Saturday, February 2, 2013

Archive: Marinette Postcards #2

Dear George
This is a second archive of “Marinette Postcards” that have previously appeared in the righthand column of this blog. I’ve added postcard images of the twin cities of Menominee, Mich., and Marinette, Wisc., every week or two since July 2009, and, because these individual items get deleted every week, I’ve decided to store past posts in archive files for a viewer’s potential interest.  I previously posted an initial archive of  “Marinette Postcards” on Nov. 25, 2010, and I’ll be adding further Marinette archives in the future. I’ve also stored several archives of Menominee postcards.  A reader can access the Marinette and Menominee archive posts by going to the right-hand column of the blog, scrolling down to “Labels”, and clicking on “Archives”.  While our family lived in Menominee, Marinette – just across the bridge -- also had great significance in our lives.  My paternal grandparents, immigrants from Sweden settled there, and my dad grew up in Marinette and graduated from Marinette High School. 

Marinette is located in northeastern Wisconsin about 50 miles north of Green Bay and just across the Menominee River from its twin city of Menominee, Michigan.  It was first settled by an Algonquin tribe of 40 to 80 men known as “the wild rice people.”  The town got its name from an early fur-trader’s common-law wife, Marie Antoinette Chevalier, a French and Native American woman who ran a trading post and came to be known as “Queen Marinette.”  Marinette’s population was 478 in 1853, but, because of the area’s huge lumber boom, the town grew to 16,195 residents by 1900.   

The presence of Green Bay and its connection to Lake Michigan is a major geographic feature of Marinette and Menominee.  Among other things, these are boating towns – both in terms of waterbound visitors from Green Bay, Milwaukee, Chicago, and other ports; and in terms of local boating being a popular leisure activity.  Several families in my parents’ friendship circle owned powerboats or sailboats, and we would now and then be invited for a trip to Door County across the bay.  

Dunlap Square is truly Marinette’s town square.  As one comes into the city on the Interstate Bridge from Menominee, Highway 41 enters directly into Dunlap Square, which connects several of the city’s major streets -- Main St., Hall Ave., and Riverside Ave.  The Dunlap Square Building shown at the center of this photo is a National Historic Landmark, built in the latter part of the nineteenth century.  The Marinette Hotel, another significant local institution is at its right.  Lauerman Brothers Department Store, not pictured here, is just east of the Dunlap Square Building and was the most important retail establishment in the region.  Banks, restaurants, bars, clothing shops, and retail establishments of all sorts extend up Main St. and Hall Ave., while the city’s most elegant homes are located on Riverside Avenue along the shore of the Menominee River. 

Highway 41 is one of the nation’s great interstate highways, extending all the way up from Miami, Fla., to the northern tip of the U.P. at Copper Harbor. Stephenson Island is located in the Menominee River where Highway 41 crosses the river via the Interstate Bridge.  The island is named after Senator Isaac Stephenson (1829 -1918) who built the Lauerman Brothers Department Store, founded the Stephenson National Bank, and donated the Stephenson Public Library to the city.  The county historical society’s Logging Museum is on Stephenson Island. 

The Hotel Marinette was a major fixture on Dunlap Square, though we rarely visited it.  Instead we kids went to the movies a half block down the street, then to Goodfellow’s tobacco and variety store next to the hotel to buy some penny candy.  The hotel was torn down during our young adulthood and replaced by a Best Western Motel. 

Like my siblings, I worked part-time after school and on weekends at my grandfather’s Marinette drugstore on Main St., so this is a picture of a very familiar environment for me. Lauerman’s and the Five and Dime were highlights of my Main St. outings.  As adults, Katja liked Nyland’s Gift Shop next to the drugstore on Main St., while I was drawn more to the thrift shop down the block in the former Bell Store space.  Main St. was a more vibrant place in my youth.  With much of local shopping having moved to the mall on the town’s outskirts, Main St. feels a little uninhabited these days, a not uncommon fate for small Midwestern communities.    

The Lauerman family owned the downtown Lauerman Department Store, a grand establishment which served the local citizenry for many decades.  We knew some of the Lauerman kids, but I only recall being in the Lauerman house on Riverside Avenue a couple of times as a youth.  By the time we’d become middle aged, the house had been turned into an attractive bed and breakfast.  At family reunions Steve and Margie always liked to stay there – it was definitely more comfortable than shacking up in the chicken coop at Farm (which is where I’d persuade Katja to stay). 

