Apr 26-09

Past-E-Mail: Cam Notes - 2009: April: Apr 26-09
Waiting to Cross    ...scroll down to share comments
Photos from U.P. Digitization Center
Bird's Eye View    ...scroll down to share comments
Photos from U.P. Digitization Center

Charlie at Pasty Central (Chopper) on Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 07:44 am:

Many folks start planning their U.P. vacations this time of year, to line up the schedule and make reservations. Before the Mackinaw Bridge was constructed in the mid-50's, crossing over from the L.P. took a 45-minute car ferry ride, plus extra time waiting and loading vehicles onto the ferry. Total time for the trip could be as little as an hour, but summer trips were more likely to be three or four hours. In hunting season waits of five hours (with five-mile backups) were common, and 20-hour waits were not unheard of.

The first photo today is from the 30's, and we get a better perspective in the second photo from the 50's. The tall building at the end of the road can be seen in both, and the second one also shows a little smoke from the boat that apparently just shoved off.

Imagine waiting in that line for 5 hours. Sure makes you appreciate the bridge.

Today there is still ferry service, but it carries people over to the Island. (Doubt there will ever be a bridge in that direction). As a little extra, we've included a short video of the ferry, complete with its signature water spray as it speeds passengers along. Thanks to the folks from Discipher.com for the movie, the U.P. Digitization Center for the still shots, and Hunt's Guide for the information.

Have a good week :o)
kosk in Toronto (Koskintoronto) on Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 08:00 am:

I certainly remember the car rides up from Detroit and the waiting
in line for a ferry to take us UP for the summer. The waits were
sometimes so long that we ended up camping near St. Ignace after
we made it across the bridge. While driving to the straits, I also
remember that we stopped for a picnic at lunchtime to eat
sandwiches stored in a metal container and that my parents always
packed a trusty thermos of coffee. When the wait for the ferry
wasn't too long, we had supper at Lehto's pasties. I washed my
pasty down with chocolate milk. Then we knew we were on the
right side of the straits!

By Eddyfitz (Eddyfitz) on Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 08:46 am:

As it happens during the hunting season line up at Mackinaw City it was also during the Thanksgiving rush when my "Rosie the riviters" sisters would make their annual trips back home..They spoke of lines going back towards Cheboygan and to a 5-6 year old these towns like St. Helen, Roscommon seemed to be on the other side of the moon from our small town in The Keweenaw.

By dan belo (Djbelo) on Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 08:57 am:

I used the ferry boat once around 1955 with Greyhound bus- fell asleep & " missed the boat" lol

By Thomas Baird (Thomas) on Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 09:08 am:

Way b 4 my time, but a little of the ferry boats' history can still b seen. When I'm riding 1 of the Mackinac Island ferry boats (from Mackinaw City), you can still c where the straits ferries used 2 load autos.

By Helen Marie Chamberlain (Helen) on Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 09:18 am:

I remember in 1956 leaving the U.P. to live in Ann Arbor during the 4th of July Holiday and the wait was over 8 hours, if I recall right. They had hot dog vendors moving between rows of cars. Why I love the Big Mac, and I would like to suggest to those of you have entertained the thought of walking it during the Labor Day Walk, do it! It's a spectacular experience.

By John D. (Hansvonuper) on Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 09:42 am:

My mother told us that as a little girl and on into high school of making the crossing when going on vacation with "Grandma and Grandpa" to his favorite fishing spots up in (Curtis on Manistique Lake) in the 20's and 30's. The stayed at the Forest Inn. She even remembers taking the roads as far back as they could go and then taking a wagon the rest of the way to some of these spots. Good thing Grandpa had all the connections he needed from his boss (Henry Ford) to get to where he wanted to go.

By Eugene Zuverink (Zube) on Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 10:42 am:

We were on those ships so many times traveling back and forth from Grand Rapids to Munising, The first time I thought we were on a cruise, it was such a big ship, then in January 1952 the Vacationland which was also an icebreaker was put in to service and that moved a lot of traffic fast, that was a big ship. That was a lot of excitment then. You could get to know a lot of people while you were sitting in line. It wasn't always a wait, sometimes you could drive rite on a ship, lot of fun back then.

By Thomas Baird (Thomas) on Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 11:18 am:

I just remembered a video about the history of the straits ferries, and 1 of the interviewees was former Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelly, who worked on the ferries. He said he had 2 girlfriends, 1 each in Mackinaw City and St. Ignace, and neither 1 knew about the other.

By DEAN SCHWARTZ SR. (Lulu) on Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 11:20 am:

Sure brings back a lot of wonderful memories. Wish that there was a option to take a car ferry instead of the bridge. I wonder how many would ?

By Thomas Baird (Thomas) on Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 11:30 am:

I suppose they could have some car ferries the size of, say, the Beaver Islander (sails between Charlevoix + Beaver Island), as I would guess the number of people crossing on a ferry would be minimal at best. Still an idea, though.

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 11:44 am:

I'm sure the memories are great concerning the ferry, but boy I sure am glad the Bridge is there today!! ;-)

By Martha Kirk (Misschiefie) on Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 12:06 pm:

I'm too young to remember this, but my family would leave the downriver Detroit area after Dad got home from work and drive to Mackinaw during the evening, getting there very late (no I-75 back then). They would get in line for the ferry and sleep in the car that night and be among the first cars on the first ferry in the morning on their way to my grandparents in Seney (The Oasis) and later Naubinway. By the time the bridge was built my grandparents had retired to Florida.

