Saturday, February 5, 2011

Archive: Menominee Postcards #2

Green Bay Shore, Menominee, Michigan

Dear George,

I’ve added a new Menominee Michigan postcard to the righthand column of this blog each week since July 2009. When I delete an old one and add a new one, these don’t get permanently stored, so I’ve decided to periodically create an archive of previously posted Menominee postcards for the interested viewer. This is the second set of archived Menominee postcards (one can click on “Archive” in the directory of “Labels” in the blog’s righthand column to retrieve the first batch of Menominee images, as well as an archived set of Marinette Wisconsin postcards). Menominee is a town of 10,000 at the south central tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, across the Menominee River from its twin city of Marinette. Just about everybody who drives to the U.P. from Milwaukee or Chicago passes through Menominee. These postcards range from about 1910 to the 1970’s or 80’s. The majority are from the early 1900’s to 1950. I obtained most of these images on e-Bay, though some also came from Google Images.




This is Ogden Avenue during the annual Memorial Day parade in the early 1940’s. Ogden Ave. runs from downtown at the Green Bay shore to Menominee’s west end. Washington Grade School is just half a block off to the left, though not in the picture. The tall tower at the left is the Presbyterian Church, and St. Joseph Lloyd Hospital and the Interstate Bridge are farther down the street. My grandfather’s Menominee Drug Store is the three story building in the foreground. My brother Steven and I ate lunch there every day during grade school, and all of us kids worked there occasionally as teens (though mostly we worked at the Marinette drugstore which our father came to own). The Memorial Day parade was a major community happening, and our Boy Scout troop marched in it every year.


The smaller breakwater to the left was constructed during my childhood. Shortly after his return from the war, my dad took 4-year-old Steven and 8-year-old me out on the frozen Green Bay ice, walking from the end of the small breakwater to the tip of the larger one. I ran ahead, and, as I approached the big breakwater, I plunged through the soft ice into eight-foot deep freezing water. Steven tried to run to my aid, and my dad had to restrain him and couldn’t come to help me. He called for me to try to get to the breakwater, and I dragged my way through the crumbling ice to reach the edge, pulled myself up in my water-logged snowsuit, and ran the length of the breakwater to get to my Uncle Kent’s drugstore. Everyone told me I was a hero of sorts. A peak experience of sorts, it remains pretty fresh in my mind.


This downtown waterfront park is a major community gathering place in Menominee. It fronts Green Bay, with a swimming beach and a small breakwater extending outward into the Bay. The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts hold a big annual Bay-o-Rama here. There’s been a four-day Waterfront Festival here in August for many years, including a big-time fireworks display, and we’ve often scheduled family reunions for mid-August to coincide with the Festival weekend. My dad helped organize summer music concerts at the bandshell. Marina Park was one of our favorite summer hangouts at teenagers.


This early 1900’s view was taken from the spot where my grandfather built our home some forty years later. That’s Pig Island across the river, and Riverside Cemetery is located to the far left. A most beautiful spot.


The Menominee fire station was located just off Ogden Avenue at the town’s center, just west of the courthouse. My dad brought us there now and then as children, and we got to climb on the trucks and slide down the fire pole. A few years ago I bought a Menominee Fire Department patch on e-Bay and wore it proudly on one of my autumn weather jackets.


Menominee and Marinette owe much of their origin and growth to the lumber boom of the late 19th century. The first sawmill was built in 1832, the second in 1841. Two dozen sawmills lined the Menominee River by the turn of the century, and more lumber was shipped out of this port than anywhere else in the world. The last log drive was held in 1917, and the last lumber company sawmill closed in 1931. When we were children growing up on the Menominee River in the 1950’s, we still were able to explore leftover ruins of logging company structures on and along the river near our house.


The Wells Lumber Company was located on Green Bay along Highway 41, north of Triangle Park and south of the Lloyd Manufacturing Company. It was a part of the town’s historic tradition and the last of its kind. The Wells were a prominent founding family of Menominee, and one of the Wells families lived across the street from us on Sheridan Road. My friend Sammy would take me over to the Lumber Company, and we were allowed to wander through the plant on elevated catwalks, always a mysterious venture.


There were several dams on the Menominee River which were used to control the flow and height of the water. This postcard is from about 1910, and the dam was much less impressive than the larger versions which were in place by our youth. We were always scared about being swept over the dam by raging currents when we boated near it, but I learned years later that my younger brother Peter and his daredevil friends used to swim over the top of the dam and slide down its face into the whitewater.


