July 26-07

Past-E-Mail: Cam Notes - 2007: July: July 26-07
The Mackinacs - Bridge and Island    ...scroll down to share comments
Photos by E. Neil Harri

Mary Drew at Pasty Central (Mdrew) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 07:31 am:

For those of us too young to remember crossing the Straits of Mackinac on a car ferry, it's hard to imagine the time it took to do so. We've been spoiled for 50 years now, crossing the waters between Lakes Huron and Michigan, with this beautiful bridge we fondly call the Big Mac. There are a number of our regular viewers that made the trip to celebrate this milestone anniversary that kicks off today, but for those of us that can't be there, E. Neil Harri takes us over the 5 mile span, with Mackinac Island in the background. You can check out the activities scheduled to commemorate this big event in Michigan's history here: 50 years of the Mighty Mac. For more about the history of this Michigan icon, be sure to check back here for Charlie's Shoebox Memory this Sunday.

By Deb S. (Usedtobeayooper) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 07:33 am:

Two more days and we'll be there. Nice shot from above as always, Neil.

By Smfwixom (Trollperson) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 07:42 am:

Great shot of my favorite bridge!

By Brooke (Lovethekeweenaw) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 07:47 am:

That is my favorite bridge, means I'm half way there!

By kay Moore (Mskatie) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 07:49 am:

I'm so looking forward to this weekends celebration. Meeting friends and fireworks, can't beat that!

By maija in Commerce Township (Maija) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 08:17 am:

Awesome shot. The bridge looks so delicate and fragile from the air. What a marvel!

I remember the car ferries, waiting in line hoping to get the Vacationland, watching people buy from the vendors. After the long, long ride from Detroit, before I 75, it was a wonderful pleasure to be on the ferry. (was it an hour crossing?) It was amazing how they packed in the cars and how efficiently we got off to the exhiliration of being in the UP. Long way to go yet to the copper country, and we sometimes did it without stopping overnight.

By Charles In Esky (Charlesinesky) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 08:18 am:

A lovely picture! 50 years ago I started off to Ann Arbor to go to
school so I have been travelling over that bridge for a long time.
I can't recall a single trip over that wasn't special in one way or
another. Maybe the most special was in the summer once with
the sailboats coming from Chicago in the annual Chicago-to-
Mackinac race. That was beautiful! Here's a note related to
yesterday's pic of a monarch butterfly. I was on an outing last
evening with our local butterfly lady. We spotted some monarch
butterfly wings but no bodies. Oh, oh, she said, that means
some birds have been dining on them. Monarchs are poisonous,
but some birds have figured out how to get around that. And
we think we are so smart!

By Ray & Chris (Ray) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 08:24 am:

We're on our way to the Staits in less than an hour! Gateway to a special part of the world and will enjoy the Big Mac's 50th.

By Ray Laakaniemi (Rlaakan) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 08:45 am:

50 years has passed like a five minute trip across the bridge. I have been crossing the straits since the late 40s. I can remember being on a winter ferry with only our car and a Goebel beer semi full of empties. And wondering each time we left school how long we would wait at the ferry. I understand during deer season cars were quite literally backed up to Cheboygan. And going into St. Ignace you could tell when a ferry had emptied because of the long line of cars going west on US-2. I miss the ferries but the bridge is an inspiration each time I cross it.

By Uncle Chuck @ Little Betsy (Unclechuck) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 08:47 am:

Crossed her on Tuesday, now sittin at Little Betsy, lookin at the Gitch, ain't nothin wrong with that!

By Eddyfitz (Eddyfitz) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 08:49 am:

A great picture of the graceful Macinac Bridge to open my day. I am one of those that rode on the auto ferries across to attend National Guard camp in Grayling in the early 1950's. Our family has traveled over this thing of beauty many time on trips to Hubbell as the kids were growing up. Today most of our trips are shortened to visits around St. Ignace and the Soo but still manage to cross the Mac a few times each trip.
I recieved my copy of MICHIGAN HISTORY MAGAZINE this week and they included my personal comments (on page 20) of the building of the bridge while I sailed aboard the SSCRISPIN OBLEBAY in '56-57. This is a large special commemerative issue.
A confusing point is that the UPPER PENINSULA county, island and bridge are spelt MACKINAC and the LOWER PENINSULA city is MACKINAW. Hope that all attending this weeks celebration have a great time and enjoy the crossings.

