Mike’s family members are thoroughly Michigander. Apparently there is a musical artist by that name. Not talking about him. With a few rare exceptions of family who moved out-of-state in the 1940s or later, the family has lived along the east “coast” of Michigan since the mid to late 1800s. My late mother-in-law was fond of bragging that Michigan would never run out of water, since it bordered four of the five Great Lakes!
None of Mike’s family was involved in the substantial water commerce taking place in Michigan. I’m not aware of any boat captains or merchant marine sailors. Nevertheless, it seems his family was repeatedly drawn to water, as evidenced by the few photos we have. Today’s blog has vignettes spotlighting some of the people, stories, and photos.
In Winter, I already wrote about Patrick Nolan’s (Mike’s maternal great-grandfather) drowning in the Black River, which flows through Port Huron. Water certainly impacted his life. Death. You know what I mean.
Not too far away, on the other side of the family, John Joseph Carmody spent time as the manager of the Lighthouse Park Tourist Camp, near the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse. He was the manager from at least 1928 (when his wife died), retiring in 1933.
It continued to be a tourist camp until at least 1949, and sported a beach, still popular today. The beach is the likely location of the photos of Mike’s parents, below, taken when they were dating. Even though both lived in Detroit, they regularly headed north to Port Huron. Both had family connections there, and it was an opportunity to get out of the city. Often they “double dated” with Pat’s sister, Sue, and Sue’s boyfriend (later, husband) Gene.
Earlier generations found themselves recreating near the water, too. The photos below all came from an album belonging to Mike’s grandmother, Elizabeth Nolan Kukler. We never saw it until after his mom’s death, and her mother had died 13 years earlier. The album was falling apart. It was too fragile to invert and scan, and I didn’t know (or think) to record how the photos were placed on the pages. My bad. I did have enough sense to write on the backs of photos whatever had been written below them on the pages, but many had nothing to identify them. While I was grateful for the names, dates and places would have really come in handy!
The photos below identified the people, but I didn’t know where it was. Initially I thought it might be Boblo—an amusement park I had heard of, on another island farther down the Detroit River. Mike said it didn’t look like that, and suggested Belle Isle, which I’d forgotten about. Searching online, I found postcards consistent with what I saw in these photos, including the bridge in the background of the first photo.
Frank C. Kukler was born and grew up in Detroit. A true city boy. He met his wife-to-be, Elizabeth Nolan, when she had moved from Port Huron for better job opportunities. Between 1907 and 1919, she worked as a telephone operator or in one or more private homes as a governess or domestic. Who was Tressa? My best guess is she was Theresa Krattenthaler, a 24-year old nursemaid in the Lawrence M. Goodman household upstairs at 67 Euclid Avenue West² in 1920. In the 1915 Detroit City Directory, however, I found both Theresa and Elizabeth, working as “domestics” at the same location in Grosse Point Park³—right across from Belle Isle. It’s not too surprising Tressa stored a canoe, and spent free time at Belle Isle!
Another popular water hole for Mike’s family was Houghton Lake, smack dab in the middle of the “mitten,” about 2/3 of the way up. Mike’s Uncle Gene (Sue’s main squeeze, remember?) inherited his parents’ summer cottage on the lake. I don’t know exactly how much time they spent up there, but Uncle Gene had a pontoon boat (much tamer than the speed boats he used to race as a young man!) on the lake, so I presume they made good use of it. Even Elizabeth (his mother-in-law) went out for a spin on the lake in 1984, when she was 93!
When Mike’s family decided to hold a reunion, we commandeered most (if not all) of the rooms of a nearby strip motel, not far from Gene & Sue’s cottage. There were two buildings of motel rooms running perpendicular between the road and the lake, with a beach, grassy area, and dock between them. It was the perfect place for Elizabeth’s kids (below), grandkids, and great-grandkids to hang out together for a week.
We swam, played in the sand, got boat rides, played putt-putt nearby. Everyone enjoyed the week enough, that we repeated it in 1993. Unfortunately, coordinating the schedules of 20+ families is complicated, so it’s been limited to those two times. Better two than none . . .
Water has been called the universal solvent. It breaks apart more things than anything else.
But sometimes it just pulls everything together.
¹Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/) “Belle Isle Park (Michigan),” rev. 31 March 2020, at 09:08 (UTC).
²1920 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, Wayne, Detroit, Ward 2, e.d. 85; Page 2A; dwelling number 19; family number 23; line 12; Lawrence M. GOODMAN household; accessed 5 April 2020. Theresa KRATTENTHALAR, age 24; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 802; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
³”U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), citing R. L. Polk’s Detroit City Directory, 1915. Entry for Elilzabeth NOLAN, p. 1814, and Theresa KRATLENTHER [misspelled], p. 1450, accessed 5 April 2020.