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Just Yesterday

               An Unnatural Mother
   It’s interesting to see how differently we look at certain crimes today than we did a century or more ago.

   A June 3, 1903 edition of The Evening Times Press newspaper in Bay City displayed a small story on what it called an “unnatural mother,” who had led her young daughter into a life of prostitution.

   Although some might thing this was a highly unusual turn of events in a local family’s life, it turns out that there often were stories about parents leading children into lives of crime in order to make enough money to survive.

   While there were millions of dollars to be made in Bay City during the lumbering era, most of that ended up in the hands of what we now call the “one percent.” The thousands of laborers toiling in the lumber camps and sawmills and related industries made low wages and usually not enough alone to support a family.

   When something happened to the husband and father in the family, female members had to find ways to bring income home. Usually the mothers would take in laundry or work outside the home cleaning the houses of the wealthy.

   In this 1903 case, the mother decided to sell her daughter, a crime in any century, but how it was handled when discovered was a different story.

   Bay City had a long-time policeman, Andrew Wyman, who had worked as a truant officer and health inspector for the Bay City police and rose in the ranks to captain. He had been informed that the underage girl was working in a local bagnio and ordered officers to take her into custody.

   She was brought into the police station where Wyman questioned her and was surprised at her belligerent attitude who demanded to know what power the police had over her.

   Wyman sent for the girl’s mother who arrived at the station a short time later. According to the account:
The mother “admitted to the captain that she knew her daughter was leading a life of shame and that she had given her consent to it. In explanation the so-called mother said her daughter was making a good living and that so far as she was concerned the conduct of the girl was all right.”

   The story continued that the girl’s father, a mechanic, had been kept in the dark about the activities of the daughter who had been working in the bordello for about nine months. They told him that she had been earning money doing housework for a well-to-do family in town.

   Wyman said he learned of the situation from a married sister of the girl who was outraged at the fact the girl was turned out for prostitution.

   After spending the night in the police lockup, the girl’s attitude had calmed. Police Chief Nathaniel Murphy questioned the girl’s mother again along with Wyman and got her to declare she would not allow such behavior to continue.

   In today’s world, the mother certainly would have been charged with a crime, most likely a felony, and would have served time in jail and the girl would have been removed from the home.

   However, after Murphy and Wyman questioned her they allowed the girl to be taken home by the mother with the promise to keep her home and out of such a depraved existence. 
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   It is difficult for me to believe that it has been 50 years since the tragedy of Apollo 1 claimed the lives of three American heroes and even more astounding that very few people even know about it.

   The death of three American astronauts, the first fatalities in the U.S. space program, is barely recognized as being anything more than a tragic accident when it is recalled at all.

   For those who don’t know about it, here are the facts:

   On Jan. 27, 1967 three astronauts were taking part in pre-flight testing of the first of the planned Apollo program flights which eventually would lead to a Moon landing.  The space program had been announced six years earlier by President John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address in which he vowed that America would be the first to land on the Moon in the Sixties decade.

   There had been a series of sub-orbital and orbital flights by lone astronauts in the Mercury program, followed by two-man missions in the Gemini series leading up to the three-man Apollo missions. 

   The first Apollo crew had been chosen to include one of the original seven astronauts, Lt. Col. Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, 40, who had flown on both Mercury and Gemini missions earlier.  Along with him were younger astronauts Edward H. White II, 36, and Lt. Cmdr. Roger B. Chaffee, 31.

   On that fateful day, the three were practicing a simulated launch sequence, but the actual launch was planned for Feb. 21.  The Saturn rocket beneath the module was not fueled however after being strapped in and the hatch locked from the inside, Chaffee radioed that he smelled smoke.

   Within seconds, flames engulfed the interior of the command module and in less than 20 seconds all three were dead.  The hatch could only be opened with a ratchet tool but there was no time for it to be used before the men were overcome.

   Their deaths shocked the nation.  It should be pointed out that every rocket launch in the space program was televised live with network commentators becoming experts in all of NASA’s terminology and workings, helping to explain to the public details of the launches and missions.  Fortunately, this had been only a test and not the real launch or it would have occurred in real time on live TV.

   I recall people feeling the loss as if these were men were their own relatives.  Much attention was paid afterward to details of their funerals.  On Jan. 30 the bodies were taken by air to Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C.

   Both Grissom and Chaffee were buried in Arlington National Cemetery, while White was taken to the U.S. Military Academy Cemetery at Highland Falls, N.Y. for burial.

   Meanwhile the Apollo program was halted as experts investigated the cause of the blaze and to seek improvements to the module and electronic equipment inside it.  The investigators revealed that the fire most likely was caused by a spark from a short circuit in a tangle of wiring in front of the commander’s seat.  Because of the pure oxygen poured into the cabin, the fire spread rapidly.

   The extensive investigation resulted in a number of changes that made the entire vehicle and launch safer and more durable, with adequate escape capabilities.  The changes resulted in a perfect safety record for the rest of the Apollo program including the landing on the Moon.

   That is what is so astounding to me.  This tragedy took place at the start of 1967, and despite the delay for the investigation, the actual landing on the Moon with Apollo 11, occurred only 30 months later.

   The space program had gone from a few spins around the Earth by John Glenn in 1962, to astronaut Neil Armstrong hopping onto the surface of the Moon in his “giant leap” for mankind.

   Still, it is sad that people don’t remember the sacrifice made by the Apollo 1 crew and how their deaths lead to the most dramatic exploration event in history.
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  There was a time when people did not clog the highways bumper-to-bumper on the 4th of July Holidays.
    That was all before the automobile and if a family wanted to go on an outing for the day, preferably somewhere cool and fun, there was the beach.

   Wenona Beach, on the Saginaw Bay just north of West Bay City, was the destination of many, although it promised to be crowded.  One could get there by horse-drawn buggy, but then there was the problem of keeping the horse tied up, fed, and watered. 

   The best thing was the street railway which brought people to the park on regular runs throughout the holiday.

   But how about for those folks who wanted to avoid that huge crowd?  Well, there was Linwood Park.  Since promoters didn’t want to compete with Wenona Beach on the Fourth, the Linwood Park celebration would be on the Fifth.

    Wenona Beach Casino advertised two stage play renditions of “Wanted A Wife” and “A Trip on the Races,”  performed by the Morris-Thurston Stock Company.  The ad also advised folks that there would be motorboat races and 4th of July fireworks.