By Scott D. (Pooch) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 09:00 am:

Great shot of the bridge! One week from Friday we'll be there, 4 nights at Mill Creek Campground in Mackinaw and then on to the Copper Country for 4 nights at McLain's State Park. It can't happen soon enough.

By Janie T. (Bobbysgirl) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 09:06 am:

Happy 50th birthday Mighty Mac! Truly a wonderful pic! All those who are meeting up with each other for this festivity, have a wonderful, memorable time!! Safe roads to all!

By JAD, Oscar, MI (Jandalq) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 09:15 am:

Charlie -- If Neil ok's it, please consider doing an entire calendar of his "birdeye" views. This shot of Big Mac is a beauty as well as many of his photos.

By Cathy Kitchen Dittrich (Utahyooper) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 09:15 am:

We are coming over for the 50th Bridge Walk on Labor Day from Salt Lake City. I can hardly wait. I did the walk on the 25th anniversary and now will be doing it again 25 years later. We are really excited about being there again. We did go over the bridge on the 4th for a wedding in Escanaba, but to walk the bridge is a special treat.

By Sharon I. Smith (Sharons) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 09:25 am:

Crossed yesterday about 2:00, all deep teal and aqua, with the usual lane closing. Coming up on the bridge on I-75 always makes my heart thump a little, and especially yesterday! I noticed the sign saying the bridge will be closed on Saturday and I wondered what it was about. Now I know. I've been otherwise engaged for the past month. Like Brooke says, when I see it, I'm halfway home.

By Bill Skriba (Beewrangler1963) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 09:35 am:

Great Shot. My grandad started a family tradition in 1960 of paying for the vehicle behind him when he crossed the Mac, passed it along to my dad, who passed it along to me, and so too will I pass it along to my boys. I tell them it's like leaving our little mark in life.

By Brian R. Juntikka (Polkatime) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 09:44 am:

The last time I ever rode over the straits on a carferry was the summer of 1957 just before I turned four. I think it was the Vacationland. Funny thing, but as I recall, the state ferries had no consessions - you couldn't buy a candy bar, coffee, bag of chips - nothing.

I remember riding in my Dad's car with my parents, my sister and brother - waiting in line and then finally driving into the hull of the ferryboat. Kinda dark and noisy in there, but instead of just sitting in the car, you could walk up a steel staircase to the observation deck above. We'd do that, and watch bridge construction as the boat sailed across the straits. The last time we did that, I recall my Dad pointing up toward the nearly completed Mackinac Bridge and saying to us kids: "next year, we'll be riding over that bridge."

The superstructure of the Mackinac Bridge was built by the American Bridge Division of U.S. Steel Corporation which is based in Ambridge, Pennsylvania not far from Pittsburgh. The bridge opened to traffic in late 1957 as I recall, and by the time American Bridge turned the last bolt, it was time for them to get ready for yet another big bridge project in the Upper Peninsula: The new Portage Lake Lift Bridge. Time flies.

Brian R. Juntikka

By Margaret, Amarillo TX (Margaret) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 10:19 am:

What a glorious sight. When we brought the grandkids here last summer they couldn't believe they could see "the other side" when they climbed up high enough. It was fun taking them across the bridge and then staying overnight iin St. Ignace. This is the same group that gives you "Whoop Dee Do" Trees. They wish they were up there for this weekend's festivities as it is 90 here again today.

By Tim in Oscoda (Timmer280) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 10:29 am:

It is amazing to me how many adults that have spent their entire life in Michigan have never seen the Mighty Mac.

Several weeks ago I packed the kids in the car on a Sunday afternoon and we headed up just to watch it light up. It's like seeing an old friend and we have to visit at least once a year. We were lucky enough to take my daughter's friend from Ohio and she feel in love too. She got her first pasty and cleaned her plate before we had even started! Nothing like introducing someone to the BEST things in life!

By kosk in Toronto (Koskintoronto) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 11:08 am:

I would love to go to the doings at the Bridge, but can't be two
places at once--the relatives are coming and I want to see them
too. Hope everyone has a great time.

Sorry not to respond to regular e-mails, but have messed up my
password somehow. Sigh.

By Kathy P. (Katiaire) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 12:26 pm:

Awesome photo. I, too, can remember taking the ferry across the Straits and watching the progress of the building of the bridge, which was a true wonder.

