Posted tagged ‘Donckers’

I’m Receiving the “Outstanding Writer” Award in the Marquette County Arts Award

March 27, 2011

I learned this week that I will be receiving the “Outstanding Writer” award in the Marquette County Arts Awards. I feel very honored and pleased to be recognized by the community I have sought to promote through my writing. In the letter I received, I was told I was chosen because:

You were anonymously nominated for and selected by the Arts and Culture
Advisory Committee as the winner of the “Outstanding Writer” award.
This award is given to a working community writer who has consistently
made an impact in his artistic discipline.The committee believes your
success as the self-publisher and author of The Marquette Trilogy and My
Marquette as well as your leadership roles within regional writers
groups highly qualifies you for this award.

A reception will be held in the City of Marquette Arts and Culture Center from 5:30-7 p.m. in conjunction with the Lake Superior Art Association Members Show (on display in the MACC Lower Level Gallery) and Annual Meeting. The award ceremony will take place on Friday May 13 at 7 p.m. in the Community Room of the City of Marquette Arts and Culture Center located in the lower level of the Peter White Public Library. This event is free and open to the public. Please call (906) 228-0472 for more information.

Here is the full list of award winners:



…Michelle Tuccini
for long time volunteer efforts on behalf of the arts in Marquette County

Melissa Matuscak
as a person who makes things happen and has demonstrated significant
accomplishment in advancing and supporting the arts in our community

Diane Mahoney
as a person who has provided extraordinary leadership and creativity in
advancing the cause of art education in the schools and in our community

Donckers Restaurant and Soda Fountain
as a business which has recognized excellence in the arts by supporting
artists or arts organizations in its community

Earl Senchuk
as a working community visual artist who has consistently made an
impact in his/her artistic discipline

Jill Grundstrom
as a working community performance artist who has consistently
made an impact in his/her artistic discipline

Tyler Tichelaar
as a working community writer who has consistently made
an impact in his/her artistic discipline

John Pepin
as a working community artist who has consistently made a
contribution and an impact upon the community

Marquette Monthly
as an organization that has consistently made a contribution and/or
an impact upon the community

Nicole Vermuelen
as a youth who has consistently made a contribution to and made
an impact upon the community in his/her artistic discipline

Marquette’s Opera House & the 1938 Fire and Blizzard

October 19, 2010

This post is a continuation of my previous post about the Marquette Opera House, taken from My Marquette.

Like many an opera heroine, the Marquette Opera House would meet a tragic ending. In the early morning hours of January 24, 1938, and during perhaps the worst blizzard in Upper Michigan’s history, the employees at The Mining Journal, working desperately to finish the newspaper, had the electricity go out. In the blackness, they looked down the street and saw fire aglow in the Masonic Building. Here are some passages from the retelling of the story in The Queen City:

Residents near downtown Marquette were rudely woken by the fire brigade’s sirens. People peered out their windows to see an eerie conglomeration of smoke, bright red flames, and hurling white snow. The fire had begun in the Masonic Building. How it began or how long it had already raged would not be determined until much later. For now, the fire must be stopped before the entire downtown crumbled to cinders, before history repeated itself—several residents recalled their grandparents’ stories of another great downtown fire seventy years earlier. By the time the firetrucks arrived, the Masonic Building was counted as lost, including inside it, the Peter White Insurance Agency and the much-loved Opera House. Already the fire had spread along the street, engulfing Jean’s Jewelry, the Nightingale Cafe, the Scott and Woolworth stores, De Hass Builder’s Supply, and the Marquette County law library.

            Had electricity been required to pump water, the fire’s destruction would have been inestimable. Fortunately, the waterworks was powered by gas engines run on batteries. Hoses were quickly unrolled along Washington Street to fight the formidable fire. The bravest men struggled with feelings of panic and loss to see buildings that had stood since before their childhood, where they had spent countless joyful hours—the Opera House, the theatres, the stores—all at the mercy of the raging flames. No one had ever seen such a firestorm, much less been asked to fight it. Firemen dug their footholds into snowbanks and aimed their hoses at the flames, only to have the wind whip the waterstreams straight back into their faces, where ice formed on their noses while smoke choked their lungs. Yet they dared not back down.


            Bill, although large and strong for his seventeen years, had to use all his might to brace against the frigid winds and direct the hoses so the water struck the flames. Much of the water froze on powerlines and building fronts just seconds after it spurted from hoses. Heroic efforts appeared ineffective against the blazing furnace that had once been Washington Street. At times, the slush in the street was up to Bill’s hips, making him feel more like he was fishing in the Dead River than fighting a blazing fire. A firetruck froze in the slush and could not be moved. Henry waded through the watery mess to help dig out the truck so it could hose down the bank buildings on the corner of Washington and Front before the fire spread downhill toward the lake.

