Mar 14-01

Past-E-Mail: Cam Notes - 2001: March: Mar 14-01
Historic funeral procession    ...scroll down to share comments
Coming this summer    ...scroll down to share comments

Charlie at Pasty Central on Wednesday, March 14, 2001 - 06:32 am:

Besides the daily pictures we bring you on the Pasty Cam, Pasty Central is host to dozens of fascinating U.P. websites. One of the most recent additions is from the Pine Mountain Music Festival: Read about the Italian Hall Disaster, and be sure to include this historic event in your travel plans to the U.P. this coming summer.

Last we heard, summer is still coming :o)

By Daryl Laitila on Wednesday, March 14, 2001 - 09:21 am:

The first picture is from Nancy Ohlde's extended family albums: The funeral took place at Anna's church, St. Joseph's (now St.Paul's) in Calumet, for victims of the Italian Hall disaster. Anna, or Big Annie, is one of the main characters in the new opera that is having its world premiere in the Upper Peninsula this summer.

Do any of you have some interesting memories of the Italian Hall disaster that have been passed on to you from your parents or grandparents? The disaster took place in 1913, so it's important that these stories are preserved for future generations.

By Ray, Michigan on Wednesday, March 14, 2001 - 01:13 pm:

Thanks for the wonderful website, Charley and Daryl. I am new to the area but I know how important it is to record the stories from the past. Some of them may not be 100 percent true (88 years after the event), but history will sort it all out. The terrible 1913 tragedy deserves to be remembered for all time to come.

By Jean McGrath Mi. on Wednesday, March 14, 2001 - 06:35 pm:

If some of you are like me,when you read about this terrible tragedy,you want more info. I did a web search on Google using "Italian Hall tragedy", the info out there is awesome. Here is one of the best that I found.

By Judy, MI on Wednesday, March 14, 2001 - 07:45 pm:

Jean, thank you for passing along such a wonderful site. My parents and grandparents all worked for C&H and I've heard this story many times. Truly heartbreaking.

By CheddarJohn on Thursday, March 15, 2001 - 01:44 am:

I know I have the words to the Woody Guthrie song here somewhere. I'll try to find them and post them.

All that's left of the building are the arches--posted on this forum previously.

In 1996 I was given a tour of the Union Building--the owner was trying to sell, I guess. Anyway, there were lists of victims hanging on the walls on the second floor.

"Big Annie of Calumet" is a children's book about the disaster. I found a copy among the trolls in Ann Arbor and bought it. I think the review I wrote is on .

Thanks for the info, Charlie!

By R Somero CA on Thursday, March 15, 2001 - 02:03 am:

My uncle, Henry Snabb, told me he was there and he and his cousin were almost swept down the stairs in the rush out of the hall. His uncle pulled the two boys out of the way and saved their lives.

By Jean Mi. on Thursday, March 15, 2001 - 04:30 am:

Chedder John,here are the words to the song.


Take a trip with me in 1913
To Calumet, Michigan, in the copper country.
I'll take you to a place called Italian Hall
Where the miners are having their big Christmas ball.

I'll take you indoor, and up a high stair.
There's singin' and dancin', it's heard everywhere,
I'll let you shake hands with the people you see
And watch the kids dance round the big Christmas tree.

There's singin' and dancin' and songs in the air,
An' the spirit of Christmas is there everywhere,
Before you know, you're friends with us all
And you're dancin' around and around in the hall.

You ask about work and you ask about pay;
They'll tell you they make less than a dollar a day,
Just workin' the copper claims, riskin' their lives,
So it's fun to spend Christmas with children and wives.

A little girl sits by the Christmas tree lights
To play piano, she gotta keep quiet.
To hear all this fun you would not realize
That the copper-boss thug-men are millin' outside.

The copper-thugs thugs [sic] stuck their heads through the door
One of them yelled and he screamed, "There's a fire!"
A lady, she hollered, "There's no such a thing!
Keep on with your party, there's no such thing."

A few people rushed, and it's only a few.
"It's just the scabs and the thugs foolin' you."
A man grabbed his daughter and he carried her down,
But the thugs held the door and he could not get out.

And then others followed, a hundred or more,
But most everybody remained on the floor.
The scabs and the thugs they still laughed at their joke,
And the children were smothered on the stairs by the door.

Such a terrible sight I never did see,
We carried our children back up to their tree.
The scabs and the thugs they still laughed at their spree,
And the children that died there were seventy-three.

The piano played a slow funeral tune,
But the town was lit up by a cold Christmas moon,
The parents they weep and the miners they moan,
"See what your greed for money has done."

By e.g. Whitmore Lake,Mi on Thursday, March 15, 2001 - 08:37 am:

My grandmother, Margaret Reilly, was in the hall at the time of the incident. She was about 10 years old at the time. She spoke of it on several occasions. She was trapped in a stairwell. I seem to recall her saying that the doors couldn't open. Later,She and my grandfather Robert had a photography studio in Calumet and lived in Laurium for many years. She passed away several years ago after living more than 90 years. We miss her.