    Linwood Beach promotions pointed out  that the real enjoyment, minus the hubbub of all the rides and games at the big park could be had at Linwood Park.

   Special railroad trains would make runs from the Pere Marquette station in Bay City at 8:30 a.m., 9:40 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m., 5:15 p.m. and 7 p.m. and trains would return at 10:58 a.m., 4:25 p.m., 6 p.m., and 10 p.m.

  The Park featured “good orchestras, bathing beach, bath house, bathing suits, row boats, good fishing, free ice water, refreshment stands, and lunch counters.” 

   The park also advertised that its spacious covered pavilion was open on all sides, and featured groves, picnic tables, and benches.

   The fare for the ride was 25 cents for adults and 15 cents for children, hopefully round trip, although the advertisements didn’t specify.  For a family of five, the day’s cost might be $1 or maybe $1.25.
   That may not sound like much but for many workers that was pretty close to a day’s pay, and a half-day’s pay for others. 

   Still, if the family could take a picnic basket, go swimming, listen to a brass band play some tunes, enjoy the fresh air away from the foundries and mills, that was a good thing.

   Also for 25 cents, a boat excursion into the bay was possible, even on Sunday the 4th.  To avoid the sweltering city, people could take an excursion boat down the river to the bay for a 3 hour 30 minute ride.  For a more romantic effect, there were moonlight excursions, also for a 25 cent fare.

   The excursion boats could be boarded at docks at the foot of Third Street, presumably alongside the bridge.

   For the more adventurous, there was a visit to Tawas Beach on Tawas Bay.  The round trip fare on a train included supper on the way there, and on Monday’s return in the morning, breakfast was included.  The cost: $5 per person.   The ad didn’t say if the price included two nights’ lodging—if not, the cost would be nearly double.
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  Local Man Fought Napoleon
   Over the years we have found all sort of interesting life stories of local residents, although sadly the public only learns of their feats in an obituary notice.

   That was the case of West Bay City resident Louis Reip, who was most likely the oldest man in the Saginaw Bay region at 105 years, who passed away May 3, 1903.  We mark the 113th anniversary of his passing.

   As a centenarian, Reip may have had any number of life stories and adventures to tell, but the one that might be the most interesting was as a teenage soldier he fought against French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo.

   And he carried the scars to prove it. 

   Reip was born in Blessberg, located in Thuringia and part of the Kingdom of Prussia, on April 5, 1798.  At 17, he joined the army just as Napoleon was moving his army east to fight the coalition of England and Prussia and other allies.

   He was assigned to a fighting division under Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher and saw combat first at the Battle of Ligny on June 16, 1815 and two days later at the decisive Battle of Waterloo.  It was there Reip suffered a severe wound to his right hand by a French saber, which rendered his hand nearly useless for the rest of his life.

   Still, Reip stayed in the army for six years, also fighting with the division in Denmark.  During a battle there, he musket ball struck him in the left leg and he was stranded on the field for nearly 12 hours among his fallen comrades.  In fact, he was found alive by a crew sent out to bury the dead soldiers and was taken back to his unit for medical care.

   He was married in 1842 and in 1852 moved his family to Canada where he worked as a shoemaker for many years.  He relocated to West Bay City in 1887, most likely because two of his sons and a daughter lived here. He resided with his daughter’s family at 207 S. Park St. (S. Warner St.) and later with son Charles’ family at 315 S. Catherine St.

   According to a news account, “Mr. Reip, who was a familiar figure on the streets, was up and out of doors Saturday, but was not feeling well, having suffered from two or three congestive chills.”  He passed away in his bed later that night.

   While his wife had passed away years earlier, Reip was survived by sons John Reip, of Flint; Charles and Henry Reip, of West Bay City; and Mrs. James Cass, of West Bay City; and Mrs. Murphy, of Chicago.

   A funeral mass was held in St. Mary’s Catholic Church with burial in St. Patrick Cemetery.
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                               FEAR OF FLAMES
(This column includes corrected information from its earlier publication on construction of the ships.) 

Fire was the ever-present fear for those who owned or worked in the scores of sawmills up and down the Saginaw River in the 19th century.

   With thousands of machines and saw blades whirling and whining, any spark could ignite the tons of sawdust that accumulated in mountainous stacks.  Some fires became major disasters as the one in 1892 that engulfed nearly 50 square blocks of the South End killing one resident and leaving hundreds of families homeless.

   Each month, it seemed, fires big and small tasked the fire departments on both sides of the river to their limits, and it was with extreme bravery that the firemen were able to limit the damage and loss of life.

   Besides the lumber industry, West Bay City, the community opposite its big brother on the east side of the river, was home to the largest shipbuilding operations in Michigan.  Between the two major shipbuilders, Wheeler and Davidson, most of the best and larges Great Lakes ore and freight carriers plying the waters were constructed here.

    Tons of lumber were needed to construct the ship’s superstructure and interior, from pilot house on down to the sub-decks and frame.  Davidson’s yard produced some of the largest wooden ships ever built on the Great Lakes.

   To plane and cut the lumber to size required a major supply of raw-cut wood, sawyers, and planing mill operators.  So the possibility of fire also was a danger in the shipyards.

   One hundred twenty years ago this month, the Davidson shipyard could have disappeared in smoke and flames except for the extraordinary efforts of local firefighters.

   Shortly after noon on April 21, 1896 flames ignited near one of the kilns being operated to treat the wood ribs and quickly spread, engulfing two kilns and then the planing mill itself.  According to news accounts, a general fire alarm was sounded and three West Bay City fire companies responded.

    Two of the hose companies arrived first to put water on the growing conflagration with the other minutes later, and then two more companies from Bay City responded to assist.

   One of the ships under construction, a schooner identified only as “No. 73” had been due for launching and stood on the stocks within 30 feet of the burning mill.  The framework of the 285-foot keel caught fire, but firefighters quickly doused the flames limiting the damage.

   Officials said the repairs could be made including scraping of the hull and the delayed launch would take place.

   An investigation was ordered to determine the exact cause of the fire.  Damages were sizeable, estimated to be $20,000.
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   Shipbuilding had been one of Bay City’s most lucrative industries next to the lumbering business, and local residents certainly have heard the names Davidson, Wheeler, and Defoe.