            As morning broke, Mr. Donckers opened his cafe to provide hot coffee for the firemen and volunteers. Bill and Henry took a quick, welcomed breakfast break after learning the Kresge store was no longer in danger. They emerged from breakfast, refreshed and ready to fight again, just as the west wall of the Masonic building tumbled down. Even though the wall fell inward, glass shot out from its windows, injuring a traffic officer and three firemen, while bricks struck two other men. None were seriously injured, but even the witnesses felt shaken. The accident made everyone fight with greater determination to prevent worse accidents. Curses and prayers were muttered in hopes the blizzard would end so only the fire had to be fought. There would be many more hours of frustrating toil.

Marquette Opera House after the fire and blizzard - from my grandparents' photograph albums

            My only family member that I know actually witnessed the fire that day was my grandpa’s cousin, Myles McCombie. In 1999, The Mining Journal featured a story about the fire and interviewed residents who recalled it. Myles McCombie was just a teenager at the time; upon hearing about the fire, he and a friend walked downtown to see it. When they reached Washington Street, a fireman asked Myles to help for twenty-five cents an hour, so Myles picked up a hose. He told The Mining Journal, “We stood in slush up to our hips and we were pouring water on that side [of Washington] street.” Myles was also one of the volunteers who was served a quick breakfast at Donckers store when it was opened to serve the firemen.

            To lose a major section of downtown Marquette had to be devastating to the residents, and I can only imagine how my grandparents felt to know a place so important to them was gone forever.

What caused the downtown fire that destroyed the Opera House? Stay tuned to my next blog post that will finish the story of the Marquette Opera House and the church scandal that resulted in such tragic consequences.

Dominic’s Daughter – A South Marquette Story

July 13, 2010

Just last week, I heard about the book Dominic’s Daughter by Barbara Mullen after Jim Koski from the Marquette County History Museum led his interesting South Marquette Walking Tour. Barbara Mullen’s book helped me to re-envision South Marquette a century ago. It’s the kind of book that fascinates me because it gives another glimpse into the thousands of stories of Marquette’s people and history, stories I love to tell in my own books.

Dominic's Daughter by Barbara Mullen

Dominic’s Daughter by Barbara Mullen is a bit of a difficult book to define. It reads like a novel, but is categorized on the back cover as a memoir. Barbara Mullen wrote the book based on the diaries of her mother, Ruth Hogan Thomas, who left them to her and asked her to make a book out of them when she died.

While Mullen may have done a little novelizing to write the book, she retained her mother’s voice and throughout she used local place names and the names of the real people her mother knew. In a few places there are exceptions, such as references to St. Michael’s, which wasn’t a church that was built yet in the 1880s-1910s when the novel takes place. I wonder whether the author intended to fictionalize St. John the Baptist, or she just confused the name, since the French characters attend St. Michael’s in the novel and St. John the Baptist was Marquette’s French Catholic Church at the time. St. John the Baptist stood in Marquette from 1908-1986 (an earlier church was on the site with the same name) on the corner of Fourth and Washington Streets. The church’s bell tower remains today. Meanwhile, St. Michael’s in North Marquette on Fourth and Kaye was not a parish until 1942.

Despite these small issues, readers who know and love Marquette can easily follow the story and the characters’ movements as they walk down Genesee or Baraga Ave, visit the Delft Theatre, Donckers, Kresge’s or Walgreens, or the Marquette Library (Peter White Public Library).

But most interesting are the people in this book. They are all historical people from what I can tell. At the center is Ruth Hogan, daughter of Dominic Hogan. Dominic and his brother Edward Hogan reputedly were involved in robbing a railroad in Marquette. Edward got away with the money while Dominic served time for it and when he got out of prison, his brother never shared the money with him. Afterward, Dominic became an alcoholic and could not be a very good father to Ruth as a result. Ruth and her mother, Barbara, went to live with her grandparents, William and Bridget Wiseman, Irish immigrants. Many other historical people are mentioned in the book, all people from South Marquette.

After reading the book, I looked in city directories and drove around South Marquette to see if any of the houses remained that the author mentions. The Deasey house, which belonged to Ruth’s homeroom teacher, still stands.

The Deasy House in South Marquette

However, it looks like both the Hogan house which would have been at 233 Fisher Street, and Ruth’s grandmother’s boarding house where she grew up, which would have been at 308 Division Street are no longer standing. In addition, I discovered that Division Street must have been renumbered at some point since my own great-grandparents, John and Lily Molby, lived at 609 Division St., according to old city directories, but today it is 1509 Division St., which made me then look on the 1200 block for the Wiseman family’s boarding house but I could not locate a house that corresponded to the original address.

While Dominic’s Daughter does not really have a plot but is a story of a girl growing up in South Marquette between about 1902-1920, it is a deeply interesting story for those interested in Marquette history, and it has received Honorable Mention in the Pen Prose Awards. It has also been compared to Angela’s Ashes for its depiction of Irish immigrant life in the United States. One of my favorite parts of the book is when Ruth wins second place in an essay contest for writing about what patriotism means and interviewing many of the other immigrants in South Marquette about their travelling to America and what it means to them to live here. I only wish I could have talked to them, and all the historical people in this book, myself. How many stories Marquette has to tell!

 Dominic’s Daughter is available in local bookstores and online.