Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Menominee Photo Tour, Part Two

Map of Menominee, Michigan (1919)

Dear George,
This is Part Two of photos that I took on our July-August visit to my home town of Menominee.  Here are some more of the places that were important in my and my family’s lives.

Sheridan Road

Somebody I ran across on the Internet claimed that Sheridan Road (now First St.) is the most beautiful street in America.  I’m not sure I would go that far, but it is a special place.  It starts at Menominee’s southeastern tip at the Menekaunee Bridge and the mouth of the Menominee River and heads northward for two and a quarter miles along the Green Bay shore, travelling through attractive residential neighborhoods and the town’s main business district.  It was originally called Main Street.  My two favorite childhood places in the business district were the five and dime (where many items were literally a nickel or a dime) and the G.I. Surplus Store (where you could buy stuff that I was sure had come directly to Menominee from the Normandy invasion).    

Quimby Ave. Apartment

When my dad was away in the navy in the latter years of World War II, my mother, my younger brother Steve, and I lived in a second-floor apartment at the far end of this building on Quimby Ave. at Sheridan Road.  It was a four-block walk to Washington Grade School or to the Lloyd Theater.  My friends, Marvin F. and Tommy H., and I formed a secret club that met underneath the sidewalk in front of the building.

The Herald-Leader Building (former)

We lived right across the street from the Herald-Leader newspaper where family friend Jean Worth was the editor.  My dad would take me to the editor’s office from time to time, and I would daydream about becoming a newsman.

The Post Office

The Post Office was right next door to our apartment building.  Occasionally my mother would send me over to mail a letter or buy some one-cent stamps.  It was a challenging task for a 7-year-old.

The Opera House

The Menominee Opera House was built during the lumber boom of the 1890’s and was the pride of the community.   I saw my mother perform there in a community theater play.  She played a tiger.  By the time of my childhood the opera house had been turned into the Menominee Theater, and we neighborhood children would troop there en masse on Saturday afternoons to thrill to the adventures of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Charlie Chan, Dick Tracy, and other heroes and heroines. 

Dr. Mead’s Office Building

Dr. Mead and his wife were our neighbors when we moved to the Menominee River, and he was our family dentist as well.  Dr. Gilling, an orthodontist from Green Bay, came to Dr. Mead’s office each month, and I got braces in the fifth grade.  When the two dentists determined that I needed to have them again as a high school senior, I lapsed into a state of trauma and became a social hermit for the entire year.     

The North Pier Light

Menominee is an important Great Lakes Port, and the North Pier Light guides ships into the mouth of the Menominee River and its harbor area.  It’s been around since 1877, though the current structure was built in 1927. 

The Police Station (former)

The police station was right across the street from Marina Park in the heart of the business district.  Katja got her first driver’s license here because they didn’t require you to parallel park for the driver’s test.  When I was in second grade, Chief Tony Jensen addressed a school assembly and mentioned that, when boys throw snowballs at girls, it’s because they secretly like them.  I was amazed that the chief of police knew that. 

The First Presbyterian Church

Our family belonged to the First Presbyterian Church, but we only attended once a year on Easter Sunday.  To his offsprings’ young and tender ears, our father sang the hymns in a louder voice than anyone else in the congregation, and we were thoroughly humiliated.  I was always surprised at the amount of my dad’s check when they passed the basket for donations, but he explained that it covered twelve months worth.    

The Menominee County Court House

The Court House is one of Menominee’s finest landmarks.  It was built in 1875 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.  My dad participated in courtoom trials there, first as a Municipal Judge and later as County Prosecuting Attorney, but we never saw him in action.  The draft board was on the second floor, and I’d check in with them regularly during the early years of the Vietnam War until I turned 30 and was no longer at risk of becoming a soldier.    

The Fire Station (former)

The Menominee Fire Department was located in this building just west of the Court House.  Our father would take us there occasionally, and we would get to slide down the fire pole.  

St. John’s Catholic Church (former)

The O’Hara’s and other family friends belonged to St. John’s, and we kids would attend mass with them from time to time.  I became reasonably proficient at doing the rituals.  My sister Vicki went to mass much more often with her best friend Kevin (Kiera) and wanted to be a nun more than life itself.  Now the former church has become the Menominee County Historical Museum.   

Menominee High School (former)

My siblings and I and the majority of kids in Menominee, as well as those in Birch Creek and nearby rural areas, went to Menominee High School.  It was the site of many memorable adolescent experiences – sports, academics, gym class, dances, clubs, student council, class plays, mingling with the opposite sex, pranks, the school lunchroom, and all sorts of silliness.  Steven played varsity basketball and golf; Peter, football; Vicki was a ninth-grade cheerleader; and I was on the tennis team.  My classmates at Antioch College came from much fancier schools in major metropolitan areas, but Menominee High did o.k. in getting us ready for college.

The Creamy Whip

Soft Serve ice cream was invented and/or made its way to Menominee in the early 50’s, and we teenagers would frequent the Creamy Whip on Ogden Avenue on summer evenings.  It’s still there, and we still stop by when we’re in town.    

Henes Park

Henes Park is Menominee’s most prominent tourist attraction and a community treasure.  We frequented its
playground and swimming beach as children, sometimes parked there at night to smooch and hug as teenagers (at the peril of being caught by the police).    

Menominee Granite Company

When I rode my bike home from high school on Stephenson Ave., I’d pass the Granite Co. at the edge of town.  The newly carved gravestones had a mysterious allure, and I’d occasionally stop and fantasize about the lives of their namesakes.  

Riverside Country Club

Our family belonged to Riverside Country Club, and we began taking golf lessons at age 8 or 9.  I never was much good, and when my younger brother Steve, four years my junior, began beating me regularly, I retired my golf clubs and took up tennis.  

Riverside Cemetery

The cemetery was on the route to our home on the river.  Its western edge overlooks the Menominee River, and archeologists have dug for Indian artifacts there.  The cemetery’s front lawn was a good place to gather night-crawlers for fishing after a heavy rain.  Riding my bike home on dark nights, the cemetery and its possible inhabitants of ghouls and zombies were scary, and I’d race by as quickly as I could. 

So that’s a slice of life in our small town.  It was a very different place to grow up than, say, metropolises like Cincinnati or New Orleans.  The latter places offer some big city attractions that you wouldn’t run across in the U.P.  Menominee, however, had its own special appeal.


  1. You mentioned Tony Jensen, the Police Chief visiting your 2nd grade class. He was my grandfather; it has been a long time since I have heard mention of him. he was a special man.

    Thank you for remembering him.

    - Jim Murphy
    Rolla, Mo

    1. Jim,
      Thanks for your comment. My dad, who was Prosecuting Attorney for a number of years, worked closely with Tony and had the highest regard for him.
      Dave L.