   While these were major local shipbuilding magnates, another name of a pioneer some might not recognize is George F. Williams.Test

   According to an 1893 biographical sketch in a book on the history of Saginaw and Bay Counties, Williams was an accomplished shipbuilder, having worked in all phases of the construction process in the Buffalo, N.Y. area.  He was born on Sept. 27, 1835, the son of a cooper in Cazenovia, N.Y., Williams received his education in Rochester.

   He first worked as a ship carpenter, hiring on a crew in 1851 in Buffalo.  He worked his way up over the following 15 years to assistant superintendent of the Union Dry Docks, a firm that had flourished from the days of the War of 1812.

   In 1886, Williams relocated to West Bay City, the local shipbuilding center, and became a partner of F. W. Wheeler who had a large shipbuilding concern northeast of the railroad yards in the  West Bay City “Banks” district.

   He also convinced Wheeler to expand his business but to gain more contracts capital had to be raised, so he urged a stock company be formed.  That occurred in 1888 with Wheeler as president, and Williams as vice-president and superintendent of the yards.  Other officers were F. L. Gilbert, secretary, and John R. Goodfellow, treasurer.

   The restructuring meant Williams was in charge of actually constructing the ships, ordering materials, hiring construction crews, and overseeing the projects to the finished product, while Wheeler was the lead businessman, meeting with potential customers including government agencies, securing and signing contracts, designing specifications, and arranging the delivery of the ships.  
   The normal number of men employed in the Wheeler yards was 500 to 600, making it one of the larger employers in the Bay Cities, but during peak construction work, the number doubled to as many as 1,200. 

   Williams also established the company’s large dry-dock facility, allowing the firm to repair river and Great Lake vessels, large and small, further increasing the company’s bottom line.  The firm secured numerous government contracts such as one in 1892 in which four light ships were constructed.

   That same year, the company built a large wooden freighter and several steamers.

   It was the driving force of Williams prolonging the life of the shipbuilding company for more than decade after joining the partnership.

   He was married to Jane Tripp, of Rochester, N.Y. in 1863, and they had one son, George Jr. who later went to work for his father in Wheeler’s steel department.

   They resided in a comfortable home at 211 King St. in West Bay City, and were members of the Presbyterian Church.  Williams also was a member of the DeMolay Lodge 498, F. & A. M. of Buffalo.

   Mrs. Williams died in 1901, while he survived her until 1908.  They are buried in Brookside Cemetery in Watertown, N.Y.
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                                   PERILS OF RAILS
   Living in an era with so many automobile traffic deaths each year—32,719 in 2013—one might believe that if there were no cars, no horrific transportation deaths would occur.

   In the lumbering era, when there were no automobiles, there still were ways for people to suffer and die from mishaps.

   For example, 38-year-old John Braun, a shoemaker by trade, stood on the platform of the Pinconning train station. At about 8:30 a.m. on July 12, 1895 Braun was chatting with Louis Landsberg about issues in the Knights of the Maccabees fraternal organization in which Braun was the local tent’s Record Keeper.

   Braun, married and the father of three, had lived in Pinconning for about five years.

    After his conversation with Landsberg, according to official reports, Braun started to walk across the Michigan Central Railroad tracks.  However, the Gladwin train was backing up at the moment Braun stepped onto the rail and, without warning, he was struck on the shoulder by the reversing passenger coach.

   The impact knocked him down and wheels of the car ran over his neck, severing his head, and death was instantaneous.  All this occurred as his friend watched from the platform.

   Another tragic case occurred on July 14, 1894, involving little Charles McRorie, son of James McRorie residing in a home at the corner of 21st and James streets.  The little boy, only 18 months old, wandered out onto the railroad tracks near his house, and as he toddled into the path of an F&PM freight train.

   While not fatal, the injuries were extremely severe.  When the train approached and the boy tried to run off the tracks, he fell and his legs were mangled by the wheels. 

   Doctors were called to the home but could not save the boy’s legs and had to amputate them.

   The family filed a $10,000 lawsuit against the railroad on behalf of boy and it was revealed that a switch engine was pushing freight cars ahead when the accident occurred.  The family’s attorneys claimed that the engineer and the switchman were flirting with a woman in a house nearby and their negligence caused the boy’s injuries.

    Attorneys also said the woman was identified and was willing to testify against the railroad that the two men were flirting with her instead of paying attention to their duties.

   Rather than risk the case on such testimony, the railroad attorney J.C. Weadock, agreed to a settlement of $8,500, $6,666 to the boy and $1,333 to the parents.

   Even before the trolley cars were electrified, the horse-drawn versions also proved a hazard in some instances.

   On Dec. 11, 1890, little 12-year-old Hattie Johnson was walking up Washington Avenue near 12th Street (Columbus Avenue) along with another girl.  Hattie began running across the rails into the path of a fast-moving horse-drawn street car.

   Hattie was struck down by the horse which stepped on her and she landed directly on the rails.  Fortunately, the snow scraper in front of the car snagged her dress and began dragging her so the wheels didn’t run over her.

   The driver finally managed to halt the horse and back up the car slightly to unpin Hattie’s dress from the scraper.

   She was carried to her sister’s house at 12th and Fraser streets where doctors were summoned who examined her, finding no broken bones, but severe bruising from being stepped on by the horse and being dragged.

   The Bay City Evening Press offered a bit of editorial advice on the practices of children dashing across the tracks in order to beat the swift-moving street cars.

   “Not a day passes but the streets are filled with children who play upon the car tracks and seem to take particular delight in standing upon the rails until the car is almost upon them.  Boys will run after the cars and jump on and off the platforms and the wonder is that they always escape without injury.”

   The editorial continued that the drivers have to keep their attention on the road in front of them and when accidents occur, they are criticized “when they are not to blame.”

   “A few arrests by the police would probably put a stop to this very dangerous pastime and serve as a wholesome warning to the boys.”

   Railroad yards also were hazardous for youngsters using the boxcars on which to climb and even ride when they are being moved from track to track.  In one incident, a 15-year-old was with several companions in the Michigan Central yard between Sherman and Johnson streets in December 1891.

   One of their adventures involved uncoupling cars that sat on an incline with wheels blocked so they would not move.  However, the boys would pull out the blocks and jump aboard the cars as they moved down the hill.  When the car reached the bottom, they would couple them back together so the switch engine eventually would be used by railroad men to move the cars back into place.