A couple of years ago I took the Badger from WI across to Ludington...just to avoid the Chicago traffic. What a wonderful, peaceful experience.

By bill d-howellmi (Billdolkey) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 12:32 pm:

We went up to the Copper Country in a 55 Chev when the bridge was being built. I still remember the smell of salami sandwiches (with margarine & mustard) & the coffee thermos being opened in the car as we ate "on the go", there weren't any fast food places back then. That was when I was 5,6.7 years old. I think I rememeber my Dad saying he was once the only car on the ferry when he was single, driving up & down in the late 30's & 40's, he was in Italy in WWII.

By Kathyrn Laughlin (Kathyl) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 12:40 pm:

Hi all
It's looks are not the only impressive thing about the bridge: it was completed on time & within budget. Hats off to the ironworkers.

I'll be up with my family for the festivities...though we plan on watching the fireworks from our beach down near Cheboygan.

Mama Mia pizza restaurant in Mackinaw City, which had a Mackinaw Bridge museum upstairs, was burned down a couple of years ago; it's back. I don't know what kind of stuff they have now.

By Vicky P (Vickyp) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 01:51 pm:

What a great shot Neil. I just love this bridge. Have lived in Michigan my whole life and have only been up there twice as an adult and once as a kid. When I go UP north, I can't seem to get enough of the Mighty Mac! I love going back and forth between peninsulas just to cross her and take in the beauty!

By Marge Roberts (Fluffyyellow) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 03:04 pm:

I, too, remember the ferries and hoping for the Vacationland. The Mich map had ferry schedules, and my mom was the time watcher.

Isn't it funny how we all have a hallowed place in our hearts for the Bridge? I bet it's even deeper than feelings for the Golden Gate. The high point of my life (after babies and things like that) was my bridge walk in 1996.

Did you know there's another Big Mac bridge? It consists of two golden yellow arches and takes I-471 over the Ohio River in eastern Cincinnati. In my mind, it's a charlatan and a wannabe.

Here it is:


By JH (Thumbgardener) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 04:09 pm:

This is me. I think it's on the ferry. At least that's what I was told, because I don't remember. I was born in Feb. 52, so maybe this was in 55 or 56.


By Mary Drew at Pasty Central (Mdrew) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 04:17 pm:

In my notes this morning, I forgot to include some information that Ed Chaput had sent me a few weeks ago about the Mackinac Bridge appearing on Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs:

Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs" Mackinac Bridge episode airs Aug. 7
Mike Rowe, host of the Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs" program, visited the Mackinac Bridge in May to film the work that bridge maintenance crews perform each year on the "Mighty Mac." The hour-long Mackinac Bridge episode, entitled "Bridge Painter," is scheduled to air on the Discovery Channel, Tuesday, Aug. 7, at 9 p.m. The episode is airing in conjunction with the bridge's 50-year anniversary.

The following link has some interesting information about the Mighty Mac: MDOT Mackinac Bridge

By Mel, not in KS anymore! (Mehollop) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 04:44 pm:

JH - that is indeed on the ferry - you can just make out the "VACATIONLAND" lettering above the metal staircase on the right.

Way too young to remember there not being a Mighty Mac, but I do recall crossing it when I was very little (2-3 range). Memory likely only sticks because Mom was driving the car, next to Dad, who was on his motorcycle... On the grating. I wasn't too sure he'd live to see the next day once Mom got her hands on him on the other side!

By dlp (Babyseal) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 04:53 pm:

On my first trip over the Mighty Mac I was on sitting behind my husband on his Honda Gold Wing. It was awesome. I don't recall much of the view as I was busy watching the lake go by underneath my feet through the deck grids. I was kinda disappointed on my next trip over in the car, didn't have quite the thrill.