St. Mary's Institute opened in 1876 with a handful of female pupils, mostly from local Irish families in Marinette.  By World War I it had become a co-ed school, located at 1200 Main St.  Then, by the time of my high school years in the 1950's, it had become Our Lady of Lourdes High School, and several of my friends attended there.  Nowadays it's known as St. Thomas Aquinas Academy, and its website reports that "a high percentage of the students have gone on to Ivy League Schools such as Yale and Harvard, attended Big 10 Universities, or graduated from nationally recognized liberal arts campuses."  

MARINETTE DRUG STORE ON MAIN STREET (the corner brick building at the left)
I started working as a clerk and jack-of-all-trades at our family’s Marinette Drug Store as a 14-year-old.  My starting salary was 25 cents an hour, and I worked my way up to 45 cents by my senior year in high school.  It sounds like low pay, but Baby Ruth bars were a nickel and ice cream cones were a dime.  There was a lot of boring time standing around in an oft-empty store, but some colorful characters would stop in each day.  I most enjoyed taking the previous day’s financial receipts to the bank down the block because I could stop in at Lauerman’s, get a chocolate malt cone, and look over the camping gear in the basement Boy Scout Department.  

July Fourth was a big local occasion, and Marinette put on a big parade.  This is a view on Main St. in downtown Marinette.  My grandfather VA Sr.’s drugstore is the corner brick building to the left, just behind the two white horses.  On July Fourth in my youth my dad and a couple of his friends would take the older kids over to Peshtigo to buy fireworks, and then we would bring them back and have a big multi-family party with a night-time fireworks display at Northwood Cove on Green Bay.   

 I think there’s a tendency to remember the snowdrifts as much bigger in one’s childhood than they really were.  We did, however, occasionally get some big snowstorms in the Great White North.  This photo was taken on Main St. in Marinette during my father’s childhood rather than mine.  On of my drugstore jobs as a teenager involved shoveling the sidewalks after snowstorms.  My personal standard was to get every snowflake off the sidewalk – unattainable, of course, but I wound up with pretty clean sidewalks nonetheless.    

The Menominee is one of the larger rivers in the U.P. and constitutes the Michigan-Wisconsin boundary line all the way up to Iron Mountain and Norway.  We never ventured more than a mile or two up the river from our house by boat – nowhere near Wausaukee --  but we drove through Marinette County to Wausaukee to go flea marketing with Vicki and George on one of our visits and did get to see the Menominee River there.  

First settled by the Menominee Indians, Marinette became a French trading post in the 19th century.  The twin cities experienced a massive lumber boom in the late 1800’s because of their location along the river and the bay.  In their heyday, Marinette and Menominee produced more lumber than any other cities in America. Long before my birth, lumbering had pretty much come to an end, and the local economy had shifted to paper mills, wicker furniture, and Ansul fire extinguishers. 

This is a photo of the Boom Company office and the site of the old trading post in Marinette, early in the twentieth century.  The trading post was operated by Queen Marinette.  The Boom Company was one of the major companies in the area's lumbering industry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  During our visits home my parents used to take us to lunch at the Boom Saloon on Quimby Ave. in Menominee, a tavern named in honor of the community's glory days.

Hall Ave. is one of the two major commercial thoroughfares in Marinette. When we returned home for family reunions, I’d always stop at the two antique stores on Hall Ave.  Millie’s Antiques would usually have some vintage postcards which she would sell at bargain basement prices, e.g., ten cents apiece for pre-World War I French cards.  Millie’s daughter ran the store next door, and she was a little more pricy, though also a good source for paper ephemera.  

Marinette and Menominee residents now get their groceries mostly from Angeli’s supermarkets in the Pine Tree Mall and the M&M Mall.  In my childhood and adolescence we patronized Fran Bourgeois’ grocery store in Menominee’s West End.  My mom would call in an order, they’d box it up, and my dad would pick it up at the end of the workday.  Fran’s made their own potato sausage, liver sausage, and other delectable treats, and we’d enjoy the homemade products.  Later it became Sonny’s, named after Fran’s protégée,  and the potato sausage remained just as good.   

The twin cities of Menominee MI and Marinette WI, have enjoyed the longest interstate public high school football rivalry in the nation.  It began in 1894.  As small towns in a largely rural region, high school football has always been a significant community affair, and the competition between the two schools has been intense over the years.  Even in grade school, we children would march in a lengthy parade to the high school gym to participate in the pre-game pep rally.  As teenagers, we were cautious not to cross the river during the week before the M&M game because of the potential for vandalism or fights.  Marinette leads the series -- 50 wins, 46 losses, 7 ties – though Menominee has dominated the 2000’s, winning two state championships during the past decade.   