   One the day of the accident, Henry Schmaltz, who lived in a home at Third and Sherman streets, rode one of the cars to the bottom and was attempting to couple two cars together when he dropped the pin.  As he picked it up, his head came into line with the moving car coming down the line and it was caught between the two cars as they came together.

    Henry’s skull was crushed by the impact and he died instantly.  His body was carried to his home and his parents were distraught with grief.  A coroner’s jury found no fault with the railroad and recorded the death as accidental.

   These are not isolated cases but a few of many that occurred each year from the time railroads appeared in Bay County in 1869 through the middle of the 20th century.
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                                     IS THIS FUN, OR WHAT?
   Do you think with all of the entertainment available today you could beat what folks did in 1885 for fun?

   While there was no television, motion pictures, personal computers (or computers of any kind), digital tablets, or smart phones—even electricity was a rarity—there was roller skating.

   Even in the dead of winter when people might have gone out onto the frozen river to ice skate, crowds flocked to the two roller rinks in Bay City. 

   One was in the South End, the Fremont Avenue Roller Rink, on the southwest corner of Fremont and South Water streets, while the Bay City Roller Rink was on the southwest corner of Washington Avenue and Ninth Street where the Bay County Historical Museum now stands.

   It was announced that on January 15 there would be “no end of amusement” when the Bay City rink offered skaters a chance at a prize by competing in a multi-tasking obstacle course competition.
   According to the announcement in the newspaper here’s how it was to work:

   “The conditions of the race are to start out on skates, go twice around the floor, then crawl through two-suspended barrels and two barrels placed on the surface, then skate once around the hall again, saw a stick of wood, then around again, up and down on an inclined plane, climb over a pair of bars, around again, eat a piece of pie with hands behind the back, around again, take off skates, climb to top of ladder for a $5 gold piece.”

   Does that sound like a swell time or what?

   Not to be left out, the Fremont rink earlier had a children’s raffle and little Lizzie Beebe, daughter of William A. Beebe, dealer in fresh and salt fish and dredge company owner residing at 510 South Center (Cass Avenue), was the winner.  She drew a large wax doll as the prize.

    The South End rink was the venue for a series of races in March which drew large crowds to witness one of the best skaters, one who held the champion’s badge, Charles Newcomer, who was challenged by Alley Malloy. 

   With the Gold Badge of Bay City on the line, the two men lined up for the one-mile race and when the horn sounded, took off fairly and evenly.  However, Malloy fell down in the seventh lap to allow Newcomer to forge ahead, and he continued to gain ground, winning by one and one-half laps, doing it in 4 minutes and 15 seconds, according to the news account. 

   It later was determined that a bushing in one of Malloy’s skates slipped out and caused him his problems and the gold badge.  Still, that was entertainment for a lot of folks.

   Not only did crowds gather at the rink for skating, there were other events staged there and on March 10, 1885, there was a performance by Friedberg & Lescher, bicyclists supreme!

   Among their two-wheeled demonstrations was bicycle polo—something I once played in college using cut down brooms as mallets, all bashing at a soccer ball.  Instead of an indoor rink we rode our wheeled steeds on an asphalt basketball court!

   Besides acrobatic tricks on the wheels, the pair engaged in bicycle racing, and even some monocycle (unicycle) exhibition.
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                          ALMOST OUT OF REACH
   If you were one of those hard-working people who populated Bay City in 1891, you might have earned between $1.50 and $2.00 per 10-hour day, so when it came to paying for entertainment, there wasn’t a large affordable selection.

   As an example, the Woods Opera House, constructed in 1886 as a state-of-the-art performance theater, with large parquet and gallery, balcony, and numerous box suites and loges, had an abundance of programs over the early years, but it was costly for the average family to attend.

   On the Thursday night of Jan 8, 1891, a big show was staged in what was labeled the “New Opera House,” although it really wasn’t all that new by then.  The show was “The Gondoliers! a Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera.

   An advertisement claimed “The Gondoliers!” was to be staged with 50 artists and all of the original scenery and costumes from the Chicago Opera House.

   For a family of five to attend the show, they might only be able to get a general admission for the gallery in back on the main floor for 25 cents each, so that’s $1.25 or nearly a day’s pay.  But if the family planned on something special once in a while, this might be possible.

   However, the prices went up.  Usually the most expensive box suites were paid in advance, like season tickets, so they probably weren’t available to the general public, but the loges, those out-front first seats in the mezzanine, went for $1. 
   That five-member family might not be able to pay $5 for those seats which was three or almost four days’ pay.  The more well-to-do families would be sitting in those seats.

   Customers complained several weeks later that they were being gouged on their ticket prices when another production came to town called “Out in the Streets.”

   People were angered when they learned that the same troupe had performed the play in Grand Rapids’ Redmond Opera House, charging 10, 20, 30, and 50 cents depending on the seating location.

   However, when the play was to open here at Woods Opera House, the tickets were priced at 25, 50, and 75 cents, and $1.

   The Bay City Times editorialized that there appeared “no good reason why Bay City theater patrons should pay twice as much as those in Grand Rapids.”  

   The Opera House officials juggled questions from the Times reporter, trying to give a reason for the difference in prices, but the rationale was lost in the verbiage.  They claimed to be offering the best attractions so the prices were a bit higher, but that still didn’t really answer why the prices were lower in Grand Rapids.

   One explanation was the performances were held over the course of an entire week while it was only going to be one night in Bay City, so the costs were higher.

   As for that working family of five going to the theater and sitting in the cheap seats, a Grand Rapids family would only pay 50 cents total for all of them to see this play, while the Bay City family would have to fork over another $1.25.
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                         I Recall the Lesson of Goose Lake
   It was 45 years ago this weekend when 200,000 or more mostly young people arrived (some say invaded) a patch of land alongside Goose Lake in Jackson County.   Labeled “Michigan’s Woodstock” because it was a giant rock festival fashioned after the 1969 mega-rock festival in upstate New York.

   The Goose Lake Rock Festival was about one-third smaller in attendance, although it was pretty much at capacity; some who attended both noted it was much better as far as infrastructure.

