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History’s Gem of the Month – 1981 Article about Grand Marais

August 2016

In the museum’s archives I found this Detroit magazine published on Sunday, March 8, 1981. It contains a long article about Grand Marais, which is reprinted below.

Cover of Magazine
Cover of Magazine

On the cover….

In Grand Marais, Mich. (pop. 450) a road foreman drives 13 miles every day to measure the snow; a woman stalks the Lake Superior dunes in search of weeds; a man with a trained starling makes whisky in his cellar, and a pregnant housewife sneaks cigarettes in the shed with her goats named Whisper and Misery. Sometimes they forget it’s a winter wonderland they live in.

Getting along at the end of the road
By Sally Smith/photography by Lona O’Connor

Winter in Grand Marais, Mich, is as it always has been: A man’s wealth is measured by the fill of his freezer and the loyalty of his friends. Arvo Kallio’s fishing shack wasn’t much, just a pine-board closet he set over a hole in the ice to cut the wind, but at 10:35 p.m. on a freezing Monday somebody chucked a container of propane into the shack’s woodstove and the thing went off like a cannon shot, blasting the door off the hinges and sending red-hot splinter showers blowing across the harbor. It was said to be the first explosion in Grand Marais in 15 years. By mid-morning the next day –- about the time Sheriff Bobby Hughes stopped by the post office to field questions from people over there – most of the town’s few hundred inhabitants had already heard the news. “Fish sha,” said Logger Hubbard. Logger, three years old and no higher than a bar stool, spread the word in Alverson’s restaurant, the town’s Rumor Central and only wintertime eatery. “Fish sha,” Logger said again, waving a mitten.

Bobby Hughes knew who did it and wasn’t telling. “Can’t prove it,” he kept saying. Still, the fish shack incident remained a matter of high curiosity, mostly because Arvo Kallio had awakened one morning two weeks previous to find two bullet holes in the side door of his pickup truck. Nobody was sure what the fight was about, but as one local said, “Somebody’s got it out for Arvo.”

Customers at Alverson’s bar and restaurant.
Customers at Alverson's bar and restaurant.
Joan and Jerry Alverson
Joan and Jerry Alverson

Later that night, at a back table at Alverson’s, Bob Hicks regaled a gathering of five with the details. “It was so red inside that shack you could see the stud work,” he said. “It blew the door right off.” Hicks, a burly, open-faced man of 43, wore a red jersey with the number 32 printed on the chest. He was nursing a drink after hockey practice, and said he had watched the shack blow from his second-floor apartment over the Kosy Korner restaurant, where he had a clear view of Grand Marais harbor over the roof of Frank Lunquist’s Standard Station.

Bob’s girlfriend, Sue, nodded. “It was all red,” she said, “We were watching TV, and I looked out the window and it was all red.” Bob laughed. “For a minute Sue thought it was all over,” he said. “She thought she was in hell because the sky was so red.” He leaned over to give her an affectionate nudge and then snapped back into a position of propriety, as if it wouldn’t be seemly to laugh at Arvo’s dead fish shack. “I don’t understand it,” he said. “I couldn’t torch a shack that way. The only time I hurt a shack was running out the door when a muskrat popped up in my face through the hole. You ever see one of those things? Looks like a rat pumped up with an air hose. I did everything but tear the damn door off the hinges trying to get out of there that day.”

Grand Marais, Mich, population 450. Average annual snowfall: 250 inches. As somebody said, life on the northern reaches of the Upper Peninsula is 10 months of winter and two months of bad sledding, even though the moderating influence of Lake Superior is supposed to cut the worst of it. In winter, Grand Marais is white, blindingly white when the sun is out; and when the snow whistles and blows and swirls, sweeping in across town in wind-whipped gusts, people sometimes have to look for telephone poles to figure out where the road is. There is only one main road leading to town. To get on it, you turn north at a crossroads 23 miles away and drive through a space of silent, frozen trees until you reach a rise overlooking the shores of Lake Superior. There, Grand Marais appears suddenly like a revelation, a bundle of frame dwellings that can be taken in at a glance.

