Saturday, July 28, 2012

Archive: Menominee Postcards (#5)

Bay Shore, Menominee, Michigan (circa 1910)

Dear George,
Every week or two I put a vintage postcard image of my home town, Menominee, Mich., in the righthand column of this blog.  Because these aren’t saved when I delete them, I’m putting a previous batch of them here as an archive in a permanent file.  One can also access four previous Menominee Postcard “archives” (posted on 6/26/10, 2/5/11, 6/17/11, and 1/11/12) by going to the blog’s righthand column, scrolling down to “Labels”, and clicking on “Archives”.  In addition to these earlier Menominee postcard archives, the reader will also find there an archive of “Marinette Postcards” (posted 11/25/10), Menominee’s sister city across the river in Wisconsin, and archives of my father’s family photos taken in Menominee in the 1940’s and 1950’s (“Vic’s Photos”, posted 12/12/09 and 8/17/11).  I’ll add additional archives for these categories in the future.

MENOMINEE AND MARINETTE (from 10,000 ft. altitude)
This is a sensational view of the twin cities.  I’d say it was taken in the 1940's.  You can see the immense significance of water for these communities.  The upper half of the picture is Green Bay.  The waterway which runs downward through the center of the photo is the Menominee River (the state boundary between Michigan and Wisconsin).  The town of Menominee is on the left; Marinette is on the right.  The bridge near the mouth of the river (barely discernible) is the Menekaunee Bridge.  The major bridge near the middle of the photo which connects the centers of the two towns is the Interstate Bridge (U.S. Highway 41).  Stephenson Island is located under the Interstate Bridge, near the Marinette shore.  There's also a bridge and a dam just below the Interstate Bridge in the picture.  That's the Hattie St. Bridge.  Following down the river, at the junction of its sharp curve, is a second dam.  At its left is the Riverside Cemetery.  And just above the cemetery is the Riverside Country Club golf course.  The road that runs off at the lower left is Riverside Boulevard where our family lived from the late 1940's to the 1960's (our house being located about a mile past the bottom of the picture).  Back toward the top, along the Green Bay shore toward the left you can make out the marina breakwater which is located at Menominee's business district.  My grandfather's drugstore, my dad's law office, and Washington Grade School were located near the lefthand end of the breakwater.  All in all, this is the world in which our family and friends lived, and it's pleasing to see the entire area in a single photo.

Ogden Avenue is Menominee’s major east-west thoroughfare, running from the Green Bay shoreline at its eastern end to the Hattie Street Bridge and the paper mill at the west.  Travelers heading north from Wisconsin cross the Interstate Bridge and enter Menominee on Ogden Ave., then follow it till Highway 41 turns to the north near the courthouse.  Our family lived on Ogden Ave. for my first five years, and it was the main route for my mother’s baby carriage walks with me and then Steven.  I believe that Ogden Ave. was named for William B. Ogden, a Chicago mayor and Director of the Chicago and North Western Railroad, who developed the settlement of Peshtigo as a lumber mill company town and was instrumental in extending the C&NW Railroad from Green Bay to Marinette and Menominee in order to ship lumber to Chicago. 

My early memories of Menominee include huge snowstorms that piled up windswept banks of snow that came up to my chest.  I think my memory of the frequency of such storms is grossly exaggerated today.  Menominee gets about 53 inches of snow a year, more than double the 24 inches in Cincinnati, but dramatically less than the 210 inches in Marquette.  During my childhood we probably got a couple of storms of the magnitude shown in this photo.  They were very exciting because they meant multiple vacation days from school. 

The Epiphany Church, located at 1016 Ogden Ave., was originally a branch of the St. John's Catholic parish in Menominee (founded in 1872), but it withdrew from the Mother Church in 1890.  The church's foundation was laid in 1891, and the church was dedicated on Nov. 13, 1892.  Construction cost $35,000.  Epiphany added a school in 1902.  After more than half a century, a shortage of teaching nuns forced the school to close, and in 1964 Epiphany, St. John's, and St. Ann's merged their school systems into Menominee Catholic Central.

As teens we used to drive around the "loop" through the twin cities, crossing the Interstate Bridge into Marinette, going up Main St., then returning to Menominee,  Sheridan Road, and Ogden Avenue via the Menekaunee Bridge.  The latter was a drawbridge which opened up for large boats and ships entering the Menominee River.  We always got annoyed when we had to sit “endlessly” in a line of cars waiting for a sailboat to pass through.  

The Carpenter Cook Building was located on the Menominee River near the north end of the Menekaunee Bridge.  One of our good family friends, Francis S., was an executive for this grocery wholesale distribution company.  Some of my neighborhood chums from Washington Grade School used to go swimming at the Carpenter Cook docks, but I never joined them.  Many years later I learned that the river was badly polluted near its mouth, so it was just as well that I’d been wary.  