   There was a large crew of security hired to keep order, while a Michigan motorcycle gang arrived offering its services but organizers declined the help noting the violence that occurred at the end of 1969 at the Altamont Rock Festival in which one person was murdered by a member of the Hell’s Angels gang.

   What was more striking for me at Goose Lake was how well organized and relatively safe the place was for the four-days of the gathering.

   I had started working for a newspaper as a reporter in May and took a few days off to join in the “experience” of the Woodstock-type affair.  As a young reporter, when I got back on the job Monday morning, I decided to jot down my thoughts in a column.

   I reprise that piece, written by that 24-year-old in the midst of the Vietnam War and the emotional Civil Rights movement.  Students and other young people had their own ideas that sometimes ran counter to what the older generation deemed appropriate.

   With that in mind:

            Well, more than 200,000 citizens of the Woodstock Nation are back in their homes or heading across country for another festival.
            Some of the Jackson County residents are glad to see them go.  Others are not so happy.
            The New World, or Woodstock Nation, or Hippies, or if you prefer, the Goose Lake Generation brought a log of bread into the area.
            Contrary to what has been said by unsympathetic critics of those young people , most of them have jobs, by gasoline for their cars, fancy fringed and beaded clothes, food for their stomachs, and more beer and wine (than pot) for their minds.
            Guitar, drums, tambourine, and recording equipment sales are out of sight—and guess who purchases the majority of these?
            At Goose Lake, there were thousands of tents and tens of thousands of sleeping bags and even some fancy camping trucks.
            If even half of the people there paid to get in (the estimate is actually 75 percent paid) at $15 per ticket, that amounts to $1.5 million—hardly chicken-feed.
            The whole idea of Goose Lake or Woodstock is to have a place relatively free from what many view an overly organized and regulated society, just for a day or two.  Some may stay a week or a year, knowing all the while they will return to the normal life of earning a dollar and conforming to most of the societal rules.
            Now comes the main objection most “straights” use to condemn the young—drugs.
            It’s true.  Drug traffic at Woodstock or Goose Lake, or any rock concert, is open.  In a carnival atmosphere the barkers shout their wares, Hash, dope, Mexican grass, THC, Mesc.
            It is a shame that some of the kids end up in hospitals or graveyards, or worse, hooked for life.
            Does it make sense that banning a rock concert or festival, insulting  and degrading youth in general or depending on a reactionary movement to stomp out non-conformity will end the traffic?
            If the kids want the stuff they’ll get it and probably just as easily over a period of time.
            The real villains are the big-time pushers , the organized crime network people who make a living at ruining other people’s lives.
            Goose Lake was no exception.
            Walking across a parking lot drive, I noticed a large white Cadillac, with air conditioning, a bit unusual even for kids with money.  Four men were seated inside the car and they were not there to see the show, just their profits.
            Who’s going to stop them?  You, me, or maybe President Nixon?
            The point is people will experiment no matter how expensive it is or legally risky.
            Instead of busting kids with grass, an easy mark for any official, nab the pusher or the importer.  Put him away for 10 or 20 years instead of your son or daughter who has no other motive than to have a good time.
            (At the festival) religious and racial bias is almost no-existent.  Lack of bread and no job for a while doesn’t draw sneers and barbs.  Free love is exactly that.  The music is not degraded by musicians but encouraged and used as a basis of experimentation.
            Promoters may tag the Goose Lake with such attractions as “Peace, Love, and Music.”  Almost 2,000 years ago a Man in Palestine preached two thirds of that philosophy—the music is just a bonus.

                                 GO TO THE BEACH
    There was a time when people did not clog the highways bumper-to-bumper on the 4th of July Holidays.

    That was all before the automobile and if a family wanted to go on an outing for the day, preferably somewhere cool and fun, there was the beach.

   Wenona Beach, on the Saginaw Bay just north of West Bay City, was the destination of many, although it promised to be crowded.  One could get there by horse-drawn buggy, but then there was the problem of keeping the horse tied up, fed, and watered. 

   The best thing was the street railway which brought people to the park on regular runs throughout the holiday.

  Wenona Beach Casino advertised two stage play renditions of “Wanted A Wife” and “A Trip on the Races,” performed by the Morris-Thurston Stock Company. The ad also advised folks that there would be motorboat races and 4th of July fireworks.

   But how about for those folks who wanted to avoid that huge crowd?  Well, there was Linwood Park.  Since promoters didn’t want to compete with Wenona Beach on the Fourth, the Linwood Park celebration would be on the Fifth.
    Linwood Beach promotions pointed out  that the real enjoyment, minus the hubbub of all the rides and games at the big park could be had at Linwood Park.

   Special railroad trains would make runs from the Pere Marquette station in Bay City at 8:30 a.m., 9:40 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m., 5:15 p.m. and 7 p.m. and trains would return at 10:58 a.m., 4:25 p.m., 6 p.m., and 10 p.m.

  The Park featured “good orchestras, bathing beach, bath house, bathing suits, row boats, good fishing, free ice water, refreshment stands, and lunch counters.” 

   The park also advertised that its spacious covered pavilion was open on all sides, and featured groves, picnic tables, and benches.

   The fare for the ride was 25 cents for adults and 15 cents for children, hopefully round trip, although the advertisements didn’t specify.  For a family of five, the day’s cost might be $1 or maybe $1.25.

   That may not sound like much but for many workers that was pretty close to a day’s pay, and a half-day’s pay for others. 

   Still, if the family could take a picnic basket, go swimming, listen to a brass band play some tunes, enjoy the fresh air away from the foundries and mills, that was a good thing.

   Also for 25 cents, a boat excursion into the bay was possible, even on Sunday the 4th.  To avoid the sweltering city, people could take an excursion boat down the river to the bay for a 3 hour 30 minute ride.  For a more romantic effect, there were moonlight excursions, also for a 25 cent fare.

   The excursion boats could be boarded at docks at the foot of Third Street, presumably alongside the bridge.

   For the more adventurous, there was a visit to Tawas Beach on Tawas Bay.  The round trip fare on a train included supper on the way there, and on Monday’s return in the morning, breakfast was included.  The cost: $5 per person.   The ad didn’t say if the price included two nights’ lodging—if not, the cost would be nearly double.

                            *                     *                      *


  Some thought it was an April Fool’s Day prank.

   A woman ran through the halls yelling:  “Fire!”