Grand Marais can be seen and passed in six heartbeats, and then Highway 77 dead-ends into the lake. On Main Street (which is actually named Lake Street but never referred to it in that fashion), a visitor passes the bell-towered Methodist Church, the Dunes Motel, the Superior Hotel, Alverson’s Bar and Restaurant, the Dock Shop, Superior Ace Hardware, the First National Bank, the Barber Shop, the IGA grocery store, the Kozy Korner restaurant, and Frank Lundquist’s Standard Station. At the tail end of the street is Skipper’s Cove, a narrow drinking man’s bar with a false front and two neon signs in the windows, one green, saying “Liquor,” the other reddish-pink, saying “Beer-Wine.” There are usually two or three pickup trucks parked outside Skipper’s or Alverson’s; as for the rest, two of the motels, a restaurant, and a tourist shop are closed in the winter. The barber shop has been shuttered since its owner died several years ago.

General Store
General Store

In Grand Marais, it is possible to walk down Main Street at 9 p.m. on a Friday night and see one dog, hear only the squeak of snow underfoot. The nearest movie theater is 50 miles away, and if you want to dance, well, just plug a quarter into the juke at Skipper’s and spin “In Heaven There Is No Beer” or Whiskey Chassin,” by Mel Tillis. The town has a new ice rink, and pinball, but when one old-timer was asked to recount the most exciting even in memory, he responded, “You’ll have to find somebody older than me.”

Strangers are forever asking the people of Grand Marais what they do in winter. If they cared to, they could give an answer as simple and complex as this: They live amid beauty in an area where people always have relied on themselves to get by. They read in the newspapers that repression-depression-oppression is all the worry today. In Grand Marais, it is as it always has been: A man’s wealth is measured by the fill of his freezer and the loyalty of his friends. And that, more or less, is what this story is about.

Start, then, with morning coffee at Alverson’s It is still early, only shortly after nine, but habit’s ride has already carried half-a-dozen people in and out and Ike Niemi is in his customary stool at the end of the bar. Ike, a short weather-battered man of 68 wears worn plastic glasses and a red and black wool cap. From his stool he can look out the window at the street. Today, he sees Clayton Parcel’s car buried under four feet of snow, a frozen white lump. Looks like Clayton’s car is snowed in there, Ike. Snowed in for the season.” It is Floyd Nettleton.

“Yea, but he’s got a good place, he can watch the traffic on Main Street. He’s got good TV reception over there, too. He’s set up like a big ol’ bear.” Floyd nods. “He saves a lot of money on gas alone. “Specially with the price of gas being what it is.” Ike nods. “He don’t need a car. He just walks over to the post office when he comes out.” “Yeh,” Floyd says. “He don’t come out much.

Alverson’s is a plain, frame building on the corner of Randolph and Main. A warm, comfortable place, it is lined with looming, high-antlered deer heads and cast-iron logging tools left over from the days Grand Marais was a rambunctious young pine town 29 saloons rich. Those days are long gone, but Grand Marais (which loosely means “sheltered bay” and was coined by early French explorers) has always been a boom and bust town. At the turn of the century, the cycle depended on wood and rails, but the railroad ran only as long as there was white pine to cut and haul. It’s not much different today, only now the cycle depends on tourists – so there’s three months of boom in summer and bust all winter, when Alverson’s is the only restaurant open.

Convoy of unpopular snowmobilers revs up.
Convoy of unpopular snowmobilers revs up.