This is a view of First Street (originally Main St., then Sheridan Road), near the southern edge of Menominee’s business district and just below the Marina Park and the breakwater (all to the right, just outside of the picture). The building at the right is the Waterfront Restaurant (later the Landing). When we were home for family reunions my parents would treat us all to dinner at the Waterfront, where we would enjoy Manhattans and broiled whitefish. The tallish tower at the middle left is the corner of the Herald-Leader building, where our family friend Jean Worth was editor. The large white building far down the street is the Montgomery Ward store and the knitting mill. Our family lived in a second-floor apartment near this corner while my father was away in the war.


By the time I was in grade school in the 1940’s the former opera house had been converted to the Menominee Theater, one of two movie houses in Menominee. The Menominee sold coupon books for its 1:00 Saturday matinees, 10 movie tickets for a dollar. It was an exciting time because all the kids on that side of town would come streaming down Kirby Street in the half hour before the movie’s start, and the audience’s anticipation ran high. There would be a news reel, highlighting the war in Europe, two cartoons, and a double feature. Cowboy movies were our favorites (Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, the Lone Ranger and Tonto), but so were comedies (the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello), and detective stories (Charlie Chan, Dick Tracy, The Thin Man). I don’t recall ever seeing a parent in the movie house, but we kids managed just fine on our own.


Lloyd Marshall Burns (1881-1927), inventor and manufacturer, moved his company from Minneapolis to Menominee in 1906, having produced children’s vehicles and a wire weaving machine. His most important invention was the Lloyd Loom, used to weave the irregular shapes of wicker articles more smoothly, evenly, and rapidly. The Lloyd Company remains one of the mainstays of Menominee industry today, producing wicker lawn furniture. Several of my high school friends’ parents were Lloyd employees.


The trolley tracks were still in place in Menominee and Marinette at the end of World War II, though the twin cities had switched from trolleys to buses in 1928. I didn’t ride the bus much as a kid. We didn’t go that far as children, and then we started driving ourselves as teens. Some of my high school friends didn’t have access to a car, so they spent Friday nights riding the bus nonstop around the circular twin city “loop”, sitting in the back seats and fooling around. The driver usually didn’t mind since it provided some entertaining diversion, and it was a cheap way to meet girls and have fun on a Friday night.


The Agricultural School was on the Western edge of the Menominee city limits, located in a stand of Norway Pines along the route that we traveled between town and our house on the river. By the time we moved to Riverside Boulevard in 1946, the school had been replaced by Jordan College, a Catholic seminary. We would frequently see groups of young student priests jogging up and down Riverside Boulevard for exercise. Other than those forays, however, we never saw them anywhere else, and our impression was that they were locked up in the building the rest of the time. In modern days the former Jordan College became the home to the local YMCA whose swimming pool my father considered a godsend for his “Arthur-itis”.


All the children in our family – myself, Steven, Peter, Vicki – were born at St. Joseph’s-Lloyd Hospital. Our family must have enjoyed good health because I have no recollection of later family hospital stays by anybody. The hospital was built on Ogden Ave. in 1891, next to what was then the Epiphany Church. It was staffed by the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis who traveled from lumber camp to lumber camp soliciting money. When local industrialist Marshall Lloyd died in 1927, he left his fortune to the people of Menominee for health care, and a new hospital (later renamed St. Joseph’s-Lloyd) was erected next door.


The Menominee Depot is a stopping point for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad which operated to the south through Green Bay and then Milwaukee and Chicago. In the early 1950’s I traveled by railroad to and from Antioch College, about an 18-hour trip which required sleeping in my seat. I changed trains in midtown Chicago each trip and made it a tradition to go to the nearby skid row area and buy a wool cap in a discount haberdashery that I’d discovered. When Katja and I were engaged, we made the trip together to and from Menominee via the C&NW.


Menominee’s winter weather was tempered by being on a massive body of water, but we were still occasionally subject to major snowstorms like the one pictured here from the early 1900’s. We lived for a while on Sheridan Road (formerly Main St.), and, when a major storm hit, we neighborhood kids would build snow forts on opposite sides of the street and spend hours engaged in snowball wars. As a teenager one of my tasks was shoveling the sidewalks outside the downtown drugstore and my dad’s law office. I was determined to shovel away every single flake of snow. Big storms presented a challenge.

G-Mail Comments

-Gayle CL (2-5): David.....I love this letter....Such great history.. I never knew u fell in the lake...I can't imagine how scary that must have been...That post card of ur grandfathers. Building looks familiar... What a memory you u and love to all....please keep writing...,)


  1. What a wonderful trip through history. Sure appreciate this blog!

    1. Thanks, Jean. I'm glad you enjoyed it.