Riverside Drive for going 42 m.p.h. in a 25 m.p.h. zone. I was scheduled for a one o’clock appearance at the Mayor’s Court, but I stopped by at noon because I knew the mayor would be having lunch there.

This view of Main St., looking north, is at the heart of Marinette’s downtown business district. Lauerman’s Department Store is just around the corner, and Dunlap Square is just beyond Lauerman’s. The parking meters in the photo were installed in the early 1950’s and were viewed by many grumpy citizens as a violation of God-given human rights. My grandfather’s Marinette drug store was a block south of this photo . One of my teenage job duties was to deliver the drug store’s daily financial returns to the bank at the left of this photo. Though only a one-block walk, I was always alert to the potential danger of robbers lurking in doorways and carried out my mission in a state of high vigilance. The Main St. business district included the variety stores pictured here (Woolworth’s was the better of the two), women’s clothing shops, a couple of bars and a restaurant, Haas’ shoe store, a photo store, a record store where one could listen to demos over earphones, a movie theater, gift shops, a liquor store, and various other establishments. Marinette’s downtown was much more thriving in the 1950’s than today, mostly as a consequence of Pine Tree Mall being built on the town’s outskirts.

The Marinette County Insane Asylum was located on the northern edge of Peshtigo, set off roughly 200 yards from Highway 41. We looked it over with curiosity and a touch of apprehension on every trip to Peshtigo or Green Bay. The building was quite striking in its grove of pine trees, but we learned from early childhood on that it was filled with strange people and that losing one’s mind represented one of the most horrible outcomes in life that we should strive to avoid. So far, so good.

Menominee and Marinette had a number of good restaurants and supper clubs when we were growing up, Graby’s Steakhouse on the Menominee River several miles outside Marinette being a prime example. My parents would go out there with friends on a Saturday night, but us kids would stay home, and Steven and I would be charged with cleaning up the kitchen. Our mother was always thrilled with our efforts. Katja and I went to Graby’s on a “date” in our early married life, and we thought we’d made the big time. I had a Manhattan on the rocks (our family drink), and we judged the steaks to be great.

The Green Bay and Great Lakes fishing operations in the twin cities were based in Menekaunee in the northeast corner of Marinette, and the fishing boats are still there in the Menominee River harbor at the end of the Menekaunee bridge. Our family regularly patronized Peterson’s Fish House, where I would go with my dad to pick up fresh whitefish which my mother then cooked for special occasions. The fish was delicious, and I’ve always ordered whitefish at local restaurants when I’ve returned home. On one of my visits home when my mom had trouble standing she had me cook the whitefish at Farm while she sat on a stool and gave me instructions. It turned out surprisingly good, though that proved to be my one and only effort.

Lauerman Bros. was the main department store for Marinette and Menominee and surrounding counties. My parents brought me there to buy clothes from early childhood on. When I started working at the Marinette drugstore, I’d stop at Lauerman’s every day for a frozen malt cone (smooth, chocolate malt taste, unobtainable anywhere else in the world), then go to the basement to look at camping gear in the Boy Scout department and check the new 45s in the record department. In our early married life Lauerman’s was one of Katja’s favorite local destination. We were sad when Lauerman’s closed after the opening of Pine Tree Mall at the town outskirts in the 1970’s.

G-Mail Comments
-Linda C (11-26): I want to go live there, what a beautiful photo album and stories, forwarding to my brother How are the twins? Active I am sure hello to all love to all
-Gayle CL (11-25): Happy Thanksgiving;))))


  1. What wonderful memories! These photos help us remember the past and inspire us for the future.

    Mary Johns
    Director, Marinette Menominee Area Chamber of Commerce

  2. Thanks, Mary. I grew up in Menominee (and Marinette) between 1937 and 1955 and have visited regularly ever since. My grandfather VAL Sr. owned drugstores on Main St. in Marinette and Electric Square in Menominee, and my dad VAL Jr. was a lawyere and prosecuting attorney for many years in Menominee. You have great communities there.
    Dave L.