Alverson’s survives the winter on the snowmobile trade, which on this particular morning is being talked about with some disdain. In Grand Marais, tourists are generally viewed the way colonists regarded representatives of the crown, but the previous night had been more annoying than usual. Then, a pack of Indians snowmobilers 14 strong trooped into the restaurant and plugged quarter after quarter into the electronic duck-shooting machine. Hunters of the world! They were in heaven. For the price, flapping ducks flew from right to left. Hunters stood below. Quack, quack, quack, bam! Quack! Bam! The machine sang, and the birds died violently while the men looked on and laughed, cheering and raising glasses of beer. A fat guy then hoisted a piece of pie and shouted, “Which one of you fat guys wants a piece of pie?” When the pack left, the locals were much relieved. Everybody, that is, except Jerry and Joan Alverson (Alverson’s Find Food and Cocktails”). Jerry growled: “Trying d to do half-way good in business in this town is like trying to be black and join the Klan.” It brought to mind the men’s admonishment about coffee. “You buy the first, we’ll buy the second, then you’re on your own. Even Joyce Bezotte, the sweet-tempered waitress, paid no attention to this. “More coffee, Ike? “ she said.

A cold gust comes through the door, and the gossip table starts to fill up. The gossip table, or town table, as it is sometimes called, is strategically situated within earshot of three other tables, several bar stools, and the telephone. First to sit down is Celeste Bailey, wife of Bill.

“Joyce, can you cut Bill’s hair this afternoon?” She points at Bill, a smiling man wearing an orange sweatshirt and blue down jacket. Bill works for Alger County, running snow-plows. Having finished the morning plowing, he now stands behind his wife, abashedly pulling a shaggy forelock from a wool cap. They are soon joined by Ken Laeder, a big, beefy 53-year old, with sledgehammer hands and a blue hat with an “Almost Heaven” logo on one side, two spinning dice on the other. Ken is considered the high roller of Grand Marais. For $424, he’ll take you to the Barbary Coast hotel in Las Vegas for seven nights and eight days and not take his hat off the whole time. Joyce fills coffee cups and says she’ll cut Bill’s hair. “Oh, good,” Celeste says. “Trying to get a haircut in this town is a mess.”

Jack Hubbard cuts lumber.
Jack Hubbard cuts lumber.

Word comes down that Jack Hubbard’s dozer broke a rear axle out in the woods the previous day, and the talk turns to logging. “I remember working in a logging camp, Chuckie and me, in 1953,“ Bill says. “Boy did those guys eat. At noon, the cook said if you can’t eat a whole pie, you can’t eat at all. I was 18, I guess. Splitting wood, one dollar an hour. But you could buy something with it then.”

Joyce sits and lights a cigarette. “My grandmother worked in a lumber camp; I think the smell of drying socks would get to me. But she said they were so polite. Not if the ladies weren’t around, you know, but if the ladies were there.

Celeste says she read in the newspaper that thing was worse than smoking. “Remember old John?” Bill Says. “I never saw him spit.” He sticks a finger in the side of his mouth. “You know he’d be sitting there drinking and chewing and I never saw him spit. Joyce coughed. “Bill,” she says, “You gotta ruin my last cup of coffee?”

Dapper Dan
Dapper Dan

In Grand Marais, characters are as much a part of the town as the woods and water that made them. Mostly older now, they are not so much eccentric as tough –- independent and unaccustomed to pleasing anyone’s sense of propriety but their own. It’s as if, in the heat of contest between man and element, the elements became half-tamed and the men half-wild. So old John never spit and Awright McDonald always drank (“Awright,” he would say, when asked if he wanted some whisky) and Dapper Dan, a grizzled backwoodsman all burly heft and brawn, chooses to live out his days in a shack without water or lights. Dapper rarely changes his clothes. I’m a religious hypocrite,” he said one day, upon roaring into town on his ancient Canadian snowmobile. “I come into town to drink and then I go home to read my Bible and think about religious programs I’ve hears on the radio.”

John LeClair
John LeClair
John LeClair with friends Dick Mulligan, Tonto Martin, and Bernie Cory.
John LeClair with friends Dick Mulligan, Tonto Martin, and Bernie Cory.