   Then they smelled the smoke and panic set in for some while others began moving in an orderly fashion to the fire escapes.

   On April 1, 1940, exactly 75 years ago, the elegant landmark Ridotto Building on the corner of Madison and Center avenues was consumed by flames.

   The gray brick building, a three-story structure, originally designed as an elegant entertainment venue for Bay City’s elite lumber baron families, began to implode in less than an hour.

   A secretary, Hilda Vogtmann, saw smoke coming from an elevator shaft at about 2:30p.m., and immediately began warning people.  She worked in the third floor offices of the Bay City Business College where 125 students were attending classes.

  Most of the students and personnel from other offices on the top two floors began descending on the fire escapes and some down an interior stairwell to a rear exit.  However, several students thought they were trapped because of the dense smoke and had opened a third-story window to jump when janitor George Walther saw them and guided them towards a fire escape.

   People in several law offices, a dance studio, a state Liquor Control Commission store, Social Security office, all escaped unharmed.

   The all-alarm fire brought every piece of equipment from Bay City’s eight fire stations but it was obvious after a half hour that the building was not going to be saved.  What worried fire commanders was it could spread to the Bay County Jail across the alley.  Sheriff Charles W. Kindermann evacuated his building, including 16 prisoners who were transferred to a city police lockup in City Hall.

   It was estimated that as the blaze attracted as many as 5,000 spectators lining sidewalks and packing Battery Park across Center Avenue.

   The Ridotto Building was gutted by the flames and officials estimated the loss at $150,000, which by today’s money is $2.5 million.

   The Ridotto was never rebuilt and that corner eventually became a tire store and now is the parking lot for the Jack and Alice Wirt Public Library.

   The fire ended 44 years of history for the landmark structure which began as a vision in 1895 by two brothers, Frank and Fremont Chesbrough, who were sons of a wealthy lumber baron.  They continued in the lumber industry in Michigan, amassing fortunes of their own.

   On the right is a sketch of Fremont Chesbrough and on the left is brother Frank.

   Originally called the Chesbrough Block when it was being built in 1895, they chose to name the structure “Ridotto,” an Italian word meaning “a place of entertainment.”  It also was a name given to elegant masquerade parties popular in England at the time.

   Thus, the elegant name, Ridotto, told the city’s wealthy community that this was to be an exclusive place of entertainment for them, attested to by the stylish third-floor ballroom, complete with bandstand, dining room, balcony, and stage which would allow for various types of performances.  The hall could seat 700.
   The first floor offered space for commercial enterprises and the second floor provided suites for business offices.

   When the lumber industry waned, the building was sold and converted entirely to offices and served at one time as a temporary post office and federal courthouse when the new federal building was under construction.

   Authorities said at least 175 people escaped that fire, which had started in the basement.  It was determined a cigarette tossed into the elevator shaft ignited dust which spread to other flammable materials in the basement.

                      *              *                  * 

                                   BAY CITY’S TOP TEAM

    Bay City marksmen once won the national shooting championship, and one of them held a record that stood for over 25 years.

    I often run across stories, little slices of local history long forgotten, which appeared in passing on the pages of the Bay City Times or its predecessors.  This was one of them.

   One picture accompanying a story caught my eye—a group of men in uniform under the title of “Bay City’s Championship Rifle Team.”

   These were local militia men from the unit known as the Peninsulars.

   It was a story printed sometime around 1907, reminiscing about the time when the city could boast of a top rifle team, one that had swept the awards in competition at the state level for years. The Michigan champions attracted the attention of the state’s military department, forerunner of the National Guard, in the 1880s.

   Bay City’s five-man Peninsulars Rifle Team was incorporated into the military’s 12-man state team which competed with other state militia teams in a national shootout.  That team competed in three successive years from 1881 to 1883.

  Included among the Bay City men was Thomas E. Webster who would capture the national.  In 1882, Webster established the record hitting bullseyes at 500 yards, with a perfect 35 of 35 score, 33 of 35 points at 200 yards, and 32 of 35 points at 600 yards, for an overall score of 100 of 105. 
   The Bay City team, with a number of familiar family names, included Webster, Robert B. Dolsen, John McEwan, Horace P. Warfield, and Robert S. Pratt.  Besides the Bay City five, the state team included two from Kalamazoo, three from Jackson, and one each from Port Huron and Flint.

   The competition was held at the Creedmoor club, home shooting range of the fledgling National Rifle Association, on Long Island. 

   In 1881 the team came in second, losing the championship by six points, but in 1882, buoyed by Webster’s top marksmanship, the team came in first using the old Sharp Rifle as used by the regular army for years.  In fact all five men scored perfect scores (as did two others in the Michigan team) at 500 yards, a feat that was impossible for other teams to accomplish.

    Webster was the team’s top shooter, of course, and he was tops in judging distance, elevation, and windage, information  he was able to convey to the rest of the team helping them raise their scores.  In the 1882 meet, Bay City’s R. S. Pratt was replaced by fellow Bay City man, W. C. Monroe.

   The Michigan team’s efforts in 1883 fell short because of a snafu with the ammunition which was ordered from a plant in Bridgeport, Conn.  The shipment came late and sat on the docks in New York City for three days in the broiling sun.  The paraffin melted from the cartridges and gummed the powder.  No other ammunition could be found at the time and using the flawed powder proved to be a disaster.

   The Bay City contingent members went on to successful careers and were influential men in Bay City.

  Webster, who was born in 1849, in Cooperstown, N. Y., earned a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1873 and came to Bay City shortly afterward.  He was elected probate judge in 1880.   He resided at 900 Fifth St. and had offices in the Eddy Block on Center Avenue.  He later became president of the Bay County Abstract Co., a secretary on the board of Mutual Savings and Loan Association, owned Webster Manufacturing Co., a foundry at 38th and Stanton streets.

   Robert B. Dolsen was one of the owners of Dolsen, Chapin & Co, lumber and salt manufacturers at 2901 N. Water St.  This major mill employed 130 men and was noted for cutting 22 million board feet of lumber a year.  He resided at 1715 Fifth St.

