Archive for June 2011

The U.P. Author Book Tour is in Full Swing

June 27, 2011

In case you haven’t heard, for the next month more than 60 authors who write about Michigan and the U.P. will visit more than 20 U.P. communities. I’ll be participating in several of the events.

The Mining Journal recently covered the first event of the book tour and quoted me extensively in part of the article as follows:

“Upper Michigan has long deserved wider attention for its diverse and rich culture and atmosphere,” Tichelaar said. “Everything exists here to make great fiction, from its history, to its powerful forces of nature, its isolation from the rest of the country, and the strength of its people. I wish to support all efforts to treat it as literature….As an author of Upper Michigan literature, I welcome fresh voices and differing points of view about the influence this area has upon people and how that influence is shaped into literature.

Ron Riekki, author of “U.P.” is the organizer of the book tour which will include Lisa Cerasoli Weaver, Matthew Gavin Frank, Beverly Matherne, Jerry Harju, Marty Achatz, Jonathan Johnson, Gretchen Preston, John Carr, Steve Hamilton, Roxanne Gay, Darrin Doyle, Jane Piirto, and numerous other Michigan and U.P. Authors. Book signings and author panels discussing Upper Michigan literature will be held in such diverse places as Marquette, Negaunee, St. Ignace, Houghton, Menominee, Palmer, and Gwinn.

View the full book tour schedule at Ron Riekki’s website: http://rariekki.webs.com/apps/blog/

The U.P. Book Tour is the biggest literary event ever to come to Upper Michigan. Come out and support Upper Michigan literature. After all, what better place to write about?

 

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Lady’s Slipper Season in Upper Michigan

June 25, 2011

It’s Lady’s Slipper season in Upper Michigan, and thanks to some of my Facebook friends, I heard my favorite wildflower was in bloom around Little Presque Isle near Marquette and set out on a rainy day to get photographs. I plan to have a photo of lady’s slippers on the front cover of my next novel, Spirit of the North, which will be published in Spring 2012. In the novel, there is a pivotal scene around lady’s slippers.

In fact, lady’s slippers have been my favorite flower since I was a child growing up in Stonegate near the Crossroads where the flowers grew profusely in the woods. Even back then in the 1970s, they were illegal to pick, but we picked them all the time anyway. I don’t recommend anyone doing so now since they appear to be more rare than they were back then, although by looking hard, I easily spotted about 100 of them, growing in groups of 1 and 2, but I remember them often growing in much larger clumps when I was younger. I was more respectful when I went out to photograph them this past week, and I swear they knew I was there, admiring them and they were ready for their photo-shoot. I think because of their shape they look almost like they have faces and their own personalities. You can decide for yourself.

I did not neglect to mention Lady’s Slippers in some of my other novels, so I offer here a scene from my novel Superior Heritage in which young John Vandelaare, who is only about six years old, goes fishing with his brother and older cousins at Ives Lake where his grandfather is the caretaker, and on the way back, they stumble on a field of Lady’s Slippers.

From Superior Heritage: The Marquette Trilogy, Book Three

They were all a bit tired now from the long day, and less talkative than they had been on the way to the fishing hole. They walked with a bit of urgency because they knew it would soon be nightfall, and the forest’s thick trees would block out the remaining light.

Then, as the beautiful summer evening ended, they stumbled upon a little copse, almost a meadow really, where sunbeams broke through the trees, illuminating a small patch of the forest floor.

Suddenly, Chad cried out, “Ooh, look at the lady’s slippers!”

All turned their heads to see the meadow packed with the little pink flowers that looked like fairy slippers hanging from their stems.

“How’d we miss seeing all those before?” asked Alan.

“I saw them,” said William, who had not thought flowers worth mentioning.

Chad struggled to get out of the wagon.

“Where are you going?” Jason asked him.

“To pick some for Gwamma and Aunt Ada,” was Chad’s obvious answer.

“Hey, ain’t these flowers the kind that are illegal to pick?” asked Jason.

“Why would flowers be illegal to pick?” asked Alan.

“Because they’re rare,” said William.

“They don’t look rare,” said Alan. “There’s about a hundred of them here.”