They are also an endangered species. Time has nearly demolished the logging and fishing industries that spawned them, leaving complaints in the ruins. “Grand Marais used to produce more fish than any other part on Lake Superior, but now the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) has messed it all up,” spat Captain John LeClair. Captain John, a Popeye with pipe and squinted eye, sat by a woodstove in the back room at Grand Marais Fisheries, drinking beer with buddies. He runs only one tug in the summer now. “Hah!” he said. “I’M 64 years old and I’ve made a good living all my life. I know how many fish there are out there in that lake. But now they send these educated fools up here and tell me I don’t know nothing. I don’t know nothing except I know the damn regulations are killing us.” A young man finds it hard to stay in Grand Marais these days. There are a few jobs with the town, a few with the county, two or three with the state and eight teaching positions at the school, but if you can’t get one of those, you leave. Mostly, the young men leave. They have to learn the manners of the city and leave Grand Marais to grow older; townspeople figure about half of them are retires. The legacy of the woods and water, however, remains. Said Neal Beaver, who quit a molded rubber firm near Toledo in 1969 to move north. “Ruth and I came here for a very simple reason. People here are exactly what they appear to be, there aren’t any phonies. This is also the kind of place where a guy can swear at you one minute and invite you for a cup of coffee the next. It’s a very tolerant town.” Then Neal said, “Do you want to meet a real character?” Go see Irv Olli.”

Pete the starling poises to take peanuts from Irv Olli’s lips, while Pearl attends to the consequences of Pete’s earlier travels.

Pete the starling poises to take peanuts from Irv Olli’s lips, while Pearl attends to the consequences of Pete’s earlier travels.

About the time the morning crowd at Alverson’s was breaking up, Irv Olli decided to go ice fishing. Bent, bewhiskered, and possessed of a bulbous vein-tracked nose only recently weaned from the whisky he brews in his basement, Irv is the type people commonly refer to as a “salty old dog,” or variously, “Tough old bird.” “That Irv, he’s a tough old bird,” they say and it is usually said like that, too, as if Irv’s last name was “dog” or “bird” rather than Olli. This doesn’t bother Irv. With reckless vigor, he gunned his snowmobile over a bank of hardened snow and briefly left earth, landing four feet distant with a bone jarring whump. In the distance, a narrow spit of jack-pulp pines extended into the harbor, a frozen finger stuck into the water. As the pines drew closer, Irv skidded to a halt and clambered off the snowmobile. He stood crooked 45 degrees into the wind. “Guess that one bump threw my damn back out,” he said.

Irv pounded on the small of his back (“thing looks like a damn cork-screw”), bobbed up and down a few times, and then shuffled over to his fishing hole. He was dressed in a padded blue snowmobile suit, a cap with earflaps, and cartoon-size rubber boots. The fishing hole was frozen. With a snort and spit, Irv went back to the snowmobile and unstrapped a dipper and spud, an ice-chopping instrument that looks like a broom-stick handle with a dull metal blade at the end. He chopped at the ice and dipped, chipped and dipped, until the water bubbled clear up the hole. “Ice is about 20 inches thick,” Irv said, spearing an earthworm with a hook. “Gotta get six fish so we have enough for dinner.”

Irv and Pearl, his wife, live in a modest, white-frame bungalow on a rise overlooking Grand Marais harbor. The home, which is warmed by wood, stores turnips in the root cellar, potatoes in bins, canned tomatoes on shelves, and 120-proof corn whisky in the closet. Flattened coyote, beaver, and bobcat line the walls. If the world blew up and rolled over tomorrow, Irv would no doubt float to the surface on a raft. Irv says he learned survival from two people: his mother, who had 16 other kids and a lumberjack husband employed only part-time and Charlie Goodman, a legendary trick shot and trapper who traded shots for his work. “He’d put a block on a stump and say whoever lost had to carry the wood and water for a week,” Irv said of his trapping camp days. “No matter where I hit, he beat me by a hair. I carried the wood and water the whole damn time I was with him.”