By Russell E. Emmons (Russemmons) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 05:25 pm:

Yes where has the 50 years gone? I remember also crossing on the Ferrys as far back as the mid 40s. I barely remember going across on the old small "City of Mackinaw" As I recall it was a side loader. Thereafter it was the "City of Cheboygan" (one stack); the "City of Munising"; and the "City of Petoskey" (2 Stacks) --largest until the "Vacationland" came along a bit later.
I rode on them all many times! I remember crossing and seeing the "Big Mac" being built. Now & then you could pull into the Plaza and immediately be waved right on a boat. Usually though there was a wait in the parking dock area. Depending on loading time & weather conditions it was 45 minutes to an hour crossing time. On light days they only ran 1 or 2 of the boats. Holidays, Deer hunting, etc., high traffic they ran several. Usually there was always 1 docked nearby as a reserve, standby, or backup so to speak. The big "semi" 18 wheelers had to have big chocks placed around several wheels. All vehicles were required to engage the parking brake and place the trans in gear or in park. Sometimes the crossing got quite rough! I hated the boat(s) or the conditions that required the ferry to leave the dock a ways, make a 180 degree turn around, make the crossing and then another 180 degree back around when approaching the dock on the other side. Talk about anyone prone to seasick when they did that,(I was) They always said to go sit in your car where you couldn't see out. No way! --even with my eyes closed I could feel the ship "spin" around! Then as they approached the dock they would throw the props into reverse to stop. That would cause the ship to shudder enough to rattle your teeth out! The steep steel gangway type stairs to the main deck must have been 3 storys straight up! Often wondered too why no concessions. Just water fountains and Restrooms. There were couches, benches, chairs etc. in the main lounge. I think deck chairs on the main deck. As teenagers we used to walk all around the main deck bow to stern . We would lean over the rail and drop paper cups down onto the water and count the seconds it took for each to hit the water! Walking around the main deck we would pass the galley and smell the wonderful food being prepared for the crew! So many fond memorys!

In my photo gallery there are a few pics scattered there of photos and postcards of the Ferrys in bygone days. Also there is a photo somewhere of my old 48 Chev. along the hiway with "Big Mac" in the background. This was June 58 on our way to Dollar Bay to my grandparents Emil & Mary Laplanders 50th wedding anniversary! First time across Big Mac! I still wonder if my sisters and one brother (Bill) realize if that this was also their very first ride across!

There are those that call it the "Big scary bridge" (including myself at times) but all in all way better then the old boats! Every time I first glimpse those towers coming up I75 my heart too skips a bit! The view from the middle is absolutely awesome!

By Douglas Emerson (Michiganpoet) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 05:25 pm:

I will be in Mackinaw this weekend for the festival. I have a picture and poem to add to this discussion but as I am very new to this site I have no idea how to download it. Any help would be appreciated. My Grandparents had a cottage on Lake Michigan 12 miles west of St. Ignace. I am 55 and remember riding the ferries and watching the Bridge being built. What a wonderful site.

By JH (Thumbgardener) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 05:38 pm:

Thanks for the info, Mel. My Dad told me they watched them working on the bridge when we crossed. I'll have to ask my 2 older brothers what they remember. They are 4 and 5 years older than me.

By David Soumis (Davesou) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 07:57 pm:

I remember a couple of trips across. Once when my mom and I took the Greyhound to Pontiac. I must have been about 3 or 4. Can't remember much..but some of the trip.

You can still enjoy the ferry ride. The SS Badger sails between Manitowoc WI and Ludington. Its a fun trip...burns coal...single stack.

By 69 TOOT (Flyindamooney) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 08:03 pm:

E. Neil Harri is the luckiest guy in the world. He gets paid to fly around the Peninsula. I have a few shots of the bridge too, but nothing like Neils..

At da Tech, we used the Bridge as a halfway point. Six guys in a Corvair going non-stop from da Tech to da Bridge, a brief respite at da Bridge, and on to the L.P. Probably 60 trips over the five years I spent at da Tech, and they ranged from 8 hrs to 44 depending on da Cops and da Weather.

I still believe E. Neil Harri is one of the luckiest guys on da Planet.....

See you soon Neil...........Steve

By Deb S. (Usedtobeayooper) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 08:06 pm:

Sorry you won't be joining us, Kosk.

Judy, cute picture.

By Bil Turner (Beertuna) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 08:18 pm:

I did some inspection work on the bridge for an engineering firm about 8-10 years ago. It involved inspecting several parts of the bridge trusses under the roadway. Right at mid-span is a small metal enclosure that the bridge folks called the "fog shack". It houses a fog horn and the equipment that operates it. I usually don't mind heights, but I was sort of nervous climbing over the railing and down into the trusses. It's a long way down to the water.

I was told that the fog horn automatically activates when the sensors register a humidity above a certain level. It was humid hazy day and I was quite apprehensive that the horn would begin to blast as I was crawling around and over the "fog shack" making notes and photographs. I think I would have jumped out of my skin. Luckily, it didn't. I also got some great photos of a freighter, looking straight down onto the deck, taken from this unusual vantage point.

