Thursday, October 3, 2013
Archive: Menominee Postcards (#6)
Scene on the Menominee River (circa 1910)
Every couple of weeks I post a vintage postcard image of my hometown, Menominee, Mich., in the sidebar of this blog. Because these are only saved for a week, I’m putting a batch of recent images here as a permanent archive. One can also access earlier Menominee Postcard archives (posted on 6/26/10, 2/5/11, 6/17/11, 1/11/12, and 7/28/12) by going to the blog’s righthand column, scrolling down to “Labels”, and clicking on “Archives”. There are also archives of Marinette postcards available there (Menominee’s twin city) and my dad’s family photos taken in Menominee in the 1940’s and 1950’s (“Vic’s Photos”). I’ll add additional archives for these categories in the future.
Overlooking Menominee, Mich. (circa 1950)
The Menominee area was originally inhabited by the Menominee Indian tribe, whose name roughly translates as "wild rice." The town gained prominence as a major lumbering center in the late 1800's, and, during its heyday, it produced more lumber than any other city in America. Menominee boasted a fancy opera house during this period, and a cycle car (the "Dudly Bug") was manufactured in Menominee in the 1910's. Nowadays Menominee relies mainly on paper products, wicker lawn furniture, auto supplies, and tourism for its economic well-being.
Henes Park was donated to the city by German-American brewer John Henes. It was designed by landscape architect Ossian Cole Simonds, a pioneer of "natural landscaping", and was built in 1907. The park is located on a 50-acre point which extends into Green Bay on the north edge of town. Nature paths are named after Schiller, Goethe, Longfellow, Shakespeare, and others. In its early days Menominee residents took the streetcar to the park for Sunday outings and enjoyed brass bands and beer. My siblings and I spent a lot of time there when we were kids.
Maine (sic) St.
Menominee’s four seasons are more distinct and varied than they are in our current Southwestern Ohio region. Summers are ideal -- lots of sunshine and cool temperatures. Winter was (is) the most extreme season – compared to Cincinnati, more snow and icicles, icy streets, days below zero, and outdoor winter sports.
Business Section, Menominee
Menominee's most concentrated business district is spread along First St. (formerly Sheridan Road and Main St. before that) between Fourth Ave. and Tenth Ave. The street parallels the Green Bay shore with its parks, beaches, and marina. The area was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 as the "First Street Historic District." It's comprised of over 40 commercial and civic buildings, as well as several private houses in a 29 acre area. Most of the buildings date back to the 1890's when Menominee was a lumbering boom town, and the structures today are largely in the original condition or only slightly altered. We lived in a residential section toward the north end of Sheridan Road during my grade school years. When my father left for the war, we moved down the street on Sheridan to an apartment house just beyond the marina. Needless to say, for me Menominee’s business section was the site of many adventures and memorable experiences.
First National Bank
The First National Bank is the oldest bank in Menominee County. It was organized in 1884 by a number of the city’s most prominent citizens, including Augustus Spies, Samuel and Isaac Stephenson, Harrison Ludington, James Crozer, John Henes, and Gustavus Blesch. The bank had $46,000 in deposits in 1885; over $1 million in 1911. In 1910 the bank moved to its handsome permanent home, pictured here, at the corner of Sheridan Road and Ogden Avenue, kittycorner from my grandfather's Menominee Drugstore. Its officers in 1911 were A. Spies, president; J. Henes, vice president; G. Blesch, cashier; and Clinton V. Graim, assistant cashier. My father shifted his financial business from the Commercial Bank to the First National Bank in his later years, and we'd all go to the bank on each visit home to meet with a financial advisor and see how our personal and family investments were doing. It was my only life experience of note in the world of high finance.
The Ogden Club
The Ogden Club is a bar and restaurant located on Tenth Avenue (formerly Ogden Ave.), just a couple of doors west of my grandfather’s former drugstore on Electric Square. The building is about 130 years old, and the bar is thriving today, just as it was during my childhood. It was a favorite hangout for my brother Steve and his cronies during their young adulthood.
Carlsons Auto Court
Menominee’s location on Highway 41 at the Wisconsin-Michigan border makes it the gateway to the Upper Peninsula. Summer was a tourist season in my childhood as it is today, and lots of northbound traffic came through the twin cities. Menominee and Marinette each had major downtown hotels, as well as multiple motels and auto courts. Carlsons looks like a good stopping place.
The Rio Vista Motel
The swanky Rio Vista Motel was located on the Menominee River, just west of the Interstate Bridge. For a while my grandfather, V.A. Sr., lived in a room there, and I’d come by with my dad to say hello or drive him to our house on the river for the day.
Menominee Paper Company
The Menominee Paper Co. is located on First Street at Menominee's southern tip near the Menekaunee Bridge. It's the home of Waxtex Paper, and they also manufacture napkins, paper towels, facial tissues, and lots of other paper products. Paper mills and companies in Menominee and Marinette date back to the 1880's, and the contemporary paper company carries on that long tradition.
Trolley Shovellers (1909)
Because of its location on Green Bay, Menominee’s winter temperatures and snowfall were more moderate than some of the Upper Peninsula’s more inland communities. In my youth we occasionally had snowstorms of the magnitude shown here, though rarely. It was exciting when it happened (mostly because it meant the schools were closed and we could spend the day having snowball fights).
In the old days we knew River Road as “Riverside Boulevard”, though the two-lane gravel road had little to suggest that it was a boulevard, say, in the Parisian sense. Our house on the river was about a mile west of the city limits, and when it was constructed in 1941 it was the only residence built along that strip. River Road extended further west to Mason Park and then another twenty or thirty miles beyond there along the river. The road would turn to mud each spring when the ice and snow thawed, and we would be unable to go to school. By the early 1950’s the county blacktopped the road, and we became more civilized. Better for bike riding, bad for muddy school vacation days.
Carferry Ann Arbor
The Ann Arbor Carferry ran for ninety years from Frankfort in the Lower Peninsula to Menominee in the U.P. and Manitowoc in northeastern Wisconsin. When we lived in Ann Arbor, we thought about taking the ferry home many times, but the cost was prohibitive. We lost our last opportunity when the carferry ended its century long run in 1982.
American Legion Band
The Memorial Day parade on Sheridan Road and Ogden Avenue was a big community event during my childhood. One year our boy scout troop got to march in it. My dad was the scoutmaster, and he had us practicing with a marine drill sergeant for months beforehand, thinking it would build character in his under-privileged scouters. My uncle Kent, a decorated World War II vet, was the commander of the Menominee American Legion post, and he became the Michigan state commander of the Legion during the 1950’s.
Menominee Rifles Drum Corps
Drum corps have a rich tradition in Menominee. In my era, the Northernaires Drum & Bugle Corps was formed in 1953 under the sponsorship of the D.A.R. Boys Club. Members initially were all boys, ages 13 to 18, and they started performing at parades in 1954. From 1956 to 1968 the Northernaires won 51 of 135 contests and placed second in an addition 51.
Mystery Ship Seaport
The Mystery Ship was located for years in a port on the Menominee River. The ship was the Alvin Clark, a 218 ton, two-master schooner than sank near Chambers Island in Green Bay during a storm on June 29, 1864. Three of its five crew members died when it sank. The vessel was found by diver Frank Hoffman in 1969 and restored as a tourist site. It drew as many as 50,000 visitors a year, including Katja, J, myself, and other family members in the 1970's. Unfortunately, the ship deteriorated over the years and was destroyed in 1994 to make way for a parking lot. Such a sad fate for a historic treasure.