The ferry boat had
just risen 21 feet in the locks at Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan’s
Upper Peninsula, as we passed from Lake Huron to higher and larger
Lake Superior. So this is what Miss Early was talking about in fourth
grade geography 74 years ago.
caught my eye was the blast furnace spewing smoke on the Canadian side
of the channel. The Algoma Steel Company was alive and well-- and it
made me sad to picture the desolate scene
back in Bethlehem. I was one of the many thousands of steelworkers who
worked there when Bethlehem Steel was the dominant industry in the
region. In addition to two summers in the shell shop, I spent my
junior year at Lehigh University attending morning classes and then
working middle and night shifts handling hot steel.
As the boat
passed mounds of iron ore and limestone, I could see the cliff-like
slag pile in the distance. It conjured up earlier recollections of
playing on what we called the cinder dump, where we watched molten
slag pour from huge cauldrons like lava from an erupting volcano.
had described how the ore for Bethlehem had been mined in the Mesabi
range on the far western shore of Lake Superior and carried to ports,
such as Cleveland and Toledo on Lake Erie. When we passed back through
the Soo locks, we went ashore to visit a grounded ore ship that is now
a museum. In the hold of the 555-feet-long Valley Camp we imagined
what it looked like when loaded with ore.
exhibits was a list of ships that Bethlehem Steel used to own. I
looked for one that might be named Eugene Grace or Charles Schwab, but
the only ship named for a major executive of the company was the
Marie has only 13,000 inhabitants. It used to be considerably larger
during steel’s heyday and when we had a B-52 airbase here during the
Cold War, ready to defend us against hostile planes flying over the
North Pole. Today the town is a focal point for many summer visitors
to the Upper Peninsula; they come to explore the huge recreation area
within its woods and waters.
tourist destination, the village of St. Ignace, a small but impressive
museum offers a walk through geologic time and also a look at history
and customs of Ojibwa and other native Americans who fished these
waters centuries ago.
bonus for Connie….The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island
My fiancée had long
wanted to see the Soo locks, too. But she had another grand
vision—this renowned hotel on a tiny island in Lake Huron. Connie had
lived in Detroit for nearly two decades and had dreamed of the Grand
Hotel, but had never gotten this far north.
She was delighted when I decided to attend a meeting here of the
Society of American Travel Writers. Our four days in the hotel lived
up to everything she had heard about the world’s largest summer resort
hotel, which is celebrating its 119th birthday. The huge
patio overlooks Lake Huron and the dining room seats 800 people served
by liveried Jamaicans and Latin Americans. Hotel guests dress up for
an epicurean dinner, but the buffet luncheon is so elaborate that it
becomes a tourist attraction in itself. Golf and tennis are available
for the few who are not content to sit back and just relax.
arrive by horse-drawn carriages, which is not a bit pretentious. The
island is completely free of automobiles and may set a record for per
capita ownership of bicycles. Taxis are pulled by Belgian or Percheron
horses and even UPS packages are delivered from a flatbed buggy.
Island has many other hotels and restaurants, of course, to
accommodate summer hordes. Most buildings are Victorian in style.
There are galleries and museums, including exhibits in historic Fort
Mackinac, which sits on a promontory above the harbor. Shops abound,
for various needs and with every conceivable type of souvenir.
yes--fudge. Chances are that strollers along the lake are carrying a
bag of fudge. Merchants say the island is the world capital of the
confection—and there are 17 stores to substantiate the claim. Watching
soft fudge being rolled and turned on a table is a popular adventure,
especially when the worker spoons off a sample for you.
information on how sweet a northern Michigan holiday can be, visit
these Internet sites: