Those were the days

July is a good month to settle back, enjoy the holidays, visit with relatives and friends who come up to share our U.P. natural treasures with us and get away from the city noises – at least, that’s the way it used to be. Today, the noises especially, have crept into our daily lives and we face them, in the air, on the water, and on every road surrounding us. Oh, for the good ole days…

Here are a few other remembrances:

Remember what we used to do as young teens to spike up the summer months, when the toot of the great lake passenger ships used to come past the bridge to dock at the western side, and we’d run to the dock below the boat side shouting for money? And the fun the tourists had, tossing pennies for us to fight over. And the pandemonium that would occur when nickels were tossed! The tallest of us would later leave with the most rewards, of course, while we peewees would remain behind to search for any coins still left on the dock after the melee. And remember the time when a passenger would toss a dollar bill just to see how we would react; inevitably, it would float away and drop into the dingy water, followed immediately (to the amusement of the tourists) by a tearing off of clothes and leaps into the water for the grand prize. The tourists had their laughs; we had our riches in any money we caught.

Do you ever wonder what happened to the scatological magazine (called simply “UP” and sold for $3 each) that overtook the Copper Country (kinda secret like) with its horribly bad taste, cartoons about beer, boobs and baloney sausage – mixed ironically with some intelligent musings, an occasional good recipe, some fascinating tidbits of U.P. history, and also with disgusting photos of near naked old geezers guzzling in dirty bathtubs. I’ve saved a few, occasionally glance through them (kinda secret like) and can never imagine why it was so popular at the time – but it certainly was, especially among the summer tourists who thought the characters were us! I often wondered who the publishers were, and what the magazine would look like today.

Do you recall the days when automobiles cost a thousand bucks? The roads were not paved, so on summer drives we were usually covered with dust. And families would travel en masse to their secret picnic beaches near Eagle Harbor for a Sunday of swimming (in black woolen bathing suits that sagged when wet), and picnicking – food laid out on a blanket spread on the sand, plenty of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, eggs, home baked cookies and huge pasties.. To drink? Home-made lemonade, naturally, in an ice-filled jug.

We took photos of the friends and family with a fold-out Eastman Kodak camera that shot eight black/white pictures (that aged yellow if not properly washed by the printers). The poses were usually stiff with smiling faces, but they’re treasures to us now.

And recall the wonderful days before some pervert poisoned a bottle of (I think) Tylenol, which sent businesses into a flurry and bent over backwards to avoid future lawsuits. Oh, the pleasure of simply unscrewing a cap without breaking nails while cutting through at least 3 layers of safe-proofing!

Getting a winter ailment brought on a chest plaster, some bad tasting black liquid, a rubber hot water bag, and who-knows whatever horrors mothers would administer automatically. Terrible as the practices were, they actually worked.

On the other hand, going to a Saturday matinee at the Orpheum Theatre was a treasured memory – for ten cents entry fee and a penny to spend on candy (for as much as 4 or 5 jujubes, one for each of us) and we thrilled to Buck Rogers, Mandrake the Magician or a Laurel and Hardy comedy – accompanied by 13 weeks of a suspenseful short feature that continued before each film. Do cliff hangers still mean anything to you?

And now, to take a final look into the far, nostalgic past, do any of these bring back memories?

– The Scopes “monkey” trial.

– Clara Bow, the “It” girl.

– When Al Jolson first talked in “The Jazz Singer.”

– Valentino, who created hearts to throb as the Sheik.

– George Gershwin thrilling us with his “Rhapsody in Blue.”

– Charles Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic in his plane hop to Paris.

– Babe Ruth winning fame with his 60 homers.

– President FDR introducing the CCC’s for young men to clean up the countryside.

– Scarface Al Capone becoming Public Enemy No. 1.

– Oct. 30, 1929, when Wall Street laid an egg.

Good or bad, those were the days…


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