In his 72 years, Irv has trapped, fished, hunted, brewed moonshine and cut trees. Being old, he no longer cuts trees. “And the trapping is no good,” he said, pouring a shot of his best whisky, potent as a bomb, for a guest. “Right now, the prices have gone all to hell on everything. I’ve got a stack of beaver pelts down in the bin, and otter, but you practically have to give them away. A piece we got $90 for last winter is worth $30 today. The only thing worth anything this year is muskrat. It’s gone up to $9. Used to get 20 or 30 cents for ‘rats.” Used to throw them “rats” away.

The fishing trip, called for 8 a.m., actually got under way at 10:30 a.m., Grand Marais Standard Time. Meanwhile, Irv chipped apples for the deer (five were seen pawing snow in the front yard) and considered making a wind-break for protection on the ice. Thought fresh in mind he disappeared into the cellar, banging, sawing, and banging. An hour later, he reappeared and said to Pearl, “Looks like it’s going to be another warm day, anyway.” It was 22 degrees. Pearl, at 71 a gray-haired dumpling of a lady, was sitting in a chair knitting a green scarf. Pearl is Hungarian, the sort everybody would want for a grandmother if the position wasn’t already filled. Asked what she loves about Irv, she giggles, “as they say, when the love bug got you then you got it.”

As the morning wore on they poured his guest another shot and said, “Better’n bar whisky. Won’t make you sick. Make you drunk all right.”), it came time for Pete’s bath. Pete is a brown starling that lives in a wire-mesh cage in the living room. Alerted to the bird’s impending release, Pearl leaped from her chair, whisking apple pie into cupboard, cigarettes into drawer. “You go to hide everything off of it,” she said. After filling a yellow plastic bowl with water, Irv walked over to the cage and sprung the door. Pete caromed from chair to table to Irv’s shoulder.

Scooping up a handful of peanuts, Irv said “Pete, you want something to eat?” Irv chewed the peanuts into mush and then Pete, who had watched the proceedings with brightly cocked head, slipped his beak between Irv’s lips and pried them apart, pecking heartily at the food. Irv offered the bird a shot of whisky. “Hot damn, that’s good, ain’t it, Pete?” he said, swirling fumes under the bird’s head. Pearl chuckled and said, “Pete, you gonna get sick. You ain’t my bird no more.” In Response, Pete anointed Irv.

Later that afternoon, Irv quit the ice hole nand bee-lined for Skipper’s Cove, a drinking establishment whose only comment on dress code is a poster of a naked woman astride a bar stool. He had caught only one fish, a 10-inch trout, but everybody said the fish weren’t biting. Irv started out with three straight glasses of Mogen-David Blackberry wine. “I haven’t had a drink of whisky since November the 13th,” he said. “I gotta be real damn careful. They’re giving me all kinds of damn tests.” He swapped fishing stories with a fat man from Toledo and then looked out the window at Frank Lundquist’s Standard Station, where he watched a young man swing through the window of a jeep feet-first, Starsky and Hutch style. “Godddamn, I’d have a hell of a time doing that with my back,” Irv said. “They’d have to pick me up and throw me through the window like a piece of cordwood.”

Almost every day, it seems there is fresh snow. Early one morning, when dawn was only a purple cast under a thumbnail moon, Bill Baily drove 13 miles to the Alger County line to measure the snow and figured: 135 inches so far this year. Measuring snow, like talking about snow, walking in snow, or watching snow fall, is serious business in Grand Marais. Bill, represented the road commission, does it seven days a week for the state and county records. “I have a big book I copy it all in,” he said, clambering out of his pickup into a snowdrift. “I have to put the temperature in and everything. Then I send a copy each month to Luce County, Schoolcraft County and the state. And, of course, we keep one copy in Alger. As he spoke, Bill trudged up a short plowed-out path veering off to the right from Highway 77 and peered at a huge black and yellow thermometer planted in the snow under a tree. It said, “Shock Absorbers,” and registered six degrees. Walking around behind it, he then pulled out a long measuring stick and stuck it in the snow. It hit a sheet of plywood, which had been placed on top of the accumulation the day before. “Two and a half inches overnight,” Bill said. “Not bad.”