“Let’s pick them all,” said Chad. “We can give some to Gwamma, and Aunt Ada, and some to my mom and some to your mom.” He felt overcome by a desire to give all the women pretty flowers until they would all feel as beautiful as Princess Ada.

“It’s almost dark,” said William.

“It’ll only take a minute to pick them,” Alan replied. “Besides, maybe the flowers will cheer Mom up.”

            “Mom’s not going to cheer up until Dad quits being a jerk,” William muttered; as the oldest, he was burdened with understanding his parents’ marriage better than his brothers.

“If we pick them all,” said Jason, “won’t they die from being exposed? We don’t have any water to put them in.”

“Aunt Beth will give us vases, or at least plastic bags to wrap them in,” said Alan.

While his cousins debated, John joined his brother in gathering flowers. William refused to pick any—he was too old for flower picking, even to make his mother happy. But Alan did not mind pleasing his younger cousins by joining in. Chad’s little hands filled too quickly, so he enlisted Jason in carrying his flowers to the wagon for him. Meanwhile, Alan picked ferns to make backgrounds so the bouquets of lady’s slippers would look even prettier in vases.

In ten minutes, the meadow was cleared. Heaps of delicate pink air pockets of flowers were gently laid in the wagon. Chad did not object when told he would have to walk home so his feet did not crush the flowers. He thought it nicer to walk beside the wagon and look at the pretty flowers.

lady's slippers           The boys started back down the path. John looked back to where the flowers had been. He remembered just minutes before how stunned they had all been by the flowers—how there had been a seemingly endless field of pink rising up from the decaying leaves of last autumn. Now, he only saw the decaying leaves and little broken stems sticking up where once the flowers had been. The evening sun had lowered as well, leaving the field almost dark. Already he was starting to strain his eyes to see ahead of him. He wished they had not picked all the flowers; then he could have come back tomorrow night to see the pink field again.

“I hope the DNR doesn’t catch us,” said William.

“What’s the DNR?” asked Alan.

“The Department of Natural Resources. If they catch us illegally picking all these flowers, they’ll probably throw us in jail, or make Dad pay a huge fine, and then he’ll probably ground us for a month.”

John was frightened by the thought of jail. But he felt it would serve them right if the DNR did catch them. It seemed wrong to have picked all the flowers. They had not left behind a single one. He felt the trees would be lonely and sad without the lady’s slippers.

When the boys got back to the house, Ada and Beth marveled at so many delicate flowers. Beth quickly found more empty coke bottles to serve as vases so Ada could go home with a bouquet, and the Whitman boys could bring another home for their mother.

“Thanks for having me, Beth,” Ada said, as she picked up her vase and kissed her sister-in-law goodbye.

“Any time, Ada,” said Beth.

“We wish you’d come to visit more often,” said Henry.

“It was a perfect day,” Ada said.

“Boys, what do you say to your aunt?”

“Thank you for the pwincess,” said Chad.

“Thank you for the ship,” said John, and then he turned to his cousins and added, “Thank you for taking me fishing.”

William and Jason said nothing, but Alan mussed his cousin’s hair.

“We better get home before dark or Annette will be worried,” said Bill.

William thought his mother might prefer if they did not go home, but he would not argue with his father in public. Instead, he carried his and his brothers’ fishing poles to the car trunk. A sprinkle of rain started up as everyone piled into the car.

“We’re going to have another storm tonight,” said Henry as the visitors drove away.

“Well, at least the boys got out of the house this evening,” said Beth, “though I don’t think they minded being inside since they had Ada to entertain them.”

“Did you boys have a good time with Aunt Ada?” Henry asked.

Both nodded enthusiastically.

“Well, you better get to bed now,” said Beth. “John go brush your teeth while I help Chad put on his pajamas.”

John got ready for bed, then came out into the kitchen to get a drink of water before he went to sleep. When he saw the lady’s slippers sitting on the kitchen counter, he wished he could replant them in the woods, but he knew they would not grow now.

As he started to fall asleep, a loud thunderclap made him hide his head under the blankets. He was surprised Chad could sleep through the noise. He felt the thunder was a warning he had done something wrong to pick the flowers. They had been so beautiful in the forest; they were nowhere near as pretty sitting on the counter. He wanted to cry, but he felt if his older cousins knew he cried, they would think him a baby. That he refused to cry did not make him feel any less guilty.