By JH (Thumbgardener) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 08:40 pm:

Eddyfitz, I'm glad you posted that about your personal comments in "Michigan History" magazine. I just read yours.
This is a really great issue. Lots of personal memories and great pictures. It has a page that tells what happened to the ferries after. That was really interesting to read.

By Grace M Wetton (Gmw) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 08:55 pm:

Very nice picture of the Mac bridge! My dad worked on blacktop with Thornton Construction at the time of the paving on the bridge.

By FRNash/PHX, AZ (Frnash) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 09:27 pm:

I was lucky enough(?) to experience crossing the straits in the railroad ferries in the 1940's, then later the car ferries.

In busier times they used the old railroad ferries as backup to help move the large numbers of cars waiting to cross.

In my never humble opinion the most notorious of the ferries was the old hand fired Chief Wawatam. I suspect that firing those coal burning triple expansion engines by hand would have qualified as a real "Dirty Job"!

As a youngster, I used to find the Chief quite intimidating — I used to nearly jump out of my skin when they laid on her whistle. (Whistle? That hardly describes her incredibly loud, deep bass note; you could really feel that one in your bones.) And oh did the Chief ever belch copious volumes of the foulest, blackest smoke you could imagine — especially when instead of rising, that foul smoke just curled around and boiled across her decks. Yuck!

Here's more about the Chief (and quite a few great pictures and further links as well):
1. Chief Wawatam, by Bob Strauss
2. The Railroad Car Ferry Chief Wawatam
and last but not least: The Carferries of the Great Lakes

By Fran in GA (Francesinga) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 09:43 pm:

In he 50's I crossed on the ferries also. I remember the long wait and how dark,noisy and dampish it felt.It was always packed when I was on it. It was always a relief to get across to the UP.

By Russell E. Emmons (Russemmons) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 10:54 pm:

Thumbgardener: That is an AWESOME photo! Such realistic memorys brought tears to my eyes1 I remember standing in that spot more then once! Your photo is such that it gives a good real perspective as to the size of those ships. Over the years when I tell my kids and troll friends storys of these ships, their size and all, I get a "Yeah Right" or ho-hum reaction. I think many who have not been there then or now associate the Ferrys with those little 20 or so cars ones types like we have here that cross the St. Clair River from Marine City to Sombra Ontario. Many people that have not been to the UP I think associate Big Mac as just another bridge the length of those like which cross the Mississippi over in Illinois or Iowa.
FRNash: We did the Chief Wawatam a couple of times. One was in the winter, in the night! Creepy, dark, damp and smoky. Usually in WW2 when we went to the Copper Country by train it was to Chicago from Detroit then on up thru Wisconsin on the "Milwaukee Road".

BTW: If anyones interested, another 50th Anniversary celebration this weekend! The introduction of the ill-fated Edsel Automobile! Annual Edsel Club convention this year at Ford Motor World Headquarters in Dearborn MI. Lots of festivitys, displays, and media coverage! Too bad I didn't get my 58 done & running to be there! Oh well!

By Deb S. (Usedtobeayooper) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 11:15 pm:

Me and the Mac are both turning 50 this year, I wonder which is in better shape..........

Mr. Deb

By Jack K (Jackinct) on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 11:47 pm:

I was just there yesterday!
Didn't have time to do much but get a pasty for my son's birthday just across the bridge.

By Brent in UPstate NY (Brent) on Friday, July 27, 2007 - 07:26 pm:

I'm not sure why Mary's link didn't work for me but I think I got to it with this URL:


Mary says: Sorry about that Brent. I usually check my links before posting and didn't do so on that one. It didn't work, because when a hyperlink has a comma in it, in order to have a "name" for the link (like on my previous post above - "MDOT Makinac Bridge"), rather than the actual link URL appearing, you have to change all the commas to "%2c" (no quotations) and I forgot the "c's" in each one. Thanks for pointing out that it didn't work and posting it so others could get to the page. I've corrected my link now too, so they both should work now!

By Lisa Walters (Ypsilisa) on Sunday, July 29, 2007 - 09:03 pm:

JH, that is a great pic! I was born in '55, and as the baby of the family, I'm the only one who never traveled on the ferry.

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