Snow is an inescapable fact of life in Grand Marais (Bill said it snowed 302 inches – that’s 25 feet – in 1976, a record year). As a result, people react to snow differently than they do in cities. In cities, people fight snow – they salt it, curse it, drive it into mush. In Grand Marais, people learn to love it. “February is my favorite month,” said Sandra Williams, sitting in a house where snowdrifts crept half-way up the windows. Snow, in fact, is the Great Leveler; in a town ruled by climate, everybody wears the same bulky clothes and clunky boots and lives in small houses because big ones are too hard to heat. Nobody gets out of town when a blizzard rolls through, and nobody stars on the school football team because there isn’t one – there’s too much snow for that. Above all, however, the people of Grand Marais approach snow with humor.

Frank Lundquist’s Standard Station.
Frank Lundquist’s Standard Station.

At the Standard Station, a cold wind blew Skip Mehlenbacher into Frank Lundquist’s office. Skip, a mild-mannered fellow in his early 50s, dressed in khaki pants and eyeglasses, works as an assistant in Grand Marais’ tiny municipal office. “Hey,” he said, “Did you hear the one about the guy who ran into an old friend up here? The guy says ‘How do you like the seasons up here,’ and his friend says, “Fine. We have four seasons – spring, summer, fall, and 10 months of winter.’ Or how about the guy who moved to Minnesota? His friends saw him later and said, “How’s the winter?” And he said, ‘I don’t know, I’ve only been here 18 month.’“ Skip began to chortle, then cut the merriment off mid-breath. “Wait,” he said, slapping his thigh. “Ii told that wrong. It’s summer. The friends said how’s the summer and the guy said, “I don’t know, I’ve only …. Oh, I got it all backwards.” Chagrinned, Skip left. Frank watched the door close behind him. “Nice fella,” he said, “But he’s no comedian.”

The miniature dimensions of Grand Marais are accentuated by the local telephone system – which seems to an outsider a relic from a simpler time. Grand Marais listings cover 2 ½ short pages in the telephone book and all begin with the same four digits, 494-2, which – hallelujah! – don’t have to be dialed. Pan and Tom Scaife, for example, can be reached at 390, and just about everybody in town can tell you that without looking it up. Here is Pam, for example, on the phone with a friend: “Hello? Emily? When was Sally Elizabeth born? Un Huh. November 29th. That’s what I thought. Okay, Emily, Bye.” Pam is confirming the chronology of Grand Marais’ recent births and the phone system makes her job easy. Without a book, she dials and dials. “Hello” Sue? I know Hank was born in December, but I’m not sure of the day. The 17th?”

Pam Scaife and Aleta Hubbard await the stork at Alverson’s.
Pam Scaife and Aleta Hubbard await the stork at Alverson’s.

With every new snowstorm, it seems, another baby is born. This winter alone, Pam Massey had Meteace, Pam Richardson had Micheau, Sandra Williams had Beth, Sue Chapin had Hank, and Emily Landin had Sally Elizabeth. On top of that, Pam Scaife, mother of Raymond Tater, is pregnant again, as is Aleta Hubbard. It’s known as the Grand Marais Baby Boom, and leaves the mind wondering what happened early last spring, when all the baby-making was going on.

Tom Scaife checks snow depth for the U.S. Government.
Tom Scaife checks snow depth for the U.S. Government.