I never visited Camp We-Ha-Kee, but we kids were sent off to camp for a couple of weeks each summer, undoubtedly a rest time for my parents.  I went to the YMCA camp near Green Bay.  I dreaded having to go to an unfamiliar place full of strangers, but I guess I survived.  I prayed that my parents would sense my anguish and take me home on family visitor’s day, but they never did. 

Menominee and Marinette were in the heart of hunting country.  When boys reached their midteens, their dads took them on expeditions to the wilds.  In my case, to Jean Worth’s Cedar River camp for deer hunting and to Dick Sawyer’s Menominee County camp to hunt ducks.  I can’t remember ever firing my rifle at a living creature.  It was discouraging at the time, but now I think it’s just as well.  I don’t think I’d feel good about killing a deer or a duck if I’d actually succeeded in that quest.    

The Silver Dome was the twin cities’ most popular resort nightspot, and it hosted Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and other jazz luminaries during my late teen and young adult years.  As a college student I went to dances at the Dome when home for the summer and usually drank too much beer and lapsed into solitude.  One of my more knowledgeable friends explained that the point of drinking beer was to loosen up and have fun, but I didn’t seem to get the idea.      

Lourdes was the local Catholic high school, located in Marinette, but serving kids from both of the twin cities.  Several of our family friends went there.  Along with Marinette High, Lourdes was one of our athletic rivals in the immediate area.  In my junior year of high school some of the popular girls in our group started dating basketball players from Lourdes, much to the dismay of the Menominee High boys who felt jilted.

Skipper Burke and his family had a summer cottage at Pine Beach, and we enjoyed swimming off the pier when we came to visit.  The water wasn’t as warm as the Menominee River, but it wasn’t as cold as Green Bay either.  When my Uncle Ralph and Aunt Martha moved to Pine Beach and my grandfather V.A. Sr. lived with them, our family would make frequent visits. 

My mother was an accomplished horseback rider, and she patronized a stable at the corner of Riverside Boulevard and Highway 277 at the city limits when we were young kids.  My siblings Peter and Vicki took horseback riding lessons at a stable in Marinette, prompted by our mother’s interest.  I rented a horse once or twice with my high school friends, but I didn’t seem to take to horses and the feeling was mutual.  On at least one occasion the horse wouldn’t let me back on after I’d dismounted, so I had to walk it back to the stable pulling it by the reins.  This had to be my least favorite teenage leisure activity.  Years later we sent our son J to Fort Scott camp where he was assigned a horse named “Savage”.  He didn’t care for horses either.

The Little River Country Club is located on Shore Drive just outside Marinette.  The 18-hole golf course was established in 1927 and is one of three golf courses in the Twin Cities area.  Our family belonged to Riverside and played there for the most part.  I ended my budding golf career in my mid-teens, opting to concentrate on tennis instead.  However, my brother Steven, who came to be one of the top junior golfers in the U.P., played regularly at Little River as well as at Riverside and North Shore.  

Originally the site of Chautauqua, the village on the outskirts of Marinette was renamed Pine Beach.  Our friends, the Burke’s, had a summer house there, and we’d frequently come to visit.  There was a dock, as in this photo, and Skipper, our siblings, and I would swim off the end of it.  We spent a lot of our childhood in the water.   

Having learned of the religious needs in the small settlement of Marinette, Rev. John Fairchild of Wabash, Indiana, and his family arrived in town on May 22, 1863.  Much of their fourteen-day journey was done by steamboat.  The Pioneer Presbyterian Church was organized by Pastor Fairchild and thirteen charter members.  Four streets in Marinette have the names of these founders, including Hall Avenue.  Services were first held in a small schoolhouse in Menekaune.  The first church building at Church St. and Newberry Ave. was completed in 1870 at a cost of $4,000.  In 1892 there was a religious revival in Marinette, and 108 new members joined the church.  It's still in business today, sharing a pastor with the First Presbyterian Church in Menominee.

1 comment:

  1. Hi David L - I hope you get this. I just discovered your amazing column. I was born and raised in Marinette. My dad was the bartender at Goodfellows. I am currently an L.A. resident and a fiction writer. Would love to hear from you.