Find out more about Superior Heritage and all my novels at www.MarquetteFiction.com

The Wooden Nickel Goes Purple

June 20, 2011

Well, it might be lilac or some shade of pink, but no one can deny the Wooden Nickel has a new look. Apparently, the building was painted late last summer but I didn’t get to that part of town until recently to see it.

The Wooden Nickel Marquette Michigan

The Wooden Nickel's New Color!

Why am I surprised by the color change? Those of you from Marquette will be surprised too. In fact, when I posted on Facebook a week ago that the Wooden Nickel was purple, I got many expressions of shock from former Yoopers who no longer live in the area.

You see, the Wooden Nickel has long been known as Marquette’s biker bar, and probably the toughest bar in Marquette. Is it trying to change its image? And just what kind of image is it going for?

I don’t know much about the Wooden Nickel’s history, but if anyone else does, I would love to hear about it. According to its website, it is the oldest bar in Marquette. It is also going to be featured in a book on Yooper Bars. I am skeptical about the “oldest bar” designation since I know Remillard’s Bar dates back to the 1800s and North Marquette wasn’t really settled until more around the 1920s. However, I am sure the bar’s sign is correct in saying it is “the only lasting original.” I asked my great-aunt who is 93 and grew up in North Marquette and she said when she was a kid, back in the 1920s the building was a candy store – maybe the purple is a fallback to those days. According to the 1950 city directory, it was Lowell’s Tavern & Restaurant (1743 Presque Isle Ave), then by 1960’s city directory it was the Furnace Tavern (1745 Presque Isle Ave), and the 1983 city directory shows it as the Wooden Nickel (1751 Presque Isle Ave). I don’t know if that means Lowell’s was really a building next door or they kept changing the street address, but it has been the Wooden Nickel ever since. (As a historical aside, it’s not easy to find taverns in the 1950 city directory. There’s no listing for “bars” and when you look up “taverns” it says to see “beer gardens.” Even then, “beer garden” must have been an outdated term. The only real beer garden I know Marquette ever had was at the old Castle Brewery.

I admit I was only in it once in college about 1992 when my friends and I donned leather and jean jacket so we would look tough and only went in it to say we had been there.

How the Wooden Nickel is perceived versus how tough it really is I don’t know. I do know my great-uncle, who lived a few blocks up the road, thought nothing in his seventies and early eighties of walking down to the Wooden Nickel for a beer.

The Wooden Nickel bar Marquette

The Wooden Nickel Bar, Presque Isle Ave. Marquette

On the Wooden Nickel’s website it says, “We offer an enjoyable atmosphere for everyone, College Students to their Grandparents.” Will this change in perception scare off the bikers? Well, for all my Facebook friends who demanded I post a photo of the new purple Wooden Nickel, here are the photos and you can see there’s a motorcycle parked outside. Bikers must like purple too. And why not? It’s a great color.

Maybe it’s time we all check out the Wooden Nickel again. You might like it so much you’ll even decide to buy a Wooden Nickel t-shirt or thong, available at its website http://woodennickelmqt.com/about-us.html and if you want to see how it looked when it was still brown, check out its photos on its Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wooden-Nickel/251042166872

I hope some of you more familiar with the Wooden Nickel can enlighten me more on its long history.

Middle Island Point – One of Marquette’s Best Kept Secrets

June 15, 2011
Indian Head Rock

Indian Head Rock at Middle Island Point

I recently had the good fortune and privilege of getting to visit Middle Island Point, a visit arranged by a friend and with one of the Point’s longtime residents as our tour guide. Because Middle Island Point is private property, you can only access it by invitation and so I will respect the privacy of the residents and not display pictures of their cottages and homes, but the scenery at Middle Island Point is breathtaking enough in itself.

I had long heard of Middle Island Point but never visited it, and when I mentioned it to others, I was surprised that many people didn’t even know where it is. It is actually only a couple of miles from Marquette with access along the Big Bay Road. We have all seen it. When you are at Presque Isle Park and look across the bay from Sunset Point, you are looking straight at it. It is called Middle Island Point because a point of the mainland juts out right across from Middle Island (the Middle Island between Presque Isle and Partridge Island).