   John McEwan was an owner with his two brothers William and Alexander in the McEwan Bros. & Co., lumber mill on North Water Street east of the Water Works plant.  He resdied at 1401 Sixth St.  He later owned McEwan Land Co. 
   Horace P. Warfield was a foreman at the J. R. Hall mill, a salt and shingle manufacturer on the north side of Woodside east of the Water Works in Essexville.  Warfield later became the superintendent of Elm Lawn Cemetery.  He resided at the corner of Green and Ridge across from the cemetery.

   Robert S. Pratt became an insurance agent with offices at 208 Center Ave. and he resided at 506 Jefferson St.  He later became an accountant with a residence at 902 N. Jackson St.

   W. C. Monroe left Bay City shortly after the competition, relocating to Cleveland where he died a few years later.

    *                       *                    *

   There was big entertainment news this week (130 years ago), when some of the top performers were to put on a show in Bay City.

  That was one of the stories that caught my eye when examining an old Bay City newspaper.  Another was a humorous item in the wake of the 1884 Presidential election.

   The lumbering era was a time of magnificent wealth for a few and hard work with small pay envelopes for the many.  It meant the average family usually didn’t have the means to pay for entertainment on a regular basis, but this was different.

   For a small admission fee, the people could flock to the building on the corner of Washington Avenue and Ninth Street, where the Bay County Historical Museum now stands.

   It was known as the Bay City Roller Rink, a large roller skating palace in which local residents normally donned their skates and rolled around the lacquered floor.

  But on Monday Jan. 26, 1885 the best roller skating artist in Michigan, John M. Cook, of the Princess rink in Detroit, was to perform his skilled and comedic act for the local audience.  Then, on Jan. 28, afternoon and evening shows will find audiences marveling to one of the finest collection of skaters and performers ever to appear here.

   Among the stars were the acts of Girard & Vokes.  Fred Girard, a championship skater from England, and Ethel Vokes, a championship bicyclist of Berlin, teamed up for a great show of skill and talent.  Also on the bill were Fred Hinds, a single-wheel rider; the pedestal skating siblings, the Powers Brothers; and Miss Fannie Newhall, billed as the most artistic female skater in the world.

   In the other news item, local businessman Fred Lewis was cited by the newspaper for putting over a joke on an unnamed local shipping agent when the two met to discuss business at the Fraser House (hotel).

   The new U.S. President, Grover Cleveland, had just taken office following a contentious and very close campaign against Republican James G. Blaine, of Maine, and Lewis thought he might make light of the entire affair and let his politics be known in the process.

   The agent was a big-time member of the Republican Young Men’s Blaine and Logan club (so named in honor of the president and vice-president candidates).  The agent had noted Lewis’ curiously curved walking stick and inquired about it.

   “That cane came from the state of Maine; it’s a Blaine cane, and was sent to me by an intimate friend,” Lewis said. 

  The vessel agent was quite pleased, grabbing Lewis’ hand.  “That’s the sort of a cane to carry, a Blaine cane.  It’s the pure stuff and no mistake.”

   Lewis grinned.  “Yes, it’s a Blaine cane.  It’s crooked as hell.”

           *                  *                   *



   It was a Christmas like no other in U.S. history.

   The world was collapsing around for many American families as the continued fallout from the Great Crash of 1929 evolved mercilessly into the Great Depression of 1930.

   It was to last most of the decade but this was the first Christmas when the full crushing weight of the failing economy was felt.

   Both of my parents were teenagers in high school then.  They didn’t talk a lot later on about how they felt on that Christmas except that my Grandfather, my mother’s dad, who maintained his job as a railroad dispatcher, insisted on keeping his family together.  Down-on-their-luck relatives from all over the country showed up for some help.

   My Irish Grandmother put pies and other food on the back porch so job-seeking men riding the rails on the tracks behind the house could get a bit to eat.  They marked the location with a stack of rocks so other unfortunates knew a kind person lived there and would help feed them.

   Grandfather was a frugal Scot-Irish railroad man—never desired to own a house or a car—and when it came to family he was the strongest figure.

   As 1930 unwound, many people in the Saginaw Valley lost their jobs, although my Grandfather was able to keep his, because of the nature of the railroad business, with a cut in pay.  My other Grandfather, a business manager with Standard Oil, was demoted to a clerk’s position with a significant cut in pay.

   Thousands of local people lost their houses, personal property, and, if they didn’t have relatives to take them in, they had to live in hobo jungles.  There was one such place along the Saginaw River in what is now Veteran’s Memorial Park.  Makeshift houses made of scrap wood, cardboard, logs, and pieces of brick and concrete ended up providing shelter from the freezing winter wind and snow.

   What made everything so bad was there was no government help.  Remember this was before Social Security, welfare assistance, federal job programs, food stamps, or any other form of assistance.

   There were charitable organizations which, in boom times, were enough to help the downtrodden, but when the entire nation was failing, or at least faltering, it wasn’t nearly enough.  Besides, many organizations provided the same overlapping benefits so the vast number of needy didn’t receive it.

   In Bay City, like other towns, money for the relief of the poor was raised in a “Share Your Income” program with the Bay Emergency Relief Fund.  Here’s how the Bay City Daily Times described a fund-raising effort in downtown Bay City.

   The caption beneath a young lad standing next to a poor box:

     Here is the means by which Bay Cityans may contribute any amount of money they wish to aid the unemployed and other unfortunates over the rigors of a winter made worse by the lack of a job and the regular income that goes with it.

The box will be on the corner of Center and Washington avenues daily from 7 in the morning until 10 at night.  The boy shown in the picture is typical of the kind of child your contribution will aid.  Hundreds like him need your aid.

    Another item noted the Bay City police would provide a man to watch over the box and to take it in at night so no one would be tempted to dip into the box.

      With as much as 25 percent of the work force in the state being laid off (Detroit was 40 percent) and another portion being cut back in pay, the hard times were upon the people in Bay City of 1930. 

   A knitting club in Bay City ran out of yarn, the demand was so great for sweaters and blankets for charity.  The newspaper called for contributions to help get yarn to the knitters.

   A coordinating panel known as Emergency Relief Committee was organized in Bay City to help the three main charities organize their efforts.

   Mayor J. Harry Nelson said those agencies—The Poor Board, the Civic League, and the Salvation Army—were providing some overlapping aid and the new committee would help sort out the distribution of benefits.

   “It is to the best interests of the community that all special funds being raised for relief be turned over to Randall Graves, treasurer of the Bay City Emergency Relief committee to the end that there be as little duplication of work and expenditures of money as possible during the time of emergency.”