By FRNash/PHX, AZ (Frnash) on Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 12:28 pm:

Ahh such memories ...

From the old railroad ferries in the 1940s to the Vacationland car ferry in the 1950s, as I mentioned here eight months ago

The long hours spent on the docks in the summer; a picnic in the park(-ing lot) — mom used to pack a lunch, and occasionally a vendor would come by selling, yes … pasties!

Then there were the deer season trips, trying to stay warm on the even longer waits (as Charlie noted above) in weather conditions far less conducive to picnicking!

Here's a link to the Mackinac Bridge Authority web site, and here's their Michigan State Ferry Album.

Great memories, and I'm glad I was there, but I sure don't miss those ferry crossings, particularly not choking on that black smoke on that ol' coal burning converted railroad ferry, Chief Wawatam.

Boatnerd has a profusion of great photos of the Chief here.

By Paul Oesterle (Paulwebbtroll) on Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 01:31 pm:

Hey Tom! Did Mr. Frank Kelly end up marrying one of those two girls?

By FRNash/PHX, AZ (Frnash) on Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 01:52 pm:

Thomas Baird (Thomas):
"I suppose they could have some car ferries the size of, say, the Beaver Islander …"

In addition to the M/V Beaver Islander and the M/V Emerald Isle, there are still two larger car ferries crossing Lake Michigan:

1. Between Muskegon, MI and Milwaukee, WI: The Lake Express
Overall Length192 Feet
Overall Width57 Feet
Weight148 Tons
Number of Passengers248
Number of Vehicles46 passenger vehicles / 12 motorcycles
Speed40 Miles Per Hour/34 Knots

2. Between Ludington, MI and Manitowoc, WI: The S.S. Badger
(the largest cross-lake passenger service on the Great Lakes).
Length410 feet, 6 inches
Width59 feet, 6 inches
Height106 feet, 9 inches (7 stories)
Weight6650 tons displaced
Capacity620 passengers, 180 vehicles†
Average speed18 miles per hour (15.6 knots)
(†automobiles, tour buses, RVs, motorcycles, and commercial trucks)

By Alex "UP-Goldwinger" (Alex) on Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 03:31 pm:

When our family began going UP in the early 60's, the bridge was already there, but I can remember the roads from the bridge up to Shingleton. There was alot of red dirt and sometimes mud.
Now the UP roads are some of the best in the State, if not "the" best.

By DEAN SCHWARTZ SR. (Lulu) on Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 04:14 pm:

My Mom and Grandmother got mad at all of us when we took our sandwich's and feed them to the seagulls. Just another car ferry memory.

By Joy Brewer (Joy) on Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 05:17 pm:

Ah, this brings back a lot of memories!! My mother's sister and mother lived in Detroit, and we would leave Iron Mountain real early in the morning while it still was dark to get to St. Ignace. My sister and I would be in the back seat of our station wagon sleeping. When we hit St. Ignace, my father would be in the front part of the line due to the time that we left Iron Mountain. My mother had our food in a large cooler, and we would have our breakfast of cold cereal and milk when we woke up in our car. When the ferry was ready to take on the cars, my sister and I would be so excited as we were then allowed to leave our parking stop and go up the large ramp into the belly of the great big ferry. Then we were permitted to climb the metal steps, sit and look at the beautiful blue water that surrounded us as we across to Mackinaw City. Once we were docked we would go down to our station wagon and my father would drive us off the ferry. Before we would begin our long drive down to Detroit tho, we would always stopped at my father's cousin's house in Mackinaw City where we freshen up and replenish our cooler etc.
I also remember my first trip across the "mighty" Mackinac Bridge with my parents to visit the same relatives. My first time driving across my favorite bridge was when I was 16; my grandfather allowed me to drive his car from the UP to the LP. I still love that drive over that marvelous piece of steel today. I tell my friends my dream job would be driving people back and forth over my favorite bridge. I am looking forward to crossing that bridge in two weeks!!

By Thomas Baird (Thomas) on Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 05:30 pm:

Hi, Paul.

I'll have 2 watch the video again 2 b sure, as I've only seen it once. Maybe he didn't, but when I get a chance, I'll check again.

By Theresa R. Brunk (Trb0013) on Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 06:34 pm:

Well, when I was around five, our family set out for Canada from Grand Haven where my father was stationed. We would travel all night and sleep in the car at Macinaw waiting for the first ferry. Then on to the Soo where we would take the second ferry over to Sault Ste. Marie Canada. The wait for that ferry was sometimes a few hours in a large parking lot in front of St. Mary Church. A year later my Father was transferred to the Soo, and we didn't have to make that 2 ferry trip any more. Our trip always ended in Batchawana Bay on the Canadian side because that is where my Grandmother and Grandfathers camp was. My love for Lake Superior was born on Batchawana Bay.

By Jeffrey P. Carlson (Dlineman) on Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 08:48 pm:


By Thomas Baird (Thomas) on Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 09:10 pm:

OK, Paul, I saw the video again, and Kelly didn't marry either girl. He worked 4 the ferries the Summers of 1939 through 1941, but actually worked on the boats the latter 2 years. BTW, he fibbed about his age 2 get his maritime papers, and was only 14 when he started (people thought he was 18 or 19), so the relationships with those girls were just puppy love, as he called it. Hey, Theresa, do you still vacation at Batchawana Bay, Canada? My wife and I have been going up there every Summer since 1986.

By Robert Goniea (Rjgoniea) on Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 10:29 pm:

Just wondering, did Neil Harri take the bird's eye photo?

Kidding, of course.:)

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