Pam and Tom Scaife moved to Grand Marais in 1976 with a sort of back-to-the-country ideal that made them one of the few young couples migrating into rather than out of town. They’ve learned a few things about country living since them – Tom was a butcher at the I.G.A. grocery store before he landed a job student-teaching at the school, and Pam once worked as the Grand Marais Avon Lady – but in the process they managed to settle down and produce Raymond Tater, now 21 months old.

It is hard to understand the significance of the Grand Marais Baby Boom without knowing about Tater. He knocked on civilization’s door April 6, 1979, one of the stormiest nights of the year. His timing couldn’t have been worse. The electricity was out, the car was buried in snow, and the wind gusted at 67 miles an hour. It turned out all right –- Pan and Tom borrowed a four-wheel drive and traveled 60 miles to the hospital in Manistique –- but the experience left him unprepared for the excitement waiting when they got home. At the time, you see, Raymond was the first baby in Grand Marais in a long time. Raymond was a star.

Pam, a sunny, 27 year-old, blue-eyed blond, still laughs as she recalls: “Dorinda Wilson, we didn’t know her at all, and she came up to visit. And all the little old ladies in town, the grandmother types like Margaret Gibbons, they came by, too. They would come up and knock on the door and say they had a present for the baby, a sweater or something. Then they’d ask if they could hold the baby – everybody wanted to hold the baby! I knew who these people were, but they had never been by to visit before. I was amazed. I said, ‘Wow, a new baby in town. I guess this is what people do!’”

Word is that the baby boom has changed some of that, although teachers at the Grand Marais School – where the kindergarten class is currently comprised of one (1) kid – are keeping close track. Meanwhile, Pam Scaife and Aleta Hubbard, the two pregnant ladies, are doing just fine. Pam has even given up smoking – or so she says. She fills her hours instead with frequent trips to the goat shed, where bewhiskered Whisper and Misery also await foal. Pam Massey, a lush 19-year old who once stunned several men by breast-feeding Meteace in Alverson’s, said: “I think it’s childish. I mean, she promised Tom she wouldn’t smoke. But how many people do you know go out to feed the goats all the time? Or pick carrots?” Do you know anybody who goes out to pick carrots in the wintertime?”

What do you people do in the winter? Consider Joyce Bezotte, 42. Mother to eight and waitress at Alverson’s, she attends hockey at the town ice rink, basketball games in neighboring towns, dances at the community center (if the old upright piano is in tune) and Sunday night bingo in the basement of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church. “Sometimes we say there’s too much going on – it’s just go, go, go all the time,” she said without irony one afternoon, wearily collapsing into a chair. As in most isolated places, people in Grand Marais spend most of their time together, weaving from the various threads of their lives the lightly-stitched tapestry that is small-town life. It can, however, get a little close – especially in winter. So when cabin fever sets in like the deep dark, winter blues, people retreat into private concerns.

For celeste Bailey, that means a walk on the beach. “And you never know what I’m going to come home with,” she said one afternoon up at the “Bailey Shack,” where she pulled a large sheet of scraggly bark from underneath a table. “Like my piece of bark. I brought this piece of bark home one day, and Bill said, ‘Oh, for Christ’s sake.’”

Oscar Reeves feeds deer. Oscar, a tall silver-haired gentleman of 64, lives in a yellow house on the ridge above the harbor. An entire deer herd spends much of the winter munching in a field across the street. One day, Oscar slipped a pair of Ben Franklin bifocals up the bridge of his nose and reviewed a bill supplied him by Engadine Feed and Supply Inc.: Two tons of grass stretcher, $490, 60 bales of hay, $90.He lamented like a Jewish mother: “I really didn’t want to get into this,” he said unconvincingly, “but Dick and I were looking at a whole bunch of them staring at us one day so I said to Dick, ‘Look, we can’t go overboard on this, but I’ll get a little feed.’ So we got some feed, but that was a bad winter and the deer got very scrawny so I went to visit Margaret -– Margaret, you know, collects 175 bushels a year for the deer, her house is made of apples – and I said: ‘Margaret, if we’re going to feed them, let’s do it right.’ He shook his head at the bill and sighed: “But I regret the day I started it,” he said. “It’s programmed to get out of hand completely. But what can you do? Stop feeding them? Hah! This, to Margaret, is sacrilege.”