By Billie, MI on Thursday, March 15, 2001 - 08:37 am:

Thanks for the Guthrie lyrics. They were new to me. There is considerable doubt as to what actually alarmed those at the Christmas party. It may have been a mistaken impression of a simple word or two in that festive crowd, full of anxiety about pay and health and safety.....hearing many different accents from Croation, Italian, Finnish, Irish, etc. The cause of the alarm and the crush at the door may have been more abstract than the Guthrie words say. Wasn't it true that the doors did not open outward?

By Jean, UP of Michigan on Thursday, March 15, 2001 - 11:18 am:

This was told to me by my mother. My mother's parents, William and Amelia Bonds, my mother and her 6 brothers and sisters were at the Italian Hall for the Christmas party. My mother was 10 at that time. Her youngest brother was 6 months old and had developed whooping cough. Because he was feeling so ill, they left the party early. Because they left early, their whole family survived that terrible disaster. My mother told me that her mother sobbed when she hear how many had been killed.

By Shana, Pittsburgh PA on Thursday, March 15, 2001 - 02:33 pm:

Here's a link so that you can listen to Guthrie's song in it's entirety. It's haunting to listen to the song while looking at the photo. I get a similar feeling when I listen to "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald".

By Nancy Nelson, WI on Thursday, March 15, 2001 - 07:33 pm:

Spent my formative years in the UP (all school years at Houghton High graduate of 1960) and thought I was pretty well aware of the history of the area. Had never heard of the fire in Calumet until I was listening to public radio on my way to work this past Christmas season! What a tragedy this was. I wonder what else I don't know???

By Bonnie from Wisconsin on Thursday, March 15, 2001 - 09:39 pm:

Shana from Pittsburgh: my mother was born that year and my father was 3 years old, so they were not there. However, I agree with you about the Edmund Fitzgerald! When my daughter and I visited White Fish Point a few years ago, I could NOT go into the museum and when we walked the beach,I had this eerie feeling in my upper back. I even have it when I think or talk about it!

By jeff,MN on Friday, March 16, 2001 - 12:37 am:

Thanks to Jean, Mi for Woody's lyrics!
The Daily Mining Gazette ran a story on the Italian Hall Tragedy in the 1980's reporting that the last of the two surviving perpetrators(confessing in a Montana hotel to a C & H representative in the 1920's), had said it was simply(and tragically) just a drunken prank.
Love your song Mr. Guthrie, but in the end it seems that partisan politics was not likely the real cause of this tragedy.
As they once said in New France:

C'est la vie

ps: Great Pics, Charlie et al

Bill Penprase,Ca. on Friday, March 16, 2001 - 02:42 pm:

I probably should not write to Pasty Com as often as I do but there are some thoughts I would like to share about this tragedy.

I spent a lot of time as a boy listening and asking questions. What impressed me most when I could get someone to talk about that disaster is the way the answers came. First of all it seemed to cause much pain to talk about it because of the intense sorrow felt. People did not want to talk about it; it hurt too much. It seemed that the whole community lost its will to live at that time.

Something most people don't realize now is just how terrifying the word FIRE was at that time. When we use the word fire it means a conflagration. The shouted word FIRE was always used in the Copper Country mines as a warning that a blast was about to be set off. They didn't call out FIRE IN THE HOLE as they often do now. Under the circumstances in the community, mining people could think that the place was about to be blown up. Possibly the perpetrator intended his word to be taken that way.

Unfortunately the guilty were never caught. Such sorrow should never have visited the Copper Country.

By God Bless the Children USA on Sunday, March 18, 2001 - 10:12 am:

jeff,MN friday March 16, 2001
It was the partisan politics that brought thease drunken thugs to Calumet Michigan.

By Ceylan Özerengin, Istanbul/Turkey on Monday, March 19, 2001 - 07:40 pm:

A friend of mine suggested me this link and he especially asked me to view the black-and-white funeral picture. I hadn't understood at the time why I should be viewing a funeral picture. But now I do... So it's the first time ever I get to know about this tragic event that took place at a time when even my mom wasn't born. And when I scrolled down and read the words of the song "1913 Massacre", I cried. And who wouldn't cry for the death of 73 children ? I'm not American, not even Christian but please as a community accept my prayers for those unlucky kids. I believe prayers are never belated and the souls of the dead - children especially - who are in Heaven will hear them and feel thankful. God bless you all.

By Julia Raymond, Dryden, MI on Friday, August 1, 2003 - 10:15 am:

I am currently teaching The Time of the Copper Moon to 13 3rd grade students. I am very much interested in any information I can share with my students to help make the time period and Big Annie come alive. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I just found this web site. I start on Aug. 4 - 8. Thanks, Julia Raymond

By Frank, St. Charles IL on Friday, August 1, 2003 - 11:56 am:

Julia, see this Google search to get you started.

By b in gb on Friday, July 1, 2005 - 08:12 pm:
here is a song called 1913 massacre pt 2 ..Written from the perspective of the man who called the end of his life

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