Menominee's sugar beet factory, the third largest in the nation, opened for business in 1903, supported by the town's wealthy lumber enterpreneurs.  The factory was designed to produce 1,000 tons of sugar beets per day, though only 14,000 tons were processed in its first season.  The area's low temperatures were not conducive to sugar beet farming.  The beet crops were sufficient to keep the factory going but not to encourage expansion.  By 1955 the equipment was exhausted and the company closed its doors.  

This scene is from the early 1900’s.  These were the glory days of the Menominee River.  The town's population was 16,000, about 6,000 higher than in my youth and 7,000 higher than today.  There were only remnants of the turn of the century lumbering operations leftby the time we were growing up on the river in the 1940’s and 50’s, but we were aware of the historical importance the industry to our area and sometimes pretended that we were lumberjacks, balancing ourselves on dried out logs that we had towed home from Pig Island.  

Menominee was (and is) a significant Great Lakes Port, including being a destination for commercial shipping, leisure craft, and the Ann Arbor Carferry which ran to the Lower Peninsula.  As children, we were mostly out of touch with the town’s commercial shipping industry, though one of my high school classmates was to become a seaman on the boats.  

For my first five years our family lived in a big white house at the foot of the Interstate Bridge on Ogden Avenue.  This is a photo taken a block or two from our house, looking east toward Electric Square and the Green Bay shore.  My grandfather VAL Sr.’s drugstore was at the end of the street on the left at the intersection with Sheridan Road.  My mother used to take me and my infant brother Steve on walks down Ogden Ave. to the Office Supply Store.  I’d get to buy a pencil or an eraser.  It was my favorite place to go.  

I don’t remember this particular bevy of beauties from the 1940’s, and I don’t think that this generic postcard really depicts the Menominee shoreline.  But it does capture the spirit of Menominee in the summertime.  A number of our friends – O’Hara’s, Caleys, Sargents, Mars, Jacobsen’s – lived on the Green Bay shore just north of the city, and we would spend a lot of time swimming in the Bay or sunning on the sand.  It truly was fun on the beach.  

Menominee’s downtown business and shopping district is mainly on Sheridan Road which runs along the shore of Green Bay.  The breakwaters, which harbor local and visiting sail and powerboats, are at the center of downtown, with Marina Park visible here toward the left side of the harbor.  The big white building in the center of the picture is the Montgomery Ward Building which also housed the Lloyd Theater.  The street which runs from near the right end of the breakwater toward the top of the picture is Ogden Avenue, the town’s other major thoroughfare.  Looking up Ogden Ave., one can see the Interstate Bridge which runs across the Menominee River to Marinette.  Near the top of the picture is the dam which spans the river.  A lot of memories are contained in this picture.

This is another view of Menominee’s downtown business district looking north from its southern edge.  The breakwater is at the right, with Marina Park and the Bandshell facing it.  The building at the south edge of the park is a bank, and our dentist and Riverside Boulevard neighbor, Dr. Mead, had his office on the second floor.  My mother, my brother Steve, and I lived in the apartment building directly across the street from the bank during World War II when my dad was away in the navy.  The large building toward the lower left of the picture is the Menominee Opera House which had been converted to a movie theater by the time of my childhood.  We grade school children paid a dollar to get a booklet of ten tickets to the Saturday afternoon matinees where we watched Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, the Marx Brothers, Charlie Chan, The Three Stooges, the Lone Ranger, and many more.

We enjoyed Henes Park on Menominee’s outskirts a lot as kids and teenagers, but it became still more important when we returned home for visits as adults and parents ourselves.  We’d take our son J over to see the buffalos and deer in the deer yard, stop by the pond to watch the ducks, look at the bear and raccoons in the mini-zoo, go swimming at the beach, do kiddie rides at the playground, and enjoy a popsicle at the beach’s refreshment stand.  

I’m sure our family must have eaten in the Hotel Menominee on occasion.  However, when I asked my dad in adulthood about our family’s eating out during my childhood, he said that we never ate out because we never had enough money to do so.   Anyway the Hotel Menominee was a fine old establishment on Sheridan Road along the Green Bay shore.  When I was in fourth grade, our Washington School glee club performed there in a concert for the local Lion’s Club, much to the enjoyment of the Lions and their spouses.  The hotel burned down in 1977.  

The Menominee River, as I’ve mentioned, was the site of the nation’s largest lumbering production in the 1890’s and early 1900’s.  In our youth, the river was the site of numerous deadheads, and we’d watch out for them when navigating our rowboat with its 1.5 hp. motor.  The channel which separated Pig Island from its neighbor was filled with water-logged stumps, and every now and then we’d pick out a fancy one and tow it home behind the boat. 

No comments:

Post a Comment