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February 2003
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On This Date

Ten Years Ago

The front-page story in February of 1993 concerned the recent bids for the BICS gym addition, all of which were too high. The architect's estimate had been $750,000; the low bid (of 7) was $952,000. The School Board and the architect began working with the low bidder to devise a way to change the specifications so a building that satisfies most requirements can be built for an affordable price. After several meetings, and consultation with Island contractor Gary Damstra about likely costs, a reduced program was agreed on and the low bidder, Hallmark Construction of Traverse City, was given a contract.

Cindy Gillespie and Tom Cole organized a Road Rally for mid-February in which 14 cars were sent careening around the Island by 23 mysterious clues based on history and geography. The winning team (Phil and Joan Becker, Loretta Slater, Colleen Martin, Karen Wojan, and Shelly Hayes) finished in 3 hours and 54 minutes.

Helen Collar wrote a letter to the editor defending the importance of the name “Darkeytown” by talking about what a handsome man “Darkey Mike” O'Donnell had been, with his dark skin and curly hair. He was “one of the dark-complected Irishmen whose brunet coloring is said to have come from the sailors who reached Ireland in the fleeing ships of the Spanish Armanda,” she said. “Let us not lose our unique and colorful place names.” Nevertheless the Peaine Board voted to rename Darkeytown as Barney's Lake Road, although Sloptown was allowed to remain instead of becoming Old Orchard Road.

Two men finally fulfilled their dream by walking here from Charlevoix. Ivan and John Whitley set off on a day when it was five below and the winds were whipping at 20 to 25 mph. With their pockets stuffed with candy bars and each carrying a thermos of coffee, they left at 7:45 a.m. and arrived before dark.
The Medical Center was designated as a Rural Health Clinic. “Under the program the Center can be assured its operating expenses will be covered permanently, assuming it passes periodic inspections.”

Twenty Years Ago

Nancy Gebert told an interesting story in the guise of a Deputy's Report: “While watching the ‘Icebreaker Martin’ try to clear a channel out to open water on the afternoon of January 24th, I observed a blue Chevy station wagon drive onto the ice toward the area where the Martin fish tug was working. After some fishtailing and sliding, the car reached two men who had been working on the ice. One of them got in with the driver, who then slid the car in an arc and began to head back to shore, a goal the car never reached. “Suddenly, before my startled eyes, the car began to sink. The right rear wheel started to go down first. My frightened yell brought Ham running from the other room. After what seemed like an interminable time, the door on the driver's side opened and the driver emerged.

“After watching for several long moments and realizing that the passenger was still in the car and would soon be headed for an icy bath as the car slowly settled through the ice, Ham headed for our apartment and his ski boots; skis would be the fastest way to take a lifeline out if a rescue attempt was necessary. "I continued to watch as the second man working on the ice started running toward the car. After what seemed to be an eternity of horror wondering if a life was going to be lost, the passenger emerged from the car. A knee-weakening sense of relief swept over me, and I announced to Ham that all were safe.

“The driver of the car then tied a line to it and began removing everything he could carry from inside. By this time the car had rolled completely onto its right side and was slowly disappearing from view. As its two passengers stood back and watched, the car finished its descent by emitting a crown of steam as Lake Michigan’s fingers closed around the engine. That'll be good bass fishing, another observer remarked from shore. The two young men then hiked back to shore with sheepish grins on their faces and the six-packs, propane torch, and flashlight they had rescued tucked under their arms.”

Thirty Years Ago

The winter 30 years ago was a lot like this one: cold enough, but hardly any snow. The road to the South End was open, and there was very little snowmobile action. This was a big break for the deer herd, both in terms of allowing them to forage and having a better chance against their predators, our coyotes. Because they have so many options no deer have showed up yet at the demonstration timber-cutting project organized by local DNR officer Bill Wagner on state land south of Greene's Lake. Rabbit hunters were quite successful, with Melvin Napont coming home with his limit on most attempts. Perry Gatliff was finally able to get his shanty onto the harbor, but after three days he hadn't had a bite–despite moving it from place to place.

The Game Club's resident pilot, Bill Welke, came up with an idea for placing the mineral-rich salt blocks prescribed for our deer on Garden Island: drop them from the air, with the assistance of bombardier Phil Gregg. A full day’s work was accomplished in a few minutes with this trick. Bill also offered a class in snowmobile safety to anyone from 5th-graders up, and apprised 13 students of the do's and don'ts. In yet another example of how the Island uses its best people to the fullest, Bill stepped in to take over his son Paul's position on the Zoning Board while Paul spends five months at Fort Leonard Wood. And he will serve on the Board of Revue.

Deaths reported included that of Elston Pischner and retired Coast Guardsman Robert Somerville, who had a cottage at the South End.

This issue included an episode of Phil Gregg's Beaver Tales about the first federal mail contract, given to Andy Gallagher and then Dan Green. They carried the mail from Cross Village in a sail boat, probably a double-ended 36' “Mackinac Boat.” The first steam vessel to go on the run, he said, was Captain Peter D. Campbell's Nellie in the 1890s. Because of the demand Captain Campbell decided the Nellie was too small and purchased the Eric L. Hackley, with which he established a regular mail and passenger run between the Island and Charlevoix.

Forty Years Ago

Now here was a winter: -14 in mid-January. “High banked roads, frosty pines glistening in the sun, fence posts wearing top hats of snow, the smell of burning maple and beech in the clear, crisp air, red-nosed youngsters trudging to school ... with a warm fire, good friends, and a deck of cards, this is a fine Beaver Island winter!”
Rogers Carlisle reported that two of the planted turkeys were begging for hand-outs. Ice-fishing was spotty, but Budger and Perry Gatliff were able to net some perch. An excursion to Lake Geneserath by some men from town was not successful, though. Passings included Robbie Gibson, Mrs. Herman Pischner, and Ralph Rutt's cat, which Milt Bennett credited with doing an exemplary job of keeping Lake G's shores free of dead fish.

Dick LaFreniere, never a Republican, received a rocking chair with a card saying, "Thanks for all your help in the last election. George Romney." He swore he would never sit in it --until he discovered it was a practical joke played by Gary Richardson and Bud Miller, two friends in Mancelona. That made it okay, and from that point on it was hard to get him out of it.

On the school honor role were current Islanders Rich Gillespie, Ron Wojan, Sandy LaFreniere, Jeane Wojan, and Ed Wojan.

Alvin LaFreniere came home from CMU between semesters.

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