Margaret is Oscar’s next door neighbor. Dick is his house-mate. As he talked, Oscar worried about Dick, late from a visit to Flint. “IS that Dick’s car?” he said hearing a motor on the road. Then his dog barked. “Excuse me, I’ve got to go beat him up,” Oscar said. He walked to the back door and craned his neck outside. “This is how I beat him up,” he said, and crooned: Beau, please be quiet, babe!”

Later, when Dick got home, Oscar whipped up a dinner of meat loaf, French fries, and stewed tomatoes. Dick said he almost ran over three deer – venison on the hoof – on the road from Newberry, but veered off the road in time. “Of course, some people hit ‘em on purpose, if you know what I mean,” Dick said. “That way, it’s legal.”

When night fell, Aleta Hubbard said she was bored and went to Skipper’s. Her thoughts turned to other places. Twenty-three now, dark-eyed and pretty, she said she had once been on a class trip to Washington, D.C. and once flown on a plane to Florida. “I’d really like to see it out West,” she said. “You know, just to see it – just that. I think that would make me happy. But people tell me if I moved, if I got settled in somewhere else, I would hate it.”

Outside, the snow kept falling, falling, falling. “I guess, they’re right,” she said. “I’m born and bred to Grand Marais and that’s pretty hard to change”



History's Gems Archives

May 2007
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June 2007
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July 2007
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August 2007
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Fall 2007
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December 2007
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January 2008
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March 2008
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April 2008
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May 2008
(Old Postcards)

June 2008
(Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Proposal Proposal Proposal-Part 1)

Summer 2008
(Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Proposal Proposal-Part 2)

Summer 2008
(Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Proposal Proposal-Part 3)

October 2008
(Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Proposal Proposal-Part 4)

November 2008
(Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Proposal-Part 5)

December 2008
(Agate Leaflet from 1927)

January 2009
(Old Postcards)

February 2009
(Snowstorm Article from 1988)

March 2009
(Lake Superior Agate Poem)

Spring 2009
(History of M77)

July 2009
(Axel Niemi Photo)

August 2009
(Ship Travel on Lake Superior)

September 2009
(Hints on Hunting and Finding Agates)

Fall 2009
(Hints on Hunting and Finding Agates Part 2)

February 2010
(The Story of Grand Marais Part 1)

February 2010
(The Story of Grand Marais Part 2)

April/May 2010
(The Story of Grand Marais Part 3)

June 2010
(Box of Rocks Gets Diploma)

July 2010
(Shipwrecks at Agate Beach)

August/September 2010
(1958 Detroit News Article about Axel Niemi)

Fall 2010
(Reprint from the Douglas Houghton Expedition)

Winter 2011
(Old Postcards and Pictures)

Spring 2011
(1905 Grand Marais Article)

September 2011
(Michigan Log Marks)

March 2012
(John Keating)

January 2012
(Axel Remembered)

March 2012
(John Keating)

June 2012
(The Shark: Post 1)

September 2012
(The Shark: Post 2)

March 2013
(The Shark: Post 3)

August 2013
(All That Glitters. . .)

November 2013
(Excerpts from The Grand Marais Herald)

April 2014
(Souvenir View Book of Sault Ste. Marie)

September 2014
(Michigan Beach Stones)

February 2015
(Michigan’s Mystic Dunes)

June 2015
(Vintage Grand Marais Photos)

November 2015
(Gitchee Agomowin)

June 2016
(Grand Marais Poems)

 


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Gitche Gumee Museum.
E21739 Brazel Street
Grand Marais, Michigan 49839

 


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