Several books have been written about Middle Island Point, including A History of Middle Island Point(1963) by Robert J. Pearce. The book has an odd cover without any words on it and only an aerial view of the point. Inside it is the history of much of Middle Island Point, including lists of every cottage there.

Middle Island Point by Robert Pearce

Aerial View of Middle Island Point - the cover of Pearce's book

The point itself is quite a rocky precipice jutting into the lake with fairly high cliffs in various places while other parts of the shore are close to the lake. The winter storms can be quite fierce as the waves dash against the rocks, but the geological beauty of the landscape is rivaled by few other parts of the Marquette area’s Lake Superior shoreline.

As for its history, Middle Island Point began as a sort of camping getaway for Marquette residents, and its former inhabitants read like a “Who’s Who” of Marquette history. The first cabin was built about 1890 by Mrs. Alice Adams, a milliner in the Harlow Block of Marquette. By the early 1900s, the Point would be filled with cottages on its rocky hill and on the beachside property as well.

Among the locally famous residents who had cottages on Middle Island Point are:

View of Partridge Island from Middle Island Point

The Harlow Clark family. They are descendants of Amos and Olive Harlow, Marquette’s founding family. Mr. Harlow Clark, their grandson, reputedly would walk from the streetcar at Presque Isle to Middle Island Point.

Forest and Esther Roberts – The Forest Roberts theater was named for Forest, head of NMU’s theatre department, and they were long time owners of a cottage at the point which remains in the family today.

Dorothy Bird – Dorothy Maywood Bird, local author of Granite Harbor and a couple of other books had a cottage along the beach at Middle Island Point.

James Cloyd Bowman – the winner of the Newberry Medal for his book Pecos Bill, Bowman was head of NMU’s English Department and had a cottage called Skytop at Middle Island Point. In Ruth Alden Clark Lill’s book Twenties That Didn’t Roar, she recalls being at the cabin when a fire broke out on Middle Island Point. Fortunately, none of the cottages burnt.

John Lautner Jr. – the famous architect was a boy who helped to build his family cottage Midgaard here. Lautner would go on to study under Frank Lloyd Wright and build homes for such notables as Bob Hope (watch for the special exhibit on Lautner coming soon to NMU and the Marquette Regional History Center).

Middle Island Point

Landscape of Middle Island Point with Bridge

Famous visitors to the Point include Cole Porter who reputedly had help from a party of guests at the Point in writing the lyrics for one of his songs.

The rugged landscape is quite a challenge for the residents, who often have to climb up one or two hills on winding paths from one cabin to another in roundabout ways to get to their own cabins. Cars cannot access the steep hills so groceries, furniture, and anything else needed must be carried up by hand, and often through steps that have been carved by hand into the rocks as well as over wooden bridges.

I could go on and on about the history of Middle Island Point, but I hope I’ve whetted your interest enough to explore it further. Pearce’s book is out of print but copies are available at Peter White Public Library.

Tyler Tichelaar at Middle Island Point

Tyler on one of many winding hillside paths at Middle Island Point.

Wetmore Landing’s Namesake

June 7, 2011

It’s summer and many of us will be venturing to favorite places along Lake Superior in Marquette County. One of those favorite places is Wetmore Landing, but how many of us know where the name came from? Here is what I wrote in My Marquette about Mr. Wetmore and his home in Marquette:

William L. Wetmore lived at 314 E. Ridge St. in Marquette (the home is no longer standing). He was one of the co-founders along with M.H. Maynard, Peter White, William Burt and his grocer brother F.P. Wetmore to organize the Huron Bay Slate and Iron Company, which owned the company town of Arvon as well as a 200 yard wooden dock built on Huron Bay, which was never to have any ore deposited or shipped from it.

In 1871, William Wetmore cut hardwood and built kilns to make charcoal in Alger County as well as founding a general store there. When he retired in 1894, the small community was renamed Wetmore in his honor.

Wetmore Landing was initially a clearing along shore where lumbermen could bring logs out of the forest to the lake from where they could be rafted down to Marquette.  Today it is a popular beach for swimming, as well as surfing, and the rocks along the shore make a good spot from which to fish. Next time you visit, remember that it is not only a place to surf or enjoy the scenery but once a significant part of U.P. history and the logging era.