   Nationally, relief agencies were touting the fact that more than $80 million had been raised.  Of course, today’s need is just as interesting with over $800 billion in social security alone.

   While the times were hard, love of family was easy, whether in a chilly but familiar home or a hobo jungle.
                                                                 *                           *                               *



  The Spanish influenza of 1918 took away a lot of good people, a number of them were Bay City men who were soldiers engaged in the effort to defeat Germany and its allies.

   Among the most prominent of names was James R. Clements, a young 20-year-old pilot who was finishing his training in France when he was stricken with the disease.

   An item in the Bay City Times-Tribune of Oct. 15, 1918 reported the loss to the community:

       By cable last night, information was received from Paris of the death of Ensign James R. Clements,   U.S.N.R.F. of pneumonia on October 8.  He died at a Red Cross hospital and was buried on October 9.  No further information has been received.

 Bay City author Gerry Higgs, in her book “Michigan’s Military Pilots,” notes that Clements died one month short of his 21st birthday.  She wrote that he was the son of William L. and Jessie Clements, whose family home stood on the corner of Center and Park avenues.  The senior Clements earned his fortune in the lumber industry.

 After his early education in Bay City schools, James Clements was sent to St. Paul’s School in Concord and then enrolled in Harvard University in 1917.  At the outbreak of war, he joined the training corps at Squantum, Mass.  He then was sent to stations at Hampton Roads, Va., and was commissioned in January 1918.  He then was an instructor at bases in Miami and Pensacola, Fla. 

  Higgs reports that Clements sailed on Aug. 6, 1918 for Bordeaux, France, where he stayed until Sept. 30.  He had been assigned to Dunkirk Northern Duty when he was stricken.
  Clements was skilled in piloting the Curtis Flying Boat and died just as he was to see action.  He was buried in Suresnes, France.

 Back home, a memorial service was held in Trinity Church.

 The local airfield which had been in use since 1912 was turned into a commercial airport in 1928 and was named in honor of James Clements.  His father donated a large sum of money to help construct an administration building and hangar.

 Pneumonia claimed the life of another navy man, Louis T. Maus, 21, the son of Mr. and Mrs. L.A. Maus, of 1301 Columbus Ave.  Maus died on Sunday Dec. 15, 1918 at the naval hospital in Chicago.  He had been ill for a week.

 A graduate of St. James High School and attended the University of Detroit and the Catholic University in Washington, D.C.  He was a football player on teams for both schools.

 He had enlisted in the naval air service but was not called to duty until four days before the armistice was signed.  He was to have been commissioned an ensign a week before his death but was too ill to participate in the ceremony.

 His body was brought home and a funeral mass was held at St. James, officiated by his uncle, Rev. Fr. H. P. Maus, of Saginaw.

 One of the bravest of soldiers was Cpl. Carl Benson, of Bay City, die on Oct. 19 in a military hospital in France.

 On Aug. 29, 1918, Cpl. Benson was injured in a poison gas attack against his position and was wounded by gunfire.  He was sent to the base hospital No. 7.  While recovering from his wounds, he contracted flu-like symptoms, although some reports indicated he had a cold.  He then contracted pneumonia.  He was buried in France.

 Among survivors was his wife, Fern.  Memorial services in Bay City were held in the Swedish Lutheran Church. 

   Cpl. Frank Reinstadler, 31, a former Bay City resident, died of influenza in France on Oct. 15, 1918.  He had worked as a coal miner in Bay County for 12 years and was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Reinstadler.  He was a member of the 312th Engineer Corps, Co. B, 87th Division and had been in Europe since August.
He was buried in France.

                                         *                                 *                                   *


   The Independence Day weekend was spiced up in Bay City when the world champion baseball Giants came to town.

     The Giants, who beat just about every team lined up against them on the diamond, rode into town in their own rail cars on July 2, 1898.

    On Sunday, July 3, the Giants played the Bay City Sugars, short for Sugar Beets (I’m serious), which was the best team in the Michigan State League.  Predictably, the Giants defeated the Sugars 11-5, although Bay City did get 11 hits but fumbled with five errors.

   No, the visitors weren’t the New York Giants—in fact, that year, this visiting team was better.  The team was the Page Fence Giants!

   Never heard of them?  Well, baseball and history fans, the Page Fence Giants proved to be just about the best Negro League team ever put together.

  It was organized in Adrian, Michigan, in 1894, by J. Wallace Page, a big-time baseball fan and owner of the Page Woven Wire Fence Co.  He decided to get the best players who had been banned from regular baseball leagues because of their color. 

  It was a barnstorming team, playing any and all comers, including teams in regular Negro Leagues and teams from all-white leagues.  In 1897, the Giants had a record of 125-12 while the New York Giants ended up 83-48.  At one point, the Page Fence Giants won 83 games in a row.

   In Bay City on that Fourth of July weekend, over 1,200 spectators filled the ballpark at what is now Center at the foot of Livingston.  The Page Fence Giants featured pitcher George Wilson, of Palmyra Township (near Adrian), who also was a top hitting outfielder when not on the mound, batting over .300.

   The best player on the team was the catcher, George “Chappie” Johnson Jr., of Bellaire, Ohio.  He also batted over .300 and could play just about any position but preferred catching.  He was one of the first professional players of any color to wear protective shin guards which quickly caught on with other catchers.

   The unfortunate part for many of these players was the fact they could never play in the Major Leagues.  If they did, quite a few would have been Hall-of-Fame caliber.

   While it wasn’t reported, it was likely one of the fans in the stands was our own Hall-of-Famer John G. Clarkson (the field later would be named for him).  Clarkson was a 12-year veteran pitcher in the National League with the Chicago Cubs, Boston Beaneaters, and Cleveland Spiders.   In fact, on July 5, Clarkson served as an umpire in a Bay City league game.

   The Page Fence Giants disbanded at the end of the year and many of the players moved on to play for a newly-formed team, the Columbia Giants in Chicago.

   An interesting note about the exhibition game was the crowd.  The 1,200 spectators was about twice the number of those attending the doubleheader the next day.  The Giants attracted that many even though there were major holiday events going on at Wenona Beach requiring extra street railway cars servicing Wenona Beach at the expense of traffic to the ballpark.

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